To my heroes – my niece Morgan…and my friend Joe!

My beautiful niece Morgan!

This blog is dedicated to my niece, Morgan and my good friend, Joe Hamilton in Colorado Springs. I hope they will forgive me for posting my thoughts!

A few years ago, my beautiful niece Morgan was involved in a serious car accident. She suffered numerous injuries including head trauma. The healing and recuperation was a long, long process for Morgan and she will tell you today, there are still lingering effects from the injuries. For all the pain and suffering she went through, my sister Carla and her husband Billy, along with nephew Ricky and niece Missy, endured pain also. They watched as she lay in a hospital bed with her head swollen. Every step she had to relearn, they took with her. She struggled  with ordinary functions of life such as eating and getting dressed. There were years of therapy and she still struggles today with some cognitive skills.

But what I see, is a loving young lady who always has a smile. I see a niece who flew out to Colorado and worked her butt off helping me pack and move to Tennessee! I see a niece who partied like crazy with me in Las Vegas – we had the best time ever! And, I saw a beautiful person who said please and thank you to everyone on our trip. I watched her in McDonald’s, speak to a young girl who obviously had some type of mental problem. The empathy Morgan showed her was so touching!

What I see when I look at Morgan…is a hero!

And now my friend Joe. On February 29, 2012, his daughter Ashley was in a serious car accident. Ashley is still in the hospital, of course, and undergoing treatment and therapy for all her injuries including serious head trauma. Even though I am miles away in Thailand, I can feel the pain that Joe is suffering as he writes his thoughts and advises all of us on Ashley’s progress. And yet, I see something very different in Joe.

I see the lunches we shared together with friends from work! We would laugh and laugh at the silliest things! I remember the night he stopped by the Dublin House and we shared drinks with friends and just had a blast. I see a man who was dedicated to the company and more importantly, to the customers. And I remember him talking about his daughters and seeing the gleam in his eye and sometimes, even a tear! I see a man strong enough to show his emotions for those he cares about. For all the sadness that is happening in his life right now, I know he will be okay. He will be strong for his daughter – he will be strong for those around him! He will continue to keep us informed by posting routinely – he will take care of our needs even when he’s tired and discouraged. And he will be by his daughter’s side every step of the way!

What is see when I look at Joe….is a hero!

To my two heroes, don’t ever underestimate your ability to touch other lives. You do it daily – at least I know you touch mine! Thank  you for being so strong!! I admire you both!

Love,

Cheri

Crossing over from tourist to traveller!

New friends...2:00am leaving Thai karoke!

At some point during this journey, I knew I would cross over from being a tourist to being a traveller. It’s happened! How do I know this? Let me explain:

1.) Seeing a temple isn’t nearly as exciting as spending time with some new friends! Yes, all of the sights in SE Asia are fantastic and you could spend days and days doing nothing but visiting temples, trekking,, going on day trips of every sort imaginable, but at some point, you recognize that those are the things tourists do. While they are entertaining, they are not really what travel is about. Travel is about seeing how the rest of the world lives and functions. Last night is a perfect example. When I arrived here at my hostel (which by the way we’ll discuss later), I met a sweet girl from Canada who asked me to join her and some friends at a little bar and then for dinner. Drinks and dinner then lead to karoke! We ended up getting a group together, hiring a taxi, and asking the driver to take us to a karoke place. The taxi driver quickly got on the phone to his friends and next thing you know, we are at a Thai karoke place. Now, let’s be clear on this. This is not a Western karoke place with Thai people dropping by – this is a Thai karoke place with us as visitors!! So, naturally, most of the music was Thai music being sung by Thai people. Needless to say, it was an adventure. We of course, could not really sing along because the words were all in Thai!! What a hoot!! But see, this was way more fun than visiting another Buddha!

Go ahead....feel free to sing along...if you can read the words!

2.) I found myself making a shopping list this morning! No, not things like souvenirs! This was stuff like a new hairbrush since I left my comb somewhere, laundry soap, snacks for in the hostel, conditioner for my hair, etc. You know you’re not a tourist anymore when getting laundry soap is more important than shopping for a new sarong! 🙂

3.) You research the weather forecast in your area of travel. Tourists don’t care what the weather is – they only have so much time in any given area and so what the weather is, well, it just is!  For me as a traveller, I can choose to sit right here in a hostel near the beach because the temps are a little cooler than Bangkok and Chiang Mai and there’s a beach about two minutes away! When I get to Bangkok, I get there! By the way, that’s exactly what I decided to do! Since the weather, scenery, and hostel here are nice, I have no desire to rush up north to the city!

