If you follow me on social media you’ll know I’m about to embark on an extended trip to Thailand. It’s not so much a holiday as I plan to stay there for a while and work remotely. I’ve booked a flight that’s supposed to bring me back on the 30th of April but will most likely push that out once I’m there.
So, when do I want to come back? I’m not sure, actually. It won’t be forever, but I kind of just want to float around like an old Checkers packet in the wind, going wherever I want to on a whim. Being able to be so ‘casual’, however, requires a LOT of planning.
Last year I ended up in Chiang Mai. For those who don’t know it, Chiang Mai is this gorgeously green, temple-dotted city in north of Thailand known for its amazing foodie scene. It’s a place where orange robe-clad monks amble around (always with a cell phone in hand) and you can indulge in delish Thai dishes for around 50 Baht (R19) a pop. It’s very safe, so you can walk pretty much everywhere, but if you do need a car you can hop in an uber. (A 20-minute trip will set you back less than twenty rand!)
After hanging out in Chiang Mai, I embarked on a gruelling two-day jungle trek on its outskirts and it was there, while lying on a dirty mattress in a little wooden hut, that I knew I’d come back, but I didn’t know how I’d make that happen. After my trip, I sat in a restaurant feeling bruised and broken but very happy as to what I’d just pulled off. I was also incredibly sad to leave. I have so much love for magical Thailand – it’s beauty, it’s people, the food, everything – and it’s become a bit like a drug that I want more of. I sat watching the ‘digital nomads’ (God, I hate that word!) around me. They were tanned and relaxed yet tapping away on their MacBook Airs in between sips of mango smoothies and thought ‘I could do this too. Couldn’t I?’
Fortunately, the universe is generally very kind to me and a bunch of stars aligned in such a way that I could make it happen. For one, I work as a freelance writer for ads, mags and TV so I’m always juggling multiple jobs. One of them always requires me to go into an office for a regular briefing but, it just so happens that I currently only have fully remote gigs on my plate. Secondly, my lease ran out and my housemate and I decided not to renew as our rent got hiked up to crazy town. Travelling, which means paying to stay in hotels, while also paying rent would have been financially impossible.
I’ve now put all my stuff into storage (more details on that in my next post), have handed over the key to my now empty flat and am officially homeless. I’ll be staying with friends on the weekend and then, on Sunday (the 1st), I fly out to Thailand. I’ve booked two nights in Bangkok followed by a week in Chiang Mai. After that, I have absolutely no freaking clue as to what happens next. Can we get an OMFG?!
The first thing most people say to me when I tell them about my plans is ‘Oh wow, you’re very brave’ but I’d like you to know that I’m also terrified. Like, terrified! Like I said, I haven’t booked accommodation as far as my first week in Chiang Mai, I’m going all on my own and don’t have anybody there. This could be the best thing I’m done in ages, or the dumbest. While I’ve travelled solo before, I’m not a super savvy backpacker-y type of person. I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t really know what I’m doing. But hey, you only live once, right? (Or possibly die, curled up in a ball outside a hotel that won’t let you in because you’ve lost your credit card. Or maybe inside the hotel. From choking on a piece of dim sum and not having a travel buddy to perform the Heimlich maneuver on you.)
Either way, regardless of how this turns out, I’ll be documenting it every step of the way, so no, to answer the big question coming my way, I definitely won’t stop blogging.
Again, my plans (or sheer lack of them) might sound a little insane but I know I’m on the right track. For ages, the idea just knocked around in my brain and I kept pushing it aside because it didn’t seem ‘rational’ and there were too many perceived obstacles that stopping me from going. But this year, my resolution was to do more of what I want and less of what I have to. And this is something I really want to do. So, I made a list of all the ‘big’ things that were stopping me and gradually found solutions to all of them. Then, when I finally gathered up the balls to book my ticket, all the little things started taking care of themselves.
Now, I hate to get all karma chameleon on you, but you have to know that it was only once I stopped being a big pussy and took those first few steps that the universe started meeting me half way. Suddenly, all these random little coincidences started occurring that have helped me on my way and now I feel stupid for not having made the first move a while back. You can’t sit back and just wish for something and expect the hands of fate to just hand it over. You’ve got to get up and walk towards your plan, even if you can’t see exactly where it’s leading because that’s when you start to get a glimpse of all the new doors that start opening. And they really do open!
After I booked my ticket, things didn’t really seem real, but then my beautiful Lipault backpack arrived. I wanted a tough yet mooi-looking laptop backpack specifically (not as easy to find as you’d think) to carry my MacBook and have a free hand to drag my suitcase around. I also love that it’s a zexy red, the colour of courage. It’s also the colour that’s most easy for rescuers to spot should I fall down a ravine. And the fact that it’s just as gorgeous as it is practical means I can easily trade it for tampons and a comb should I end up in an all-female prison for the packet of Adco-dol I plan on stuffing into it. (Codeine is illegal in Thailand.)
The moment I slipped it onto my back and looked in the mirror, I cried and cried and cried. WHAT AM I DOING?! And then I was glad for it. For the trepidation I can feel but won’t yield to, because biggest decisions I’ve ever made, the ones that turned out to be the best, where also the scariest.
If you’re currently in a similar position to where I was, sitting with a nagging idea but not acting on it, I urge you to get up and just fucking do it. I mean, think about the worst-case scenario. If things end up in a ball of fiery pooh, you’ll be better equipped for a second attempt or least get to give the world’s most horrible feeling, ‘what if?’ one helluva burial.
My dad, unknowingly, did a lot to help me get rid of the fear of failure as a kid. I was a fussy eater on the fast track to dying of scurvy because the only thing I ate was cereal. He used to say ‘Just try it. And if you hate it, spit it out.’ Today, I apply that to just about everything. I will try the intimidating new thing. And if I don’t like it, I’ll stop doing it. I will take on the job I’m worried I don’t have the skills for. And if I can’t cut it, I’ll quit and then find something else. I will pack my whole life into boxes to roam solo in a faraway country that pulls at my heart like a magnet until it no longer works out. Then I’ll just come back.
I do tend to live a little recklessly and occasionally screw up. (But boy oh boy, do I live!) Now, however, is the perfect time to do it. Screw up, that is. I’m 37 and still have my 40s… 50s… my 60s… my 70s… and those are all very, VERY long decades where I can be a very boring grown up and do damage control for anything that doesn’t go to plan right now. Those are the years where I won’t be as fit or capable as I am now and, when I’m lying in my bed at night and looking back, this very moment is a time I’ll want to revisit. So I gotta make it good! And you should too! Believe me when I tell you that RIGHT NOW is the very best time to go ‘screw it, let’s do it’
So let’s do it!
I’ll be putting up two ‘prep’ posts in the next bit, showing you how I put my stuff into storage (easier than I thought it would be) as well as the exact cost, cent for cent, of what it takes to bubble wrap your life and trek to Thailand. I think you’ll be surprised how inexpensive it really is and, once I’m there, I’ll actually be saving money. I’ll also be writing about my daily life, the good, the bad and the ugly, so this is me inviting you along. Like I said, I don’t exactly know what I’m doing but I’m going to show you what I do, regardless. It could work out fabulously. Or it could go down in flames. But either way, you’ll get to live vicariously. So here’s to taking a big ole’ motherfucking bite. (Remember, you can always spit it out!)
P.S. While you’re here, pop on over to my John Frieda post. I’m giving away a big ass haircare hamper worth R1 500 and entering is easy peasy.