I had made a decision. I was going to buy a one-way ticket to Thailand and travel for as long as I could.
It was almost freeing to finally commit to travelling the world. It gave me something to be excited about. Of course there was some anxiety thrown in for balance. Though, having some direction and a goal to shoot for, made life a bit more interesting.
My final few days at my current job were not one of reflection, relaxation, and reminiscing. At the 11th hour, we were informed by the people above us that we would have to return or dispose of the remainder of our tape library. It became a hectic week of sorting, boxing, and shipping tapes.
If only they could have waited an extra week or two.
With my replacement having received below adequate training, I was tasked with the tape removal project. For someone who has spent 7 years in a desk job where the most amount of physical exercise required of the job was walking down a corridor, this was hard work. I actually enjoyed it, but it was exhausting.
On top of that, I was trying to sell my motorbike that for most of the year was plagued with electrical issues. Two days before I was due to leave the country I picked it up from the mechanic. It seemed to run mostly fine, so I dropped it at a dealer for them to sell, making it their problem.
By the time I had made it to the airport, I was ready to sleep for a week. The lead-up to this trip was not at all what I had expected it would be. As I sat in my middle seat on the plane I didn’t think much about what I was leaving behind. I was excited about the adventures that I had to come but I was also stressed that I still didn’t have a plan beyond the first few days.
I arrived late in the night to the chaos that is Bangkok airport. I had arranged for an airport transfer because I didn’t want to try and work out how to get a train to the city on my first night in a new country. I wandered around the arrival hall for a few minutes before I spotted my driver standing in the most unassuming spot behind a pillar next to an escalator. It was like he didn’t want to be found.
I don’t think he spoke a word of English either as he immediately rang the hostel on his phone and handed it to me, “Mr Walker! Welcome to Bangkok, our driver will bring you to our hotel, is there anything I can help you with at the moment?” This warm and welcoming service is something I’d come to experience everywhere in Thailand.
I awoke early the next morning. I had to make the most of my time in this new city. There was so much to see. During the first few days in Bangkok, I saw all the top sights of the city. The Golden Palace, Wat Pho, Chatuchuk Markets, Jim Thompson House, and of course, the never-ending strip of malls.
I had seen so much but just three days into this trip of a lifetime, I crashed. I couldn’t find the energy to get up and explore the city, to take photos, to film. I just wanted to sleep and do nothing. Who travels to another country to hide in a hostel and not experience the culture, see the sights, eat all the delicious food? I felt like I was wasting this amazing opportunity.
People think that travelling is relaxing and refreshing – it can be. Often times it involves early mornings, long days, lots of walking, and late nights. The lack of routine, the constant planning, and the stress of trying to communicate in a language you don’t understand makes it exhausting. Mentally and physically. I learned quickly that travel can and does take its toll.
So when I crashed after three busy days, it was no surprise. In hindsight, I had been trying to do too much. I had forgotten that the one thing I wasn’t limited by, was time.
I took a breath, a zero-day. I went downstairs for breakfast. I got my daily mango smoothie and waffles from the in-house cafe. The smoothie was delicious, the waffles were a step above average. I grabbed my laptop and spent the morning checking in with friends from home, reading the news and catching up on Survivor. I had no plans to do anything except relax and recharge.
A funny thing happens when you take a step back. You start to see things you didn’t notice before. I met more of my fellow travellers in the hostel. I got dinner with a couple of them. I met some locals who invited me to join them for dinner too. I started to enjoy myself a lot more. I started to experience more of the things I wanted to experience rather than the touristy things.
In a way, I was lucky to have crashed so quickly into my trip. I learned that you need to take breaks. You need to take care of yourself first.
I embarked on this trip as a way to transition back into the creative world. Travel and new cultures are great places to find stories. However, I had gone into this a little too ambitious. I was trying to do too much in such a short amount of time when time was the one thing I could control.
When I slowed down to look around. To watch the locals go about their days. To ask fellow travellers their stories from the road. I found the joy of travel life. I started to learn more about the culture, the food, and in some ways, myself. Most importantly though, I was having fun again.