Songkran in Chiang Mai, an Elephant Sanctuay and My Last Days with Laura

Alright ladies and gentlemen, we are keeping the adventure going. If you’re just tuning in, the last couple posts have been about the experiences of finally getting back overseas haggard and exhausted after the previous year of struggling to make it happen, getting pick-pocketed in Phi Phi, food poisoning on a date in Krabi, a super drama Airbnb, treehouses, the first day of Songkran in Pai and the friends along the friends along the way.

So here we are back in Chiang Mai…

Songkran back in the ‘ol CM finally brought Laura into the enchantment I had been telling her about. In no small part due to the water gun she inherited that previous Songkran-celebrating guests had left behind. You just gotta be involved with a celebration like that or you won’t feel the magic. Early(iesh) the next morning, after checking into our Airbnb with it’s dramatic hosts, we headed to the bus depot to get a ticket to Bangkok for my next stop a few days later. After that we were ready to rock and roll before even leaving the station. True to form for both of us, I was anal in that I wanted to find a neighborhood that was more fully celebrating while Laura with her laid demeanor and peaceful smile was determined to find the back of a truck to jump into right there. After I begged her to wait until we got to a more appropriate area, and please God not one with kids, she did just that with the reasoning that they can always say no but you have to ask for what you want. After an awkward no from them and a couple celebration fails in other ways, she agreed that it was time to move on and found a friendly local man who told us where to go.

Making it to the road we were referred to, there was an awesome parade of which we ate street food (of course) and danced alongside being doused with water. With many enjoying my pink wig and unicorn horn, we were constantly pulled into the parade and stopped for pictures (with momentary moments of panic while I looked around making sure I didn’t lose Laura) until we ducked into an American bar playing live ’80’s glam rock with people celebrating in front, drinking and showering the crowd. If you’ve never experienced it before, listening to American music being sung by local Thai with their accent is amazing and hilarious. The whole thing was by far the best parade experience of my life. I am still Googling to try to find pictures of L and I in it.

Finally ready to head back out after I partook in a couple big bottles of Chang, we joined a fun crew in a square of cross streets until we found a truck with fun music and people throwing ice water to jump onboard with until it broke down. Laura’s Songkran dream had been realized and, loving life, she stayed in the truck throwing bowls of water at people long after the breakdown while I ducked into a bar to use the toilet and (why not) grab another beer.

Walking around and being offered a drink from some awesome locals and then stopping at a hostel for another (don’t judge me), we soon tired and retreated to shower and rest before heading to a fun market full of food that included a really cool way of making ice cream. Stopping to watch some traditional dancers while savoring our frozen treat, the next stop was shopping.

Something I surprisingly enjoyed and resulted in two items that were to end up more meaningful that expected. Laura’s talking me into buying souvenirs resulted in me getting a Pashmina that I ended up wearing on the rest of my journey and then gave to my mom as a way for her to be with me on my travels. It also resulted in a stuffed elephant that was originally meant for my niece but ended up going to a twenty year old woman in the hospital with Dengue Fever. Later capping the night off with a little live jazz by an energetic British woman, it was a great end to a great day.

The next morning was relaxing in that L slept until noon and I hid out writing until a previously scheduled tuk tuk picked me up to go to an elephant sanctuary. With a gorgeously lush and green hour and a half drive from there, I was happy to meet a couple sisters from the UK who were easy to communicate with (don’t take speaking a common first language for granted) and a couple from Guadalajara who also put me at ease in that they were from the second culture I am most familiar with and grew up around. The woman, probably in her mid twenties, was sweet and so beautiful that I had a hard time stopping myself from staring. The entire group was lovely and I got a kick out of feeling like the older perv.
It’s like they knew I was coming!

FYI: Durains smell like “pig shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock” according to famous food journalist Richard Sterling. That’s why they’re not allowed in many places.

Getting to the sanctuary, I was happy to check out the elephants and love on the dogs. Soon we were listening to a speech about how riding elephants had provided a better life for them than the logging had. Especially after that had become obsolete and the they had started being killed due to their becoming a problem with eating crops when the owners could no longer afford to take care of them.

From riding, sanctuaries have provided a better life for them as people like us pay to come feed, bathe and play with them instead of their having to earn their keep by spending excessively long hours walking the same path over and over again. The so-called sanctuaries do appear to be doing some good but from what I hear, only a small fraction of the money collected in known to go toward their care. There is also still a long way to go in the way they are treated. Something proven first hand by one of the trainers as he poked a teenage elephant with a machete a minute after it accidentally knocked over the woman from Guadalajara with it’s trunk when they were playing in the mud. Usually airing toward taking my mouth shut, especially in a third world country where I can go Brokedown Palace if making a wrong move, I couldn’t help but yell at this man. Both for the elephant and for this poor woman who sat there looking both horrified by his actions and terrible for what she had to do with them. Feeding the elephants had been fun and the lunch they gave us at the end was one of the best meals I had in Thailand, but playing in the mud with them so openly defecating and peeing in it wasn’t exactly my style. I may still volunteer with them in the future like I had originally hoped to do that time but, like always, the pups continued to be first in my heart.

Later that night Laura and I headed to a market that was so crowded that it instantly set off my anxiety. Something that is much better than before my seizure meds but can still twist me up in crowds. Originally hoping for a night out (I hadn’t had one yet), I quickly changed tune and wanted to call it a night but was happy to find middle ground by going for an Italian dinner with L. Something we both very much enjoyed as neither one of us are fans of Thai food. After that she continued on in the market while I wandered off to enjoy a foot massage. Well, e enjoy as much as I could considering that I was fighting tears from being homesick. After that I waited at the same bar with the American ’80’s music from the day before until L returned with tales of how much more gigantic the market had been beyond what we had seen. Heading back and doing my best to keep my eyes open, we gave each other a hug before heading to bed. The next day I left early to catch an eleven hour bus ride for Bangkok. Our adventure together had come to an end. At least that one.

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Tree Houses and Our First Day Celebrating Sonkran in Pai

Chiang Mai hadn’t been our thing, at least not what we had seen of it, so we were happy to hop on a tuk tuk the next morning and head north. We were also happy (and thankful) for Thor’s kindness in letting us leave behind my monstrous suitcase for our next hosts (just wait until you hear about them) to pick up for a fee of 300 bhat.

The road to Pai was the beautiful tropical forrest we had dreamed about. It also came with infamously crazy and intense twists and turns; especially toward the end. Two people​ threw up but I was lucky to have bought motion sickness pills when getting probiotics for my tummy. A double win as that was the first day I hadn’t had stomach pain since food poisoning.

Not realizing the inability to keep my eyes open was from the pills, Laura teased me for falling asleep during such a beautiful drive, but was later to join in with taking them before the ride back as she had admitted to having got a little carsick herself. Something that was a telltale sign that I would have been joining in the barf brigade if I hadn’t. She had also become pretty spooked by a car we almost hit along with other aspects of the crazy small and dangerous roads. Additional parts of the journey I was more than happy to snooze through. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Being dropped off at the bus depot of a main street, we were excited about the cute little town and the treehouse we were about to stay in thanks to a friend back home, Juliette, giving a heads up about the place. Continuing on with playful comments about having some very important shopping to do (meaning water guns for Songkran) and needing to eventually figure out tickets back, we were quick to settle on the idea of first catching a tuk tuk to get settled into our place before anything else.

