I started my blog in 2011. I had graduated from college and had just moved to Thailand. Life was exciting then! There was lots of crying though, but that was due to me not being used to the Hell-level spiciness of Thai food. Ah, the young me. The current me cuts those chilies and then adds some chili flakes on top of my curries.
Yet the loop I wanted to share with you is not about my initial relationship with chilies and what role they play in my life now (we’re friends now, we’re cool). It’s about one thing I wanted to do for eight years, something that I had literally dreamed about, and that finally happened at the end of 2019.
I could finally show Thailand to my mom!
The seeds of this trip got planted in the spring, and, voila: after tens of hours of me planning and booking everything, trying to unrealistically predict the weather, and micromanaging my mom and her friend who was traveling with us, we were on our way to Thailand! (easy, when summarized in this way)
What did we do? Oh man, the list is as long as my Travel Journal pages are full (really). The temples of Bangkok, the coffee shops of Chiang Mai, the elephants, the waterfalls, the beaches and the boat rides (and the motion sickness medicine)… Let me humbly add some photos here.
Yet the coolest thing wasn’t the destination itself, but what it has reminded me of. If you’re reading carefully, you’ll notice two reminders being mentioned here (is there a prize, you ask? Oh no, the connection seems to be bad, I can’t really hea..).
Back in 2011, I was volunteering with a lovely NGO, living on a stipend so small that I would still hitch rides from Chiang Mai to my village (I’m still super grateful for that stipend and what it allowed me to experience there). It was an amazing and eye-opening experience in so many respects and it has had enormous intrinsic value in my life. Whatever Justina I am now, a part of it was formed on those dangerous motorbike rides (as a passenger though, I was still a non-driver then…as I am now), teaching my lovely students, watching documentaries in my room (have I already mentioned I lived in a village?), and, as importantly, sharing experiences with some wholehearted people who I’ve met during my time there. I got introduced to Buddhist psychology, was helped so many times by the kindness of Thai people, met people who are proper passionate about what they do, continued reflecting on my Eurocentric views, and saw landscapes so incredible that they would come back to me in dreams for years. Thus, it has turned into a dream.
I know it was me who decided to write about it, at the same time, it’s really difficult to describe how incredible and meaningful this trip was (“so this is where you could end your post, Juste…”, I know). Probably the most rewarding aspect of it was that not only did my mom love it, but she also saw why I liked it so much. “Should I bring my mom to Chiang Mai? Will she get why for me it’s such a special place?” I was wondering, and for no reason. She freakin’ loved it and wants to come back. She even got a tattoo there (yes, you’ve read that right) and, I quote, she “wouldn’t mind going back there for another one.”
A couple of years ago, I’ve written this about my mom:
From bus trips in Eastern Europe and enjoying walks in parks in Spain to dancing in deserts in the Middle East, from beaches of Rio and the concrete of São Paulo to the waterfalls of Argentina, from night wine drinking by the Colosseum to, finally, enjoying those cheap cocktails in Budapest: my mom has never been a tourist; before she even knew it, she has always been a backpacker, the realest traveler there is.
Going from Thailand to Thailand might have been a loop for me, but for my mom it’s a continuation of her brave and curious way of living, welcoming everything – even that spicy Thai food – with a smile and an open heart. And it’s a reminder for me to do the same.
I know I’m incredibly lucky to even had had this dream, and crazy lucky to have been able to achieve it. I see it as a nice reminder that, even when certain things in my life might not be going (conventionally?) well, when there are some important things (whole areas of my life) I’m struggling with or don’t even have anything happening in, that all of these areas are not all there is. And that while there are big things – like a trip to SEA – to feel grateful for, there are also the small things that deserve their share of gratitude, too.