I Discovered Thainess and Recharged My Soul

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Phu Rea National Park in the Fog. Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015

Phu Rea National Park in the Fog. Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015

I traveled to Thailand to discover Thainess and the unexpected happened; I recharged my soul. Thing is, I didn’t realize how hollow my life had been the last few months.

My Life Has Been Hollow
Visitation to Florida has been flooded with tourists and seasonal residents seeking warmth and sunshine. On one hand, this is excellent news for the local economy but on the other, as someone who works in the Florida tourism industry, it’s been making my day job more demanding. My life has been in “go mode” flying at speeds exceeding 200 mph. Because that’s not enough (*sarcasm*) I’ve also been contributing to a couple of volunteer organizations, maintaining this blog and associated social media channels, and picking up freelance writing gigs.

Pad Thai Vendor in Chiang Khan in the Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015.

Pad Thai Vendor in Chiang Khan in the Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015.

By doing so, I’ve neglected my physical health. I’ve chosen sleep (an average workday this time of year is 5 hours a night if I’m lucky) over exercise and sleep over preparing proper meals. My scale calls but I’m ashamed to step on it because although I keep telling myself the dryer has shrunk my clothing, I know the truth. I’ve gained weight. I can see it in the mirror and photos and my body can feel it.

Squid, Anyone?

Squid, Anyone?

I’ve also neglected my mental health and social life. Commitments required this time of year leave me emotionally drained. To prevent further emotional leakage, I shut out most people from my life and keep close who emotionally fulfill me at my side while those who drain me are kept at a safe distance.

Longboat on Mekong River, Chiang Khan.

Longboat on Mekong River, Chiang Khan.

What is Thainess?
What exactly is Thainess? Well, other than #DiscoverThainess being the country’s tourism campaign this year, I suppose it has different interpretations for everyone.

During my week-long visit, I had the type of experience I had forgotten existed. Make no mistake, this was a business trip for this blog but, taking a break from the craziness in my world, I exhaled, relaxed, laughed and was surrounded by people who filled my emotional soul.

Phra That Si Song Rak, a Buddhist Stupa, Loei Province, Thailand.

Phra That Si Song Rak, a Buddhist Stupa, Loei Province, Thailand.

On the quest to discover Thainess, I…

…soaked up the sunshine…

…walked through the fog…

Phu Rea National Park in the Fog -

Phu Rea National Park in the Fog

… listened to a symphony of insects…

munched on crunchy, roasted insects

…inhaled mountain air…

…ate like royalty… …tapped my creativity… …learned a native dance while barefoot… …took a step back at history… …cruised a river between two countries… …connected with spirituality…

…was kissed by a soi dog…

…got lost…

…met new friends…

Participated in offering sticky rice to monks in Chiang Khan this morning. March 2015

Participated in offering sticky rice to monks in Chiang Khan this morning. March 2015

…reminisced with an old friend…

…was truly, genuinely happy.

How Did I End Up in Thailand?
Timing for the trip was bad. Really, really bad for my day job and other activities but I couldn’t pass it up. I was one of 30 travel bloggers from North America, Europe and Asia invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand on a preview trip for the October 15 – 17, 2015, TBEX conference. Importantly, this was a business trip for this blog and although not ideal with timing, when would I receive another opportunity like this?

I love how beautiful yet simple this image is.

I love how beautiful yet simple this image is.

Remembering the Spicy Flavor of Life
Turns out, timing for this trip was perfect. It was during my last night in Bangkok when I realized prior to this trip my emotional well was near empty and as I write this, it’s overflowing.

This trip reminded me of what it is to live life. I can’t say it was solely Thailand’s magic, but I’m confident it played some part. Thailand’s people are friendly and welcoming, scenery is stunning, and being kissed each day by the nation’s humidity was like being greeted with a grandmother’s comforting hug. Surrounded by positive people who know how to squeeze the zest out of life infused my soul with fresh energy.

#VeryThai!

#VeryThai!

The first part of the trip was with travel bloggers, some I knew, some I didn’t. The last part was spent in Bangkok with a dear friend whom I first met around the time I began walking but didn’t really get to know until high school. It was during our hours of laughter that I realized my circle of friends, made of those who support me unconditionally and always there for me, is small but solid.

Returning home on this high, I’m jumping back into a rigorous schedule for the next couple of weeks before life should be at a manageable pace. I’m making an intentional effort to keep that Thainess flame burning daily and enjoying the spicy flavor of life.

Ghost masks at the Phi Ta Khon Museum in Loei.

Ghost masks at the Phi Ta Khon Museum in Loei.

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and this post has not been reviewed by the host. Opinions are my own and reflect my honest experience.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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