Beautiful Rain

Because Dave and Jen are the most incredible hosts, they arranged an overnight adventure to Makarora for us yesterday. Jen found a gorgeous little dog friendly place called Wild Earth Lodge about two hours away in the valley of Mount Aspiring National Park, and after a much appreciated lunch in Wanaka – warmed by an outside heater with dogs lazing under our table and sparrows helping themselves to my veggie-burger – we headed north. The growing dark clouds turned into heavy cold rain lashing the windscreen as Dave drove along the immense Lakes Hawea and Wanaka. Mini waterfalls gushed rain-swollen torrents between rocky edges of mountain and the grey slopes on the far side of the lake disappeared into the thick mists of dense rainfall. 

We arrived just before dark, grinning at the owner Pete as we pulled up. 

‘What are you doing?!’ he shouted through the window, ‘coming out here on a night like this!’ 

‘It’s just rain,’ we laughed.’ We’ve got coats.’ 

He shook his head disbelieving at us. ‘We’re going to get our asses kicked tonight!’ 

He led us to the most amazing little lodge, already toasty warm with the log burner, overlooking the immense valley slopes just visable in the growing darkness. As we gratefully carried our bags in he showed us how everything worked. ‘Logs and kindling here, and you’ll want to boil the jug already for when the power goes out!’ 

‘Not a problem,’ we grinned.

We were ready for a cosy night in playing cards and drinking wine, but we had not expected the most terrific four hour mountain-echoing thunderstorm. It rolled and rumbled all night with great flashes of pink lightning that floodlit the immense valley around us. The power stayed on, but we turned out the lights so we could enjoy the spectacular light show. 

The dogs were not fans, and after each dazzling flash, I reached for Haki to hold her close in anticipation of the booming rumble to follow. She was a little shaky, and stayed very close, but didn’t complain for the four hours of meteorological ass-kicking we were dazzled by. 

The next morning, as I emerged from my room to see the glorious valley shining green and blue in the morning sun, Haki leapt off the sofa and came straight to me, pressing herself close against my legs. 

‘You alright love?’ I said. 

She stayed there quietly, calmly, pushing her whole weight against me. 

‘Yes, we all survived the night darling, we’re all still here.’ 

I am not a dog person at all, but I have grown incredibly fond of this one. 

With two more stunning walks added to my Strava – one along the sparkling Makarora River and one through the drippy dense jungle of the Blue Pools – we headed back to Queenstown, elated and rejuvenated from our gorgeous Mount Aspiring adventures. 

The lakes were pristine blue on our return journey, and the mountians lush green with trees and ferns. I gazed out of the window in awe of the magnificence of New Zealand, grateful for the many mountains, rivers and forests I have explored in my short time here. It’s been such an easy and relaxed trip, and while I have had some great time for reflection and planning, there hasn’t really been any real challenges. I haven’t done much in the way of personal growth or mental clarity, and I’m leaving on Sunday.

‘Are there any plans for tomorrow?’ I asked as we sailed past another breathtakingly blue view of Lake Hawea. 

‘Not really,’ said Dave. 

‘Well I’m thinking of jumping out of a plane or something,’ I said breezily, just to see what they’d say. 

‘Yeah, do it,’ said Dave. 


‘Yeah if there’s space,’ said Jen.

‘Well I don’t have reception here so I’ll have a look when we get home and then maybe…’

‘There’s spaces on the 11am, 1pm and 2pm,’ said Jen, on her phone. 

‘What, you’re already…? ‘ 

‘Yeah, just book it.’

And that was that. Dave gave me his card, they suggested we pay the full $399 for the higher altitude – there’s much more free fall – but not the $170 for the camera package because it’s ridiculous money and I don’t need to prove this to anyone except myself. 

And so if the weather stays like this I will be skydiving from 12,000 feet tomorrow.


*New Zealand is just as stunning in rainstorms as well as pristine sunshine

*Even when the bridge at the Blue Pools is closed, the walk through the sun-dappled jungle to get to the closed bridge is truly gorgeous, do that anyway

*On walking adventures, carry sanitiser and loo roll for the numerous well-maintained long-drop public toilets

*The annual rainfall in the South Island decreases one inch per mile the further you travel from the west coast, because the western mountains drink all the rain out of the clouds as they arrive

*The further west you go the more lush and green the jungly forests are, which Dave prefers to the brown ‘tussocky shit’ of Wanaka

*There is a fence covered in a mass of colourful bras near Cardrona (called Bradrona, naturally) where a donation can be made to New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. If you’re organised you might even have a spare bra to add to it

*You can skydive in Queenstown from any age over 6, if you weigh more than 115kg they will do their best but might be tricky, and you can wear your glasses under the goggles! 

*The dread fear about skydiving will start when you get the confirmation email telling you how brave you are. 

New Zealand next

Sunday 28 May

I’ve been here a week already. And compared to Thailand it has been refreshingly uneventful.

