An abundance of choice

50 comments

I shift uncomfortably in my seat, wedged between my backpack and a sleeping stranger on a busy Bangkok bus, the smell of warm palms on metal railings mingling with the air-conditioned breeze that gratefully blows across my face. Outside, the sights of a city I’ve never been to before pass by in a blur, but I don’t look out the window. Through the hustle of human traffic that shifts around me a moment of peace has caught my eye, and I am transfixed.

An old man cups his hands together and brings them to his bowed head, pauses for a moment, then sweeps his hands back across his face, as though bathing himself in prayer. He does this repeatedly as we make our way through the crowded streets, turning in his seat to face temples and royal portraits, honouring a land that is entirely new to me.

It is beautiful to watch his quiet devotion, and I find myself wondering if I will be able to do the same – to love his country as deeply as the one I just left. India is such a special place to me, her grit forever ingrained in my skin. I can’t help but wonder, will she be the yard stick to which I hold every other place we visit? How will I be able to travel with an open heart when I have given it to India so completely?

::

We have booked five days in Bangkok, holed up in a hotel room on the infamous Khaosan Road, chosen for its cheap price and proximity to even cheaper street food. I expected to hate it. It is seedy, loud and jam-packed with tourists, everything I would ordinarily loathe, but I find myself inexplicably enamoured with its energy, a welcome interlude before we head to our next destination.

But where should our next destination be? We thought we knew, planning on heading south to Koh Tao for a few months. We even came close to renting Torre DeRoche’s little slice of island paradise while she embarked on her book tour, but were pipped to the post. Now we have a deadline and a decision looming.

Hours melt away as we pour over Google searches and travel costs. North? South? Chiang Mai? Train? Bus? Options sprawl infront of us, tangled in the mess of the web, waiting for the right one to be shaken loose. Each time we peruse a new option I find myself asking am I going to love it?  But the more we look, the more I enjoy the act of simply looking, and I begin to fall in love with something else instead: the freedom of choice. It dawns on me for the first time that we can go anywhere we choose; the world really is our oyster, just waiting to be cracked open.

Suddenly Lee has a solution. “Fuck it,” he says. “Let’s just got to Cambodia. It’s cheaper than Thailand and I love it there.” And with that, the cup that was neatly containing all our options suddenly starts to overflow, spilling forth an endless stream of new possibilities. We redirect our search and I begin to daydream about living in Siem Reap for a month and eating my weight in French bread.

But then we change our minds again.

::

We board a sleeper bus and open our newly replaced laptop. We have 20 hours ahead of us and a wealth of new movies to help us pass the time. We make our way through Argo, then begin watching The Impossible, based on the truse story of a family who survived the 2004 tsunami that devastated South East Asia.

Probably not the most sensible choice, considering we are en route to Koh Phangan.

The sun is slowly beginning to rise as we make our way from the bus to the ferry that will take us the rest of the way, just in time to light the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand. I stare out of the window in search of dolphins, then promptly fall asleep.

When I wake up I can just make out the hazy outline of land in the distance, and I feel my excitement begin to rise with every wave that laps at the side of the boat. There on the horizon is the next stage of our journey, and I can’t wait for it to begin.

We haven’t booked any accommodation, our decision making quota filled for the time being, and as we disembark we allow the choice to be made for us by the first tourist tout we meet. Tomorrow we will begin the search for a more permanent base, where we hope to stay for at least a month.

As my bike-taxi winds up over the hill away from the port of Thong Sala I can’t help but compare Koh Phangan with India – but am surprised by the results. The trees are more green here, the bougainvillea more pink, the sea more blue.

We made the right decision. This is a new place to fall in love with, where we can be more… us. A place less about my own personal journey, and more about my shared journey with Lee, as a couple. I feel my heart shift inside, making space for new feelings to form.

