Incredibly, it’s been a year and a half since we arrived in Chiang Mai with our two suitcases and a boatload of expectations and dreams.
Many of our hopes have been realized, many of our expectations were completely off-base – in some ways due to the fact that Chiang Mai has changed over the 7 years since I was here last, and in more ways, because I’ve changed since I lived here as a college student. Living here independently from school, as a married couple that has been impacted by years of living “adult” lives in the US system, and then becoming a young family – makes our actual experience of this place different than what I’d imagined – different in ways that I could not have planned for when we were trying to imagine our lives here.
One thing I’ve realized living in Thailand over this year is that America is distinguishably convenient. It’s of the defining characteristics that underlies life in the United States it turns out. A habit of the “developed” world that I always took for granted until I left and wondered why I found myself frustrated by little things so often. It’s not that Thailand is exceptionally inconvenient, and part of this is just that I live in a place that’s not originally catered to my native language. But because I’ve grown up in a culture that values and offers convenience, it took some self examination to realize that it’s not a way of life everywhere.
This was especially challenging as we moved into a large and empty, completely unfurnished townhouse right in Chiang Mai. By completely unfinished I mean it did not even have kitchen counters, cupboards, a sink or stove. All of that is now freestanding, sourced from all separate places. Over the last year, we certainly did our share of buying, acquiring, and filling up our space, occasionally getting frustrating enough to pay a premium for that slightly more convenient delivery service or shiny new item.
Convenience is a nice perk, especially in a fast paced culture like America. Over the last year, I’ve slowly come to appreciate the different cultural values we’re afforded in this time and place. The fact that we’ve had time here to slow down and reflect on how we want to live is a huge improvement on our ability to actually implement and live out our values.
And it’s funny – it’s the very lack of convenience that has offered new room for re-evaluation and creativity that I value. The fact that it’s not just a click of a button on Amazon to have my whims show up at our door, gives me time to slow down and actually question what we really need. Having a baby is one of those tracks in life that are so unknown it’s easy to make fear-based purchases in hopes of being “prepared” for each new stage. I have a feeling that no matter how many things we’re able to source, we will never be prepared!
It’s amazing how fast that instinct to fill a perceived need immediately can take over and trump whatever values I think I hold. It’s one thing to believe something – it’s another thing to put it in practice. I’m becoming grateful for the pause – the barriers to entry that are part of living life in Chiang Mai. It’s a long standing habit to break, but more and more often I am remembering to question our consumption.