The current part of journey is a Thai island paradise. Railay bay, Krabi; where there’s a hot yellow sun, azure blue seas and cool green pools white grey granite rocky outcrops topped with furry green hats rise up from white sand beaches which stretch along palm tree lined coasts dotted with lazy beach bar chang beer pad Thai tom yum cafes and the crickets sing their chirpy song back and forth in time on the breeze with waves lapping in, up, onto your knees.
Next to Koh Lanta the quintessential Thai island complete with dready type Thai rastas in hammocks. We wade out to waist height with bags over our heads to Long tail boat, on skippy gangplank, then to ferry for a ride to Koh Lanta, Kantiang Bay.
We’ve woken up and landed in paradise. Not a care in the world, nothing to worry about. Except I am. Worrying that is. I feel anxious. How can I feel anxious and on edge in the most relaxing place in the world! What’s wrong with me? – I think to myself. And that’s the thing with thoughts , they follow you.
In the busy-ness of Bangkok and I was occupied and busy and alive (three days eating out and city streets and air con rooms and craft beers and street food) but now it’s slower, calmer, I’m thinking more and finding it hard to do less. Don’t get me wrong I am not ungrateful; and this is all my own choice. I could get a plane to Manila tomorrow if i wanted the city again or boat to Ko Phangyan and party like 19yr Aussie or book a PADI course for a week and learn scuba diving – in fact the island we are on now, Koh Lanta, is renowned for diving – but I want to learn how to relax! Which sounds strange but, too often, either at home or on this trip I have struggled to switch off; finding myself neither being productive or truly relaxing, but itchy twitchy sitting on the sofa with tv on but phone in hand or hunched over laptop with dozens of tabs open yet staring out the window. Pile of books to read by the bed a burden rather than a route to happy rest. Good relaxing is a difficult skill to master. It’s not being lazy, that’s easy, but it’s taking time for yourself to do something for yourself without thinking about something else or a time limit or a required output or given grade at the end.
You can relax by being busy and you can be busy relaxing. I thought that coming to somewhere quieter, with less distractions, laying on the beach or by the pool, taking the time for me, to do all the things I said I’d do when I had the time; read all those books, write that poetry collection, learn to use the camera properly, research those charities; but even that began to look like a list of jobs and I wouldn’t know which one to do first and couldn’t concentrate and then the cycle of frustration begins where I berate myself for: ‘not relaxing while I’ve the chance’ ‘being ungrateful for the opportunity to travel’ and mostly the feeling that ‘this is paradise you should be enjoying it’.
It’s made me think about what I enjoy, and what relaxing looks like to me.
One morning we go rock climbing by the sea as the sun went up in the sky was brilliant, and after, at midday I felt really relaxed and managed to sit and read and feel content.
Maybe I do need something ‘to do’ before I can ‘do nothing’. But of course doing nothing is in fact doing something.
But these feelings are thankfully only fleeting and sporadic. We’re having a ball. Climbing up rickety bamboo ladders and red clay incline for an hour to a secret lagoon and enjoying a cooling dip, snorkelling off the coast of postcard like desert islands, swimming in warm waters and laughing with Helen. Even the visit to the local cave is amazing – despite the snakes and the spiders and that’s another story I feel. Not to mention phallus shrine…
The food is amazing! I am addicted to spicy papaya salads for lunch and with the heat it would be rude not to have a Chang beer too. Tom yum soup is filled with local caught fish, the drunken noodles fiery and lemongrass fresh, pad Thai peanut crunchy noodly lovely. Satay chicken and the garlicky-est spiciest steamed fish I’ve ever had.
I am happy, and I really enjoying myself and my trip and although it is a cliche I think I am learning about myself. Using headspace app has helped me identify when the feelings of anxiety come, watching it and wondering why. Trying not to get involved and get too anxious about feeling anxious or frustrated about being frustrated.
I’m not perfect at it, but getting better, and it’s a lovely place to practice.