As promised, the Pai Treehouse Resort was nothing short of peter-pan style magic. About ten minutes away from town through beautiful forrest, we pulled into the resort with it’s enchanted wooden structures, a restaurant and lovely grounds of grass, trees, swings and other rustic adornments that were all a part of the charm.
Checking in and heading to our treehouse, the highest of three, my legs were shaking as vertigo kicked in as we began to climb the steep log steps that had been nailed together in the crooked pattern of the way they naturally fit. This was a legit treehouse. Tiny, awesome and would never pass safety codes in the in the US.
Hanging out in awe for a bit, we took a shuttle back (huge benefit they offer) to town to walk around exploring the streets and, of course, eating. I wanted to go to the cute places full of personality. L was more into the more authentic holes in the wall, usually with a dirt floor and little more than a hot plate or grill of some sort for cooking. While still wanting some of that experience, I had been in Thailand longer than her and was well over it being my focus. Especially after getting food poisoning in a similar establishment.
Always smiling and relaxed with comments about how she has great karma, Laura enjoyed the high-like sensation of lack of sleep as we wandered while I tried to heard her in. Waking the streets, I’d say left and she’d go right. Leaning in when walking beside me, she veered us into the street with me in the middle no matter how much I tried to deflect and tell her I didn’t want to be in the middle of the street. The comments went completely unregistered as she floated around on a deliriously pleasant cloud of sleeplessness that took her in no particular direction and drove me bananas. After dealing with this loopiness for a couple hours, I finally demanded that I needed a drink and warned her that she would be getting teased mercilessly later. That serendipitous moment was when we first found that restaurant that was to be our favorite Songkran watching spot and where our awesome waiter was quick to grab my water gun (with my permission) to jump in the fun while we watched some fun locals play party music so common of the event while throwing buckets of water on those passing by. Rowdy and mischievous, it was a great time and also endearing to see them make a conscious effort to be respectful of those they were chucking water at.

The next morning, after enjoying the tolerable breakfast that was included (another great perk of staying at the Treehouse), we headed into town for the official main day of Songkran. Once there and already wet from having buckets of water dousing us from sitting in the back of the truck on the way in, we both were bothered by the inauthenticity of the touristy scene and stereotypical early twenties (mostly American) type backpacker who was trying way too hard to represent the traveling hippie while really just looking to get waisted and have fun. Nothing wrong with that but also not helpful for the authentic magic this little town exudes. An irony not lost on me in that so many of us travelers are bothered by it when we too are tourists.
Finding a beautiful resort restaurant on the river, I grabbed a drink while she sat there with her patient smile as we enjoyed a tropical storm. Just like the woman who had met up with me for one night in Phuket, she’s into other festival-type experiences but not alcohol. So strange to me but to each their own and I suppose it’s better to have a traveling friend who doesn’t drink than someone who just wants to be super wasted the whole time.

After watching a storm, the streets were starting to liven up. Walking up and down loving life as I joined in to the water play, L wasn’t too into it which came as no surprise to me considering she hadn’t bought anything to join in herself. I’d imagine because she was traveling for a year on an insanely tight budget I wouldn’t even want or have the skill to try. She also commented later about not liking guns which is something I can very much relate to but was choosing my battle. Literally. Last but not least, she had her heart set on finding the back of a truck to jump into with the bins of water to throw on people with bowls as opposed to a water gun fight on foot. Something that I must admit to be the most fun way to go by far.

Songkran was my main objective when setting up my return to Thailand so I wasn’t exactly thrilled that the person I was traveling with wasn’t feeling it. Wanting to get away from the temporary mismatch and the correlating selfish emotions of my somewhat bitchy nature, I retreated out of an epic and hilarious water battle and into a massage shop full of employees who were in great spirits and were laughing first at the fight that was in clear view of the front of their establishment with it’s glass wall and second at me for being a soaking mountain of happy chaos as I ducked in with my gun. Enduring what was probably the most painful Thai massage I’ve ever experienced, with the strained neck later to prove it, I changed out of the dry clothes they had given me that had made me look like a gigantic Amazon barbie, I headed back out into the chaotic celebration to find Laura.

Heading back to our treehouse after a bit more water play and opting for a peaceful morning the next day for hanging on the grounds and getting some alone time, we then caught the 2 PM bus back to Chiang Mai for what was to be the worst Airbnb experience I have had to date. Canceling what had to me a much better Airbnb option (with fee) in town center in order to stay with a French woman and her Portuguese husband in a situation that had seemed lovely prior to arrival and like a chance to give Laura a nice opportunity to connect with someone else French after so long on the road, we hadn’t even walked through the gate before the first sign of trouble. Tonio, the Portuguese husband, made a comment about us not being there when expected. We were half an hour early.
Soon after that, we met Valerie. A nonstop fireball of aggressive chatter who was so intense that it even overwhelmed Laura. As a laid back social worker whose nature is to listen, that said a lot. As this woman rambled on, my mind wandered back and forth in questioning if she was on drugs (very skinny and messed up teeth) or just had some kind of imbalance, as she would focus her tornado rants at me from time to time regardless of the fact that I don’t speak more than three words of French.

Later reflecting about how things come in threes in regard to the three intense hosts we had encountered (Thor, the American at the hostel and this couple as a grand finale), I chuckled once in our room when L made a comment about how she was hoping for a relaxing evening. Something that was opposite enough from what we had experienced to too exhaust us out of our plans to go our after getting settled in.

The intensity of our hosts wasn’t the only thing that had knocked us off guard with this comedically awful stay. Once finally abe to break away from their rants enough to be shown our room, we were knocked out by the smell of kitty litter as soon as we stepped inside. Something we were soon to find out was coming from the kitchen and the maybe twenty cats inside. A few of which were cute little four week old kittens and a pregnant cat that I was about to witness give birth the next day. In the kitchen. Where our food was prepared.

After showing us the room that we were surprised to see didn’t come with air conditioning as listed, Tonio made an amazing dinner for us (at 300 bhat each) of personal pizzas and salad with ingredients they had grown from their own garden. Continuing on with both of them taking turns to talk our (or mostly Laura’s since I don’t speak French) ears off, we were told about a pretty cool idea for a kitty cafe they were trying to make happen as could be seen by the materials that were there to make huge bamboo walls all around the property so that the cats could run free without being able to escape. Looking back, maybe also for guests.

There also had plans for some killer lounge areas and a fully functioning restaurant. Even the beginning of a treehouse in the works. All sounded lovely but at that moment the place was still a mess. Not as bad as the place in Krabi that was literally a construction site but still far less constructed than had been suggested through the listing. Even the area showing as a plush and colorful restaurant and lounge area had been disappointingly packed up.

With comments over our stay from Tonio about how he doesn’t like the French (I’d imagine he thinks this OK, even to Laura, since he’s married to a French woman), about how they quickly kick patrons out if not in like with what they want (bragging, a warning or both) and judgment from Valerie, I briefly considered forfeiting more money just to stay somewhere else. Especially because I had talked Laura into canceling the place we were originally supposed to stay at longer and she had preferred until I talked her into this place. Something I still feel bad about and hope to make up to her. We stayed and made it through but were more than happy to get out of there when the time came. A time, by the way, when I was accused of sneaking out like a thief because I had an early flight I had previously told them about and that stuck Laura, a few hours later at normal checkout time, with a bill of stuff that we weren’t supposed to be charged for. We’re in mediation through Airbnb right now but I’ll be sure to throw up a post with the specifics once that’s taken care of. It’s just too damn too entertaining to not.

Just like the pickpocket incident, I see a stay like this being par for the course. It’s next to unavoidable and just means we’re earning more traveler badges. It’s funny and amusing as long as it doesn’t happen too often. If nothing else, it’s character building, makes for a great story and one hell of a learning experience. It’s not like we were stuck there too much, anyway. We managed to get out for an epic last day celebrating Songkran and I to an elephant sanctuary. Look forward to all that good stuff in the next post. Until then my beloved Free Robin Flyers, xoxoxo to you and your adventures.

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Laura and Chiang Mai

“In traveling, the beginning is always the hardest. it always feels like a struggle. you’re tired. things are weird. days are wasted on logistics. everything feels so different its scary. sometimes it doesn’t feel worth it. but it is! it gets easier, you meet your temporary traveler crew going through the same things, you start to relax. those differences start to feel comfortable. and the weirdness is exciting. you got this Robin. take a deep breath, celebrate life, and enjoy the moment! We’ll all be here when you get back, unchanged and ready for your stories. love you!”

