There are so many pieces of my glorious trip to Thailand that I could share with prospective student travelers of the Families and Healthcare Businesses in Thailand seminar in future years. I could share what my favorite things were, what I think others should do while they are in the country, what I would advise against, etc. However, I find myself struggling to do this, because the majority of my most memorable experiences in Thailand that have really shaped the new, cultured “Joe” happened out of pure accident. They were not planned or premeditated, and I think that’s what made them so pure and so special. That is what made them so memorable and effective in my current life. Thus, I will just say a few things that I feel I would have liked to have known before departing to the other side of the world.
1). When in doubt– don’t pack it!! In other words, it is very easy to over-prepare or over-think when it comes to gearing up for travel. Everywhere you go in Thailand (especially the North) is A LOT less expensive on all levels than America. I can tell you over and over how cheap everything I bought was, but you cannot even begin to fathom how little money you actually spend when it comes to shopping until you go there and see it for yourself. Buy clothes in the country! The country has great style options for such a bargain! The authentic Thai clothes are beautiful, but American-style clothes or far more prevalent if you just want a simple t-shirt or need a last minute option. The more you pack beforehand, the less room you have to buy more things…and you WILL want to buy more things. Also, (this is not a joke) BRING TOILET PAPER. The rumors you have heard are tue. Often times it is not included in your bathroom experience, or it is but for a small fee. Travel-sized toilet paper is the best option in this case.
2). Eat new foods!!! American food in Thailand is often different than what you may be comfortable with anyways and it is more expensive than Thai selections. I tried almost every food option when I was in Thailand, from various Curry dishes to dried squid, and I was never disappointed. I loved how everything was so rich and bold in flavor. However, for many people, spice level and the strength of certain herbs in a dish can be an issue. If this is the case…there are still plenty of authentic Thai cuisine options, such as fried rice or Pad Thai.
3). During your free time, I would suggest using a travel book as a resource and exploring and restaurants, fun neighborhoods, exhibits, or bars that you can. Half of the fun experienced in a foreign country is what you do independently or with close friends—not in a big group of sixteen. Even if you do not want to spend money or you are tired or you don’t have access to a taxi of sorts, do nothing IN Thailand. In other words, allow yourself to sit outside and just observe. Walk aimlessly around the streets. Do and BE nothing but a simple tourist soaking everything in. This creates excellent moments of reflection and relaxation. My biggest regret is that I did not just soak in everything more. When I was tired…I simply laid in my hotel bed instead of further exposing myself to the cities I was in. I learned I regretted this when I realized my greatest self-discovery was achieved on a purposeless walk or a random adventure to the grocery store down the road.