Traveling can be life changing. Travel invites you to get out of the known and into the unknown. It allows you to have new experiences, meet new people, and expand your horizons. Beyond that, traveling can allow you to grow by illuminating how you respond to those new experiences, inviting insight by challenging old perceptions of who you thought you were.
For the past 3 weeks I had the opportunity to travel from the United States to Thailand. Traveling to a country that is radically different was a major culture shock, but I loved every second of it! I experienced adventure, leisure, learning, and exponential personal growth in a short amount of time.
The main reason for my journey was to take an advanced Thai Yoga Massage course. While I did take some time for sightseeing, I enjoyed the training part of my trip the most. Not only am I passionate about massage and bodywork modalities, but that is also where the majority of my growth took place.
My destination was Khao Sok National Forest in southern Thailand. Khao sok is a wildlife and nature preserve, and flowing through it is Cheow Lan lake; a vibrant green lake surrounded by towering tree covered limestone cliffs. Floating on the lake are several traditional Thai raft houses. The retreat was held by Jungle Yoga, at Praiwan Raft House situated on the far end of the lake in a beautiful cove surrounded by jungle.
The yoga sala, bungalows, and restaurant all float on the pristine lake, supported by wooden planks and large metal barrels. Each bungalow has a hammock out front, and colorful Tibetan prayer flags hanging over the doorway. I was lucky enough to get my own bungalow this year, and I relished the opportunity to have time to myself.
Living in the city, constantly surrounded by the sounds of electronics, sirens, traffic, and people, one can tend to forget that being in nature is actually how we were meant to live- in our natural environment. Listening to the sounds of the jungle- the hornbills calling, gibbons singing, cicadas whirring, and a myriad of wildlife all in constant melody, soothed my soul and reminded me of the beautiful life force energy that surrounds all of us all the time. Being on the water for twelve days was relaxing, and the constant gentle rocking of the wooden planks under my feet lulled me like a baby.
But, the water element can also bring up repressed emotions. I noticed all the stress I had been carrying. I cried in my hammock many times; some from grief at the load of emotions I hadn’t processed, some sheer relief at letting go and being held in such a safe environment, and some in happiness at being in this magical place. After a few days my body began to adjust to my surroundings and I started to become one with the elements. My mood became more mellow and peaceful. I eased into my new surroundings and allowed them to hold me safely.
Thailand is a beautiful country, with beautiful places, people, food, and philosophies. Oftentimes I am asked why I go there, what my favorite part of it is, and what keeps me coming back. My answer is, in a nutshell, that Thailand changes you. If you let Thailand into your heart, it offers a softening- a quiet gentleness that evens out the rough edges, soothes the nerves, and calms the soul.
Maybe it’s the jungle, with the lush rainforest of palm trees, monkeys and elephants exuding a vibrant life force energy that reminds you you’re alive. Maybe it’s the salty warm waters of the ocean that wash away the old aches and pains, or the deep green waters of the lake that cleanse away the fear and traumas of the past.
Maybe it’s the cities with ornate gold gilded temples that seem to pierce the sky- reminding you to reach higher, or the food so fresh and full of spices, colors and flavors that excite the palate and nourish the body and soul.
The sounds of the jungle- the hornbills, gibbons, cicadas, and wildlife all in constant melody soothed my soul and reminded me of the beautiful life force energy that surrounds all of us all the time.
Maybe it’s the genuine smiles on people’s faces- the kindness and compassion they exude so freely. Or, maybe it’s all of those things, that each does their subtle work of awakening, opening, reaching in and touching the deepest parts of you that you just can’t seem to feel anything other than love, joy and peace.
My intention is to bring a little piece of Thailand back home with me. The gentleness, kindness, compassion, stillness and awareness. The beautiful life force energy, joy, and love, to share with all of you.