Rogue Eat, Pray Love Part 1: How Thailand forced me to confront my limits
I went on this trip to Thailand and China more than a little nervous. Was I really about to get on a plane and travel around the world knowing that I don’t like Thai or Chinese food?
Worse case scenario, I knew I could survive off of eating rice, but who wants to spend ten days eating only rice? I hated the idea, but best believe I was ready to suffer through it as an emergency back-up plan. But my game plan was not to need the back-up plan.
I was tired of letting being a picky eater limit my travel options. My distaste for Thai and Chinese food was a primary reason why I booked this trip.
For most of my life, I let being a picky eater dictate where I could travel around the world. I still recall the first opportunity I had to go to China and the reason I didn’t go.
You’d think I’d won the lottery when I got handpicked in seventh grade to join my social studies teacher on his annual trip aboard. That year he chose to go to China. It was not the ideal location saying I swore I’d never eat Chinese food again after one bad experience, but I didn’t care. I already knew by twelve I was meant to travel the world and wasn’t going to let food stop me.
Instead, my parents stopped me from going to China because I didn’t eat Chinese food. I fought back, like Hillary in the Presidential debate, saying I could eat McDonald’s, only to be reminded I didn’t eat that either.
Clearly, my parents had learned their lesson when I made them miss a flight in Hawaii because they tried to force me to eat McDonald’s and I refused. Or maybe they foresaw our trip to Paris when I was thirteen where my dad had to force-feed me croissants and orange juice because I passed out from not eating.
Of course, any sane parent would never let their picky eater and strong-willed child go to a foreign country to starve. However, I was no longer a child. It was now time to face my self-inflicted limitations that had stifled my travel options.
I had tried Thai food a few times before heading to Thailand and was not a fan. In the spirit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I promised myself I would eat Thai food every other day since I was not ready to jump over a cliff and eat Chinese food yet.
My first night in Thailand was all about eating street food at the Sunday night market in Chiang Mai. Talk about throwing myself into the deep end the first night. I love food trucks, but street food, especially meats always seemed suspect to me.
Wandering around the market not finding anything I deemed edible made me want to cry for the second time on this trip, and it was only my second day. To my surprise, the woman that was so pumped to live outside the box was now ready to cuddle up to a smoothie and a bowl of rice the first day in Thailand.
I kept thinking, what if the pork wasn’t pork, but it was really dog? What if I got food poisoning from eating street food? What if I tried to eat something and started gagging in public? Too many what ifs made me want to go back to my hotel room and starve, but I didn’t want to be that picky eater anymore.
Finally giving into hungry and tired of walking, I ordered a smoothie, squid, and some grilled mushrooms thing wrapped in meat. The grilled squid and smoothie were fantastic. I even liked the crazy hot salsa that came with the squid. However, that “meat” wrapped around the mushroom nearly brought every fear this picky eater imagined to life. I started gagging while people watched the tears roll down my face as sat alone on a bench in this crowded market trying to swallow this meat.
In reality, my imaginary nightmare of traveling to a foreign country where I didn’t care for the food wasn’t so bad.
Of course, I felt embarrassed for dramatically gagging in public, but at the same time, the initial attempt was over. I had tried Thai food and survived.
It wasn’t until two nights later that I realized I hella love Thai food. Thanks to a new friend in Chiang Mai, I discovered Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant. Their slogan is “vegetarian food so good, you won’t miss the meat.” However, for me, it was Thai food so good I questioned why I claimed to be a picky eater in this country?
I can’t claim everything I tried in Thailand was delicious. But the raw emotions captured the first time I discovered I liked Thai food pretty much summed up how I conquered being a picky eater in Thailand. I pushed myself to keep trying new foods until I found something I liked and ate pasta on the days I couldn’t deal.
As for China, well, the food and getting stuck in the country left the worst taste in my mouth ever as a global traveler.
SPOILER ALERT: Read about my worst nightmare, getting stuck in China, on Thursday or join my Facebook Live discussion on Wednesday, October 12th at 6:30PM PST
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