My Most Prized Souvenir

     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.

6 thoughts on “My Most Prized Souvenir”

  1. Kya, this is so well written and insightful. "My life here in Thailand has been a work of art, so why can't it be the same at home?" You have 21 fellow travelers who will be attempting to do the same. Thanks for helping us find words for what we are journeying.

  2. (Sorry, I'm having troubles replying) but, I really enjoy this post!! I know we will have there memories for the rest of our lives and I am happy that I have gotten to experience so much with you. You have a beautiful outlook on life! Thanks for this post 🙂

  3. I'm also feeling the same as you! And for sure it's not goodbye, to the people we have met on this trip or our Thailand family. I'm so happy you were on this trip. And in 20 years we can tell our kids we survived the crazy boat ride at the gulf of Thailand!

  4. Kya, Your post evoked wonderful images of you and others dancing at the Mekong School in the moonlight, sitting in the boat as we went down the Mekong River, and all of us looking like drowned rats as we motored through the rain and wind near the Gulf of Siam (but still laughing in spite of it). Till we meet again, from Acharn Cathy, one of your "mama bears" 🙂

  5. Kya this is so beautiful! I have to say I was crying and smiling as I read through it. I love the new "reminders" you have discovered to improve your life here. And you are so right – why can't we generate the same feelings of happiness here?! That night dancing under the stars, is something I will never forget either 🙂

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