Seven months. At this point, it sometimes feels like seven years. It has actually been one of the toughest months for me yet. I’ve had some really amazing days but a few downers as well. It happens. Luckily, I typically have a the cup is half full attitude, and it takes a lot for something to get to me, so I’m on the recovery! I’ve also spent a LOT of time on public transport this month, and long bus journeys give me time to reflect on my trip and life in general. I always intend to read on these days but end up staring out the window and processing thoughts instead. Those days make me appreciate all of the wonderful things I’ve experienced.
So now, I’ll start with the fabulous & random moments of month seven!
1. After leaving the Plain of Jars site in Laos, we headed to Vientiane to apply for our Thai visas. An uneventful town that has the country’s only movie theater, we thought we’d check it out. It only showed two movies, neither with English subtitles. That sums up my stay there, but at least I got a 60 day visa!
2. Made my way to Chiang Mai via taxi, tuk-tuk, and bus. Had such a wonderful stay there! I met up with Jack, Aye, & Emma from GotPassport.org, Kyle & Bessie from OnOurOwnPath.com, Daniel from Canvas-of-light.com, and his girlfriend Lindsay. I also visited the holiest temple in northern Thailand Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and went on an overnight meditation retreat.
3. Visited the many Buddha statues at Sukhothai. We rented bikes and were pretty much the only tourists in the old capital. It was an amazing day.
4. Headed off to Huay Malai on the Burmese border for a short volunteer project with Baan Dada. I enjoyed the work and loved the kids. It was a valuable lesson in the power of human kindness and the examples set forth by Dada (the director) left a huge impression on me.
5. Stayed overnight with a friend in Bangkok. The visit was too short, but luckily I’ll get to meet back up with her at the end of the month. I learned about a new sport, saw my first netball game, and ate Mexican food!
6. Headed down south to Koh Tao. The island was beautiful and you can’t beat a swim at sunset there. We watched free movies on the beach and frequented The Queen’s Cabaret. We trekked up a mountain (and down and back up and back down) for what proved to be a hellacious hike and had to forgo snorkeling (our main intention for the hike) but got gorgeous views of the island. I found it bizarre that people didn’t do much swimming there- the place seemed pretty dead during the day, so it’s not my favorite island, but well worth a visit. I wish I had made it to the eastern side to see more it. Next time, right?
7. After Koh Tao, we spent two loooong days to get to Malaysia. We took a pickup truck, a ferry, a taxi, and a minibus the first day. Then, had to overnight in Hat Yai in southern Thailand. Took a train and a bus early the next day and got to Kuala Lumpur around 9:30 at night. While not what I would consider a highlight, we made it to KL! The next day, I managed to finally get my wood carvings mailed after dragging them around for a month and then hopped a flight to Bali!
I definitely don’t have room to complain because I’ve had such a great time this month, but there were some rough moments….
1. My mom is having surgery this month. It was a relief to my mom and our family to find out as she has suffered terrible pain for a year now (you may recall our trips to the hospital in Italy). I honestly don’t know how she’s made it, but she’s one tough cookie! I had every intention of going home for the surgery after speaking to my travel insurance company. It turns out that the person I spoke with did not, in fact, know the policy specifics and gave me the wrong information. It was a tough blow. My family and I decided I should stay put, but I was really bummed about it. I’m sure things will go smoothly, but I’m not sure anyone else is going to make ice cream runs for her and make her watch cheesy chick flicks during her six-week recovery period ;)
2. On my way to the volunteer project in Huay Malai, I had to overnight it in Sangkhlaburi. I’ve had my fair share of crappy accommodation experiences, but this one just really rubbed me the wrong way.
3. We arrived in Bali after an exhausting three days of travel, and decided to immediately hop aboard an 18 hour bus ride to Yogyakarta. We were overcharged, the whole thing sounded sketch, and after an hour of waiting for it to leave, my friend and I both just had a bad feeling about it. We went with our gut and got off the bus. After an argument with the bus company (and another bus company intervening) we got half of our money back. We honestly didn’t think we would get any back so that was a relief. At midnight, we dragged our tired bodies to a place to stay behind the bus station. I’m sad that I’m not going to Java, as Borobudur and Gunung Bromo were on my top sites to see. However, I was pretty much exhausted at that point, and I always think you have to trust your instinct. On the flipside, we’re now spending two weeks in Bali which will be amazing (plus I now have an excuse to return to Indonesia- anyone interested?).
4. As if it’s not apparent already, I’ve suffered from homesickness this month. I know, it’s shocking even for me to hear myself say that. I miss my family. I’m sad that I missed my sister’s 30th birthday celebration. I miss going to the gym with her, hitting up our favorite cafe together, and having our million phone conversations. I lived with her and her husband for 17 months prior to my trip- if I wasn’t at work you could probably find me with them. And if I was at work, I usually made five phone calls a day to her. Even her ‘I’m busy, what do you need?’ statements didn’t deter me from calling her repeatedly! I also miss my best friend (who’s basically family). She lives thousands of miles away from me back in the States, but when I’m home we talk at least three times a week. I looked up flights to see if I could make a stop to see her on my way home. This is the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other, and it’s just killing me! We talk about once a week now but I’m fifteen hours ahead of her which requires a bit of planning ahead. Picking up the phone just to say ‘Hi’ or sending a random text message like “Wow, check out this mullet,” with a photo attached, will no longer be taken for granted when I get home.
5. My computer has had a tough time this month as well. The battery died, but at least my computer still works with a plug! I also thought something else was wrong with it and spent a day in Bangkok trying to get it fixed. Turns out that the power supply in Huay Malai wasn’t reliable so every time it would cut out, even for a nanasecond, my computer was just cutting off. No worries, I think my Macbook will make it Thanksgiving :)
Okay, I’ve had my public whine fest, so it’s time to move on to month eight. Woohoo! I’m so, so excited for two weeks on Bali! I’ve snorkeled a lot since my summer spent in Hawaii but only Zanzibar has come close to being as good. I’ve heard that there is a phenomenal spot off of Pemuteran and I’m really looking forward to it. Aside from the beautiful beaches, I’m running a 5k in Bali on the 17th of this month. It’s my fourth race on behalf of Sole Purpose and should be fun. Which brings me to my next exciting topic.
This month, my lovely readers purchased 235 Christmas cards to raise money for Baan Dada Children’s Home, bringing Sole Purpose’s funds raised to $896! I’m so appreciative of all of your support. I hit up my friends and family last October when I ran the Chicago Marathon to raise funds for secondary school education in Kenya. This time around, contributors have been mostly readers of A Wandering Sole and a few travel companies. I’m blown away by the support from ‘strangers’ (but no longer) from the travel and blogging community.
I’m currently in the artsy town of Ubud in Bali and off on a road trip starting on Saturday. We are renting a car and hoping to avoid the checkpoints (“I’m sorry officer but I had no idea there was such a thing as an International Driver’s License. Yes, please take this 50,000 rupiah as a token for your hard work”). No, don’t give me the stink eye. I don’t wish to break any laws, but it’s a little late to apply for one now. After Bali, I will spend a week in Malaysia, a few days back in Bangkok, and then head to Europe for a few weeks. My plans are vague there and I have a little surprise that I’m keeping to myself for the time being. However, in next month’s review you should hear about some of it, including Berlin, Barcelona, and TBEX in Copenhagen, maybe?