I thought it was time for another update on my day-to-day life and recent activities, as my last update was back in Jan. Here’s what life’s been like for me in Spring/Summer 2015.
My Travel Stats
Much of this year I’ve been on the road, despite having a base in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I’ve visited 11 countries (most of them several times), taken 86 individual planes, stayed in hotels for 68 nights, and in other people’s houses for 86 nights.
All this means I’ve spent only 113 nights in Chiang Mai of a possible 253 as I write this post.
So what the heck have I been up to? Yeah, I wasn’t sure either.
So I thought I’d try a ‘highlights and lowlights’ format to pick out a few experiences from the previous months. Enjoy!
Highlight #1: Continuous Learning, Opportunities and Inspiration
The two conferences I attended in the States this year (in Florida and in Portland) were great experiences, which continued my education in blogging, online business and writing.
I don’t think I wrote specifically about the small workshop (about 25 of us) in Florida, where I met the amazing Jon Morrow and heard him speak, but this was incredibly inspiring. Jon’s a crazy-smart blogger who has a huge online business, which he has built despite being a wheelchair user due to very little movement in his body. You can read more about his ‘backstory’ in the post: On Dying, Mothers and Fighting For Your Ideas.
As well as learning a lot, I had a great time at the workshop, and met awesome people who previously I’d only known online. So far it’s been a year of meeting incredible people and realising I’m not the only mad one out there. Excellent.
If you read my post about the Portland conference, WDS, you’ll know I came away with two realisations and a resolution for Chiang Mai this Autumn. The realisations: 1) I’m already living an awesome life and 2) I have commitment issues (with Chiang Mai), mean I’ve made a resolution that I need to live in Chiang Mai as if I’m actually living here.
This sounds like a tautology, I know…but bear with me…
Getting Out There
I know I’m going to be away from CM a week or two each month for work. And despite what you may think (and the criticism I get for my lifestyle!), I don’t even mind that. There was a time, many years ago, when I was quite a nervous flyer: I just don’t have time for that any more. I like the work I do, as long as I can choose who I do it with, and when and where I do it. I’m better at managing my health when I travel, taking breaks, and having fun along the way. And I love the people I meet, and the cultures I experience, which is in a completely different way than when I’m a tourist.
But now, rather than using the time when I’m in Chiang Mai to hibernate my little introvert soul, as has been my tendency, I’m kicking my ass out into the world.
I plan to do/attend/experiment with:
- A meditation group that I’ve gone to sporadically in the past
- A yoga class (my yoga practice has really suffered this year, quite a difference from last year!)
- Slack #nomad channel and Location Rebel meet ups
- A date every couple of weeks (though dating here is a challenge for western women…perhaps more on this from me at another time, but here’s a rather bleak-but-probably-accurate post from another female blogger on dating in Chiang Mai so you get the idea…)
- Talk to a stranger every few days (this is a challenge I’m taking from my friend Jay who writes a fun (if NSFW) blog here about his travel adventures).
This seems like plenty…I’ll let you know how it goes…
Lowlight #1: Bereavement and Grieving
As I write this post, I’ve just returned to Thailand, having been away for the last just-over-two-months, mainly in the UK. I stayed there longer than usual this time as my Grandad – who many of you will know from the comments on this blog, as he was one of my most loyal readers – was very sick, and very sadly, passed away. I wrote some reflections on death and avoiding needless regret on my other blog here if you’re interested, but nothing more to say here.
Highlight 2: Deep Personal Connections
It was a sombre time in the UK, but I did spend a lot of time with family, which I’m glad about. Not so much time with friends, as they tend to be in London, but I had one particularly lovely evening in a pub in Wimbledon where many of my closest friends visited with me. I felt very loved, and very grateful.
Fun days out in the UK included a trip to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, where I was lucky enough to be given Centre Court tickets and a friend and I saw Andy Murray, Federer, and the Williams’ sisters play, and a trip to the Cotswolds to the most glorious lavender field (pretty, but you could only look at it for so long 😉 ).
