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  • Writer's picturemayte lisbeth

#TBT - Thailand 2019

There's nothing like a quarantine to bring up some serious nostalgia. Chief among the things I miss about life "before the sickness came" (as I've come to affectionately refer to life before this pandemic because I am dramatic) is traveling. I loved being somewhere else. I mean, I still do. I just don't get to because well, issa pandemic.

Growing up, there were three things I thought meant you were successful:

1. owning a white jeep like Cher from Clueless,

2. going to Disney World for vacation,

3. backpacking through a country.

Let's recap my life really quickly:

1. I have no desire to drive, though the pandemic is changing that out of sheer necessity.

2. If you see me in Disney World, that means I'm in love with someone who loves me. I have yet to go.

3. Backpacking through a country? Now that I've done.

I chose Thailand because like many of us, I saw Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach and I was like "yup, want to go there". But I wasn't going to actually go to Thailand. I mean, it's in Asia and I was a girl from the Bronx. I can't just go to Thailand...right? Wrong. I definitely went to Thailand for three weeks last year to celebrate turning 30.

My 29th birthday was fairly miserable. It was the first birthday after leaving my ex who I had been with for almost 6 years. I was living in an apartment I shared with strangers and I felt really alone. Not just felt, I was. I celebrated my birthday alone at a restaurant in Harlem and felt pathetic. I decided I'd never feel that way again (LOL I feel that way weekly) and said I would travel for every birthday that follows. And to prove to myself that I was serious, I picked Thailand. I blurted it out to someone when they asked me if I had any trips coming up. And then it stuck.

I booked my flight in June for $550 RT and would spend the majority of September up and down Thailand. In 3 weeks, I went to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi and Koh Lanta by myself. I stayed in regular hotels, nice villas, hostels and even slept overnight in a train. Some of it was planned in advance and other days just happened kind of like magic, kind of like love.

Three weeks alone in a foreign country as a fat, black woman changed my life. I learned the value of my own company. Before going on the trip, I didn't know how I would navigate being alone that far away. Turns out loneliness feels the same to me whether I'm alone in a forest or in a room full of people. I had years of practice in being alone. The only new variable (in my mind) was a new country and that seemed more fun than frightening. Thailand wasn't my first solo trip but it did give me newfound appreciation for every solo date to the movies, to restaurants, to the park. It's almost like my life is practice for the rest of my life. Mind-blowing.

Some of the strongest memories I have are the ones I have of Thailand. My memory, kissed by years of repression and trauma, was out of practice remembering. It was almost as if my memory were more fiction than history. More silence than stories.

I went to Thailand determined to remember.

So I wrote as much as I could. I wrote about the smells, the colors, the sounds, the flavors, the emotion. I wrote about my turmoil, I wrote about failing. I wrote about the things I deserved, the things I didn't, the things that deserve me. I wrote terrible poems, I wrote some dope one liners. I wrote down a lot of questions, very few answers. I wrote down directions, drew quick maps in the margins and even got to remember PEMDAS. I wrote down everything. I've never been more grateful for the ability to write. Because to write meant to remember.

Didn't I deserve to remember this massive thing I did?

Don't I deserve to remember the good things?

Don't I deserve to remember joy?

And even if I never get the Jeep or make it to Disney, I backpacked through Thailand for a couple of weeks. 10 year old Mayte would think I am very cool.

Drink some water. Wear a mask.


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