Spoiler Alert. I’m a creep.
Friday afternoon after school, I threw some clothes and swim suits in my bag and headed off to Krabi to meet up with some XploreAsia friends again. The journey there was much easier than last time. I went to the van station by myself, purchased my ticket, and hopped on the correct van without any Thai assistance. When I got to Krabi I knew exactly what to do. I grabbed a motorcycle taxi for the 30 minute drive to Ao Nang, hopped on the back and we were off. There is no better feeling in the world than cruising down an open Thailand road on a motorcycle with nothing around you except insanely rugged and striking mountains, covered in lush trees and little temples hidden back along the way. I arrived about 4 hours before my friends, so I checked into the hostel, threw my bag on a bed, and went immediately to get a massage. I think I will have to do a whole separate post on Thai massages. I can’t decide if they are the most hilarious or wonderful thing in the world. Anyway, when the rest of the group got there we went straight to our reggae bar hangout that we went to every night the last time we were in Krabi. For a bunch of people who traveled across the world to a foreign country, we sure don’t like to stray from what we know. After the bar, we ate McDonald’s. It tasted like home and heaven all rolled into one. It was a great night.
The next day we decided to take a long tail boat out to an island none of us had seen yet. There were a couple of older hikers on the boat with us who told us the beach we were headed to wasn’t great, but there is a path that would lead us to the other side of the island with an incredible beach that we should see. They said “10-15 minute walk. Not bad at all.” That’s when things took a turn for the worst. We hopped off the boat and started our journey down the path. Now let me say, the directions that these men gave us were vague, at best. It was basically “Walk down that path. Then turn right. Then turn right again, and you’re there!” I think we missed the first right turn. It was 5 of us, me, Sofie, Maggie, Emily and her husband Ryan. We started down the trail, and it quickly turned a little more rugged than we had imagined. The hill started to get steep. Like, really steep. And the path started to get more and more narrow. But we were all determined to find the beach, so we kept on. We eventually stumbled into this little village with bungalows, restaurants, bars, and it was filled with people who were the true definition of hippies. The shops had signs saying “Mushroom Shake” or “Weed brownies” and I’m pretty sure everyone we passed had dreads. But it was so beautiful and cool! To make a long story short, we eventually came down the other side of this mountain and walked out into this beach resort area….it was the beach we’d spent the entire weekend at last time. All we could do was laugh hysterically. Because…of course the 45 min mountainous hike in the 90 degree heat and 90 percent humidity led us to the exact beach we weren’t wanting to go. The worst part is that it literally would’ve been a 5-10 minute swim to that beach from the beach we were dropped off at. All we could do was laugh, rip off our clothes and sprint to the water.
I would now like to explain my title and the moment of my identity crisis. Coming to Thailand I thought “I’m so young! I have so much time ahead of me! I can’t believe at 25 I’m getting to move to Thailand to be a teacher!” 25 is young, right? So why do I feel like I’m 93 in this country? I go out, have 1-2 drinks, yawn, and am ready to head back to the hostel. Before this experience, I may have been tired some nights after a couple of drinks and wanted to go home…but God forbid I leave a party early!! Now, I have absolutely no problem with it, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Is this what growing up feels like? After I came home last night, I made Sofie have a heart to heart with me. I told her about how my personality is so different here, and it’s freaking me out. I’m usually the life of the party, the most outgoing in a group, and making friends is the easiest thing in the world for me. But it’s not here. I told her I’m having an identity crisis because I don’t feel like myself and don’t know who I am in Thailand.
This morning the rest of the group went out to do an island tour, and I hung back in town. I slept in, went to get some breakfast by myself, and headed to the beach with a book and an iced coffee. This is something you never would’ve caught me doing a year, or even 3 months ago. I’m naturally not a very independent person. I can barely go to Chipotle alone….for a to-go order. But today was….well it got weird for a hot minute…
One thing I love about traveling, is meeting people from all over the world and having small conversations about where they’re from, their life, etc. I took it too far today.
When I arrived at the beach, I laid out for a bit, read some, and looked around to see if there was anyone cool I could talk to. One problem with Americans: I look around, see a white person, and think “Hey! You’re white. You must speak English and want to be my best friend, right?!” Let me go ahead and answer this rhetorical question. No. No they do not speak english and they do not want to be your friend. For some reason I really had my eye on old, large, European couples today. Like that was the demographic I was aiming to make friends in. Please don’t ask me why. I don’t know. Anytime one of them would walk by….I would just stare. I mean blatantly stare. Willing them to talk to me and ask me all about my life. It didn’t happen. So eventually I decided to roll myself off my towel and head into the water. That was where I was sure I’d make friends with the 75 year old Europeans. When I swam out, I started to lurk really close to couples, groups of people, singles, anyone I thought looked like they might be interested in a conversation. But it was like, the more I tried to make friends, the more people scattered away from me. Which really spurred me on. I felt like some sort of unknown sea creature/predator, and all the people swimming around me were my prey. I WAS going to find a friend. Lurking close by people wasn’t working, so I started watching the beach for people heading into the water. When new people would head in, I would try to eyeball their exact entrance point, and position myself directly in front, so that they’d have to make eye contact with me upon entering the water. I basically appointed myself the Ao Nang beach Water Welcoming Committee. Let me tell you….people will go shockingly far out of their way to avoid eye contact if they are not interested in talking to you. This went on for about an hour and a half, until I finally gave up and headed back onto the shore. I’d made eye contact with the couple sitting next to me, so I asked them where they were from and they said “Finland.” and I said “oh…is it cold there?” And they responded with a very quick “Not really.” That’s where the conversation ended. So I rolled over and continued to read Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” I also answered that question for myself today. Yes. Literally everyone in the world is hanging out without me. But ya know what? I’m okay with that.
Everyone kept saying “this experience will change your life.” And I believed them, but I wasn’t sure how my life would change. I’m realizing now that the change presents itself in very different ways for everyone. For me, I can tell that my independence is changing. Most of my happiest moments in Thailand have been moments where I’m alone. Traveling alone, exploring alone, eating dinner alone, etc. The moments alone allow me to process my surroundings and my experience and form an opinion about what I’m going through, solely on what I’m feeling with no input or influence from others. I can feel myself starting to grow, evolve, and change. I feel a whole new part of myself starting to form. I do know that this is critical for life, but it can be a very scary thing to go through. I keep asking myself “Am I losing part of myself here? Or is this a really amazing process that I’m going through to discover new parts of myself?” I like to think it is the latter.
Oh! And don’t worry, I did eventually make friends with some old Europeans at the beach. They were from Sweden, barely spoke english, but seemed really entertained by me. One of the men had skin darker than Dave. My sister is the only person in the world who will understand that reference, so let me say that this man looked like he had been cooking on the surface of the sun for decades, and eventually morphed into a leather sofa. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that man’s skin, or the smile he gave to me, a stranger in a foreign land, looking for a friend.