Saying goodbye to Thailand was hard. I know I’ve said that about every place I’ve been to – clearly I fall for places quite easily – but there was something special about Thailand.
Part of the reason behind this gap year was to help me better understand my identity. Because of my varied cross-cultural upbringing, I have the common TCK issue of not knowing where exactly home is. I adapt to different places quickly, and I love immersing myself in local cultures. But at the same time, I never fully feel like I belong in any one place.
Thailand, however, was different. In Thailand, I felt like I could connect in more than one way. The vegetation, tropical climate, streets and infrastructure reminded me of Ghana. The customs, traditions and Buddhist religion were easy for me to understand because of my Indian heritage. And the diverse population of Thais and foreigners in Chiang Mai reminded me of my multicultural friend circles back in New York. For me, it was the perfect combination of a modern, cosmopolitan vibe mixed with a developing country lifestyle.
Of course, other factors unique to Thailand also made it harder for me to leave…the stunning mountainous landscapes in the north, the warm and welcoming locals, the walkable cities…it was a place easy to fall in love with.
Working with Travel to Teach contributed a great deal to my experience and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to intern there. Living in a village outside the city, helping at schools and orphanages, having local trips organized for us by our Thai coordinators – all of this helped me see the ‘real’ Thailand that many tourists miss out on. And living in such an international house, with people from Sweden, Holland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Brazil, Portugal, Australia, Belgium, the US…I learned so much about the world around me. Interacting with this melting pot of cultures expanded my general knowledge and increased my understanding of different global views, economies and lifestyles in ways I cannot explain. Mostly though, it was just a ton of fun. From themed nights to weekend trips, from partying in town to watching movies at home, living with other volunteers guaranteed a good time.
It’s funny how you also always seem to miss the little things when you leave a place. I left Thailand six days ago and I still miss the sight of monks walking around in their orange robes. I miss the little road side kiosks selling meat kebabs, skin, fat and all. Daily rides on songthaews, rice paddy fields around the house and chaotic street markets dotted around town. All mundane parts of my life in Thailand that I have now left behind.
Another destination, another group of friends, another set of memories, another set of goodbyes…I guess that’s the main disadvantage of a nomadic lifestyle. I will miss Thailand more than words can describe. It was, no doubt, one of the most memorable parts of my trip.