Insights: People We Meet and Stories They Tell

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shelly 3Travelling home from my recent trip to Thailand, I watched the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” If you have not seen the movie, it is about a group of strangers who all decide to travel to India to spend time at the Marigold Hotel.

A difficult movie to watch at times as the realities of aging, illness and struggling relationships can hit home a little too close, even though they are addressed in a semi-comedic way.

There were many cultural references along with classic lines in this movie that make you think. Each person has a story to tell of why they are at the hotel at this stage of life and, as most movies go, they learn what they need to learn and find some form of closure.  Often not what they thought they had come to learn.

Traveling to Thailand, I had an intention of going hiking, biking and doing different activities throughout the country. However, a lesson I had learned prior to this trip: never say never, and always be open to changing your expectations.

Well, this was one of those trips. I became ill yet not so much that I would have to go home. I had to change my plans and think differently about what this trip meant. The trip became more about relaxing, and of meeting others.

Being a single traveler, it is easy meeting different people. I was in my own movie about people’s stories.

I meet five women in their 60s who all had lost their husbands within the past two years and now travel together to China, Europe, Cambodia, and Russia, to name a few.

These wonderful, adventurous women all came from different backgrounds and different nationalities, yet all shared the need for companionship and the desire to live this part of their lives to the fullest.

They all have their own individual stories yet they also have a collaborated story that they hold dearly. They knew how to laugh, to compromise and be there for each other.

Then there was a couple traveling with their daughter. They seemed a little distant, but once we started talking, the mom shared that she had stage four cancer and they were taking this one last trip together. You could see the mom enjoying each moment while both the dad and daughter struggling to not live in the reality of her impending passing.  It was fun talking to two couples that were checking off another country from their bucket lists, and sharing all the countries they had already experienced.

Another woman who was an artist who wanted to understand the culture more for her work.

I talked to local fishermen who spend more time on the water in their small wooden boats than on land, earning their living with a net and their hands. This skill has been passed down generation to generation. Life is hard but simple for them.

I talked to local tribes who carry on ancient traditions such as crop rotation, living in thatched huts made from bamboo, and their spiritual practices.

(I do not speak Thai or the languages of the local tribes, but I had a translator or in some instances we were able to do enough gesturing and broken English.)

We all have a story to tell. We all have a reason to travel. We all go off to our Marigold Hotel, hoping to gain something from it. This does not mean all trips are about growth, but anytime we step out of our comfort zone, it tests us.

Traveling stretches our brains in ways that nothing else can do. It broadens our views and gives us perspective, it tests who we are both emotionally and physically.

I learned how to deal with Thailand’s dichotomy of beauty, gentleness, warmth, simple-ness, spirituality and its poverty, civil unrest, sex trade and low cost labor.

And so as part of my growth I embrace change, embrace differences, and know that in challenges there is always an opportunity to create something good.

Each person I met gave me something to think about and to learn about. I even created a few new friendships.

For being sick, not a bad trip at all.

Contact Shelly at [email protected] or

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