Ko Lao Liang Thailand 2009 Adventures

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.

Pico Iyer

I’m inspired to share some of our travel stories since I have been reading “Ten Years A Nomad” by Matthew Kepnes. As I slowly digest his words, it’s as if he and I have crossed paths at some point. He crossed paths with a friend of ours, so the possibility is there. What really is striking is the places he visited are similar, his desire for wanderlust, his integration into the lives of how others live abroad. You become a part of their world, not just a tourist. Granted, I haven’t been a nomad for ten years. But over the past twelve years I have visited nine countries, and lived in Sweden again, and yes, while Hawaii is a part of the United States, many local people will tell you that we are a country of our own. News travels slower to us even in the digital age. Life is slower, less stressful, and at a much more live for the weekend, as opposed to work for the weekend.

In reading Matt’s book, I have started to feel that maybe I should share some of my stories. While Sky was with on these incredible journey’s, these are stories from my perspective. Perhaps it will give some insight into who I am, what to expect from me, and why I long to disappear. I wanted to start somewhere that deeply impacted me. When I read of Matt’s travels in Thailand, all I could say was “Yes! That happened to us too”, “Those were our experiences too”. And while my travel bug began at the very young age of six years old, it seems like our six week trip to Thailand and Cambodia deeply affected me the most. There’s no way to write six weeks of traveling in Thailand, and unfortunately my travel journals are still in Sweden. Fortunately for you, you won’t read about which bus to take to the Golden Palace, or the entry fee. Instead you are going to get my recounts of certain moments in my travels that really shaped me who I am today. I’ll try to keep it short.

Thailand itself is a land of mystery. And while Matt hated it as a tourist, we loved it. Bangkok was dirty, crowded, polluted; but it also holds many secrets in it’s traditions. The food was almost always a hit, and not a miss. You could live $25 a day including room and board for one person. If you include alcohol, the price of course would go up. But $6 for amazing Thai food? $20 for a hotel room with hot showers, air conditioning, and a feather bed? Amazing. And we did all of that. But one of my favourite stories goes as follows:

We didn’t plan much of anything on our trip except for two things: treehouse camping, and rock climbing on a private beach on Ko Lao Lang. Ko Lao Lang is an island that sits out in the Adreian Sea, and is about an hour and a half ride via ferry from the mainland. Back in 2009 it was a private island for rock-climbers, and adventurists who wanted to escape the tourist mecca of Ko Phi Phi. On the island we met several wonderful people from around the world. A couple from Australia, a couple from Austria, a young American girl doing some solo backpacking, the bartender, a family from Germany who traveled with their nanny and children. In total, only 10 tourists were allowed on the secluded island, and we stayed there for about three days. Pulling up to the island with intimidating limestone cliffs overshadowed the singular sliver of beach that would becoming our glamping spot. We were greeted, and shown to our tent, which included electricity, a fan, Thai beds, and made to feel more like camping in an RV, than on an island in a developing country. It was spectacular to see a monitor lizard walk across the beach and climb up a palm tree. The monitor lizard was about six feet in length, weighing in close to 40 pounds dwarfing our Madagascar geckos in Hawai`i.

The rock-climbing in Thailand is second to none. With a little push from our Australian friends, I was able to start the climb of a 5.10B. I made it about 80 feet onto the rock before my arms gave out. I peeled off, and swung like a pendulum out as the anchor was behind me, and not in front of me. I was able to walk away with only some minor scratches (the iodine makes it look worse than what it really was).

I don’t look too happy in this photo, and that may have been partly true. I was beat, and had a couple of drinks in me. But we had a great evening sitting around with our newly made friends who went climbing with us that day.

