Okay, if I were to honestly title this blog post, it would be something more like "10 things I was reminded of/that encouraged me/that helped fortify my journey/made me excited to be an artist" while traveling in Southeast Asia, but who wants to read that hokey shit? The truth of the matter is that nothing I write can adequately encapsulate the experience of being in a completely new culture with amazing old friends. In the short 2.5 weeks I was in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia with my best friends, I struggled to journal, e-mail, and speak about how I was feeling - a rare experience for a normally very verbally-oriented, expressive person such as myself. So I've decided to go slowly, writing after-the-fact, posturing my observations in neat little lists or comparisons such as this one. I hope you enjoy reading some of my thoughts and would love to hear from you, too!
10) cash is king // credit is imaginary
500 Riel (about 13 cents USD), 2000 Kip (25 cents USD), 20 Baht (67 cents USD)
In Thailand, there is the Baht. In Laos, the Kip. In Cambodia, they accept Cambodian Riels, Laotian Kip and US dollar. Huh?! Whatever the currency, one needs to figure out the value and keep it on hand, because credit cards are not accepted anywhere. It took a while to get used to it, but now I see this cash-in-hand thing is relevant to day-to-day living. I would argue that regardless of ones' creative or life-long pursuits, you have to pay your dues and put time and effort into things, and that currency is paid in cash only, my friend. There's no way to put shit off and pay later... and that can be a really good thing! When you have to work with what you got, you end up spending only that which you have. You learn and create and produce and consume at a sustainable pace. You are realistic about what things cost and appreciative of things once you have them. You become indebted to people and the opportunities they gave you - not to some credit card company. And while it may take a second to figure out how to work things, find balance, and budget, in the end it's pretty awesome and fulfilling.
9) Leave your expectations at the door
Excerpt from my journal 2/23/13 "Travel from Laos into Cambodia is reminiscent of hell on earth." (I may have been a little overdramatic about the experience. Just a little bit.)
Think you have a plan for a neat, convenient day of travel across borders in Southeast Asia? Nice try. Just like going into an improv scene or starting a jam with a predetermined idea in your head, nothing ever goes as "planned". You will wait in 100 degree heat with a ditch for a toilet and very politely ask every bus driver if its their bus you are supposed to get on and it will not affect the fact that your itinerary said you would arrive at destination 6 hours ago and you've been waiting for 3. Your scene partners, your band mates, and your friendly foreign bus drivers aren't out to destroy your good time - it's just that reality is a combination of multiple perceptions. It is a shared experience, perhaps towards a shared end, but still subject to many unforeseeable factors along the way. Better to ride the wave and live in the moment than cling to how you imagined things to be.
8) There is no easy way
At the previously mentioned border crossing I remember feeling very sad to see some 50-something British folk be kicked off an overcrowded bus only to attempt to get onto ours, fail and get shoved back into the first crazy-crowded bus. Oy. Clearly they had money, some semblance of power and the wherewithal to plan a holiday abroad - but they would still be left at the border if they didn't calm down and settle in to a very uncomfortable bus ride along the unpaved Cambodian roads.
I'd never take back the experience of moving from Ohio to LA, working three jobs, seven days a week to make ends meet, and experiencing sometimes daily rejection, well, because I'm used to it now, but also because now that I do have a little savings and lots of creative free time, I find it doesn't make much difference. I can afford classes and resources important to market and develop my talents, but I still have to work my butt off to get shit done. Similarly, rich, powerful, and narcissistic people can buy their way into success but that only goes so far. They may be on a nicer, more spacious bus, but they're still subject to the potholes and fishtailing ride of an unpredictable industry and world. In short, there is no easy way - and I'd rather have the poems, lyrics, and inside jokes such "challenging" experiences inspires, anyways.
7) Knowing What You Don't Want is an important step towards Knowing What You Do Want
Chang + mango sticky rice. Yum!
It's hard, knowing what you "want" out of life. What to pursue, and how to go about pursuing, is both a real-world challenge and one an actor must consider when approaching a character (witness how casually I am fitting in my artistic analogies). It is also important when choosing food as a pescatarian in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia. Yep, first-world problem, I know, but after a few sick tummy feelings, it was clear I had to scale back on my frog and street-food consumption to keep moving forward healthfully on my trip (yes, I am aware frog is not considered a fish).
The good thing is, you usually have a pretty strong reaction when you don't like things, arguably more so than when you enjoy something or do something "right". You puke. You retreat. You vow to never, ever eat/do/say/think that thing again. These are all wonderful clues leading us towards whatever will make us happy, whichever choice that may be. My diet largely turned to coffee, beer, crackers, veggie fried and mango sticky rice for the duration of my trip, but I never got sick! I learned what to not want, and in exchange got what I wanted! What a freeing experience...and one that extends to so many other decisions in life.
6) The Things You Love Follow You...everywhere
I'll admit - I'm a big wimp sometimes. I was terrified on a motorbike. I cry when I'm really hungry or really tired. There were times on my adventure I wondered why the hell I had purposefully subjected myself to a particular situation. And being 8,000 miles away from LA, I really really really missed my boyfriend Chris and the comfortable, fun life we have built together.
The good thing is I quickly realized that the love and support he and my family and friends back home were sending me was still palpable. Once I calmed down, I knew that comfort, food, affection and fun were all still a part of my life. If I needed to, I could conjure up an image of his smiling face or something fun and simple we had planned, and I knew deep within I would experience that soon. The people I love are always, always with me; they have shaped me, and pushed me forward, and inspired me to go out and see the world. Chrissy and Teresa joined me on this particular adventure, but they've been with me already, every day, for over 20 years now. How fortunate am I to be surrounded and loved by so many amazing people?
I can't wait to walk into my next "big, scary" TV audition with this notion now alive in me. All the nerves I have ever felt seem so insignificant compared to the strength of those who love me, anchoring me from within. I know that is a somewhat mushy way to explain things, but understanding this "capital T" Truth is a powerful way toward being closer to comfort with myself and how I choose to spend my time, and I won't apologize for it!
coming soon... things i learned, part II