This year I am more reflective about Thanksgiving than any year before this.
It could be because it will be the first Thanksgiving I will spend without my family and friends at home. It could also be because after nearly seven months living in a foreign country, it has given me a much needed change in perspective.
Now, my friends had sufficiently made fun of me before I went to live in Thailand, telling me to “find myself” on this “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure. Needless to say, this has been nothing like it. I envisioned myself meditating and doing yoga every day, getting closer to my real self and arriving back home with a renewed sense and vision—the return of the enlightened Ari!
Nope. Hasn’t happened.
But something way more important has happened. I became so thankful. Life in Thailand has forced me to realize truths that I may not have realized back home.
Here is a short (yet incomplete) list, and maybe a reminder to others, of things to be thankful for:
Losing control. It’s no exaggeration to say that when you experience travel in Thailand, you quickly have to surrender your control of the situation. Mini-vans, rather than buses, are the surest mode of travel here. I still struggle with irritated thoughts of “why is this van still still here?!” an hour after it was supposed to leave. Or after the 3rd stop for gas in what could be a 45 minute journey, trying to stay sane as they motion you off the van.
The loss of control is frustrating, but it humbles you. I realized—finally—that I could sit miserably grumbling and cursing, or I can accept. Get over it. Smile at it. However you react, the result will be the same. You might as well choose happiness over anger.
Warm showers. Even in 100 degree, muggy weather when I arrived in Thailand—and certainly not now in the mild 80 “winter” weather—I dread the ice-cold morning shower. Back home, showering wasn’t even anything that I thought about. This goes for anything similar that seems insignificant, but is indeed a luxury. Even a reliable wifi connection or familiar food. Cherish and love the simplicities in life.
The Sunday scaries. When I first moved to Thailand, I was in awe of everything. The temples. The people. The music. Traditions. Smells. Food. Entire-families-on-mopeds. But as I settled into a routine, even I found myself getting the Sunday scaries, sometimes dreading the work week. You don’t have to be in a new country or exotic place to think of everyday as a new, amazing gift. (Seven months ago I would have rolled my eyes at this next part): Getting those Sunday scaries is a reminder to change perspective.
Remember, every day is precious. Keep reminding yourself and soon you won’t need reminding. Keep discovering new things everyday. Which leads us to…
Impermanence. Everything in life is impermanent. Nothing is a better reminder to live every day as a ball of gratefulness because if we had unlimited supply of everything, we would surely waste it. While crossing the busy road in my small town, I was nearly hit by a motor bike going the opposite way on a one-way road. My heart pretty much stopped. When I remembered that everything is impermanent in life, it was a reminder to look at everything and everyone as brand new each day. I started calling my mom more. I remembered to interact with my students out of amusement instead of frustration.
This moment. And the next. And the one after that. You can be stuck in a job you hate. You can be traveling the world. You could be bored out of your mind. You could be teaching feisty young Thai kids. It doesn’t matter what you are doing at this moment—the point is to be there fully.
Whenever I start worrying about my next step after living abroad, I step back and appreciate where I am right now. Just love where you are, wherever you are. It took me seven months and almost 14,000 miles to begin to realize it, but it is something I try to remember each day.
Because of social media it has almost become cheesy (and maybe even a little flaunt-y) to focus on your #hashtag #blessings. But reflecting on what you are truly grateful for everyday (not just Thanksgiving) will make us all happier peeps.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Ari Weaver
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: egor kataev/Flickr