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  • Writer's picturejohnny b

koh tao: living in the now

island time! koh tao and koh pha-ngang, islands in the gulf of thailand near the infamous operation koh samui ("meet the parents" reference). there’s a full moon party taking place on koh pha-ngang on june 27th and from what i hear, i has gots to go, even if I’ll be the oldest fart there. with attendance ranging from 10,000 and up to 30,000 party goers, all on the beach, with dj after dj after dj, flaming jump ropes and limbo, and other insane oddities, i think i can definitely find my inner party animal on this excursion. and i should mention, a nice add on since i am backpacking solo...while in bangkok, i met an awesome duo from france, a gars and fille (french for guy and girl, respectively). not wanting to attend this bash solo, i decided to reach out and planned to meet them down there for the, potentially, once in a life time celebration!

plenty of options to get from bangkok down to the islands in the gulf, and i chose the flight/ferry combo. which ferry exactly? at what time? ah, who knows, I’ll dance with those questions post arrival. once the airplane dropped all of us flyers off, half being party goers from the looks off it, at the surat thani airport, it was time to determine my ferry route. i landed around 5 pm, and i was in luck! there was an overnight ferry heading to koh phagnong at 11 pm that night.

from backpacking in the past and other lovely life challenges, i have learned you typically should ask a few questions before just buying a ticket. are there any pictures of the ferry?, how about beds?, bathroom?, etc. score! they had a picture. the picture was of the exterior of an older, wooden ferry which to best describe, was met with a giggle on my part. in addition, i learned that yes, there were beds if needed and definitely a bathroom. being the only option (business opportunity...there’s no competition out there!) and the fact that it was ran by the city supposedly, i dropped some coin and took my chances...wish me luck!

i had an hour to kill at the airport and then a few more near the pier. a coffee purchase is typically the cheapest way to get free WiFi, so airport cafe coffee was consumed. blasting some tunes in my ears and before you know it, i was on a cab to my luxurious yacht!

have you stayed in a hostel by chance? it’s the backpackers lifestyle. you roll the dice and take your chances. sometimes it’s a really nice hostel, sometimes mediocre, sometimes not so nice. ultimately it's a place to sleep, shower, and make some friends. living in the unknown, stepping out of your daily routine at home, out of the comfort of things being insanely easy and nice. it’s pretty awesome and liberating with the right mindset, however definitely not a one size fits all style of traveling.

so this boat, my million dollar yacht, more like million baht yacht (thai currency, which would make it roughly a $30k boat depending on the exchange rate used), seemed to be a cargo boat, probably built in the 1300s. from the exterior, easily could have been used on a

"pirates of the caribbean" film. now the inside is where it gets classy. no question thousands of pounds of food, paper and plastic goods, beer, liquor, bathroom supplies, anything to keep the islands pumping. necessities and desires in which they don’t produce on their own and are in need of. all of this was situated on the bottom level. the top floor was for the over night guests. boom, hostel, one of the not so nice ones, :). two inches tall, 2.5 ft. x 6 ft. rectangular pads for, you got that right, us to sleep on. covered with a sheet, and a fake leather pillow. i was told i could leave my bag on the boat while i go grab dinner and wait the 4 hours til the boat takes off. hmpppph, ok. we'll see about that.

as mentioned, the backpacker traveling style is not for everyone. as much as i wasn’t stoked about tonight’s sleep at sea, and my un-monitored bag for the next few hours, i was happy to be living in the unknown. liberation nation baby. as i was hopping on and off the boat deciding if i should really leave my bag there, and then finally at the minimum ensuring i possessed on my body all of my valuables, i ran into a thai guy who signed in for his yoga mat on the pirate ship and was looking to eat. gotta love how easy it can be to meet people if you are open to it, let’s grab some grub brotha!

as we walked past the never ending street vendors we both were curious what each counterpart was interested in eating. learning the basics about where each of us had journeyed from to arrive at the surat thani pier, we finally decided to eat at one of the restaurants opposite the street vendors. laughing and engaging along the way, we grabbed some food at a traditional thai restaurant and before you know it, he is insisting he pays. from the little i know, he is still in school or recently finished, looking to move to malaysia to work for a tech company, and has got to be in his early 20s. i can’t let him pay i kept telling myself and him. but the offer. he said i am a guest in his country and i must let him pay. i couldn’t believe it, pleasantly surprised at his hospitality after just meeting an hour before. in case it was a rude offense which would be met by losing a hand or foot, i ended up not completely denying him and did give some cash for the bill.

unconditional love, compassion, generosity, welcoming. i don’t care what you want to call it, this act of kindness hit the spectrum of all complimentary words available in the dictionary.

as we proceeded to walk our dinners off, we ran into ladies riverside aerobics. what?! pretty awesome, i know! especially when i discovered THE richard simons was the instructor! ok, not really, but i did check. he was in hiding for a while, and hey, why not the small town of surat thani in southern thailand near the islands where they do ladies riverside aerobics?! got some smiles and laughs between us and the jazzercisers and then met up with his friend who would be also joining us for the ferry ride over.

