Much like in America, this time of year in Thailand is very special. Thai people celebrate Loi Krathong during the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai calendar (for Westerners, that’s late November). For 3 days, they float beautiful baskets on the water and make wishes on them. The basket, as it floats away, symbolizes letting go of one’s anger and past failures. To start fresh.
Last night I had the opportunity to join with friends and experience this Thai tradition. Not unlike American traditions, it has also been modified from its origins. These days, you will see bright lanterns fill the sky from the hands of thousands of tourists and Thais alike all along the Ping River (it’s kind of a pyro’s fantasy…). Now, I admit, if you look to the streets they are full of rubbish and fallen paper. Mad with crowds of people and traffic moving about with no barriers between them. But if you stand in just the right spot along the bridge and look up, it’s a magical sight to behold.
This morning in America, my friends and family will wake up and start peeling potatoes and baking pies. Slowly watch a big bird bake in the oven. Many of them will be with their extended families – aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. They will noisily bustle about a kitchen lifting lids and peeling up corners of aluminum foil to see what the good aunties have brought this year for their gluttonous enjoyment. They will eat. And talk. And eat some more. They will put aside their differences for a day and give thanks. It’s a wonderful celebration.
For the first time in 35 years, I am having Thanksgiving dinner alone. For about 5 minutes, I’ll be honest, this made me feel sad. Some plans had fallen through. I was missing the company of close friends. I was thinking about all the big and wonderful Thanksgiving dinners I’d had back in Missouri. But then I thought about what my friend Joe said when I asked him if he wanted to join for Thanksgiving dinner tonight. He said, “For me, Thanksgiving is a family thing.”
A family thing.
And then I realized, that is exactly who I am having Thanksgiving dinner with — my family that is here in Chiang Mai — me. Because when you choose the life of a solo traveler, you are your own family. The mother, the father, and the child. Your needs are yours to answer within yourself. You nurture and protect yourself. You celebrate your traditions and beliefs no matter where you go.
While I know it’s not the life for everyone, it’s a life I proudly chose. I wed myself to adventure long ago, and like any faithful partner I weather its storms.
And so, from here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in my studio apartment with my Thanksgiving plate for one, here are the things I am thankful for this year:
- Being able to buy Thanksgiving dinner from a kind, family-run Thai restaurant that has prepared food for our American holiday in the very middle on their own.
- Pumpkin pie.
- The beautiful lights and sparkling floats of Loi Krathong.
- The ability to fearlessly pursue the things that I want.
- The immigration office staff at Promenada, for extending my tourist visa today (Maybe this should be #1…)
- Knowing that I have two parents who love me.
- Being able to live anywhere I want, and experience endless new places and cultures.
- Meeting new people who challenge my way of thought, and allow me to challenge theirs.
Well, that’s a start. I have another piece of pie to finish…
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and thank you for stopping by :).