For 2017 I wanted to make my New Years resolutions small and personal, so that I could maybe forgo a year of beating myself up for not winning an Oscar or making a million dollars again.
I decided to focus on being more patient (which my Hong Kong upbringing totally fucked me for – if you’re not first – you’re last) and on “finding the happy” even in stressful or irritating situations (kind of a meditative/gratitude like exercise where you de-escalate yourself in the moment, and concentrate on the good things around you, even breaking it down to the most elemental, eg “I can breathe freely/I can see”).
Yesterday, the opportunity to apply both arose.
I am currently on the island of Phuket in sunny Thailand. Unfortunately it is raining. A LOT. According to locals, rain like this is usually done by November and this is very unusual. Despite the heavy rain and a day spent mostly indoors, my brave Canadian boyfriend and I hired a scooter and decided to set off to check out the local surroundings
With thin plastic raincoats in psychedelic colours thrown over us, I found my happy, squashed up against my boyfriends shoulder on a scooter, zooming over the misty hills, even as the rain pelted straight into our faces.
As we tried to crest the third hill, our Scooter suddenly felt like it was fishtailing and we smelt burning rubber.
Thinking it was me and the extra bacon I ordered at breakfast, I hopped off the bike to see that the tire was punctured.
The traffic in Thailand is pretty erratic, and on a blind corner in the pouring rain at the top of a hill is not exactly where you want to be. So we walked the bike 20 metres, and lo and behold around the bend on the edge of the cliff, was a “gas station”.
“Gas stations” in Thailand can apparently be a very loose term, and rather than someone with a tire pump, or in fact anyone that worked there, we found a bottle of gas hooked up to a nozzle and a friendly scrappy dog who came over for an ear scratch.
Through broken Thinglish we discovered that the woman chopping chicken behind the corrugated iron shed could help us fill up the bike, but for tire related problems we would have to figure something else out.
Luckily for us, behind this shed and on top of the cliff with an unobstructed view of the ocean and surrounding islands, we found a Rasta bar, with a very high, very sleepy dreadlocked Thai Rasta, who was more than happy to make us a coffee, and sell us cheap beer while he called his “cousin’s friend” to fix the tire.
15 minutes turned into two hours, and we lost all light as we sat up at the bar, just us and two Russian dudes who rolled fatter and fatter…jazz cigarettes. Reggae covers of pop songs played in the background, and the dog from outside brought in a friend and nuzzled into us as we watched the torrential rain run down the leaves of the coconut trees.
In Thailand, sometimes you just have to go with the flow. There is no rushing things, tires will eventually get fixed, and adventures will eventually continue.
In the past, I might have stressed that we were missing out on our planned activities, or worried that we weren’t utilizing and squeezing the most out of our time in Phuket.
But what started as an inconvenience, is now seared into my brain as a fondest memory from Thailand, sitting up in a random bar in the middle of nowhere, with my best friend/boyfriend, warm and dry and with a cold, limey beer.
The older I get, the more I realize that travelling is not about the destination. You can use your bucket list items as a compass to drive you forward, but the journey along the way, the random happy moments (even those that grow from thwarted plans) are what make a trip really special.