Find Chapter 1 here.
And so we went our separate ways for about a week. I wrapped up my stops in the south and eventually went straight to Chiang Mai (my original plan was to go to Bangkok first). 30 hours. 1 boat, 1 bus, 1 train. I wouldn’t have minded it so much but I was anxious to see her. So the trip felt long. Really long. The decision to go was easy though. I wanted to see her and it seemed like she still wanted to see me.
I’m going to rewind a bit. Back to just over a year ago when I was talking to my friend. I will call her U.
U: So what are you going to do?
Me: I think I might go away for a while. And then after that we’ll see. I’m thinking maybe I need a change of scenery (Among other things I thought in my head)
U: Ooo. And maybe you’ll meet someone!
Me: Yeah right, I’m not you. That’ll never happen.
U: Well you may still meet someone here. You never know. It always happens when you least expect it. And then what would you do?
And then what would I do? Good question. A girl who could change my mind? The truth is… I always believe someone could. I just never knew who it would be. This actually happened before I met my girlfriend in mid 2012. That girl would certainly challenge that idea leading up to my travels. I didn’t know I would be meeting another girl who would continue to challenge those thoughts.
Fast forward a bit to a few months before my trip. Talking to another friend named AJ.
AJ: So what’s going to happen with you and [your gf]?
Me: Well we’re going to go our separate ways for a while. I guess we’ll see what happens. If we’re both still interested when I come back, we’ll see when we get back.
[I already knew things would change when I come back. Would I be in a better place? What would I want? My exchange travels left the biggest mark on my life and so much changed in 6 months.]
AJ: Yeah I guess. But you know it’s super unlikely you’ll meet someone on this trip.
Me: I know. It’s extremely unlikely, and even if I do, it’s not going to go anywhere.
Before heading to Chiang Mai, I was talking to U; one of the only people who I decided to tell. I was reflecting on if the first 2 days with K were genuine or if I was being caught up in a sort of dream traveler’s fantasy. After settling down, I did think that there was something to it.
U: Bahahhaa, she sounds like just about your type 😉
C: Except… I don’t have a type (I guess that is not exactly true, I do have a type, I just never find it)
U: Well, see it does happen! I can’t wait to see how this turns out! I’ve never seen you so smitten with a girl.
C: Yeah.. other than..L? (L was a girl I was really attracted to about two years ago – a girl who seemed like my other half. She seemed to like me as well, but it was a dead-end situation because she had a boyfriend)
In my head, I still didn’t know what to make of things. My last relationship was already marred by bad timing. She was also someone I cared deeply about.
My arrival to Chiang Mai was not what I expected. While she did seem happy to see me, I could feel something was not at ease. I’ve always trusted my gut feelings and instincts. And it’s almost always right. So it’s a wonder why I don’t always listen to it all the time. As the days rolled on, I would make up reasons or excuses as to why it was. I would also find myself reacting to her mood and actions. She would show random acts of affection and then times of disinterest. One night we had a conversation about fate. She believed in fate and was more in-tuned with the ” everything happens for a reason” philosophy. I do believe that some things in life do seem destined to happen. But I believed that in the end, everything is a choice.
Things were starting to get confusing. As we moved onto the next town, the same patterns continued. We were traveling in her group of friends but either way, I was getting conflicting messages from her. Everything from when she said things like “I’m so into you”, to when she would seemingly avoid me. As I said, I believe people can make up excuses and justifications for everything. I somehow made up my own there. Maybe because in the good times, everything felt right and real. Like they did on the island.
At the same time, I knew time was limited. Our schedules overlapped as far as Cambodia for now. I wanted to make the most of it. I still felt strongly about this and wanted to see this through. I have always felt that life gives you opportunities at select times. But you must be the one to make something of it. That’s why I believe choice in the end prevails. Of course not all end the way you want it. But if you keep your eyes open, you will find those opportunities; the ones that can change your life.
My friend AJ is the realist. The funny thing is… so was K. Both think that all travel romances are flings. He was even jealous that he thought I was having one. Enjoy it while you can he always said. But my reply to him was something I never thought I would say.
“What if it’s not? What if I think this girl is something? It’s worth a shot right?”
