The voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. by Marcel Proust is my favorite quote from my youth. And something I’ve revisited recently since I left the country for two weeks and returned to find Thailand feeling different, new and fresh.
I know, two weeks is not a very long time. But A LOT happened when I was in Austria, and Europe is very different from SE Asia, okay? I had never been to a European country before, so my eyes were wide open in anticipation.
Prior to this, I had been living and working in Chiang Mai with hardly any travel for about a year and a half. The time was about immersing myself into Thai life, language, and culture. When the trip came up, I really felt like I hadn’t used my traveling skills in a long time. But I had done enough not to be too demoniac.
I guess I had forgotten how clean Western cities are, how orderly, quiet, and well, structured – even the construction sounded subdued. I was also keenly aware of any Asians or anything ethnic, just like I would have been in the United States. I didn’t feel unwelcomed, but I didn’t feel like I belonged either. I liked the cities, as a matter of fact, so I tried to imagine myself living there.
Entertaining the idea seemed like a nice distraction but I remembered how much I hated the cold, especially when I was inappropriately dressed. I also don’t like living in expensive places. I think I hate the idea more than anything else, and I’m not even a communist. I equate it to an exclusive university or club, I could make it work, and jump through the hula hoops but this kind of stuff doesn’t motivate me.
I remember reading a forum or blog post about Chiang Mai. She was expostulating that CM isn’t all that great and why are all these expats saying that it is? Fine by me. But what caught my attention, were her words, “Chiang Mai isn’t edgy enough.”
It took a moment for me to consider that. I mean, she’s right, I get it. What she was saying is CM isn’t hip enough, and THAT is why I don’t like expensive cities. They are considered, popular, edgy, hip and if they aren’t popular yet, they are emerging or “on the fringes.” There are too many unattractive old men here for CM to be ever hip or edgy or emerging. 555
I will say the only expensive city I wish I could afford is San Diego. But, price is relative, isn’t it? Many Americans think living abroad is expensive. And if they aren’t referring to costs, the price of being far from family and friends and familiarity is too high.
CM is not winning any Green Living Awards anytime soon. And that is too bad because CM is perfect for sustainable living. I wish there were more green spaces, and trash and dog poo weren’t so prevalent. I wish the air was cleaner, all year long.
I guess I thought that seeing Europe for the first time, even though it was a tiny sample, would make me wish I was living there, but a strange thing happened instead, it just made me miss Thailand.
P.S. CM in 2018 is VERY different than when I first wrote this in 2012. I’d say CM is working hard on being edgy and hip.