Babylon in Chiang Mai, Thailand

It’s easy to be happy.

The best advice I've ever received.

“It’s easy to be happy,” Suwat said, handing over his bicycle. “Just ride, I know the way.”

I mounted the bike at 12:30 in the morning and pedaled down the hundreds of years old street. Sometimes I rode slowly, carefully, making small circles, trying not to fall. Sometimes I rode really fast, as fast as my legs could move, letting the wind catch my hair. I always rejoined my friend.

Earlier in the night I had made a mistake. I knew it was a mistake going into it, but sometimes you wrongly think that you’ll be OK. I’d been hanging out with a group of Thais at the hostel. Thais and him. And he had been spending the last half hour talking a girl and touching her arm at every chance he had.

They were all going out that night to a reggae bar and asked if I wanted to go.

I knew it was a mistake. But I said yes. Because I did want to go.

At the reggae bar I avoided watching the two of them dance, constantly keeping my gaze in the opposite direction. I considered whispering to one of my Thais to take me home. But I didn’t want anyone to ask why.

It’s one of those things that I easily forgot about, moved on from, when I left town. It didn’t even cross my mind that I’d be seeing him when I booked back into the hostel after two months away. But being there, back, seeing him, it’s hard to forget what happened and how I felt. And I’ve always been bad at letting go.

I saw my chance to escape when Corey, a fellow Chicagoan I had met earlier in the night, tapped me on the shoulder while ordering a drink. “Do you want to go outside for a minute?” I asked, and we went.

He had gone to the reggae bar to break free from the dance club his hostel friends were at. I made him go back so I could run away.

We sat at the dance bar, talking. Corey mentioned that he was surprised drama existed in travel. I said that really it was because I basically lived there and that usually it is easy to avoid: you just skip town and all your problems disappear.

Soon after, Corey and his friends wanted to leave the dance club and go back to the reggae bar. I joined them. But minutes later I decided that that was a terrible idea, said goodbye, and walked away in the middle of the night.

More than halfway home, after almost getting attacked by a pack of dogs, I saw Suwat (the bar owner who had asked to kiss me nights before) and Rob (a good friend who works at the hostel) on bicycles heading towards the same bar I’d left.

I told them I was having a bad night, and they convinced me to come back out with them.

Suwat told Rob to ride on and that he’d walk with me. And then he gave me his bicycle.

At first I rode cautiously, slowly, always returning to Suwat. And then I rode fast. As fast as I could.

It’s easy to be happy.

Instead of focusing on the one thing that’s wrong, just focus on everything that is right. Forget that one boy doesn’t like you. Remember that since you slept with him you’ve also slept with three other guys, kissed a handful more. Remember that every Thai in Thailand seems to be in love with you.

Remember that you are flying down a cobblestone road of an old city, on a temple-lit street, in the middle of the night. Remember how amazing that is.

Remember that you have friends, people who care about you and care that you’re sad and just want you to be happy. Remember how amazing that is.

As we were walking into the bar, Suwat asked me if it was OK that we go there. We could go somewhere else. I said it was because everyone had been at a different place, but when we arrived it turned out that everyone had moved.

Babylon in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I sat with Rob and Suwat, keeping my back towards everyone else.

“It’s easy to be happy,” Suwat kept telling me.

I downed some more SangSom and soda and ended up dancing the rest of the night with Taki, a cute tattooed Thai boy, who kept asking me if I was OK. He hardly spoke English but was sweet and I enjoyed his company.

Babylon in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

It’s easy to be happy.

When it was time to leave, Suwat hugged me goodbye and lent me his bicycle so I could get home. And Rob and I pedaled together back to the hostel. And he bought me a Snickers bar for my late night drunken chocolate fix. “You’re one cool girl,” he said when he hugged me goodnight.

It’s easy to be happy.

It's easy to be happy.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Simo
    September 28, 2012at2:39 pm

    Val I love your blog and this one is priceless…. Its easy to be happy 😉

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