The most interesting place I’ve been to is Ban Na Yang, a weaving village in Laos near Nong Khiaw. When people ask me about my trip to Laos, this is the first image that shows up in my mental photo album. When I try and distill the reasons behind why that is, it comes down to a dichotomy of how drastically opposite their lifestyle is to mine while reminding me of what I can only describe as “that feeling when you think about your grandma” (it’s familiar…what I mean is familiar). This contrast is how you feel when you see neon yellow and green next to each other – it’s something you wouldn’t usually see, but you can’t stop looking and wondering why. I haven’t seen how a vast majority of my clothes were made yet they create, dye and weave everything themselves. I have never been so far away from home, yet they’ve made this place, that doesn’t have a single sidewalk, a place that means everything to them.

This place was the furthest away from home I’ve ever been. Literally, it was 7,452 miles away. Figuratively, it was the complete opposite of my day-to-day. It helped me anchor my point of view by showing me how relativity is just a way you see the world. Everything was a reference point: the dirt roads, how short the Laotian people were, how hot it was for example. When your surroundings help set your expectations, your 20-minute bus ride down a four-lane street in San Francisco seems just as long as a three-hour bus ride on a dirt road from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw.

On the villagers’ faces was history – knowing the turmoil they went through and what they might have seen during the U.S. Secret War in Laos to years and years of equatorial sun beaming down from above them without having societal pressure of sun protection force fed into their brains. It was all apparent in how they simply held themselves. It was peaceful and so content in knowing what their truth was. It was life.

They were born in Laos, and they will probably die in Laos, but they are there and that was ok. In the hour I was there, meeting only 15 or so villagers and sitting in a home and having tea, I knew instantly what their priorities were: family, food, the land that they live on, keeping their craft alive and having a place to call home. Here in San Francisco, you need to dig a little deeper to understand that about the people around you.

From 7,452 miles away to none, we’re more alike than you think. Together, we got it.

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“Rent,” “IPO” and ‘Z-Boards” are all terms you’ll hear on a daily basis if you live in San Francisco. They’re a part of that cyclical monthly schedule where you dedicate a whole paycheck to rent, waiting for the next one and spending $35 on dinner because you totally deserve it.

At the turn of the new year I made a goal to pay off my credit card. I don’t know if it was because I wanted to feel like a San Francisco contrarian, but I was ready to accept not having anymore credit card debt. This feeling contradicts all natural instinct and desire to travel and see the world of course so when I walked into work and a fellow coworker asked me if I wanted to go to Thailand it was hard for my incessant need to fulfill my spontaneity to decline. Then there I was, $2000 deep with my passport in one hand and a 20-inch pink carry-on luggage in the other inundated in guilt because I was treating myself despite my soapbox-like goal setting proclamation I had made at the beginning of the year.

I spent 16 days in Laos and Thailand and as the days went on, fulfilling every urge to buy that raw cotton pillowcase and those coconut cakes, I stepped back, gained a little perspective and realized that, despite how many transactions I was making, I was fine.

To digest that a little bit more, I made some lists. So take a look at an average day in Thailand on vacation and in San Francisco living my life. Hopefully you won’t be surprised, but I hope it will help you take the plunge and go to Thailand.

Thailand – $30/day (outside of housing)

  • $2: Morning Caffeine – Thai Iced Tea
  • $3: Breakfast – Kao Soy Noodles
  • $3: Lunch – Pad See Ew and a Thai Iced Tea
  • $6: Hour-Long Foot Massage because we walked everywhere
  • $2: Snack – Thai Iced Tea (okay I know I became addicted to Thai iced tea)
  • $7: Dinner – Braised Pork Shoulder and Rice from the Cowboy Hat Lady
  • $1: Dessert – Mango Sticky Rice
  • $6: Shopping – Shorts and, you guessed it, a Thai Iced Tea

San Francisco – $24.50/day (outside of housing)

  • $5.50: Starbucks Caramel Macchiato
  • $14: Lunch
  • $2.50: Bus to Crunch Gym from work
  • $.50: Protein shake using ingredients from Trader Joe’s
  • $2: Salad using ingredients from Trader Joe’s

I know I could bare to work a little harder to meal prep and cook lunch but how else am I supposed to keep those little joys in my life? The point being that here at home I’m making an effort to be frugal, and in Thailand, I’m not second guessing myself one bit and averaging a similar day.

Did this make me rethink every dollar I spend and then stress out about the repercussions of my actions for days to come? Kind of. Then I closed my notebook and walked outside and remembered that I was in Thailand.

The biggest lesson I brought back from Southeast Asia was to consider your dollar…and also wear sunscreen. Just because not having savings, dining at Lord Stanley and binge drinking $10 Moscow Mules is in doesn’t mean you have to abide. Consider your dollar and focus that paper.

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