The bracing cold water hits my face and flows over my body as I dive out of the sun and slip into the cool water. I exhale and let myself drift slowly downwards to sit crossed legged on the bottom of the pool. I remain motionless, listening to the faint underwater hum of the filtering system and watch the bubbles float slowly upwards through dancing underwater sunbeams to break gently in an array of reflected light at the surface. It’s 2pm. Tuesday.
This time a month ago I would have been mid way through a 3 hour client meeting trying unsuccessfully to convince some highly agitated clients that, while I understand a two month project delay is unacceptable, redesigns at such a late stage take time and cost money and so are unavoidable. It is the same conversation I have every week and is currently going to keep me in the office until gone 8…again.
Shaking my head slightly in remembrance of an old life that currently seems so distant, I let another bubble escape my lips and watch it float upwards towards freedom.
As I look around my underwater paradise and watch the light dancing off the pool walls, I feel just like the bubble.
It breaks at the surface, now forever free of the old confides that once trapped it.
I smile to myself. Yes, this is definitely different.
Bordered by the mountains of Laos, the flats of Cambodia and the expanse of Burma nestles the land of Thailand, affectionately known to foreign felangs as “The Land Of Smiles.” Within this amazing landscape lies the capital of Bangkok, and it is here that I began my new journey as a life designer and traveling entrepreneur.
Thailand means a lot of things to a lot of people, but to this fledgling life designer 3 months ago, it represented the opportunity to change the course of my life forever.
I, like many before me, entered this new land and new challenge, a nervous and excited outsider, grasping my rucksack and the few familiar comforts I brought with me tightly as I left the airport and ventured towards an unknown life. Three months later I left a confident traveler, refined by this beautiful place and the proud owner of a radically redefined view of what life can be and what it means to truly live and define my own world without confines. This is my story and call to action.
Find Your Own Thailand
From the smiles of trained air hostess to the heart felt appreciation of an unfortunate blind Thai beggar for a cold drink on a hot day, it is impossible not to fall in love with the people of Thailand. It has been less than 90 days, hardly enough time to even grasp the very basics of the language of this country I have been so fortunate enough to have experience these last months and still, as I write this article while on the plane flying back to England, I am compelled to return in the future.
Thailand was my chance to finally realise how important it is to honour this gift of life that is bestowed upon each one of us.
You will have your own Thailand to seek out that is unique to you -it is up to you to rise to the challenge.
I am three months older since I first arrived but in a very real sense I have grown far more than this small timeframe in life would usually allow.This is the start of my journey and yet, if it had been the ONLY journey I was to take, that in itself, it would be enough.
Whup Whup Whup
I lie back and watch the rotor blades of the Cambodian room fan spin relentlessly in the ceiling above me. To my right is a view out of the window of palm trees and blue skies, to my left the two home-made walking crutches propped against the stark white wall. My traveling partner is out for a few hours, off exploring the city as I lie here high on pain killers. She has been incredibly good to me in my current crippled state and I am very grateful to her for this.
Its around 6, Wednesday I think. A few months ago I would still be in the office, wordlessly willing my client to put the phone down so I could finally escape and not have my evening plans ruined yet again.
Two different lives and I am trapped by both, one in an office on the phone, one lying in a bed with a fractured foot.
Only one of these lives, however, had me racing through the mist in a Tuk Tuk at 4.30 in the morning, hiding from the cold whipping air under a blanket with a beautiful blond on my way over to the ancient ruins of Ankawat to catch the sunrise and as it happens, break my ankle.
I lie back, put on some U2 “It’s a Beautiful Day” and smile. Bono, you speak the truth, It truly is a beautiful day.
You get one life so make it count
What is the perfect life? That I do not know the answer to.
What brings an individual happiness is different for each one of us, and what brings me or you or anyone happiness now may not do so in the future.
What I do know, however, is that you only get one life, and one chance to make the most of it.
For me, it unfortunately took a huge event in my life, one I would not wish on anyone, to jog me out of my rut and finally make me throw caution to the wind and stop playing it safe and actually start living my life. If I could reverse that event and lose all that I have done since then, I would in an instant, but regrettably I cannot.
I can however choose to honour the memories of those that I loved by not shying away from what life has to offer and to live boldly. This is a powerful motivator and one that drives me forward.
You need to find your own motivator, the thing that will drive you to live your own personal journey boldly, fearlessly and adventurously.
Whether you choose to break completely free as I have chosen or any multitude of other things such as creating a loving home, nurturing a wonderful marriage, building a successful career, raising incredible children or developing a deep social circle of friends.
Whatever stage of your life you are at, you need to know what brings you personal happiness and also brings happiness to those you care about. You need to know what this is and then you must pursuit it relentlessly.
Do NOT settle for Second Best
As The Dead Poets Society suggest, you need to “Suck the very marrow out of life”, do not settle for second best, do not except less then you can achieve.
You have incredible abilities and talents that are unique to you, and only you – discover them, develop them and use them. Do not let life pass you by. Be forceful, make life play ball, make life work for you. Get your hands dirty, get sweaty, get involved until you physically can’t give any more and you collapse exhausted but content, safe in the knowledge that you gave it your all.
When you work, work hard.
When you play, play well.
When you cry, cry from the depths within.
When you love, love with your everything.
When you win, take the victory.
When you lose, accept the loss.
When you praise, give it lavishly.
When you give, give generously.
When you forgive, mean it.
When you are sad, appreciate it.
When you are scared, face your fears.
When others are scared, protect them.
When you do something, give it your everything.
When you live, live like your life depends on it
Do this and then, like the sweat after a hard fought sports match, you can be proud that you have earn’t the gift of life that was given to you. This should be the goal for every single individual. How dare you squander the gift of life, it is the most precious gift you will ever receive, so treat it as such.
Do not do it for the approval or respect of others, do it for you. Do not let any man have reason to say that you did not give it your all and played the game as hard as you could and as well as you could and for as long as you could until you could give no more.
I hear the sigh of my good friend across the table from me. She finishes the last mouthful and lies back and joins the other 3 already staring at the sky, silohetted against the setting sun. I smile and look over to my right to see my other 2 good friends also settling back, I follow suit and we all lie in silence staring at the sky and watching the changing colours and the sun disappears over the horizon. It has been a good day, there has been laughter, there has been tears and there has been relationship.
This time 3 months ago I would be shut off on my computer, exhausted from work and wanting to be alone before I have to get up and do it all over again in the morning.
As dusks falls I close my eyes and think of those around me that I care about, I think of my family and I think of those that are no longer with me.
I think of these things and I think of life and I know that I will never again shy away from living it to the full, boldly and fearlessly sucking the very marrow out of life.
Answer The Call
This is your call to action. Grab life and do not let it get away without giving you everything it has to offer. You only get one.
Thailand was the start of my challenge in designing the life I want. No doubt yours will be different.
Find your own Thailand and take the first steps towards living the life of your dreams because the most important thing to remember is: