There’s a famous expression in Southeast Asia. “Same, same, but different.” Order fried noodles with chicken and get fried rice with egg instead: “Same, same, but different.” See a picture of a luxury three day cruise and arrive to find a rowboat: “Same, same, but different.” It’s a saying I’ve heard quite a few times, but it’s also a saying I love to use in everyday situations. Basically, anytime there’s any kind of confusion, I can’t help but think, “Same, same, but different.” This simple sentence has grown on me over the last year, not just because it cracks me up, but also because it’s an important life lesson.
If something ended up being different than I expected in Asia, it was usually impossible to sort it out. If I told a waiter that they brought me the wrong food, it would take at least ten minutes to explain. Even then, I might still get the wrong dish delivered on round two. Instead of getting aggravated or annoyed, I would just eat what they brought me. Honestly, it was usually just as good. If not, at least I tried something new, or it made a great story later.
Something I learned this year was to let go of expectations because they often lead to disappointment. If you have your heart set on something and it doesn’t turn out the way you want, it ruins the experience. But if you go into every situation and scenario thinking, “who knows what will happen” and accept whatever is thrown your way, chances are you’ll be much happier. Truth is, a lot of my best stories are about things going wrong.
I recently trekked to Mt. Everest with a tour company who handled everything. They did such a great job that we rarely had any mishaps. It actually took away some of the fun. The only time something went wrong was when a few of the guys kept trying to order Western food and their reactions when their lasagna, pizza, or German desserts came out of the kitchen were hilarious. They kept insisting on ordering dishes from back home and expecting them to taste as good despite being in the middle of the mountains with no access to fresh ingredients. When a German style pastry came out the same as someone’s breakfast pancake we were hysterical. “Same, same, but different.”
In Vietnam, my friends and I were shown photos of a luxurious cruise. The bedrooms looked like they were inside a five star resort. The rooftop deck, a beautiful place to lie out and tan. We arrived to find a run down boat with rooms that barely fit the beds, a dead cockroach in the bathroom, and a small rooftop deck. “Same, same, but different.” We passed numerous other boats and laughed while guessing which one we were shown photos of. In the end, we stopped at a beautiful island and decided to jump ship (literally) and make the most of the island paradise.
In Thailand, I did a ten-day silent retreat with Buddhist monks. I honestly had no idea what to expect, but I think it’s fair to say we were all a little shocked at how basic the living conditions were. Sleeping with a foot long lizard near my bed took some getting used to, and showering with buckets of rainwater in an open room was interesting to say the least. Learning to live without things that I normally consider basics took some adjusting, but learning to expect the bare minimum has made me so appreciative of what I now consider luxuries. Buckets of rainwater instead of a hot shower, “Same, same, but different.”
It’s been amazing to see the transformation of my mindset going into things. When I get my hopes up or let my expectations get too high, I automatically feel let down no matter how great the experience. Over the last year, I’ve really worked on keeping my expectations in check and expecting nothing. What I’ve found is that I’ve become extremely grateful for the smallest things. A good meal, a hot shower, a comfortable bed, even oxygen are all things I used to take for granted. Paved roads, electricity, the smell of laundry detergent are luxuries. Over time, I think we become so entitled. Seeing what life is like without the “basics” has given me a whole new perspective and appreciation for everything.
Now, instead of getting annoyed because a road is bumpy, I’m thankful when a road is paved. Instead of getting upset because my order came out wrong, I’m thankful that I was able to try something new. Instead of getting frustrated when the trip I booked is not what I expected, I laugh at how ridiculous it is. The bad experiences end up being some of the best because maybe you didn’t get to have the trip that you wanted, but you had something better. You got to have an adventure.
You might also like…
Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.