I could smell and taste Chiang Mai before my most recent trip there.
A few months ago, as I sat completing occupational therapy notes for work, I was literally captured by a sweet smoky smell. I jumped up from my bed, walked all around my apartment, only to confirm that there was nothing burning on the stove and no incense lit.
It seemed I had associated a particular aroma with the city last year when I traveled to Thailand with my sister. We had visited last March, during a time when local farmers burn field and brush to get ready for a new season of crops. This leaves the city inundated with a waft of smoke. However as I sat in New Jersey a year later, my senses vibrated stronger than anything I have ever experienced. Things were connecting.
I realized that, as mentioned by my life coach, my spiritual and mental bodies were in a place before I was physically able to follow the path. My head and heart were in Thailand, and I was yearning to physically get there. I decided to take a leap, and booked my first solo international trip. This was the best decision of my life.
I traveled eight thousand four hundred miles in three plane rides from NJ, with a strong sense of calmness throughout the entire journey. Though there was some initial fear in regards to my decision of taking this leap and leaving work behind, the lessons I gained were invaluable.
Here are some tips to encourage you to book your next trip!
Let go of all fear and trust the universe:
Prior to my trip, I had spent numerous hours researching accommodations, activities and planning out each day. I was astonished by how all of the energy I had put into organizing this trip manifested beautifully. But better yet, I was amazed at all the spontaneous things that happened along the way, whether it was sharing a table during lunch at my stopover in Hong Kong and exchanging fun stories with another solo traveler, or coming across a beautiful temple to meditate for a few minutes before my Reiki class every morning in Chiang Mai.
Recognize that people everywhere are kinder than you anticipate:
I saw the good in people again, and it was refreshing. My energy was open and inviting, and thus I attracted some beautiful souls and conversations.
I recall sitting in a jazz bar next door to my boutique hotel, immediately being invited into a conversation with three sweet college graduates from Georgia Tech. We talked about relationships, travel and music. They also beamed at how brave I was to take this trip alone, and were inspired to have Reiki done while there once I told them about the class I was attending. I can’t recall having a more fun night than with these free spirited gals!
Don’t stress about money:
It is incredibly common for people to use their financial situation as an excuse to not do things that may be meaningful to them, however may consistently go out out of their way to do things for others that may not be as appealing to their soul.
When I booked my trip, I was not in the best financial situation. However, I knew there were short term solutions to make my trip feasible. I saved by cutting back on social outings with friends in the city, skipping out on my daily caramel macchiato at Starbucks, and refraining from the urge to buy anything new. These small decisions went a long way, giving me that extra bit to spend in Chiang Mai.
I also luckily chose a destination that is very cheap compared to the U.S. (in terms of meals and hotels), spent time living like a local (which I preferred on this trip anyway), and booked during off season which saved me approximately $500 on my round trip airfare. I booked accommodations through Air B&B, which I have now become obsessed with. For example, while traveling through Bangkok I did not stay in the city center but just twenty minutes away at a beautiful cozy apartment right off the train stop after reading very positive reviews at $26/night. Money comes and goes, but these memories will last me a lifetime.
Let go of judgment (both from yourself and others):
I remember having major doubts prior to booking my trip to Thailand. Am I worthy enough? Can I truly afford this? Am I deserving of such a big trip for no particular reason? Who do I think I am?
My throat tightened as I clicked the the book button on Cheapoair. I went through many emotions in regards to self worth which have never arisen before; I believe this was due to me traveling solo and the many voices surrounding me, questioning whether it was safe and what I would truly gain from traveling independently. Little did them and I know, the gains would be tremendous.
By the end of my trip, I had made several new connections (in both the therapy and Reiki world) as I volunteered at an international school one day, and developed a strong bond with my Reiki teacher. I also felt pretty bad*ss traveling almost thirty hours, planning the trip by myself, and figuring it all out. Nobody else but me owned this journey. It was an amazing feeling.
Engage in self care for your soul:
“You are on this earth to entertain, and to be entertained.” This quote by Paramahansa Yogananda has inspired by greatly, giving me the courage to book my Thailand trip. We work so hard for so many hours each week, but how often do we truly put the time into our own self care and enjoyment?
As an Occupational Therapist, I work daily with both elderly clients and children to assist with their self care and independence, and realized it was just as important to maintain my own sense of balance and happiness in order to thrive on the job. I needed some fun, laughter, and love in my life again. I craved to recharge my energy and come back into alignment within myself. While in Chiang Mai, I treated myself to daily Thai massages, herbal steams to detox (which I highly recommend), and the best green curry dishes I could ever imagine.
While in Thailand, I took a Reiki course at the Chiang Mai Wellness Centre with leading RMT Nicholas Harris. I immediately recognized a picture of my spirit guide Paramahansa Yogananda hanging in his clinic, and was reminded instantly of why this all just made sense. Oh and that sweet smoky scent of incense I mentioned earlier? It was not just in my memory of the city and temples, it strongly reflected the aroma of the healing center where I studied daily.
I Hope this inspires you to book your next trip, better yet solo trip, to a place you have been dreaming about. My guess is you will not regret it.
Author: Asha Surti
Editor: Erin Lawson