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  • Writer's pictureLara Draxler

My travel story-early 30s

I mentioned in a previous post that I went on a trip to Thailand that changed my life in 2014. My life from 2012-2014 had been filled with so much toxicity. I needed a reboot. I hadn't traveled internationally in years. The extent of my travel up to that point had been primarily in Europe. I was ready to challenge myself, getting out of my comfort zone and perhaps doing some good along the way, a humanitarian based trip where I could also get out and see the world seemed like the perfect idea.

cooking a traditional Thai meal

My church at the time had an existing relationship with some non-profits and missionaries in Thailand. There was talk that a mission team was being organized to travel to Thailand for a ten day trip to do various projects. Something about that felt right to me.

I listened to that inner pull and signed up. The leaders of the trip were a couple that I came to adore, and I can truly say God sent them to me in such a difficult time. They provided much encouragement and guidance. During January 2014, I made the trek to Thailand. This was the craziest trip, but God used it to wake me up. I had been allowing a lot of unhealthy relationships and ways of thinking into my life, and I had been grappling with how long I needed to stay in Rockport. I asked God to give me insight and knowledge during this change of scenery.

The trip was LONG. During the over 24 hour flight, I questioned if it would be worth it as I was smashed up against a window three people deep and felt nauseated most of the time. My heart was broken over some of the poor choices I had made in relationships in Rockport, but I prayed God would heal those hurts and give me new insight during this time away.

We flew from Dallas to South Korea. From South Korea, we flew to Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok, we took a long van ride to Pattaya. I quickly discovered that YES it was worth it. My senses were overwhelmed taking in this developing country. The smells, lights, accents, animals, traffic, SPICY food, etc inundated me in the best way.

Met some amazing elephants :)

For those that are unfamiliar with Thailand, it is exotic, beautiful, charming, and fascinating. The culture is rich and the people are the SWEETEST. However, it does have a seedy black market underbelly due to many factors that I don't have the space or expertise to really delve into. I will say, I was in shock at how blatant crime was. I had never seen anything like it. But, my eyes were opened to many things on this journey.

Pattaya is the child sex trafficking capitol of the world. It has a huge red light district filled with brothels and mostly (Western) tourists who flock in for cheap "entertainment" and lascivious vacationing. There were endless bars with girls literally for sale in the windows. I had never seen anything like it. These precious humans had signs with numbers around their necks, being sold off like property. There is a lot at play here--social injustice, poverty, women's rights, etc. BUT, bottom line seeing this in person sickened me. It lit a fire in my soul to come back home and make a major change in my life. Pattaya forever wrecked me.

While we were in Pattaya, we also visited a charity that was an aftercare home for kids who had been trafficked. It was the most heartrendingly beautiful thing. The kids were resilient and forever touched my heart. I also really enjoyed seeing them being cared for by loving Thai staff. I vowed to myself then and there no matter what, I was going to go home and figure out how to make a permanent contribution to the well-being of these kids. I had no idea what that would later look like, but I was ready to find out. In the ups and downs of the emotions of this trip, God spoke to my heart an answer to something I had been wondering about... He said, "You will stay in Rockport ONE more year. Then, you can leave to your next chapter." I had waited for this. There was still a lot of questions, but I felt peace that I wouldn't be in Rockport forever. That I was released to think about what the next chapter would be.

Pattaya, Thailand

We got the full spectrum of experiences in Thailand. We went to Bangkok which I LOVED and then went into the far north of the country to a rural village. We camped there and it was so eye opening. We worked with a Thai church to minister to this village, where they were teaching them to have chicken farms, alongside the UN. I adored the Thai people. While my heart was broken over the state of my personal life during this trip, causing me to not always be as present to the adventure as I wish I could have been now, it was still hugely impactful.

I cannot wait to travel the WHOLE world, and this fire was lit in Thailand. I returned to Rockport ready to pray and seek for the next year about where to go next. I was filled with hope and joy about the next chapter. I felt free for the first time in two years, but I still had a lot of work to do.

Travel truly opens my mind. I have epiphanies on trips that I could never have in my own four walls. This time of quarantine has been hard because I have been forced to imagine a world without travel and I DON'T like it. I know this too shall pass, but without travel there is NO way I would be the person I am today. I really look forward to traveling again. I look forward to the next reboot. In the meantime, I will settle for armchair travel in books and Netflix documentaries.

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