Video montage of my 3 month trip
Such a weird coincidence that Chris at the Art of Non-Conformity posted this the day my adventure ended. Weird:
After your big adventure, you’re looking forward to the homecoming. The adventure was fun and challenging, but toward the end you’re ready for something familiar. You find yourself daydreaming of friends, family, and the comforts of home. Then the big day finally arrives, when you say farewell to _____, your base of foreign surroundings for some time.
When you return, people are happy to see you, and you’re happy to see them. You swing by your old haunts, read the mail that’s arrived in your long absence, and try to settle back in. At first, it’s all fun and nice. My favorite foods! The old coffee shop. Things are easier here, and everyone speaks a language I understand.
But then, just as you missed home while you were away, you start missing away while you’re home. You remember the other coffee shop, the one you discovered on your adventure. The unfamiliar foods, so strange at first, that you learned to enjoy. Your small-but-important victories in learning to communicate in another language.
Many of your friends and family, who are otherwise intelligent and compassionate people, don’t understand what’s happened to you because they have no context for it. To them, your experiences far away are an “other,” in a place they’ve vaguely heard of but whose connection exists entirely with you. They listen politely to your stories, but they’re ready to move on long before you are.
"You’ll never guess what I saw!" you tell everyone you meet for weeks on end. "I’ve learned so much about the world."
“That’s great,” they say. “Have you seen what’s happening with American Idol?”
When you went away weeks, months, or years ago, you were prepared for culture shock in your new surroundings. Coming home, the reverse culture shock hits you out of nowhere, which is all the more difficult because you didn’t expect it to be so strong.
It helps to talk with other people who’ve seen what you’ve seen, or who have been away on a big excursion of their own. They may not understand the specific experience you had, but they know exactly what you are dealing with in your reentry. As you go through adventure detox, it may also help to have an upcoming adventure in mind — something to look forward to as you blend your old life with the new.
But these things won’t completely solve the problem. There’s only one option: you must learn to keep some of the memories in your own heart. This is hard to do, because you want to share everything with the people you love… but even as you tell the stories, you realize there’s an unresolvable gap between an experience and its retelling.
It’s easy to begin doubting yourself, wondering if life on the other side was really that interesting, or if things really happened the way you imagine them now. Doubt your doubts! What happened was real; it just can’t always be passed on to people who weren’t there.
It doesn’t make the memories any less special; in some ways they are more special as you realize they can’t be easily reproduced for the world. Some things are yours alone to cherish.
I can’t believe the end of this trip is almost here. In a way, I’m glad because I know my time I needed here is over. I’m staying at a beautiful beach resort in a small fan bungalow enjoying my last 1-2 weeks here by doing my own thing. I guess it’s symbolic that I’m ready to head back and see where I can go on my own. When I first arrived in Thailand I was unsure of a lot of things, and not so much scared about 3 months here on my own, but just wondering if this is what I needed. I believe it was, but with where I’m at now, I want to get back to Chicago and really see what I’m made of. It’s funny that I came here to see what I was made of and who I am, but really, it’s once I’m back that I can truly understand these points further.
I’ve really pushed myself physically and mentally while here, ultimately reaching my “goals” but still allowing some space for myself for improvement. I suppose it’s a lifelong process to continually improve and always try to be your best, at whatever it is you choose to do. I can say I reached my goals here, but in the greater scheme of things, they’re just stepping stones towards a future that’s yet to be determined. Physically I’ve pushed myself to the point of exhaustion, sickness and injury on a few occasions, overall losing about 15 pounds. But there’s still more to do once I’m back and I realized that 3 months is not enough time for my personal goal. However, it’s a patient process and what’s the rush? As long as I’m improving, that’s what’s important.
And mentally I’ve had to deal with my inner demons just like most people do every day. And I don’t have the answers to all the questions I had, but again, I have a clearer picture and as long as I continue to work on it, that’s all I can ask of myself. I set a goal of 40 books as well as reading online articles, listening to podcasts, watching videos and shows even that could give me insights and enlightenment as to what this is all about (life, not the trip) as well as anything that could help me along the way. Currently I’m on book #34 and after everything I’ve seen online, I’ve realized there’s such a plethora of information available and while it can seem overwhelming for everything I want to learn and know about, I have time to continuing to improve in this area too. I mean, if you don’t count books for school or books about poker, I’ve read more books in these 3 months than probably the last 10 years of my life. That needs to change. But that’s why I’m here.
