Sometimes in life we all just need a break. A break to relax, a break to enjoy the moment, and a break to gain perspective of our lives. For a period of roughly eight years I didn’t allow myself to take a break, because I had never seen the value of taking time off. However, a trip to Thailand changed my perception of what a vacation is meant for.
After years of craving a vacation I finally gave in to my wife and I set a plan in motion to travel to Thailand with my sister. We researched destinations, temples, weather, culture, etc. but nothing could ever describe how it felt to experience everything at once. Having never traveled overseas, the idea of traveling to Thailand was as foreign as the country itself. The feelings of excitement didn’t sink in until our plane took off from Portland and I had the notion that this trip was going to be good for me. I wasn’t sure if my feelings were conjured by the thought of seeing and experiencing new things or the fact that I didn’t have to work for two weeks. But it didn’t matter, I had just received my first rush of excitement and I wanted more.
After nearly twenty four hours of flights and layovers we arrived at the Bangkok airport, sluggish but ready to step out into the world. We arrived at the end of May, right before monsoon season, and the moment the airport doors opened the hot humid air slapped us across the face. We found a cab and after some awkward communication we were on the way to our hotel. During the cab ride that night I felt like a kid walking through the Willy Wonka chocolate factory. I stared with enthusiasm at the sights of all the tall buildings surrounded by street food vendors and crowds of people.
The next morning we woke up feeling energized and decided to take a walk around the district of Phra Nakhon, home to the Grand Palace, the Giant Swing and the famous backpacker hangout, Khao San road. We simply strolled around taking in all the sights and smells of each unique city block.
On our third day in Bangkok we visited one of the most eye-opening places, a bronze factory where all of their products are hand-made. It is an elaborate process that uses old-fashioned techniques of turning raw materials into beautiful plates and bowls.
Throughout the trip we were impressed by all of the locals we encountered. At first their quality of life appears less than that of a fully-developed country, but everyone greeted us with a smile and seemed content with their way of living. My first vacation opened my eyes to the differences in how people live their lives and has made me understand that where you live can influence one’s chance of “success” or quality of life, but it cannot determine one’s happiness.
No matter where we went or what we did I found that I had been looking at the world through a different lens. It’s as if I were a kid again, trying make sense of the outside world by studying everything without judgment. I was just there to observe and take in as much as possible before it was time to leave. Keeping an open mind while traveling is important if you want to have an optimal experience, but same holds true for your daily life. The most important aspect that travel made me learn, is to hold on to those feelings of excitement wherever I go. Sure, it is impossible to always feel this way, but if you are conscious of it you can find the joy in the most routine part of your day.
Although it was recently discovered, I had always longed to see new places and experience life outside of my comfort zone. For some, the journey ends when you start the trip back home but if you let it, a break from your own life can open a new way of seeing the world, one that you can take with you wherever you go.