It was a note from my friend and honorary little sister who had practiced medicine in Africa for a year. It was also exactly what I needed to hear. I may have been on the upside of sorting out the pickpocket and bank fiasco but I was also exhausted and still recovering both mentally and physically, especially from my epic case of food poisoning. Oh the food poisoning…

On that fateful night that it had happened, after the getting sick and severe pain finally managed to stop at 3 AM, I was somehow in the front of the “hotel” at 7 AM for the taxi that was to take me to the airport. My impromptu date who had so much potential the night before was nowhere to be seen then or ever again. As much as I hoped he hadn’t also ended up with such bad food poisoning, it would have been a relief when thinking about the alternative possibliy being that another person was targeting me. Something I doubted to be the case but after the couple in Phi Phi, it was hard to keep the paranoia out.

Shaking and sweating my way through the airport and onto the plane before it started to turn from the sweats to freezing cold, I don’t remember the flight. What I do remember is my friend Laura, a red-headed French woman with laid back energy and a kind heart who I had been campmates​ with at Burning Man the previous year. Coming up from behind me with a teasing comment about how big my suitcase was, I spun around to a big smile and my first sighting of the beautifully deigned orange dress she had picked up during her time in India, where she was coming from, and that was about to become her uniform for our time together. Giving her a big hug, it was great to finally have a traveling companion. Great but also a test of my patience in that I was finally admitting to myself how difficult and high-maintenance I can be and how it’s only getting worse as I get older and more used to being alone. Going to have to put in some real effort there…

Heading to our first place in Chiang Mai, we were greeted by a hyper, kind, opinionated and impatient Thai man named Thor who was about my age, always had a big smile on his face and eager to hurriedly try to describe the city while opinioniatedly showing us on a map where to go and what to do. All laughing together bout it, his drawn-by-hand maps could have easily been mistaken for that of a five year old and, as far as feedback went in regard to things we already had in mind, he argued with Laura about places she wanted to go along with whether or not they were open even after being informed that the friend giving her recommendations had just spent a few months there. Meanwhile I still felt awful, super weak and need to lay down. Something that didn’t appear to dawn on either of them and I didn’t think to make a point of. No rest for the wicked I suppose.
Showing us our room across the street, our faces dropped as it became apparent that the way the listing had shown in Airbnb wasn’t exactly true to form. It was a basic concrete block with a couple mattresses on the floor, a lamp table and no air conditioning. Bummed for the lack of what had looked to be a peaceful lounging area outside, we were still thankful for our little balcony, cleanliness and shower. Laura being more positive about it than I, as always.

Walking to the market for dinner after getting settled in, we made a little froggie friend Laura named Cowie after almost trampling. Stopping after that to check out some different places for her to stay after I left, the first hostel looked OK enough minus the American host working there who added to the already too intense day with his aggressive and overbearing sense of humor that no doubt added to the less-than-stellar reputation of Americans by yelling out “BOOKED” while flipping through the calendar pages of their schedule. I responded with a sarcastic sense of humor while Laura in her continuously laid back, polite and sweet temperament just took it in stride. Needless to say, BOOKED is what we did but only to get out of there.

After high-tailing it back out to our quest of finding the night’s street market, we finally made and where both surprised to notice that most of the food was fried as well as there being much fewer vegitarian choices (for Laura) and options that didn’t include fatty port or chicken (for me). Seafood and vegetarian dishes were what we both expected to predominantly see, and what would have worked just fine, but ended up presenting a very small amount of what we were looking at. Laura, being a picky and non-stop eater in addition to being a vegetarian, was not happy. Well, as not happy as she gets. In other words, me on my best day.
After a giggle about one a friend constantly teasing her about it being a good thing she’s nice in regard to others having toleration for her eating habits, we finally found a bite. Picking at my chicken katu, I joked about how amazed I was that she was eating her way around the world on this year sabbatical from social work one picky morsel at a time. With the food poisoning that had only passed less than 24 hours before once again being forgotten, L pushed me to eat more and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t. Also why I was drinking such a massive amount of water. A little aggrivating to hear but were also starting to remind me just how much a sense of time disappears in travel as does the ability to take it too easy.

Finishing at the food market, we Later stopped at a piano bar Thor had recommended close to our place. He got a win in that we liked it but it was too crowded to find a seat so decided to head back for bed (thank God) and head come back earlier the next night when we could grab seats. That was, until plans changed the next day when a French tantra master I hd been IMing with on Tinder invited us out.

Waking up the next morning to once again disregarding that it probably wasn’t a good idea so soon after being so sick, we walked our way in crazy enough heat to made me dizzy to a westernized mall in order to check out a spot Thor had recommended for celebrating Songkran, Thailand’s New Year and an amazingly fun water festival. The main reason for the dates I was in Thailand.

Looking tired and feeling happy.

With both of us instantly taking a stink to the mall (not surprising for me considering I don’t like shopping or malls in general), we weren’t exactly surprised when our hunch about it being a bad recommendation showed to be true. In an effort to make the best of it, we were thankful for the air-con with me instantly collapsing into a seat as I distractedly dove back into the stressful mess with my bank account. Something that had continued to grow in issues since the pickpocket incident as my bank was flagging all movement regardless of coming in or going out of my account.
While I worked on that, it gave Laura a chance to go shopping. Something I thought would at least give me an hour or two, so was confused when she returned a few short minutes later with a bewildered look in her eyes. She looked at me in shock and upset with maybe just a touch of entertainment as the story unraveled of how, when she had gone into a store and was looking at a jacket she liked but couldn’t afford, the salesman had propositioned her in that if she really wanted it, he would give it to her if she agreed to go to dinner and then back to his place. In other words, he basically propositioned her for prostitution. In shock, she handed it back to him and had gotten back to me as fast as she could. Both of our jaws on the floor for five minutes, I saw even more of the amusement as well as anger and protectiveness when she tried to blow off the effects by stating that it wasn’t the first time something like that had happened. The joys of travel.

After recovering enough composure from the disbelief and emotional processing, we walked around the mall making special note of the movie theater. Something that sounded like an air-conditioned and mental rest heaven. Pushing through, we finally found an internet library and got accommodatin for the next few days booked. Taking a deep breath as we started to head out, then in, then out after going back to get a better look at a woman L had originally thought was breathtakingly beautiful, we were having a good ‘ol time IMing with Tantra Tinder guy from the night before.

We all agreed on an 8 PM time to meet at a beer bar he recommended as a better scene than the piano bar, which sounded just fine to us. Starting out with us both being excited like teenage girls sneaking out to meet boys, our new adventure took no tie to start to sour when he made a comment about wanting to take us both back to his place to ravage later on in the evening. A comment that turned her off but agitated me. Shocker, right? A “no shit” attitude kicked from me toward L based on the responses we were giving with her no doubt misunderstanding what I was trying to do when she stopped me from making it clear that we weren’t suggesting anything sexual. Yes we were playful and open-minded, but certainly not eluding to anything beyond meeting up as new friends and letting it go from there. Smoothed it out a wee bit and the plans were still on but the mojo was gone.

