I recently went on my first trip abroad to Phuket, Thailand. I was 28 before I left the country at all. I had a slight phobia; I knew that I would suffer from culture shock after being in a bubble for so long. My grandma passed away a few years ago, and left all of us with a little bit of money, bless her. My grandparents loved to travel, and did so right up until my grandad became very sick at the ripe old age of 86. They admitted defeat on their big plans to travel to Canada, my grandma choosing instead to be with my grandad in his final days.
It still brings a tear to my eye when I think about them. I wanted to pay tribute to them by finally taking a trip overseas – something they both loved to do! I could have spent their money on useless materialistic things, or I could have been sensible and paid a bill. But taking a trip on their behalf seemed so much more beneficial to me. Turns out it did a lot more than I expected!
We chose Thailand, and my husband and I invited my parents along too. It was like we were celebrating my grandparents all together. The minute I stepped on the plane I was amazed. I noticed we had a TV each, and there were foot stools! And then stepping off! It was a different world, with buffalo walking around in a paddock as we touched down in Phuket.
I saw so many things on this trip; a lot of disturbing situations and some absolutely mind-blowing moments too. I adored the food and the people, but the constant reminder that they were living in horrible circumstances played on my mind throughout the entire trip. The way the animals are treated was gut wrenching – I refused to go to any animal shows but it was noticeable on the streets. I also noticed that a lot of very young women were being used as sex slaves, which was very hard to see. I found myself preoccupied and not enjoying the experience. I was angry, and it ruined the last few days of my trip.
The thing that made me change my outlook on life was a combination of all of these things. Every single Thai I met, regardless of their circumstances, was kind and happy, and gave off this strong positive aura. I thought a lot about home while I was there and realised that we are an ungrateful bunch sometimes. We complain when our power goes out for a few hours, while Thai people barely have power in their homes. We whinge that it was too hot last night, when most Thai people have to face hotter, more humid weather without the convenience of air con. We whine that we can’t get a pay rise to buy more clothes or a car, but some Thai families barely make enough to feed themselves. In fact, my wage for ONE DAY could be their wage for the entire year.
Of course, like any other country, Thailand has its wealthy areas too. But in Phuket, the level of poverty was a shock to me. The Thai attitude of “mai pen rai”, or “don’t worry about it”, was even more humbling. Now, I bring myself back down to earth every time I complain about trivial things. I urge you to look at your life and know that you are blessed to be living in such a wonderful place. We have it so good here. Our free country is thriving while others struggle. Be thankful for what you have.