Currently, there is one phrase that is printed on almost every t-shirt sold in markets throughout Thailand: “Same same but different.” Besides occasionally using this in class to make a joke when comparing two things, I haven’t put much thought into how significantly thought provoking this popular saying actually is.
Growing up in Massachusetts, going to school in Nashville, and working with an amazing non-profit in East Tennessee have given me many amazing opportunities to meet and form friendships with many people from across the country. Despite having slight differences, these people could essentially be described in one word: similar.(I specifically chose this word not to bring forth any sort of negative connotations, yet to emphasize the similar goals, wants, and passions that my friends share with one another and myself.)
When I finally committed to the idea of living and working as a teacher in Northern Thailand, I did what everyone else does when they need answers: I Googled it. Many of my initial stereotypes were proven true during this process. I already knew that Thailand is home to many beautiful beaches because of Leonardo DiCaprio’s famous movie, has extremely high prostitution rates because it is known as a “sextourism” destination, and is currently ruled by a King that is a part of the longest reigning monarchy in the world
Despite reading as many articles as I could find, I was nervous of the unknown. The feelings associated with THINKING about moving somewhere different are completely different than the moment when you purchase your one-way ticket to a destination over 8000 miles away. That single click of a mouse confirming your purchase could be one of the largest, most influential, and life-changing decisions that you ever make.
No amount of time spent reading articles found on Google could have eased my nerves and assured me that I was leaving to live in a place that shared similarities with home. Since I stepped foot on Thai soil in mid-October, any fear of the unknown has been forgotten and I have become to feel as if I am home in a new, foreign country. Google failed to educated me on the similarities that people share with one another no matter where they are in the world. My students, my fellow teachers, local restaurant owners, and even taxi drivers (well, sometimes) have shown me how “same same but different” the people are here compared to those back home. Everyone may look different, wear different styled clothes, and listen to different music (mostly K-Pop), but everyone has the same determination to live life to the fullest while impacting those around them in the best possible way.
Leaving the known is something that may confuse, frustrate, and exhaust you at times (trust me, I know), but once you have taken that leap of faith your eyes will be opened to the countless similarities between yourself and others that you would never have noticed while just thinking about it. So, trust your gut, step outside of the known, and just do it. All it takes is one click.