Finally making it back to our place around 7 PM, an hour before we were supposed to meet Tantra Tinder dude, I was uncomfortable when L started to make comments about him meeting us at the piano bar instead of the plans we had already set oce finding out it would take us a half hour to get to us. Something I found rude and not cool to ask for so late; especially when I was expected to be the one communicating it. Realizing too late just like when I had still felt sick, I didn’t make my thoughts and suggestions for action clear. Instead, I tried to go with the flow so I didn’t bum her out and wondered if my seeing changing plans so late on someone at the expene of their effort may have just been a cultural difference. That was until the whole thing fell through (surprise, surprise) when he got frustrated and tried to insist that I pass the phone to Laura because my being American was the reason we weren’t going to tell him exactly where we were staying or let him up. She refused and he was soon blocked. We giggled about her Indian Prince (a lover she had picked up and adventured with during her time there before meeting me) and then she passed out. I, however, couldn’t sleep thanks to my insomnia, stomach still not being quite right and the noise from the karaoke bar across the street that was so obviously a cover for a biker bar. Thankful, at least, that Laura is a heavy sleeper who barely moves when knocked out and can easily sleep for ten hours straight, I took a sigh of relief about how good of a fit were there in regard to my not having to worry about waking her up and getting my peaceful alone time in the morning to write.

The next night we headed to a place called Zoe in Yellow that L wasn’t too far off in assessing when asking about the crowd being similar at the Full Moon Party. Lots of neon, glow-in-the-dark and childlike early-twenty somethings on holiday and in ratty beachwear doing their best to get waisted and hook up. One of my favorites to watch was a huge dude, maybe Australian, with bleached blond chicken-feather hair purposely dancing ridiculous. Another was using his crutch as a dance accessory on one of the dance floors and the whole thing had us feeling like uncomfortable outsiders until realizing that people watching was a lot more entertaining than thinking we’d fit in with this crowd. After that even the most simple details became funny. For example, how Laura was amused by the “TRAINEE” shirts staff were wearing due to that word meaning “whore” in French. getting our kicks but still not feeling it enough to stay longer than a couple hours, we left at a decent hour and had a surprisingly opposite night with sleep in that I knocked out while she couldn’t sleep at all. It didn’t stop her from being excited for the next morning, however. Neighter of us had been feeling Chiang Mai but we were about to head to a treehouse to get to in Pai.

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Thailand Teachings and Learning to Take to in Stride – Onto Krabi


Aha, Thailand. You have been quite the starter country in this new lifestyle I am clawing into with bloody fingernails.

First lesson I’ve learned on this my second trip to the country: make damn well sure you have a second and maybe even third bank account for regular use and emergencies. Leave one card at home with a couple grand on it, one in the suitcase and one on person for current use. OK, maybe I’m being a little over the top, but given what I’m still going through with my bank, I’d say it’s pretty understandable. Thank goodness for those who are helping me get through the rest of my travel until I can get back to the states to rip Bank of America a new one for freezing my account way too long.
As much as I don’t want credit cards, looks like it may be time. Definitely seems less painful than having the one card I have stolen and leaving me stranded in a third world country. Traveler’s checks seem out of date. A few different type accounts I’m going to look into thanks to reading posts in the Facebook group called Girls Love Travel (shout-out!), are travel money cards, a cash passport and an online checking account. I’d love feedback and suggestions about these and other options but please back it up with some factual information. As a big researcher, one of my pet-peeves is irresponsible opinions thrown out without a strong foundation. Feel me?

Second lesson: don’t listen to grungy and broke backpackers fifteen years younger than me who think their way is the right way and that anything beyond being one step above living on the streets is lame. Just as I’ve discovered with many of the hippies I’ve lived with and among in the past, those clinging to this stereotype (so not everyone) preach about not needing money or things and immersing in the culture around them but are so obviously pushing their own agenda. Also that their “universe will provide” type attitude often just means that they are feeding off the people around them. Watch some videos from JP Sears. He does hilarious parodies calling all of us (including me) out on our bullshit. The first one I saw, or should say was sent, was actually done by someone else about Burning Man but lead me to him.

I know me showing this side of my point of view is probably is confusing considering how much of my own life and personality reflects of the more free-spirited cultures. A big part of me is. Thing is, I’m a human being. There are many sides that round me out and are sometimes contradictory. This trip has taught me a lot. Often things I don’t want to admit and am frankly a bit shocked by. First, and I kind of knew this one, I count on my loved ones to help me when I can’t help myself. Especially when I’m trying to go after something with no one to guide me. Like I’ve said before, I’m often not good at change until pretty far in, but what I am good at is never giving up until I get there. That means I need help figuring it out at times. Don’t we all?

Second thing about myself that is really becoming clear is that, while I still believe I would enjoy backpacking and hostels for two or three days at a time, it has to be after getting to know a country a little bit and in between staying at nicer places. Turns out I like, no need, to balance by doing the luxury and tourist things if I want to have a good experience. Gasp! I know. I admitted the thing I’m not supposed to admit. Why exactly is that? These excursions and amenities exist for a reason and having a snotty so-called free spirit about it just makes us miss out on some pretty great awesomeness (if helping and not hurting the local economy).

I’m not saying I don’t want the authentic experience but I like the idea of being pampered in a lovely environment while catching my bearings, writing and getting over jetlag. Sure I like to keep an eye out for a local I can offer to pay for a day of taking me around for a more legit experience. Setting up a tour beforehand for day two or three, however, gives me something to latch onto for a better sense of direction. Speaking of that, I want to do the excursions, retreats (tantra, yoga and other kinds of wellness are currently catching my attention) and volunteer. In example of one of the reasons why I want to book a little bit of my trip beforehand, both times I tried to find volunteer opportunities within a week or two of go time through Workaway, it didn’t work out. Volunteering abroad and supplementing part of my food and board with it was one of my main goals. I am still pretty bummed about that and don’t want it to happen again.

So here we are. Currently deep in the trial-and-error phase, what is feeling right at this exact moment is a couple days of R&R with pampering and writing in between venturing out into the grit. Yes to recover but more than that, to process. I hate admitting and am finally giving into the fact that I’m more high-maintenance that I want to be. Please don’t tell my dad. He’ll never stop teasing me.
There’s different ways to be high-maintenance and mine lies in anxiety. Something now excessively better than in the past thanks to an unexpected side affect from my seizure meds, Lamotrigine, but still there. I have an exciting personality that brings magic to the situations and people around me but the flip to that is that I’m not relaxed enough to handle traveling on a super-budget or nonstop.

I’m really homesick. I’m sure due to the excessive hardships of this trip ever since the pick-pocket incident. Still, I’m excited for a week in London visiting my friend Emma. Something that would have been canceled if the airline had let the flight be changed or refunded. Also, while the situation is now calling for a separate trip to Paris instead of continuing on there now, I have an excuse to hop over to Rome and Barcelona for a couple of weeks when I do finally make it. Hopefully June.

Let’s take a step back to the end of my last post with this trip and get you up to speed. It feels like a lifetime since I’ve last checked in with all of you Free Robin Flyers! As that usually means, so much has happened. Please keep in mind that I may get times and days wrong as I share the following stories. Both seem to have the magic affect of getting jumbled as well as lost when traveling.

On my last night in Shanti Phuket, a new friend I had previously met in SF through GLT (Girls Love Travel) made her way from India for a one-night slumber party. We talked about some of the hardships of setting off on our adventures, something that is a relief to be able to relate to and talk about when hanging with other travelers. We also talked about her time in India, a little about us going to Burning Man together and ventured out for some traditional Thai food with conversation turning to nutrition and weight (which happens too often) and writing. Specifically how I should pick up more travel writing for the perks and portfolio. So true, though I’m scared of it hurting my own writing. After that, we took a rainy walk through Bangla Road (just for the show and shock of it) and did some shopping (bleck). We even considered a full moon party for a brief moment but it was raining, expensive and not even a full moon.

