Lately, I've been returning to countries in order to dig a little deeper and immerse myself in the culture and lifestyle of the region. For my return trip to Thailand, I chose to spend some more time on the islands. The calm, laid-back lifestyle of the islands starkly contrasted the bustling urban jungle of the capital city. When my friends and I disembarked the catamaran in Koh Tao, the designer bags and Ferraris were quickly replaced by worn backpacks and flip-flops. I breathed a sigh of relief. Koh Tao was yet to be consumed by globalization and capitalism like its larger siblings, Koh Samui and Phuket.
My original plan was to get my dive certification, while my friends explore the island and enjoy the hotel amenities. Of course, like many trips, not all things go according to plan. Our room at the "4-star" hotel had almost non-existent Wi-Fi, uncomfortably firm mattresses, and relentless mosquito hordes. On top of that, the hotel's food knocked out my friend with food poisoning.
Despite these annoying inconveniences, it didn't take too long to be charmed by the island's easygoing lifestyle. Waking up at sunrise to the ocean breeze made me forget about the ten new mosquito bites from the night before. The adrenaline rush from jumping off the boat and swimming in the ocean energized me for the day despite sleep-deprived nights. Non-existent Wi-Fi forced us out of our screens and enjoy the moment in real time. Every evening, my friends and I would reconvene and share our daytime adventures over food and drink. The numerous smiles and laughters were well worth our isolation from the rest of the world.
Each day brought a new memory of joy, and I've gradually become more free, curious and open. From small talk with local street vendors, I discovered that the grandma on the pier sells the best Thai sweets I've had on my trip thus far. I met a music composer from India, a yoga enthusiast from Germany, an adventurous couple from Sweden, and an aspiring policy junkie from Vietnam. I even had a romantic encounter with a stranger. (No, nothing happened, but I'll save that story for another post.)
My time at Koh Tao allowed me to embrace simplicity. Since there were little or no distractions, I learned to manage my own mind, reconnect with my core values, and further develop my voice. I was able to refocus on the things that matter, and, more importantly, let go of the things holding me back. You don't really need a lot of things to live a happy life, but it takes lot of work and keen self-awareness to lead a fulfilling life. Personally, it's very easy for me to get lost in the expectations of others. Giving myself time to dig deep and be introspective allows me to adjust life accordingly and open up to new possibilities.
When peeling off the layers to my raw voice, I discovered a new facet of my voice. I've always been a good storyteller, but I rarely wrote these stories down. For a long time, I always believed that the written word could never be as powerful as the spoken word. Thankfully, the islands inspired me to write again, and I consciously started to write regularly. Soon small snippets grew into lengthy prose. I realized that I actually feared that my feeble writing could never live up to my powerful, dynamic voice. Now, I am growing to love my deliberate diction and share the same experience with a different lens. I am excited to see how my writing develops with time.