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The Party Years (Thailand Tuesday Installment #2)

Tuesday’s are set aside for my experiences in Thailand. Last week I introduced you to my first experiences with the Land of Smiles and this week continues our saga.

So last week we wrapped up with my first experience of Bangkok way back in 1997. Though it was my first experience it certainly wasn’t my last. The following 3 years contained plenty of trips to both India and Singapore and with each one there was a mandatory stopover in Thailand. Sometimes just a long weekend and sometimes a week’s vacation tacked onto the end of the business trip. Yeah the Big Mango definitely had me in its grip.

That brings us to 2000. Even though the big Y2K bug didn’t hit us that year it was not a good year for me personally. In August my wife of 10 years asked for a divorce and if that wasn’t bad enough in December I was laid off from my wonderful job. All was not lost however. Being 33 years old at the time put me right in the sweet spot for the Golden Cross of Love. I was crushed, but rebounded (I think) fairly quickly and set about to rebuild my life.

Because of pending anti-dumping lawsuits (my job had been in the steel industry) I was given the option of attending school to get a bachelors degree and the government agreed to continue my unemployment for as long as I was in school. Pretty sweet deal and one that I jumped at. Unfortunately I also jumped at the student loans offered to me, thus setting the stage for my later battles with debt.

I enrolled at Penn State University in Information Sciences and Technology and prepared to dust off my study skills. Life was good. University at 33 was much easier than it had been from 18-22. I was more organized and less apt to distractions and had no problem pulling off a 3.89 GPA in my 2 years there. And since college “kids” get plenty of time off I was also free to travel the world. The Caribbean, Moscow, Singapore, Mexico and of course my beloved Bangkok were some of the destinations during those years of wanderlust.

After finishing the degree I went back to work as an IT Analyst for a small company in my home town. It was easy work and better yet they were both generous and flexible with my time off. This allowed me to easily book 3 week vacations to head off to Thailand. I can say that these trips were probably the most hedonistic of my travel career although Moscow came in a close 2nd. Think Hangover 2 type experiences (though I never traveled or partied with a monkey). I justified it all by telling myself that I worked hard and deserved whatever pleasures I could find.

Those of you familiar with Thailand in general will know that while there are police and laws in Thailand they are very flexible. In most cases any misdemeanor type crime can be conveniently ignored for less than the price of dinner in the U.S. I am not proud of those years of my life, but neither would I take them back. They were dissolute for certain, but they are my experiences and my life and I believe in never having regrets. And no I never broke any laws while visiting my home away from home (though opportunities did abound).

The only thing I might change about these years if I could go back would be to make a conscious effort to learn more of the language. In Bangkok and other tourist spots in Thailand it isn’t technically necessary, you can always find someone who speaks enough English for you to get by. And I did obviously pick up common phrases that made life easier. However I would be much better off now if I had taken the time to learn the language over the course of the last 15 years.

That brings us all the way to 2005. This was the year that a diving trip to Cozumel and a hurricane conspired to change my life forever. I hope you all tune in next week.

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