It feels like every trip I take teaches me a new lesson or brings new clarity about my life. And Thailand has been no different.
Firstly, I do not really like tourist traps and am not an ATM. The Thai tourism model pushes visitors along a predetermined route. Backpackers get on and off buses in hoards, tour buses and mini buses follow each other up and down highways between well-trod destinations, the big tourist sites charge a surcharge for tourists (often when locals pay nothing or very little), and older white men walking with young Thai women on their arms is a common sight (no judgement, just stating a fact). Thailand is a country where the scammers have been practicing for a long time and its difficult to bargain with locals for a good price because there will be another ATM machine walking along in a minute anyway. To put the impact of tourism into perspective, Thailand’s resident population is about 67 million but in 2013 there were more than 26 million visitors to Thailand. That means that the ratio of tourists to locals is more than 1:3.
That said, there are many beautiful and interesting places to see in Thailand and I might find myself back there one day if I need a relatively easy South East Asian country to travel. Because the benefit of it being so heavily touristed is that most Thais speak some English, public transport and accommodation are easy to organise, and there are plenty of Western food options if you get tired of Thai food (it does happen after a while).
Secondly, I love traveling with my partner. This was his first overseas trip (that’s what we Aussies call a trip to another country because we always have to cross the seas to leave our island nation) and he found us so many wonderful places to visit, eat and enjoy massages. It was amazing to share my daily experiences with someone else after traveling alone. It’s probably a big reason why I let my blog get behind.
Thirdly, I am ready for my “normal” life to resume again after what I am dubbing as my Eat, Pray, Love year. I am starting to find myself looking towards the future, rather than just wanting to break free. It’s a good sign. I have made some personal financial, career and lifestyle decisions that excite me. I have learned that I don’t need a big income to be happy. I want to be present in the lives of family and friends for more than a short 3-4 week period between trips. I want to get back into the outdoors doing hiking, kayaking and cycling micro adventures. And I miss having some semblance of a routine. I still want to travel but I want to have a life between travel too. What’s the point of seeing the world if you end up like the guy in Into the Wild?
So I have cancelled the first half of my trip to Japan. Instead of leaving on 8 March I am now going to Malaysia from 31 March for 14 days with my partner and then to Japan for 4 weeks on my own. When I return from Japan I will enrol in a TESOL or CELTA course and in a Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation, join a bushwalking and kayaking club, and do the odd orienteering, regaining or other event. It’s time …
I still want to travel to at least three countries every year but I am going to mix it up with microadventures at home.