As soon as I landed my New Zealand brother handed me a warm weatherproof coat for the sudden temperature change, and since then I have been wrapped in the warm cosy safety of my brother and his girlfriend’s home at the edge of their residential estate near Queenstown. This lovely comfortable world of spotless kitchen-tops, neatly mown lawn, two cars, two dogs, fluffy towels, snuggly dressing gowns and soft blankets to drink red wine while watching TV under. They are amazing hosts – my brother has sorted me out a sim card and won’t let me pay for anything – and we talk about electric vehicle efficiency and fixed term mortgages over quorn and broccoli. We are middle aged suburban white people and I love how far apart both my brothers’ worlds are, and that I am lovingly welcome in both.

Days here are spent on beautiful walks with the dogs in spectacular mountainous landscapes and the nights are spent on chilled out beers with friends where we chat about mountain bike trails, electrician apprenticeships and the increasing cost of rent in Queenstown.

Of course it’s expensive here – it’s unbelievably beautiful. Even before the full snowy adventures of June and July, the stunning mountains surrounding Queenstown are topped with snow, highlighting the dark jagged edges of the immense peaks. Naturally, I asked to go play in the snow so my brother drove us with the dogs to Coronet Peak, a not yet open ski-field where there is sufficient white stuff for some touristy photos – including one that got me locked into a ski-lift which I had to to climb laughing out of. 

Contrast of temperatures fully appreciated, and jetlag now fully recovered, this morning I embarked on my first mini adventure on my own. I’m not particularly bothered by the range of adrenaline activities on offer here – the town centre is full of businsses that promise to drop you off a bridge, into a canyon or out of the sky – and while I have wondered about skydiving, there’s no need to throw £170 literally out the window.

Instead I wondered if there were any pursuits for mental clarity and found the Queenstown Dharma Centre offering meditation sessions on Sunday mornings. My brother dropped me off at Lake Street (having politely declined my invitation to join in with a ‘Fuck No’) and I followed the signs to a warm incense scented room at the back of someone’s house. A handful of kneeling people turned to smile and nod at me as I took my place on a cushion, before the teacher at the front in a warm woolly jumper started the session. It was familiarly religious, with polite explanations for newbies, mumbled reciting of vows and lots of meditative breath work all in the warm embrace of gentle friendliness. The fact that we all recited from neat green books, laid out beautifully on small tables in front of floormats and cushions ready to welcome a dozen brethren made me feel already at home. At peace. Welcomed.

As I joined with the others in a meditative reading of vows (including to live with a sensitive and responsible awareness of the whole ecology of life and to dwell on the mind of spontaneous generosity) I toyed with the idea of dropping everything and disappearing into a Buddhist ashram for a year or two. How simple and clean to completely disappar into a serene spiritual sanctuary. But no, I have stuff to do. I’d like to embody the values and serenity of this peaceful set of ethics – especially the bit about surrendering to the mystery of interbeing – but at the same time as pursuing a productive and connected life. 

There was an important bit about letting go and being unattached, which a few of us nodded knowingly at, and a gorgeous guided meditation in which we all breathed in the love and light of the universe into a sparkling crystal lotus flower in our hearts which then breathed out love and light to the world around us. I will hold on to that vision, it’s very lovely. 

At the end, in the post-mindful peaceful appreciative hush, there was an invitation to the equally as important social session, which I gratefully joined, sharing stories over lemongrass tea and vegan cookies. Two people were from Malmesbury (such is the small world nature of Queenstown) and one had also just quit her job and was looking for clarity before the next thing. I made some jovial comment about the loveliness of finding a peaceful activity to join in Queenstown while everyone seems to come here to jump off things. It turns out one of the brothers – who had been tidying away the cushions and Puja books – is a skydive instructor with Nzone in town. 

‘Oh, I thought about doing a skydive, ’ I said, ‘But 319 dollars?!’ 

‘Yes, because of the safety,’ he explained. ‘We’re putting our lives at risk every day so there’s lots of training and precautions which is why it costs so much.’

‘Yes of course,’ I nodded understandingly, sorry to have belittled his livelihood. He and another guy talked about the far more extreme sport of base jumping and he was keen to emphasise the respect required for the mountain when you decide to take a flying jump off it. 

I was happy to have no desire to jump off anything, and instead said goodbye and wandered along the lake shore to Queenstown Gardens, magnificent in the orange and gold leaves of autumn. With half an hour till my bus, of course I made a heart out of pine cones. And as I arranged them on the soft ground under the huge trees, I wondered if I could hold on to the love and beauty of the morning’s contemplations while looking for my next job. Is it possible to find an occupation that embodies the intentions of spontaneous generosity, compassion and service while also protecting myself from the exhaustion, resentment and self-destruction of disingenuous people pleasing?

It’s a delicate balance to hold. To be a person of kindness and love to others while also showing the same kindness and love to myself.