I’m starting to lose focus here. I guess what I’ve come to realize about this whole trip was that I did needed a change and this trip served as the catalyst to making it happen. And with wanting to do so much, if you just focus on one thing at a time, you can make giant strides and then move on to the next thing. So the real test was not whether or not I could make it through these 3 months (not giving up and coming home, losing sight of my goals, etc.), but it’s just the studying before the big exam of life.
Needless to say, I’m very much excited to come home and see everyone. I’ve wanted the time to myself and now I want the time with others again. And I miss the food, the wine, friends, bbq-ing, and everything else that’s back home in Chicago. These trips are good for the soul, but I’m glad I have a place I can call home.
So what’s in store for the last week and a half? I’m on Koh Pha-ngan right now, staying at a beachside bungalow doing my own workouts. The muay thai gym was pretty garbagey and I thought, I’m tired of muay thai, I’m just going to focus on me a little earlier than planned. I got a 5 pass membership to an a/c gym (!!!) here and have been swimming, running and other things I can do on my own until Sunday when I leave for another bungalow on the west side of the island for 5 nights so I can reflect on the trip and take it easy on myself. For 3 months I’ve been working out twice per day on average, anywhere from 2-5 hours in the hot, humid weather of southern Thailand. I’m tired. I’m sore. I’m exhausted. I’ll need those few days. Then next Friday I head to Bangkok for 3 nights where I’ll be exploring the city and doing as much as I can until I leave that following Monday night. It’s been a whirlwind and it honestly felt like just yesterday I was getting in the cab from the Phuket airport headed to Phromthep. I don’t know how much I’ll update from here on out since I only have internet at the cafe and I don’t know the situation at the next 2 places I’ll be, but I’m sure I’ll post a few more things.
As for now, I’m going to enjoy the weather a bit before dinner. Early morning beach run planned for tomorrow. Gotta rest up!
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve uploaded photos. But with a slow computer and slow connection, it just takes so long to do. I’ll be doing a video montage when in Bangkok as well as uploading photos to Facebook once I’m back if you’re interested in checking those out. Lots of funny pics as well as beautiful ones. Been quite the trip. These are only from my phone, not the good camera…there are some great ones on there as well.
After arriving in Koh Samui, I was immediately hit with feelings of “this is it?” when I got to the camp. I haven’t checked out the island yet, will be doing so this weekend, but this camp is quite underwhelming. And after last night of having to go past packs of dogs to leave the camp and get dinner, yes, more than 1 pack, I ultimately decided that I need to leave, no choice really. I was already planning on it, but today I paid for 2 weeks here and I’ll be taking off for Koh Phangan on the 20th of Feb for a week of one on one training at Kobra Gym, staying a bungalow with the beach at my doorstep and then heading up the side of the island to a remote area to stay in a traditional Thai bungalow. No a/c, no tv, no internet, just me, a hammock and my thoughts. I figure it’ll be a good time for me to unwind for a few days and just read, write and draw. Then I’ll be headed to Bangkok on March 4th, a day earlier than planned, and be staying at a nice hotel for cheaper than I was expecting to pay. I’m really excited for this change for a few reasons.
First of all, I’m sick of muay Thai, haha. It’s great and all, a good workout and really beats you up…but I’m tired of it. Since being here, I realized that their sessions are very much the same and they don’t cater to your needs like Phromthep did. So it’s added to the monotony of the day in/day out routines.
Secondly, the noise and the atmosphere here is just ridiculous. Phuket was much calmer than all the racket here. We’ll see how this weekend pans out as I drive around the island, taking pictures, doing the tourist thing and trying all sorts of food. But I hear Koh Phangan isn’t nearly as hectic as here.