The warm air rushes past me, and I catch a handful. I bring it to my bowed head for a moment, then sweep it across my face, grateful for the many choices that led us here, and for all the choices still ahead.

break

 

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel March 15, 2013 at 18:13

How exciting! We often overlook the freedom of choice because it seems so overwhelming most of the time. In a strange way, I think we crave a small selection. Granted, we’d like a carefully curated selection, but having all those choices? Yikes. I applaud you for embracing the situation. That looks beautiful and I can’t wait to read more about it. How long are you allowed to stay there?

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Hannah March 16, 2013 at 09:15

A carefully curated selection would certainly be nice at times! Our Thai visa is valid for 30 days, then we will have to make a trip to Malaysia to apply for a new, longer tourist visa that is valid for two months.

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Rachel March 18, 2013 at 09:46

A trip to Malaysia to apply for a visa is no hardship – it’s just an opportunity to experience yet another country……I’ve not been to Thailand (apart from Bangkok airport!) but I found Malaysia a wonderful country full of diversity from gorgeous beaches to cosmopolitan cities to the lush greenery of the Cameroon Highlands…enjoy!

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Hannah March 19, 2013 at 11:56

Yes, a visa run is a very welcome excuse to visit Malaysia. I would also like to return there to spend more time exploring, and will be picking your brain for recommendations when I do! Miss you Rach xxx

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Toni March 15, 2013 at 18:36

Sometimes having no plans allows for life to be the sweetest it can be. Such freedom and inspiration surround you – breathe in and enjoy my sweet :)

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Hannah March 16, 2013 at 09:18

Thank you honey, I will!

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Jade March 15, 2013 at 18:36

I completely agree with Carmel above- often we open up a restaurant menu and complain about how big it is! We do so often forget how much choice we have in our lives and also that we do have the freedom to choose any of those choices!
It’s always lovely when the choice you do make turns out to be a great one…
Enjoy Thailand, it really is beautiful!
Jade recently posted..Why China is the perfect destination for the seasoned traveller…

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Hannah March 16, 2013 at 09:23

I complain about big menus all the time! It is all too easy to forget how lucky we are to be faced with so much choice, and I intend to be a lot more grateful for this from now on :)

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budget jan March 16, 2013 at 00:04

Beautifully written. Can’t wait to read more.
budget jan recently posted..Fantastic Friday Laos Rooster

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Hannah March 16, 2013 at 09:24

Thank you Jan!

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Savvy Scot March 16, 2013 at 08:24

Can’t wait to hear more about how you connect with this country. :) KP has some of Thailand’s best street food to be found!

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Hannah March 16, 2013 at 09:27

We haven’t sampled the street food here yet, but loved it in Bangkok. There isn’t any street food near us, but I have seen it in Thong Sala so will be sure to try it next time we are there :)

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) March 16, 2013 at 08:37

At times on our own journey I have been frustrated and overwhelmed by the lack of boundaries simply because, as you have found, when every thing is possible, it can make the act of choosing something and just going with it whole hog really difficult! I found myself dithering about because everything sounded good and how would I know what was the best option? What if I chose wrong.

I’ve since found that so long as you go with your gut, you’ll never regret it. Take the time to actually stop and listen to what you want and need, and where it is you desperately want to go. When we let that guide us, we found making choices became a lot easier!

(P.S. So glad you enjoyed Bangkok! We only had 2 days there as we were not sure if we would like it and were catching a flight out, but we know we’ll be back when we come back through Thailand in June. It really does have a special energy to it, though I admit, we only power-walked through KSR once and only spent about 20 minutes there!)
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..The Best and Worst Things We Ate on Bohol

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Hannah March 16, 2013 at 09:18

It’s good to hear I’m not alone in this! At one stage I was worried I was turning into a spoiled brat, complaining at all the choice laid before me. Your comment about listening to your gut rang so true to me, and is exactly what I intend to do from now on. So glad you guys enjoyed BKK too, and hopefully next time we’ll get to meet up :)

