When life throws a roadblock in the way, sometimes we must find another route to reach our destination. Perhaps we find new scenery along the way that piques curiosities that we couldn’t fathom beforehand. I have reminded myself of this numerous times over the past few weeks.
I am not in Thailand, nor are my six former students who had expected to accompany me. We were not in Thailand at all this past month, in fact. Less than forty-eight hours prior to our departure, I received the devastating news from the administration of FLCC that the travel course will be canceled this time. As I stood in my bedroom in shock for a moment with the phone in my hand, I looked over at my already packed brand new suitcase I had purchased just for this trip. Laying outside of my new bag were several little items I always bring with me on my travels…little mini-packages of toilet paper, my natural sleeping remedies, first aid items, phrase books and small gifts for my friends in Thailand. In my backpack I had my organized three-ring binder I had created for this trip with the word ‘THAILAND’ written in capital letters along the spine. I had it meticulously organized with the trip’s itinerary, receipts, traveler information, and potential places to visit. I had weeded through my summer closet and had packed only my most comfortable (and fast-drying) sundresses and yoga pants in my bag. An open notebook laid on my bedroom floor next to my bag with all of my “to do” lists… one for before I depart, one for when I arrive at the airport, one a list of reminders for when I arrive with the group, and yet another section dedicated just for tracking all the expenses that I would have incurred along the journey. In that one moment, my nearly nine months of planning for this trip to return to Thailand had been wiped away.
Anyone who has ever organized a travel class understands that about ninety percent of the work that is involved to make the trip happen occurs before departure…the recruiting, planning, budgeting, making contacts, and assuring that all of the necessary details are attended to. But, perhaps most importantly, perhaps, is assuring that those who decide to embark on the adventure have a positive, life –altering experience that enriches their lives in a way that only entering a new culture can; to step outside of the confines of the world as it is lived daily in one’s life at home and allow in new perspectives and possibilities. Though we all one day move past our youth in life, our finances may alter, and our personal relationships may change, no one can rob us of our knowledge and life experiences. Once we cross the border and enter that new world, it paves an opportunity to change our lives forever, if we choose to invite it in. My passion for taking others to far away places that are dramatically different than the world we experience here in the United States is primarily for this reason. I thought of what this journey might have meant to those who had planned to take this trip for months. I suddenly felt a tightening knot of dread in my stomach as I realized I would need to be the bearer of the regrettable news that the trip was canceled. Perhaps even harder, though, I was realizing I would need to share this news with my friends in Thailand who had put so much effort into assuring that we were welcomed when we arrived. I thought of my friends at the SVG Thai Massage School… all of the teachers who had blocked out this time for us and had made extensive plans for our arrival. I thought of how those from the outside couldn’t truly understand the level of kindness and hospitality that the Thai people give to make us feel at home when we visit. Their generosity extends far beyond what most people would comprehend unless they are familiar with Thai culture.
On May 22nd, the Royal Thai Armed Forces declared a coup d’état following more than six months of recent political tension related to the country’s current Prime Minister. The Thai military had formed a junta, which means that the country established a government led by military leaders. A countrywide curfew was established from 10:00pm to 5:00pm. Although I felt confident that we would be safe in our secure destination at the SVG Thai Massage Training Center in Chiang Mai, from the outside world (understandably), the coup appeared to make Thailand seem like an unstable and unsafe place to visit. I had planned for our trip to take place exclusively in Northern Thailand this year and avoid Bangkok should concerns about the political situation surface before we left. Still, I could not salvage the travel course or prevent the cancellation. The United States had declared a travel alert, and the decision had been made by the college to cancel the trip.
I am not here to analyze Thai politics, nor do I intend to write here about the history of what built to the current situation. I am far from being a scholar of Thai politics, and it is not my place to judge the unrest on either end of the spectrum. What I do know of Thailand, however, is that it primarily a gentle culture. The vast majority of the people that live there only wish for peace. To my knowledge, tourists have never been treated with anything short of kindness, regardless of what has occurred politically in the country. During my previous visits, I have been welcomed into the country without judgment by my Thai friends and have been treated as if I am family. Although I feel in my heart that this would have been our experience this time as well, regardless of the curfew or the pending unrest, I have also had to learn to let it go. This seems to have been my greatest lesson as I’ve entered the mid years of my life; to learn to let go with acceptance and not become jaded or broken by it. It is easy to grow bitter and fall under a spell of hopelessness when loss rudely falls before us and attempts to block our path to our dreams. It is often easier to just give up and become complacent than to remain impassioned about seeking another pathway to be closer to an unremitting dream. As many have discovered, however, obstacles can often lead to unforeseen opportunities, and this is the voice I will choose to follow.
I’m not sure when, or even where, I will travel again, but I know I will, and I know there will be many times that others will join me. It has taken some time for me to feel motivated to come back here when my path is so unclear. I even contemplated leaving my blog and abandoning my writing altogether, or at least for a long while. But those who share my sentiment for writing know that we do it just as much as a need to feed our own souls as an instrument to reach out and share. So, I leave here not sure of what I will write about next…perhaps I’ll continue to share about my new discoveries as I study at the Thai Institute of the Healing Arts in Arlington this summer, or revisit some of my long-abandoned yoga philosophy books, or just ponder about the value of bodywork in a culture that is becoming more alienated from touch as we increasingly becoming more dependent on technology as a means for communicating. The options are boundless. One thing I know for certain, though, is that I will be back when I am inspired again, and I will have new memoirs to write about when I am wayfaring once again.