A little over eight weeks ago, my life as a gypsy commenced when I left Phuket, the place I had come to know as home for two and a half months. Since then, my life has been one of continuous movement and activity. Some days are spent completely in transit from early morning to evening as I move to my next chosen destination.
I have spent hours on different modes of transportation; buses, planes, ferries; hours sitting in uncomfortable seats sometimes my personal space encroached upon by my neighbour. Hours in barely tolerable heat when air-conditioning and the curtains struggle to mute the effect of the mid-day sun beating on the window beside me. I have spent hours waiting for my transportation to depart to my next destination. And hours packing and re-packing my wheelie backpack to ensure everything fits and I do not exceed weight limits. I have spent hours determining how to get from A to B trying to find the right balance between speed and cost and waiting. I have spent hours and hours walking, my favourite way to explore and feel a new city or town, often getting lost but always finding my way. And naturally I have spent hours indulging in my favourite activities, diving, taking photos and writing.
Deciding where to go, how to get there and then actually doing it, is exciting. I am writing my own adventure story every day and living it as well. In my eight weeks as a gypsy I have….
• Detoxed on Koh Phangan, an Island Paradise
• Dived the Perhentian Islands
• Snapped my way around Kuala Lumpur from Chinatown to Palace to Mosques to Petronas Towers to Menarra Tower to browsing books in Kinokuniya to butterfly park to craft shopping
• Climbed 272 steps to see the amazing Batu Caves
• Paid respects to WWII PoW’s at Sandakan Memorial Park and in Kanchanaburi
• Ventured into the wilds of Borneo to see an Orangutan, proboscis monkeys, long-tail macaques and an enormous amount of bird life.
• Spent 6 glorious days diving around Semporna, 18 dives in total, 9 dives of which were around Sipadan, the most amazing diving I have ever experienced
• Temple hopped in Bangkok where I have seen too many Buddha images to mention all of them but most special were the giant golden Buddha, giant reclining Buddha and Emerald Buddha.
• Traversed the Chao Phrya river and its klongs and seen a different way of life
• Patiently endured Bangkok traffic
• Floated around Bangkok’s floating market, survived the crush at Khao San night market and shopped till I dropped at Centralworld
• Enjoyed the afternoon aerobics at Lumphini Park (as a specatator)
• Climbed the steep steps of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) only to remember that I am scared of heights and realise that climbing down is much scarier (looking down) than climbing up
• Touched a cobra and watched men fighting snakes
• Unexpected found myself lost in the middle of huge crowds celebrating the Thai Queens’ birthday
• Drank the yummiest cocktails at Bamboo Bar at the Oriental Hotel in my very pretty new dress with my lovely dear friend and eaten random street food
• Ridden a bicycle, yes pedal power, all around Kanchanaburi which just happened to be hotter than Bangkok
• Walked the Bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway
• Climbed to the top of the 7 tiered Erawan Waterfalls (in my birkenstocks) and then swam the beautiful pools of fresh water with the nibbling fish
• Patted tigers and bathed an elephant
• Ridden a bicycle, yes more pedal power, around the ruins of ancient Sukhothai which happened to be even hotter than Kanchanaburi.
And all of this, I have done under my own speed and direction
But I arrived in Chiang Mai, approximately 10 hours north of Bangkok, nearly 7 days ago, exhausted. My desire to see and experience this charming city is strong, but the energy to enable the fulfillment of my desire is so heavily depleted, it is almost non-existent. I wake in the mornings and eventually drag my heavy body out of bed. I walk around town slowly, willing one foot in front of the other. I try to stay present and follow conversations but the tiredness fogs my brain and even if I am able to follow, the attempt to do so drains my low energy stores even further.
I feel my body want to crumple in a heap and lie down wherever I may be, sitting in a crowded coffee shop or walking through a crowded market. The tiredness sits behind my eyeballs, wanting to cast its dark net of sleep over my sight and pull me into a deep and peaceful rest. But I don’t allow it. My wanting to make the most of my short time in this city, a place I may never return to, acts as a drive to keep me going. My brain constantly chatters in the background “you should do this, you should do that, you should see everything, you should make the most of your time here, you shouldn't waste the opportunity”. But for all the shoulds, my body and my soul crave rest and deep stillness.
When I stop and listen to my innermost core, it gently whispers, “rest, be still, be kind to yourself, you don’t have to do it all”. The longer I ignored this and indeed fought this, the more tired and exhausted I became. I have been living my life as a short-term holiday maker but I am a long-term traveller. I have been attempting to sprint over a long distance instead of maintaining the pace of a marathon runner. A sprinter cannot make the distance I intend to traverse.
So, finally, I gave in and listened to my inner longing. I gave myself permission to do nothing and to enjoy doing nothing. Hours have been spent enjoying massages, drinking coffee, eating, and watching life happen before me. And finally after 7 days of exhaustion, I feel the fog of tiredness lifting and my sense of adventure and excitement return.
It’s not only been the rest that has helped, the universe has stepped in and reminded me not to plan too far ahead and to take things as they come. I had the next few months planned out, Cambodia then Indonesia, then a month back in Phuket in preparation for six months in India. I loved knowing which direction I was heading in and feeling excited about my plans for the next few months. But some unexpected news has thrown a cloud of uncertainty over where I will be in a few months time. I have thrown all my cards into the air and am just waiting to see where they fall. And the waiting, the not knowing is exciting! It has helped to further lift the fog of tiredness and reignite the fire inside. I am learning that it doesn’t matter where I go or what I do or how much I do as long as I enjoy the journey and not doing can be far more enjoyable than doing anything at all.