My first trip to Thailand changed my life forever. Whether it was for the better or worse, that will depend on your perspective, but it changed it all the same.
I had travelled quite a bit before I ever set foot into Thailand. Mainly trips to the Caribbean and Mexico with either friends or family to get a little sun after a long winter and enjoy the tropical weather. Once I graduated from college, I travelled less and less frequently, to the point I could go years without a trip.
By the time I hit my early 30s, I was ready to change some things in my life. I’d gotten out of a relationship, started a new job, and was trying to figure out what is next. It was kind of a rough time for me, I felt depressed and down quite often, and I was drinking a lot. I started looking for an escape out of the monotony that my life had become.
I’d heard people talk about Thailand before, and what a great place it was. Beautiful weather, great beaches, amazing food, and as much sex as you wanted readily available. I always thought it was a place for horny old men and never gave it much thought.
One day I decided I wanted to travel somewhere – anywhere. But it had to be different. I didn’t have a lot of friends and the ones I did have were still happy just going to Mexico. I wanted to go somewhere new, possibly Europe.
It was at this point I decided if I wanted to go somewhere, I would need to do it on my own. I’d never travelled solo before and it worried me. I wasn’t worried about safety, just if I would have any fun and enjoy myself.
Deciding Where To Go
I’d always wanted to travel to Europe. London, Ireland, Amsterdam, and Germany were at the top of the list. When I started looking into it, I realized just how expensive a trip Europe was going to be. Flights and hotel rooms weren’t cheap, and the kicker was the exchange rate back then was truly horrible. I started to get discouraged.
I was reading several around the world travel blogs at the time and they all seemed to end up singing the praises on Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. I read all I could and soon I was convinced that is where I wanted to go.
More research. Plane flights weren’t cheap, but they were comparable flying to Europe. But once I got there hotels, food, drink, everything would be cheaper. The total cost of the trip would be within my budget with a few Baht to spare.
My only problem now was telling people where I was going to Thailand. I was nervous about it. If I had the preconceived notion that if all single men travelling to Thailand were going for sex, that’s what people would think about me. And I didn’t want that stigma.
I got my time-off, bought my tickets and booked my hotels. Then I waited to figure out what to tell people. Finally, I realized I shouldn’t give a fuck what people think and just told them. Yes, some people did make the crass reference or joke, I just laughed and shrugged it off. Fuck them.
A few months later I was on my way to Thailand to have a life changing trip.
How It Changed Me
Yes, everything I had read out visiting Thailand was true. Amazing weather, food, and beaches. Thailand is a great destination for the first-time solo traveler. I would return back many times.
I learned that travelling solo wasn’t bad, but it was actually great. You do what you want, when you want. You explore only the things you want to see and make the visit as long or as short as you desire. In a country like Thailand, it is easy to go to a bar and strike up a chat with another traveler. It makes it seem like you aren’t always alone.
Sure, I got lost, I got scammed, I got confused, and I probably got a dozen other things. But I always bounced back and had some good stories to tell. My worries that I wouldn’t have fun, or it is tough to travel alone turned out to be completely unfounded. When you need to get out of a jam or find your way home and the only person you have to rely on is yourself, you figure it out. There is no other choice. It’s quite liberating.
Another thing is I try to no longer give a fuck what other people think. Do what makes you happy and fuck them if they don’t like it. As long as what you are doing isn’t hurting someone, and it’s only their judgement of you that concerns you, why should you care? Fuck other people and their opinions. Not always as easy as it sounds, but you have to do what makes you happy.
Thailand is addictive. I like many before and after me got hooked quick. I went back on a yearly trip almost every year for close to a decade. Which was fun, but I missed out on travelling to a lot of other places I wanted to see. Plus, I started to get a reputation for traveling there so much. Which, yes, I did say fuck them and their opinions, but when it is your family and close friends, it makes it harder to have that attitude.
That first trip inspired me to travel more. It took me years to get outside my Thailand comfort zone, but when I did, I visited another 20 countries. My only regret is I didn’t visit them sooner.
One problem I found, just like any other addiction, is being hooked on Thailand started to impact my life back home. I started living only for my next fix – my next trip. Planning and waiting. I started losing interest in things. I was always trying to figure out how I might be able to move there and make a living.
Thailand has a way of making everyday living seem so boring and bland. Which can be a problem when 50 of the 52 weeks in a year is not spent in Thailand.
Learning to make the most of everyday no matter where I am is probably the best lesson I’ve learned. I’m not sure I’m completely there yet, but I’m working on it.