From Bangkok to Hanoi
You may have heard of that Disney song, the one that plays to multi-cultural figures dancing about throughout the amusement ride of the same name: “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all….”
On November 3rd , 2014, an Indian living in the UK was on a business trip in Bangkok. An American singer – me – living in Bangkok, was nearby. They met at a jazz club. For the past three and a half years now, that Indian man and I have been together, and staying together has meant we sometimes have traveled to places NOT on our ‘bucket list.
In the beginning these trips really pushed us out of our comfort zones, but I suppose this is a common occurrence in both romance and travel.
After meeting in Bangkok, and romancing in Phuket, for Christmas 2014 we reunited in Hanoi, Vietnam, I love Hanoi, but the chaos of the city was all too familiar and unpleasant for my Mumbai-born partner. He didn’t enjoy it, yet he told me he didn’t care. He traveled to Hanoi to see me, not sight-see. I felt lucky.
At the end of his visit I guess it was my turn. “Why don’t you come to Aberystwyth when your contract ends?” he asked on his last night. I had not visited the UK in years and my last memories of it were not fond ones. I said, “Okay”.
Reassessing my Comfort Zone
Three months later, I landed in coastal Aberystwyth, Wales. On the surface it was not too bad. The sound of seagulls reminded me of my home of Long Island, New York and the dry, clean air was a welcome break from the humid, polluted skies of Hanoi.
Then it hit me: aside from very brief visits to New York, I had lived in Asia for the past seven years. I was used to the chaos of big Asian cities. I was used to crowds, late nights, motorbikes and constant selfies.
Stepping into the beautiful, but small and traditional university town, the unconventional expat was discovering she was in love and out of her comfort zone.
Off went my singing gowns! The smell of fine French wine had evaporated, replaced by draft pints and fried fish & chips. The glamour of deep rouge lips, singing to the elite of Hanoi was now stripped away and I was face to face with the common façade of a pub, and another pub and another pub.
I was scared. What was I doing here? I was happy with my unconventional life; proud, even. Even though I considered running, I stopped myself. Hadn’t I travelled for love? I should put in a little more effort.
I stayed, and after a few weeks my discomforts slipped away and I realised I had been running from a fear of normality and, by staying, I saw how silly that was. Aberystwyth forced me to stop moving. I was encouraged to take a look at my life and what I really wanted. I was finding more peace and security, things I didn’t even know I missed while I was living in Asia.
When I moved to Thailand in 2008 I thought I would stay forever. Last week, after 3 ½ years of back and forth, I arrived in the UK, with a visa that will allow me to stay! Who knew a chance meeting, one night in Bangkok, would bring me to a remote town on the coast of Wales and change my life.
From Hanoi to Aberyswyth
I would never have thought to visit Aberystwyth on my own, and if I had not, who knows when I would have realised what I was missing. I am so grateful I opened my eyes and now I love it. When I think of the random events that have lead me to where I am today, I can’t help but hum that familiar tune: “It’s a small, small world”.
Read more of Kristen’s life lessons learned in Asia.