Archive for January, 2010

Doing nothing in Thailand

Monday, January 11th, 2010


That title is simultaneously accurate and misleading. As the sun sets over Loh Dalam bay in that spectacular Thai fashion I’m sitting on our rusty balcony considering the past 30 days as we’ve wandered from beach to island. While we certainly haven’t been over-doing it, I can tally a reasonable list of stuff that we’ve done.


Snorkeling (lots of), scuba diving, sitting in deck chairs on the beach reading, drinking soda water with ice and lots of lime, searching for good coffee (and winning more often that I’d expect), identifying the characteristics of the perfect pad thai, som tum, grilled chicken and wondering why one of the three won’t exist from one island to the next and finally, of some importance, working out how we’re actually going to join the dots between here and home.


What’s been notably absent from our activities of late includes trawling Lonely Planet for a clue, arguing with taxi drivers from a weak position, lugging our gear to a new place and a new room every few days, and looking at museums, temples, churches, historic sites or indeed any culturally significant thing at all. It’s official: We’re on holiday from traveling. And it’s nice.


I’ve spent quite a lot of time considering what it is to do nothing. Admittedly, whatever it is, we must be pretty good at it by now. But I’m increasingly convinced that having unlimited spare time is not the holy grail that it might appear to be.


This, of course, sounds obvious. I’ve held this view for a long time, so I’ve often asked people what they would do if they retired from working tomorrow. The answers predictably included traveling the world, learning new skills and maybe some golf. “Working on the house” is another favorite, and that they don’t consider this to be work is of particular interest to me.


Travel can, shockingly, be considered work. We reached the point sometime in Vietnam where we realized that we didn’t want to see another thing on the tourist trail. An enormous Buddha statue or unique hill tribe? Forget it. The big hitters like Ankgor Wat? Not a chance.


After just 8 months (a pretty short trip as far as round-the-world-ers go) our patience and interest had waned, and the act of traveling had become work. As I sit here having transitioned from traveling to “on holiday” I’m considering some of the things I’m looking forward to when I get home, and I note that some fall firmly into the “work” category.


Chief among them, actually, is work itself. I’m genuinely looking forward to sitting in front of a couple of very large LCDs and writing some code.

Setting aside the work vs spare time considerations, what’s really been missing from our lives during the trip is our friends. Which is food for thought for anyone who, like me, wonders if you really can create a remote existence. Be it perpetual travel, or setting up shop somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Filled with beautiful tropical beaches and cheap pad thai as it may be.


Perhaps even retiring too early. Who are you going to play golf with?

So as the perpetual holiday draws to an end, we’re looking forward to seeing lots of you soon, and some of you someday, somewhere. Oh, and doing some work again.