During this trip, I have taken over 900 pictures, bought a handmade ring in Chiang Khong, stuffed my suitcase with souvenirs for loved ones back at home, and made connections with 19 other students and countless people we have met along the way. However, I didn’t expect to walk away from this trip with 19 new people I consider family, countless indescribable experiences behind each 900 of those pictures, a wicked sunburn (sorry Mom, I swear I put on sunscreen!) and an entire new perspective on life. Three weeks seems like too short of a time to consider people family and become a new person yourself, but there is something magical about traveling 8,000+ miles away from home and being pushed to your limits again and again. As I sit here and reflect on the past three weeks, I find myself dreading boarding that plane tomorrow and saying goodbye to Thailand and my new “Thailand Family”. As sad as I am to say goodbye (or as we say here in Thailand, “until we meet again”) I know there is a positive behind the sadness and the tears.
After I arrive in Minnesota and the initial wave of sadness eases, I know my greatest souvenir will be the inspiration to improve my life. If I ever catch myself living in the future, I will remind myself of the moment we all danced under the stars together at the Mekong School next to the river and my entire being was living in that moment. If I ever feel like I’m at my breaking point, I will remind myself of the time we were in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand in a wooden boat during a storm and how I was able to laugh through the fear. If I ever feel like no one at home understands my experiences on this trip, I will remind myself of the 19 other beautiful souls (and two “mama bear” Acharns!) that were right by my side on this journey. If I ever feel like my life at home has become too repetitive, I will remind myself of the moment by the river that I promised myself I would travel the world. My life here in Thailand has been a work of art, so why can’t it be the same at home? There is no reason I can’t feel pure bliss and free at home. Sometimes we get stuck in the routine of being at home: schedules, work, school, success, materialism. And sometimes, we just need to board a plane and spend three weeks in a foreign country to be reminded of what is truly important. So Thailand, thank you for a souvenir no amount of Baht could ever buy. I am forever thankful.
And finally, if I ever find myself missing the fresh air, mountains, rivers, and beaches in Thailand, I will remind myself that it’s not “goodbye”. Until we meet again, Thailand.