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Rice Mountain

July 15, 2010

19 days and counting. . .

I’m not so keen on having to countdown my remaining time in Thailand as if I’m a kid waiting for Christmas morning – oh god, how many more sleeps?? – but that’s what it’s becoming.  I can’t focus on anything here for more than 30 minutes without being distracted of thoughts from home.

I suppose that’s a good thing though.  I’ve met loads of travelers who have no interest whatsoever in returning home, not until the last possible moment when they have simply no other option.  Even when such people do make it back, sure it’s good to see family and old friends but there’s an itch to get the hell out again once money or time or whatever permits them.  I’m eternally grateful I don’t feel that way about Canada.  Many Australians as it turns out feel the same way and of course there’s always exceptions.

I remember when my time in Vietnam was coming to a close I was incredibly anxious to leave.  The Vietnamese had managed to take my liberal optimistic view of the world and shake it to its core.  I had always believed strong stereotypes were mostly bullshit, developed by narrow-minded bigots used for the sake of a cheap joke.  Vietnam changed that in a way I never expected.  Not to say it made me a bigot but it made me realize how different things can be from outside of my precious Southern Ontario bubble.  On the positive side, it really made you look for (and find!) the good in people.

Thailand has been something different once again.  I’m not so anxious to leave because I’m feeling resent or hard-feelings against the people.  The people I’m living with in this community are a class act.  There’s no better example of community and brotherhood than where I am and I’m sure I’ll miss many of them.  The teachers love me and will commit to well and above the call of duty to make sure I’m looked after (by Thai standards).  On the other hand, you’re always the outsider and there are some things I could never get used to, which by the way is a pretty long list.  Some of the many examples include pulling bugs out of my drinking water, smelling plastic fires in the morning, roosters crowing by 5am, the shocking amounts of rice,

– I dare you to try this as an experiment.  If you want an authentic Thai experience at home, for 1 month you must eat all three meals of the day with white steamed rice (no instant), preferably plain unless you know how to make sticky rice.  Also, rice must be by far the largest proportion of whatever meal you’re on.  Bonus points if you have your meals with fish sauce.

You get used to it in a sense but I’ll never look at rice the same way again.  Also wherever you don’t see a house or a road, you’ll see a rice paddy.  When a Thai person invites you to eat, no matter what the particular dish is, (it could be a plate of crackers and a glass of water) they’ll say something like “Geen Kow” which literally translates to “Have rice”.  It’s wild.

All that aside, one of the top reasons for my eagerness to return home is getting my life back on track and committing to something I can maintain and invest into for the long-term.  I’ll always love traveling and keep an eye out for new opportunities but I feel like I need to put some roots down somewhere in some sense of the word.  I’m really excited for my program in the Fall and moving into the log cabin my parents staked out for me.  I can think of one dark-haired history buff in particular whom it’ll be good to see again.  Thailand has been great to me in so many ways but I’m simply getting tired of it all and struggling without much money to make things a little more comfortable has worn thin.

So therefore in 19 days, I welcome my long flight home with open arms.  The plan is to spend a couple of days in Vancouver to find my feet and get readjusted to Canada living, whatever that means, and then my good buddy Chris Holton and I will be embarking on our road trip back to Burlington.  That ought to be an adventure therein itself, and I certainly intend on sharing the experience and the hilarity to ensue.

Thanks to everyone who has been faithful with the blogs thus far during my adventure.  It’s nearly at an end and I’m looking forward to sharing the stories with you personally over cold beer, etc, etc.

Harmonica playing elephant next time, I swear!

My nemesis. I've taken to naming some of the other local roosters after internet memes like 'hamster dance' and 'lolcats' because they're so incredibly irritating.

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3 Comments
  1. Ben,

    I think this has been your best post to date…sounds like Ben Tolton is no longer “on the loose” for the time being.

    You’ve captured (what I imagine, at least to be) the essence of long term travel. It’s easy for people to romanticize the idea of breaking free from the shackles of daily life to “find themselves” abroad, but somewhat ironically, it’s these very things – our friends, families and passions – that make us who we are.

    I can really relate to what you’ve written about focus, except in my case, it’s the opposite. I can’t focus on anything for all of 15 minutes without thinking about my move to Sweden.

    I’m excited, yes, but it comes along with a definite feeling of tentativeness (might not be a word). I think I finally understand how you felt weeks before both of your big adventures when I repeatedly asked you “Are you excited?”. (which not surprisingly, everyone now asks me on a daily basis).

    Looking forward to seeing you. Any chance you’d be able to scoot down to Waterloo for the night of August 13th?

    Cheers,
    Scott

    • Hey man, thanks for the feedback

      Trying to make sense of my thoughts and opinions about extended travel and my thoughts about home, etc, etc would take more work than this entire blog, I think and I know that as time passes when I’m back home, this experience will change in meaning for me from what it is now.

      But, Home is where the heart is; Absence makes the heart grow fonder; You gotta go there to come back, so on and so forth.
      For all that’s worth though, there’s always an infinite number of permutations that can influence your experience and perspective of travel which then inevitably is contrasted to your thoughts of home.
      Those core values though, I think you hit the nail on the head – friends, family, passions – those are the things our identities are built upon and will have an incredible influence upon you when you’re removed from everything for such a period of time. You will learn something about yourself you never knew existed and I think that’s the most important part, even if you can’t quite explain it.

      I could go on, but I’d rather sit and chat face to face. I DO plan on being in Waterloo on the 13th and I’ll keep you informed as I get closer.

      How’s the Svenska, by the way?

  2. Sue Dolan permalink

    Hi Ben,
    Do you think the harmonica playing elephant could learn the John Denver tune Take Me Home Country Roads? You could sing along and substitute Southern Ontario for West Virginia. Glad you are excited about your plans for the near future. The drive home from Vancouver sounds like a nice way to finish- or to begin!
    Sue

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