I awake suddenly. A tiny heel drives in to my thigh, shocking me half way out of my doze.
“HYFBJBJBEFFFFF BUT I DON’T HAVE AN ONWARD TICKET, HOW CAN I BE EXPECTED TO BOOK AN OUTWARD FLIGHT FOR 3 MONTHS TIME PLEASE LET ME IN DON’T MAKE ME GO HOME”
A Stewardess is staring at me with bewilderment.
“Err, forget that. Bring me a G & T, stat. Make it a double.”
Once more I find myself on a plane to Asia. For my sins, I am placed in a seat next to a small child. A child so small that she unreservedly wails throughout the journey. The boredom of long haul air travel – and the general pain of existence – being the source of her distress, I would imagine. I never got round to asking her.
Not small enough to stop her from thrashing around in her seat/bed/jungle gym for 6 hours, mind. And that she did. Mostly interchanging between arch-superman and a hollow body/snow angel position, all the while using various parts of my leg and torso to stabilise herself, and generate lateral force. For reasons including WAHHHHH, and the fact that she is probably, barely 4 years old.
Her form is broken – a lack of core activation. But that’s me being a pedant. I don’t expect her to know of, or care about these things given she is (probably) barely 4 years old, and thus not yet an incredible narcissist. Yet. One day she may well join the rest of us in becoming obsessed with issues like the definition in her midsection, handstanding everywhere, or how her teeth look on [insert psyche-controlling future social media platform], but for now, she is just an utterly selfish infant that doesn’t give a shit about anything other than her immediate human needs.
Hey, good for her.
Her father, god bless him, was apologetic. Being the affable sort, I told him not to worry. Sure, I had to spend much of the journey in fight or flight, anticipating when the next wild kick towards my face might be incoming, but what is he suppose to do? His job is thankless and impossible. Each time he repositioned her to an awkward 20 degree angle across his lap and told her to “stop kicking the nice man”, she automatically just sprawled back in to an ungainly, inconsiderate shape, as if to absorb as much real estate as possible, learning nothing from each previous episode. Her disregard couldn’t have been any louder had she held up two middle fingers during her descent back in to supine.
If the gap between my seat and hers were an International border, then she would be a visa-less entity, lawlessly steamrolling her way into my territory, unannounced. Her unsanctioned advances into my chair space would abruptly mark the end of any hypothetical treaties or trade agreements that had hypothetically been agreed between ourselves (although I envisage said hypothetical negotiations being Brexitly torturous, given she is barely 4 years old, and as such could offer no value towards my hypothetical chair-nation economy, in any trade.)
Her aggression was such that the UN – or the equivalent organisation in this mini plane seat universe – would be heavily involved. Come to think of it, her Dad was likely the International seat regulator that I was pining for. He may have his work cut out attempting to nurture this wild animal he conceived probably almost 4 years ago, but perhaps his diplomatic efforts were left wanting.
I’m all for freedom of movement, but within reason. Come on, Dad. Sort your kid out. Lay down some sanctions, for god sake. I mean, not to completely over-exaggerate, but this would be something verging on invasion, a provocation of war in a more recognised political sphere. Here I am sitting quietly, watching none of the terrible films on offer, reading my book, politely sipping on a Gin & Tonic, and mostly just behaving like India or Iceland have done for most of their known geopolitical existence, and she comes flying in, belligerently encroaching upon my state like a warlord wearing pink stripy socks. Seriously, who attacks Iceland? What kind of weak, cowardly behaviour is that? Who does that? A (probably, barely) 4 year old kid, that’s who.
No, but I love kids. Honest.
Let’s Start Again
My journey to Location Independent Magnificence continues in the Arabian state of Qatar. I’ve made the decision to scale up my life to match my astronomical ambitions. Surround yourself with those you want to be like, they say.
I want to be a financial behemoth. Warren Buffet minus the Philanthropy. So here I will assimilate with Doha’s elite until I have accumulated unfathomable wealth that sits in Swiss bank accounts, and In duffel bags on a yacht somewhere in a remote, tax-free, anything goes part of the Indian Ocean. At the point I’m tipping my pilot (flying me to watch the corrupt Russian football team that I recently acquired) with one hundred dollar bills, I will likely realise that being super wealthy solves nothing, and repent against my disgraceful pursuit of affluence in the most spectacular manner – I will drive off a cliff in a Lamborghini.
I don’t know if this is a good plan or not. Admittedly, I haven’t thought it through. I just need to get out of the airport first.
Taxi: “Hello sir, welcome to Qatar. Where to?”
BYJKY: “I’m a budget traveller. I will soon be extremely wealthy, but currently, I am a budget traveller. Take me to your finest condominium for under $200.”
Taxi: “Certainly. The Grand Plaza is only $150 a night. Would that be to your liking?”
BYJKY: “No, no, no. I mean under $200 for the month.”
BYJKY: “No, but I’m being serious.”
Taxi: “So am I, sir. The Royale is $3000 per month.”
BYJKY: “Hmm, I see. Taxi man, take me to the airport.”
Taxi: “We haven’t left the airport, sir.”
Okay, Let’s Start Again
So I’m back in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Not being a Billionaire is sometimes a defeating reality to live in, but life is unfair. Based on my life choices and questionable work ethic, I don’t deserve a Billion of anything, but that doesn’t change the fact that life is unfair.
Okay, so I’m not that motivated by money, but I still wonder now and then what it would feel like to be rich. To live in complete comfort without needing to worry or think about money. It’s not a regular thought, just a curious lust that spams my mind from time to time.
Yes, that would be nice. The freedom to live untethered from financial burden. Cocktails and beaches. Moccasin shoes. Diamond Cufflinks. Other accessories that will make you wildly depressed after five minutes. Oh, the grand life that would be.
But you know, it wouldn’t help me learn the harp.
If I wanted to – theoretically – learn the harp, then money wouldn’t make me a good harp player.
I could buy the nicest harp out there, have my own personal harp auditorium built, hire a world class harp teacher, travel the world watching the best harpists perform. But ultimately, I’d still have care about learning the harp.
I’d still have to spends hours and hours learning and refining technique, and musical theory. There would be plenty of days where I’d sit down to my harp and think, ‘Fuck the harp’. I’d have to face mindnumbing plateaus, roadblocks and challenges, probably at 11pm at night when serotonin levels are rock-bottom, and there is no one around to give me that ‘You’ve come so far at the Harp! Your Harpistry is to be admired!’ pep talk.
In that moment, money offers nothing. In those disgusting, brutally honest junctures where your courage and work ethic are the only means of moving forward, money is worthless. Money is a societal construct, and it doesn’t help us win personal battles, work hard, or learn to be a great harpist, or even just an acceptable harpist.
Fortunately I have no interest in learning the harp, and I think I should give being filthy a rich a spin before deciding that it’s too good to be true.
Okay, Okay. Let’s Start Again
Right yeah, Chiang Mai – I really like this place, but I don’t think I love it. Some days I absolutely hate it. My feelings are mixed. I’ve spoken at length about my likes and dislikes of living here. But since my departure back in July last year, I saw a little more of the world, and all those experiences, as enriching as they were, had me craving the place again.
Maybe I’m just drunk on sunshine and 25 Baht coffee, but it’s a town that has a lot going for it. This sentiment may not last, but for now, I’m pretty content to be back.
I’ve seen a lot of familiar ‘Theycomeandgo‘ faces around town, which is strange. Is it? Should it be? When I see people leave I assume it’s either because they’ve bottomed out and need to go home and get a job, cause they’re filthy stinking rich and are moving home to buy a premium plot of land in California, or simply because they absolutely hate the place. The last lot are easier to identify since their parting words are something like, ‘I absolutely hate this place. Bye.’
But then people come back, regardless. People that were broke 6 months ago, people that are filthy stinking rich and people that are sort of somewhere in between. Everyone comes back. Almost everyone.
Loads of Chiang Mai ‘Alumuni’ have been wandering around this part of the world for months, or even years. Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia. And they all come back to Chiang Mai for 3 months, or 6 months before leaving again. And they’ll likely do the same next year, rags or riches.
And this realisation kills my narrative that Chiang Mai is just a launchpad, like some kind of entrepreneurial kindergarten. Many want to be here irrespective of their financial state.
Could this be me? Could I be living in South East Asia 6 months out of the year until I’m a wrinkly old man that is metabolically flatlining from too much MSG?
It’s a new idea, but I can picture that. It’s not the dream, but I can see it. South-East Asia is on the rise, and if I do hit a financial home run then perhaps I’ll just stay here.
I could just meet a nice Thai lady, start a family, learn enough of the language to receive courteous nods of appreciation from everyone at my local, all the while feeling subtly ostracized because I’ll never be Thai, try to open a Thai bank account, start shouting at the bank man because he won’t let me since I’m not Thai, causing him to lose face, fail to open a Thai bank account, bitterly do the same old cash advance dance every fortnight, attempt to buy a property, buy a property at Farang rate, have the kitchen redone, have the same ol…….
Let’s Start Again
No you know what, let’s just leave it there.