Lastly, I realized something the other day. I’ve been in Thailand for over 2 months now and I feel like there’s still some stuff I need to do. Who knows if I’ll ever be back here in my life. When we took a day trip to Racha island (most beautiful island I’ve been to), I saw all these little bungalows overlooking the water and I thought, man, I won’t get to do that while here. Well, that’s changed now and I’ll get a couple of spots to stay and take in that experience. Definitely looking forward to that. People who know me know that I love a good roughing it experience as it makes you appreciate what you have back at home. This will be good for me, I feel like it’s what I should do to truly wrap up this experience in the best way possible. Additionally, I found out I can take a boat/bus route up to Bangkok for about $30 which is nice considering I was going to spend $150+ on airfare. It’ll take all day, but I don’t mind as I can read and I’ll still have 3 full days in Bangkok since my flight back home that Monday isn’t until late at night. Lots to see in those 3 days.
A few recommendations:
I was really looking forward to Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and it’s lived up to the hype. Probably the best book I’ve read so far in terms of keeping my interest and the knowledge within. I plan to read much more by him. A big disappointment was the autobiography of Ben Franklin. I could not concentrate on that book, definitely a huge bore to me.
I downloaded Moby’s Play the other day and it’s great to relax to. A bunch of good tracks on there and like nothing else I have in my music library. Not for everyone, but definitely something you can listen to when you need to concentrate on something.
Chocolate soy milk. I’m living off that stuff. Oh, and I had bananas in coconut milk for dessert last night as it was cheap and I figure relatively healthy. Plus it’s on like every menu at every restaurant. That and mango on sticky rice which I haven’t tried yet. But the bananas in coconut milk was awesome. I’ll have to get it again.
All I got for now.
If you’ve never seen these videos, do yourself a favor and take 10 minutes to watch them all. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched these over the past couple of years, but every time I do it makes me want to see the world more and more. There’s just so much to see and do. If there’s someplace you want to go, make it happen, no excuses. All the various scenery, buildings, environments and people in these videos makes you realize just how big the world is and they’re so beautifully done that it just makes you contemplate that life, although important to be responsible and a contributing member of society, is more about having fun and being happy. Don’t let the minutiae and trivial things get in your way.
- Blackie Sherrode
(for those that think the stock market isn’t gambling, but poker is…or that they’re anything other than skill-calling endeavors with elements of luck)
After almost 9 hours of traveling, I arrived on the island of Koh Samui. I took the bus/ferry route over an airplane trip due to the lower cost and the opportunity to see the countryside, which, after the first hour or 2, was just like an interstate in the U.S. except with more tropical vegetation. Oh well, at least it was more turbulent than an airplane ride, ha! It really wasn’t too bad and I managed to keep the seat next to me vacant for my stuff and more room to “lay out” in, so to speak. I also managed to read quite a bit, the whole trip didn’t seem to take too long.
I was a bit sad to leave Phromthep, although happy at the same time. I had a lot of fun there, was pushed to my limits physically and mentally and met some very interesting people. However, I needed a change of scenery, so I was happy to move on, but this was not the change I was hoping for. My first impressions of the island are not good. In fact, I’m so disappointed with it right off the bat that I’m thinking of changing my plans pretty soon here. I haven’t paid for the gym yet, but I may only do 2 weeks to see how I like it and decide where to go from there. The island seems okay, but I haven’t seen much of it yet, so I can’t judge it (more on this in the lessons from music part in the 2nd part of this entry), but the gym is not nearly what I expected. The room/bathroom is better than the last place although I don’t have a microwave or kitchen area, which limits what I can eat in my room. But the gym seems very cramped, very run down (there’s rust all over the cardio equipment, what?) and just generally unfriendly. It’s in a very rundown area with dilapidated buildings next door, and you have to take a back road of sorts from the main road to get to it. Here I thought it was just off the beach in a decent area. Turns out I was way wrong. I even had to do the “fake throw a stone at dogs” thing, not once but twice, to get some suspicious dogs away from me. One went a little nuts and backed off but started barking like nuts. And this is on the road to get to the camp, where I will have to walk several times a day since there’s no food at the camp! They have a breakfast thing apparently, but I’ll have to go to restaurants for every meal unlike the last camp where there was a cafe right there with health food. If you ask me, a camp like Phromthep could take over the muay thai business in any part of Thailand, if it just changed a few things.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself since these are only first impressions, but jeez, I was even getting hassled way more than normal to get a massage when I was looking for a decent place to eat. So because of all of this, I thought about what my options were over dinner. I haven’t paid yet so I could up and leave tomorrow if I wanted (not going to happen), but my new plan is quite appealing. I’m thinking of staying here 2 weeks for training and then going to Koh Phangan for 1 week due to how much good stuff I’ve heard about it. When I was eating dinner I got to talking with a Canadian who recommended it over Samui and I know John really enjoyed it as well. This last month was supposed to be more of a reward since I’m almost done here and I feel like I’m roughing it now more than before, haha. If I went to Phangan for a week, I’d plan on getting a bungalow by the water and just live in the moment, relaxing, eating the local food and actually enjoying this trip for once. I would continue my workout routine, but no muay thai. Just swimming, running, jumprope and anything I can do outside of a gym, essentially. It actually sounds quite intriguing and I think I’d get more out of this trip. Then I’d head to Bangkok for my last week where I’d train at another gym and check out the city before heading back to Chicago. I’ll think about it the next few days, but this seems to be the best route for me right now. I wanted to enjoy these last few weeks more than I think I will with where this camp is.