Parting the next morning for her to venture off to Phi Phi and I to Krabi, I realized when getting off the ferry that I had picked an Airbnb far away from the area I wanted to be in. Instead of staying at the coast with so much of what the island has to offer, I had chosen an Airbnb close to the airport which ended up being on the other side of the island. After being dupped into an insanely priced 1,500 tuk tuk ride (only to realize after that the reason the woman who got me likely wanted to take a picture with me because I was such a sucker), I got to the hotel, if you could call it that, I was going to be staying at. The room was a barren white cement block with the essentials. Air conditioning, a small fridge and a decent bathroom. Something I was about to be very thankful for.
While nothing exciting, and the five flights of stairs up were pretty rough with my 75 lb bag, the room actually seemed pretty standard for what I was seeing in the price range. What wasn’t OK was that the building was only maybe a quarter built and there was construction all day long. So much for getting any rest.
A few hours after checking in, I ade my way to a traditional Thai restaurant that consisted of a dirt floor, plastic picnic tables outside and a meal that cost the equivalent of $1.50 USD or less. It was there that the fates brought me some of the unexpected magic of traveling as I ended up in a total impromptu date.

An attractive man of Indian descent who was originally from the UK but now working in finance in New York, highly educated and traveling in between jobs (I was soon to find out) walked by. Before finding his way to my table, I had noticed him. What’s more, I could feel chemistry even though we hadn’t even made eye contact yet.
Stopping just after me, he looked around as he unconvincingly pondered where to sit and (to no surprise) took the table directly across from me. Wasting no time, he asked if my food was good to which I replied he was welcome to try it. He followed by asking if he could join me and bought a beer to share, though I politely refused, which should have tipped me off as to what was about to come. The night was filled with great conversation about his career in finance and my background in it along with my lifestyle. He found it fascinating and I found his stability and success sexy. Had the fate of bad food not set in, I’d imagine we would have stayed out, or maybe in (wink, wink) all night.
Talking more, we found out he was staying at the same place and had the same flight to Chiang Mai the next day. Exciting potential continued to unfold until my stomach hadn’t started to turn around 7:45 PM. Knowing what was coming but hoping I was wrong as the nausea grew, I told him I wasn’t feeling well and had to go back. He paid the bill and walked me back in the rain, I gave him a quick hug and hurried up the stairs.
It wasn’t even five minutes before I started violently throwing up. The first time was already enough to shock me with how much food and liquid I had in my body. I didn’t think I’d even consumed that much over the whole week let alone just one day. Continuing to get sick every five minutes, sharp pains had me screaming and moaning out of unconsciousness every time I managed to literally pass out. At some point after that I was on the toilet with the bucket in my hands and had a high fever. Fighting to stop myself from losing consciousness for longer than the few seconds I already had been at a time, I would only move to dive into bed a few feet away soaking in sweat in an effort to stop myself from hitting my head. Never allowing my body to last there longer than ten minutes, I was close to laying on the shower floor with the water running. Looking back, I probably should have.

The adventure continues…

Posted in Free Bohemian Fly, Inspiration, Travel | 2 Comments

Thailand Take Two

Headed back to Thailand via Singapore Airlines, signs of a rough road ahead started a few hours before the first flight when one of my actual eyeballs swelled up and went devil-red. Exhausted from only getting three hours of sleep the night before that 20+ hour day of travel, good lord was I uncomfortable once finally making it to my seat on the plane.The idea that airlines discriminate against weight and height isn’t exactly a new idea. As my knees dug into the seat in front of me, I spilled over into the aisle and chair next to me while dealing with both a cold caught on the first of three legs (WHY did I forget a mask) and someone’s rotten gas (do these people not think the rest of us are hit or do they just don’t care?) and a woman who, in addition to thinking it fine to cut in line at a transfer, thought it a good idea to get a window seat when she liked to constantly ring the attendants again and again and again (I was embarrassed to even be sitting in her row) for more tea and water along with getting up to pee and stretch long enough for the woman in between us and myself to have to get up every hour. So much for sleep.

Taking a step back, it’s important to point out that I experienced my first piece of amazing kindness from a stranger when my rideshare driver took me all the way to the SFO airport instead of just to the BART train to get there. I was happy to be able to gift him my AUX cord in return. Gold for drivers.

Back to the flight, all this already but I was on my way. Not just specifically back to my belongings and pal Pariny (and the rest of the crew still there) at Shanti Lodge in Phuket but, most importantly, to making a real commitment to this new lifestyle. After all the sacrifice of myself and those in my life, I owe it to us.

In times of emergency overseas, especially when inexperienced with them, it’s not so surprising that they cause a kind of vulnerability and panic I’ve never experienced before. Already providing a platform for those feelings, just getting started in this lifestyle means that I haven’t yet figured out a solid income flow that falls in line and suits me. Shit, last year was my first time venturing out to figure out what this lifestyle will even be. I was on an incredibly tight budget then so when the stereotype of a white-trash woman (for lack of a more compassionate description and yes, giving into a little bit of anger and resentment) who I thought I was helping out didn’t pay me the second half of money owed from buying my car, I didn’t have the expected funds to get to the work/volunteering I had set up in Chiang Mai through Workaway. Fighting the urge to stick my tail between my legs and run back to California, I turned to my mom for comfort and to hopefully lend me the $200 I needed until I got it sorted (the woman paid me after back in the states when the damage had already done). Instead, Mom played on my panic and put me more than five times as much in the hole by convincing me to go back immediately with the only loan she would offer in order to make her feel better. Back to the states.
Better for her but extremely damaging for me.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find my way to letting that go. I hope so.

Take two. This time abroad and I’m pickpocketed in Phi Phi followed by lost walking for hours on a soon-to-be infected gash on my foot after no one was at my hostel to let me in. There I was again stranded with no money or bank card. Thank God they didn’t take my phone and I didn’t have my passport on me. Also, at least this time I have travelers insurance that will eventually come through, though the American embassy advised it best to get money Western Unioned in order to fly back to the states to take care of it. The process will take a while and be a pain; especially from here. So much for going to see my friends in London and Paris, though I kind of hope I can’t get a refund or exchange on the flight so I can at least just go see them, even if we’re financially grounded from being able to go do anything beyond hang out at their places. So much, also, for giving my mother a second chance as she (unintentionally) made things worse.

At least she finally declared that her and our father now need my siblings and I to be the ones stepping up to take care of them. Lovely timing as always, but honestly, I needed to hear it. The transition was well underway but in reality, I needed to be told in order to switch over and truly step up.

It’s important to point out that, while my mom pushes the hell out of my buttons and doesn’t have the best people skills, she is a wonderful and sweet person with loving intentions. She is a giver and puts everyone above herself. Often at the expense of our family but that’s a pretty beautiful price to have to pay. No matter how much it sets me off.

So here I am stuck again. Still a hot-mess who “should” have been better prepared but I’m not freaking out as bad as last time, though it does pack a pretty rough punch when someone says that I should have been more careful or that everything happens for a reason (this isnot directed at any one person). How possible is it to get away if targeted? According to a Facebook friend who has been working in the travel and tourism industry for decades, not likely.

Still, I am proud to be making progress. I also NEEDED to get back since it had been five times longer than originally expected. My soul was dying; I couldn’t wait any longer. Nonstop driving for rideshare just to pay thousands to unexpected fender-benders and tickets. It ft felt like the gods were against me. I was also staying with my awesome but toxic (way too different) family in San Jose instead of being home in the comfort and safety of Ocean Beach, San Diego. Thank goodness for the time in my second home of San Francisco with it’s own Ocean Beach, wine country, Burner events (including my fab Burner buds in the Santa Cruz Mountains and all our hot tub skinny-dipping under the stars) and all the hikes through the beautiful Redwoods. Such a multitude of amazingness in the Bay. Still, there’s no place like home.

Back to my situation now. Yes I’ve had my moments of bleak panic, and thank GOD for Pariny’s help getting back from Koh Phi Phi along with the understanding of Shanti Lodge in letting me rack up a tab, but I’ve been able to stay level-headed (at least more than before) enough to know I’ll figure it out. Even more, I keep trucking on a sense of relief that with every trip that gives me more experience, I’m learning more of what I want and how better to live it. Step one: you put your…uh…I mean..I don’t want to leave America again without at least one separate bank account with $2k in it and someone I trust holding the bank card.

