I’ve always loved learning. I’ve always loved school. I started going to preschool when I was 2 1/2 because I wanted to. Yeah. Think about that for a second.
Growing up I received a good education from my schooling, my family and my “extracurriculars”.
However, in the past eleven months I feel like I have been learning more, and at a faster rate, than any other time in my life. Every single day I’m exposed to new people, places, things and ideas all at once instead of being drip-fed new information or experiences like at home in familiar places and situations. Not only am I learning more about the world, but I feel like I’m learning more about my future, or more accurately, the possibilities for my future. This is the first time I have felt this way. I didn’t have this sense of growth and possibility after high school, and (along with practically everyone I know) I sure didn’t feel it after graduating college. Both of those transitions were not particularly exciting, fun or promising. In fact they were stressful, confusing and in ways depressing because there was all this pressure (“the world is your oyster…”) yet no one really knew what to expect or what they were going to do next.
Of course interacting with new people and places has introduced me to different ways of thinking, religions, lifestyles, activities, environments…the list goes on. But there have been two specific moments where I felt most aware of how much I was taking in.
Learning to read and learning how to drive.
In October, shortly after I had returned to Chiang Mai, I was constantly alternating between feeling like I was 5 and 15. Five years old because I was beginning to learn the Thai alphabet and how it – believe it or not – actually creates words, and 15 years old because I was learning how to drive a motorbike. In Thai traffic. On the wrong side of the road.
Both of these things came with major learning curves. When I was five, reading had come naturally to me and I only needed to known 26 letters. Thai has 44 consonants (each with two sounds) and 15 vowels…that combine to make more than 25 different forms. Piece of cake. Although I’ve ridden on the back of several motorcycles, I had never been in charge of handling one. While I soooo desperately wanted to know how to drive, it was still really intimidating. Between the different road rules (or lack thereof) and understanding that riding a motorbike is dangerous, it’s impossible not to have that voice in the back of you’re head questioning, “Are you sure you want to do this?”.
YES I WANT TO DO THIS - and I did. I can read (....slowly) and I can drive (with no accidents).
Because these were two things that I had learned (in English and on the right side of the road in a minivan) during a short amount of time at a certain age in my life, doing them again was a real throwback. They also opened my world up here, as they did when I was younger, and while it was happening I was SO aware of it.
Learning makes us feel more alive, connected and interacting with our worlds instead of just standing on the sidelines. I’m choosing travel to continue my education – are you?
Thai alphabet cards image from Expat Hua Hin