With less than 3 weeks from their take-off date, my brave and adventurous parents booked their flights to Thailand. They decided to endure the 20 hour travel pattern to visit us.

With them, they packed their wisdom, positive energy, laughter, and flexibility. They also brought a giant empty suitcase to haul home 60 pounds of belongings we determined we no longer needed. The 10 days we spent in Bangkok and Pattaya are forever coveted memories.

The highlights of our days included The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, the 61st floor Vertigo Sky Bar, street markets, friendly euchre battles, important and fun dinner conversations, attending mass, whipping up coconut curry in a Thai cooking class, father-and-son-in-law haircuts, and drinking pineapple blenders by the pool. The time with them was so special and I tried to soak up every minute.

In addition to all of this magic, they left me with profound impressions. I always learn a lot from being around my parents. I narrowed it to two big ones from their trip. I couldn’t help but notice that they both showed me how to find deeper experiences while at home or traveling.

 

1. Observation.

 

No matter where we were, what we were doing, or who we were talking to, my parents keenly observed. Rather than simply walking down a street, they would notice the details and intricacies of what was happening around them. 

On our “English tour” boat to the Grand Palace, where we could only understand10 words our tour guide said, my dad spotted a man in his house. Tucked between modern buildings and new developments, there were older places built on stilts in the water.

Here’s a picture of what my dad noticed:

 

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If you take a longer look at the photograph, you can see the clothes drying, the garden growing, and the outside work space. You can start to imagine that type of living. You can begin to see how different that living might be from your own. How long has that person lived there? Do they rent or own? What might the house look like inside?

By listening to my parents and their innate sense of observation and curiosity, I began to see more. Although I was riding on the same tour boat across Chao Phraya River, I missed what was right in front of me.

As we toured several temples, the pattern continued. My parents would point out unique aspects of the architecture, maintenance level of the property, and intriguing insights of Buddhism.

When we would approach a scene like the first photo below, they would notice aspects displayed in the two images following.

 

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I have to look again to notice how fascinating the elements are, and how long they would have taken to build. I would not have appreciated them, simply because I did not press a closer eye to my surroundings. Sometimes beauty is cradled in the details, the small aspects, and the careful design. There are wonderful shapes and moments that call for our attention. There are also a slew of gorgeous, smaller pieces quietly waiting to be noticed. At times the golden intricacies of life, whether ornate or “normal,” can give us plenty to appreciate.

Without them realizing it, my parents showed me how to look for the little details and moments. They unknowingly urged me to be more awake, to open my sleepy eyes to all there is around me. The joys of what we can uncover are worthy of the extra work required.

It will just take a little bit of practice.

Here’s a cute picture of my good-looking parents.

 

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Now whether or not you are able to see the detail in the the photograph itself, there are round balls in the mouths of those two statues.

 

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I didn’t notice what was in their mouths, until they were pointed out to me. I suppose that’s another way of heightening what we see. Having people with you to recognize differences adds to the experience. Each person has a view from their own lens. Hopefully they are willing to share so you can reap the benefits of extra perspective.

Close and careful observation alongside others enhances what we experience, whether we are traveling or in our normal surroundings. Often times children will see things much differently than adults.

The four photos below demonstrate an aspect each of us four (Mom, Dad, Joe, Jenna) observed during our time in Bangkok. You might try to guess who noticed which things.

 

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Paying special attention to what is in front of us can make us appreciate the full beauty, like this unique Last Supper artwork spotted by my dad in the back of the Pattaya Catholic Church.

 

 

2. Interest.

 

In addition to acute observation, my parents demonstrated sincere interest in what was happening around them in Thailand. Often times we’d end the day with several questions to look up on Google. We even had to rehearse our list throughout the day so we wouldn’t forget.

Our searches included, “Who is Mara?” “What dice game is played in Thailand?”

“What is the average income?” “Can a foreigner own property?” “What are the major exports?” And “When did Buddhism begin?”

My parents didn’t just take a look around and call it a day. They engaged in their surroundings, wanting to learn more and understand. Their interest brought out a deeper, richer experience.

Rather than simply passing this site and snapping a photo,

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they would wonder why there were so many Buddhas standing in a row.

We read about it later, learning that all of the Buddhas represented and pointed toward the one Buddha, in effort to keep the people’s attention always on Buddha.

As another example, my dad started a discussion about the living quarters, the tree, and people on the barges displayed in the photograph below. You may have to look closely.

 

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And noticing the detail of a pagoda, shown here,

 

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they would wonder what a pagoda represented. We learned it was a monument to honor Buddha, often holding offerings made by previous kings. Even though my parents aren’t Buddhists, this didn’t stop them from taking interest in the temples and teachings of the religion.

And as we walked the streets outside of the temple grounds, my mom stopped to film this video because she was interested in what this woman was creating:

 

She also captured the delightful happenings on this street:

 

I am so happy my mom filmed those videos. I never thought of doing something like that. She grasped forever what was occurring in those moments on the streets of Bangkok. It’s amazing what she documented, isn’t it?

My parents’ interest stretched even further than site viewing in Thailand, too. On a special night at the incredible Vertigo Sky Bar,

 

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they asked questions like, “What have you learned so far about each other?” And, “What do you miss about being home?”

Their interest elicited meaningful answers and discussion. Not only did they observe, they wanted to know more. It made us feel loved and alive to have those types of conversations. It made our time with them so special. 

Here are three more photos demonstrating my parents’ energetic and genuine interest.

 

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With enhanced observation and interest, my parents showed me how to make life richer and more engaging. Rather than skimming the top, I can seek a deeper layer. My time and experiences can be enhanced ten fold.

I even started to practice when they were still here. Joe wanted to drop coins into buckets that lined a famous temple wall. Everyone was doing it and it looked like fun. But before we started, I wanted to understand what we were doing and why. It turns out, we received 40 bouts of good luck.

 

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I’m grateful for the time we had with my parents. I’ll certainly be looking at this trip and life with wider eyes and more curious questions. After all, I want to squeeze the most out of everyday I’m given.

 

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Thanks for reading along and be sure to leave a comment! 

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