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From Bangkok to California, a Self-Proclaimed Coward's Tale

09/14/2012 08:42 am ET | Updated Nov 14, 2012

After spending the past three years refusing to initiate the process that most other teenagers can't wait to complete -- the process of getting your driver's license and experiencing the accompanying feelings of independence and maturity -- I finally did it. I am officially a member of the elite group of Class C drivers.

And all it took was an 18-hour flight to a country on the other side of the planet.

Following my graduation, my family traveled to Bangkok, Thailand as well as parts of Malaysia and Singapore in order to, as my parents put it, "learn about family history and immerse ourselves in the culture."

We spent the majority of one month in Bangkok, and wholeheartedly threw ourselves into the center of Thai living. Ironically enough, however, it was the constant threat of danger in the country that ultimately revealed my own naïveté and prompted a realization that I cannot live a life dominated by unavoidable fears.

Of all the staggering sights that Bangkok society has to offer, the roads are by far the most infuriating, as well as the least expected. Densely packed alongside everyday cars are hot pink taxi cabs, scores of dust-stirring buses, pickup trucks with precariously strapped baggage (and oftentimes even passengers in the bed of the truck), and an astonishing number of sputtering motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic.

Additionally, as if the sheer volume of vehicles isn't enough, the design of the roads in Bangkok often entails miles of straight, one-way asphalt with no stop signs and hardly any traffic lights.

These conditions, combined with the fact that the majority of the population refuses to wear seatbelts or adhere to the maximum capacity of passengers, are responsible in part for Thailand's widely accepted reputation of being a dangerous nation.

However, in the month that I absorbed the various wonders of Thailand (the street food vendors aren't famous for nothing, I can say that much), I also soon realized that some dangers are necessary and being crippled with fear will not protect a person from life so much as hinder him from it.

Bangkok residents face the chaos of their streets and they don't run away from driving. They do what they have to.

And so, I came back to California amazed, enlightened, and ultimately inspired by all that I had seen and everything I had experienced.

At 18 and a half, I am now a licensed driver -- and not even as a result of ill-masked comments from my parents hinting at an assured miserable future in the event that I never learn how to drive, which is truthfully how I had always assumed it would happen.

Instead, I dove headfirst into facing an inevitable fear. With my seatbelt on, of course.