January 14, 2014
“Travel is limiting the comfort of the body to gain freedom of the mind,” (O’Reilly, 1999).
At home I have a routine that I am very comfortable with. There are fewer opportunities in my daily life at home to step out of my comfort zone than when I am on the other side of the world traveling in a foreign country. Making the decision to go on this trip, while incredibly exciting, was also outside of the experiences that I have had in my life so far. While I have traveled outside of the country to Israel numerous times, the Israeli culture is one that I am very familiar with through my Jewish learning and have studied about for years. Traveling to Thailand was my first time traveling abroad to a brand new country with a culture that I was very unfamiliar with and with a group of people where I only knew a few beforehand.
While in Thailand, I have stepped out of my comfort to let in new experiences and gain a deeper cultural experience. On one of the first days that we were here, Katelyn and I ventured off from the group to find a place to eat for lunch. This was our first full day of the trip, and we were staying at a hotel in Bangkok. Rather than going to a street vendor for lunch, we decided to eat at a sit-down restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. We walked into the restaurant, and Katelyn and I were the only non-Thai people in the entire place. As we bowed our heads to the waitress as we entered the restaurant, I was questioning if we should leave and find a place where the servers could speak English and with more foreigners. However, we decided to sit down, and I am very glad that we did. It was my first real culture shock in the country. I remember the waitresses were all dressed up with a lot of make-up and in uniform. Everyone was bowing to each other as they walked in and of course all speaking in Thai. There were live turtles and fish in the pots outside the restaurant. And rather than waiting to come over to the table when the waitress could see that we knew what we wanted to order, she stood right next to the table and waited for us to decide. The entire time, Katelyn and I were trying to remember how to say “thank you” in Thai, but I was too nervous to say anything in case we were incorrect. At the end of the meal, we were not sure if we should tip. It was a little uncomfortable because the waitress was standing only a few inches away from our table while we were trying to figure out if we are supposed to leave a tip or not. I ended up leaving one, however the waitress gave the money back to me. I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone to stay and eat at this restaurant on the first day of our trip. I am so happy that Katelyn and I did this because, while I left my own comfort, I was really able to learn about the culture first-hand and gain a deeper feeling of the cultural differences.
One of my most memorable experiences of stepping out of my comfort zone was when I decided to eat a cricket at the night market in Chiang Rai. I was walking with my friend in the group, Keng, and we saw many food stands that were selling fried crickets, maggots, and grasshoppers. I was joking around with Keng and told him that should try one although he took this as no joke. He went off and bought a whole pile of crickets and brought them to the table that some of us from the group were eating dinner at. While looking at these crickets closely with their several legs, antennas, eyes, and all, I immediately said, “no way am I eating those.” Keng went first and popped one in his mouth. I realized afterwards that there was no way I was getting out of this. I tried closing my eyes and picking up one of the crickets from the large mound of them with my chopsticks so I wouldn’t look too closely at it before putting it in my mouth. The entire table of people including my professor Cathy were cheering me on, and Katelyn was videotaping the whole thing! Lindsey decided to put one in my mouth for me, as it would have otherwise probably taken a few hours for me to do it myself. As she grabbed the cricket, I thought to myself that this is a life chance and how proud of myself I would be afterwards to have done something that I never in my life thought that I would do. In that moment, I opened my mouth and Lindsey plopped the cricket right on my tongue. I think I chewed faster than I have ever chewed anything before! As I swallowed the thing, I opened my eyes to see everyone around the table laughing hysterically and even some strangers around us staring and laughing at me. Apparently I made a pretty funny face as I was chewing J Wow, it was quite the thrill, and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and trying or, I should say, tasting something new!
The picture of me taking a bite of noodles was taken at the restaurant I discussed here that Katelyn and I ate at.
And here is also a picture of plate of crickets!