Fall In Love // Thailand 2017-2018

Here’s the thing about being a traveler; you get to fall in love with people, places, experiences, and moments over and over again...but the day will come where you have to pack up, move to the next place, and give them all back to the world. It’s not easy, but you weren’t created for the complacency of “normal.” It’ll always feel like the hardest thing you have ever had to do. You’ll cry behind a closed door, you will curse the universe, it will feel like whatever “God” is up there has banned you from love entirely. Sooooo close....then so far.

For years I would think that way and, if I am being honest, still do sometimes. Especially in times like now. My time in Thailand is coming to a close and it has been one of the most memorable places I have ever been to. Not because of 1IN700, but personally. I had some things happen that hindered me from doing much of anything with the project. A few things here and there, but overall I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to.


Something else happened though..

As cleft affected individuals I think we can all agree that the topic of “love,” specifically romantic love, is a subject we shy away from. Why? Because romance at it’s very beginning is almost always sparked based on initial physical attraction. And well...we have something that society, TV, and the internet says is different and not traditionally beautiful. It is already tough to put yourself out there, but doing it with a crainofacial difference is it’s own kind of hurdle all together. 

I don’t often talk about the very beginning of this journey, mostly because it was arguably one of the darkest places in my life I had been. I fell maaaadly in love with someone, so quick, so hard, and entirely consuming. We were both crazy (like certifiably haha), such artists, and shared obscure bonds. He GOT me, ya know? The second I saw him was the moment I knew I had to have him. I was working and he was a client (we were at a gym in L.A.) so I couldn’t directly approach him, but eventually I sorted out a way to break the ice. We went down a spiral tunnel of passion. Nothing mattered except the next time I was going to see him. My work faltered, I didn’t care. My friendships lacked attention, it didn’t matter to me. I lost myself. I was drowning in him and I was totally fine with it. My life wasn’t “mine” anymore, it was “ours”...but what if that was just one sided? Then it wasn’t really “OURS.” What makes a great relationship is two whole individuals. So when it ended, a piece of my world did too.


His words: “You have so much to do with your life, but you won’t do it because you love me to much.”


My heart began to race. My blood started to boil. My vision became tunneled.


A flood of emotions overwhelmed me. I didn’t know whether to be furious or succumb to the devastation I could tell was creeping up.


I fell somewhere after that. I went to this place of feeling like I wasn’t worth it. I BELIEVED I was less than. I had to fall into this place to rise to where I am today (as cliche as that sounds, it’s true). What happened next in my book of life, has given me purpose, ambition, and a serious determination.


I dove into my work. I could hardly breathe let alone think about being involved with anyone else romantically. I didn’t accept dates. I didn’t much acknowledge the offers if I am being honest. For the first time in my life, I decided to give myself all of the love I had a tendency of spreading myself thin trying to give to a relationship, friends, etc. I took a long look in the mirror and I evolved. I let go trying to change the things I had no control over. I wanted to live a peaceful yet meaningful life. That meant finding out my purpose. I talk a lot in this blog about that; finding purpose, maintaining your focus, and allowing yourself time. Reiterating that will never get old to me because I have found the happiness that I see so many of my peers flailing to grasp. The hardest part is, I can’t tell them any magic words to reach their goal. I can’t tell them “This is what you do.” Because truth be told, there is no such thing. I believe that each path is found differently. You have to love yourself and trust the world enough to know that some day, it’ll come to you...because it WILL come to YOU and only you. Breathe. Enjoy the ride and find love in every moment. 


Which brings me back to why I decided to write this in the first place...


I met someone here who rocked my world. He shook my entire existence into something beautiful and absolutely terrifying. The first time I saw him, I was at North Gate Jazz Club in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had been to dinner with my travel buddy and then met up with some other friends for a night cap (or two). We listened to smooth jazz and swayed. I smiled from ear to ear because I was actually HERE. SO long looking forward to it, so long waiting for that day to step on the plane and leave for a new beginning. The second he spoke to me (in really adorable broken English; he’s German) I knew he was someone special. A part of me hated it. I had done so well with keeping my heart guarded and only giving it to the participants of 1IN700 and the cleft community I have come to adore. For 3 years, I loved ME...and what was born from that changed my life forever.

Now as I travel, meeting cleft affected brothers and sisters, experiencing what the world has to offer, I meet someone. I meet someone so genuine, so unique, and ultimately so perfect for me. We have spent weeks together traveling this country and getting lost in each other’s eyes. We found happiness while in a mosquito infested bungalow. Carrying 17 kilos in our packs from location to location. We danced in the pouring rain on the beach in Koh Phi Phi Don. We held hands in the face of homophobia. We kayaked to a beach overrun by thieving monkeys. We ate SO MUCH FOOD. We lived. We lived. We lived. I had to part ways with him and I continuously find myself upset....yet strangely okay. You see, when you meet someone that you know in your bones is going to be in your life longer than what the universe is currently allowing, you are still incredibly sad but your heart settles into a place of understanding.


“Not now, but soon” you think as you let go of their hand for months on end. After all of the goodbyes and sad songs playing on repeat, it’s possible that you can meet someone that, despite it being brief, can change your perspective on love.


I’m not sure what happens from here, but all I know is 1IN700 Cambodia is happening in a couple weeks and I feel more focused than ever. Thank you universe. 


To all of my cleft affected brothers and sisters; let yourself fall in love with the world.

Auf Wiedersehen Schatz.

Zachary Rodetis-Urenda