I will be leaving Thailand tomorrow.
I wish I was enthusiastic about leaving, but I am feeling more nervous and nostalgic. This doesn’t mean that staying is the right decision either. In either case, from Friday on my lifestyle would need to change.
Thailand is a relaxing place; it is really quite amazing in this way. But this quality has been amplified by not having a job here. To break even and cover reasonable living expenses, not nearly as much work or mental sacrifice is required as in America. At the least, it would require working 10-15 hours a week. While I have worked a little, my time here has basically been an extended vacation to work on personal projects. And for whatever reason, I have been really motivated to work on them. But, if I were to live here for even longer, I would only feel right if I was no longer eating into my savings.
To me, working a fulltime job in Thailand defeats the purpose of being in Thailand. The pay is small and the opportunities for creative growth are even smaller. Despite the rigors of my last job in America, I came out far richer in creative mind, money and confidence. A similar parting gift would be hard to come by here, even though such gifts came with emotional sacrifice before. At least in Thailand I would be legitimately happy more of the time. And isn’t happiness what I’m striving for?
But I suspect that the happiness I feel here is of the more immediate kind. It is like I’ve stumbled onto a seemingly unending buffet of delicious foods. I could feast and feast and be content and happy, but when the food finally runs out I’ll even be less equipped for hunger. Hunger keeps you on your toes, feasts make you lazy and complacent. I feel to young still to go the easy road or settle somewhere. The world still large and undiscovered for me.
Things I will miss most:
Friendly people. I have never met more open, trusting and friendly people than the Thai and foreigners around Chiang Mai. And while there is the concept of saving face and being polite, the majority of the smiles are genuine. People just seem happier here. It is like a big countrywide family. You can also make eye contact without making the person think you are looking for a fight. In contrast, I’d say most American’s seem distrustful and unhappy. I think within we are all the same trusting people, but Americans get it beaten out of them daily through the media and the cutthroat and isolating lifestyle. It’s in there somewhere, it just takes work to find it. And as a consequence, distrust in other people perpetuates distrust in others. America is no family, it is a seething landmass of confused and independent people.
Delicious food. I could eat Thai food everyday for the rest of my life and have no complaints. American food now tastes thick and flavorless to me.
Cheap. Everything other than cars and computers is so much cheaper here. While inflation and increased wealth are raising prices, it is still possible to find a deal everywhere, especially regarding food.
Organized chaos and visible people. Every urban view, even the small towns, is bustling with colorful activity. People are outside, going about their lives, unhidden. The cities feel alive and practical, not just a place with buildings, but a community. More people know and care about the people they do business with. When I went back to San Francisco after my trip to Vietnam the streets seemed dead. Even on a nice day people spend most of their time inside, whether it be car, house, or store. The residential streets looked abandoned. Prior to the trip, I though the city was a vibrant bustling place. And it is by comparison to other US cities. There is just so much to see. So much crazy wiring and driving, smoke, food carts, lounging, animals, people. Everything in a swirl of activity.
I think I am not an American. I don’t accept its politics or culture. I think both are misguided and a little sad. The country has every right to assert itself in the world, to stay in power. Any reasonable country wants to grow and throw some weight around. But does it have to require constant dicking with other peoples governments, state-sponsored murder, hypocrisy, or instilling fear in its own population. What exactly is America trying to preserve in its fight not to lose its influence on the world? A lifestyle of debt, overwork, distrust, and uncertainty? Seems like a lifestyle not worth saving to me.
Obviously there are some good things about America too, but I feel it’s priorities are out of whack. We are chasing some weird abstract goal, rather than quality of life. And when our economy and social structure collapses and China takes over the world, I think the average person will wish they spent a little more time with their kids and not burning the midnight oil so they can afford to pay for the car they drive to work in.