It’s not that I don’t like to travel.
I just really like comfort zones.
Hi, I’m Dylon. For the next few paragraphs, you’ll be riding along as I tell the story of a young man, his girlfriend, some questionable commuting practices, and the journey of a lifetime. Join me, will you?
I’ve always been on the more reserved side when it comes to traveling. The complete opposite of Alicia, probably. Growing up, family vacations were simple, and I liked that. Comfort zones. Being in a familiar place has always been like a vacation to me. My family made the trek to Cape Cod every summer, as far back as I remember. Sometimes the group consisted of the entire family, and sometimes just the immediate family, Mom, Dad, Kymm, Emily, and I.
So when Alicia first made the decision that she was going to teach abroad, it struck me. I would have to venture out to a place far, far, away. Out of my….comfort zone.
Now it wasn’t exactly like Alicia would have to drag me out there, she brings out the best of me when it comes to experiencing and trying new things. It was just that I was nervous. A bit scared. But at the same time excited. I kinda liked this new feeling. Was this why people go thousands of miles away? Hmmm.
The months passed by, and I got more and more anxious. I would finally be experiencing the world and seeing Alicia, who I had last seen almost four months ago at JFK airport. I was finally ready to leave the good ole’ USA. (Editors note: Dylon once left the country, venturing to Montreal, where he sat in Olympic Stadium catching an Expos game when suddenly the lights when out and would later find out it was the start of the 2003 East Coast Blackouts. Scariest moment of his life)
The day was here. My mom and my cousin,Spillane-Silversey Wedding MVP, Terrence Ruggiero picked me up and we made the journey to Jamaica. Final hugs and kisses were given and I was off! A fresh passport in my hand, ready to get inked up by Chinese and Thai immigration agents. Boarded the plane and off we were.
The plane ride was well, not one to remember. The long 13 hour flight to Beijing was very frustrating, as when I wanted to sleep, the natives of Beijing decided to start a casino in the back of the plane, gambling and chatting away. Me peering over the seats hoping a flight attendant would force them back to their seats. But that was empty hope. I also got to enjoy a rather inebriated man leaning on my seat, breathing on my neck, and gawking at my iPad as I watched Django. But I still had a smile on my face. Just a few more hours and I’d be in Bangkok. The remaining hours on that flight and the transfer to Bangkok went smoothly.
A few bad plane movies later, I had finally arrived! The plan was to meet Alicia by the main information booth, and if there were any serious problems, I’d suck it up, pay $1.99 a minute and just call her using my phone. I got out of customs and as I looked out, I’m pretty sure every kiosk set up in the room said information. I’ve been in Thailand for 3 minutes and I’m already panicking. Walking upstairs, downstairs, left, and right. I really didn’t think it would be hard to pick out a blonde woman in Thailand, but you’d be surprised. Just as I really had become frustrated, I realized you should probably just go back to the exit and look again. Sure enough, there she was. It was kinda nice because I got to sneak up behind Alicia and act very nonchalant as I would say hello. It was amazing to see her again, a sense of relief went throughout my brain as we finally said hello in person for the first time in months.
I was finally ready to experience Thailand.
Our journey started the next morning, sleep was a little rough. Jet lag along with a nasty cold picked up on the plane, made me feel kinda crappy. But I couldn’t wait to get started. We hopped on the BTS, and headed towards the Chao Phraya River where we would catch a boat over the Wat Pho. There we were going to check out my first temple. We hopped on the crowded boat, and on up the river. Now, getting into the city for the first time, I was very intimidated. Dogs roamed the streets like squirrels do here, and no one spoke English. So it was about this time that I realized how proud I was of Alicia. She seamlessly directed us through this busy city, using subtle Thai to converse and get us to point A to point B, with no fear. It was awesome to see.
Anyways, as we arrived to Wat Pho and to the Reclining Buddha, it really was amazing. The sights truly were jaw-dropping. The architecture and colors were amazing. The 150 foot Reclining Buddha was unlike anything I have ever seen. Something you truly have to see in person to totally appreciate. The detail was unbelievable.
After spending a few hours at the temples, it was time to head to our next destination. Bangkok Treehouse. We picked up our stuff from the hotel, took the BTS & a cab back to the river. We mulled over our options to get across the river until we ultimately decided on a “speedboat”. I barely fit, and definitely thought I would sink this tiny vessel, but we made it. Thank god. I stepped out onto the bamboo dock, took one step and realized my feet were slowly separating. I thought I was heading into the river, until Alicia pulled me back onto the dock and generously offered to test out each part of the dock. By the grace of god, we made it.
Amongst the craziness that is Bangkok, you really wouldn’t expect this. The bustling city of over 8,000,000 had this peaceful, green hotel. Placed in a jungle like atmosphere. It was great. Outdoor showers that when the curtain was pulled, basically looked as if you were in the middle of the rain forest. We spent the night at the hotel restaurant, sampling the local flavor, enjoying the quaint atmosphere on this Valentines Day night.
The next morning we had some great local tea, some breakfast, and head out on bikes to wander about, check out some parks, and for me, see what Thailand was like outside the busy central of Bangkok. It was a bit of a culture shock. As we pedaled throughout the town, checking out the hidden temples, I was interested in people watching, mainly because the locals seeing me on this tiny bike gave me many shocked looks. We checked out the park, saw a gigantic lizard (not sure what it was), and I had my first good Thailand sweat. Now it was off to Hua Hin. Beach time! We said goodbye to the gracious owner of Bangkok Tree House and set off. This time on a much more comfortable, bigger boat.
