I have said for the last few years that I need to live on my own island. After years in the desert, it was important for us to be near water. We finally found a few to recommend.
I loved Bali. I am looking forward to the time when I can go back. It's an island that exudes serenity and calm. The people are the wealth of that island,without a doubt. They are warm, friendly, and very spiritual. For them it's a way of life. Every morning the scent of incense wafts through the air, flowers and offerings of fruit or food is in front of each doorway. Women can often be seen making beautiful creations from the flowers and stems of local shrubbery. I'm missing it!
Thailand, the island of Koh Chang, in particular, is absolutely as wonderful but in a different way. Here we found a group of wonderful friends, the expats as well as the Thais. The beaches are beautiful and the jungle, green and inviting. I find it a place where opportunity awaits. It's been a fabulous place to begin working on my second book. I can choose between good Thai food, European food, good music or riding an elephant on any given day.
I must say that having those choices in life is priceless. You don't have to be rich to live an ideal existence - only rich in spirit.
The photo above was taken at the blessing of Crust Bakery. I love the kitten and the monk!
I can only blog when something really hits me and it did this morning.
In the first week of arriving in Thailand, I got the bacterial infection that results from food and water. The western system has been so pasturized that it's difficult to eat foods that aren't 'samely prepared'. What a terrible five days it was. Like having the flu really. I even went to the International Clinic on Koh Chang to make sure I didn't get dehydrated. That cost $400!
Then I got it again about a month later. Only this time it wasn't as bad or as long. Since that time, I have the perfectly functioning system. Better than anytime in my life. I won't go into details but I'm sure you can use your imagination! I'm returning home next week for a month and wondering how my system will react to the American diet. I'll let you know.
Went to Cambodia last week to get my visa renewed. Our great friends from Nashville, Tami and Lep, drove us. My husband was last in Cambodia during the Vietnam war and to say it affected him would be putting it mildly. But it went very smoothly and many of the men hanging around the immigration center were very curious about America. They know New York, Los Angeles, Texas, and Long Beach City (as they refer to it)! We were in Cambodia a total of 30 mins and were so happy to see Lep and Tami waving to us as we walked back across the border into Thailand. I have to admit, I'd like to see a little more of Cambodia one of these days.
Our English friend, Martin Rattigan, is back on Koh Chang for a few weeks. He lives in Spain and works on an oil rig off the coast of Scotland. It's so nice when people come back and so sad when they leave again.
Again, I have to say that the beauty of this island for us has been the wonderful people we have met. It's so cool to ride my motorbike down the road and see at least one person I know passing me in the other direction. It's actually a lot like living in a small town.
My husband, Morrise's youngest brother died this past weekend, and it was so wonderful the way our friends here have supported him. Needless to say, because of the size off the island, word travels fast, and he was very touched by everyone's condolences.
That being said, I'm excited to get back to the States to see my family and all of my friends there. I wish they could all meet.
I've noticed on fb this past week that several friends of ours are doing what we are doing - just following their dreams. One couple is selling everything and traveling the States in their car and a
camper with their pets.
As we were reminded this past week with the passing of Rickey, 49 years old, life is so short!
So here I am in beautiful Thailand, loving the weather (which is really good for my hair and skin), the people (the Thais are really nice and the ex-pats are amazing), and the food. I have to admit I've eaten 15 Cottages Pies (Shephard's Pie to some of of) at Morgan's and I'm making my way to 20 so I get a free one! But last night I ate at Kat e" and it was absolutely fantastic Thai food!
But, there is another side. I am so grateful to be able to ride a motor bike here because it gives me freedom and I love the wind blowing on me as I ride. But, nearly everyone here has had at least one accident. The fatalities in Thailand are extremely high, and in Koh Chang also high. There are some bits of treacherous roads due to the hills and winding 'S' curves and when it rains it's slippery. I've avoided those roads up to now. But I had my accident last week.
I have to admit the truth, I was on the side of the road and barely moving when it happened. I misjudged the side of the road and a rut that ran alongside it, and my bike turned over on it's side. Unfortunately, my leg was under it. But fortunately, I only got some superficial scratches.
Under normal circumstances, my leg would be almost healed now, but in this humid climate, infection is highly probable. I got an infection. So now I have to go to the clinic everyday and get it cleaned and dressed. Even though every one warned me of this and suggested this route, I waited until yesterday to start the treatment.
But this didn't stop me from getting back on this bike and riding. You know what they say.
