How sports teach me life lessons and got me the best place to stay…

After two weeks of walking, going to the gym and diving at Koh Tao, it was time to go! Time to move on. Where to was a bit of a struggle. I had no clue. By this time my well-known decisiveness had led me to having to renewal my visa, which meant going to Myanmar and back. In my third hostel (out of the four places I have stayed at) on Koh Tao, I met a lovely Thai girl just before I was about to leave the hostel. We talked for over an hour and she told me that if I was headed to Ranong (which is the border city in Thailand to go to Myanmar and back) it would be worthwhile to visit Koh Phayam, a deserted island close to Ranong. An island where I would definitely find some peace and quiet, she said. I was definitely in need of that and now that I found myself heading to Ranong, it definitely made sense to take a boat and just go there and check it out, even if it is just for a few days. So that is what I did.

A few days soon became two weeks…After I did my visarun, I arrived at the island of Phayam, the most beautiful island I have been so far. Arriving at the hostel, I immediately realize this island is too big to walk, yet small enough not to have any cars. That means, I will be in need of a bike. Luckily, I would not have to look far for that as they offer it all around when you arrive. However, before I am able to reach the rental places I run into Cody at the hostel. Cody was at my previous hostel, we spoke very very briefly and actually were surprised to catch each other here. Cody told me he had just rented a bicycle instead of a bike and me being the Dutchy I am, and craving for some physical activity wherever I am, thought that was the most genius idea I had heard so far. So I did the same. One thing we did not entirely take into consideration was the height differences we would encounter during our cycling tours. I guess sometimes it is better not to know what is ahead.

That afternoon we start cycling around a bit, and visit two stunning beaches. In order to get to those beaches, there are actually more hills than we expected and this is the point where I realize how much I like cycling on flat surfaces, but how not used I am to cycling in a little bit more hilly places. After a day of cycling I feel very very relieved to sit down at the bar across from our hostel, satisfied and drinking a large Chang. No more cycling today (thank God or Buddha 😉).

However, the next day I am set on going to this breakfast place I read about. For those who do not know yet, I turn out to be quite a foody and appear to be capable to go quite out of my way to get the food I am craving for. This has led to me walking for hours more after a multiple hour hike to a viewpoint in Koh Tao, just to get that one sandwich everybody was talking about, or to get that great chicken cashew I fell in love with. So this time it was the breakfast place I found on tripadvisor. Soon I come to realize that in order to get that breakfast, I needed to take my (fairly decent) bike up and down some rather painful hills again (take into account this bike is not light weight, it is over 30 degrees over here, it is quite humid, and I did not put the saddle high enough at that point in time). After my experience from the day before I was actually considering to just have breakfast next door, but I thought it would not hurt me to work a little bit for my cravings so I went anyway.

On my way there I could only think about that delicious smoothie bowl I wanted, which helped me cross those hills fairly easily. However, on my way back, full from the smoothie bowl, I was actually quite dreading it. Normally when I cycle I look far ahead, trying to get to my destination as quick as possible. So normally when I cycle uphill I would definitely look up, to see how long my lasting road of misery is going to last and thinking that by giving some extra power to it, the misery will end sooner (of course we all know that is not true, your legs just hurt sooner). However, this time I decided to look down instead. Not focusing on my goal (the top of that hill) but on the road right in front of me, having no clue how steep the hill is or how much longer it was going to take. And then I just kept paddling, and paddling. By the time I look up I realize I am actually almost there. This time I actually reach the top of the hill without being exhausted (like I was all the other times). It felt great. Not only that, the reward of going down felt even better as well. Instead of being scared I enjoyed it intensely, it was fast, it was great, it was awesome! After the hard work, paddle by paddle, the reward was amazing and the wind in my hair just felt like the perfect morning treat. It made me realize that life is so much better if you are not forcing yourself to be somewhere (right away), in a set amount of time or first.

So by 11 am in the morning I had had my smoothie bowl and my morning rush. That meant I was definitely ready to take on our new little cycling adventure for that day. A full day of visiting wonderful beaches (I know, poor me). First stop: Koh Kam, a small almost deserted island, in front of the coast of Koh Phayam. First, we cycle to the nearest beach which allows us to walk to Koh Phayam at low tide. Unfortunately, the dirt road gets too steep and the sand too loose at one point and our bikes (and our bodies) seem not to manage to get there cycling. So we walk a little bit, step by step. Once we get to the beach taking us we start our walk across the water. However, soon we realize that this is going to be a rocky road (literally). My feet start hurting quite a bit, but it is the only way to get there. So we keep walking. Normally I would just look at my destination, accept the pain and start walking stubbornly until I am there. This time I go about it differently. With each step I take I stop for a moment and before I put my full body weight on my foot I feel whether there are rocks that will hurt my foot or not. And when I am sure there aren’t, I take the step. I manage to reach the other side, without any pain. However, this side of the beach has no sand at all and is just covered with stones.. Being out of the water, my flipflops (that are actually too small since the Thai do not know anything bigger than size 40 for women) come to the rescue and take me further on the island. Once again today I am reminded that it is fine to take it slow, to slow down and to take the journey of life step by step. Even better, you enjoy the journey more!

Once we are on the other side I feel like ‘mission accomplished’, but Cody keeps on walking, exploring. And then I realize that setting a goal (reaching the other side) limits the mind to just reaching that, not opening up to all the world has to offer beyond that and all that I actually have to offer to the world. So I follow Cody. Continuing my journey past the point I thought I would go. We enter a new beach, which is beautiful in my eyes. Rocky and clearly touched by the ocean, the kind of nature I love. I would have probably missed it if it wasn’t for Cody.

