So long, Chiang Mai!

Community Highlights Travel Philosophy So long, Chiang Mai!

The studying portion of my abroad experience has officially come to a close and, though my time here in Chiang Mai has been beyond amazing, I am looking forward to traveling on my own for the first time. Within the next 24 hours, I will be on the beautiful island of Koh Samui, enjoying the quiet company of only my hoop, journal, and book. I know it sounds a bit lonely, but after traveling and living with a group of 30 others, the alone time is more than necessary--I'm not used to being surrounded by this many people...ever. However, I am truly grateful for everyone that was on my level of crazy in wanting to live in Thailand for six weeks because, if not for them, I would have had a completely different experience and suffered from exponentially more anxiety along the way; being with all of them was like having a little bit home always with me.

I've learned invaluable lessons about life, people, and myself here in Chiang Mai--my little home away from home--that are difficult to put into words, for what I've gained is more a general sense for the world and the things in it rather than the conscious knowledge gained through formal education. I feel as though I've absorbed so much from the culture around me without even realizing it, it would be impossible not to; when every person who catches your eye gives you a big smile, it's hard not to reply with your own and send it along to the next person you see, hoping to maintain the brightness of the day. The feelings of general happiness among locals may be baffling to the outsider, however after witnessing and participating in their "mai pen rai" philosophy, it's no wonder why Thailand is called the land of smiles. "Mai pen rai" is a saying among Thais that is used to relinquish conflicts and ill-feelings before they arise that means "never mind" and don't worry or be troubled by particular problems or situations. Most likely owing to the prominence of Buddhism in the country, Thai peoples do not like confrontation and are deeply embarrassed to argue or show feelings of discontent in public, so rather than get worked up about a certain issue, they will just say "mai pen rai" and let it go. It is hard to feel resentment or hopelessness when living by this philosophy, for it highlights the fleetingness of moments.

There are not many things that are worth more than your own inner peace, knowing that nothing--especially not particular predicaments that we find ourselves in--is permanent, that this moment is only passing, so it's wasteful and pointless to hold on to ill-feelings from the past. If the negative energy in your mind is hurting you more than whatever situation that you may be in, then it is time to say "mai pen rai" and move on, time to transcend your own perceived limitations. We are not limited to society's norms, we don't have to be jealous of our next door neighbors, who always seem to have something better than us, or be upset when we find a vendor selling our latest purchase for half the price at the next booth over. These are things that are ultimately insignificant and that keep us focusing on physicalities--appearance and material possessions--rather than on the mental space in which we live. Our very realities only exist as a perception of our own minds and if we don't take the time to explore this space, how can we be sure that the world we live in is truly the one we want to be in; how can we create ideal, happy worlds for ourselves without first imagining the possibility of their existence and then finding a way to make them our realities?

The most important lesson that I've learned throughout my life and solidified with this experience is that I cannot settle for living in someone else's world, for it will never be as fulfilling as one that I can create for myself.

This featured blog entry was written by eardeljan from the blog Thailand Traversal.
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By eardeljan

Posted Sat, Aug 02, 2014 | Thailand | Comments