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Ashlie March 16, 2013 at 10:15

I can relate to dithering when all I really want to do is go ‘whole hog’ as you put it! I think the experience of having so many choices before you does give provide lots of practice at tuning in to what you really want and learning to trust your gut, an invaluable skill and one that I am grateful to be cultivating.
Ashlie recently posted..We’re Breaking The Rules And Making A Plan

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Hannah March 19, 2013 at 11:12

I wholeheartedly agree Ashlie, and have found that I am able to tune in to my gut-feelings, or intuition, a lot more readily now. If it feels right, I’ll go for it, and if it turns out I was wrong, what’s the real harm? It’s so wonderful to realise how much freedom we have gifted ourselves with.

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Dave March 18, 2013 at 04:32

I hate making decisions. I am working on it though! :) Chiang Mai is nice too. A different vibe than than BKK and the south. Add it to your list.. if you choose. :) Cool blog!

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Hannah March 18, 2013 at 11:22

Thanks Dave! I think we’ll stay here for at least a month, but then who knows… all these decisions are certainly overwhelming at times. Chiang Mai is definitely on my list of places to visit at some stage though :)

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Trudy March 18, 2013 at 08:20

I love your writing, I get so caught up in it. Having just come from Koh Phangan and Koh Tao I think you’ve made a wonderful choice. I fully expected to find Koh Phangan full of Full Moon hunting douchebags but it is a wonderful relaxed place with lots of expats looking for a more fulfilling life. Poohs Kitchen in Haadrin does the most amazing cheap vegetarian food and the Massage place just up the road also has amazing Reiki sessions. Blue Horizon is the best yoga class I have ever done in the most picturesque setting. I hope you love Phangan and find yourself a new home that you love.
Trudy recently posted..Travel Cinemagraph Series: A Touch of Dutch in Delft

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Hannah March 19, 2013 at 11:07

Thank you Trudy, what a lovely compliment! I also expected to find Koh Phangan full of party goers, but like you have been pleasantly surprised by how quiet and chilled out it is. We are in Thong Noi Pan Yai, the opposite end from Haadrin, but if we head down that way I will be sure to check out your recommendations :)

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Anna B March 18, 2013 at 11:05

Glad you’re there safe and sound Hannah, enjoy your adventure xx

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Hannah March 19, 2013 at 05:07

Thank you honey. Miss you as always xxx

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Kim March 19, 2013 at 04:22

Hannah, I love this:

“This is a new place to fall in love with, where we can be more… us. A place less about my own personal journey, and more about my shared journey with Lee, as a couple.”

I hope you guys get some time to hole up and concentrate on each other. Can’t wait to see photos of your new home.
Kim recently posted..Slow Travel: The Benefits of Being Still

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Hannah March 19, 2013 at 10:32

Thanks Kim, it’s been great to enjoy somewhere new together. I will be sharing photos soon – you guys would love it here so much :)

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Danica March 19, 2013 at 12:16

Am sitting in my office in central London, where it’s raining and am loving your experience. We have got flowers, champagne and Boo but its not the same x x x x

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Hannah March 19, 2013 at 13:48

Well, I may have paradise, but I don’t have my best friend. Miss you so much Dolly xxx

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Hannah @ Getting Stamped March 20, 2013 at 14:58

Last minute decisions are usually the best! Can’t wait to hear what happens next on your journey! 101 days out until we start ours!
Hannah @ Getting Stamped recently posted..The Dollar Menu – Tulum, Mexico

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Hannah March 20, 2013 at 15:43

Wow, 101 days, that’s so exciting! I look forward to seeing what choices your own adventure holds :)

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Gerald Englebretsen via Facebook March 20, 2013 at 16:06

Extraordinarily good read as usual – enjoy the Koh

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Hannah March 21, 2013 at 01:15

Thank you so much Gerald!