in meeting the newcomer, i instantly understood why her nickname was smiles...which was quite contagious! we went and sat near the street vendors to get some dessert...thai roti. it’s basically a crepe calzone with any mixture of nutella, fruit, condensed milk, eggs, and more (pick 2). a mouth watering, smooth criminal type of dessert, especially the egg and banana mixture, go figure! and guess what happened next. not allowed to pay. smiles forked the bill. something about me being a guest in their country, i don't know. i am truthfully, extremely surprised by this now happening twice very quickly. not to suggest there are not generous, loving human beings existing in thailand. i think my surprise came...because this is not something typical to happen back at home. how did i get so lucky to randomly meet sincere, genuine, welcoming people half way across the world who i ultimately have just become lifetime friends with (thank you mark zuckerberg)? i know we’re not talking hundreds of american dollars here, but it does not matter. this time i was not allowed to pay for a dime. won’t ever forget their generosity. this is when paying it forward is reinforced as a permanent asset of mine.

we climbed on the boat and you can guess exactly how the trip went. a bit humid, slow moving, not much sleep. glad i asked all the great questions when buying the ticket! living in the unknown here to a t. however uncomfortable, i did enjoy some laughs with my teammates for the trip so i was living exactly how i wanted to be, at that exact moment in time.

living in the now. that’s what was happening here. some people may have been frustrated enough with the sleeping quarters and mode of transportation to take the monetary loss and figure out a different option, especially if you are over 4 foot 8 and have to hold a duck position anytime you are in the boat and until you are lying flat on your mattress pad.

worrying about my bag while eating dinner. worrying about whether or not I’m actually going to go to be transported to the right island. worrying about anything in regards to this trip, could have easily ensued. but naw...i'll pass.

i’ve learned recently that there are two mental processes that prevent us from living in the now.

you regret the past. if you regret the past, you are acknowledging that you are not learning from the past. regret says you would have done differently. this is a hard one to actually put into place all the time, but no matter what, life is a series of learning events. no matter how easy or how hard of lessons, if you can not view your mistakes as building blocks making you a stronger and better person, you shall have regret. and with regret comes frustration with past decisions and in turn an inability to let go. not letting go creates preoccupation and a lack of learning and moving forward. therefore, you can say "bye, bye" to living in the now.

you don’t trust yourself. you don't trust yourself to always make the best decision based on

your current capabilities. if this ensues, then you will worry about the future. know that you will not always make the decisions that are the perfect decisions, but that you will always take the best action based on your capabilities in that exact moment. in doing this you can stop worrying about the future and live in the now, which is so, so important. if you cannot trust yourself, you can once again, say "bye, bye" to living in the now.

this is an eat, pray, love trip after all, ain't it? as i proceeded to spend more and more time with my french companions, i continued to connect and engage with the two of them like we had been a childhood trio and were finally taking the backpacking trip we had been planning since we got our first atlas. i also started to developing quite a crush on the one with an xy chromosome and definitely felt the typical, standard, blah blah butterflies and anxieties that come with a solid crush. these anxieties typically cause me to hold back a bit on my full personality, treading a bit lightly around being too close emotional or proximity wise to one who is being crushed on. with these insecurities surfacing i began to become aware of not one, but two obstacles i needed to wrestle with.

to the best of my knowledge, this gent was only attracted to woman. so as mentioned in previous blogs, i am in need of some rewiring here. developing a relationship with a straight male counterpart where i don't hide any part of me based on fear of someone "seeing" my true self, unapologetically. this is something i had acknowledged prior to embarking on this physical journey to asia, so the ball was rolling. i could tell our friendship that was developing was with way less anxiety on my end and pure interest in showing up as myself and discovering the soul on the other end. beautiful.

the second insecurity is a new one floating to the top like bubbles after someone passes gas in the pool. typically, when there is a feeling i would like to share that may not be received by another party with 100% comfort, i curl this feeling up in a fetus position and tuck it way way back in the depths of my soul. i hide my purest feelings because truly, i am not only afraid of how they will be received (with negativity, positivity, or something in between) , but also afraid to provide discomfort to someone else.

wow, i just realized that for my entire life, instead of sharing my true self, i hide, creating anxieties that last forever. i just realized that instead of sharing my true self, showing up as me, i hide in order to protect someone else. sure, that's really nice, but when you actually take the time to analyze this, it's unhealthy for both parties. me, because i'm hiding. and then the receiving party, because i'm protecting them from being challenged, and growing, and giving them the ability to exist in the situation at hand.

