Find Your Independence... 6,000 Miles Away in Laos and Thailand! - My Family Travels

The reason that banks created credit cards was because everyone was looking for a solution to get away from that noisy, heavy, constant reminder in their front pocket: loose change. For many, change is something that is almost worthless: Nobody values the $0.11 a cashier hands them after buying a candy bar. Most people do not realize the possibilities behind taking that change, combining it in a positive way, and producing something that can add up and change everything.  Now that I have realized the potential of “loose change,” adaptation has become my way of life.


Change was a big part of my childhood. I was already different—more outspoken than most, with divorced parents and a growing collection of worldly travel experience. My first true act of independence was driving 600 miles to Seattle and spending my Junior year living with my Dad.

After learning to adapt to a new school, city and family life, change became a familiar friend. Now that I had been exposed to the possibilities of new environments, I was eager to gain more experience and fully embrace change. I researched an opportunity to volunteer internationally during the summer before senior year.

After deliberating between Europe, Asia and Africa, I decided I would spend a month in the small, rural villages of Laos and Thailand as a chance to add more “change” to my pocket. I lived with local families, ate traditional food (rice and veggies, breakfast lunch and dinner) and grew to love the culture in the “Land of Smiles.” One of the volunteer opportunities Laos provided was working in the rice paddies, high in the misty Laotian mountains. After a substantial but magnificent hike the first morning, I worked alongside the villagers and locals I now knew as friends and family. Through the strangely relaxing rhythm behind planting stalks of rice, I immersed myself in the Lao way of being: Independent people working towards the common goal of community and progress. Breathing in the contrast of the morning sunlight, sharp cliffs and kelly green rice shoots, I knew that I was living in contrast myself.

Realizing the beauty and freedom change brings has allowed me to be strikingly comfortable in environments with which I am completely unfamiliar.

Change may be the money in my pocket, or a factor that has helped to shape my identity. Counting the coins I’ve saved over the years, I realize that although I still have so much of my life ahead of me and more change to come, I have at least a dollar in my pocket. Looking ahead to my future, this dollar won’t be nearly enough to accomplish what I hope to change in the world, but I know that my ability to adapt will allow me to continue to collect and make the best of all of the “loose change” in my life. I look forward to all of the cents, and “sense,” I will collect as I continue on to my next journey.

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