I’ve also been grateful for the connections I’ve made online. I’ve made some genuine friends online through various channels, and I’ve met plenty of people IRL where the relationship started online (not just internet dating 😉 in fact, scratch that, not even internet dating!). I’ve met some fascinating people who’ve added depth and interest to my life.
Lowlight #2: Missed Flight Trauma
Recently I missed my first ever flight. I’ve missed connections due to the airlines before, but this time it was my fault, totally. And it’s probably the thing I feel most shame about this year.
I think…I got a bit complacent. The boarding card for this flight, which was in Saudi Arabia, of all places, had the time that the flight was leaving in big numbers, and the boarding time in very small numbers elsewhere on the ticket. I got muddled, thought the departure time was the boarding time and…when I got there the flight was taxi-ing away. Cue a man shouting at me in Arabic, which was all a bit depressing and upsetting. Not to mention scary as I thought I might not be able to leave Saudi – remember that due to law I was wearing an abaya (the long black cloak that covers women neck to toe) so I wasn’t exactly feeling relaxed and comfortable.
I had to trek 100 miles through and around the airport, following various airport staff, mostly not understanding what was going on, while I collected my baggage, and tried to work out what to do next. I was trying to get to Kuwait where I was spending the weekend, but each man passed me onto the next with a shrug and pointing as if the next person would tell me what to do. I’m ashamed to admit it, but after four such men, who treated me with thinly veiled contempt, I cried a little.
Eventually I made my way to the Gulf Air office inside the terminal (where they were smoking, just as a small cultural aside!), and met a man who was kinder and more helpful than anyone else had been. It’s possible my quiet but persistent tears figured into this. He rebooked me onto a later flight, which meant I would get to Kuwait at 2am rather than the 6pm I had planned, where luckily for me, my equally kind uncle said he would still pick me up.
Thankfully, there was no charge for the effective cancellation and change. I think I was very lucky that I had a business class ticket (this is the only client where I have this), and said I was ‘prepared’ to go economy to make sure I got a flight.
I finally got to bed that night at 4.30am, and I was very very glad to go to sleep!
Highlight 3: Hanging out on the sofa in Kuwait
My 36 hours in Kuwait – 1.5 nights and a day! – was lovely. Only my cousin and uncle were home, but after such a demanding summer it was great to lie on the sofa and do very little. The internet was also having a bad day, so I barely picked up my computer, which was also probably a good thing.
I keep thinking about having a digital sabbath each week but there is always so much I want to do on the laptop…
We hung out, went to a crazy shabby-chic-pound-shop type place (where the Cute Lady knicker picture came from above), and had some amazing ice cream. It was fab. Family are great.
Highlight 4: Eating Falafel in Cairo
I did a few days’ work in Cairo in early September, which went well, especially compared to my last visit there. Last time I found that I got a lot of unwanted sexual attention, from everyone from the porters to the bell-boy to the taxi drivers. My hotel was also a bit pants considering it was a Hilton.
This time, I had a consistent driver, my hotel was nicer (the Cairo Marriott here), and my client was protective and lovely. I was introduced by them to a local dish called Kushari, which is basically a carb-overload: rice, pasta and lentils topped with tomato sauce. It was delish, but I had to leave half of it given I was the one running the course and couldn’t really have a post-lunch nap…
The falafel was equally good both visits 🙂
It’s still weird to me that people smoke inside their offices in Egypt. They did keep the smoking to the hall outside until the course actually ended (though once the last slide was done and I’d handed out the certificates one of the delegates lit up in the training room, weeeeiiiirdd), but it still meant I smelled of smoke every day which was less nice.
I was also surprised by how many satellite dishes there were when I looked out of the window of the training room (13th floor). Apparently cable’s not such a big thing, so pretty much every house and apartment has a satellite dish or 17 mushrooming out of it.
This visit Egypt definitely pushed itself a little way into my heart, as, interestingly, has the Middle East in general over the last nine months.
I really never thought that would happen…there’s definitely something about spending time in a place and getting to know the people that changes your perspective. Develops empathy and a broader perspective on world issues. Or something.
That’s probably a good message to end on eh? (As the Canadians say. See how worldly I am?)
Make the world a better place 🙂