when this new insecurity was allowed to breathe, i realized it was again, time for change. it is not right, for anyone, to hide in order to not deal with how one feels. just because there is a chance that the receiving party may feel uncomfortable for a bit because you shared how you truly feel about them or a situation, doesn't mean you shouldn't share. maybe you should share with love and respect, and be kind with how you come across..of course! but, completely holding something in will only cause pain to ensue and potentially be held on for years and years to come. so yea, i have to give this charming young man a heads up on how i'm feeling, and hopefully at a minimum, it is met with an understanding that at the very least it is a compliment, even if there is some discomfort felt on his end.

so i don't kiss and tell, sorry.

just kidding. after teaming up and having some drinks at my bungalow, the three of us proceeded to a bar nearby to get tagged up with body paint, because that's exactly what we are supposed to do. more drinks were had, providing a solid base of liquid courage, and we proceeded to the full moon party around 10 pm. there are so many minor details that i could pour out here, but to be completely honest, i also want to get to the point to share how things went and how i processed everything.

so here it goes, a couple hours later, after being fully exposed to everything the bash had to offer, and after teaming up with my thai friends met on the boat ride over, i asked my french lady friend what she thought. can i say something? what do you think? so maybe i cheated a little, or at least was in need of some more courage than just alcohol. she wasn't sure how her friend would respond, but gave me the green light, confirming that it is best not to hold things in.

i went for it. shared that i loved the energy that we had between us, and was a big fan of who he was as a person. what he was doing with his life and how he treats others. i saw joy (always smiling and laughing), compassion, mindfulness, consideration, and also a drive to live his passion. an internal and external balance, much of which i was truthfully looking to work on for my own life.

he loved my sincerity, and how it feels like we have known each other for years. definitely wants to stay in touch, but does not land on the same spot on the kinsey scale. he then apologized for being a bit rude. which i proceeded to ensure he knows that his response was the furthest from rude. as said, he seems to have a compassionate soul.

disappointing? sure, but there is so much strength that comes from this. i'm working on sharing how i truly feel so i don't have the pain that comes from hiding. letting go, so i don't have the pain that comes from holding on. being compassionate to myself and others, because that is truly how we connect at the deepest level.

to add on to all the insecurity talk, as discussed in a previous blog, i was currently working on rewiring my confidence in myself and sharing who i am with others, strangers, new friends, and old. sharing who i am no matter what that meant, unapologetically. while on this leg of the trip a thought came to my mind that assisted me with this challenge, which i gladly accepted. over the years i have heard on repeat, in some way shape or form, "i don't need to share my sexuality with others, it's a personal matter." or, "i will share my sexuality with others if it is needed, otherwise it shouldn't matter." mostly in the professional/business setting i feel this is typically the norm. but i believe it also applies for many, including myself, when you are getting to know new people.

first off, i totally agree with every individual doing what makes them comfortable, and what they feel is proper for them. who am i to determine what is right or wrong. i truly do not think there is a right or wrong in a lot of the situations of life, so why start now? however, i used to believe hiding who i was when interacting in the business world or with new people was the right mental process for me. and now i don't. for the better of myself and others, i'm going to rewrite this one.

learning to casually talk about my sexuality, bring it up in conversations when appropriate. when discussing dating, or having kids, etc. especially with people i am just meeting or have met relatively recently. unapologetically sharing who i am, off the cuff, likes it’s not a big deal. losing the judgement on myself and not worrying about how others perceive me for my sexuality, or for any part of me really.

in terms of personal growth, confidence in oneself, attempting to create a life that is the utmost comfortable for oneself to live in, this is extremely important. if one feels this is comfortable and true for oneself, we should be preaching that we should not hesitate to divulge who we are in anyway shape or form, whether directly or indirectly. we should not hide. we should not silence ourselves whether at the micro or macro levels. i am learning how damaging silencing oneself can be to speaking and living your truth. whether it is in regards to your identity, or your skills and knowledge at work, or your image, or any personal struggle you have. determine the safe places for you to voice who you are, your pains and your joys, your insecurities and where you thrive, who you are and who you want to become...and do just that. it will help you individually, us as a community, and also as a race become our best.

throughout this trip, narrowing in on what i like, what i prefer and being ok with it no matter how others may choose. others, being individuals i meet on the trip or friends and family at

home. whether these choices are in the tours i take, how hard i party or sleep each night, if i stay in a hostel every night or latch on to the rich and famous hotel life. making decisions and consciously being excited by the decisions I’m making. being excited because they are my truth, they are what i want to do and not how i am being influenced to act or live by others around me. and ultimately not being ashamed of or questioning how i decide to act. realizing this also has been an important process to rewire and place at my roots, and i don't think i'm alone here. time to make it a habit!

when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, there is something we all need to become aware of, acknowledge and accept, and believe at our core. i will speak in the first person, and when reading this take it as your words. living my truth is nothing to be ashamed of, a life to be greatly proud of and one i can call my own. when you can do this, you'll start to feel a sense of freedom and joy you may have never thought possible.

don't regret, learn.

don't worry, trust.

don't be ashamed, be proud of who you are, every ounce.

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