The Red, White, and Black-and-Blue Visits Thailand: The Moral Musings of a Digital Nomad
It’s happened again. The demon of historical colonial imperialism has made too much noise in my nomadic backpack for me to ignore any longer. *Sigh* Yes, I must sing this song once more.
You see, I am a digital nomad hailing from the United States of America. Glory, glory, glory. I am in Thailand. One week in. Here’s the deal:
In the past 20ish years*, places like Thailand have been remodeled as tourist destinations for Westerners to visit on the cheap. Though I had never been to Asia, I wasn’t worried about diving into the unknown, because I knew that there would be tourist grooved red carpets for me to walk on. From the airplane to the line of taxis ready to pick me up and take me to the hostel; The hostel, owned by an Italian fellow my age, occupied by some 50 other Western travelers; The bus to take me south. Another hostel. All the way, a network of Westerners, snaking through Thailand, sharing the experience.
Do you know what this is? It’s a virtual reality world made real in the world.
I realized this in my hostel here on the edge of the Khao Sok rainforest, which is the oldest evergreen rain forest in the world. The forest is a legit jungle. Walking through it gives me the creeps, like any moment a snake, monkey, spider, or other creepy crawler or clawed creature could jump out the thick canopy of bamboo and attach itself to my face a la Alien. But the hostel is perfectly clean. White-washed, you may say, with a team of polite Thai workers at our call 14 hours a day, along with a cafe-bakery-restaurant downstairs in which you can order 3 meals a day along with your cappuccino and decadent slice of chocolate cake.
I love spaces like this. I live for spaces like this. A cafe where I can do my writing and make endless new connections with passerby Europeans, Aussies, and the rare American? I just love it.
But the unreality is undeniable. It flickers like a TV with imperfect reception. It’s not real. It’s part of the modern illusion: The create your own reality, keep on hum-dum-travel-as-you-whistle-around-the-world, let’s not think about climate change, let’s not think about how we’ve turned Thailand into 365 day a year catering job for us.
Well, what is one to do? I don’t know, it’s quite complex, isn’t it?
On one hand, it is that what I mentioned, and you can poke as deep as you wish with your moral toothpick, because there is quite a lot of food lodged in our teeth.
On another hand, I wonder if we are working toward the whole global brain thing. Hostels like this one are spaces for Germans, Dutch, French, English, Americans, Aussies, and mostly Dutch and German people to gather and connect not only with each other, but also to consume the Thai culture. Through integrating our experience, we morph more into global beings. Loosened are borders of national identity. Opened are the doors to common humanity.
And yes, this issue has many hands, like Avalokitesvara, the enlightened compassionate Buddha-being of one-thousand helping hands.
On one of those other hands, we may look at traveling opportunities like this as a form of rehab for Westerners like me. I hate to say that I am traveling to heal, but I am traveling to heal. More aptly, I am traveling to recover from the past 29 years of inevitable trauma from my American culture.
In many ways, I often feel great, and healing is a long-game that is never complete, so let’s bear that in mind. But let me tell you, I feel like the conditioning of my culture has ship-wrecked the vessel of my soul and smashed me on the shore. This is the state I was in when I began to wake up from my Matrix mode of being ten years ago. I wanted the Porsche, baby! I wanted Wall Street! Then mushrooms happened, then Buddhism happened, then Mahatma Gandhi and Karl Marx happened, and so on. But when those eyelids began to lift, I found myself sputtering and spitting up sea water and feeling my body broken in one thousand ways. Indeed, I need each of Avalokitesvara’s hands. Thank you, dear Goddess, thank you.
In Thailand, I can relax. Do you know how it feels to relax? It feels bloody brilliant! I am not here to see the sights and taste the foods, though I enjoy both. I am here to relax and assist my body-mind-soul in healing back to a fully functional state with organs buzzing happy and energy systems online.
I don’t know anywhere else I can do this, and yes, I need this. You may not know how dysfunctional I have been in this life, but trust me on this.
It is interesting isn’t it, that the same forces that reach across the world and twist other cultures into conforming to the capital scheme of America have reached into the souls of Americans themselves and twisted and twisted until they have conformed to those values and orders as well.
Now what do we do? The world mess is so unimaginably intertwined in a dysfunctional morally doubtful (to say the least) knot of WTF that I can’t say for sure. But one thing I do believe is that places like Thailand hold information that the West has forgotten. It is in how people relate to each other. It is in the jungle. It is in the joy of children who are allowed to roam freely. It is in the relaxation. It is in the collectivize. And in more places I am sure it is. I don’t know, I just got here, but I am positive that these “third world” countries have the medicine that the West needs to wake up and heal.
In the meantime, I’ll be clicking away in the cafe, sipping a smoothie.
*Correct me if I’m wrong about the time-scale of Thailand tourism