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Thailand Recap – Kirsten

Today was our last full day in Thailand.  Tomorrow, Sunday December 8th, we fly back to The States via Bangkok and Beijing.

I wish we had 1 more day here.  Actually, I wish we had 1 more week here and were spending that week living in the city.  We left our rental house on Thursday afternoon and came into the city for our last 3 nights.  We’ve had so much fun the last day despite going to the hospital twice (stupid paederus beetle!) and Chuck running errands such as canceling our cable TV and returning our rental car.

Today, we woke early to go to the Hot Air Balloon festival, had breakfast at Art Café, fed the pigeons at Tha Pae Gate (one of our kids’ favorite activities), went to the last Chiang Mai FC game (which did a cool candlelight tribute to the King afterwards), then I stopped for a 1 hour oil massage on my way back to the hotel.  Not too bad for our last full day.

Enough of that though, as this is supposed to summarize our 6 months here, not just the last few days.

Where to begin, where to begin.

I don’t even know how to put into words what this experience has meant to me or how it’s changed me.  I noticed the change while it was happening but now I have trouble remembering how I was before we came.

From a life dreams perspective, I crossed 2 places off my travel bucket list (Bangkok and Hong Kong) and crossed 2 things off my general bucket list (Live outside the country and ziplining).

I’ve wanted to live outside the US since I was about 15 years old which was a long, long time ago.  So this was HUGE for me.  I finally did it!  And not in Europe or an English speaking country which is kind of where I assumed I’d go if it ever happened.  And, yes, I know 6 months is not the same as years and years in a country, but when you have a rental house, recurring bills in the country, need to cook/clean/handle real life, etc, well, then its living there.  Finally doing this has given me such a confidence in life and banished all those constraints you think you have but really don’t.  I have way less fear in tackling anything now and I also have more conviction in following other dreams instead of lamenting that they “aren’t possible”.

This experience has also taught me how to be comfortable being so far out of my comfort zone.  I’ve been so uncomfortable at times here but instead of letting it get to me, I approached it with gratitude.  I was so grateful to be here and being uncomfortable was a temporary byproduct but also gave me room for tremendous growth.  The coolest part was having the time and space to notice when the uncomfortable became comfortable and normal.  At the beginning, we were so far out of our comfort zone but maybe a month or two later, those things became normal.  These things ranged from being immersed in a completely different culture with its own specific rules and religion, driving, being surrounded by people that speak a different language and which you can only say “Hello” and “Thank You”, not knowing where anything is, not knowing what anything is, not knowing how things work or how to get things done, to more mundane things such as not having a library to get books, not having many TV shows in English, not having a stereo, DVD player or dishwasher.  The list goes on and on and spans pretty much every aspect of life from eating, sleeping and even using the bathroom.

We got used to each one of these things over time and learned so much.  Now we know where to go to get most of what we need on a day to day basis.  I know which laundry detergent doesn’t inadvertently contain bleach (not easy when it’s all in Thai), I know which stores have which ingredients, etc.

Another thing we’ve learned is to live with a lot less stuff.  We came to Thailand with 4 suitcases (that were maybe 2/3 full each) and 4 carry-ons.  We’re leaving tomorrow with the same 4 suitcases and 4 carry-ons but of course now they’re packed to the gills.  But almost everything extra is souvenirs and kids’ toys/books.

We did buy some things initially to make our rental house more comfortable: better sheets (turns out sleeping on sheets that feel like burlap kind of suck), a coffee maker, 1 baking dish, 1 muffin tin (so Mara can bake her muffins), 2 bikes for the kids, some homeschool supplies, a few more kitchen items like knives and a can opener, a printer, towels (there weren’t any in the house) and… well that’s about it.  All of that stuff we left behind with the rental house and our property manager is going to take them to a local village and give everything away.

Granted our house was fully furnished so we had beds, armoires for our clothes, TVs, desks, etc.  It didn’t come with a garbage disposal or a dishwasher which are 2 things I miss.

We also became closer as a family through this experience.  The 4 of us were together 24/7 for months on end.  Maybe I’d go out once a week for 1-2 hours for a massage, but aside from that, I was around Chuck and the kids 24/7.  Sure there were times I wanted some privacy or to not be interrupted or be on parenting duty, but I also got so much precious time with my kids.  I got to teach them life lessons.  I got to teach them things I wanted them to know.  I homeschooled them so of course they got all that instruction.  And they got an education on everything from a different culture, religion, money, measuring system, way of life, embracing change, and well, that list goes on and on too.  We documented all the big ticket activities already, but aside from that, the kids learned something new pretty much every single day.  Honestly, I’m so proud of how the kids have handled this experience and how open they are now.  They’ve embraced the change remarkably well and I’ve seen them both grow and mature immeasurably.  Heck, Beckett will go order food and pay for it by himself – even if they speak limited English.  He’s even flagged down a songtaew, told them where we’re going, got the price then agreed without any help.

All of that said, I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of how we’ve all changed.  And I haven’t even captured how day to day life was different.  I’m not sure I can.  Or maybe with time it will crystallize into more coherent thoughts that I’ll be able to write down.

All I can say for now is that I’m so grateful for the experience.  I’m so grateful that life aligned just right that we were able to follow my dream and that it was even better and richer than I could’ve imagined.  I’m so grateful to my husband, Chuck, for trusting me and my dream and joining me on this journey.  Without his trust in me, this never would’ve happened.  And without both of our hard work this wouldn’t have happened either – something this big and this hard doesn’t happen without lots of planning, research, suspending any doubts and fears, supporting each other and taking a huge leap of faith.

Probably the biggest take away for me personally is that I have so much more conviction in myself and my dreams.  I hadn’t really realized I still had some fears about life and following my dreams and I’ve watched them erode this past 6 months.  And I’ve always been too afraid to really embrace who I was because it was outside the box.  But now I’m embracing who I am, embracing my dreams and embracing the life I’ve always wanted to live.  What a gift that is!

Where this takes me/us, I don’t know.  I’m not 100% sure I know where I want to be in a year or more.  I just hope that I still have the conviction to carve out our life like I want it to be instead of how it *should* be or how it’s easier.  If I can do that, well, there really isn’t much more to happiness and life than that!  And if this experience gave me that, well, then it was literally life changing.