Now, back to the other topic for this blog: life lessons learned from music. The other day I obtained (downloaded, ahem) all the albums from Coheed and Cambria except their first one which I already had, just on a whim. I couldn’t believe I was missing out on them for this many years. I saw them way back in ‘02 or ‘03, had some of their music, didn’t give their first album much of a chance, and that was that. Despite only hearing good things about them from friends, I never gave them a chance. I naively thought that they were a lot heavier than they are precisely based on a few songs which start off darker than they really are. Some songs are more on the harder/darker side than I like, but most have this sense of glory or epicness that I’ve never heard in music before. First life lesson: don’t judge. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, a band by one song or a person by how they appear. The funny thing is, there’s been a few bands who I’ve written off before giving them a chance, only to find out that I really love their music and should’ve given them more of a chance. A good lesson in life when it comes to meeting new people. You’ll befriend people who are your opposite, maybe even marry someone who’s your opposite, but you’ll never know how good of a match you are unless you give them a chance.
Life lesson number 2: getting out of your comfort zone is a rewarding endeavor. Everyone has a lifestyle they’re comfortable with, just like everyone listens to the same music all the time. Most people have their favorite bands that they listen to more than others, or a genre that they stick to. But holy cow, you don’t know what you’re missing out on until you give other things, people, restaurants, places, bands, wines, bars, WHATEVER, a chance. You may not find your new favorite food, but you could be pleasantly surprised by what you try and it’ll open your eyes to the possibilities of what you could be missing. If you spend every week working only to succumb to your neighborhood watering hole every weekend, you don’t know what you could be missing out on. Chicago is a big city, there’s 1,000 other things you can do other than going to the Cubby Bear on a Saturday night, like every other Saturday night.
Life lesson number 3: it’s okay to feel all emotions, but don’t get hung up on them. When some people are feeling down, they put on some blues or depressing music that they can wallow in. That’s okay. What’s not okay is to continue listening to it for too long, just to feel sorry for yourself. If you stay depressed over something for longer than is necessary to deal with your grief, no one will enjoy being around you. If you always listen to the blues, you won’t give yourself a chance to move on because you’ll have that music that you can relate to that you think may be healing you when in fact it prolongs your depression. That’s just an example. Music evokes all sorts of emotions from us, as does real life, but if you stay hung up on them, you’ll never get back to normal. Change the cd.
Life lesson number 4: Maybe the right person isn’t who you think it is, maybe you haven’t met them yet. Think of your favorite bands over the years. Tastes change, but you think you have a favorite band until you hear another band/musician and think, no! THAT’S my favorite! Take me for example. When I first got into music, I knew very little. I listened to oldies or metallica and nirvana, that’s pretty much it. I liked that music and still do. But nirvana was my favorite band by far, no doubt I loved them. I still like them, but they are nowhere near my favorite. I started getting into more metal and rap in high school, then punk, then realized there’s so much I like, I want to listen to it all! My favorite bands went from nirvana to korn/limp bizkit (whoops?) to mest to the starting line to I’m not even sure right now, probably say anything. The point is, as I find more and more music, expose myself to more bands, I find new ones that are my favorite. You can stick to the bands you loved as a child, but that’s like marrying the first person you have a crush on. Sure they may be great, but you never know if there was someone better for you and you just didn’t think to listen to anyone new.
