The beginning of my new year has been shaped by multiple Americans friends that are traveling through Thailand. I am lucky enough to explore, travel and host them during their time here. As great as my new friends here are, there truly is nothing like the comfort of a familiar face from my pre-Thailand life.
It was over a beer last weekend in Bangkok with an Ithacan friend that for the first time it was brought to my attention that I have "changed." Even with the positive implication that he intended, I instinctually defended myself: NO, I have not! (I guess some things die hard, like my inherent argumentativeness.) With the lonely work week dragging on, I've had more time to acknowledge that perhaps he was right.
I can't even necessarily pinpoint in what regard I may have changed. I am still the same me. I guess it's hard for someone to go through such a life experience without any growth, and grown I really have (not in height, unfortunately). I hate to be extremely cliche, but I genuinely feel as if I can see the world through a new perspective. I am already learning what I like and don't like, and what is important and unimportant to me. I also can see so clearly that I am 22 years old, still very young. And there isn't anywhere else I'd rather be for now.
Not everyone may understand this life I have chosen. Not everyone would like it. Not everyone desires to leave the comfort of monotony and familiarity for the foreign and unknown. And power to those people for knowing that.
But many people do understand it - those people that hold "traveling" close to their heart. That term isn't even encompassing enough. It is more than that, it is a way of life. The friends that I have made here share this passion & thirst for knowledge of new cultures with me. On a daily basis, my life here is awkward, uncomfortable, difficult and frustrating. But there is something so inexplicably exhilarating about it that makes it worthwhile, even when I don't hear people speaking English for days at a time. The bad days and the discomfort are absolutely outweighed by the intellectual stimulation that I so need and desire from this. This life is important to me, and I know I will continue to seek out these opportunities in the future. Some do not understand why I "had" to move to Thailand. I've spent hours and months defending my reasoning, but I have come to the conclusion it isn't something that can be explained. If you get it, you get it, and if you don't get it, you just don't get it.