Gettin' back our travel flow mojo
When announcing our plans for a year of travelling Asia with our family at my workplace, one of the most frequently asked questions was: why?? My response was, among other things, that it was our experience that if you ask for something in Asia, full of trust and an open mind, things would happen. In a nice, easy and natural way. This was one of the main reasons to choose Asia, along with it being affordable, of course. I tried to explain the 'travel flow', where you don't plan, but rather go with what appears on your way.
Our current whereabouts is a good example. Three years ago I travelled through the south of Thailand with just our oldest son, then 6 years old, just winging it. From day one we were in the travel flow zone, I didn't even have a guidebook with me, we just went. After staying in the jungle of Khao Sok NP, without any wifi, we travelled to Ko Samui. Usually I'd use the internet the day before we'd go to a new place to check on lodgings, which had not been possible now. We already disembarked the boat onto Ko Samui, when I heard a couple behind us speak Dutch. I turned around and asked: are you going to a nice place here? Yes, as a matter of fact they were going to some cute huts on a beach, the young man had been there before, would we like to share a cab? That's how we ended up at the other side of the island and had a great four days.
All of these flow experiences happened in South East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Lao, Indonesia) and since our jetpack journey began, we found that on the Indian subcontinent, things work a little differently. The only time a flow was achieved, was when we rode our scooters around Varkala and were found by a boatsman who brought us to a beautiful temple on an island in the middle of a lake. Other than that, we couldn't really get into it. I think, in order to get into the flow, you need to be relaxed first, so you can let the flow flow through you, uninterrupted. With all the stings and slaps administered to us in Sri Lanka and India, it's not surprising that our beings couldn't maintain a flow. There's also lots to love there, but it's hard work.
For the past three months we've really been roughing it, travelling on a shoestring. Our initial idea was to make a round through the north of India and Nepal, before going to South East Asia. The greatest thing about not having any definite plans is that you can follow your hearts. And ours called SEA for a while already. We really longed for some easy-going. So we booked a flight to Bangkok!
This time, I'd made sure that I didn't romanticize our previous times in Thailand. When yearning for a place so much, it's easy to get disappointed, so I kept my cool. Which was a good thing, because arriving in Bangkok was no picnic. An enormous queue on the airport just to get a taxi, the taxidriver dumping us when he couldn't find the address of our guesthouse, our guesthouse which turned out to be a room in a giant guarded flat full of Thai. After two days of consecutive travelling, I wasn't overwhelmed with warm feelings. At moments like these, I'm so grateful to be travelling with our children. For them, the queue was just another one that day, they got out of a taxi somewhere in the big, dark city and they didn't notice the curious looks around the doors of all the Thai inhabitants of the flat. They were hungry, so we went out to get food, we ended up in a very local restaurant, where a little girl kept shaking the hands of our confused boys and got us the giggles. Grumpy mood: out the door.
After spending almost a week back in Thailand now, I try to be honest and put my finger on what we like about this place and what's different about it. It's hard to describe, it's in a lot of little things. You can feel that there's a more liberal mores here and women live their lives more how they want it. You notice this, because they are out there, with everyone else. They own restaurants and scooterrentals and whatnot. It's nice to have them around! The people seem easier to approach and they interact with us much more, I don't know if this is because they master English better, or if it's the mentality. It makes us happy when we drive through a street with dozens of foodshacks in the open air. Obviously it's much, much cleaner, but that would not be a dealbreaker for the flow to kick in.
We've returned to Ko Samui. For the first time in our lives, we've gone back to a place. At least, Rui and I have. The huts are merrily painted now and a hundred other things have changed too. We like that all touristy things are interchanged with locals and their businesses. That a fellow traveller tipped us the sundaynight market just a few hundred meters down our beach. All the little ghosthouses, with rice or -if the lucky ghosts have their residency at a bakery- a chocolat croissant offered to them. Driving scooters to the Big Buddha and all the other sites that two of us visited already and be sad about the decay, or happy about the new layer of glittering paint the dragon underneath the eighteen-armed goddess has received.
Don't get me wrong: Ko Samui is paradise no more; too many tourists, too many ugly towns and buildings, too much polution on the beaches. But to us, it's sort of something like home. Where things can be easy for a while. Three years ago we had a very back-to-basic hut crawling with cockroaches, now we have a clean hut with warm water and air conditioning! That's right, for the first time we are not sweating out of our sandy beds and it's marvellous and I don't think we're missing out on the real Thailand experience because of it, haha. We can tell that the boys feel at ease here too, finally they're playing outside again, which didn't happen our whole time in India, despite our encouragement, when we had some room around our room. Here, they run around all the colorful huts and palmtrees, to the massagehut and the restaurant and back by the canal behind us.
We'll keep on not planning. We never do, we just sometimes have pleasant conversations about what would be nice next, for us and the boys. Now that we've got our flow back on, I look forward to going with it, full of trust and curiousity of what we'll find on our paths.