Traumatizing things happen. A new bud I made here at Shanti Lodge this time watched a 20 year old Chinese woman wearing a GoPro fail to be resuscitated after having just drowned. Hearing about that haunts me for him. Even more for the gal’s pal who had only gone onland for a few minutes to use the bathroom and came back to people performing CPR.
Dealing with the aftermath of my pickpocket has had its moments of heartbreak and bleak devastation but over time it will be something of a traveler paying-my-dues story I can laugh at and hold affectionately in a way. Mostly because what I will really remember, and what will impact me most, are the amazing people acting as my angels who have helped. Just like what I remember most of 9-11 and the Women’s March after “he who shall not be named” was elected. The whole thing reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, one I enthusiastically throw out as much as possible, by Mr. Fred Rogers (really his mom):

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

The Frenchman who tried to give me 2,000 bhat, the girls from the UK who told me to come back if I couldn’t find a place, the local gal and girlfriend of the hostile owner I happened to stumble upon who called to at least get me a refund and encouraged me to go to the police station for a report, another man who chased me down with coffee and pastries at dawn and the locals who hung with me until I could get on a ferry, also making me eat, and the local men who bought my ferry ticket along with almost covering my taxi ride back to Shanti. Also trying to get me to eat.

To all of those who express enchantment at this new life of mine, these realities are why I often retort with sarcastic irony. Turning a dream into reality comes with the shit as well as the shine. Maybe not for someone more level-headed and who have magical good luck as well as loads of resources but many of us, especially the bohemian creative types who actually take the plunge, are more of a shit-show. At least in the beginning.

Stuck at Shanti Lodge, I don’t even know if I can call it stuck. Being forced to slow down and be at “home” instead of getting caught up too much in all the touristy stuff is giving me a lot of time to write, do hot Yoga (because I’m outside) and hang with local pals. Thank goodness Shanti has a restaurant and beer (Singha please).

The small gestures that keep me going like walking into my room one day to see it cleaned and the big ones like my saving angels back home Western Unioning me money while this is all sorted. Even other travelers are stepping up and my friends in Europe who, if I can’t change the flight to London, are OK with just hanging at their places instead of going out on the adventures we had been excitedly planning.

So much good. Besides the insatiable need that won’t go away for the lifestyle that has been with most of us bohemian types since the beginning, the moments and experiences of enchantment that are the much-worth-it reason for chasing that dragon. From the little things like the comfort of a Burner book and water cannister with the )’( emblem made by a doctor who works with my mom at Stanford (likely the only reason my uber-religious mom doesn’t think Burning Man is the devil’s work) to even having the time to read or watch movie after movie on the plane to the big things like riding a long-tail boat to hang with monkeys and nighttime swimming with glow-in-the dark brine shrimp to finding intense connection with others who instantly mend our weary souls, there are so, so, so many reasons that tip the scale to YES.

So many good things…

The excitement and exhale of FINALLY being on my way back.

In addition to getting an upstairs room all the way to the back (yay privacy!), getting my own outdoor bathroom this time adorned with outdoor shower, butt blaster (bidet gun) and a piece of artwork I love, which just so happens to be the perfect backdrop for the WAY too many condoms I have. (Ignore the context of just how little that shows me to be getting.)

After walking a mile to Tesco in the heat and dealing with many employees who didn’t want to deal with a farang who doesn’t speak Thai, finally managing to find bug repellant, which I’m convinced doesn’t work, and accidentally squirting it up my nose when doing a sniff-test.

My pal, and a big reason I came back here, Pariny. Favorite word that I taught her: mischievous!

First injury: falling on the gutter cement grate we walk along while finding street food. Had to clean ASAP. Crazy infections here.

Fried seafood cost somewhere around $1.50

Can you see Big Buddha? It’s kinda like ‘Where’s Waldo?”. This is from the street outside Shanti Lodge.

Just put your laundry out and when you come back, it’s washed and folded. MAN that feels good!

Always with my Burner regalia.


Can you see Pariny in my glasses?

P lookin sexy as the tuktuk took us through the rainforest to avoid traffic on our way back from the beach. Amazing!

Street food costs maybe $1.50 and Phuket is supposedly more expensive than most of Thailand.

Second war-wound later to get infected after hours lost-walking. Stepped on a big boulder in the ocean when getting back into the long-tail.

Boho guide love

Long-tail crew. Pretty sure the man with his arms up and women with glasses on are the American gypsy scammers who targeted and robbed me. Dun, dun, dun…

Dinner with a fire dancer show a couple hours efore the ‘ol pick pocket incident.

Pariny doing my hair for no reason at all beyond us hangin (girl needs to charge).

Video of a quiet and rainy night at Shanti

What I’m learning so far: I don’t think I have the right personality type to be quite as go-with-the-flow as fellow travellers have suggested. At least not yet. I need the safety and security of prepaid plane tickets, reservations, multiple bank accounts and insurance. I also don’t yet know how long I really want to be gone at a time.

Right now I’m incredibly homesick but also feeling unsafe in a way and haven’t been to my first home (San Diego) or in a peaceful place (AKA: away from my family) for months.
As far as funding, we’ll see what happens with my writing. If not that, maybe I’ll teach English abroad. Once the book I wrote is out (just started submitting to agents again this week), I’ll likely monetize this blog and am thinking about studying User Interface as a solid backup.

Our title changes as our story does and I just don’t know mine beyond the generality of travelling bohemian Burner and writer. Of course I wish I could just jump to the easier and less scary place in this lifestyle but, as most of us have learned, the good in one stage often doesn’t come with us at the next. For now and as I learn my limits, the pictures and feedback from other writers and travelers help remind me about all the awesome and magic.

I’ll get there eventually. I’m good at not being good at stuff but even better at never giving up. That, folks, is how we get there. Or (hopefully not literally) die trying…

Posted in Free Bohemian Fly, Inspiration, Travel | 3 Comments

Being Big Abroad

Let’s start with the biggest plus I’ve found in regard to being directly related to being bigger when traveling. I’m safer. Betcha never thought of that, huh?
Sure there’s going to be haters out there, and some may be so severe as to cause physical harm (I’ve heard stories), but I feel nowhere near as targeted as I did when my body was more of what is considered standard to be attractive. Luckily I have enough redeeming qualities in looks, style and personality (a big smile goes a long way) to be treated somewhat decently and still have enough people attracted to keep me satisfied. Most important to the freedom of traveling alone is that these traits, especially my body, provide a middle ground of being invisible enough (not physically, I’m 5’10”) to have more freedom to travel alone.

Having experienced the invisible line between fat vs not fat, I have found peace. In my bigger periods, I see someone who passionately indulges in life and partakes in as much as I can. Also that I’m likely living in a place that doesn’t easily provide the healthiest lifestyle and who has probably gone through something as of late.
Yes I deal with the constant challenge of binging, but I have also come to a place of self-forgiveness, love and patience in order to make peace, balance and empower myself. Like many San Diegians, I work on balancing naughty social time by eating as clean as I can when not (with exception to my weakness for cheese and wine). This is a part of the foundational wellness routine that I am always trying to get back to. Also my constantly changing fitness routines which currently includes hiking and yoga.

