Five days to takeoff. I’m packing, seeing friends, doing a few more yoga classes at the Moksha studio up the street. I’m enjoying these last days of predictable familiarity before I get on a plane with a backpack and a loose list of objectives and ideas.
That’s right. A planner without a plan.
I do know I’m starting this whole adventure in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I chose Chiang Mai as my first stop because it’s the right balance of new but familiar, so I can ease into solo travel. This will be my fifth trip to Thailand since I started travelling in 2000 so I know the culture, the food, the scams. But I’ve never been north of Bangkok so Chiang Mai is the centre of unexplored territory. I was also drawn to Chiang Mai as it is popular with Western expats/retirees and is the unofficial global capital for digital nomads. From what I’ve read, it seems that apartments are cheap, internet is fast and I’ll be able to get a decent latte.
I also know I need to be back in Thailand at the beginning of June for yoga teacher training. I first tried yoga in 2000 – me, my roommate and a video (yes, I’m VHS old) in our East Van living room. I’ve been practicing regularly since then. The calibre of teaching and choice of studios in Vancouver is amazing, as one would expect of a major city in the Pacific North West. So moving to the UAE was a bit of a shock on the yoga front – few classes, mediocre teachers, little stylistic variety. When I complained to a friend, she suggested I do my teacher training. Even if I wasn’t interested in teaching others, I would develop a much stronger self-practice for when I work in weird countries. The idea stuck and kept inching higher up my bucket list. So back in September, when one of my favourite teachers announced teacher training on a Thai island next June, I wrote a cheque and decided to build my year around that commitment.
Between those Thailand bookends I have lots of time and some things I’d liked to explore.
1. Create space for new experiences and ideas. I like what I do so when I’m working, I pour almost all of my energy into my work and use the remaining dregs to pick up the drycleaning and scrabble together a bit of a social life. I’ve always had a long list of non-work things I’d like to do but I rarely get to them. So on this trip I want to do things like read books (not just magazines), run a 10k, teach myself this website stuff, and learn how to use my digital SLR camera on something other than the auto setting.
2. Be inspired by other people. Travelling can connect us with people far outside of our typical social circles. When I talk to people doing different things – interesting things that sometimes I haven’t even thought of – it makes the world feel big and full of potential. I get all optimistic about the future and it often helps refine what I want to work toward next.
3. Prepare for teacher training. Everyone I know who has done yoga teacher training says it is physically and mentally intense. So I’m going to train for it, like I would for any other potentially grueling experience. Lots of asana practice, reading and thinking, try to develop a meditation practice, drink juice, strengthen my core.
4. Firm up my foundation. I know these types of premature-mid-life-yoga-what-does-it-all-mean trips have the potential to permanently alter one’s path. But as of today, I really see this as just a detour from my Type A life. That said, my Type A life does take a toll on me at times. So over the next few months I want to pick up some knowledge and practices that will help me better manage the stress and challenges of professional life.
5. Figure out my next move. All good things come to an end, and this little soul sabbatical will too. I plan to sit on beaches and stare at waves and really think about what I want to do next, where and why.
So that’s the agenda. And where will all this happen? Well, South East Asia to start. Right now I already have parts of Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia on my “maybe” list. I really can’t say more because I’m not allowed to have a plan. Let’s just see how things go.