Before taking off to explore some Thai islands, we spent four days in Bangkok, which served as a colorful pitstop where we shook off a little jet lag, stocked up on toiletries, and went to the dentist. Each of these three areas is symbolic of the big transition we’ve made in our lives this year.
Spicy food, Bangkok
For years our wanderlust has been coupled with the seemingly necessary evil that is jet lag, especially on visits to the far east. Flipping a dozen or so time zones is pretty rough on the body, and recovery can eat up a good chunk of a two-week vacation in Asia. On one ten-day trip to Japan, I was so unable to establish a normal sleep pattern that I was physically sick for half the trip. I especially remember two weird days in Hiroshima, where I was up all night, desperately wanted to sleep all day, and felt a weird revulsion to any food except for hamburgers or pizza — not my normal travel diet by a long shot!
Sweet snacks, Bangkok
So one of the things we love most about our new travel regimen is that we don’t fly nearly as much as we used to. With minimal constraints on our time, we overwhelmingly prefer to travel by train, bus, and boat. We move more slowly, see a bit more, get a better sense of how places are connected, and, of course, avoid the trauma of jet lag. Compared to our usual commute to the far east, this little hop from Rome to Bangkok, involving a five-hour time change, was a piece of cake. It’s nice to start a visit to Thailand with minimal sleep trauma.
Buddhas for sale, Bangkok
Shopping can be a big part of the travel experience, but for us it’s totally impractical. Having to carry everything we acquire, we have zero tolerance for excess. For five months now, we’ve stuck to a hard-core principle: Every acquisition must be offset by getting rid of the same or more in terms of weight and volume. I have indeed bought a few things — new shorts in Latvia, a sweater in Italy, water shoes for the rocky beaches in Croatia. And each time I’ve seen my bag shrink a little as I’ve shed extra socks, shirts, cables, sweatshirts, and shoes to make up for it. I never miss anything I get rid of, and frankly, I love being unburdened by possessions. It’s convenient physically, and it’s entirely liberating on a spiritual level.
Driveway art, Bangkok
So routine shopping is pretty much limited to that which we consume on a regular basis — meaning toiletries. So I relish the quest to stay stocked up on toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, shaving cream, and soap. These little challenges get me into grocery stores, mega malls, tiny local shops, and street markets. Living on the road, little routines like this provide a weird sense of ‘normalcy,’ which is somehow comforting.
Setting off by boat for Ko Samet
In months past, when we were pondering the concept of permanent travel, we always saw dentistry as one of the barriers that seemed scariest. We have gone to the same dentist in Cambridge religiously for 15 years, and we have a very small tolerance for risk when it comes to healthy teeth. So we knew that we had to make ourselves get our teeth cleaned on a regular basis.
We both had our last regular check ups in April, so I’ve been determined to ‘deal with’ this issue come October, and Bangkok seemed less intimidating than, say, Phnom Penh or Rangoon, to see a dentist. So I made an appointment as soon as we got there, and we got it over with. I’ll admit, the first few minutes felt like water boarding, but after that it was OK. So that’s another barrier overcome, and yes, we’ll make ourselves do it again in April.
Jim’s birthday lunch, Ko Samet
So now we feel especially ready to tackle a winter of travel in southeast Asia. From Bangkok, we spent a day of travel by sky train, bus, and boat to the lush green island of Ko Samet, where we celebrated Jim’s birthday yesterday.
Religious shrine graveyard, Ko Samet