Despite the threat of rain and the gray clouds hanging low to our heads, Katie and I have no problem dipping into the luxurious pool at Rachamankha on my first full day at the property. It’s east coast hot and humid.
“What’s your plan?” Katie asks me as we cool our bodies in the water. She’d surprised me a week earlier, when I first arrived to Chiang Mai and was suffering from jet lag. But, our relationship extends back a year earlier, when I was in Sarajevo and in need of help, in need of a friend.
Blinking the water from my eyelashes, I slick my hair back, and look at her.
I have no idea.
In an instant, I stammer. One of my best travel friends in the universe has caught me off-guard. Called me out on all of my talk of travel and not staying in one place in a conventional lifestyle.
“D, you say you don’t want to stay in Vegas, so what’s your plan?”
I don’t know.
“To move to Thailand, I guess,” I throw out.
After all, I knew when I booked my trip to Thailand, I wasn’t just going to volunteer with the elephants. I was scouting Chiang Mai to see if it would make a suitable home.
At a quick few days into my time in the city, I wasn’t sold on it. But, I wasn’t writing it off, either.
I don’t know.
“I guess this winter?”
“I guess …”
“D, what’s stopping you?” Katie asks, hinting at frustration.
“My cats … money …”
“Those are just excuses.”
I blink. She’s right and I know it.
What IS stopping me?
I don’t have an answer.
“Well, I’m going to say this. If you want to go, you should go. Figure your shit out and leave Vegas. I don’t know why you stay there anyway. It’s not you.”
And, I know she’s right.
For the next four days, I wander through Chiang Mai. Exploring. Getting lost. Trying to imagine myself living in this city.
Could this be my home?
I try to fall in love with the town. To see what other ex-pats see when they come through here.
But, the town isn’t what really calls to me. It’s the elephants.
On my last night, when one of the volunteers gives me a hug goodbye, she whispers in my ear: “I hope all of your dreams come true.”
My eyes water as I whisper goodbye to her and I sit there. Dumbfounded.
What are my dreams these days?
Hours before I depart back to Las Vegas, it’s rainy (as per usual) and I’m not looking forward to the long-haul flight back to America. Lucy, the last remaining volunteer in Chiang Mai, and I, head out to help me find a ride back to the airport.
When I convince a tuk tuk driver to drop me for 70 baht, we say our goodbyes and I hop into the open-backed vehicle. As we drive past the moat, the sky opens more, pelting my face with sideways rain.
Like I had done in the pool a few days early, I blink the water away, looking out. Concentrating. Trying … trying so hard … to figure out the next steps in my life.
As I board the flight to Bangkok, I look out towards the lush green mountains shrouded in clouds.
This isn’t the last time I will be in Chiang Mai.
I don’t know anything other than that.
But, I suppose, that’s a good a start as any.