29 January 2011

14 Hours

(Published 22 August 2010)

Soon I will be living in Surat Thani, Thailand.  When the sun sets here it rises there.  It is 14 hours ahead.  14 hours into the future.

Those 14 hours are a greater separation than the 8263 miles between where I am and where I will be.  As a traveler you lose that time on your way there and you gain it back when you come home.  It is a neat and predictable loop.  But what happens to that time when you move?  When the loop is stretched out like a long straight curveless path?

I would like to think of that time as a tether, a guide line home that doesn’t pull or weigh you down, a reminder that no matter where you are going you will never forget where you are from.

In Surat Thani I will be a curiosity, a foreigner, a farang.  I will not be able to speak the language, or read the signs. I will not have a car or a flat screen or a 401k.  My family and friends will be icons on a Skype account.  My normal, my life equilibrium will be sent tumbling and spinning into a strange new world; a world in which I am a teacher, a world in which all of my worldly possessions can be neatly folded into a backpack, a world in which I am the exception not the average.  And I could not be more excited.

Eight months ago abroad was a word that tugged.  I loved its connotation.  I loved what it represented.  But, I didn’t know how to give it life.  My recent trip to Thailand gave me the answer.  Sitting in waist deep azure waters off Phi Phi Island, I sipped Leo beer and chatted with friends about teaching and traveling.  The life we spoke of was far from my normal but tangible and real.  I decided then and there that the road less traveled was the only road.  Abroad had gained shape and form and become a thing of action.

Since that day I have saved, sacrificed, planned, packed, biked, bused, simplified, sold, booked and resigned.  I am three going away parties and a drive to Mom and Dad’s away from departure.  I am calm.  I am happy.  I am wide-eyed.  I am ready for the bottom to drop out.  I am ready to tumble and spin into a strange new world with my 14 hour tether in tow.