“To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There’s a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you’ve spent decades investing in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives.”
Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
Well this is awkward.
After a pretty dramatic goodbye and on the day before I was supposed to move away for good, I changed my mind and decided I want to stay on Koh Tao instead. It was an extremely last minute decision so if you’re surprised, so was I.
Here’s how it happened:
I was walking home from breakfast and I had this epiphany (in part sparked by the above quote from a book I read a while ago but was showing to a friend recently):
I realized that moving wasn’t going to solve the lifestyle problems I wanted to solve. It would have just put me and my lifestyle in a new location. My reasons for wanting to move in the first place were…
- I felt like I wasn’t able to be productive enough here and it was hard for me to work
- I was hitting a wall transportation-wise because I can’t drive a scooter and was feeling dependent on others for transport
- I wanted better access to quality health care than the options on the island
But the thing was, I never actually wanted to move away. I love Koh Tao. Island life is amazing and I feel like this is my home. I’m definitely not a city person so even though I was looking forward to everything being more affordable in Chiang Mai, I don’t think I actually wanted to sacrifice having access to the jungle and the sea. While moving would have solved some of my lifestyle problems, it would have also created new ones.
If there is any lesson I have taken away from this whole lifestyle experiment so far it’s that no lifestyle is perfect. There will always be pros and cons. You just have to pick something where the pros make the cons worth it to you. (This applies to basically everything in life btw.)
SO! I realized I didn’t need or want to move away. And all my lifestyle problems are up to me to sort out.
That means I need to get serious about learning to drive a scooter (which will start with me learning to ride a bicycle – more on that soon.) I need to suck it up and go to Bangkok or Koh Samui to access any health care needs I have. And for work, that’s just pure self-control. I need to procrastinate less and focus more on my goals for my work and my blog. Being able to drive will also help me with this because I can go to more cafes and places around the island to work.
Visa run to Vientiane
Even though I decided to stick around Koh Tao in the end, I still needed to do a visa run to renew my Thai visa. I decided to go to Laos for this because I had been hearing the embassies in Malaysia were denying visas and giving people red stamps meaning they couldn’t apply for more visas next time, and I didn’t want to risk any of that. Laos it was, even though it’s pretty far away.
Things started out great: it was refreshing to be in a new place with new food and scenery…I was staying in this digital nomad-friendly cafe/hostel combo with lots of good workspace and I was feeling SUPER productive.
Buuuut as the week progressed, I grew lonelier and lonelier and more and more bored. Even though the quiet hostel environment was good for productivity, it was terrible for meeting people. I talked to like two other people the whole time I was there. Everyone was so buried in their computer and phone screens.
To add to that, Vientiane is cute but there’s not much to do there. I did the night market thing and the Patuxay Monument but couldn’t bring myself to go see any of the wats.
I went to a mall one day to try to go shopping for clothes since this is something that I can’t really do on Koh Tao (the clothes are expensive and/or touristy and/or low quality mainly) but the stores sucked and this wave of fatigue hit me just as I arrived so I ended up taking a nap in a chair in the mall’s movie theater entrance instead.
The whole trip just made me feel even better about my decision to stay on Tao instead of moving to Chiang Mai which is an Asian city not unlike Vientiane.
I mean first of all, I’m so happy to be surrounded by green instead of concrete. I love the wilderness. City parks don’t cut it for me.
Then secondly, the coworking thing felt really isolating and sad to me.
As much as I miss having a community of people doing the same thing I do around me, staring at a screen for 30+ hours a week in a room full of other people staring at their screens is just depressing.
Working for yourself can be really isolating. Living in a hostel environment on a small island that feels a lot like a village socially makes up for the lack of social interaction I have felt in times past, like when I was living and working in Atlanta.
I felt even more grateful for my Hive family and pets after the Vientiane trip. When I finally got back to Koh Tao, I was starving for conversation. I wanted to surround myself with my friends and people in general and talk and talk…
The question of sustainability
Thinking I was leaving Koh Tao kickstarted a moment of self-reflection for me. It made me think about the last six months and my lifestyle–what’s working and what’s not and how I can make it better.
Guys I know it looks like I’m just constantly on holiday, but I’m not. This isn’t a “gap year”. This is my life now and I realized in that moment of self-reflection that if I want to do this thing long-term, I have to build it to last long-term. I have to “reject the alternatives” and make the real commitment to taking care of myself and my body and my work. I can’t live like a backpacker!
I genuinely believe this lifestyle can be sustainable, I just think it will take conscious effort and self-discipline to build it that way. It will be an ongoing project but one that I’m excited to be undertaking.