Now What?

I got home from Thailand the other day. It was the longest journey of my life. Let me map it out for you:

At 5 PM, I was dropped off at the airport in Chiang Mai. At 7:10 PM, my flight left to Don Muang Airport in Bangkok. I got in around 9 PM. There are two airports in Bangkok and my flight to Tokyo was leaving from the other one, Suvarnabhumi Airport. I walked down to baggage claim and ran into a couple people I partied with in Phuket a couple weeks before. That was a nice surprise. After our encounter, I went outside to catch the shuttle that would take me from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi. The ride was about an hour and I got to the airport sometime after 11 PM. My flight to Tokyo wasn’t leaving until 6:05 the next morning. It was pointless to stay at a hotel, so I opted to wait in the airport. First of all, I was so early that I couldn’t even check in yet. Anywhere that I went I had to lug my backpack, duffle bag, and giant rolling suitcase. I had so much time. Nothing was open, but Family Market (a version of 7/11 in Thailand). I bought a canned espresso and went back to the bench I was at before. There, I listened to music, drank the espresso, and ate cookies. I did this for a little over 3 hours. Around 2 AM, I was able to check in. As I walked to my gate, I bought some more coffee. This was around 3 AM. I boarded my flight to Tokyo and we left at the scheduled time. The flight was just over 6 hours.

Once in Tokyo, I had a 2 hour layover, but it was somewhat fast. My flight to LA was the worst. The flight was shorter than the one on the way, just over 9 hours, but my god it took forever. I would look at the clock every hour or so (or what I thought was an hour) and it had only been 20 or 30 minutes! At this point, I regretted sleeping through most of my flight to Tokyo. Not to mention, the guy to my left slept the entire way. I was so envious of him. On this flight my knees began to ache too. I couldn’t really stretch them, at all. On a positive note, I watched Frozen on this flight. I’ve heard that the movie is really good and it is. It was so cute and the plot was different from typical Disney movies, minus the “true love” theme. Nine hours later and we landed at LAX.

Now, you’d think since I’d finally arrived in the United States, all the hectic travel was over and it would be easy-peasy to get back to Phoenix. You’re wrong. First we had to go through customs. Along with a boat load of slow people, we got on a bus that took us to the other side of the airport. They were so slow. I kept thinking, “Come on. Let me through. I’m American, I know where I’m going because I can read the signs,” but no. I had to walk like a turtle behind a mass of foreigners. Customs was a mess, but I got through it. Next, I had to locate the LAX shuttle to take me to a different terminal, as I was flying Southwest back to Phoenix. So, I lugged my three giant bags outside to find the bus stop. This was the hardest part of my entire journey, and I was back in the United States! My main concerns: What bus do I take? How do I lug all this crap without looking like a fool? After a while, I got to the right terminal, checked my bags, passed through security, and was sitting at my gate. Let me remind you, at this point I had been traveling for 30+ hours. I was smart and brought a toothbrush and toothpaste, but my clothes felt bad, my face felt unclean, and my hair looked like… I don’t even know what.

Our plane was late and we boarded 20 minutes later then scheduled. Our flight was delayed an hour also. As soon as I sat in my seat, I passed out with my music blasting in my ears. My music was blasting because, directly behind me, was a screaming baby. This child would not stop. The parents tried, but I could tell from the cry that it wasn’t stopping anytime soon. Mai pen rai. I woke up during the flight and was so shocked we were in the air. I mean, when I had fallen asleep we were on the ground. Towards the end of the flight, I was so over life. I was sleep deprived and hadn’t had a substantial meal in two days (I’d say my food intake was mostly cookies, chocolate, and coffee). The turbulence made me want to vomit. We finally landed and I walked to baggage claim. With a couple minor scrapes, I obtained my bags and waited for my mom outside. I was pretty much deaf at this point because I’d been on so many airplanes and those engines are loud. When my mom arrived, we loaded up my bags and she took me to Chop Shop to eat lunch. I was happy.

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Traveling to/from Asia is such a hassle, wow. But it was worth it. I had an amazing time! I miss Thailand, of course, but I am very thankful to be back in the United States.

Some things I am happy about:

  • A functioning dryer for my clothes
  • Being able to order my food in complete sentences
  • Dairy-free, organic products… gosh, my stomach is happy again!
  • Access to water and a bathroom 24/7
  • Having a working cell phone
  • Driving my car
  • My comfy bed (the one at Uniloft was like a rock, but I made do)

Thailand was the best experience of my life. I mean, I’m only 21 and I know I’ll experience other amazing things, but nothing can replace my time in Thailand. I met such amazing people! Those who were part of the TEAN group, our Thai roommates, Thai locals (like Penny’s human and the omelet lady), and other Western travelers along the way.

Thailand taught me a lot about myself too. I am already an open-minded person who can cope with change, but my short month in Thailand proved that my physical and mental limit is much higher than I had perceived before. I lived in a country where I couldn’t speak the language for a month. It was hot and very humid (I won’t be complaining about our Arizona summer this year, guys). My experience in Thailand is proof that I can travel abroad without significant issues. And believe me, I’ll be going to other places. But I do know that I will be returning to Thailand many more times throughout my life.

* * *

In 2010, I almost died. I sat in a hospital bed motionless, except for the mechanical rise and fall of my chest. Four years later and I was living in Thailand. I love my body so much. Not for its looks, but for its resiliency. I love that I am alive. I love that I am able to experience everything that the Universe wants me to experience. Life is so amazing and it’s hard for me to get over that fact sometimes. Please take this tiny bit of advice: If an opportunity arises, take it! Never turn something down because you’re scared, or you’ll miss your boyfriend. This life is for you! One opportunity taken opens a door for 20 more. If you never open that door, you’ll never know what you’ve missed out on.

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