One year ago today, 15 July 2012, “Gangnam Style” was released on YouTube. Today, with over 1.7 billion views, it is the most-watched video on YouTube.
On that same day I departed the United States on a plane bound for Taiwan. It was to be the beginning of an indefinite excursion abroad to live, work, and wander. 12 months, 7 countries, 10 languages, 375 students, and 21.5 books later the adventure continues.
In the past year I have…
>survived monsoons in Thailand and a typhoon in Taiwan, a fever of 102ºF, the scorching heat of Thai summer and the frigid cold on a windy, snowy night at ~4500m above sea-level in the Indian Himalayas
>been ordained as a Thai Buddhist forest monk
>visited the epicenter of a still-evolving protest movement in Turkey
>made new friends & reunited with old ones
>been licensed to drive a motorbike
>joined a community fast-breaking iftar meal during the Ramadan holiday
>celebrated the end of Buddhist lent in Thailand, Christmas in Myanmar/Burma, New Year in Bangkok, my 23rd birthday in Chiang Mai, and the July 4th in Istanbul
>observed Galungan Festival celebrations in Bali
>attended a wedding, three funerals, and a hippie music festival
>swum in lakes and seas
>bamboo-rafted in rivers
>bathed in hot-springs
>snorkeled in the ocean
>climbed to mountain peaks
>ridden an elephant
>been a vegetarian and returned to being an omnivore
>learned recipes in Thai, Indian, and Turkish cuisine
>and botched them all at least once
>slept in tents, houses, apartments, hostels, wooden huts, temples, airports, on planes, in an elephant observation tower, in a cave, under mosquito nets, and under the unobstructed stars
>eaten lunch overlooking a volcano
>sung karaoke and played soccer with Thai colleagues
>and played a didgeridoo
What have I learned?
I’ve learned that it is one’s attitude and ability to accept, embrace, and affirm life that transforms confusion into curiosity, loss into opportunity, doubt into wonder, and disaster into adventure.
And, perhaps more importantly: it is the people around us who enrich our lives, more than things and even experiences.
Friends and family are priceless.
Thank you to all of you.