About a week before I left, my boyfriend and I enjoyed a fun little staycation at the Culver Hotel (quaint rooms, great lobby bar and tons of restaurants in walking distance – we opted for the Dine L.A. Menu at Akasha, which was delicious!). His sister had found these bracelets called MantraBands and sent two of them for him to give me as a parting gift for my trip, and after researching them, he ended up buying two more as his own gift to me. I had decided to take very minimal jewelry with me on this trip, but these bracelets were very special and I have worn them daily since I left. The two his sister gave me were “Follow Your Bliss” and “Serenity.Courage.Wisdom”, and the two he gave me were “Enjoy the Journey” and “Always In My Heart”. I really enjoyed reading the explanation that came in the box with each Mantra Band, and the one that really speaks to me now is this: “Do what makes you happy. Never let anything or anyone hold you back from your dreams and your hopes. Face your fears, take chances, follow your bliss”.
Many people have made similar comments about me needing to do what makes me happy, follow my dreams, take chances, etc., and all of that sounds good in theory, but in reality, it is actually a very difficult thing to do (especially if you know me well!). Am I homesick after only two weeks? Not quite. Do I miss working full-time and going to school? Not a chance. Do I long for the routine that I am accustomed to in my structured life (and rather enjoy)? Not in the slightest. Part of traveling is about letting yourself go, allowing yourself to not have a plan, to sleep in, to drink a 640 ml Beerlao at 11:45 a.m. because it’s still your U.S. birthday and you’re on a slow boat to Luang Prabang along the Mekong River and what else do you have to do except cheers your new friend Diana, a Slovakian working in London, who has the same birthday as you.
So am I doing what makes me happy? Absolutely. It warms my heart to see the smiles and hear the laughter from the Thai school kids who would wave “hello” and giggle when we waved “hi” as we biked through their village (note: there are not many tourists, certainly not a lot of Americans, in Chiang Kham). And it gives me a good laugh to reflect on our Lao couples massage experience last night to celebrate my real time birthday: picture us laying outside in the cool evening along the Mekong River, wearing wraps that were provided to us. Music, or what can hardly be described as good karaoke, is playing in the distance. We are inhaling smoke from the burning rice fields nearby, and all the while listening to the constant chatter between the massage ladies, who are simultaneously answering cell phone calls. Oh and by the way, in addition to the two ladies giving the massages, a third – and much younger – lady sat in a chair in between them. Was she observing, learning technique, or simply in charge of answering the cell phone calls…who knows?
Crossing the Thai border into Lao yesterday was fairly easy, but taking a 15-minute tuk tuk to the heart of the border town of Houay Xay only to find out your hotel was just a 5-minute walk from the immigration office and it will cost you another 100 Bhat or 25,000 Kip each (appx. $3) to get back is pure entertainment for me. In L.A., this would piss me off, but here, it’s a reminder that part of the journey is being flexible and realizing that there is a huge language barrier, and that it’s nothing less than arrogant to think that everyone speaks English, or that it’s going to be easy to navigate in a country where signs are not in English and your cell coverage doesn’t work (what the heck T-Mobile?). But as Danica’s mom says, there are no accidents. On the tuk tuk into town, we met a young solo traveler (William from the Netherlands) and a mid-20s couple (Tammi & Harry from London) who gave us some great tips on our future travels. You just have to go with the flow as they say, and I am enjoying every second of this crazy adventure.
All that to say, if you have expectations of following a plan, or of organization, consistency, or cleanliness (toilet paper or soap in a bathroom, forget it), etc., then traveling in a second or third world country might not be for you. According to Rico, our gracious host in Chiang Kham, the Thai people have a saying that means “don’t worry about it”, which can be very frustrating, especially if you’re an American trying to run a business there. However, I believe the true meaning behind that saying is to relax – things will get done in time, there’s no need to stress about it, just enjoy the moment. If this trip has taught me anything thus far, it’s that I am a person who lives by too many restrictions and doesn’t always do what makes me happy, occasionally lets others hold me back, and often has a hard time facing my fears and taking chances. But here I am, jobless, homeless and carless, traveling without a return ticket, and truely following my bliss.
There is a quote by Saint Augustine that I was recently reminded of from a t-shirt at the Chatuchak market in Bangkok of all places: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page”. Start reading people because traveling is not only a life-changing experience, but it is an awakening into who you are and what it means to Follow Your Bliss. So Enjoy The Journey, find your Serenity.Courage.Wisdom – you are Always in My heart.
My MantraBands Defined
Follow Your Bliss: Do what makes you happy. Never let anything or anyone hold you back from your dreams and your hopes. Face your fears, take chances, follow your bliss”.
Enjoy the Journey: Find joy in your life and cherish every moment. Because in the end, it’s the journey that matters. Enjoy your journey.
Serenity.Courage.Wisdom: Serenity, to accept the things I cannot change; Courage, to change the things I can. And Wisdom, to know the difference.
Always in My Heart: Today and every day, you are always in my thoughts. Together or apart, you are always in my heart.