After getting into downtown Bangkok, we settled into my first ever van ride. It’s very hectic in Bangkok and these vans are no different. They shoved us into the back row, which really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and started the 3 hour journey to the beach town. All was really well until we got into Hua Hin. The driver was hoarding some sort of goods for a local business and we first unloaded these items before getting dropped off. All was fine, until a loud pop and an odd noise.
I kind of laughed at first thinking they dropped a bag of rice, and it was spilling out. Until I saw billowing smoke and the other 8 or so patrons in the van panic and head for the exits, shirts over their faces. I glanced at Alicia and we both gave each other that, lets get the hell outta here look. The smell becoming pungent. No clue what was going on we jumped out. Now I am one to speculate and think of the worst when stuff like this happens, so I literally thought the driver threw a smoke bomb at us, or something ridiculous along those lines. Until I saw the local business owner, giving me a toothless grin and pointing to the fire extinguisher.
Ha ha ha. Not funny.
We gathered ourselves and finally set back out onto the road. Just up ahead, we were dropped off and got picked up by the hotel. Long windy roads and gated entrances, we head into Springfield Golf Resort. This is right up my alley, I was thinking. Infinity pools and cocktails.
Over the next two days, we dined, layed out by the pool, sipped Pina Coladas, and enjoyed more of the local flavor. It really was perfect. I started realizing that on future vacations, as long as I have a happy medium of adventuring and resort living, you can take me anywhere. This was the life.
Sadly, this part had to come to an end, and we started to head back to Chon Buri. A less fire extinguisher filled trip back to Bangkok and onto the town where Alicia molds young Thai minds. I was excited to see the town. Over the next few days, I visited the school, where I felt like a rock star, signing autographs and answering ridiculous questions. I watched Alicia and saw how really good she was at teaching. The kids really grasped and for the most part, enjoyed her curriculum. We took the Song Tao (rusty pickup) over to Bang Saen, to enjoy some dinner and a beer along with a sunset one night which was really nice.
Next destination was Koh Phagnan. Now my only gripe with Thailand really was the travel time. It seems like it takes forever to get anywhere, but this was certainly worth it. Koh Phagnan is amazing. Never in my life have I seen a place like this. An eight hour bus ride, followed by a four hour ferry sounds like hell, but you are dropped off in a slice of heaven. After we checked in to the hotel, we raced off to the beach. Literally the type of beaches that you could only dream of. I think I spent the first half hour on the beach, sipping on a Chang Beer and just babbling on about how amazing the beach looked. We spent the late afternoon trying to catch a sunset in the infinity pool, but we didn’t get to see one fall on the horizon all week, but it still looked amazing. You really felt like you were on the edge of the world. We grabbed dinner at a really cool local BBQ place, it had the feel of a Korean BBQ, where you cooked everything on your own. The owner was awesome, spoke fluent English, making you feel comfortable, and made for an enjoyable meal.
The next day we hopped on a moped, and head for another beach. Once again, the beach seemed not real, we had a great breakfast and just relaxed all day. Got my first thai massage too! Hurt like hell at times but was well worth it. At night, we got a little spiffy, looked all good and head over to a local Italian joint. I knew Alicia would be thrilled. I could only imagine what life would be like without good Italian food. And this guy nailed it. Homemade gnocchi and raviolis, a few fruity cocktails, and a coconut milk banana concoction, and once again I was in heaven.
Our last day in Koh Phagnan kicked off once again by a great beach day, but sadly a monsoon interrupted mid day. When it rains, it literally POURS. Holy hell. The evening was a little odd with blackouts throughout the island, and me getting all sorts of nervous,it kinda thwarted our evenings plans, but a nice lunch and dinner once the power came back on would conclude our trip on this exotic island.
Now remember how I said that the long trip to Koh Phagnan was well worth it? Well the boat trip almost did away with that. Never had I been on such rocky waters. I guess the storm from the day before had brewed up the sea. Thank god I don’t get sea sick, because I am pretty sure I am one of about 3 of 200 who didn’t get sick on the ride home. But on the other hand, I was holding onto the arm rests for dear life every time we went over a wave. About four hours later when we could finally got to land, I think I just about kissed the ground.
When we finally got back to Chon Buri that night, it was bittersweet. On one hand I had just had one of the best experiences of my life, hanging out on an exotic island with Alicia, going places that most of the world would never experience, but on the other hand I realized it would be time to head home soon. I was homesick for certain things. Pizza, Chipotle, decent internet. But being without Alicia for another two months was depressing a bit. But realizing when you had already made it four months, another two wouldn’t be as bad.
After the next few nights and days of hanging at the local spa, visiting school, going to the local markets and eating fish, it was time to head back to the old US of A. Alicia got out of school early and we hung out for the next few hours, before taking me to the airport. The whole time, I was reflecting on the trip. It was the trip of a lifetime. Like I said before, 99% of people on this earth will never experience the amazing things I had over these past two weeks. Alicia brought me to the airport, we both tried delaying the inevitable. Me heading into the terminal. I knew it would be the last time I would see her in person for another 56 days, (but whose counting) so it was really tough. It was almost like a movie at times. Me heading up the escalator, turning around to see her there staring back, waving, until I made it to the top and she went into the distance.
I had a few more hours until I actually headed onto the plane. Some more time to reflect on the amazingness of the trip. I realized that I’ll probably never be that guy who goes to places like this all the time, and I’m fine with that.
I just really like comfort zones.
But on the other hand, every once in awhile to get out of that comfort zone and experience the world is truly amazing. And I have Alicia to thank for that. So thank you Alicia, for getting me out of my comfort zone.