I arrived in Laos a little over a week ago today. On one of my first days here, I woke in the early hours of the morning with a group of our volunteers and my fellow staff members to give alms to over 100 Monks and Novice Monks. I had participated in giving alms times previously, so this once, I decided to snap some photos, as it was the first day of Buddhist Lent. 

In my short time being back in Laos, I've felt reflective, joyful, nervous, heartsick, and absolutely grateful. I feel everything on a heightened scale here. Which says a lot, because I always feel things on the deepest of levels. It's just who I am. 

I have written in detail on SLK about how living in Europe cultivated my love of travel, living in New Zealand cultivated my sense of self, and living in Laos clarified my purpose. 

People have asked why the move to Laos. It's such a multi-faceted question with such a complicated answer, that I often find it easiest to simply say: 'It's another adventure!' But, it is so much more than that. 

I want to live a life of meaning. No matter where I am, I want to be producing work that is helpful or inspiring or meaningful. This job has given me a chance to work in my field of study, in a place I love, working on a project I take very personally.

Laos, similarly to New Zealand, magnifies some of my greatest strengths.  What little patience I have is multiplied by a thousand here. My generosity, compassion, ambition, humility are magnified and set aflame in this gorgeous country.

I always want to live my best life and the way to accomplish that is to be my best self. Laos, like New Zealand, brings out the best possible version of myself. Even when I've made mistakes or had "worst-self-Tara-days", being reminded that I am located in a certain special place usually helps frame my mindset differently. 

Back in my "Western" life, I feel myself wanting to live my most stylish {but also kind and socially aware} life. I love to study fashion trends, though I am most passionate about engendering my own, personal style. I enjoy online shopping far too often for a person with a walk-in closet already overflowing into boxes that took up half my storage unit before I knew I was moving {now my unit is stuffed full to the brim}. 

It's not just clothes, though. I enjoy the ease that accompanies Western life. I like a quality cold brew coffee in the morning on my way to work, which I could drive to if I felt like it. I like fast internet and a hot shower that lasts longer than a few minutes before turning cold {though here a cold shower actually feel goods in the heat}. It's those shallow things that make my life back in the developed world both easier and more full of distraction.  

Life in Laos is simplified. Less time online, almost no where to shop, fewer luxuries, but all the basic necessities provided. What more do you need?

When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself three questions I found in a book of New Zealand poetry I brought with me: 

When was the last time you were quiet? When was the last time you gave time? When was the last time you listened? 

I carry those questions with me as I start my day and I tell myself that my time in Laos should be about listening, learning the art of a quieter existence, and giving everything I have to living a life of meaning.

Sabaidee, Laos. It's only too good to be back.