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Further Bound via Facebook March 21, 2013 at 01:21

Thank you Gerald, I’m so glad you enjoyed it :)

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Brian March 21, 2013 at 16:28

I totally agree with being overwhelmed with choices. Since we started travelling, Kim and I have both had ‘decision fatigue’ at times – and huge restaurant menus don’t help at all! At times too many choices can be as maddening as having no choice at all. Enjoy your time in Koh Phangan. Can’t wait to hear more about it!

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Hannah April 2, 2013 at 11:02

So glad to hear we’re not the only ones to struggle with this – and I love how you call it ‘decision fatigue’! Another plus point of slow travel is we only have to do this a few times a year!

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Sofie March 22, 2013 at 12:47

Another beautifully written post.
Can’t wait to read about your next adventures.
I hope to find that place that is just right as well someday.
Sofie recently posted..In search of the light: Chasing a shepherd in Umbria

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Hannah April 2, 2013 at 17:28

Thank you Sofie, so happy to have you following along :)

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Matthew Weinreb via Facebook March 23, 2013 at 02:48

Another beauty! I love the gesture of sweeping your hands over your face. I will try it!

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Hannah April 2, 2013 at 17:42

Thank you Matthew, it was such a beautiful practice to watch, I hope you enjoy it!

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Stephen S. March 23, 2013 at 02:58

Great post Hannah! Looking forward to having that same amount of endless freedom.
Stephen S. recently posted..I’m Driving a Third of the Planet in a Hyundai Getz!

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Hannah April 2, 2013 at 17:23

Thank you Stephen, not long now till your own adventures begin – I can’t wait to follow you on the Mongol Rally :)

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Alex March 28, 2013 at 14:03

Can’t wait to hear what you think of Thong Nai Pan… one of my close friends (who funny enough I am traveling with right now!) lived there for years before moving to Cayman where we met.
Alex recently posted..A Taste of Burma: Exploring Mae Hong Son

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Hannah April 2, 2013 at 17:39

Thong Nai Pan was beautiful, but very expensive! We rented a house in Pan Yai, but ended up leaving after just one week. It was very quiet, and seemed to lack personality. The beach itself though was perhaps the most beautiful I have ever been to, and the water was as clear as glass. We’re in Koh Tao now, your old haunt. It’s such a shame you don’t live here anymore!

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Kimmy @ AfterGlobe March 29, 2013 at 04:45

This is wonderful! I love that you ended up enjoying a place that you didn’t think you’d be into.
Kimmy @ AfterGlobe recently posted..Where Are You Going?

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Hannah April 2, 2013 at 17:29

Thank you Kimmy, it was certainly a pleasant surprise to enjoy Khaosan, and a valuable lesson in travelling with an open mind!

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TammyOnTheMove April 7, 2013 at 16:34

Well if you ever change your mind and do make it to Cambodia let me know. Been there for 1.5 years and now and will be there for at least another 6 month, so I could be your personal tour guide. :-)
TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Everest Base Camp chronicles cont…

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Hannah April 8, 2013 at 16:56

Well, the way we change our minds it could very well happen – in fact we were only talking about Cambodia again today! And having you as a tour guide is a very big selling point indeed :)

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Kim April 24, 2013 at 11:28

I’ve just spent the last 5 hours reading your blog. What a wonderful journey! You’ve inspired me to reach for things that I never thought would be possible.

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Hannah April 24, 2013 at 12:34

Wow, that’s amazing, thank you for taking the time to do that!

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Mariana March 3, 2014 at 09:37

Just another reason why I love what travel brings. Having an abundance of choice is such a great feeling. I’m in a similar position as my visa is slowly coming to an end in Australia. Instead of being worried of what to do next I’m trying to look on the positive side of things and remember that the world is my oyster.
Mariana recently posted..Be Set Free

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Hannah March 3, 2014 at 12:59

Enjoy the freedom Mariana, it is a wonderful gift. Safe and happy travels to you!

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