For months, I have been thinking of writing about an experience that changed our lives and set us out onto this light traveling path. With the approach of the 10th Anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in Thailand, the timing feels right, but still I’ve struggled to find the words. Then I received an assignment from Paste magazine to write about dealing with tragedy while traveling. Once I started digging into that piece, the urge to share something more personal once again surfaced. My hope for this story is that it inspires you to make the most of every day and chase your dreams. Above all, I hope it serves as a reminder that we only have so many tomorrows. Now is the time for living out dreams. I say that to you as much as to myself. Let’s always remind each other.
Here’s Our Story:
People often tell us how lucky we are to travel. And, there’s no doubt we are lucky for this reason, as well as a multitude of others. But something that many people don’t realize is how surviving the Indian Ocean tsunami ten years ago (yesterday) has directly lead us on this path.
Over the years, when we’ve been asked about the experience, we have recounted the story to close friends – usually only after a few glasses of wine. A few weeks after we returned from Thailand, we even sat down for one (disastrous) interview with a local publication where a promise of telling a non-sensationalized story with a focus on the fundraising effort turned into a story lead by a revolting headline and distasteful AP images of dead bodies. Needless to say, that left a bitter taste and has made us wary of talking about the experience too widely.
In fact, we rarely discuss it together or with our travelling companions from the trip, but now, after ten years, it seems a good time for reflecting on the events of the Thailand journey and where it has led us today.
An Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventure
We were excited for our friends Jason and Lisa when they embarked on a one-year trip around the world and even more stoked when they suggested we meet them, somewhere, anywhere. Both Matt and I had dreamed of Thailand and chose to travel there during the Christmas holidays for what felt like an once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
We anticipated the trip for months and when December arrived, we met Jason and Lisa in the colorful and chaotic capital Bangkok for a few days of site-seeing and adventurous eating. Bangkok left our head spinning with its crowded markets, centuries old temples, and golden Buddhas. It was a grand time that primed us to get outside the city and experience Thailand at a slower pace. We went separate ways for the next week, with Matt and I headed to the mountainous north and Jason and Lisa going south.
I thought at the time – and still feel today – that Northern Thailand is the most beautiful, magical place I have ever seen. We spent days hiking the mountains around Chiang Dao, meeting friendly and curious locals, and discovering Buddhist temples hidden in the forests. After climbing hundreds of steps up a winding jungle path and arriving at a golden temple with breathtaking views of the countryside. I remember breaking into tears as a monk in a flowing saffron robe, the only other person there, quietly swept the floor behind us. Matt asked why I was crying and I replied because it was so beautiful I wished my grandmother could be there to see it; I wished everyone I knew could see it.
Never the one to choose mountains over beaches, even Matt was surprised when I said I didn’t want to leave the North. But, we had plans to meet our friends and were looking forward to reuniting with them for Christmas, so we took a flight to Krabi Provence anticipating a fun, relaxing beach vacation.
(To keep reading, see Part II of our story.)