Getting off the 16-hour plane ride from Vancouver, it was inevitable that we’d all be tired, exhausted even. But the excitement of being in a new city, a new country and for some, a new continent kept us all on our feet. I had met Jal, Executive Director of ALIVE Outdoors, during an information session leading up to the trip months prior to departure. She greeted me with a warm smile in the arrivals terminal while we sat waiting for the bus in the Bangkok airport. She asked me to remind her of my name, and I told her its Azadeh. She then asked me the meaning and origin of my name and I told her that Azadeh is a Persian name meaning freedom. Jal replied telling me that the root and essence of her life is the concept of freedom and that all her decisions have been to move her closer to achieving this. She said that the concept of freedom can be felt and translated in a singular place and that Thailand will be that place for me. Boy was she right.
While riding down the highway in Bangkok, we were met with tall, magnificent skyscrapers, like the ones we see in futuristic movies. But surrounding each of these majestic buildings were a collection of traditional Thai homes simply made with bamboo and concrete, but bold in their colours and character. True freedom is having the ability to modernize, while still holding onto important traditions, something that Thailand has achieved. True freedom is not having to let go of what is important to you when opportunity comes knocking at your door.
I saw this idea all around me during my day in Thailand, especially at the Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen Temple. The impressive golden Buddha standing over 96m tall creates an atmosphere of wonder and amazement as you tilt your head back to capture its presence. The area around the temple seemed to be surrounded by a labyrinth of traditional homes, modern establishments, and newly constructed buildings, blending the old and the new into this intricate balance. I couldn’t help but feel that the cultural traditions were so rich, not muted, while modernization was well underway.
I tried to capture the scene in a video and posted it to my Instagram, yet no video or photo can ever capture the rawness of the real thing, I gave it a shot. To my surprise, I woke up to the video of the golden Buddha that I posted on my Instagram story with over 4k views! Despite my excitement, that wasn’t the main thing I took away from my time there. Our tour guide told us that the Buddhist religion in Thailand is a mix of the best of the world, from having peaceful moral concepts that coincide with the Sikh religion, all the way to adopting Hindu deities into their own stories and tales. True freedom is being able to accept all the comes to you.
My time in Thailand has made me reflect on how I as a person can live up to my name, Azadeh, freedom, and practice finding harmony in my life. Seeking this harmony has left a lasting thought bouncing around in my mind, not distracting me but intriguing me. How can I continue to hold true to my values without compromise as I continue to grow, learn, and explore? How can I create true balance in my life, allowing me to follow my own authentic path without falling into the societal trance of what I feel is expected of me? Do I have these answers, no. What I do have is intention and openness to exploring this further, checking in with myself, and being gentle as I seek to achieve this harmony. One thing I know, is that my time in Thailand has been impactful, leaving me excited for what is next to come for our time in Bhutan.