On Jan. 10, a friendly Uber driver took me to the Amtrak station in New London at 6 p.m. (second-to-last train to Boston that night) for a ride to South Station. From there, I took a city bus to Logan Airport and walked around the airport for a few hours. I flew out of Boston on Cathay Pacific at 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 11, and landed in Hong Kong as the sun was coming up on Friday, Jan. 12.
By noon, I was going through customs and finding my luggage in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and meeting some of the other people who had traveled across the world for an experience quite different from that of a typical tourist.
We piled into a minibus — and headed off through Bangkok’s Friday afternoon noisy rush of traffic to our first hotel. (Note how many different forms of transportation I’ve used even BEFORE the trip officially started.)
Let’s back up. Why in the world was I speeding across Bangkok on a Friday afternoon in January? Why had I lost a day of my life to sleep and three (or was it four?) movies?
WTF was I doing?
Can I blame it on the rum drinks and lazy heat of Jamaica on my last vacation? Or the uncertainty of what was ahead in retirement? Or could the universe be eavesdropping on my hopes and fears again?
Or was it simply that Facebook had sliced and diced my information so finely that it knew I was looking for an experience that I’d never forget — one that forever shaped the border between the world of work and the world of … less work.
Magic or the world of marketing?
Posts about a company called BAMBOO started showing up on my Facebook page. And I tugged on that bone. No, I chomped it in two. I returned to the page almost every night to read reviews and googled the company to find out more about them (photo below from website).
I liked the fact that they offered a mix of tourism and volunteerism. I liked experiencing the people and the countries in ways you can’t on a beach with a umbrella shoved in your color-of-the-day drink. (Believe me, the allure of melting on the beach has been my only desire at different times in my life. But not this time. I wanted something different.)
And so, one summer night I found myself forking over the down payment for the trip and checking off the list of items I needed to take care of before I could join the group.
Fact 1: It was cheaper than a super-duper vacation because for part of the trip I’d be either helping or living in Thai homes.
Fact 2: There also was the allure of visiting Angkor Wat and other ancient temples and working up-close with elephants and living in a village where they were part of the family.
Fact 3: I would be part of a group of 20 or less people who were over 50 (like me) and from across the globe. In fact, my group totaled 16 from all over Australia, England, Canada and the U.S. — 15 women and one brave man.
They were moms, wives, grandmothers, single, divorced, engaged. They were nurses, teachers, social service providers, business professionals, hard workers, animal lovers, long-time adventurers, first-time world travelers, music and book lovers, dancers.
They were lovers of life. And each had a story.
But let’s get back to that ride across Bangkok in the minibus.
We wove and honked our way through one of the busiest streets I had ever seen or heard — Rambuttri Road. What could compare? Little Italy in NYC? The French Quarter of New Orleans?
Not even close.
We were in the thick of life — and surrounded by street vendors — in Bangkok. And here, at the Villa Cha-Cha, was where we’d spend our first two nights in Thailand. (Photo above is of the outdoor restaurant at the hotel where we had breakfast in the morning and cheap beers at night.)
Come back for more!