Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our Souvenirs

I have more experiences and stories to share surrounding our trip but I thought I would tell you about the two big things (for us) that we took away from it.

Now I'm going to warn you that they aren't going to seem like a big deal to anyone else, nor will they likely sound all that earth shattering considering some people would come home from a trip like this deciding to sell all they own give it to the poor and move back (though I'm a step away from that).

The first thing that struck both Wally and myself (while we were still in Thailand) was how the lifestyle there was so different.

For us much of it was because of a lack of Internet access, television, or any way to enjoy media of any kind. However I don't imagine that too many people (the poor ones anyways do). I mean if you are doing ok you can certainly have cable just like here, Internet and all that stuff for sure. But since we didn't bring a laptop to check e-mail while we were somewhere with wi-fi and our place didn't have anything else at all, we had only ourselves for amusement.

Most of the time we had there was used visiting the different parts of Compasio's work, visiting with friends or seeing new places but there was usually a pointin the day when we had a couple of hours of down time. Time we'd definitely usually fill with media (as I am right now).

We noticed immediately how much more time we seemed to have to talk, to read or just to sit together and we didn't even have very large chunks of time! A couple of hours seems like several with nothing else to do. (Of course we were on vacation and didn't have housework, dogs, yard maintenance, laundry or meal prep either).

Still we seemed to enjoy the benefits of little to no technology to distract us. I don't think we've ever chatted that much (and I think we talk quite a bit).

After the week in Mae Sot of no distractions we decided that life seemed much more relaxed, attentive, and rich with less time glued to screens and more time with quietness. We made the firm decision that when we got home we would commit to less tv, Internet and separate use of both of these things. By that I mean if we're on the Internet we'll now more often than not both be on it in the same room together. It sounds ridiculous I know, but it feels different.

We've decided to spend much more time upstairs in our more formal living room that holds no tv. If we want to watch something we'll just gear up the lappy and watch upstairs. I don't know what makes it so much different but it has. We're enjoying more limited time watching stuff and more time just hanging out when we can. As I mentioned before something about our relationship is different since the trip and it's great.

The second and perhaps more interesting take away from our trip would be the realization that we could definitely live in another country - I mean a foreign country, and be very happy.

Whenever I've ever imagined myself as a potential .... hmmmmm I don't know any other word but missionary though I don't know if it fits for this, you get the idea right? I've thought of painfully sacrificing any good thing I've had possession of: comfy bed, nice car, warm home, hot water, indoor plumbing, real food, and any other good thing in life.

After meeting and visiting the homes of many 'missionary' types in Thailand I realize that you can still live comfortably in another country. More importantly I know now I could get used to driving on the other side of the road, I could learn how to drive a motorbike (even though I didn't, nor did I try, I know the thought doesn't overwhelm me - I was just lazy), I could learn the language (I LOVE learning), I could make friends (unfortunately I am addicted to social time), I could adapt my eating (good bye clean eating but it is balanced with the fact you can choose to bicycle everywhere and work it off quite well) and many other things.

I adapted far better than I ever thought I would to the changes we experienced and though many would point out the difference a week is compared to a year I know in my heart how comfortable I felt there. I honestly was never for a second home sick for anything.

I know, I know, how could a week possibly be enough time to get homesick but just trust me.

This latter realization was true for both Wally and myself, surprisingly. While we were still there we chatted about the possibility of going back even if we did it just for the lifestyle change. Wally was open to the idea of doing the kind of work he does now only obviously it would be different in that he'd be working sort of on his own (he'd have to get contract work, but he could do it). I could devout my time to hopefully raising our kids and possibly working with an organization in their work with people. Wally could do that as well during his off time.

I'm not sure how likely it is to happen any time soon but I at least hope that some day we will return or go somewhere else to live if even for only a period of a year or so to experience a different lifestyle for ourselves and our children (if they ever decide to make an entrance). I don't ever want to get too comfortable in our life where we are right now.

Many people that I've talked to form here (Canada) assume that by saying 'we don't want to get comfortable' means we need to have wooden benches instead of couches, straw beds on hundred year old iron rod beds, hand me down clothes and not a screen in sight. That is not what I am talking about when I say we don't want to get too comfortable.

In my opinion it doesn't matter one bit what you have: a $700 car or a $50 000 car. Do you own it? Or does it own you? Are you comfortable giving whatever you have up so that you can answer a calling to do something different or to heed a realization? Or does having what you have make the thought of doing what you know is right more difficult?

I'm no saint what-so-ever (I just heard a thousand Amens) but I know, at least right now, I could sell my house, my car, my new leather couches that I got for a steal, my computer, my cozy bed that I enjoyed all the more when I got home, and a hundred other things if I felt called to go back to Thailand. The stuff in my life (at least right now) does not make me answer to it.

There are a few relationships that would be a challenge to deal with. Ones that wouldn't understand, ones that wouldn't agree, ones that just wouldn't like it.

I think it's those relationships that would be the difficult part. No one tell us to get rid of people that make us too comfortable.

In the end I don't think it's wrong to have wonderfully great things (it's all a matter of perspective on what's great anyways) as long as they don't determine your life, that includes how you share all you have (time, talent, money).

So, Wally and I may not have come back having changed the ways people expected we did change in ways we didn't and they were beautiful surprising gifts.

I do hope some day we get to experience life in another culture, it excites me to think about. For now we are hoping to do our best taking the best things we learned from Thailand and applying them to our life here.

Simplify. Quiet. Slow down. Give. Respect. Love. Listen. Feel. Act.

And if one day we are told, in a still quiet voice to go, we will.

Our souvenirs didn't come from a store. Ask any real traveller - they are the best ones.