The next day we took a long boat out to another remote island about forty minutes from us to do some snorkling. The water was crystal clear, and alive with sea amenanes, tropical fish, and live coral. We spent three hours exploring the unscathed reefs before heading back to the island. The next morning the Pioneer asked me if I wanted to go kayaking, which of course I did! We took a kayak out and went around the island. It took about half an hour, then Sky says to me from the back of the kayak – “How about if we kayak out to that island that we were on yesterday?”. I’m not sure how I convinced him to let me do it, but we wound up kayaking back out to the remote island we were at the day before. The way there wasn’t so bad as we were paddling with the current. A huge fish jumped out of the water in front of us, and I looked back to the large island that we had traveled from, now a shadow over the horizon. We had made it to the island we were on the day before, and spent the next one to two hours snorkling again. It was starting to get late, and my anxiety started pushing me to get back to Ko Lao Lang before it got dark. This time, it took us close to three hours to get back as now we paddled against the current. What seems like an eternity was just a really long day. We got up to the beach, and the bartender came running down to us asking what happened, if we were all right. Once we explained the situation, his mouth dropped and said, “That’s like 6 kilometers one way in open ocean. No one has ever done that before….let me buy you two a beer”. It was another night of drinking, and sharing our adventure with our new friends.

The next day we left Ko Lao Lang, and said goodbye to everyone. Thankfully for Facebook, we were able to keep in contact with the Austrians over the years, but eventually I think we lost track of them too. That’s the thing while traveling, you meet these incredible people from around the world that come from different walks of life. You don’t know them, but you build a friendship on being nomads, traveling like gypsies, exploring new realms like early pioneers.

This is just one adventure.

Caged Is The Tiger

I have found out that there ain’t so surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.

Mark Twain

Spending time by yourself forces you to take a long hard look at yourself. It’s like looking in a mirror only you don’t see just the outer beauty, but the inner beauty, and the inner ugliness. I’m not sure how many people are fully self-aware of themselves. I am starting to think that all of the judgements that I have held in my lifetime where nothing but biased, baseless opinions. Travel makes you see how other people live, and how others struggle. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy to get out to more of the unknown parts of the world. It forces me to take a look at myself. It holds a mirror up to me showing the good, and the bad. Sometimes the ugly.

What I also have began to notice lately is that I am having attachment issues. It’s not what you think. I am not craving to be around people all of the time. In fact, I find myself pulling away from others when I feel they are getting too comfortable around me. I don’t think that I consciously am aware that I am doing this in the moment, but if I start to feel that people are comfortable at making me uncomfortable, I begin to pull away. I don’t know why this is happening, and I am starting to explore it a little. I think part of it is restrictions. I don’t like them. Have you ever seen a caged tiger? As their environment becomes more uncomfortable they begin to pace back and forth; waiting for the opportunity to leap out of confinement. God help me if I ever go to prison.

I also find that there are certain topics that you need to avoid while traveling. Politics, and religion have always been a taboo subject to discuss, but times have changed and you can’t help but be politically hyper-aware. I find that avoiding these topics at all costs is a life-saver while also being disappointing. I would like to be the type of person where I can have a open discussion about politics, and religion, but it’s best to leave well enough alone. If you know that you are in mixed company, the best topic is weather (which is boring to talk about, but could save a relationship).

The best part of being nomadic, and which I tend to forget, is that when it’s time to move on…you move on. There are no restrictions except the ones that you put on yourself. I forget that while I am employed, I have a laptop, and the ability to travel anywhere. I have a car which I can sleep in if I need to. I have money for food. I have all of my basic necessities which give me unlimited options. And while I could just get in my car, and explore the next adventure, I find myself staying comfortable in my habitat. For I also have my family, and friends, and Maebel here. While I wait for my partner in crime to join me, I wait.

Introducing The Middle-Aged Gypsy Vagabond Nomad

Machu Picchu, 2013

Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you.

Mark Jenkins

“Oh great,” my nephew said as I pulled out my iPhone to take a photos of the six of us at breakfast this morning, “another family restaurant photo”.

“Oh, quiet,” was my rebuttal to the newly independent twenty year-old, “I’m not going to be around for much longer, so let me have this small moment”.

“How long are you around for?” asked his live-in girlfriend.