4.) Speaking of hostels, I’m in one now that is absolutely wonderful. It’s a little pricier than some of the others I’ve stayed in, but comparable to what a decent hostel in Bangkok will be. Very modern and yet still has a real nice “Thailand/island” kind of feel to it. I’ll take pics later today and send them out on Facebook. That’s something that as a traveller, is more important than seeing great stuff. It’s my home away from home so it’s important that I like my “home”! When I find a good one, why rush away only to find the next place isn’t quite so nice!

5.) AND….THE NUMBER ONE WAY I’VE IDENTIFIED MYSELF AS A TRAVELLER……DOING MY LAUNDRY AND HAVING CLEAN CLOTHES BEATS THE HELL OUT OF ANY TEMPLE I COULD POSSIBLY SEE!!!! For those of you who know me, you recognize how huge that statement is!!! I hate laundry or anything remotely appearing to resemble housework!! Trust me folks, having clean laundry is the absolute best thing ever when travelling! Tourists don’t worry about clean clothes – they take enough to last their couple of weeks and head home. But on the road, space is limited in the backpack! You just can’t under estimate the joy when the laundry is done and you get to put on clean clothes!!

“The traveller was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes sightseeing.”  Daniel J. Boorstin

Happy travels friends! 🙂

This guy from Thailand must of sang about 50 songs...he was really getting into it!!

Some thoughts about friends…..

I started this journey long before I got on the plane heading to Singapore. It started years ago when my Aunt Sandie and I were talking about her trip to Europe. She went with a tour group and although it was a long, hard trip with many stops, lots of bus rides, and many days, she had fond memories of Europe and the journey. She started talking to me about the idea of us going to Europe one day together. Years later, we made it happen. That trip taught me that I can find a way to do the things I want! And it taught me that there will always be people in my life that are happy to see me do the things that mean the most to me….my friends and of course, my aunt! 🙂

From the moment I started researching this trip, I knew that there were people at work who would support me. What I didn’t know, was that there were friends out there who were silently supporting me even though they may not have known when or where I was actually going. But I always felt like I had a group of people around me who wanted the very best for me regardless of the impact it might have on them.

My strongest support as always come from my aunt. I think that’s because she loves to travel and knows how to travel the way I do….light and with as little holding me back as possible! I recognize not everyone can travel, but everyone can be supportive. In this past month and half, I’ve been amazed at how strong and wonderful my support network truly is! People that I literally have never met or haven’t seen in years, are out on Facebook every day watching my travels, commenting on my posts, and always wishing me well and thanking me for posting about my journey.

Folks, and you know who you are, you have no idea of what your comments mean to me! They are affirmations of friendships that don’t need to be coddled with birthday greetings or trips to the mall or even phone calls. They are daily reminders that we all touch each other’s lives in very small ways that have a huge impact in the end. Currently, I have a friend back in Colorado whose daughter was in a terrible car accident. My daily notes on his posts remind him that although we are miles apart, I am with him! Just as he is so appreciative of my few words a day that I send him, I too am appreciative of the comments all of you post!

There are many great things about travelling.  At times though, it does get lonely and that’s a part of the journey too. But reading your comments and thoughts and well-wishes that all of you post, brightens my day – EVERY DAY!! I look forward to reading your posts and emails!! They are not simply ego-boosters – they are true words of friendship that help me feel like you are on the journey with me!!

To all of you who take the time to post your comments…thank you! Please know that they are ALWAYS the first thing I look for when I sign on and that they ALWAYS bring a smile to my face!! Thank YOU!!

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you to be in theirs, the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

YOU ARE ALL FAMILY TO ME!!

Road trip tips!!

There are some places in the Malaysia/Thailand area where minivans are the only way to get from one spot to another. To me, “minivan” means captain’s chairs, cool a/c, some good music, and plenty of room. To the Malaysians and Thais, “minivan” means money…how many people can we put in one and still get the luggage in???

So, in the event you are planning to travel from Malaysia to Thailand or vice versa, I thought I would provide some tips. Hopefully you will find them useful on your journey!

Let’s start with pre-trip planning:

1.) Pray – for a driver who does not consistently put his foot on the gas and then lifts it off the gas. This is a recipe for road trip nausea! Pray – you get a seat in the front of the van as this will help with the on and off the gas pedal driver! Pray – you are next to the window and that it has curtains to protect you from the sun. Pray – you are booked with people from countries who believe in wearing deodorant!

2.) Pack your “with you” bag for the minivan. This bag should include your sarong, some food to munch on including crackers for nausea, your passport as you will need this to check out of one country and into the other, and your i-Pod. What I would NOT suggest is a book – you won’t be able to read it and nothing you read will be nearly as exciting as watching how your driver maneuvers the traffic!

3.) Sarong suggestion – spray it will a little of your perfume. This will come in useful if and when you need to cover your nose. The array of smells you may encounter include the armpits of others in the minivan, miscellenous food smells, and the guys in the back of the van letting out silent farts. I know you’re laughing now, but you won’t be later when you recall these words and wish you had sprayed your sarong with something better to smell! Of course, the sarong will also come in useful if you’ve forgetten to use deodorent, you’re cold, you’re shielding yourself from the sun coming through the window, etc. You simply can’t under estimate the use of a fragrant smelling sarong!

Day of the trip:

1.) Pray – a quick prayer for a safe trip is always a good idea!

2.) Chew on two Bonine or take some Dramimine! This is crucial and if you forget, you will wish you had done more of the first suggestion of praying!!

3.) Make sure you put your rain cover on your backpack. You have no idea where on the van your luggage will end up. Best to be safe rather than end up at your new location with wet gear!

4.) Be on time. However, expect that you will be picked up later than your scheduled time. That is how the program works. There is no sense in using up your valuable energy fighting this system! Save your energy as you will need it later!

5.) Don’t get comfortable in the vehicle that picks you up. Most likely, this lovely minivan with reclining seats, armrests, etc., is NOT the real deal. This driver is merely running you over to the stop where your death trap I mean, real vehicle waits already loaded with other passengers who have picked their prime seating!

6.) Be okay with whatever seat you get. Really folks, it’s one day – if you survive the crazy driving, the smells, the too cold and then too hot a/c,  the seat will be the least of your worries!

Enroute:

1.) Remember the sarong – by now you are ready to use it. I hope you sprayed it like I advised yo to do!

2.) The minute you feel the driver stepping on the gas and then releasing, you’ve just made the trip harder on yourself. You will NOT be able to ignore this the rest of the trip! Eat those crackers….if nothing else, it will distract you for a few minutes!

3.) Be prepared for the fact that the minute you open the crackers or pull or your sarong or get settled in for a nap, it will be time to stop the van. This will mostly likely be a smoke/eat/break. However, it could just be the gas stop stop if it comes early in the trip. I’m not sure why there’s no plan to gas up the van before the journey, but apparently both countries believe we would like to see their gas stations!

4.) Be prepared to use your energy for the whole border crossing adventure! This is tedious to say the least. Recognize that no matter which line you are in, it will be the one moving the slowest! Don’t fight it…any of it. It is a necessary evil that we must endure to be travellers! Put on your best smile, be sorry to be leaving one country and happy to be entering the next. Be grateful you have this opportunity to endure this process – many others don’t get this chance to have this much fun in one day!

5.) Recognize this will NOT be the last of your adventures! You will mostly likely get to change minivans once again! You will have no choice of seat, will have to learn the driving skills (if you want to call them that) of the next driver, and endure the smells of your new passenger friends!

While all of this may seem quite frustrating, in the end, it’s all okay. It’s one day in your travel life and if you can’t handle it, you probably shouldn’t be travelling. Think of it this way – it’s no different than hopping from plane to plane and enduring the customs and security processes in the airports!

One word of caution – DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES (AND THERE WILL BE MANY), YELL ABOUT YOUR GUIDE’S DRIVING!! This is considered very taboo! You will want to, many times!! Accept the fact that driving in the middle of the road is best because he can see which lanes are most advantageous to him! Go with the flow and if you prayed like I told you to in the beginning…it will all be fine!

Happy travels!!

Oh the things you'll see!

It’s not a sin to be happy…..

“It is not a sin to be happy…Because of my pride in wisdom, you made me walk the Road that every person can walk, and discover what everyone else already knows if they have paid the slightest attention to life. You made me see that the search for happiness is a personal search and not a model we can pass on to others.” Paulo Coehlo

These are by far the greatest words I will take with me from “The Pilgrimage” by Paulo Coehlo. The things in life that are important to me don’t have to be important to anyone else!

These words confirm my feelings that it’s okay for me to be silly, to laugh at myself, to have fun, to cry, to grow old, to love, to make mistakes.  No one owns my happiness but me! Travelling makes me happy – it’s okay for me to dream about it, be enthusiastic about it, do it with abandon and no sense of fear, and rejoice in it!

I am proud of what I’m doing in my life. I’m now travellling without fears and always with a sense that “there’s no sin in being happy”!! I hope you will do the same in your life! Be happy!

Live ’til ya die!!

The infamous SE Asia sidewalk...a death trap!!

This morning when I was writing in my journal, I realized I still have a couple of quotes by Paulo Coehlo. When I read this one, in light of my flesh-eating fish experience, it really hit home! It’s really ok that I had this adventure – it reconfirms that I’m alive and living life to the fullest!

