In early July, just weeks before leaving Asia and coming back to Canada, I travelled to Laos for a week. It was my first solo adventure and by far the most memorable trip I’ve ever taken.
It started in Vientiane, the capital of this small country that borders the north of Thailand, where I reunited with La, a girl I met at a bus stop in Vancouver 2.5 years ago. Three days later I hopped on a plane to Luang Prabang, a UNESCO world heritage city in the north of Laos, with no agenda whatsoever.
I spent 35 of the 45 minute flight holding hands with the Laotian woman beside me who was scared to death of flying and didn’t speak a word of English. As we landed in the jungly north and she finally released her grip on me, I told her one of the few phrases I could say in Thai (which is similar to Lao): “Phra Jiaow wei pon” or “God bless you.” She looked at me strangely, either because I said it wrong (most likely) or because Laos is a closed country, where according to law people cannot bring religion outside of the (government-run) church.
Since I didn’t plan a single aspect of this trip, I had no idea where I was going to stay. While standing at the baggage claim I found the friendliest-looking people on my flight and asked if I could share a taxi with them to their guesthouse.
Bryan and Paris, a gay couple of from Nashville, and Suphanee (Sue), their American-born Laotion friend invited to me hop inside their 15 passenger van, which had been rented by Paris’ extended family (also an American-born Laotian who was making his first-ever trip to Laos).
His aunts and uncles chatted excitedly in their native tongue and passed around a bag of bacon-flavoured dried shrimp, which I politely declined. When we arrived at the guest-house I was offered a room straight across the hall from my new friends, who graciously invited me to “hang out with [them] the whole time!”
Since I’m an introvert, I knew that having company for the entirety of my solo adventure wouldn’t bode well with me. So I joined them for a traditional meal at a restaurant down the road, became slightly intoxicated by the 640 mL bottle of Beerlao I drank (if you’ve been to Laos you know how it goes: drink the beer, buy the shirt), and sauntered back to my guesthouse in the sweltering heat for a much-desired nap, snapping photos of the Mekong River along the way.
The beauty of Luang Prabang is that with so many adventurous backpackers strewn throughout the city, it’s easy to make friends with a random person at a temple and share a meal with them by the riverside.
Abby and I met at the top of Mount Phousi, a temple that overlooks the city. (I’ve never been so hot and sweaty as I was climbing to the top of the hill). We, along with 50 others, seated ourselves toward the western sky and watched the sun set over the Mekong River. (Unfortunately the battery in my camera died at that point – but I figure those are the types of pictures that are better taken with your mind).
As she told me her story it sounded quite similar to my own. At 25 years old, after living in California for her undergrad and an entry-level career, she was about to move home to Illinois and take up residence in her parents’ house for the next several months, a season I had recently (and gratefully) ended.
She told me some of her fears and concerns, which were precisely the kind of struggles I faced living under my parents’ roof as an adult. This was the first time I had thought about living with my parents in a long time. Thailand had captivated me the moment I stepped into the warm, spicy air, leaving the memories of home far behind me.
Despite my struggles (which, let’s be honest – were largely due to pride) I could look back and say that it was a rich season filled with lots of growth. And I was tremendously thankful to my family for the support they gave me during that time.
My conversation with Abby encouraged me to start reflecting on my 6 months in Thailand. I would be back in Canada in just a few weeks and I thought this would be a good way to prepare. The next morning I grabbed my journal, headed to a bakery/café, and found a secluded corner where I could pour over the pages for a solid two hours.
I am an avid journaler, so my thick, green book – a gift from my friend Amy before I left for Thailand– was filled with roughly 4 months of memories. I read every single word and recalled all of the events and experiences that came with them. My heart was spilling with gratitude and the thought that continues to resurface in my life was loud and clear: God writes good stories.
When I came back to Canada I was not a fan of the story that I was in. It was hard and I felt aimless and uncertain of where I wanted to be. And my natural self always equates hard with bad. But what I failed to remember is that what makes a good story is conflict.
As I sit here and soak up all of the positive and negative turns of Chapter Three, I want to realign my perspective and commit this blog to being a place where I tell good stories in every season of my life. I want to see the bigger picture, have a thankful heart, and look to the future with certainty and expectation of what’s to come as I await another great story written by the best Author I know.