Meanwhile Cody continues to explore. I, on the other hand, feel the urge to sit down. In the middle of all those rocks, one appeals to me. I sit down and I write the first part of this story, realizing there is no end goal to reach in life, there is just a way. That day, I learn it is okay not to look far ahead, not to plan. Step by step you will get there (as well). I always wanted to know what I was going to do (next). I wanted to have a plan. The not having a plan thing has been driving me crazy here in Thailand, resulting in me still being here whereas it was never on my list to go to in the first place. I wanted a plan in order to be able to not stick to it. Like a wise person told me in university, you want to put Rome in your navigation system but you would not mind if you end up in Paris or Berlin instead. As long as the journey feels right. It is exactly like that, except now I did not have a destination in my navigation system and it drove me nuts. Until today. I realize there is no Rome to put in the navigation system, because after Rome there is a new Rome, and after the new Rome there will be a new Rome, but who knows maybe you will end up in Madrid anyway. It is okay not to have a goal, or at least not to grasp on to that specific goal. Actually, by being just where you are at, new destinations will arise.

On that note, the day continues by us tackling the highest hill on the island, which at this point is a bit too much to ask (especially since we got a little bit hangry in the process) and results in us walking. Having learned from my previous efforts I decide not to push myself, I do not have to stay on my bike and I do not need to be on that hill first, I can take my time. Once we get up there, there is a restaurant, which is the perfect spot for us to strike down and refuel our engines. That day many hills will be concurred, paddle by paddle and as the journey unfolds I start enjoying it more and more.

The next day, the next date with my bike awaits. At a festival the day before I found out there is a surfing spot on the island and since I had been craving to surf, I head there the next day (after my perfect breakfast of course). Totally excited I rent a board and this time I decide not to push myself and just start with the small waves. Feeling again how it is to surf, how to stand on a board, before I try to get the bigger waves (as far as these waves are big anyway). Three years ago I surfed and I remember I was having quite a hard time, pushing myself. This time, however, I felt like a child again. As I walked into the water with my board I realized I was going to take it slow this time, not forcing myself to catch the perfect wave. Just trying to catch as many as I can and practice. Even if it is just white wash, it will help me develop and grow. It does not have to be perfect immediately. It does not matter what other people think. If I am not ready to take the big waves on, then I am not ready. And by not forcing myself to achieve all of that, I had the most fun I had had in a while! Just being.

As my perfect day goes by I head back to my hostel, realizing I either have to find a new place to stay or take the boat back to the mainland the next day. Since I had such a perfect day I did not want to leave, so I decided that if I found somewhere to stay I would stay, if not then I am meant to leave the island. As I decided that, I pass a sports bar I had been talking about for two days and as I passed it there was a tennis match on which drew me in, as a tennis match always does. And that is how I met Thomas, a Swedish guy who lives on the island and who might actually know a place for me to stay. A bungalow at the beach. This sounds too good to be true, but ‘hé I can take a look’. So the next morning I take a look. I can take a bungalow for three days, and then I will have to leave. That sounds perfect to me. Three more days at this island is exactly what I need!!

So the next day, a new day, a new journey. I have to get my luggage to the other end of the island. As the hills were actually getting easier on me and I found it ridiculous to just get a taxibike to the beach, I decide to take on the challenge to take my backpack and bring it to my new residence by bicycle. Whereas everybody already thinks I am crazy for just cycling around, this time everybody just started laughing at me (which looking back on it, I can totally understand). However, I do manage to get my backpack to the other side of the island by bike (and with a little detour because apparently by breakfast place is closed on Sunday, which forced me to go back a bit). By 11 am I make it to the beach, to my bungalow and I surrender. The rest of the day I do nothing, nothing at all!

Ten days later I still find myself at the island. Finally able to settle down the mind, find some peace, and actually enjoying my afternoon bike rides on the hilly island, which mainly leads me to the pier everyday where I sit in the wind and watch the waves and boats passing by. Now that every hill has become just a hill and now that I know that with patience I am able to pass them all (even the biggest one), I start to enjoy the bike rides more and more. Actually it is starting to bring me back to my childhood where I would take my bike to get around at a track with my best friend and just cross around for a while. That feeling of being back there, having the most fun you can imagine, is priceless. So instead of dreading the bike rides, I now look forward to them every day. I actually started to cycle around more every day since just going to the pier felt too easy now. It is funny how the perspective just changed in that week. Now, I start realizing and seeing more and more where I am at. As soon as I let go off that feeling that I have to achieve something (first), do something more or be somewhere cooler, I am actually able to just be and see the beauty of all that is around me. The world opens up. The beauty of the world becomes more apparent and the possibilities seem endless…

This story is getting to long, so I am going to wrap it up with a final sunset story. As I was back at my bungalow one night, I figured I had not been in the sea during sunset yet, which is a total pity because it is stunning over here. It is actually that kind of an idyllic sunset you see in every picture and never witness yourself. So this time I decide to take a swim during the sunset. However, the swimming does not last long. After swimming for about a minute I am literally stunned, silenced and paralyzed. The only thing I could do was just stand there in the sea, seeing the sun literally fall down the earth at height of my eyes.. It felt like magic. I was not able to really experience it so far, because my mind was constantly occupied. However, now I was. My mind was silenced. I will never forget it, and not because I was there to see it, but because I was there to feel it! Once you let go of that feeling of having to achieve, you soften, the world softens, and everything becomes easier. The world literally opens up..


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