This trip has been about traveling, just as much as teaching...if not more.
Actually, I take that back. Definitely more.
The thing that has me putting my proverbial pen to paper is the knowledge that in a little bit more than a month, I will be setting foot back on American soil and I will finally be home. And it hit me that honestly, I just don’t feel ready for that quite yet.
Sitting in a bus terminal waiting for a 12-hour bus ride back to Bangkok from one of the northernmost cities of Thailand, Chiang Rai, I feel very nostalgic of all the trips I’ve taken so far in the past few months since I started teaching in a different country. This recent weekend trip proved to be one of the most fun and appeasing; it included some of the most authentic local culture I have seen (in other words, they weren’t “gentrifying” for the sake of tourism) and I was able to proudly cross a few items off my list of things I wanted to see and do in Thailand before I left.
I saw my favorite temple in Thailand (and trust me, it’s a daunting task to make a decision, as there are definitely an abundance of beautiful temples to choose from), and although I was at Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, for at least half an hour, I still can’t believe I was there. After hopping out of our taxi, I kept looking at the temple, thinking that if I looked elsewhere, it would shimmer like a mirage and disappear. Not even when looking back on my pictures can I believe my eyes beheld something so grandiose, so spectacular, so beautiful.
I also stood on Thai ground and stared out at the Golden Triangle, meaning that I was as close as physically possible to being in three countries at once. Looking across at Burma/Myanmar and Laos made me feel amazed that a few months ago, I never even knew I could travel to a place that granted me such a view. I remember looking through my Thailand Tour Guide book and thinking that I would never visit any of the places it described because I would be far too busy with teaching to travel. Yet here I am today, with pictures of me in waterfalls, driving a motorbike across mountains, taking night buses to travel across the country, and supporting causes I believe in, like an elephant sanctuary. Wow.
At the same time as I’m reminiscing about all the sights I’ve seen though, I’m on my phone, casually reading my friends’ status updates and picture posts. Looking at everything on Facebook certainly makes me feel a pang of homesickness, reminding me where I came from and all that I left behind for the time-being. But at the same time, I don’t want to go back and fall into a rhythm just yet. I’m not mentally or emotionally prepared to be back from all the traveling I’ve been doing each weekend to see the same friends and sit around doing the same things. Don’t get me wrong; I love everyone dearly and do really miss them, and I love being my introverted self. But I feel an itch to keep moving, and that itch won’t be satisfied with just one scratch. (I’m sure that analogy was very settling and something you will not want to unsee.)
I know people can dismiss my thoughts, thinking that I’m running away from reality--as in the necessary career and saving up I’ll need in order to settle down one day soon--or on the opposite end of the spectrum, feel disgruntled that I want more than what I already have...or worst of all, they may believe that I somehow feel that my life is much better than theirs, so I am now all high and mighty because of all my great new experiences.
With all my heart though, I feel the need and strong desire to keep chasing after life, reaching for the tendrils of the natural world, for that is what instills the most peacefulness of peace in me. In a sense, I had a taste of living a different life, one that had me literally wanting to keep my eyes open at every waking hour so I wouldn’t miss one breathtaking moment, and I’m not ready to stop. I want more.
Both this dream and the reality of it nurture my soul and have awakened the strongest feeling of determination and yearning in me yet; the desire feels so heartbreakingly pure and devastatingly raw that my words barely hold a candle to it. It’s like a calling much, much stronger than that first calling that inspired me to be a teacher. Questions, burning for answers, whirl through my mind, asking, Why can’t I? Why can’t I follow my passion and be able to tell people that I am doing exactly what I love?
Forget the physical aches, forget the language barriers, forget the sweat-stained clothing and smelly shoes covered with who-knows-what that I’ve been wearing for the past 5 months. Despite all that, I want to be free to explore the world, giving myself the opportunity to fill my mind with wonder and allowing myself to learn to my heart’s content. Isn’t this what life is about? To me, it’s about continuing to see new things, breathing in that fresh mountain air, and metaphorically spreading your arms wide everywhere and anywhere you feel like it, opening up your mind, and most importantly, your heart.
Unfortunately, the world operates on money, even though I would normally argue like a romantic sap that it runs on love. But although I believe wholeheartedly in compassion and people’s goodness, I can’t deny that you need some form of currency in order to survive. But the way I see it, everyone and everything is constantly paying me. The world and its natural landscapes are one of the greatest of life’s rewards. On a smaller scale but just as great of a daily gift are the smiles I manage to put on people’s faces as I struggle to ask for what I need. Seeing someone use a loom to thread together a scarf that I would not have given a second thought to is a touching treasure and a delicate reminder of everything I should not take for granted all the time.
These and every other precious instance like it are invaluable beyond compare, and knowing that there is so much more I’m missing out on fills me with awe and excitement at just how much more I have to see for myself. What people can create, the fascinating lives people choose to live, and what people have the opportunity to see and do on this planet give me an insatiable feeling of longing--almost even a slight desperation to see more, to feel more, and a definite drive to live more.
These are the thoughts and feelings I have been struggling with every day since returning from my December holiday trip. The yearning is definitely more persistent the closer my departure date to Chicago is. I think I’m beginning to come to terms that I’ll be thinking about this a lot more before I return to America, but even after going back, I’ll also constantly think about where I’ll want to be next or what new prospective opportunities I’ll take by the horns.
So what will I do when I return? That is a question I’m both excited and scared to find out the answer to because right now, I sincerely have no idea. But in regards to that, I guess I’ll figure that out and know what will be best for me when the time’s ripe. So no, I don't know right now, but I'm sure that life will give me what I need, and well, I'll be waiting with my arms open wide, ready for life's next exciting adventure!