Today marks the day that we landed in Bangkok, to start our year abroad.
Reflecting over the year, while I know I’ve changed in small ways and seen many beautiful sites, the thing I value most is the people. I was speaking to James and he agreed we could have toured the various countries in a few months but we would have missed out on so many wonderful people.
I would have missed the opportunity to make new close friends, be part of a community, meet students in Laos and Cambodia, and volunteer with children. This doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the wonderful people we’ve crossed paths with through volunteering or Meet-up events with other ex-pats. We met so many wonderful people while we’ve slow traveled!
In being able to slow travel, we became part of a community. In Thailand, we were quickly adopted by our Huai Khwang neighbors. Even though, they did not speak much English and we did not speak much Thai. One outgoing woman learned our names and took to always greeting us when she saw us. She would call out our names the moment she spotted us “Ahh, Maria! James!” which would elicit big smiles and waves from us. She sold fried chicken so we were going to see her frequently regardless but every time we passed her stall, she connected with us, which I so appreciated. We would have conversations with lots of pantomime and smiles and soon her children joined in with calling out to us.
The woman who ran the small restaurant and the other who sold coffee and tea also took to talking with us. Everytime we’d walked down the soi each would ask where we were going. So when we left Huai Khwang, it brought me to tears. [LOL, even now, I want to cry to think of the morning we left.] Our six months together carved them forever in my heart. I can’t wait to go back to Bangkok and see them.
We formed relationships at Meet-ups as we developed a routine of meeting with the same group a couple times a month. You could argue that if I’d actually attended any of the Meet-ups back home, I may have met new and wonderful people too. While probably true, the other benefit I’ve found in traveling is that it has made me a bit more outgoing. Instead of signing up to the Meet-up site and never, ever attending one, I seek them out. I search for events where I can meet new people and when I’m there, I actually socialize.
Where I loved a good corner to hide in previously, now I am more focused on connecting with others. I will acknowledge that there is a remoteness to traveling that helps encourage this. My support structure in the States was small but powerful. Moving to a place where I did not speak the language (but did hold currency – thank you Paul Simon) shook me up. It necessitated the Meet-ups. I required connection. And I’m grateful for it. This outgoingness has slowly spilled into my daily life so that I am more likely to speak to people and this has lead to many cool conversations and new relationships.
So allow me to send lots of love and gratitude to all the people that supported my desire to travel and all of the fantastic people I’ve met along the way. The world is full of so many beautiful sites but the people are the gems.
Let me know if you are ever in my city, I’d love to connect.