I am sitting here at my favorite co-working space in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s a usual day here with some familiar and some new people tucking their heads in their computer screens, trying to get things done before they fly off to celebrate Christmas and the New Year somewhere at the beach, in glitzy Bangkok, or in the mountains. Meanwhile, my coffee, which I took 20 minutes ago, is now lukewarm as I rush to pen down my thoughts on 2016, not waiting for the New Year’s Eve. The sense of urgency I am feeling right now is somewhat similar to the feeling I experienced at the start of the year while deciding on spending 4 months in South East Asia to further explore and celebrate my location independence. Since my travels was the key highlight of 2016, I’ll focus on that in this post.
December 31, 2015: I trekked up in the Himalayas to my friend, Mohinder’s hut. At 2700 meters and in freezing minus 11 degrees, waking up to the New Year felt different. After all, starting the year at utmost peace was thought provoking.
Just a few days after the turn of the year, I came across nomadlist. Although the site is not perfect, it was a good starting point. Within next couple of days, I made a decision to travel to Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia for four months starting June.
June 16, 2016: Sitting in the lounge at Chennai Airport, waiting for my flight to Bangkok, I still had my moments of doubt about whether I can pull this off. After all, for a guy who grew up in a small city in India with not enough resources to attend school picnics, this was a big step by any measure. Although I had been travelling around India for over 18 months, taking a foreign trip alone (and just second one in my lifetime) for four months was a moment of goosebumps multiplied by 100.
All of that changed the moment I landed in Bangkok. Months of research and anticipation bore fruits as I walked out of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to get a shuttle bus to go to Don Mueng Airport to catch my flight to Chiang Mai!
Besides a 6-day trip to Bali in 2014, I didn’t have an experience staying in a foreign country on my resume. While daily life in Chiang Mai is super easy, first few days of my first trip here went into separating reality in Thailand from the perception I brought from home. An open mind and some time are all that I took to get off the ground and start enjoying my journey. The amazing community full of brilliant and open-minded people makes this place what it is. It might be clichéd but I can’t thank this city enough for bringing the change in me.
Is it a new me or the parts of old one I didn’t know of?
Once a self-proclaimed introvert, I have seen myself being more extroverted in recent years. However, the journey surprised me with my exceptional social and networking skills. I have made more friends in five months’ journey than I have in years back home. To top it up, I guess I have got at least one buddy in almost all continents.
All those goodbyes and little heartbreaks have taught to me to let go and move on.
I have learnt to appreciate small things in life, making me more at peace and always grateful to be alive.
On a lighter note, I have learnt to pack lighter with the weight of my backpack coming down by massive 2 kilograms. Such a relief for my shoulders!
In the times of Islamic state, growing nationalism, and Donald Trump, it’s easy to question the state of humanity. However, I would like to highlight few instances that keep my hope in humanity strong:-
Although with a global outlook, I’m an Indian at heart. The year has helped me redefine my Indian-ness. Being social and adjusting to any circumstances comes naturally to me. I started appreciating these things only when I started my journey.
It’s an incredible time to be an Indian. Apart from the fast growing economy, India has a lot to offer. Every missing thing that I think of is opening windows to an opportunity. And yes, India has the best food in the world: P
It’s not a coincidence that most of my adventures happened during or after my South East Asia trip. After all, travelling with an open mind is also about opening yourself to new experiences. Some of my notable adventures this year:-
One of my hobbies is to explore new cultures and see how similar and how different they are from where I come from. 2016 was full of new cultural experiences including:-
Travelling this year has helped me build some connections which might turn into business relationships in the times ahead. Moreover, working from all these beautiful places with a lot of distractions around requires self-motivation. I have learnt to be a better manager. It has also given me some clarity on the side skills that I would like to develop.
For all that it offers, travelling alone is not an easy job, especially when you travel with your work. There are moments when I feel lonely. At times, I start questioning the whole purpose of it. It’s hard to say goodbye to friends and I take the time to build new ones after a while. I miss my family and favorite food once in a while. It’s tough to see myself drifting apart from some old friends because we no longer talk as frequently or our views no longer match. Sometimes, anxiety peeps in as I start thinking about the sustainability of this lifestyle that I have chosen.
Through the thick and thin, I know that I am constantly getting better. When you see everything around you as transitionary, you have no other option but to keep going. The year has prepared me to deal with any change that comes my way and pass it with a smile. Although, we are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons, we don’t have to bind ourselves to a fixed orbit as long as the nucleus is intact.
2016? You were awesome!
2017? Bring it on!
I enjoyed reading your reflection of 2016, top to bottom. Landed on it to give a cursory view, but ended up reading it word by word.
Keep it flowing!
All the best for 2017 🙂
Thanks Surbhi! 🙂
Wish you a great 2017 as well!
Traveling is no big deal as it seems. We just have to reduce or delay some material aspirations to fulfil our nomadic dreams!