“Not ‘Goodbye’!” I always scream, grabbing each student by the shoulders and looking them in the eye. “You never, ever need to lose touch with people you care about nowadays. I’ll stalk you forever on Facebook if you want!”
And I do. From Thailand, to Japan, to Costa Rica, to Rhode Island, it is deliciously easy and SO very wonderful to Instant Message or Voice Skype with beloved ones across the world.
This is what I tell myself as I stuff all my new, impractical dresses and old, smelly tank tops into my straining backpack once again. And this is what I tell everyone I’ve grown to trust and adore in the two weeks at Massage School when they try to use the word “Goodbye”. I’ve nested here in Chiang Mai for three weeks: the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in my four months on the road… and now tomorrow it’s off south to Bangkok and Krabi by train!
Tonight our massage school clan reunited downtown to help Thailand celebrate the eighty-second birthday (!) of its revered King. I dragged along the two super fun young internet marketers who just moved from Australia to Thailand, and thus the evening was a scrumptious mix of green curry, capitalist theory, and New Age energy work.
Over hours and hours and lots of rice, we had such a nice time discussing our reflections on the massage course, our goals for the rest of our lives, the line between massage and prostitution in Thailand, and our votes for the most beautiful cities in the world.
I semi-successfully practiced my newfound squatting skills on the revolting squat toilet at the Heaven Beach restaurant (pictured, left), and then stopped at the table of some French chain-smokers to politely photograph the shocking tracheotomy-emblazoned local cigarette packages (pictured, right).
We had a really nice night, all of us! The crowning glory of it all was the fabulous series of photos we took with the French former baker styling my hair into a wig and/or beard for himself. The waitress said to Arno as we caught our breath from all the laughing and screaming: “You make funny for everyone, yes?” Indeed, yes!
And then we parted ways home: some by foot, some by motorcycle, and some by tuk tuk. A few of us hugged tight, and others gave out a handshake or a hearty shoulder pat. Into each of our bags we stuffed scrawled email addresses, some with smiley faces, too, or notes like, “be in touch!”.
Recently, I’ve heard morose stories from people who have started traveling with another person, and have since become trapped: too nervous to go back to solo travel, and too shy to hurt the other person’s feelings by suggesting separate paths.
But really, it is strangely freeing and refreshing to wave “Later!” (not “Goodbye) to wonderful fellow humans, honoring the time you shared together, but boldly setting off again alone, always knowing you can email or chat online with these people any future hour you choose. You may even track them down in person years later for more hugs or practice thumb-pressing energy lines! It is all possible nowadays, if you have the will.
Tonight at the King’s birthday celebration, there were fireworks. Every time those gold and silver fireworks exploded above Tae Pae Gate, hundreds of birds took flight off their trees! For an instant, fire light blazed in the center of a giant ring of wings– everything racing outwards and away from the center!
And thus we good souls from massage school all sparkled together, gloriously, for two weeks, and now we careen apart again, giddy with the open space.
How wonderful that we will always, always retain within ourselves that fire that we created together, and that we can always return together to the tree of our friendship when we desire it… though by that time it may have become re-planted somewhere in distant India or Peru!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!