This has become the question that everyone has been asking me since I got back to the United States. I’m sure that there was a bit of a pause before answering the question, because I never know how to answer that question. Or another famous question is “what happened with Sweden?”. All very fair questions that a responsible adult should be able to answer. In stead, I think I said, “I’m not really sure. Sky comes out on August 10th, I may leave for Grand Haven in July. I honestly don’t have that answer.”

I have been back to the United States for two months now, and maybe it’s time to start answering some of these questions – clearly though the one about “what’s my next step” is up for grabs. Do you honestly know what your next step is? Have you planned out the next five years of your life out in detail? If you have, congratulations. Most people I know have no idea what is going to happen to them on a daily basis. We have our routines though, and I think that’s what people become comfortable with: Breakfast at 6:00AM, watch the news at 7:00AM, drive to work, work eight hours, drive home, cook dinner, watch the news (or a movie), go to bed – lather, rinse, repeat. But when your life is turned upside-down (like most people experienced in 2020), you go with the flow. As an experienced traveler I can tell you that no matter what your itinerary is, you can toss that aside once you get to your destination. It’s good to have your research complete, and be prepared, but looking to follow a time schedule is out the window. I think life is about the same. You can plan as mush as you want, but be prepared for those lay-offs, unexpected retirements, recessions…a pandemic.

Last week I celebrated another trip around the sun, and found myself reflecting over the past year, and decade full decisions. I have endured three layoff’s during the 2008-2013 recession, and one for COVID. I think the COVID layoff hit the hardest for me. I thought that I was in a recession prof profession, and wasn’t expecting that I would be laid off. What I found myself instead doing, was creating art, music, and while the rest of the world slept, I traveled. But some of you are still surprised that I chose to travel during a pandemic. Those questions deserve answers too, I guess, but then I find myself saying “it’s none of your business”. I will state for the record though, that instead of living in a 300 sq ft apartment during the hot Hawaii summer, I decided to start to make my way for Sweden. I traveled to Michigan with Maebel so we could ride out the pandemic for a bit longer until the borders in Sweden opened to Permeant Residents. Which it did, in which is the reason I left for Sweden last October. Going to Michigan was supposed to be a time to reconnect with my family after being gone for six years. Now I am here again, waiting out the next step of my journey.

I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust. I have written, and said this so many times of the years that I’m sure you all know the story. I never dreamed of having a house with a white picket fence (I wanted to live on a boat), I never wanted kids (I wanted to travel), I didn’t want to work as a teacher or nurse as most of my female classmates did (I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic). In other words, my brain is wired differently from most “normal” people. I know that I am different. I fought that for a long time as I was heavily bullied throughout most of my school days, and even into adulthood. Clearly I was different. I’m a dreamer. A poet. An artist. But there is so much more to me that you don’t see. Because while I love having a little freedom, a part of me wants to set roots somewhere – but I’m just not sure where that is. Hawaii? Georgia? Michigan? Colorado? There are so many great places to live and check out.

So this past year, I have started to mature in ways that I never once thought was possible. I’m more independent, which means that I have more confidence than I did before. I know who I am for the first time in a long time. My dreams, and goals don’t define me, but are an extension of who I wish to be. I am not going to be unsettled forever. In fact, I’m expecting my life to settle down in a couple of months once I’m back together with the Pioneer. And while he is on the same, but different journey than I am, we are uniquely bonded together. Through absolute pure love. Loving each other with all of our faults, and being honest of where we are emotionally, we have only strengthened our marriage. Because if there was one thing that I have always known – it was that I was going to marry him.

So let’s celebrate another year around the sun, shall we? If you have questions for me, please ask. I may, or may not have an answer for you – but I will provide some sort of feed back.

