Travel Journal

One Way Ticket: Reminiscing in Thailand

November 5, 2012

I haven’t written for myself since my first post about Israel almost a month and a half ago. I drank wine in a park in Paris on a sunny afternoon and scribbled a few notes in my journal about how much more in love I was with the city the second time around, but that’s it. I’ve left Paris now, full of memories and croque monsieur. Now, I’m in Thailand and each day is a constant battle to decide if I should enjoy my mojito on the beach, take a moped ride to the jungle or spend my day typing away at the computer about everything I’ve already seen. Life’s debates could be much worse, but a traveler loves to travel as much as a writer loves to writer.

Yesterday I ventured alone on a 36+ hour bus commute from the island of Phuket to Chiang Mai, in Thailand to get back in touch with my thoughts, breathe, and reflect on everything I’ve learned these days previous.

The other night on the island of Koh Tao a girl asked what I hoped to achieve from this trip. I was caught off guard that I didn’t have an automatic response – I felt defeated that two months into this journey I had not yet assessed what I wanted to prove by doing it. I answered with my first inclination that meeting people to under understand the world is the root of my travels, but the question resonated later. I need goals for this experience to have a worthwhile purpose.

After one week of exploring the south islands of Thailand, I remembered why I chose Southeast Asia as one subset of destinations. I want to experience culture shock in its purest form. I want to explore untouched territory. I want to see things I’ve only read about up close, and then delve deeper into the history through the locals.

I visited Israel and Paris previous, both of where are Westernized and expensive. The markets were familiar, and the culture predictable. Such noted, those weeks of my life far surpassed any expectations due to the hospitality and company of people along the way.

After Birthright, I spent one week admiring the beaches of Tel Aviv before heading North for a rave called the Twisted Festival that I was invited to crash. It was a 17-hour desert party (Think Coachella meets Burning Man in Israel). I’ll tell you more on the festival soon, but for now I’ll just say that stomping up dust that evening all the way through to the following afternoon is not as easy as it sounds. As the bus shuttled party-goers from the grounds back to their cars, my travel companions Liad and Lauren stood waiting by our camp site to pick me up for my next unknown adventure. With my body’s adrenaline depleted, we drove to the Jordan River where a typical picnic of hummus, falafel, and hash awaited. As I napped under the shade with the sound of the water flowing next to me, I thought the entirety of the day couldn’t get any better. But then I was driven to Odem, and everything changed.

Odem is a 16 family village where Liad resides, and the most magical place in the world. I was dying of exhaustion and begged our group to let me skip out on the evening’s bar night. After all, I had watched the sunrise and slept underneath a hammock the night previous. They would not take no for an answer and I am forever grateful. The bar is not simply a bar: it is a quaint area with tables and chairs situation in the center of a fruit orchard. As I sipped my tea with mint leaves picked fresh from the surrounding plants, Liad explained his life views about minimalism. The significance of money yields unimportant in this village where the people create spaces for others to enjoy, rather than for profit. Liad is search of even more: such places where the fisherman fish, the farmer’s farm, and the doctors save lives because love what they do. The fact that I did not even know these types of communities exist is an evident consequence of growing up in an affluent hometown. The simplicity of the lifestyle was genuine and enlightening, and served as an excellent representation of the entirety of Israel and its people.

When I left Israel for Paris I had only one thing to achieve: to live at my favorite bookstore, Shakespeare & Co to take part in their “tumbleweed” program. The “tumbleweed” program is simple - young writers show up on the day they want to stay and volunteer to work two hours/day for a bed. However, due to high demand no advance reservations can be made. I showed up for three days with no such luck for any open space during my stay, and continued to remind myself the advice I learned in Israel when travel plans go awry, “Don’t worry, the plan is to change plans.”

My disappointment subsided the immediate second I climbed the stairs of the Pigalle metro stop to find my sister NIkki waiting for me. Nikki arrived from Nice, France after her first experience with WWOOF, an organic farming program in countries around the world where people exchange daily work for housing and meals. Our first embrace will continue to remain a cherished memory; the initial feeling of family far away from home is always important during such times of self-discovery.

Even after all that had taken place in the two different worlds we had been living in for some months, we were now just two sisters obsessed with the Parisian culture of eating well, drinking wine, and living daily without obligations. My thoughts each morning consisted of which park do I want to explore today or what café will result in the best people watching? I was free to venture as I please - no rhyme, reason, or itinerary.

All these memories swim around in my head so closely that it somehow doesn’t even feel like any of this has happened to me. As I pack my things and get ready to travel to Bangkok, I feel like I am outside of myself - like I am just watching a movie of a young girl on a self defining adventure around the world. It’s only as the weight of my backpack lands heavily on my shoulders that I am brought back down to ground as I feel the earth underneath my worn out hiking boots.

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