Four months ago I left America to pursue a life of perspective and personal growth and I’m certainly finding what I set out for. Living abroad has lifted a veil, both in my perception of the future and my reflections of past. I don’t spend much time doting over the things I miss about home, but rather, I think about the things I’m glad to do without. World travel can have that effect on you.
Things I Miss
When I pay for a gym membership, I’m one of those fools who actually gets my money’s worth. There’s a primal satisfaction I derive from lifting things up and putting them back down. But out here in rural Thailand, there’s no such thing as a gym. Handstands, pushups and pull-ups comprise most of my exercise regime these days. And I’ve gotten damn good at improvising workouts. You’d be surprised what can function as a perfectly good pull-up bar or a set of weights.
Friends and family
It can get lonely living on the other side of the planet. I’ve made plenty of friends here in Farmville, Thailand, but our social interaction is much different from that between my American friends and me. Namely, the language thing. Tons of people want to be my friend, but it’s difficult when we can’t even have small talk. Moving out here was the best decision of my life, but I wish I could share my experiences with a friend who understands my odd sense of humor (and my English).
American football is a manifestation of the USA’s culture: aggressive and complicated. I miss playing it, I miss watching it and I miss calling it simply “football.” When we invented our version of football, we did it right. And holy cow, do I miss tailgating parties. They’re the ultimate glutton-fest of beer and barbecued meat, leaving you numb and satiated before watching the game. Thailand’s only full-contact sport is Muay Thai, which is cool, but two 120-pound Thai dudes boxing just doesn’t generate the same earth-shaking effect that two 300+lb American football players running full speed into each other does. Plus, we have the Lingerie Football League.
In rural Thailand, I can’t go anywhere without getting engaged by somebody, even though most of the time they don’t speak a word of English. The other day, I was trying to workout at the park. A Thai woman approached me, and before she introduced herself, she whipped out her tablet and started flipping through her photos to show me pictures of her and her cousins. That kind of shit happens all the time! And people sometimes grab me on to my arm when they’re speaking to me, like they’re trying to keep me from escaping their verbal vomit. People leave you alone in America. Most of the time, that’s a good thing.
Drinking tap water
I was never a diva about bottled water back in America. I routinely drank from the sink because it tastes the same as bottled water and it’s so much more convenient. Plus, it’s beneficial to drink tap water because it builds up your immunity. Living in a third world country means not being able to drink tap water, so to supply myself with quality H2O, I have to routinely fill up jugs of water at the market and bring them back home. Overall it’s an easy endeavor, but by American standards, it’s a waste of time. Damn it, I wish I could just fill up a glass of water from my sink and chug it!
Things I Don’t Miss
Driving a car
America is designed for people who drive their own cars. If you don’t own an automobile, you’re just a burden to your friends and family because you’ll constantly need rides. There’s no need for cars in Thailand. Everybody – and I mean everybody – drives a motorcycle. And if you don’t own a motorcycle, you use public transportation. It only costs me $3 to fill up my bike’s tank, which’ll last me 2 weeks. It’s so nice not to worry about gasoline.
Cellphone contracts are the bane of my existence. I still have to pay a monthly bill for my American phone service that’s not even activated. So typically American, AT&T. I own a cheap pay-as-you-go phone here in Thailand, but its function is almost exclusively to serve as my alarm clock. No phone means absolute freedom. I dare you to go one full day without using your phone. It’s liberating. If you’re like me, you’ll embrace it and realize just how great it is to not be a slave to your handheld devices.
There’s a huge world right in front of you and the TV only serves to block you from seeing it with your own eyes. Hours can pass in front of the tube. It’s a void. The first day I moved into my apartment out here in Thailand, I flipped through all the cable channels. 30-someodd channels, all in Thai. The second day, I unplugged it. Nobody needs television. It’s just there to pass the time because we can’t think of anything else to do with ourselves when it isn’t on.
The U.S. customary units
What the hell were we thinking when we deviated from the metric system? Sorry America, but meters, grams and liters make up a much more practical system of measurement than our bizarre standard. It didn’t take long for me to get used to the world standard of measurement, and I’ve certainly grown to prefer it.
It’s been a real struggle, but I’ve learned to live without paying sales tax (hah!). Really though, it’s nice when a price tag says something and that’s exactly what you pay. Imagine bringing only a dollar into the dollar store and actually walking out with a product. That’s what it’s like everywhere else in the world. Take note, America.
American restaurants are f@#*ed up! They pay their staff close to nothing and rely on customers to provide the waiter with a living wage. I worked in a restaurant prior to living in Thailand, and it was annoying as hell getting bitched at by a manager who was only paying me $2.13/hour. Nowhere else in the world is the restaurant structure like this. In Thailand, whatever the price of food is on the menu, that’s what you pay. No tax, no gratuity. And I could rant for days about how annoying it is to be served by a waiter who small talks with the table to secure a tip. Just deliver the food, please.