Another friend chimed in. “Tons of pretty Korean girls in Vancouver… instead of picking one at home, you fall for the one that lives thousands of miles away. Good one.”
But she was different. I had made up my stubborn mind then. As I usually do. Go big or go home. It’s usually my motto. This was crazy. I had a friend that went through a travel romance and now she is ending up with him. I didn’t believe in their relationship at times and now I wanted to see mine through.
Despite our half-hearted goodbye in Thailand. I thought about what she said: that I was often acting indifferent towards her. Wasn’t I simply reciprocating her actions? Or was I allowing myself to be guarded because I wasn’t sure what to make of this. And she was the one reacting to me then?
I would arrive in Cambodia a few days later and decided I would try to meet her again. I made my way to Siem Reap and would deal with my Vietnam visa in Phnom Penh later. I was hoping things could be better the second time around.
Again she seemed excited to see me, but something was still unsettling. When I held her hand for a while, she told me that she doesn’t like holding hands. The conflicting messages continued. But it would all make sense soon enough. The night I arrived would end up being the only night we had alone time. The other times spent together were among a group of friends but things were distant at best. The first night she stayed over at my guesthouse as nobody had taken the additional bed in my room. That night, I learned a lot about her. I had already heard about the ex boyfriend but I learned more about their relationship, why she left and the lead up to the trip. And with that, she told me that she wanted to keep things casual. But the real punchline was that she didn’t believe in relationships anymore. You couldn’t trust guys she essentially said. Not after how her ex treated her. Maybe if we had met back where she lived. In a different time she remarked. The past few weeks made a bit more sense now. And you would think I would’ve reacted angry or annoyed. But I was glad she was finally honest. She had shared something that she wouldn’t normally share.
Perhaps one of the reasons was that I knew I was different. I wasn’t her past boyfriends. And maybe I thought… I could show her that. Stubborn me. And I thought of what she said. What if we had met back home? What if I had met her in Vancouver? Would that change things? Another victim of bad timing? Our meeting seemed so coincidental.
It’s strange that we had known each other for such a short period of time. In times like this, she would let her guard down and trust me. Why me I would always ask. Even in the beginning, how would they know I’m not some crazy person trying to take advantage of them? I wonder if that ever crossed her mind when we first met. My friend says girls trust me because of the way I carry myself. I have no idea what that even means. But the conversation that night left me feeling oddly optimistic. The feeling didn’t last long.
The remainder of the time in the town, I felt largely unwanted. The roller coaster continued. We agreed to spend our last temple day together. By then, I was already thinking of leaving the day after. So I asked her to stay over. Probably for the last time. She declined with a weak excuse. When I was about to give her a good bye kiss, she moved away. The final straw. “You know how I am…” she remarked something along those lines. I wanted to say “No, clearly I don’t know how you are.”. But I didn’t. She said she would see me tomorrow. I gave a curt “fine” and left. It was time to get off this roller coaster.
As agreed, she came over in the morning. The plan was to see the new year festivities and possibly some more temples. I was still mad about the night before and I am sure she knew it. I was stiff in my responses and remained silent in the tuk-tuk ride. She broke the silence, “I don’t have to come”. My reply was something like “It’s okay. You can come”. I put on a good face for the rest of the day. Well the best I could. I was still distracted and inattentive by my standard. That night, our group of friends walked to the night markets after dinner. I waited till she walked ahead alone. I told her that I was leaving tomorrow and that there was no point in staying when someone doesn’t want them around.
It was the first time I felt like I received any real emotional reaction. Internally I laughed. Only in the end do I have your attention eh? She apologized for how she had been acting among other things. It was too little too late though. I had already resigned. She finally broke her poker face though. One of the new friends in the group asked me if she was okay. I dismissed that we were talking about anything important with a casual “Yeah, she’s okay.”
She walked me back to my guesthouse. I told her to come in for a bit. After some hesitation she agreed. I didn’t actually have much to say at this point. Perhaps I just wanted to salvage a nicer moment in a goodbye. I walked her back to her guesthouse in the end.
I left the next day unsure of when or if I would ever see her again.