Flying from Istanbul to Bangkok was one of the most emotional journeys of my life. I reflected on the fact that Istanbul, lying between two continents, had been the perfect place to bridge the gap between my summer in Europe and what would be my new existence in Asia. I imagined this reunion, between my favorite country and I, many times in my mind. It was usually filled with happiness and Moby songs. But it took me a few days to shake my reflective mood.
My trip to Southeast Asia two years ago changed my life in ways I couldn’t imagine. Barely a day went by when I didn’t think of the freedom and happiness I had felt that summer traipsing through Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia. “But that wasn’t real life,” my best friend would argue. “That was vacation.” But I have met people who have made vacation their real life. And that’s what I have wanted every day since.
But there was also the fear. The fear that Koh Tao, my home base on my previous trip and again on this one, would have changed beyond recognition. That the magic of my first Big Trip, combined with the insane experience of meeting and falling in love with my boyfriend on a tropical island and the fact that I had barely any responsibilities on my last sojourn, would be impossible to recreate.
So I spent my first two days back in Thailand in near total silence. I walked around Bangkok in a daze, trying to become familiar again with the smells, the language, the sounds, and the chaos of Thailand. Trying to become familiar with the unfamiliar. I bought my ticket to Koh Tao, ran errands, even went to the tourist abandoned National Gallery. It’s an odd feeling, to dream of something for so long and then suddenly to have it.
And soon I was on the ferry plowing through the Gulf of Thailand. I could see the outline of Koh Tao in the distance, and I tried to remember what I was thinking and feeling the first time I saw the mountainous silhouette in the distance. But I can’t. Two months in South East Asia and a two long years dreaming of it changed me. I don’t even remember that girl I was anymore, the first time I laid eyes on Thailand.