We’ve spent the past few days in Pai – a small village in the mountains of northern Thailand. Unfortunately, rainy season has hit the greater part of Southeast Asia. We’ve found ourselves in the middle of nowhere with not a whole lot to do except think! The trip is about two weeks in and Hannah and I are beginning to contemplate where we want the next chapter of our life to go at the conclusion of our trip. I’d like to believe that I am an exceptionally spontaneous person that makes life decisions on a whim but let’s be real, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a well thought out plan. (That sounds especially nerdy now that I write it).
I’ve spent the last few rainy days pondering what I want, what I want to do, where I want to live and essentially how I can achieve all of these things. I started this trip two weeks ago not having a single clue where I wanted my life to go. And although I still don’t know (does anyone really know?), I have certainly learned a lot in the past couple of weeks. That is one of the few amazing things about travel – you learn a lot about yourself quicker that you could ever imagine. Being completely out of your comfort zone suddenly makes one realize what’s important, what’s not important, what you want and more importantly, what you don’t want.
As my mind races back and forth I can’t help but to be reminded of a quote from my favorite book, Tuesdays with Morrie:
“Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted. A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle”
It may sound cliche, but I truly feel as though I have the world at my feet right now. I am 25, I have a college degree, I am not yet tied down with a boyfriend, I haven’t started a career yet. When the possibilities feel endless, it sure is hard to make a decision! One day I want to move to Spain and learn Spanish. The next I want to move back to Albany so I can be close to my family. The next I want to stay on the road and continue traveling/blogging. The next I see myself living in Arizona because I’ve always had this burning desire to live there. Oh and of course the next day I am moving to Dublin to start working on my master’s degree.
As a 25 year old female American who hasn’t settled down yet, I definitely feel pressured to do so every once in a while. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but is that what I want right now? There’s also the travel culture that completely negates the American Dream. I can’t tell you how many times I hear on the road, “Everybody’s getting married, buying homes and having babies and the only thing on my mind is where I’m traveling next.” Truthfully, I want all of these things. Do I really have to choose? Can’t I have all of these things!?
There will definitely be some major life decisions to be made in the next couple of months but for now, I am savoring every moment of this trip. Here are some of the highlights from my five amazing days in Chiang Mai:
Mahout for a Day:
I’m sure when you think of Thailand, elephants come to mind right away. These magnificent creatures have been revered in Thai culture for centuries. Unfortunately, as tourism has been on the rise in Thailand over the years, many elephants are abused and treated horribly. We obviously wanted to spend some time with the Asian elephants but didn’t want support any sort of animal abuse/neglect. So we did our research and found an amazing opportunity to be a mahout for a day, which is an elephant keeper!
We spent a day a Baanchang Elephant Park where we learned a lot about these beautiful animals, all of which were rescued from abusive situations. We had the opportunity to feed them, ride them through the jungle and then bathe with them at the end of the day. It really was a magical experience. I have a new found respect and adoration for these gentle giants.
Wandering around Chiang Mai:
Chiang Mai is considered the cultural epicenter of Thailand. The food, artsy feel and easygoing atmosphere was a treat to our eyes…and mouth! We spent days wandering around the streets, visiting the shops and street markets. In fact, we spent about three hours searching for a market that catered to mainly Thai people (not tourists). It was worth the hunt! We finally found the market, which was stories upon stories of vendors in the street and indoors. It was a real insight into true Thai culture and food.
We also took a songthaew about 10 miles outside of the city center to a famous temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. I was in awe over the breathtaking view of Chiang Mai from the top of the mountain and the architecture of the temple.
We were very fortunate to have met some amazing ladies on our journey. We met Lielle and Maree at the airport when we landed and clicked with them immediately. All of our plans have been flexible so we’ve actually been able to travel around with them quite a bit. We also met Emily, who has pretty much been all over the world working and helping others. She is real inspiration. And lucky for us, they are all from New York! So the friendships will not end in Thailand and for that I am very thankful =)
We are heading south to the islands and hopefully away from this rain in a couple of days. We cannot wait to get back on the road and soak up some rays. We have a few long bus rides ahead of us but before long we will be enjoying beach life!