At night, I’ve taken to closing my eyes and imaging my teak bedroom. Waking up and wiping the sleep from my eyes, moving my legs slowly so Lucky and Penny don’t get kicked from their spots on the bed, unfolding myself from the Tesco blanket I’ve had since I moved into my house, walking and then standing at the top of the wooden stairs and looking down into my blue-tiled kitchen.
I see it all so clearly.
I continue my routine, strolling Crocs-clad down my little soi lined with yellow flowers crawling up the wall, always blooming, past my laundry guy, Beau, a thin man probably around my age, who waves to me every morning.
I walk past the 20-something guys’ home, with one of their walls spray painted to replicate a scene from the original Mario Bros. Mornings mean their gates are shut, but it is easy to recall walking by them in darkness as they work on restoring motorbikes.
Smith Residence is the next landmark, and every morning I look to see who may be coming in from a night of partying, who is sitting at the open-air restaurant having a cup of coffee or breakfast.
On I walk, past the few restaurants lining the street, all with staff sweeping the dirt and bottles left from the night before off of their front patios as they prepare to open for breakfast, past the coffee shop where expat locals and backpackers co-exist, through the used clothing market and across the moat into Chiang Mai’s Old City.
Every detail of that walk to my job plays over and over in my head. I can smell the incense. I can hear the tuk tuks puttering by. When I get to work in my mind, I can feel the happiness that radiates through me when all of the office animals greet me the moment I walk in the door.
And then, there is Elephant Nature Park. The smell of the jungle mingling with the elephants. I can feel the leathery skin of Faa Mai’s trunk. I can picture Lek’s gorgeous smile as we sit at the bench overlooking the park, cuddling with the rescued cats and dogs.
It’s been a month since I left Thailand, and yet, these images, these sounds, these smells, these feelings, permeate my life in London. They haunt me in the most loving way before I close my eyes at night. When I sit in the coffee shop down the street and process the life I have left and the life I now live.
Leaving Thailand was an odd thing for me. In the past, I’ve always run. I’ve moved jobs, moved cities, moved countries, because I thought those things would make me happy. But this move? I wasn’t running. I was moving to try something new … to give my writing, my work in responsible tourism a shot, to give my personal life a shot at something more meaningful than late night stolen kisses and short-term romances.
I know what my life was there: it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t easy. But, it was my life. Leaving my home, Lek, my cats (who hopefully will make the journey to Europe soon), the elephants, the friends … it was heartbreaking for me.
Even now, after a month, I haven’t really processed it. I haven’t had that good cry. I haven’t honored my time, my exit, my new life properly. In fact, writing this right now is the first time in a month I have honored my emotions and let them in. Sat with them. Let the good, the bad, the sad, the scared, the brave all dance around. The result? Naturally, tears. But, tears aren’t always a negative thing. In this case, it is tears for the life I lived. Grateful tears for having those moments in Thailand. For being a part of something so much bigger than just me. For standing up for elephants. For other animals. For loving passionately. For letting go gracefully. For truly living.
Being in London is a scary thing. I find myself falling in love with the city more and more every day. But, unlike in Thailand, I don’t have permission to stay. Like Cinderella, when the clock strikes midnight (or in this case, when the calendar strikes six months), my pumpkin turns into a suitcase and I have to be on a plane out of this latest Kingdom I live in. I’m the girl with her face and hands pressed against the glass display window, coveting what’s inside and knowing it cannot be mine for the taking.
It’s a month in, and I feel strange. I don’t know how else to describe it. I cling to Thailand, to that piece of me, because it was such an important part of my life. I look forward to the future, because I know it is promising. But, this time, right now? I’m in this weird limbo of discovery, trial and error and trying my very best to make all of the pieces of the puzzle come together.
Let’s see how the next month goes.
8 thoughts on “Re-entry into the western world”
A word of warning, that ‘good’ cry sneaks up on you when you least expect it… 😉
I feel like it will come when my mom hugs me next!
Leaving beloved places is so hard. I still miss Japan daily and it’s been 11 years since I left. And I still don’t quite back into Australia after too long in Asia and Europe, either. It’ll never be quite the same “home”. I agree with Alana about that good cry coming out of the blue! (Or in my case good cries, plural!)
Chiang Mai really is the first place I’ve been where it is hard for me to let go. It was that special. 🙂 Although, I definitely don’t miss many things about it (but those are personal things and not my experience as a whole). I promise, I expect many cries!!
Another great article Diana! I know this same feeling all too well. This place is insanely special to me also. You did the right thing though and you know it. New experiences are what life is all about. Chiang Mai isn’t going anywhere and you can always come back 🙂 I am leaving again soon too but I know that I will always come back here again and again.
Aww, I miss you so much. Thank you for all of your love and support.
Wow. Sometimes you just read things and can’t believe how much you resonate with them. How you described your life in Thailand is a feeling I know very well. Your writing is so good. I haven’t been to Chiang Mai but I could really see it in my mind’s eye as you were describing your walk.
Thank you so much, Ceri! I really appreciate your kind words!! Where have you lived where you have experienced the feeling I wrote about?