It has been 201 days, 12 hours, and 50 minutes since I first landed in Bangkok, and now I’m headed home.
The long half-year in between has been an amazing journey. I’ve slept in 67 places (62 hotels, three home stays, a bus, and a jungle camp) spread across 55 locales in eight countries. I’ve been on 25 flights (not counting the ones in and out of Southeast Asia), crossed international borders 12 times, and ridden in countless buses, minibuses, taxis, tuk-tuks, private cars, rental cars, motor scooters, e-bikes, trucks, horse carts, becak, boats of all descriptions.
I’ve seen the temples of Angkor and Bagan, experienced the kecak in Bali, sailed among the karsts of Halong Bay. I’ve trekked in the jungles of Laos and climbed an Indonesian volcano at dawn. I’ve danced to chansons in a Saigon nightclub and to Filipino classic rock covers in Yangon and Dengue Fever live in Phnom Penh. I’ve shot an M-16 and an AK-47, slid down a waterfall, ridden a motorcycle in the cloud mists of the Tonkinese Alps, and come perilously close to stepping on a live cluster bomb detonator, but probably the most dangerous thing I’ve done was just swimming in the treacherous waves off Bali, which dashed me hard against the ocean floor a few times, and which regularly kill surfers.
I’ve made new friendships, most of them fleeting, a few that will probably last. I have hooked up, and I’ve even sort of fallen in love. Maybe more than once.
I have also wasted time, spent days doing stupid shit or just sitting around, been disappointed by attractions that didn’t amount to much, had crappy meals, argued with taxi drivers and laundresses, hung out at malls to kill time. I’ve gotten sick several times, never very interestingly; I am finishing things off with a cold that began in Indonesia, blossomed in Singapore, turned into a bad cough in Thailand, and is now coming with me to Incheon, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
Maybe the most important thing that’s happened is that I’ve loosened up. I’ve never thought of myself as a prude or a scold, but I discovered in myself a surprising Protestant distrust of pleasure for its own sake. I think I’ve let that go, at least to an extent, and I know I’ve become less judgmental about the ways that other people find their bliss. Life is short. Have your fun.
In any case, for the past six months and change, I have moved to a new place every second or third day, on average. For six months.
I’m ready for some longer durations.
Home is where your stuff is
I’m now headed home. Sort of. I’m on my way to Pheonix, Arizona, where my parents live. Home has always been where my parents live — my second, backup home, anyway — and the Phoenix house is also where all my stuff is. Still, I’ve never been there for more than 21 days at a stretch, and at this point I think I’ve spent more time in Thailand than in Phoenix on all my visits put together.
Nevertheless, it feels like home. It’s a place to come back to. A place to rest. To chill out, watch some Giants baseball with my parents while I fiddle with my travel photos on my new Mac, to do nothing much and feel no pressure to go see the local cave with the Buddha in it. In a couple weeks, I’ll probably head over to NYC to say hello to my friends there, but I haven’t yet worked out the details.
And I don’t have a new home yet, a place of my own. That’s still a bit ahead. by September, I’ll be creating a new life in Seoul. But for now, Phoenix is home, and I’m on my way.