About four months ago, in the hot, laboring days of summer, I decided I needed something to work for – something to get me through the weeks. A trip.
I set my sights on Southeast Asia, and with the simple press of a key on my laptop, my fate was sealed.
I purchased a flight for the middle of October, the 17th to be exact, to Bangkok, Thailand. At first the date was months away and reality hadn’t set in yet, but before I knew it my trip was only two weeks away.
I’d planned the trip well and done my research on places to go and sights to see, but somehow the fact that Thailand was having the worst monsoon season in fifty years had evaded me. By the time I caught the news of the disaster, 80 percent of the country had been affected and almost 300 people had died.
Three days before I was to fly into Bangkok, floodwaters were threatening to spill into the capital. News sources said that because of ongoing rains and extreme tides, the 16th through the 18th of October would prove to be the worst. I had picked my date, the 17th, months in advance, and as fate would have it, I would be flying into a disaster – or so I imagined.
My first reaction was simple: I would postpone my trip. I called the airline and the booking agency to see what my options were. Maybe I would just go someplace else rather than postpone. However, because I didn’t purchase insurance, I would have to pay $250 plus any additional fare differences.
I felt stuck. I wanted to go ahead with my trip but was unsure of what kind of situation I would be flying into.
I asked friends for advice, but this didn’t help. No one could give me a definitive answer to my problem. I read every article I could find from every news source; they all said the same thing: Bangkok might be spared or it might become engulfed in floodwaters much like the rest of Thailand. There were no clear answers.
My decision was made twenty hours before my flight. I would go, stick with my plans, because for some reason I had picked this date, or it had picked me. I was nervous but at least I knew something definitive. I was going to Thailand.
When I arrived in Bangkok, everything seemed normal. I didn't see any floodwaters or any sign of a disaster. The taxi driver took me to Khao San Road, a haven for backpackers and travelers. Still no signs of flooding.
I settled into my hotel, then caught a tuk tuk to the Chao Phraya river to see the water for myself. It was very high – only inches from the top line of the height marker. And this line was only feet to the top of the wall. Seeing this made me a bit concerned.
When I returned to my hotel it began to rain very heavily. Within an hour, the streets were filled with a foot of water. That night, while watching the Thai news in the bar, I saw a map of Bangkok with flashing red lights in different parts of the city. I couldn't understand anything but the universal sign for caution, the flashing red lights.
So having only spent only 36 hours in Bangkok and witnessed some fairly concerning events, I decided to catch a flight to the south of Thailand, where they hadn’t been affected by flooding.
I almost postponed my trip because I was unsure of what lay ahead for me – but do we ever really know what lies ahead? We can't predict the future, and that’s what traveling is all about, getting out of your comfort zone and jumping into the unknown.
And to think I almost forgot that.