My first big adventure was traveling to Thailand on my own. It was the spring of 2001 and my friend Lynn was teaching in Japan. She had been to Thailand the year before and while back in the States for holiday, we concocted a plan to meet up there. It sounded wonderfully different: exotic, hot, a little dirty, possibly dangerous and yes, cheap. All thrilling things to my 22 year old self.
For the sake of historical accuracy and as a way of framing the content of this blog, let’s go back a bit and remember 2001, shall we? (Note: my trip took place prior to 9/11 and travel was different. Liquids could be brought on your carry-ons, shoes could be worn through security, your friends and family could walk you to/meet you at your departing/arrival gate).
- Friends was the most popular show on television
- The now ubiquitous iPod was released upon an unsuspecting world
- At the Oscars, Angelina Jolie gave her brother an open mouthed kiss and Björk wore that swan dress
- Destiny’s Child were still together
- The first Harry Potter movie debuted
Now, I can sit on a beach in Costa Rica and upload photos directly to my Facebook page. Or drink a beer in a bar and poach free wireless while I write this blog. But in 2001, it was all about the internet café . A few dollars for a few minutes (or, this being Thailand, a few baht) and then a quick email to the ‘rents to let them know I’d arrived safely. That was it. Lynn and I searched for the best internet cafés – the ones that had really good air con and orange hued Thai iced tea (that just might send you into a diabetic coma from all the condensed milk) to sip on while we reassured our family members that we weren’t taking rides on the back of a stranger’s motorcycle through Chiang-Mai’s midnight market (sorry Mom).
I’m not complaining that I can connect easily with friends and family while I travel. I like being able to send emails whenever I like and the ability to go on-line to do a little research about when high tide will be (snorkeling). But being a little bit cut-off from the outside world isn’t such a bad thing when you’re on vacation. After all, you’ve left for that exact reason: to enjoy a new vista, explore different geography, spend time with people whom you haven’t seen awhile, meet people you otherwise would never have known. And it seems that being dialed in might take away from the experience. Just a little bit, anyhow.