I hadn’t even brushed my teeth when I got the notification that bombs had exploded in Bangkok.
“Fuck,” I thought, sliding my thumb back and forth over the home-screen. The bright and glossy ‘6:02 AM’ gave me a headache. I locked my phone. “Now what?”
My flight to Bangkok was set to take off in three hours. Instead of making my way to the airport, I stood still in the dark kitchen next to my toddler-sized backpack stuffed with three months of clothes, baby wipes, and dry shampoo.
“I’m flying standby. Maybe I could fly somewhere else? Cambodia, maybe? Or maybe I could skip Thailand and just fly straight to Australia."
My mind raced, catching on a comment my friend's 82-year-old grandmother had made to me a few months before that morning.
“Women should really only travel by cruise ship.”
I choked on my biscuit.
“I’m sorry, what?”
She sipped her iced tea. “I said, women should really only travel by cruise ship. It’s the only way to see the world and stay safe. You should really think about these things if this is your hobby. In fact,” she continued, brushing biscuit crumbs off her lap for her rat terrier to lick up, “I don’t know why you’d ever want to leave America anyway. We’ve got everything everywhere else has plus more.”
Respectfully, I laughed at her.
A few days before that, a restaurant cashier in his 60's commented on his fear of travel and the fear he insisted I have as well.
"Aren't you scared of terrorists?” he asked.
“No.” I handed him a wrinkled $10 bill. “Chattanooga just had its own terrorist attack, and I’m not afraid of here.”
He smirked, dumping a pile of change in my hand. “Now, you know that’s a different scenario.”
Respectfully, I laughed at him, too.
But as my phone lit up with another notification that 20 people were confirmed to have been killed and over 100 had been injured by the explosives inside the Erawan Shrine, I wasn’t laughing.
I was scared.
I was scared of chaos. I was scared of more bombings. I was scared of how my mom would react to me flying into a city that had just suffered an attack.
“Oh shit,” I thought. “Mom.”
My thumb hovered over “Mama Dearest” in my phone. I tapped on her name. It rang twice before she answered. Groggy, her voice cracked, “Hey baby. Are you on your way to Atlanta?”
“Not yet.” I hesitated. “I just got a notification that a shrine was bombed in Bangkok. 20 people are dead.”
She didn’t respond.
“I just...wanted to see if you thought I shouldn’t go anymore.”
“Don't be silly. You can’t not go. Don’t be scared. You’ll be fine. Don’t you think she’ll be fine, Gary?”
I heard my dad mumble and yawn.
“Yeah, we both agree. You’ll be fine.”
Tapping the end-call button, I put my phone face-down on the counter. My chest loosened and my shoulders relaxed. It was a feeling similar to being a child and burying my tear-stained face in my mom's soft chest, her hand brushing the back of my head.
I could have surrendered to fear.
But then I would never have experienced a 14-hour train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai where people balance in between bouncing cars to drink Chang and smoke cigarettes.
I would never have survived 762 hairpin turns through mountains, thunderstorms, and rock slides to Pai with a German police officer, a Domino's worker from Dublin, a London actress, and a mapmaker from Liverpool.
I wouldn't have watched elephants bathe in a muddy river.
I wouldn't have ridden in a Tuk Tuk, eaten Pad Thai from a banana leaf, or learned how to drive a scooter in Thai traffic. And tragically, I would never have been introduced to mango sticky rice.
I looked at my toddler-sized backpack stuffed with clothes, baby wipes, and dry shampoo.
Swinging my bag over my shoulder, I checked my pocket for my keys and walked out the door.