I must preface by saying that each item on my list is the most basic form of an otherwise multi-faceted, often existential internal dialogue, inspired by the thrills and challenges of the last three months here. I am happy to elaborate on any one of them - just ask!
- When we are vulnerable, and open to such vulnerability we truly grow.
- I have a deeper, more expansive sense of empathy than ever before.
- In my early/mid 20s, I lived in France and Chile, and backpacked around Europe, South America and South Africa. Today, Ryan and I are easily ten years older than most of the travelers we've met, which has made me reflect on my youth, and how I have changed since I last trotted the globe. In a society that reveres youth, what does it even mean to be youthful or young at heart? What are the underlying values of youth that keep the hearts of the old, young?
- Very generally speaking, I admire the sense of community expressed throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Which makes me wonder, does the American cultural concept of the nuclear family isolate us?
- Food, again: I feel amazing in the absence of dairy, gluten and processed foods. Food is exceptionally fresh! What does this mean for us when we get back to the US?
- We must not let history repeat itself! GOTV 2016!
- This next point comes after reading a thought-provoking book, and intensely reflecting on my career path, the (sometimes decade's old) factors influencing that path, my personal versus societal definitions of "success," and the constant struggle to strike the perfect work-life balance: Are we obligated to our potential?
- As I said before, Earth is full of beauty, magic, and kindness, and we get to live here. Let’s take better care of it, and of each other!
- Ryan still is the kindest most patient person I know. He has been my anchor and tethers me to an ever-evolving reality.
- Getting around between cities can be really frustrating. Buses are painfully slow in countries where the roads are bad like Laos and Cambodia - it can take 10 hours to go 200 miles. But they're frighteningly, dangerously fast in countries where the roads are good (like Vietnam). And getting around is much more expensive than it should be (relative to how cheap food and hotels are, for example).
- People are SO NICE. Even in countries where the US left behind a massive mess (Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) after overseas agression, the people feel and exhibit no ill will. We were told many times that their present feelings on American transgressions is that the past is the past. And we have multiple stories of the kindness and generosity of strangers that continue to leave us in awe as recollect them. Like when the family on Don Det island pulled us off the street to join their karaoke party or the sandwich vendors on our bike trip who saw me rubbing my sore knee and offered some therapeutic medicine.
- Still, the foreigner pricing (higher prices charged to people who don't look like they're local) is hard to swallow. It happens mostly with transportation (intercity bus tickets, boat tickets, etc) and buying produce or goods at markets. Knowing what the prices should be sometimes helped in negotiating a more fair deal, but it was usually impossible to get the same rate as locals. Even though the prices are still cheaper than what we'd pay in the US, this was a real downer.
- On the flip side, dealing with foreigner pricing, and sticking out like a sore thumb in general, was an eye opening experience for a white male from the US like me. Nothing illuminates one's own privilege quite like removing yourself from the circumstances that propagate it.
- OMG, the Food! So cheap. So fresh. So delicious. This was probably reason #1 I wanted to come to Southeast Asia. And it did not disappoint. Pho. Pad Thai. Khao Soi. Bahn Mi. Pad See Ew. Tropical fruit shakes and juices. And so much more. I miss it everyday.
- Who else besides Cristina could have tolerated spending 24 hours/day with me for these past 3 months in Asia during such a new and challenging experience? I'm an incredibly lucky guy to be with her on this life's journey.