A Life With(out) Expectations: Thailand (Part 3)

I work in development. When you work around the world, particularly in “developing countries” you’re like the proverbial tree in the wind; if you’re not flexible enough to bend then you’re bound to break one day. Being flexible means understanding that things might happen slower than you expect (work projects, meetings not starting on time, long bus rides…), things that you once considered to be necessities are no longer available (hot showers, reliable electricity, clean drinking water), and the comforts that you use as a crutch at home when you need to have fun or cheer yourself up (for me – going to a movie theatre, ice cream, cheese, bacon, and cocktails) are not so easy to find.  The more remote your location, and the less westernized the country you are living in, the more you will likely have to change your expectations.

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Photos throughout this blog were taken on a day-long excursion from Bangkok, Thailand to Erawan Waterfalls and an elephant sanctuary, and feature my boyfriend (Stephen) and myself.

But eventually everyone does (those trees who don’t break at least).  You learn to live with what’s around you. You’re surprised if your meeting starts on time, you’re confused if your bus only takes that amount of time listed on Google maps, and you’re delighted if your lunch doesn’t include rice!

However, one thing that all this acclimation doesn’t do, is stick around forever. After a few hot showers, the novelty wears off. Once you eat a few delicious meals, they become common place. When you have reliable electricity, a short power outage becomes a huge surprise and seems to inconvenience your entire life. It actually takes a lot of work to continue to foster this sense of gratitude in your normal life.

This is why in Thailand I became a diva! After only 5 days of luxury, I had lost all of my “go with the flow” attitude.  All of the perfectly paved roads, smiling strangers, bacon wrapped food, and easily accessible vodka coolers had lulled me into the false idea that everything was going on be perfect – exactly as I wanted and expected, all of the time.

So Sunday we had signed up for a day tour. We wanted to go to Erawan waterfalls, and originally the Hell Fire Pass (which seemed like an interesting historic railroad built by prisoners of war), which included visiting the Tiger Temple.  However, the railroad part was too expensive, and Steve is scared of tigers (they ARE wild animals), so we ended up spending the afternoon with some elephants.

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The morning didn’t get off to a good start. Our pickup was at 6:30, and the alarm going off at 5:30 had already made me grumpy. Once in the car, we weren’t given any information on what was happening. We stopped and drove around the city for about an hour… not really knowing what was going on. Eventually we found ourselves at the falls and a lady told us to get out. We left some stuff in the car, but I was worried our car wouldn’t be there when we got back (since the group would be splitting up for the afternoon).  I had to go to the bathroom, but the lady said we must follow her to the falls right away. I had forgotten my contacts in the car (since I was wearing my glasses to get some sleep) and I was upset about the idea of wearing my glasses swimming. I didn’t have a chance to change into different clothes. She told us to be back by 1, but I had thought we’d get more time to hike to the top. Nothing actually horrible happened, but all the little things joined up to make me have a melt down. I thought the tour was horrible and I no longer wanted to swim or hike. Steve handled me well and was very sweet until eventually I calmed down and we went on a nice hike. It ended up being a fun day, a great opportunity to get some exercise and be outdoors in nature (instead of sucking in smog).

So, why did that freak out even happen?

I think gratitude and flexibility are like muscles. You need to work on them constantly or they’ll atrophy. I did have a bit of a bad morning, but afterwards I was able to recall my inner strength and just try to have fun, no matter what the day had in store. Having crazy high expectations that will never be met is always a recipe for disaster… so lighten up, and try to always walk on the sunny side of the street. 🙂

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To learn about the rest of our Thailand vacation, you may want to check out the rest of the series:


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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