Why I Will Never Complain About California Drivers And Other Lessons From Thailand

Happy Friday to you all!

Major life changing experiences are nothing new to me. After all, 2011 was the mother load of new happenings and has permanently left it’s mark on my life.

My recent adventures to Thailand failed to disappoint in that area, and of course I walked away with ten phenomenal days worth of experiences, memories, and (most noteworthy) tons of awesome photos!

Many of my blogs have been about many minor changes in my life that have had a big impact. However, there are only a few about major events that have derailed or rearranged my life altogether. Those would be my first marathon, first Half Ironman, and now my first venture into Asia. 7000 miles is a really long way to travel, and it’s guaranteed that all kinds of shenanigans and adventure would be crammed into a round-trip journey of those proportions. And so they were…

It’s OK being the only white person around – I don’t think I have ever been this far outside of my comfort zone, but stepping off of 26 hours of travel into the hot, steamy climate of Thailand left me thousands of miles from what I was familiar with. That was part of the excitement, but oh my gosh, there were not a lot of white people. I’m certainly not racist, but it’s slightly intimidating being inundated by a culture you don’t understand, a language that you can’t even begin to interpret with your high school French, and a currency that is more colorful than it is familiar. Lost was a severe understatement.

Hire hot flight attendants – Thailand knows how to hire flight attendants. Airlines in the US, pay attention! They’ve got it right. If you don’t look like a supermodel, you aren’t working the ticket counter. I don’t know if this was just a cultural stunt or if there was deeper meaning behind their personnel selection, but it was very noticeable that none of their flight attendants were unattractive.

My flight home on United could have benefited from some of that decision making. Sad…

Smile more – For the record, Americans are assholes. We’re just so different from many cultures around the world and we are neither warm nor receptive comparatively. For the most part, and there’s always exceptions, the Thai were very warm and welcoming, and enjoyed making fun of me for being the white guy who had no clue what was going on. Nothing like cultural mockery to build character! :-)

Don’t take rush hour too seriously – I realize that we all think we have experienced rush hour, but oh my gosh! Bangkok will eat you alive and spit you out in a heartbeat. In a city of ten million plus people, it’s just hard to keep things clean, orderly, and put together. Some Americans I bumped into during the trip said that New York looked like a beautiful garden compared to the urban jungle that Bangkok presents. Not the prettiest of pictures… traffic patterns there are simply terrifying.

There really aren’t any rules other than don’t kill someone, and people kind of come and go as they please. That’s not to mention the thousands of scooters and bikes zipping around town at speeds that would make your head spin. They change lanes when they please. Cut off cars if they’re in the way. Navigate up onto sidewalks to get towards the front of the line, or just simply skip stopping at red lights altogether.

I had quite the experience traveling back into the heart of Bangkok from a bus station on the outskirts via scooter. I don’t really remember fearing for my life because I didn’t have time to think about it. I was too worried about having my knees sliced off as we went squeezing in and out of traffic and narrowly dodged a semi truck while pulling an impromptu U-turn in the middle of the intersection. Oh. My. Gosh.

Be a risk taker – For what it’s worth, 99% of the people I bumped into were absolutely shocked I was venturing into a new continent alone, not to mention that my friends were flabbergasted I was even considering tackling such an endeavor. I’ve always been one to take risks but they’ve always been calculated. I pride myself in plunging headlong into the unknown with at least a map or some other form of guidance. It’s true, there were times I was incredibly lonely or felt like I should’ve had a travel partner, but for the most part, it was freaking awesome. I wasn’t accountable to anyone. I could do whatever the heck I wanted. I didn’t have to squabble about what tourist trap to plunge into next. I could just be me and go have the trip that I wanted to have, not what my friends or family expected me to have. That’s a real vacation! And in addition to all that, I realized that I would be OK if I was done having solo adventures. It’s much more fun to share that with someone…

And so, reality has come back with a bang, and my tropical respite has ended. Guess it’s time to dust off the books, get back in shape for my packed race season coming up, and enjoy life to the fullest. My trip exceeded my expectations and now I’m refreshed for the remainder of the semester. Come on summer!

What have been some of your favorite international adventures?

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