“Still being fragile creatures, humans always try to hide from themselves the certainty that they will die. They do not see that it is death itself that motivates them to do the best things in their lives. They are afraid to step into the dark, afraid of the unknown, and their only way of conquering that fear is to ignore the fact that their days are numbered. They do not see that with an awareness of death, they would be able to be even more daring, to go much further in their daily conquests, because they have nothing to lose – for death is inevitable.”

Wow! Isn’t that just the truth? Since death is inevitable anyways, why aren’t we living our lives to the fullest? At some point, we crossover from being children who are carefree and indestructable to adults who are fearful of so many things. The more knowledge we gain about the dangers in the world, the more we stop living.

Unfortunately, I am guilty of this too! Because of my fears of not being able to take care of myself as I grow older, stress about not having a job, worry about where I’m going to live, etc., I’ve spent much of my life “safe”. I’m thankful though, that at some point, I realized that I will manage just fine no matter what! I finally woke up to the realization that no matter what – the clock keeps ticking and the world keeps spinning.

Life on the road reminds me that every day is a gift. Getting this wound reminds me that I could have chosen to not do any tours because “something might happen”! But the truth is, I would never have had this exciting adventure any other way! Sure, it’s kind of a strange one to have – but when I think of the stories I can tell (it’s now turned into a shark bite), the people I’ve met, the graciousness of the Thai tour company in helping me through this – I know for sure that I’m living this adventure to the fullest!

Truthfully, there are many dangers lurking out there for travellers. From crossing busy streets with traffic working the opposite of what you’re used to, to getting on airplanes, to crazy bus rides in the cities and countryside, to eating strange food cooked by most likely unwashed hands, to walking on SE Asia sidewalks that are always a REAL danger – the list just goes on and on! We are constantly at the mercy of others when we travel!  But sitting at home fearing these things, is not for me! Every day I wake up knowing yesterday was only the second best day of my life because today will be even better regardless of flesh-eating fish, weird sidewalks, or scary food! Today will be the best day ever because I’m cheating death – living each moment to the fullest!! I hope you will do the same!!

Why I can’t lose weight in Thailand…..

It’s simple. The food is too damn good and there are way too many choices!!

When I was in Malaysia, the kids at the hostels would rant and rave about how good the food was in Thailand. But when I asked them if the food was spicy, they always said yes. Now, I don’t know what food these people were ordering, but I’ve had nothing spicy at all yet! I will admit though, several times I’ve been asked if I want “spicy” or not!

Let’s start with breakfast. Although I’m having a hard time finding these for breakfast, we’ll count them as breakfast food – banana pancakes. These are not your Aunt Jamima’s pancakes folks!! These start as small round balls of dough. They flatten the dough and then make it thinner and thinner which makes the size of the “shell” get larger and larger. The “chef” throws a hunk of butter on the griddle and then the thin dough. Most of the time the dough is so thin it has holes in it. A banana is quickly sliced up and tossed in the middle, usually with another slab of butter! (Already you can see this is my kind of treat!!) Then the banana inside is covered up by folding over each side of the dough and the top and bottom of the dough. The whole square is turned over and fried also! Once it’s done, the “pancake” is removed to a piece of paper, cut up in 9 or 12 pieces, and then sprinkled with sweetened condensed milk and a little sugar. Now really folks, we’re talking dough, bananas, butter, sweetened milk and sugar. I’m not seeing a downside to this treat!! The only thing I have found is that bananas give me heartburn so I have limited my intake of these especially since I only seem to be able to find these in the evening at the night market!

Dinner – pad thai…..basically fried noodles with vegetables and chicken and sometimes shrimp and of course, soy sauce! Folks, these people love oil and butter and that puts me on a first name basis with them! Honestly, I could eat this stuff every night of the week – oh wait – I pretty much have!! Really, I do vary my dinner because they also have chicken and pork satay which is basically just meat grilled on a stick. It’s fabulous! I also sometimes have fried rice with vegetables and meat. I’ve also had omelets with meats and rice…they are delicious too.

And fresh juice..I’m telling you, they use whatever fruit you want and put it in the juicer right in front of you. Pineapple, strawberry, watermelon, kiwi, orange….you name it…they juice it!!

The most amazing thing of all is the cost of this food. Tonight I had pad thai in a sit down restaurant and it was 45 Baht which is slightly more than $1 USD. Add in my Coke for 20 Baht which is less than $1 and there’s a meal!

So here’s the deal…I had this feeling when I was in Malaysia and not liking the food so much because most of it had a curry-like taste to it, that I was going to come to Thailand and eat less because I wouldn’t care for the food. WRONGO!!! I love the food here and it’s taking everything in me not to eat too much!!

So….why can’t I lose weight in Thailand? It’s simple – the food is so damn good and there are way too many choices!!

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries