So much to learn from the rest of the World

Trip Start Nov 21, 2013
Trip End Dec 16, 2013

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Monday, December 23, 2013

The one who lives sees, the one who travels sees more  -Arabic proverb

Back in Bangkok and it is starting to feel like a second home to me by now. I've probably been here 6 times, as it is the travel hub to get you anywhere else in Asia. A bit of a shock after non-commercialized Burma and rural Cambodia, but quite welcoming at the same time. It is Sunday and the streets are pretty quiet (for being the metropolis of Bangkok that is). I catch the cool sky train that elevates high up above the highway and gives you a great view of the city as well as it’s inhabitants. Young Thai hipsters with tight pants and long bangs chat away on the newest smartphone as the older generation still dresses traditionally and carry lotus buds for their daily altar offerings.

I get lost on my way to the Jim Thompson House and find and amazing store called "Prayer" where I get invited to tea while learning the history about the 50 year old shop, that mainly sells indigenous Khmer handicrafts and clothes. It is a gem in the midst of mega malls and fastfood stores at Siam Square. Loaded up with some funky colorful boots, scarves and a piece of framed hand stitching.

In a bizarre maze of concrete staircases and overpasses, I stumble upon an art center where young artists exhibit and sell their artwork. Another gem. So reminds me of the saying; “the journey is the destination”. By the time I reach the Jim Thompson house I take a guided tour of his amazing teak home that contains a myriad of treasures from all over Asia. I pass the gift shop (that I came for originally) happily knowing that I supported independent, local artists rather than paying $300 for a JT silk scarf. I did get a delicious green papaya salad in the JT garden though, accompanied with some fabulous Thai Ice tea.

I could definitely not leave Bangkok without getting another massage and it turned out to be one of the best I ever had. Pure bliss. Nobody can massage like the Thais, it’s in their blood. And the food, oh my, I could eat Asian cuisine everyday for the rest of my life, my stomach never feels so good and healthy as when I am traveling. It is as soon as I get back to the US that I get problems, which makes me think of all the processed foods that we get lured into eating.

On this trip I have seen old people looking healthier than middle-aged westerners. Old men and women that would kick any average westerners booty when it comes to carrying their own groceries, walking in stairs (no elevators here), fetching water that they carry elegantly on their head for miles. In Asia the elders are respected, looked up upon and taken care of by their family.

Kids are kids, playing outside (what a concept) with toys made out of recycled cans, tires and other things that tourists left behind. I never see spoiled brats screaming and whining because they don’t get the latest computer game or have to sit on a bus ride for 10 hours keeping after their younger sibling. There are no sanitary wipes that kills all the germs on all surfaces (now leading to more allergies in the US), sure they wash their hands and wash their bodies but not to the extreme to witch we have become accustomed to in the west. And what would this world look like if everyone in the world consumed as much toilet paper as we do, electricity, water? It is insane how wasteful such a small part of the planet is compared to the masses. Anything disposable should be completely banned in my opinion. I mean, who in their right mind would buy something that could only be used once? Do they think it would just magically disappear?

Traveling will open your eyes and open your heart. It will make you a better person and most of all, it will make you compassionate towards other culture and it’s people. I urge each and everyone of you to reach out to a person that has a different background than you do, maybe a neighbor or a coworker with unusual costumes compared to yours. We are so easily wrapped up in the idea of that “my costumes/ culture/ appearance is so much better than yours” but who is to judge that? In many parts of the world burping, farting and spitting is totally acceptable in public. Speaking with food in your mouth, cutting the line etc. But that is as natural as it is for us to touch some ones head (which is totally unacceptable in a Buddhist country), put our bare feet on a chair and point them at someone else (totally unacceptable in may cultures), touch someone with your left hand, a major no-no in all of Asia
Most people feel at home in their own country with their own costumes and families, but there are so many reasons why they have to fled from war, for economic reasons, political reasons and sometimes they end up in “your” country as immigrants. Maybe these people has seen their whole family being murdered and raped in front of their own eyes, their children kidnapped and sold to child prostitution (often for western costumers), children that lost their parents. I can go on and on. I am an immigrant too, but because of the color of my skin, I've been treated mostly with respect. Traveling makes you realize how much you belong in a different culture as much as you feel as a total stranger to different continent. I like to think about how much we are alike rather than how large the differences are. We all want to be loved, have a roof over our head, have enough food to live and be healthy.

Western corporations use land and resources from all over the world to produce cheap disposable products that we use for a short time and then throw away. Women die from hydration and the fact that they aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom during their 14 hours shifts at sweatshops in countries like China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia (great book to read about this matter for my Swedish readers is "Innan floden tar oss"/ "Sisters by the river"). How else would we be able to buy items at Wallmart for $1.99? So many people are suffering around the world to continue on with our wasteful and careless living. An informative and over all brilliant movie on this topic to watch is "The story of stuff", it's about 20min long and will change the way you look at consumerism forever. No more disposable stuff or visits to Wallmart for the rest of your life. You'll see :)

Traveling makes you open your senses, and see what is important in life. As an individual I think we are all responsible to make a change in our very own way. My favorite saying is that you “Vote with your dollar”. Just think about it; everytime you make a purchase, it is a statement. Are you choosing organic or food full of pesticides? Free-range/ hormone free meat or corn fed beef? Items made locally or in China? A gas driven car or hybrid/electric? Walking/ biking or driving? We can all be a part of a positive change in the world. You, me, your family and friends. We're all in it together. It's that simple. 

Peace, Love and taking responsibility
Yours truly ~theSwedishVagabond~

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