Leaving Chiang Mai

It’s a disconcerting feeling knowing that you may never leave a place. The world is filled with people who are born and die in the same neighborhood. A radius is defined, and out of that circumference they never leave. But that isn't the life we've chosen. It just wasn't in the cards. 

We are leaving Chiang Mai in a few days, and it will be a hard adjustment to the road, which any traveller will know is hard and bumpy, even the best of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m looking forward to the change of scenery. I’ve got that itch of restlessness I inherited from my father. Some of my earliest memories of him are our weekly calls while he lived in India, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia, and the elephants he promised to bring back. News that made my little brain explode. (Turns out it was an ashtray held aloft by a ring of carved elephants. JUST what every kid needs/wants!)

My grandmother would show me on a map where he was in the world and I remember staring and staring at all the lines and colors and swaths of blue that separated us. But I was too young to understand distance or time or what it meant to be so far away. I just knew that I couldn’t see him, and that when we spoke there was a halting lag behind our words that would catch us up and inject a halting awkwardness that still exists to this day.

But we’ve been in Chiang Mai long enough to start imagining what life for us would look like here. What would that life look like, the romantic in me asks. Bikes and noodles and temples and massage. We could carve it out. Make a go of it. Build something.

That’s how a place gets under your skin. It’s in the imagining of it. Not for what it is. Not for the pollution and the poisoned water and corrupt officials but for the butterflies and the jasmine scented air that carries them past your porch in the afternoon.

But go we must. Go we will.

Staying in each place just long enough to feel like we know it, but not long enough for it to know us.