It’s the spring of 2001, before the world changed. I’ve just checked into a hotel in Bangkok, after planning for two months and flying for about 13 hours. I needed a break from work, so, at my husband’s suggestion, instead of quitting my job, I took a leave of absence and made reservations for a month in Thailand by myself. The reservation was for the flights only, plus two nights in a hotel. My time here is completely open. I can do anything I want!
After the excitement and the anticipation and the long flight and the time difference, I open the door to my room at about four in the afternoon, exhausted. I have the major realization that there is nobody to plan with or coordinate with. Has that ever been true before?!
I take off my clothes and get into the comfortable bed and immediately fall asleep. When I awake at 11 pm, I am totally refreshed and very hungry. And exceptionally aware of my aloneness. I CAN DO whatever I want.
I am also strongly aware of a new fear. I am in this strange country with no plan and I am afraid. I consider calling room service, so I don’t have to go outside and encounter anything unfamiliar. I consider the possibility of staying in this room for the entire month, not leaving it until my flight home.
Then, I bravely make a decision and a commitment to myself: I will get dressed, go downstairs, and walk around the block. After that, if I want, I give myself permission to come back to my room and call room service.
I shower and brush my teeth and get dressed, feeling pleased with my brave decision. Then I take the elevator down nine flights to the lobby. When I walk outside, I am surprised by the high level of activity and by all the people I see. I walk to the left, beginning my walk around the block. After the first corner, I hear an unusual sound and decide to follow it across the street. As I follow it, it gets louder and is clearly coming from a human being, high-pitched tones.
I walk about five minutes, seeing more people, many more people, gathered around a stage, with simple benches set up for the large audience. Onstage, unlike anything I’ve ever seen at home, is a Chinese opera, with bright costumes and colorful characters. I have no understanding of the language, but, judging by the response of the audience, it is clearly a comedy. I sit delighted for about an hour, then called by my stomach, I head back towards the hotel.
I resume my walk around the block, stopping at a restaurant with patio seating. My first real Thai meal in Thailand is completely delicious. When I return to my hotel room, I am satiated and ready for sleep. When I awake in the morning, I am ready to leave this hotel, ready for adventure, no longer afraid.