Thursday, March 12, 2015

Honey Buckets and Homesickness: Hua Hin

Hua Hin's famous train station
One morning in Hua Hin,  a man tried to sell us honey from a bucket. We were eating breakfast off plastic tables at a cafe. He parked his motorcycle beside the restaurant, and dismounted, sweat glued his denim shirt to his back. Without taking off his helmet he walked through the rows of plastic tables, carrying a white bucket. Inside was an entire bee hive floating in honey. Dead bees were buried in the mixture like raisins.  He grunted at each table, which was his way of asking if we wanted to buy the honey-beehive-dead-bee soup. I shook my head and he kept walking around the restaurant.

That day was another day spent napping through the hot afternoon. At times I feel afraid to go outside. It’s not that I don’t want to be in Thailand. This is the place that was at the top of my list. But I need to escape myself for a while. I’ve been beyond lazy. Sleeping in past 9:00 am, taking two hour naps in the afternoon. In my waking hours I am listening to music nonstop. I am day dreaming. I obsessively check facebook. All signs of further culture shock. I need to break this spell. However did I think I would be able to work remotely? Actually, if I had real work to do that might set me straight, keep me focused.

I'm dealing with culture shock all over again. I am retreating inward. I am wrestling laziness and even mild depression.

Oh no. I’ve said that word. Depression. Yes. The signs are all there. I am just genuinely not enjoying myself here.

I don’t want to confront that on my dream vacation. I have been wanting to go to Thailand for a decade, and here I am,  at McDonalds, eating French fries and being depressed. It is utterly disappointing.

The King's portrait on the street
It’s not that the places I’ve been have disappointed me. It’s more that I am disappointed in myself. I thought I would be rising at 8:00 am everyday, working out, writing nonstop all day. I thought that my days would be filled with discoveries. Discoveries about my environment and myself.

I am disappointed in myself because I have come to a disquieting revelation:
I hate traveling.

That’s right. I hate it. It isn’t for me. I like routine. Routine doesn’t bore me or scare me. But mediocrity does. I have always believed that I am interesting because of what I do. Being who I am is not enough. I have to do interesting things to qualify as an interesting person. Working a 9-5 job and staying in one city didn’t make me interesting enough, but traveling and living abroad did. But the more I experience, the more I realize that this isn’t the life for me. I didn’t like living in Japan -  I really didn’t. I loved visiting Japan for two weeks and telling those stories for the other fifty weeks of the year. Living there helped me separate fact from fiction about myself. And now I am learning I don’t like long-term travel. The act of moving from one point to another is physically and emotionally exhausting. I get plane sick, car sick, boat sick, bus sick, and train sick. I like mild weather and toilet paper in all my bathrooms. I like being able to walk places without having to play dodge ball with renegade traffic. I like knowing that the food I eat isn’t going to make me sick. Ambiguity is ok, but only in certain doses. And I need plans. Plans keep me moving. Having a checklist of things to do each day motivates me  to leave the house and brave the unknown world outside my air-conditioned kingdom. It gives me courage to face ambiguity and disappointment.

Giant lobsters at the night market

I realized why it’s been so  hard to write about my experiences on the road. After a two-week vacation, I can go home and reflect on what I experienced. But when I am traveling like this, I can’t reflect on the last place because I am still trying to absorb the current place. I need a break. 
As my mother said, I just want to “put the roast in the oven, lite a cigarette and stare at the sink.”

- Oct. 22, 2014, McDonald's, 
Hua Hin, Thailand

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