This photo shows the drive to the main road from my house.
I have been thinking a lot about home. One of the things about living out of the country is you get homesick sometimes. I've been feeling that for a few days. From what I understand it's normal. But it doesn't take away from the amazing things that I've been doing here. I've had some of the most magical moments of my life in years.
One of these was going to a club on the Island called Oodies. This guy, Oodie, plays a mean electric guitar upside down. Seriously, I'm telling you he's amazing. And two of the regular members of his band, Thien, and Buffalo Man are as good. My dear friend, Tami Jones Andrews from Nashville, sings with them. It's just crazy!
We also had a dinner the other night with seven friends at Kai Bae Marina, owned by Roland, and laughed so hard.
These are just a few of the moments that make me so happy to be alive.
But I still miss my mother, my sister, and my son, who are in Tucson. Not to mention all my friends that are in the States. So for the good things, you have to also experience some of the pain.
Oh, I can't forget my two dogs! I miss them like crazy. But I have already been adopted by a Thai dog. I don't know his name but he meets us every day when we get home and he's there first thing in the morning. I call him Baby!
Speaking of Baby, they came and took away the baby elephant! Apparently, Thailand is under pressure to make sure that all elephants are here legally. They raided the elephant camp across the street from our old bungalow and took the baby. I guess she was not born on the island of Koh Chang. But it's still a mystery as I get different stories from different people.
And....I didn't understand our visas to Thailand. I thought we had four months, which we did, but you have to go out of the country every sixty days! Didn't realize it till we were about sixteen days over. That cost a pretty batt! Now, we have to go to Cambodia in September for another stamp. Life is not all that easy as a world traveller. But it's worth it.
I'm sitting in front of the Wat (temple) at Crust Bakery, my new morning stop! We moved yesterday from Kai Bae to Klong Prao,which is the next village, and I'm getting used to new people and new places. Fortunately, since I now ride a motorbike (very carefully and very slowly) I can go back to Kai Bae and visit my old haunts whenever I want. It's a short, short ride.
We moved into our new house on the river yesterday and I can't describe how wonderful it is. Now instead of the elephant roars I hear the roar of the waterfall and river next to the house. I swear the magic never disappears from our time here!
My husband is going to start doing acupunture and tai chi at the treatment center on the island. It's called Dara and it is situated in the most amazing resort. It looks over the ocean, each room is a bungalow, and I can only say, what a great place to get sober! Plus, it's less than $9000 for the first thirty days. Now, that may sound like a lot unless you have looked at the prices of the best treatment centers in the USA. If anyone has any questions about Dara, let me know.
I am so enjoying our time here. It took a while to find the 'RIGHT' spot on earth to reside in but this certain is it for us. Who knows for how long, but it doesn't matter. I am just treasuring all the time I have here now.
I've mentioned the lovely people that we've met since being in Koh Chang. Many of them are people who have lived her for some time and either own businesses now or are enjoying the life here. These are people we now consider friends.
But there are many people who just travel through for a few days or a few weeks. The photo above shows two gorgeous girls from England who were here on vacation/holiday and have now returned to their home to work or continue in school.
A few days ago we met a young man and a young woman from China. They were in their later twenties. The young man, who spoke quite good English, told us that they were just here for few days. It was interesting to listen to their ideas about work and living. He said that, now in China, much focus is on being successful. Sound familiar to anyone? He said that he would like to enjoy his life and that he works for his vacations.
What I'm noticing is that young adults the world over are realizing that 'living' is not all about money. They want to enjoy their lives. Working for vacations sounds rather healthy to me.
Last night we went to a local club for a friend's birthday. At eight o'clock, two of our favorite baby elephants from the elephant camp, strolled in with their trainers onto the dance floor. They danced, twirled hoola hoops, stood on their back legs, did a massage on the birthday boy (!) and bowed at the end. Not something you see everyday.
I had always heard that it was obvious when you came to a place and it was right for you.
I remember landing in London in May 1968 and taking a bus into central London. I saw the chimneys and roof tops, the gray skies, and the old buildings and I KNEW this place! I felt that I had been there before. I connected with this place.
Later, in 1980, when I returned to Tucson for six months to get 'my head together', I had the same feeling. There was a magic there, a healing quality, a spiritual sense. It was the right place for me then and later in 1989 when I returned. The desert was a special place for me. But in 2013 it no longers holds that same magic.