Over all, I’d imagine I have a healthier diet than most Americans and am confident that I’m above average for fitness. The reason I point that out is the bottom line that being big doesn’t mean I’m lazy or living a more unhealthy lifestyle than anyone else.
Subjected to a hate and prejudice that is still way too accepted, those of us who are living large likely have a story to our size that goes far beyond the general misconceptions that are looked on with disgust. Genetics, medication, illnesses, trauma and much more. For those who shame others for their weight, I wonder how they would feel if they knew that the person who they are focusing such ugliness at has gained most of the weight from a cancer medication. Or the trauma of loosing a child. Or even someone who has already worked incredibly hard to lose 100 lbs and only has 50 more to go.
If I hear someone laughing on the street, I still become paranoid it’s about me. The likelihood of that being true is depressingly higher than someone of a smaller nature. On planes, I constantly worry about the person next to me being unhappy with having to sit by me and miserable as we both try make due with seats only compatible for those of a medium build or smaller. Let’s not even go into the pain of my knees being shoved into the seat in front of me thanks to my height. Here’s to hoping that greed of airlines is addressed in regard to discrimination against anyone who is over 5’7″ and 150 lbs.
Back to my personal struggle with weight, anxiety has caused most of my life to be something of a nightmare. Finally finding a medication that worked (Celexa), I was so worried about the increased weight prejudice that would come into play if a potential side effect of weight gain took hold that I got off of it. Ironically, a process that caused me to gain 30 lbs. Add to that losing my dog who my life revolved around and I gained another 30 lbs. It’s hard to care about what you’re doing to your body when everything in your existence is black.

One of the most surprising things I hear, and on a somewhat normal basis, is how others can’t imagine me ever being insecure. No matter how many times I hear it, I’m dumbfounded. Yes I have more confidence than most people, but constantly being hit still knocks me down. Travel means I am putting myself directly in harms way for even more ridicule than normal. In the first month I was in Thailand, the woman who ran my place and adopted me as an honorary daughter for the time made multiple comments about how I needed to lose weight. A local man who was a raging and sometimes violent alcoholic constantly made comments about my weight despite what most seemed to believe was a crush on me. A Scottish woman also visiting told me that I am the only real free spirit that she’s ever met and that I’m an inspiration. Lovely but still hurt considering I’m pretty sure she felt that way in regard to the fact that I’m so confident and skinny dip a lot despite my size. It didn’t hurt that she was so impressed by that, I’m glad to be that influence on others, but because it’s so true. One of her friends, by the way, would barely even acknowledge me. What exactly is it that’s so threatening about a little extra curve and cuddle?
Traveling big can be hard in multiple ways. Being in another country means I don’t know how much I can safely stand up for myself. It also means I have very little control over when or what I eat. Kind of hard to follow diet patterns when not having much of a clue as to what I’m putting in my mouth. *insert immature chuckle here*
When I had lost a lot of weight, I felt much more targeted by men and more women were surprisingly nasty to me. I didn’t feel safe skinny dipping or with many of the other body freedoms I had before and I didn’t feel comfortable with my body as a beautiful piece of our humanity with sexuality just being a part of it. Instead, it seemed like it was the only thing most cared about. In relation, I also didn’t feel like I had as much of a voice any more, as most no longer appeared to be interested in seeing past my packaging.
It sucked.

I always want to encourage myself and others to focus on out health and wellness first. Yes, it is healthier to not have excessive fat, but there’s more to overall wellness. Part of which includes being forgiving, honest and compassionate about doing the best we can with what we’ve got. For now, I’m going to focus on the details of my body that I do enjoy. Especially those I will lose if I loose. Firm skin, less sagging, round and pleasantly clump, etc. I appreciate that the men who are attracted to me are more likely to be confident in who they are and are attracted to as opposed to what society tells them to want or who to be. Most of all, I am thankful for the role model I can be to others in regard to learning how to love, live and stick up for themselves.

As far as travel goes, well, if I need a break from the weight-related hardships, I can always head to a country that prefer amazons. Tahiti, Samoa, Jamaica and Fiji to name an awesome few.

Posted in Free Bohemian Fly, Inspiration, Wellness | 11 Comments

To the So Many of You That I’m So Thankful For

After a meeting where we were told that the matchmaking company we worked at in San Francisco was going under, Brandi looked at me and, without thinking blurted out “I’m going to Africa!”
My impulsive response was “I’m going to finish writing my book!”

We both did.

Brandi isn’t in the picture anymore. Nor is most anyone who I was close to in my not-so-long-ago previous life, a sad symptom of a nomadic and changing lifestyle, but for a while we were each other’s inspiration and fierce support system. Or as we called it, “fate pirates”.

From time to time I take a peek back in to see how she’s doing. Still proud of and happy for her, maybe our different worlds will collide again one day. Maybe not. Regardless, I will always cherish her as the friend who I believe to have had the most in common with in regard to passion, beliefs, desired lifestyle and way of thinking. We are both forces of nature and I miss how she influenced me.

The two angels, closest and most supportive people I’ve ever had in my life are two sisters who go by the names of Kati and Nikki. I also rarely talk to at the moment but still feel are right here with me have been my compass for over twenty years. Even through the times of worry and just plain not understanding, those two ladies exude love and support in a way that many never get to experience.

My parents and sister may have been distant most of my adult life, and have had a hard time being supportive at times, but have also been fiercely supportive when they are. They are still three of the best and most loving people most ever meet. We don’t have much in common but they love me and are a part of why I have been able to realize this dream of writing and volunteering my way around the world. Even if my mom has pretty much told me she’d rather just not know about the easily over 50% of my life and details about me that are so different than her own. *chuckle*

Besides these, the most foundational people of my life, there are many people who pop into my mind as those who I have been close to and who have been supportive in helping me get to the point of this lifestyle that remain a dream. From friends who let me stay with them to those who sat by my side in the hospital to those who hooked me up with a lead on a job. Even the countless amazing people I meet driving for rideshare have provided a level of support, inspiration and company I can’t imagine getting here without.

I’ve mentioned those who were unsupportive a couple times but not enough about the people who have been. To those who have supported me, stood by my side and inspired, my hat is off to you.

As a spinoff and in the vein of gratitude and staying positively influenced, this post makes me think of Jim Rohn’s quote about our being the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Where I’m at in my story is quite lonely and I would love to find people who could stick in for the long haul but have to be wary of the right impact potential friends and lovers present. That being said, I am excited to believe that I just may have finally developed myself, my foundation and reached my goals to be ready to find those people.

I ask you to reflect on those who have been amazing to you and the top five qualities important to those you surround yourself with. List both in comments.

My five:
1.Passionate about traveling the world for a few years and open to where it leads, whether to one spot or a lifetime of wanderlust and adventure. Flexibility and open-mindedness is a must.
2. Into doing good/volunteering. Especially in the areas of philanthropy and animals.
3. Cultured, educated and a compatible sense of humor as language of love.
4. Lifestyle that is about non-judgmental humility, diversity and a balance of wellness that includes fitness, nutrition, spirituality, creativity, community and good times. (Yes, I know this one is pushing it in regard to listing it as just one.)
5. MUST LOVE DOGS! (And unicorns, of course.)

Posted in Free Bohemian Fly, Inspiration, Travel | Leave a comment

Less than a month until I head back to Thailand!

