Guest Post: More Than Seeing, Tourism is About Living

Life is tough on Kata Beach, Thailand

When you’re an adult, and can travel by yourself, why would you choose to tool around a foreign country on a tour bus?

These gargantuan buses seriously intimidate me when I’m driving around Thailand on the little motor scooter my boyfriend and I rented. Maybe I’m a bit biased. Sure the motorbike is risky, as traffic laws here are scarce. But the tour bus just screams, “I am a tourist and I’m uncomfortable in this strange country, so please charge me outrageous prices!”

I guess I like being at the ground level. Taking my life into my hands at least keeps it in my control. Walking is even better. How else do you truly see and hear the street dogs fighting for turf or observe the sensitive plants that close their leaves when you touch them?

Entire worlds open up while walking along Thailand’s roads. Tadpoles swim in the runoff ditch. Little legumes flower purplish-blue sweet pea-like blossoms. The scents of various meats waft from the mobile carts. A Sunday farmers’ market bustles with people getting produce for the week at a fraction of the supermarket prices.

Folks living life.

It’s so simple.

And then a gigantic tour bus whooshes by! Kicking up dust and debris around everything it passes. Do they feel as privileged as I do to be in this captivating, inspirational country?

I am in Thailand. It seems unreal. I don’t know the language. I often feel overwhelmed or lost. I shop at places the tour buses stop at. But there is no one holding my hand.

I know I stand out here, so I try hard to imitate the Thai style. I admire the simple ways they go about their day. If riding a motorbike is how most people get around, then that’s how I’ll commute to yoga, to the market, or to do laundry. Plus it’s much easier to resist gawking like a tourist when you’re trying not to crash or get lost!

I came here to eat raw fruits and vegetables, do yoga, get in shape, and go to the beach. I am spoiled. I was sick in America. I used to look in the mirror and not recognize my reflection. I looked depressed, pale, and puffy. So I came to Thailand, where I’ve learned to love myself and can now actually help this world. When you feel sick and ineffectual, you can barely help yourself, let alone others.

I live much simpler now, and travel along roads the tour buses have never been. This is my idea of tourism and it’s why I became a tourist.

I’m loving every moment!

Laurel Wantuch is an American writer currently traveling around Thailand. 

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