Now in Thailand, I'm feeling that same resonating feeling of groundedness and of freedom. Perhaps, it will only last for a while or perhaps it will last the rest of my life. I have no idea. But that's not the point.
The point is knowing that you are in the right place at the right time. If you're feeling blocked, tired, restless, and unhealthy, it might be that you've outgrown a place. Or maybe it was never right for you.
Of course, most of us can't just throw everything down and move. Or can we? I talk about taking social security and using it to make some of my dreams come true by moving to more inexpensive parts of the world; but everyday I meet people of all ages who are doing the same as me. They are doing computer work or taking jobs that supply them with enough to live on. Or they are planning on working a few more years and retiring. They are courageous and resilient people.
I have to be honest (as I hope I am most of the time) that I've always followed my instincts. I had to know that I'd be okay when I got on that plane to London in 1969 without a job, a place to stay - nothing but $100 in my pocket and a lot of hope. And you know what? It was one of the best decisions of my life.
I feel that this move to Thailand was also a good decision - for however long it lasts.
The picture above is the river that I will be living next to starting in August. There is a gazebo at this house that extends over the river - just right for my yoga! And a nice swim afterwards...
Meeting people is one of the richest parts of traveling. Above is (left to right) Richard, from England who owns Morgans Bar and Restaurant; Noi, from Thailand; and Martin, an English man who lives in Spain. We have so enjoyed their company. But we've got new friends from Holland, Austria, Germany, France and America. Tammy and her husband, Lep, from Nashville are two of them. Tammy has a golden voice and often sings at our Saturday night get together at a great restaurant owned by an Austraian named Roland.
Truly our new friends in Koh Chang have made our experience here unforgettable.
That is not to say that we haven't met lovely Thai people. I adore the lady who does my Thai massages. She studied at Wat Pho, the birth of Thai massage, and she is amazing. Or Kap (unsure of spelling as I hear things phonetically here!) who runs Mochaccino where I have coffee every morning.
In Bali, the people were everything. And, in fact, we got to know very few non-Bali people there. But here in Koh Chang, a more social life exists. What would you expect from an island!
It has rained here for several days. I don't mind it at all. I sit at my kitchen table and watch the elephants across the little street and feel so fortunate to be able to have these experiences. Life has so much to offer, but you have to be willing to go for it. I think that is what I am doing at this stage of my life. I'm going for it.
Just moved today! We were staying in the Paradise Bungalows for a month but now we are Sanook Sanong, also in Kai Bae. We have a one bedroom bungalow for $400 a month. And our neighbors: the elephants. This picture was taken from my kitchen table.
The main thing about traveling on a limited budget is to realize the first month is the most expensive. We made the mistake in Bali of staying in a hotel for most of a month, which cost close to $900. The other month we rented a one room bungalow in a rice paddy with no air conditioning! Two lessons learned from this:
1. You must have air conditioning in at least the bedroom.
2. Find a place as soon as you feel you have landed in a place you like.
However, in Nicaragua, we rented a place as soon as we got there and, though it was wonderful, we didn't care much for the town. So we were stuck for a month.
This time we found a hotel that would rent by the month and that gave us time to look around.
We are here for one month and then have rented a house on a river near a waterfall, slightly outside of town.
Traveling should be an ongoing lesson. But the main lesson we learned it to budget more for the first month cause you can't help staying in hotels at least for a few days.
So do I love living next to the elephants? I'll let you know in a few days but so far it's brilliant.
Local celebration for a new monk.
We have been in Koh Chang for one month. Tomorrow we move into a bungalow in the village. Rent $400 month. But we are hoping to move into a house next month that is on a river and has a perfect yoga/tai chi platform built over the river. Chillingly beautiful
How did we do this?
Well, one day I decided I'd had enough with working to pay my bills. I drove straight to the social security office and applied for early retirement. Together, with my husband's retirement, we have enough to live in a less expensive part of the world, like Central America, parts of South America, Asia and Bali. But not enough to live in the States without working.
So we decided that we would spend one year looking around the world for a place that resonated with us. Bali was heaven, but Thailand is heaven with a plus! We have met many ex-pats here, mostly from Europe, who help us so much. We still have to watch our finances here but it's no sweat.
I truly believe that for us baby-boomers who took life for granted, had a great time, and didn't bother to prepare for retirement (there was no retirement plan in rock and roll touring), this is the time for creative planning. Who's to say how it will work out in the end. Perhaps we will spend time in the States and time somewhere else. But that's what creativity is all about, right?