Archive for the ‘relaxation’ Category

Solo

Location: The World
Soundtrack: Whatever keeps you rockin’.

I’ve never been a solo traveller.

I’ve always traveled with at least one other person.

I was a bit apprehensive about traveling on my own, simply because I’d never done it before. But what point travel, if not to have entirely foreign experiences?

Beach, yo. Image not mine: courtesy of Angela7Dreams at Flickr

My new Spanish compadre Kim and I had a drink late yesterday afternoon. In the middle of the conversation he stopped and looked at me for moment. Then in his Spanglish he said “You look so relaxed, man. At the Jazz bar last night, here today: you are relaxed, yes?”

I grinned. “Sure am.”

And he’s right. I feel like jelly some days, just relaxing. I’m doing what I want to do, at a pace that I’m comfortable with, with the only pressure being a flight I have to catch from Bangkok on the 8th of January at midnight.

I want to eat? I’ll go eat.

Drink beer and read a book for three hours? Done.

Sit on the internet for two hours and write blog posts? Easy.

It’s freedom and choice that I find relaxing.

If this were a longer trip, I think I’d get lonely and really miss companionship.

But I know it’s a short trip, and I’m an active traveller. I don’t like sitting around passively and waiting for things to happen: I’ll make them happen if I want them to.

My favourite part about traveling solo, though, is embodied in this quote:

What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
~ William Least Heat-Moon

You meet people and you talk with them at face value. There’s no baggage, no history. Only an accent tells you where the person is from.

The rest is up to you to decide whether you like this person in front of you, right now, as they are: not as who they remember themselves to be, or as who the people around them treat them. In some ways, that’s the most powerful form of freedom you can have: freedom from history.

Still, there’s a lot to be said about old friends. Just maybe not while you’re on the road.

Halfway through my trip, with 6 days left to go, I can safely say that I’m comfortable traveling solo.

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The Day

Location: Pai
Soundtrack: Fireworks

Dignity.

It’s the only word I could come up with that describes what I experienced last night.

The night sky was full of floating khom loi or sky lanterns/balloons. They often represent the fears and worries of a person floating away – it’s like refreshing your spirit at the end of 2010 as the calender shifts to 2011.

Sky lanterns, and lots of them!Image not mine: courtesy of Takeaway from Wikipedia

The best thing about these balloons, though, is that the larger they are, the more people you need to help you launch it. And you can’t launch one on your own. Read into that what you will about our new years resolutions, which are often made privately.

There was a dignity and a restraint to the celebrations. Children ran around in delight, proud parents watching on. Teens and adults weren’t stumbling around in drug or booze induced hazes.

As I walked the streets, the sudden bursts of pops, fizzes, and sparkles from hand-launched fireworks echoed through the night. The few foreigners I saw had a look of annoyed reservation on their faces. They were promised “the Khao San of the north”. There were a few bars out of town that lived up to the party hype, but they were few and far between.

Instead, we were all part of a dignified celebration of the end of 2010.

I’ll always treasure the memory of standing by the river, leaning against a fence, and looking up at all the sky lanterns as they floated across the stars.

It’s my idyll of how a New Year (or Countdown?) festival should be celebrated.

It wasn’t a gala party in a giant hall filled with strangers.

It was an event to be shared with your loved ones and family, and a time for personal reflection on the past year and resolution about the year ahead.

You might be able to tell that it had a profound effect on me. That’s because it was a turning point in my journey – watching the lanterns and listening to the fireworks, I finally found the clarity I’d been looking for. All it took was a festival in the mountains of Thailand to get me there.

The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.
~ G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)