Recap for you new followers and update for the seasoned…
Back in May of 2015, I lost my dog and it destroyed me. That was the big life event that prompted me to once again go after my dream of traveling around the world. Like everything, it’s been ten times harder and took ten times longer than expected. Struggling against my old life, ego and much of my supposed support-system being less than supportive, I set out to Phuket, Thailand last April. While there I made amazing connections, though staying mostly stuck to my laptop writing and trying to land full-time remote marketing and writing work There are some organizations based in San Francisco Forbes has listed as best places to work and I’ve had my eye on for a while. (Shout out to Automattic!)
Anxiety over such a big life change and being stuck to my laptop stopped me from getting around Thailand. Also because I had to come back early when the woman I had tried to help out by selling my Mercedes to for $800, the car I had put $2,300 into the year before, didn’t pay me. Devastated and pressured by a conservative mother who could win awards for worry, I put myself a couple grand more in airline debt to come back a month early. After a last night of staying up all night in the pool with my awesome new pal Emma (who I will be subsequently be visiting in London come April), the woman who manages the awesome place in Phuket I stayed at, Shanti Lodge, and who adopted me saw how upset I was and offered to hold my belongings until my return. They’re still there…I hope.
Coming back, I was finally ready to admit that working remote full time would mentally keep me more in California than allowing me to be immersed in the countries I’ll be in. Not hard to imagine, that would likely set me up for a huge fail.
Turning down a couple good job offers and playing with the ideas of teaching ESL abroad (something I constantly hear others living this lifestyle do) or picking up more freelance writing and marketing work, I’ve decided through talking with many people in SF who have done this, self-reflection and the unexpected financial opportunity driving for rideshare has provided me, I am going to focus on getting the book I wrote out by Feb. 8th, 2018 (my 40th birthday) and volunteering all over the world. At first I wanted to be gone for much longer periods of time than the three to six months I’m planning for now. I’m sure it will change come even more experience but what seems to be working best so far is to head back to America for a few months at a time to earn money through rideshare, process my last experiences in the safety of home (San Diego) and spend time with my loved ones. Especially my dad who is sick and the process at which he is deteriorating has increased.
I have already grown and changed so much that I’m fascinated at the idea of who I will be a year from now when I am much farther in. Until then, the plan is to make it to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, London, Paris, Japan, Bali and India with three stops in the US intermittently to earn money and go to Burning Man, be home for Christmas and to go on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera with anyone who will come for my 40th b-day. After that, who knows. Maybe a safari in Africa? Then again, maybe I’ll hit Central and South America for six months with a focus on learning to speak Spanish fluently. Finally. As long as I make my way around the world, the plan can change as much as it likes as far as I’m concerned. Reminds me of one of the things I hear writers comment about their books. At some point, they take on a life of their own and we’re just along for the ride. As always, so much love for those of you who are along for mine.

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Balancing Beautiful and Bullshit

In the moments of finally achieving my goals, I want to be proud of who I was in the battles fought to get there. I want to feel like I earn them. Like I deserve them. I remember thinking when getting to those happy places in the past that I’d do better in the lows the next time. Baby steps. Here I am again and, while euphoric about improvement, am still not as satisfied as I hoped to be. Even through such amazing happiness and pride of this lifestyle change, I find myself fighting the emotions of anger, being bitter, resentfulness and just plain being worn out. Yes, less than before, but still enough to bother me. Logically I know that all I have and am going through is what it takes to change, transition and continue turning dreams into reality. Logically. As we’ve all experienced, my heart and head are at war and, while emotions are taking less control then they did in the past, they still seem to be robbing me of the honor and beauty of this part of the experience. I’m getting better, and thank God for that, but I still struggle with having to acknowledge and admire improvement instead of being disappointed for not reaching the finish line before going through the pains of running the entire marathon. Damn that being human thing.

I often wonder how much more I’d enjoy the process and how much less I’d be getting beat up if I was one of the lucky ones born into a community of similar personalities and life experiences. People I can celebrate and mourn with, who understand and those who already have paved enough of a trail to give me direction. I’ve experienced more of those who qualify as mainstream and think different is wrong. Many who let their not understanding turn into negative judgment and talk about me behind my back. Human nature is human nature. I’ve gained a lot of understanding about how this all works and can usually brush off those I don’t know. More hurtful are those who at first use me for social status or support and then ghost without putting in even the slightest effort to talk to me about what ever is bothering them, let alone try to be supportive of our differences and my needs as well. The ones who I think will always manage to devastate me most are those who were at one time my biggest cheerleaders and best friends. As adults, most of us know what it feels like to look back on people who we once couldn’t imagine being anything less than our everything. The pain of losing their love, close connection and support will always be there but in the balance of good and bad, I’m happy I will never stop loving them. I never do once someone has gotten there in my heart.

Experiences such as the examples given will always be hard, of course, but I have a premonition that most who hurt me along the way will be more lumped into a general “those” category. Not surprising, it’s the rare few who are proud and try to support my adventures in the hard times, especially when it’s a stretch to relate, whose faces I will remember. Starting my travels and becoming a Burner (as in Burning Man) has shown me that the strong support system of those who speak a more similar language and lifestyle will slowly come. It’s unfortunate that it makes me feel a bit like I’m selling out to become a part of communities more similar to who I am instead of continuing to stand strong and representing to communities of those who are different. In an effort to be better to myself, however, I practice reminders that it’s time and that I can be proud of that being my history. Also that my current direction is absolutely me and not outside influence.

In the same way volunteering saves my soul and helps me process, I try to visualize myself talking to those who still have the spark in their eye and believe they can be and do anything they want. To be a part of their strength to combat all those who will try to kill that spirit in them. I still remember the whale trainer at Sea World who killed my dream as a little kid by telling me that it’s really hard to become a trainer and not as great as it seems.
I want to be everything I needed and never found. To show others the truth of how it can really happen. Be an example of how to handle the pain and hardship of it and how to see the beauty. Too often in every day life we hear generic comments about it being hell to get to success and there being a lot of failing before finding success but rarely the details that humanize it. I want to point out how it took me 17 years to finally change my life into that of a writer traveling and volunteering my way around the world. How the trigger to finally make it happen being when I lost the dog who was the center of my life. To tell specifics of how many times I tried and failed. The times I was distracted or tried to give up. How I didn’t understand why it was all necessary parts of getting to my goal, when I finally saw how it fit in and why. I want to talk about the crushing feelings of being humiliated, judged and turning down amazing jobs when unable to buy groceries. I want to talk about how much it sucked, the insecurities, doubt, support I couldn’t have made it happen without and the pain. Also the brief moments that showed me how awesome those moments were. At first not often but as time went on, more and more. For instance, my first goal of leaving my beloved home of San Diego for a time in order to stay with my family in the Bay Area was to work in San Francisco and earn more money. Without expecting it, my first reason has become about helping with my sick father and nice as well as our family getting closer than we ever have been. As far as travel, I didn’t expect to go back to Europe for years and am now going in a few months to visit friends I made in Thailand and at Burning Man. Ironically, probably even to stay in Barcelona for a few weeks. The place that my first goal was to move to six months after San Diego in 2000.

At the beginning of finally making this lifestyle change, I wasn’t ready to accept giving up a traditional job (mostly because of my ego) or the idea of traveling free with little to no booked flights or tickets. Through the steps of experience and feedback of those with actual related know-how, I am driving for rideshare to save in order to write and volunteer my way around SE Asia and Europe for a few months. I have found my way to actively trying to stop myself from picking up too much freelance work in order to keep on track and have learned to go with the wave so much that, when I accidentally booked a flight from Thailand to London a month early, I decided to go with it.

“You’ve watched my descent. Now watch my rising.”- Rumi

Video: I meant sunrise

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Being a Writer, Adventurer and Craving a Mentor

“Never stop looking for what’s not there.”
My favorite line of Monte Wildhorn, a character played by Morgan Freeman in the movie The Magic of Belle Isle when he’s saying goodbye to the girl he’s been mentoring as a writer. All kinds of yes.

Of course it related to me as a writer but also as a dreamer and adventurer. Experience is teaching me, as it eventually teaches most, that many of the most amazing experiences are further down the path of where we start. So yes, I do need to keep looking and doing if I want to stay on the path where the magic lives.

Back to what Monte said, I’ve always craved a mentor. As much as I wish it to be a person in the flesh, I have only found small moments through the arts and different communities; never a specific person. I have had to become my own mentor for that, something that both saddens and makes myself proud. Now that I am finally living a full life that is true to myself instead of the life other people told me to live, I am finding communities I have more in comment with and am optimistic about what is to come. I am finding support, learning and finding a flow that is leading me to the place I want to be. Good or bad, I am a writer. Easy or doing it hard way, I am a traveler and adventurer. I am doing it and have made it my life, therefore I am. For now, that will have to be enough.

Me yapping about being a writer and adventurer while on a hike in the woods.

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