The Answer Is Within (And Not In Thailand)
By George 2
I visited and never returned.
My last trip to Thailand was May, 1999. Prior to that I made 2-3 trips a year for 5 years in a row. I couldn’t get enough of the place. I was hooked. Addicted. To me it was a kind of “paradise”. It was just a matter of time before I made a permanent move. I told friends and family of my plans. I figured I would teach English for a while and then start a business. Maybe I would invest in a bar or open up a small retail store. Sound familiar? With a seemingly unlimited supply of cheap sex, great food, and very reasonable living expenses what more could anyone ask for? This was nirvana, my heaven on Earth. Or, so I thought.
It was the mid-90’s and I was bored with life. I was in my mid-30’s and tired of the daily 9-5 grind. Everything felt “okay” but “ordinary”. You know, not bad but nothing special, nothing unique. My dating life was okay but uneventful. Finances were good, I was in decent physical shape, and my relationship with friends and family was adequate. But still, inside I felt empty and grew increasingly unhappy as time wore on. I kept saying to myself, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” I imagined in a few years I would be married, have a house, a mortgage, and a couple of kids. I would work another 30 years and then retire. There it was – The American Dream. God, it seemed more of a nightmare than a “dream”.
Well, off to Thailand I went and everything changed. Note above. The latter provided passion, a sense of adventure, and something different with each passing day. It was far from “ordinary”. All my senses were utilized and I felt alive for the first time. But I noticed after several visits that my plans remained just that- plans. Rather than take the necessary steps to build a meaningful foundation there, my trips became more focused on instant gratification and less about my future. At the end of each trip I would say to myself, “I’ll make those contacts next time, I’ll settle down next year”.
Well, it never happened. In Thailand, my life was not moving forward. I didn’t make those contacts. In fact, the ground underneath my feet began to feel even less stable there than it did back home. My physical health deteriorated. I gained weight. Sleeping habits were non-existent. I engaged in more frequent unsafe sexual encounters. I grew edgier, angrier, and withdrew from my fellow expat friends. Communication with family back home grew more infrequent. Again, my life became more focused on instant gratification than anything else.
Fast forward to May, 1999 (my last trip), I was visiting Chiang Mai when I woke up one morning with a very painful stomach. I realized something was seriously wrong because I couldn’t walk properly and the pain didn’t go away after taking some “Cipro” (for food poisoning) or Tylenol. Long story short, I had appendicitis and had to have emergency surgery in order to remove my appendix. It was removed within two hours of checking into a local hospital. After a recuperation period of about 1 week I flew back to Los Angeles. I healed fairly quickly but rather than make plans for a quick return to Thailand I actually started to pay attention to my body, and a growing voice inside my head which said to “slow down” and hold off on returning to Thailand.
Looking back, maybe the emergency surgery “woke” me up. Maybe the gods were warning me. Maybe I had reached my whoring limit and the “party” had ended- although I just didn’t know it at the time. Whatever the reason, I decided to get some therapy and deal with my personal issues- issues which were now leading me down a very destructive path.
Well, as I said in the beginning I never returned to Thailand. After years of therapy, I realized that I was the problem. Yes, that’s right. Me. Yours truly. All the boredom I felt at home, with life, my job, everything in general was due to the simple fact that I had grown complacent here. I stopped growing. I stopped working on myself. In fact, I had never dealt with those underlying issues that plague many of us from childhood. Strange as it may seem, the more I dealt with those underlying issues the more exciting and rewarding life became here at home. My relationship with friends and family improved and I started to get my priorities back in order.
Thailand was fun, a great time in the beginning. But for me it was like the Law of Diminished Returns. Here, one derives a lot of pleasure out of minimal effort in the beginning but must expend more effort over time to reach that same initial pleasure point. In the end, one spends a lot time and effort for very little return. The same Law applies to any addict really.
And so it was with Thailand for me. It’s the old “the grass is greener” syndrome – my “issues” simply traveled with me from Los Angeles to Bangkok but they did not mysteriously disappear upon arrival at Don Muang. Thailand anesthetized the “pain”, buried it for a while. It was an escape, a convenient way for me to say “I was moving on” with things. But again, I never did move on. I never did make those contacts. I never did take the concrete steps necessary to move my life FORWARD overseas.
Not to come down too hard on certain posters here, but whenever someone mentions Western culture, the government, or women back home as the reasons for their disillusionment, my eyes start to roll and my “bullshit” detector goes off. I hear them ruminate about how Thailand is some sort of sacred paradise, the key to personal fulfilment. This is nonsense. Western government, culture, and women have nothing to do with your unhappiness. They are external factors only and never INTERNAL to what’s really going on. It seems very few have the courage to fess up and admit that THEY are the problem.
Yes, that’s right. Experience has shown me that if your life is boring at home chances are you’re a boring individual period. If you get shit on by women in your native country chances are you’re eventually gonna get shit on by some Thai bargirl as well. If you’ve got “addictions” and/or “issues” back home, guess what, they’re only going to get worse in Thailand. Trust me. There isn’t some Bangkok fairy that waves her little wand and says, “poof, now your troubles are all gone…you can rest easy now…life will never be better.” If only that were true. But, in the deep recesses of our psyche we know it’s a lie, a fantasy, and complete distortion of reality. Hey, but it’s easier to blame George Bush, the culture, your 9-5 job, or the “bitchy” girlfriend than to suck it up and deal with it.
In the beginning, I thought Thailand was the answer for me. Clearly it was not. Maybe for some of you it is. If you’re honestly moving forward with things, keeping your nose clean, and engaging in meaningful relationships I would say you’re on to something. Good for you. Even if you’re there just to party and get laid a couple of weeks each year and not expect anything more, I say, good for you. But if you’re one of those who waxes on about the “virtues” of Thailand over the West and blames external factors for your disillusionment back home I say, “get real”. Or, as a rather blunt friend once old me, “put down the magnifying glass and pick up a mirror.”
Thought provoking indeed.