I had a revelation the other day as I was walking home from my Zumba class. It was a Saturday morning, hot and sunny. I got to the street where I was supposed to turn, and there was a seemingly never-ending line of cars going through the intersection. It was so long of a line, that the idea of trying to cross the street there brought about visions of creating my own real-life version of Frogger. That’s not something I want to be a part of, so I didn’t cross, and instead just kept walking. I ended up on some very quiet back roads. There were hardly any cars and I saw just a few locals walking. There were a handful of food stalls, but not nearly as many as there are on the main roads. I passed by houses that were gated off and had trees surrounding them. I heard birds. It was so peaceful, and I was practically skipping with the joy of it. And then I realized…hmm, I don’t think I actually like living in big cities.* Smart move marrying the diplomat.
*NYC is the exception to this rule. NYC is a special beast that I will always love, regardless of how ridiculously crowded and noisy it is.
I’ve spent years living in large cities. I grew up in the second smallest state in the U.S. – Delaware – and within that tiny state, I grew up in a small town. I wasn’t on a farm, so I guess I have that to be thankful for, because “The Small Wonder” is full of chicken farms with lots of wonderful smells. The point is though, by the time I finished university, I was running at top speed out of town, beyond ready to explore the rest of the world and the rest of the U.S.. And it did not disappoint.
There are so many advantages to large cities: the diversity, the culture, endless entertainment options, not having to travel 2 hours to get to an airport (ha), having some sense of anonymity…but as I was walking on those back streets on Saturday, I realized that I sometimes also crave the quiet. I crave that peaceful feeling that I get when I think of the quiet little culdesac that I grew up on, where there was a creek and woods in the backyard, and you could hear the neighbor’s conversation across the way because their windows and doors were open. I miss being able to run around in the grass barefoot, and going for a run in the evening around the neighborhood. I miss the smell of fresh cut grass. I miss actually knowing who my neighbors are. I miss being able to fall asleep with the windows open. (Although, let’s be real, I wouldn’t do that here anyway since it’s still 95 degrees at midnight.) I know part of it is just nostalgia for being a kid again, but I also know a lot of it is actually about just missing the suburbs. Who ever thought?
So this wouldn’t matter at all if it weren’t my husband’s job to work at embassies and consulates across the world, which are housed in (usually) large capital cities, and other non-capital, but still relatively large cities, respectively. It’s either this or DC, and if you know me, I definitely do not choose DC.
So what do you do? I know I can’t be the only one that craves small-town life sometimes. How does everyone handle bumbling from one huge city to the next? Well, the smaller posts do exist. Not every capital city is a bustling metropolis that makes you want to run for the hills and solitude after a few months. After London, and after years of the husband and I living in large cities both before and after we met, we knew we wanted to bid on slightly smaller posts in hopes of getting some relief from the constant hustle and bustle, and also in hopes of being in a more tight-knit community. So we tried this, and we ultimately ended up in Bangkok. It’s an amazing city – a city that we love – but it’s also a city that’s home to 8 million people, and home to the 4th largest mission the U.S. has in the world. Well done, us.
I think that until the opportunity for that next, maybe smaller post, the best thing is to take trips out into the middle of the country, explore places that are off the beaten path, and give yourself momentary relief from the craziness. The countryside was our favorite part of the UK, and I think it will be my favorite part of Thailand. We went to so many little towns that gave us moments and views like this:
God, the U.K. is just freakin’ magical. Like, we invented fairytales/the weather is awful but you will still love this place magical. So far, the towns outside of Bangkok haven’t disappointed either, and I’m really looking forward to heading up north soon and seeing something that is not made of only concrete, but is also not a beach. In the end though, I think I know that I’ll always be a little too wild to stay put for long in the country, and so maybe I’m right where I need to be.