*Occasionally I write a blog post about mental/emotional health. This is one of those posts.*
I moved to this place with my new partner, bursting with love, full of hope. But I also came to this place emotionally fragile. I expected our love to fill a void I felt in my life. In hindsight, I see that resting your whole happiness on one person is slightly foolish.
This is the place where I have been briefly, exquisitely, happy. Where we laughed, ate and sang along to bad songs on the radio. A place where we curled up together, finding safety in each other’s arms. A place where we shared spiritual ideas and meditated together.
In July 2016 we spent two and a half weeks travelling around the far north of Thailand on scooters. We were careful not to photograph people without their permission, and we avoided driving into many of the small villages that we passed. This is because these villages never see tourists, and may not want to, and didn’t give us our consent to visit.
A sketch of our route (from my diary)
I don’t understand the fascination with traffic-clogged Chiang Mai. I can’t wait to get away from the city and the tour agencies selling treks to ‘hill tribes’. But I’ll write more about that in another post.
Chris and I want to explore the far north of Thailand on a long scooter trip. So we hire out two scooters and haphazardly brave the traffic of Thailand’s second largest city. (If you’re new to riding a scooter, I don’t recommend starting in Chiang Mai.) When we arrive in peaceful Chiang Dao at the end of day one, I’m just thankful that I get there in one piece.
Karen, who died in May
I have started to contemplate death properly for the first time. This contemplation began roughly one year ago, when I was in Bangkok. Running late for a Buddhist talk on impermanence, I dodged the heavy traffic as I walked across the road.
Suddenly I saw a man laying on the ground with a sheet over him, surrounded by police tape. He had been killed by a car. I stopped and stared and began to cry. Despite the hectic street, he looked so alone on the cold ground, as the police detatchedly stood around taking witness statements. I thought about his family, who wouldn’t yet have the news that he had been killed. Passers-by hurriedly moved on, and some people even giggled. (I wondered whether this was a nervous reaction to death, or whether it was because of a different relationship to death in Asia in comparison to Europe).
“Smile like you mean it and it will be returned.”
– Nahko & Medicine for the People, Father Mountain
I live in a society that is suffering from a sickness – a society where we are fearful and distrusting of our fellow human beings; a society where any sense of community has vanished and where we don’t have a clue who our neighbours are; a capitalist society where we are conditioned to be individualistic and competitive in order to be the best, as opposed to selfless and giving; a society where we have been brought up to think that it’s okay to bomb and massacre other people because we’re somehow more right and just; a society where our obsession for smart phones and social media feeds our egos and fuels narcissism; a society in which many of us are suffering from epic rates of mental health problems.
Just me and the rice paddies…
I have been travelling alone for one month. Before this, I was travelling with Chris every day, so the feeling of being alone was all the more intense when he left. It’s been interesting observing myself: my feelings of loneliness or contentment, and observing when I have clung to other travellers so as not to feel lonely.
Hiking in the Himalayas above Dharamsala, India – home of the Dalai Lama – in 2008 (me in the middle)
“This place is full of hippies! It’s awful!” I emailed my ex-boyfriend, Tom, back in 2008. I was in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama. I wasn’t interested in Buddhism and I was only up in this village because I had met other travellers heading there. Fast forward six years and I am now writing a blog post about my transition to Buddhism. I would never have predicted it!