As the new year approaches we always start thinking of all the things we haven’t managed to achieve the previous year. Of course we need goals, but it’s easy to get bogged down with the things that we should or should not be doing. We must try harder; try harder to lose weight, try harder to quit smoking.
Why the need for all this pressure?
Surely, a much more positive perspective on ending one year and beginning the next , would be to look back at the previous year and reflect on what we have learnt over the past twelve months. This could be on a personal level,or professional, it doesn’t matter what the lessons are – Just reflect and learn, reflect and learn.
So, with that said, my second blog post brings you a month by month attempt to share just a mere snippet of what 2011 has brought to light.
January – The Whale Shark
On 2nd January, a whale shark, the biggest fish in the world, graced me and Krissi with it’s presence while diving on Koh Tao’s best dive site; Chumphon Pinnacle. Me and Krissi were hand in hand watching this gentle giant cruising through the ‘big blue’. The moment I saw this creature, my eyes weld and I fell deeper in love. It was January that sealed the deal between my passion, SCUBA diving and the ‘big blue’.
February – It’s easy to get stuck in a rutt (even abroad)
Although I had been working in Thailand for sometime, it is still easy to find yourself stuck in a rutt, doing the same thing week in, week out. February saw me and Krissi come to realise this. So for a few days, we took a weekend trip to Sukhotthai and cycled around one of the former capital cities of Thailand. All in all, the trip was probably cheaper than staying in Chiang Mai after paying for a few drinks in our regular bar. It was February I vowed to not get hung up on habits and routine.
March – Angkor Wat and it’s people
During my long anticipated trip to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat, I came to realise that travel isn’t all about ticking off all the ‘sees and dos’, but the small, unique experiences that happen between or during them. I will talk about this more in a separate post, but our visit got us talking to a very inspiring, young girl and she left us climbing into our tuk tuk influenced, confuzzled and enlightened. It was March that taught me to give everyone time and keep your mind open to the smallest of experiences.
April – Songkran is always fun
2011 saw my third Songkran in Chiang Mai. This people, is the place to be. Whether you want a wholesome Thai party atmosphere that buzzes with electricity or the more traditional ceremonies within the countless temples lining the streets of Chiang Mai. Whatever your liking, Songkran in Chiang Mai should be added to your bucketlist by the time you have finished reading this post. It was March that embedded the electricity of Songkran deep within.
May – Leave the labels for tinned food
All the labels we give ourselves and others, I feel, inevitably they have a detrimental effect on us. Whether we are gay, bisexual or straight, whether we are a traveller, a businessman or a parent, it ultimately does not matter. By labelling, we put too much expectations on ourselves. From a relationship perspective, I believe its more beneficial to have a relationship based on love and friendship rather than labelling it as being a relationship. It was May when I learnt to take reality as it really is and not deceive myself with labels.
June – Incredible India
This was the month we decided to jump the ‘Chiang Mai ship’ for a while and discover the incredibly crazy, incredibly amazing India. The trip took us first to Kolkatta, then to Darjeeling. Leading us then to the North-eastern states of Assam and Meghalaya. In just a mere three weeks, I realised I loved India. The country opens your mind in ways only Cambodia in South-east Asia had come close to. It was June that I vowed to return to this amazing land.
July – At the end of the day, positivity prevails
Life often steers us in some very unexpected directions. Some of these turns we like and maybe even crave. But there are some we struggle with finding any justified and logical reasoning behind them. We cannot control the chaotic ‘law of nature’, but we can control our minds. It is during these times, we have to try our very hardest to stay optimistic, no matter what comes our way. It was July that taught me to always try and see the positive in both people and situations.
August – The UK and the normal life is just not for me.
August came and I had been back in the UK for one month after being in Asia for nearly two years. I quickly realised that mortgages, careers, British soaps, and stupidly cold weather is not for me, at least not for a while. When in Asia, my mind is constantly stimulated. From walking to the local 7/11 and getting angry because an elephant bearing a bicycle lamp on it’s tail to seeing 10,000 sky lanterns in the sky during Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng festival. It was August that my lust for travelling became lustier.
September – Time isn’t the best healer, but it does help.
Time isn’t the only healer in the world, but it certainly does help. We become disassociated and get used to certain emotions associated with events within our lives. No matter how hard things are at this very moment, things do get a little easier with time. However, it is important to keep in mind that is is not the only healer. Your mind and spirit, as a healer, is a million times stronger. It was September that I started ignoring people that said time is the best healer.
October – Everything is impermanent
In October, I completed a 10 day Vipasanna meditation retreat in Lamphun, Thailand. During the 10 days and even now, I have been learning and reflecting. One significant and powerful lesson I learnt was the concept of impermanence. The world is constantly changing and it is beyond our control. All we can do is observe the ‘law of nature’ taking place with equanimity and acceptance. It was October that taught me to accept that change is the only constant in our lives.
November – Emotional endurance
I read that in order to ensure a ‘breakdown’ becomes a ‘breakthrough‘ a dark night often has to be endured. It needs to be endured with the knowledge that the dark night may become darker. If it does, it’s okay because inevitably, the dawn will come. In fact, it has to come. It was November that made me to be more patient with my emotions.
