Walking doesn’t seem to be a regular activity for people in Thailand, everyone moves around on motorbikes and scooters, or large 4WDs if you’re cashed up. Even push bikes are few and far between. I’ve been doing lots of great walks on Koh Lanta, and on the way I’ve discovered hidden jungle paths, monkey families hiding in trees, vast rubber plantations and incredible views that most bikes would zoom straight past.
The rubber plantations are beautiful and I must admit, something I hadn’t really put much thought into before this trip. The latex from the rubber trees in Thailand is harvested by a method called rubber tapping. An incision is made into the bark and latex vessels of the tree in a spiral shaped gouge around the trunk, which then feeds the latex down into a small container attached to the tree. The bright white latex drips out of the tree for about six hours, and is then collected. A new incision is made a couple of days later.
When I have been walking along some country roads I get visible stares from people passing on bikes who are so shocked to see someone actually using their legs, walking alone, here, in Thailand, red faced and dripping in sweat. Madness! Utter madness!
Sometimes I love travelling solo and being the weird walking lady, and sometimes I bloody hate it. I moved to London from Australia when I was 18, three months out of high school and it was initially awful. I spent about two weeks crying, eventually found a place to live which felt exciting until I went to bed that night and didn’t have sheets, a towel, or even a pillow. The adult thing is hard.
Since then, I’ve travelled solo quite a few times, and every time I get off the plane, get to my hotel, have a cry (possibly jetlag) and wonder why I’m doing this to myself again. Then I get on with it and end up having an amazing time. I find it just takes effort to meet people and the internal drive to get going each day to adventure around by yourself.
It’s a bit like going to a conference with work peers. You want to be there, kind of, it’s something different to break up the week. But it’s a group of people forced upon each other because you have something in common.
The conferences I’ve been to lately are all creatives who are looking for another work opportunity. It’s like the artsy version of speed dating where everyone is too shy and polite to look up from their cup of coffee and muffin they’ve paid $600 for, and talk to each other.. The last one was so awkward I rang my Mum and told her to talk to me about something really important so I looked like a busy business woman.
We’d all rather be sunning ourselves on a beach in Thailand than have some stranger come up to you and stare at your boobs with the ruse of trying to work out your name badge and why you’d call your company Nudge Media, surely it sounds too much like fudge for people to take it seriously.
In fact, there’s a fabulous little fudge store on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales called Vickers Fudge. Of all the things I’m proud of my family name for, and there are many, this is up in the top five, we own a fudge empire. In saying that, they don’t give us a discount, they must be the frugal side of Vickers’s family…and I’m not sure we are even related, but it’s the principle of the thing. Anyway, I digress.
Apart from the oddly shaped tattoo I get when travelling because there’s a spot on my back I can’t reach with sunscreen, I really do enjoy travelling alone and meeting people on my adventures. In saying that, feel free to join me, and bring cheese, I’m having withdrawals.
The more I’ve done solo travel, the better I’ve become at not needing to aimlessly stare at my phone or pretend I’m busy with reading the chapter on how to catch a bus for the fifth time. I just sit and watch.
*and yes, as I read that back I realise how creepy it sounds that I just ‘sit and watch’, but I think I’ve mastered the good half smile, with the “hmm how perplexing and intriguing that car going past is” face, that it isn’t as weird as it sounds. Or maybe people just think I’m tipsy.
Sometimes lone travel builds confidence, sometimes not, like the other night when I went out for dinner and sat there as three American women talked about me in a loud, stage worthy whisper I could clearly hear.
Initially I was really disappointed; girl power, supporting your fellow travellers and all that, but then they spent the next 10 minutes arguing about who owed who for the day’s expenses. Which once resolved equated to about $3USD. Bugger girl power, I win.
On my walk home I stopped to look at about 200 swallows all sitting on a power line, flying up to catch bugs attracted by the street light, it was beautiful and serene and I put the women out of my mind.
Until one of the birds shat on me.
Smugness never lasts long on solo trips.
Nugget of Wisdom
Take your own sticky name tag to conferences and wear it on your forehead. It’ll be a conversation starter.