Highlights so far

The other night, I got to thinking about what it was that I had hoped to get out of my travels, and whether I’m succeeding. It occurred to me that the most important things were meeting people, seeing things I’ve never seen before, and generally letting anxiety and tension slip away, stripping away the layers to uncover a truer self. So I began a list – I had thought it would be a top-10 sort of thing – of highlights of the journey so far. Instead, I came up with over 4 pages worth in under 15 minutes. I thought it would be fitting to share an annotated cross-section.

Being in the presence of the Reclining Buddha. As Karen put it, a welcome moment of ineffability.

A walk through shantytown .

Feeling like family at Libra Guest House, Chiang Mai. When you’re far away from home, in another culture and another language, the thing you least expect is to feel truly at home somewhere. It’s touching and fabulous, and I am ever so thankful for the welcome (and the Thai lessons) I got from Dao, Will, Ti, Nong, Gai, Tek and the whole family.

Spending the day poolside as the Khao San circus churns below. Once you’ve been in Bangkok a few times, what you long for the most is a moment of quiet. It’s not that the place is overwhelming so much as the fact that there’s only so many times you can go shopping for another t-shirt or another pair of fisherman’s trousers, and nine times out of ten your room at the guest house is not the comfiest place to hang out. I have found an oasis – the D&D Inn (where I’m staying again now) has a pool and a garden on the roof, where I can while away the hours in peace, reading and sipping fruit shakes, far above the deafening competing CD stalls and milling throngs of newly-arrived farang.

Cocktails with a bizarre and hilarious Polish couple around the temple in Soi Rambuttri, Bangkok, Thailand. They were eating a bag of grilled insects and kept offering them to me and everyone else who came by. We’re still in touch.

Sunset and the stars from a hammock on Chaalok Ban Kao (sunset beach), Koh Tao, Thailand. The hammock is roughly 1 meter from the water at low tide. Enough said.

A bright orange moonrise over the Pacific at the Sailing Club, Nha Trang, Vietnam. Nothing quite like toasting the beauty of nature. I was reminded of a poem by the fabulous e.e. cummings:

touching you i say (it being Spring
and night) “let us go a very little beyond
the last road – there’s something to be found”

and smiling you answer “everything
turns into something else, and slips away . . . .
(these leaves are Thingish with moondrool
and i’m ever so very little afraid”)

i say
“along this particular road the moon if you’ll
notice follows us like a big yellow dog. You
don’t believe? look back. (Along the sand
behind us, a big yellow dog that’s . . . . now it’s red
a big red dog that may be owned by who

only turn a little your. so. And
there’s the moon, there is something faithful and mad”

In Hoi’an: beauty at every turn in narrow streets; the color of the silks and the lanterns over every door in the evening; wine and cheese with Aussies; running into an old Chicago acquaintance at the bar after a year and a half without contact; late night at Mr. Chan’s. I think Hoi’an was probably the most fun I’ve had yet. At one point, we had 5 continents represented around the table at Happy Hour.

Around Ha Kiem lake, Hanoi, Vietnam: coffee and cinnamon ice cream in the afternoon; fireworks over the water on Tet; many-colored lights strung from every tree; sitting on a bench chatting at 4 in the morning. Hanoi may be the first big city in Southeast Asia that I could imagine living in.

Waking in a fairy tale on Ha Long Bay. Not for the first time, I desperately wish I could post some photos. Ha Long Bay is the most mysterious, breathtaking, stunningly gorgeous place I’ve seen, perhaps ever. 1,969 limestone islets rise from crystal clear turquoise water, in all sizes and shapes. Caves and beaches line the waterfront. I woke on the morning of my liveaboard tour in a cabin surrounded with windows on 3 sides. What I saw when I opened my eyes made me feel like a storybook princess in a strange and beautiful land.

The maddest motorbike ride, bar none. In Chiang Mai, over mountain trails, across streams, through rocks and mud, steeply up and steeply down. If I had stopped to think about it I would have spent the entire time thinking I was about to die. But the scenery was just too gorgeous. And that guy was an amazing driver.

Getting email that simply says, “Come home soon. We miss you.” It’s good to feel loved from such a distance. Thanks, Eric.

Seeing more possibility in the world and in my life than I have since I was 16 years old. And that, my friends, wins.

One Comment

  1. stephen

    We all miss you here. But you’re doing it, you’re doing what you needed to do the whole time. Not that anyone really doubted that would happen. But I wanted to thank you for you sharing all of this. I know its part of the deal and such, but this journey is a very personal one for you and its very generous of you to share it with us. I feel lucky to be able to be a part of it. Be happy, be safe, and we’ve got your back!

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