December – A new world, a new year, a new perspective.
2011 has been the hardest year of my life. Someday, I will be able to take on the world knowing that future years will never be as hard as this one. On a subjective level, I now somewhat understand life. I can appreciate life. I love life. Many issues within life and travel do not hinder or affect me any more. Instead, I can step back and objectively look at mine and others issues based on my new found perspective. It was December that saw me reflect, learn and take inspiration from the hardest year of my life.
From the beginning of December, I witnessed many people planning and stressing in order to organise a big celebration or event to welcome 2012. This hasn’t been my style for a few years now and I have learnt to relax and not expect too much on the new year front. With this and a new found perspective, the new year was welcomed in a very different and unique way.
Generally, it’s often been a drunken one. Entering into the new year happy, dancing, smiling and being intoxicated to varying degrees. For me now, I have learnt that distraction from ourselves is one of the worst things, as humans, we can do. It was inevitable I was going to miss Krissi, so distraction seemed the easiest option (check out my story to understand more). However, I wanted the transition between 2011 and 2012 to be real, and consist of truth, conciousness and peace. From 11.30am, me and two close friends, Adam and Nicole, peacefully meditated.
3 was the magic number of the night. 3 friends, 3 minds, 3 candles and 3 worlds, feeling the transition from one year to the next.
There was no countdown. There were no party poppers or drinks. There was no music apart form the murmur outside our four walls. There was only calm. A calm that placed us a million miles away from the storm of fireworks brewing outside around Chiang Mai and Thailand. We were poles apart from the people of Chiang Mai. A distance that was accentuated the moment the hands of Southeast Asia ticked into the new year. We didn’t witness it. We felt it. Intense fireworks resonated across Chiang Mai and through each of our bodies. The storm remained for what seemed several minutes, yet we remained calm and focused within our worlds.
This was a perfect way to start the first moment of the year. And and and, it was going to be hangover free. Yes! Maybe i’ll save the hangover for the Chinese new year. When is the Chinese New Year? Around my birthday. Innit?
After going to bed, feeling open and honest with myself and the world, I decided to stay in this concious state throughout the next day and take an early morning journey upto Wat Phra That Doi Suthep for the sunrise. I loved Doi Suthep mountain and it was one of the first things do in Chiang Mai when I arrived early 2009. Nearly three years on and I still love it. I loved to start the day with a sunrise (as long as me and Krissi could get out of bed), so witnessing the first sunrise of the year seemed beyond perfect.
5am had me battling with my tiredness, but after ten minutes motivation slapped tiredness in the face with a wet fish and I jumped out of bed and began to wear my wardrobe. Yes, my wardrobe. Its going to be cold and for someone living in a tropical climate, I lack warm clothes. It is a case of be cold or ‘onion up’. For the slow ones adjusting to my world, ‘onion up’ is the same as wearing a stupid amount of layers. I begin my journey with kicking Nong-B enough so he gently purrs breaking the early morning silence of Chiang Mai. Off we go.
Nooooooooo! There is traffic everywhere. Rot yert yert!
I very quickly learnt that very early on New Years Day, the foot of Doi Suthep is extremely busy with traffic, people, cones and monks. “Dont worry, mai bpen rai” the positive Anthonee says with a smile. No one is stupid enough to go all the way to the top at this time of the morning and besides, Thai people hate the cold.
I was sooo very wrong.
As I meandered my way to the top noticing the traffic being a little busier than normal at this time of the morning I discovered Doi Suthep, the temple and it’s surrounds were jammed with people. Annoyed at such unexpectedness, as I have always had the sunrise to myself or with a few friends, the positive Anthonee in me once again thinks, “Dont worry, mai bpen rai”. Thai people wont be going all that way to see the orange sunrise, they want men in orange.
Again, I was soo wrong.
At first, after expecting a peaceful and tranquil sunrise, I was disappointed. I had built a mountain of expectations of all the previous times the temple was peaceful and empty. This time, things had changed. There was music, people, rows and rows of cameras taking pictures of the burnt orange sky creeping from beyond the horizon.
I frowned. I sat. I pondered. I accepted. I smiled.
It occurred to me I had stumbled upon a side of Chiang Mai I never knew about. Despite my expectations for a beautiful sunrise (for myself), I experienced not only a beautiful sunrise, but a beautiful morning with Chiang Mai’s locals. I snapped away with people smiling and eager to wish me a happy new year. After asking some people in my best Thai-glish (it’s a language in my world), I realised it’s incredibly lucky to come to a temple on New Years Day, especially Doi Suthep. As 8am approaches, hunger starts to infect my body and I return to Nong-B, give him a kick, and we curled our way back down to a slightly less busy foot of Doi Suthep.
Two lessons were learnt during the several initial hours of 2012:
Number one: Whatever storm is happening within your world, or the outside world, calmness will prevail and allow you to appreciate the storm for what it is and learn from it.
Number Two: Always expect the unexpected and appreciate constant change, in this world, and yours.