I love traveling. Traveling really lets us see the world through a fresh pair of eyes. It gives us the experience of something different to compare and contrast, and maybe change things about our lives that speak to our own truth. I really believe that traveling with the intention of learning and experiencing something new is one of the greatest teachers we could ever have.
Recently, I was blessed enough to travel with my amazing boyfriend on a three week vacation to Thailand. We snagged a Groupon deal for a tour of Thailand for the first week and then wandered the streets of Thailand on our own for the last two weeks. We traveled through each terrain that Thailand had to offer – mountainous jungles of northern Thailand, ancient city ruins of central Thailand, and the pristine sandy beaches of southern Thailand.
I learned a lot about myself, my boyfriend, and the Thai way of life on this vacation and made some amazing memories that I will never forget. Lots of those A-HA epiphanies that shape the meaning of my existence. But before I bore you with a long memoir of my personal revelations, I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 shifts in awareness thanks to my trip to Thailand:
1. TRUST – there is no other option
When you go to a country that speaks a completely different language, you have no other choice but to trust the locals in whatever they say. This trip really made me confront my natural instinct to believe everyone is out to get me. This is how I am in the comfort of my English speaking country, so can you imagine me in Thailand? I had to recognize that instinct inside of me as a manifestation of fear and truly push myself to trust the tuk-tuk driver to take us where we needed to go, and the lady at the bus stop to show us the correct bus to hop on. It was a constant exercise in having blind faith in the face of complete uncertainty– something I don’t practice everyday but probably should.
2. Your instincts are always right
There’s a lot of rhetoric these days about “going with your gut” and “choosing from the heart.” When you’re in a foreign country where the entire way of living is flipped upside down, the ability to trust others is important, but not as important as the ability to trust yourself. There were a couple times where we would walk down a street at night with no other person in sight, and that incessant fear inside of me would kick and scream – is that man going to hurt me? is this area safe? what if someone does a drive by shooting? As I’m typing this it all sounds very psychotic, but those thoughts were incredibly real in my mind at the time. I had to tell that part of me to calm down and listen to my instincts. If the thoughts were fear based (which they always were) instead of alerting me to any real danger, then I reminded myself that everything was going to be fine. I had plenty of opportunities to practice mindfulness during these moments of fear…..which happened at least once a day!
3. Having no plan is sometimes the best plan
One of the best memories I have is the day when everything we planned to do went absolutely wrong. We were in Phuket trying to get to our next hotel in Phuket Town. One hour and 500 baht later, we quickly realized that the hotel we booked was actually near the airport, another 30 minutes away, so we decided to eat lunch while waiting for the next bus to arrive. We stopped at a very inviting restaurant near the bus station with newspaper clippings hung on the wall of, I assumed, the award winning food. With the owner’s approval, I ordered the fried fish with chilli sauce, which they should’ve called fried fish from the fires of hell because I could not eat the incredibly spicy dish after one bite. Needless to say, Thai people don’t believe in recreating dishes to make the customer happy unless you pay for both. Lesson learned. I dragged my fire mouth to the bus station and we finally made it to our hotel, which just happened to be one of the cleanest, comfortable, and most affordable places we stayed in. Google maps told us we were a couple minutes away from a beach so we decided to walk there. Luckily we walked right into a local night market with the best Thai iced tea and sticky rice that you could find! And just down the street was the most spectacular beach untouched by foreign hands. We couldn’t even believe it. We made it just in time to watch the sunset during happy hour. I needed that day to remind myself that sometimes the best moments in life happen when we least expect it.
4. How flexible are you?
Yoga helps us to be flexible in our bodies, but how flexible is our mind in the wake of discomfort? In Thailand the weather was extremely hot, some of the bathrooms had no toilets, and the language barrier made me feel like a misunderstood child. With none of the luxuries of home, I was tested on how flexible my mind is not only when I confront a challenging situation, but when my entire day feels like a challenge. It requires a lot of flexibility in the mind to be comfortable in the discomfort. I was so used to applying this concept in a yoga class that the universe was challenging me to apply it in a whole new situation. It’s easy to measure the flexibility of our bodies, but it takes situations like these to test the flexibility of our mind.
5. Be present
I think part of the appeal of traveling is the novelty of everything. People like to experience new things because its an opportunity to be present, to really see your surroundings, smell the air, taste the food, touch the earth. When we disrupt our schedules and take ourselves out of the trap of everyday familiarity, it reminds us that we are still alive and still able to use all five senses as much as possible. It’s a reminder to have a heightened awareness of the world not just on vacation, but every moment of the day.