Last life lesson: stop caring what everyone else thinks, no one is paying attention. A big thing with music that really annoys me is actually two-fold: elitism and shame. People who not only think everything they listen to is the best music out there but that anything they don’t like is garbage and anyone who listens to said garbage is stupid. Then people are ashamed that they enjoy certain music, only because of what other people would think if they found out. Who cares if you like boy bands, embrace it. I’ll admit right now, out of 5,000+ songs in my iTunes I have (counting…): 6 songs by Gloria Estefan, 6 by George Michael, 6 Barry Manilow, 2 by Tina Turner, 4 by Paula Abdul, 8 by the Beach Boys, 17 by Madonna, “I wanna dance with somebody” by Whitney Houston, “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls and “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega. No macarena…yet. I would have been horrified if guys in high school found out I actually liked these songs. But who cares? They’re catchy and I like them. There’s nothing wrong with it and if there was, I wouldn’t care. It doesn’t matter what other people think. No one really notices anyway. And you know you’d sing along with Wannabe if it somehow came onto a party playlist.
Anyway, these were things I was thinking about the other day as I realized how far my music taste has evolved over the past 15 years or so. I remember when I went off to college, with my very own computer and winamp player! So excited to play all this music. But I only had 300 songs on there. I thought, how could people have 1,000 or more? I didn’t think I’d get that many more songs honestly. But if you expand your taste, are open to new possibilities, get out of your music comfort zone and come to terms with what you like and will listen to it no matter what anyone thinks, you realize there’s so much out there to discover. You never know if your favorite band is just one listen away.
Inspiration song #5: Taking Back Sunday - New Again. It’s a new day, the beginning of the 2nd half of my trip and I need new inspiration. A new playlist, a new outlook and new fires under my butt to just push me and motivate me harder than ever. A strained foot and bad news is not holding me back.
Well, I’m out for training for the 3rd time now, for at least a couple of days. On Monday I was doing the crossfit routine which included 3 rounds of double unders with the jumprope which I’m not great at. Well, apparently my form was pretty poor and I caused too much force on my right foot because the next morning I woke up unable to bend my right toe without terrible pain. If I just don’t move it, it throbs with a slight pain which is very annoying. Today (Wednesday) I woke up to it hurting even more, barely able to walk on it. I have to walk on the right edge of my foot to get around which is annoying. Luckily the people here are very helpful and recommended a strain/muscle ache ointment that I’m now using, wrapping my foot up in one of my hand wraps, haha. And one of the trainers is going to massage it later today as it’s similar to a fight injury.
I feel pretty lucky still (or pathetic, haha) since my injuries/sicknesses have been pretty tame to some of the people here. Injuries of late have included stress fractures, a broken foot, motorbike accidents, ankle sprains, to name a few. Most of these come from fights, training too hard or just accidents outside training, but for me to just have a bruised knuckle, strained foot and a slight bit of food poisoning isn’t too bad when you consider what other injuries could keep you out longer. To me it’s worth it though. I feel a lot better these days given my higher level of fitness. I wonder what it’ll be like training once I get back to Chicago. The heat/humidity is increasing day by day here making it that much harder to train 100%. You have to do the best you can given the climate, but it should prep me rather well for the calmer climate back home.
So I plan to read a lot I guess while I wait for my foot to heal. But I’m not going to let this keep me totally away. I can still use the rowing machine and do upper body workouts, so that’s what I’ll be doing. I guess that’s really how you push yourself right? When one thing goes wrong, do what you can to still realize your goals or focus on another thing that can go right. I just don’t want to waste any days here.