I Became a Digital Nomad

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

H. Jackson Brown’s Mother

This past year has been trying for all of us. Some of us will be changed in ways that most of us wouldn’t understand. People have lost loved ones, jobs, homes, cars, and yet have some have also found financial freedom. With the government stimulus checks, and unemployment benefits, Americans for the first time found themselves in a unique situation. They are in control. While surely people will eventually return to work, the question remains what will that look like? Americans don’t want to return to the normal 9-5 office work that once consumed them, for some leading to anxiety. Employers are struggling to find workers to go back to the office. It’s not just the convenience from working at home that has employees hesitant about going back to the office grind, they are also realizing that they are worth a lot more than what they have been paid in the past. Most American’s saw a huge increase in wealth last year, and found themselves paying off their debt (if they were able to do that), and having a saving account for the first time ever. What exactly is the benefit of returning to a 9-5 office job, dealing with heavy traffic, for a low wage? Well, it’s finally changed. I have been hoping for many years before COVID-19 that we could start to shift into more a remote work situation. But like the stars lining up, it seems like technology and it’s current environment has finally aligned and began to offer the opportunity to most of us who previously worked in an office. What’s more? A lot of employer’s are deciding to keep the new work from home strategy as it also is more cost efficient for them. They don’t have to pay expensive rent in high-rises, or electricity, water, rubbish pick-up etc…etc…

Which leads me to where I am today. I feel like I hit the jackpot actually. I absolutely did not like working in an office. After working in offices for more than 20 years, I finally feel like I found the perfect combination. I am working as a temporary Admin Assistant in a training department via remote. This allows me the opportunity to work anywhere in the continental United States. As I have become more, and more familiar with car camping, the idea of working from the road sounds like the perfect fit for me. As someone who has a strong desire for wanderlust, and also for job security, I don’t think that I could have found a better job combination. What does this mean for other American’s though? Are they willing to sacrifice their new found freedom for a steady income at an office? Some employer’s are getting ready to open back up their offices, and employee’s are expected to return. I think that a lot of employee’s (especially the ones in their 40’s and younger), are going to take a hard look at themselves and what they want for themselves in the future. I for one may never set foot into an actual office again. I’ve changed out my Banana Republic dresses, for my nice work t-shirts, and comfy pants. My high heels that have given me bunions have been exchanged for fuzzy socks, or bare feet. My once sweaty make-up has been replaced with a lovely natural tan. If I’m having a bad hair day, and I don’t have a scheduled meeting, my hair goes up into a pony tail, and headband.

So as I am sitting here in my temporary location in Michigan, unsure of where my next move is, or where I will travel to, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be living this extraordinary life. I have a job, a car which is paid off, friends, family, an incredible husband, and I get to travel.

Christmas In The Islands

Mele Kalikimaka!

As we’re coming up on the end of the year I’ve been reflecting a lot on 2017.  The good, the bad, the challenging.  Certainly there has been more up’s than down’s (or so I tend to believe), but it certainly has had some trying times like recently investing into a POS car that I had to turn in to buy a new car.  I can’t begin to tell you the amount of stress that one week did to me.  In the end though, I wound up with a kick-butt VW Jetta that is going to be mine in six years.  I’ll still be under 50 by the time it’s paid off.  Haha! How did I get this old?

God Jul 2017

Today though is Christmas! And Christmas is a time for joy and celebration with family and friends.  The biggest present that I got this year was having my cousin Eva, and her man Andreas, visit us from Sweden! On their very first day here we ran a 5k.  Since then we’ve been SUP’ing, and hiking.  I wish that I had more free time with them, but I have a new car, as a mentioned, that needs to be paid for.  I also got another big Christmas surprise today when I looked under my pile of clothes on my desk so see a new computer! I’ve been working on my old computer which has been extremely slow to the point where if I make a spelling error, I can get up and grab a cup of coffee before the optional correction appears.  Right now, I’m in heaven.  We spent Christmas Eve day (my husband’s birthday) hiking Kaau Crater, a six hour hike up cascading waterfalls to the top of the crater rim into native flora.  There’s nothing better than spending the day with the people that you love.

Christmas day has been very quiet and relaxing.  There’s not too much going on, just writing my blog obviously, while Sky plays Legend of Zelda on his computer.  After two day’s of working out it feels amazing just to be in lala mode before the beginning of a new week.  Tonight we have a Christmas party at my friends house that I have been looking forward to.  It will be a one last hurrah before the New Year festivities begin.

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas, God Jul, and Happy Holiday’s!

~ The Gypsy