9:00PM. May 3rd. Mobile, AL.
I just finished my last gig for a month. Almost thirty friends showed up tonight. My mother spent the evening fighting back tears.
In seven hours, I’ll begin the journey to Bangkok.
First stop: New Orleans.
I’ve been doing research on minimalist backpacking. So here’s the wardrobe for my month-long stay in Thailand. You might be thinking, “How are you supposed to make that work for a month?” Fortunately, there are laundry shops in Thailand where someone will do your laundry for you for about 35 baht (one US dollar) per kilogram. “Isn’t that a little inconvenient?” you ask. Sure. It is a little inconvenient. But lugging around a big suitcase in a foreign country is much more inconvenient than getting around with a backpack and a duffle bag. Packing light means no baggage fees, easier mobility, and less back pain. It also makes you a less obvious target for scam artists.
11:30PM. New Orleans, LA.
Made it to New Orleans. I haven’t shaved off my beard in about half a year, but if I don’t do it tonight, I either have to 1) bring the electric razor (i.e., carry more weight) or 2) eventually sport a caveman beard in muggy, 100 degree weather.
So I’m going to shave tonight. (Goodbye, sex appeal. Hello, adolescence-all-over)
5:15AM. May 4th.
Beardless and brutally sleep deprived (why did I even try?), I boarded the plane and plopped down in 23C next to professional baseball player Xavier Paul. Instead of talking about his days on the diamond, the former Dodgers outfielder spoke about his kids, how one is learning piano, the other violin. “The season runs from February to October,” he informed me. “It’s a long time to be away from home.”
11:20AM. Houston, TX.
Made it to Houston over five hours ago. I wish I could sleep, but I’m drunk on some strange concoction of delirium, excitement, and paranoia. A few days ago, I dreamt that my wallet and passport were stolen while I was in Thailand. Coincidently, one of the side effects of the antimalarial that I’m taking is nightmares. Before he made out the prescription, the doctor asked if I was mentally healthy. “Wouldn’t want you to go psychotic in southeast Asia.”
??:??PM. May ?th. The Pacific Ocean.
Fourteen. That’s the total number of hours I’ll be on this plane. Still can’t sleep. I don’t know why, but there was something profoundly emotional about flying over America. What a vast and varied landscape.
As if that wasn’t enough, I just peaked out the window for the first time in about two hours, and wham—The Pacific. I am but a gnat above this unyielding expanse. Phew.
Worth noting: The Japanese know how to do airlines. Never have I been more attended to or well-fed on a plane. Also worth noting: the alcohol is free.
6:30PM. May 5th. Tokyo, Japan.
1). Holy crap, Batman! I’m in Asia!
2). Allow me to introduce you to this here toilet:
3). Must. Sleep. Soon.
2:00AM. May 6th. Bangkok, Thailand.
On the final plane ride, I sat next to a 60 year-old Thai man named Raht. Raht makes a living playing piano in Boston. “Is it good money?” I asked. “It is not great. Enough. Just what I need,” he said. “And you?” I told him about my dream of a career in songwriting. “It’ll probably never make me wealthy, but I’m doing what I love.” “Ah,” he smiled, “then you are already wealthy.”
We talked a long time about Thailand: the customs, the food, the king. We talked about the politeness of Thai people (which led to a lesson on how to wai). We talked about the tsunami of 2004, which devastated the southwest coast of the country. “I did not lose family to the flood,” he told me, “but I knew people. Everybody knew someone who died.” “That must’ve been hard,” I said. “It was painful, but we heal more quickly than Americans do.” That’s a strange thing to say, I thought. So I asked him about it.
“We are buddhists, you see. We do not fear death like people of other religions. It is just part of life. We accept this. Westerners do not.”
Before we exited the plane, Raht asked if he and his family could escort me to my hostel. “I am so touched and honored that you want to explore my country,” he explained, smiling from somewhere deep down. In the car, he mediated the conversation between his family, the driver, and me. We took a couple wrong turns, but that only seemed to make him happier. “Corey. I must tell you, I haven’t seen this part of Thailand in a long time. I feel like I am part of your adventure.” There was a youthful excitement in his voice. We swapped contact information before we arrived at the hostel. “It was so nice to meet you,” he said. His humility made me teary-eyed. “Thank you so much, Raht. You are a very kind man. I am so grateful for your kindness.”
And now I am here, dear reader, thousands of miles away from home in a room with two germans, a kiwi (New Zealander), a brit, and a sleep deficit that I have no intention to contribute to any longer.
Photo Credit: Jenny Lines.