Throw out your Television – Magically you’ll find time you never knew you had; stop watching life and start living it.
|—||Tony Centeno, Founder of A Tailored Suit, http://www.atailoredsuit.com/|
This week started off fine, just like any other week. Monday I had yoga and day one of crossfit (which I’ll get into) and muay thai later in the afternoon. I felt great after training in the afternoon, like I could keep going. Tuesday was Spartacus day and afternoon training as I have switched to the afternoons for a week to see how I do. After shadowboxing, bag work and 5 rounds on the pad, I could barely do anything. I was completely wiped out. After a short break, I did a relaxing half hour on the rowing machine before quitting. Some extra carbs and a good night sleep was all I needed, right? Wednesday was just crossfit and muay thai, but again, I was gassed after one hour of training. So I took today off and now I find myself achingly ecstatic to get to a bowl of oatmeal. Am I getting to the point of going stir crazy? Of having the same routines, the same foods, in the same place that I’m just getting sick of it all?
Tonight I was very not looking forward to my meal which I had planned to be tuna with this tomato/cucumber/egg salad they make. I haven’t had it in awhile and enjoyed it before. But I didn’t even finish it tonight and hurried back to the bungalow to eat some oatmeal to get something warm to eat, something that I enjoy. I’m excited to eat oatmeal. This is what it has come to.
This weekend marks the halfway point of my trip and I have to wonder, although I’m making significant progress with all my goals, why have I suddenly become irritable with my situation and lost some motivation and energy? Perhaps I just need a break. But I think it’s a change of scenery. I have 2 more weeks at Phromthep before moving on to Ko Samui and it seems like it won’t be a moment too soon. I have 4 weeks at Ko Samui before a short weekend trip to Bangkok and finally coming home. The whole trip is going so fast, and yet, some fire in my punches is lacking and the pace is slowing down. I’m punching and kicking harder, but the motivation is not there. I need a jump start, anyone have any suggestions?
Luckily the accommodations on Ko Samui seem very nice, there’s a pool, it’s close to a beautiful beach and I’ll have the added benefits of unlimited training and new food. With all those changes, I should be able to kick up the fire again that overcame me the first month here. During these first 7 weeks I’ve lost 16 pounds, have definitely noticed some physique changes and have read almost 20 books. It’s a great feeling to get through some accomplishments and I want to keep that going. But this routine and isolation is driving me nuts. I find myself watching man vs. food, thinking about the food back home, reading and watching wine videos all day. These are the things I miss. But as I watch man vs. food on youtube, I’m surprised I don’t drool all over the laptop. I can’t help it either. I miss the pizza, ice cream, large portions, mexican food, cheeseburgers that give you a heart attack, etc. Perhaps because I eat so healthy this stuff just seems like a distant dream. But I don’t want to hold it in such high regard. I don’t want to gain 20 lbs as soon as I get back, ha. Those things are nice to have, but in moderation. Cheat night is tomorrow night and I’m planning to eat a ton of pizza and tiramisu. How I need it.
The worst part of tonight’s dinner was that right after I ordered some people invited me to the nearby steakhouse for dinner. And if I didn’t just order, I probably would have gone. It would’ve been nice to have and apparently the aussie beef is particularly healthy, which I wasn’t too aware of. I knew it was healthier than what’s in America, but I can wait for a real cheat meal tomorrow.
So in order to keep things fresh, and to throw my body for a loop, I changed up my routine this week which would normally work. I’m just in this funk. I started crossfit (http://www.crossfit.com/) which I’ve done before, but never adhered to simply because I was doing other things. But I’m going to try it out for at least a few weeks to see how it goes. It’s basically intense exercise in a short amount of time. Great to change things up especially when the gym trips were getting stale and this regimen is highly praised. I also may do some mountain biking my last week here. I will be doing more swimming at Ko Samui and look into other routines to keep things fresh. It’s always important to not only find something that makes you enjoy working out, but to change it up often so your body doesn’t get accustomed to it. Same goes for food. There’s a nutritionist/doctor on WGN news who is a big advocate for totally changing your diet every 4 days (I believe) to keep your body guessing. It does work, but it’s obviously not the only way. But these are things to remember when plateauing.
So, I got that off my chest. I’m now going to go watch Adam Richman eat a steak the size of his head and continue reading the behemoth biography of Teddy Roosevelt which is proving to be one of my favorite reads so far.
Of course, I could always watch this clip every morning when I wake up to motivate myself for the day: