I love coming to a full circle in a country. It shows me how I’ve changed, how I’ve grown. Staying in Yangon for my first and last couple of days shows me exactly that. It’s funny to notice the things about myself that evolve over a time in a country. Like, I thought this was a country you couldn’t get a price to budge on, but I’ve gotten the price down on everything I’ve bought today. Like, I’m walking around without a map and really without a worry; I’m comfortable here. I know which sentences to say to get a funny reaction out of the locals. I know how to cross the streets. I’m familiar with the foods that they are selling on the streets. I know what the prices of things should be, and the right questions to ask when they don’t have something I’d like in stock or on the menu. I’m not led to uncertainty by the language barrier anymore, but instead I’m encouraged to try to communicate. I’m not hesitating to talk to other travellers, or give enthusiastically give suggestions of my favorite things here. I’m not watching my back or worrying about anybody stealing my things. This country is familiar now. It’s been my home.
“The key to looking so young at age ‘Lucky Seven Seven’ is a calm heart.”
This is what an old man in Kalaw that looked very young told me. And calm heart is exactly what I have right now.
This past month in Myanmar has been so good to me, and for me. It’s helped me come out of the anti-social bubble that formed while I was sick and in bed with pneumonia during my time in Thailand. It’s helped reassure me that authentic travel experiences are still possible, that not everything is ruined by tourism. It’s taken away basically any opportunity for western comforts (western restaurants, working internet, established expat communities, fluent English) and pushed me almost entirely into betel-nut stained streets where everything is new and different, and even a little bit difficult. It’s been the experience I’ve been craving on this trip. It’s been the awe-inspiring moments, the breath of fresh (okay, dusty and thick) air that I’ve been dreaming of. It’s taken away my bitterness, my disappointment, my longing.
I’ve fallen so in love with the people, the culture, the landscape. You name it – I love it. (Okay, well maybe not the spitting in the streets, and the piles of garbage, and the high price. But other than that, yup, it’s love!) And this leads me to have some pretty intense feelings over my last few days here. One part of that is me feeling so completely satisfied with my experience here, and the other part of that is me feeling really quite heartbroken. This is a weird kind of heartbreak that feels a bit familiar; The ache is settling into my chest just as it did when I left Asia in 2012. I guess that’s what comes with travel that molds you and loves you just as much as you did it.
It’s such a strange thing to have heartbreak come from homesickness for a place that isn’t even home. Especially when my time to come home is still so far away! But instead of letting this cripple me, such as last time I felt this, I’m going to move forward full force with gratitude and satisfaction. It’s really a blessing to be altered so much by unfamiliarity and discomfort.