What I Learned On My Travels Through Thailand
When I booked my trip to Thailand, I knew I’d learn about Thai culture, but I had no idea what I learned would have such an impact on my lifestyle after the trip. The way Thai people live their lives not only taught me so much about priorities and gratitude, but showed how accurate the nickname Land of Smiles actually is.
Gratitude & appreciation are essential for happiness
Thai people choose to be grateful - and in turn happy - even in far from perfect situations. Coming from Los Angeles, I’m no stranger to traffic and the frustration that usually comes with it. As bad as LA traffic is, you don’t know traffic until you’ve sat in a taxi in Bangkok that’s completely stopped for over an hour to get to a destination supposedly 15 minutes away. While sitting in this taxi, I was sure frustration would overtake the mood of the night. Our taxi driver all of a sudden said something we didn’t understand through his thick accent and started giggling and smiling uncontrollably. He continuously pointed outside at the lines of stopped cars and giggled and smiled at us, so excited that everyone in the car couldn’t help but laugh and smile as well, completely forgetting that we were stuck in non-moving traffic and late to our scheduled tour. The joy this man so clearly felt and so easily expressed just showed how easy it is to be grateful and joyful in even a frustrating situation. It made me realise how often people let small setbacks and annoyances alter moods and atmospheres. Every person I encountered in Thailand radiated joy and gratefulness for the little they often had.
It’s important to acknowledge that everyone’s in the same boat
Bangkok’s bustling streets overflow with Thai men and women selling food from carts, all putting their own spin on the same dishes and street-snacks. Where you’d think there would be negative competition and potential rivalries, there was actually the kind acknowledgment that everyone simply had the same shared goal of supporting their families. I often even saw different food-cart owners trading food or buying from another person’s cart. This was shocking and inspiring, especially coming from the US where competition and rivalries ruin so many businesses and relationships.
Accept that some things are just out of your control, and move on
Sitting on a long tail boat in the Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market outside of Bangkok, I saw numerous shopkeepers dripping in sweat, forced to sit in the sun as they attempt to sell as many items as possible. The heat seemed to have no effect on these people as they still laughed with each other and continuously smiled. Tourists in boats passed by and several times, I heard complaints from both adults and kids about their “misery” and discomfort from the heat. Throughout my whole trip, I saw Thai people accepting the conditions out of their control, like the weather or the pollution surrounding them, and lived their lives worrying about what they can control.
Whether it is the shared Buddhist mindset, or simply the Thai culture that drives it, people throughout Thailand are friendly, happy, and grateful to be living the lives they do, regardless of how much money they have or the tediousness of their jobs. This atmosphere was refreshing and inspiring, and the “Land of Smiles” was exactly that and more.
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