Posts Tagged ‘the beach’

It’s not always about the destination, but how the story unfolds along the way. A year ago Trish and I left Thailand, exclaiming we’d never return. We’d had it with the complications of this unfathomable place. When asked why we were leaving this inscrutable country and I’d say…”It’s challenging”. There wasn’t one answer, there were hundreds. Thailand wasn’t the quaint little backwater we’d originally fallen in love with. The country seems to have lost it’s civility, people more grasping than ever before. Thai’s complain about each other having lost their sense of community. “Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there….again”, I’d concluded. We wrote the place off.

Life in Thailand had pissed me off. Everything, under the simplest of conditions, was having to be wary of who and what we were dealing with far more often than I was comfortable with. I was tired of having some jerk off force me to negotiate for saop, ask me to pay more for toilet paper, a candy bar or a bus ticket…annoying.

A last negotiation with a property manager who’d taken over the building we’d called home for twenty years was enough to sour us . It wasn’t just these bitches trying to rip us off for our ‘security deposit’…complaints were piling up among ex pats that ripping off ‘farang’ was epidemic. Leo de Caprio floated an idea about an ideal place. ‘The ‘Beach’ movie  attracted so many farang flakes, freaky fuck ups and burned out losers that the ‘coolness’ of Thailand evaporated and became dangerously soaked with a flammable criminal element….and everyone was running around drunk with burning matches.

So we left..”Fuck ’em”, we said on the way out. “We’ve got better ways to spend our money”. It wasn’t a blood sport, by any stretch of the imagination, as in a lot of other third world shitholes, just annoying. At 62 and  43 years of third world shitholes under my belt I felt I’d had enough third world bullshit.

Hell…we’re Canadian, our dollars never worth shit, so as a people we’re forced into third world shitholes if we want to travel at all. Canadians simply can’t afford ‘nice’. We have to work harder, accept a lower standard of living and travel, lower our expectations and dig deeper for the deals. You’ll only find Canadians in shitholes and toilets, it’s all we can afford.

There I was sitting next to a warm fire in our tidy home in Canada, a place I’d bought my wife to underwrite her retirement…dreaming about our time in Texas, thinking we’d spent enough time ‘on the road’. It occurred to me that in the past dozen years we hadn’t spent more than a few weeks in our ‘home’. We’d come back from business trips and intermittent stops in Asia to check how the place was, who our kid had turned out to be, and file our taxes. We started thinking ‘renovation’.

We’d spent our lives traveling the world, on business and pleasure… and speaking for myself, I was getting old. The guy in my head and the image reflected back from glass windows weren’t in sync. I didn’t feel old…but I was looking my age…..pot belly , grey hair and all.  In the past dozen years we’d been to more countries than an average person would need to visit in a lifetime to call themselves ‘well traveled’. I was ready to retire. My wife wasn’t. She won.

Originally our lives had been designed around ‘Plan A’….a balance to work enough to save for the ‘fuck you’…more travel and to bugger off in a six month rotation. It was the perfect plan when we were younger, but younger minds designed the plan. Young people are blessed with never having to plan ahead…thirty years and more,  down the road for people who’ll be alive when you’re dead.

Nine months passed, and here we are, back again, a few kilometers from where we left, putting up with the same bullshit, camped out in an Air B&B Bangkok high rise, living day to day, with no intention of ever going back, it just isn’t in the cards. This lifestyle has it’s ‘challenges’, but I wouldn’t trade it for a set of golf clubs and a rocking chair. This ain’t tourism friends, this is ’till death do us part’.

don't tell me I can't travel till I die

don’t tell me I can’t travel till I die

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I never use guide books. I’m not a ‘follow the leader’ type of person. If my imagination is ever reduced to walking the same path, seeing exactly the same sights at the same time and ‘hot bunking’ the same hostel/hotel flop as tens of thousands of other newly minted ‘globe trekkers’ , I will stop traveling altogether. In recent years there has been a spate of homogeneity that has brought traveling to a new level of boring. Mass tourism began with the publication of guide books. Starting in the 1950’s with the ‘Europe on $5 a day’ issues up until today’s ‘The Lonely Planet’ and ‘Rough Guide’. The ‘guide book’ has reduced the world to a deep overused wagon rut over a field populated by mindless unadventurous pap, all following in each others footsteps.

The guide book mentality has been followed up with a new phenomena, ‘the bucket list’. How non-spontaneous and unimaginative can life be if you have to plan your ‘fun’ in advance from a list mapped out by someone else that has been based solely on current popular trends? What if you were to miss out on line item ‘a’…’jump out of a plane’…would you go to your grave a failure? What ever happened to ‘live for today’ and ‘living in the moment’? The ‘Bucketeers’ now have a new resource with which to plan their lives, there has been dozens of ‘1000 must see places before you die’ books published in the last few years. This attitude to travel is an extension of the limited imagination expressed in guide books. “OK, everyone stand in a line and march like brainless robots and take a picture”. There are popular ‘travel destinations’ that more resemble meat processing plants than anything that might have attracted travelers in the first place.

I think the worst example of this lemming-like behavior can be exemplified in a movie, ‘The Beach’ filmed partially in Thailand. It starred a perpetually boy faced character who ‘left home’ supposedly ‘seeking’ a quasi-spiritual ‘experience’ by ‘finding’ a secret island already populated by people who looked, dressed, talked, obsessed and bitched in exactly the same jargon while expressing the ‘entitlement generations’ expectations as he had. Apparently the producers of ‘The Beach’ found communal ecstasy in sameness and this attitude towards accepting homogeneity as real life struck a popular chord with like minded simpletons the world over. Since then, one street in Bangkok in particular, Khao San Road has been completely made over to resemble ‘the tribe’ scene from the movie set. Freshly pressed dreadlocks and corn rows, newly cut tattoo’s, Bob Marley pants and every other de rigeur ‘beach’ fashion accessory is ubiquitous. A movie about life’s individualism’s has produced an entire cohort of followers that have descended on Thailand to be fleeced by sharp eyed trinket sellers, how apropos.

As expressed in Newtons ‘Law of Motion’, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, there are people who refuse to be herded and corralled by the guide book mentality of homogeneity. They are impossible to meet in hotel hot spots deluged with ‘tourists’. These are people who refuse to accept that the grinding conformity that working and professional life imposes on a person should extend to their travel time. I’m certainly not talking about the dentist who pays a Sherpa to carry him bodily up a trail on Everest so that he may ‘conquer the mountain’. I’m talking about the people who can find their own path by visiting unusual places, places whose names do not appear in any guide books, bucket lists or ‘places to see before you die’ publications.

I am suggesting that a person accept more unpredictability by going outside their comfort zone. This may mean anything to any number of people. I don’t expect anyone to throw themselves into life and death situations such as I am fond of doing. But, I do suggest that when you have driven, de-trained or disembarked at your destination, don’t follow the crowd. Just for fun, next time you find yourself in some tourist hot spot, head in the exact opposite direction than the crowd is headed. Look for places on the map that don’t appear in any guide book. That’s where the real action is.