I wondered if instead of scouring through job adverts to see what feels right, I could design my perfect job instead. What if I could write out the person spec and job description of my ideal job, and then put that out into the world to see if that job exists? Wouldn’t that be a great exercise in clarifying and cataloguing my values, skills and priorities? And wouldn’t it be incredibly scary to believe that I could have that much control over my destiny, instead of being swayed by what everyone else around me wants?

We watched Guardians of the Galaxy 3 a couple days ago in the little Queenstown Cinema. I loved it, cried full on face-creasing sobs through most of it, which baffled my brother. Because as well as the sheer love of these guardians for each other, and some unbelievably heart wrenching scenes with baby animals, there was a moment that resonated with me when one of the characters (tiny spoiler alert) says, teary-eyed, ‘I love you all, but my whole life, I did whatever Ego wanted, and then I did whatever the Guardians wanted. I need to go out and discover what I want.’

More crying…

And so while I have planned to spend some time this week job hunting, I may also spend some time job creating.


*The town centre of Queenstown has a very little window of sunshine in May. Even if the whole valley is in glorious sun the town is in cold shade pretty much all afternoon.

*Photos work best when there’s sunshine on foreground autumn trees and shade on mountainous background. The other way round is shit, stop trying to make it look good. 

*The number 5 bus from Stanley Street in Queenstown to Lake Hayes Estate goes every hour for two dollars! Its glorious. Use it lots. 

*Lake Street is the steepest road in Queenstown. Allow extra time to walk up it as it’s so difficult.

*Here’s a lovely mantra to meditate with:

Frequently I will pause to breathe mindfully and recontact a mode of being which embodies simplicity, openness, clarity, connectedness and caring. I will endeavour to bring a continuum of compassionate awareness into all my life’s activities. THE HEART OF AWAKENING, Daily Puja Book

Goodbye Thailand

Saturday 20th. 11.30am

Thailand is so hard without my brother. Everyone is confused and nothing makes any sense at all. I’m sitting at the taxi place crying and crying. Fucking hell. Just feel so ignored and dismissed. Feel like a problem they are glad to get rid of. After all the love and welcoming and friendliness, this morning there was such confusion about the bags, the timings, the check out. It just seemed so unbelievably hard and like no-one wanted to solve it.

And now I’m sat at the taxi place and they tell me to wait and there’s an empty taxi and I would like to go and get my boat now please. And the sweat runs down my back in rivers like the tears on my face. 

Fucking rubbish.

And I lost my water! Fucking hell. My litre bottle for the journey, in all the confusion I put it down and now have none. And I’ve just cried half a litre out my face. 

Jesus woman. What is this. 

Here’s a funny thing, when I cry, my eyebrows hurt. Like a row of tingly little stinging pains spring up along my eyebrows as soon as I crease up in tears. What the fuck is that?

And my injuries now include bramble scratch (where I moved to the side of the jungle road to avoid a huge vehicle and got great bruising stabs to my leg), muscle ache in my arms from either swimming or gardening, and the stupidly avoidable life jacket rash, which is it’s own special kind of soreness until it meets with mosquito spray which is another new world of pain. 

And now there’s three taxis just sitting here. The drivers chat to each other. I’ve been sat here for 15 minutes. When does a fucking taxi go please? I think you have to have my brother’s energy to cope with Thailand. I don’t and I can’t right now. I would really like to get in one of these now please. 

17.04. Airport. 

Oh wow the exhausted headachy sadness of it all. I look at the immaculate beautiful people in the airport, the shiny clean floors and walls and perfect flowers and I sip my perfectly frothy oat milk cappuccino. I missed this. There really is a limit to the amount of barefoot jungle life I can cope with. The sand everywhere, the insects as big as your thumb in the bathroom, that smell of something dead in the jungle foliage, or the waft of sewage in the street or the smell of dogshit as you pass certain buildings. 

Perhaps I am too much of a snob to travel properly. There’s a charm and a simplicity and then yeah but why would you arrange for a river of waste water to run down the path to the hotel? 

So I feel at once comforted and alienated at the airport. Refreshing and also intimidating to see beautiful wealthy white people again. I’m aware I look scruffy, I’m sitting on the floor, having changed into my comfy jeans and trainers with Starbucks crumbs around me and a mix of suncream, sweat and failed makeup on my face. 

But something has changed in me. To feel so rejected by Thailand was really hard. It’s not that they were even rude, they just weren’t as in love with me as they are with my brother. Of course they’re not, I’m just another guest at the hotel. It’s just time to check out. Bye then. Such an irrational torrent of tears.

What is that about? About just being nothing. Meaning nothing. Being no-one. That’s what it is. No purpose, no projects, no significance. No love. And the stupid gardening project I did. They didn’t need that, I needed that. Of course they don’t care. No-one’s interested in my projects cos I’m just another white tourist on the island. Nothing special. No-one really. Which is fine, it’s exactly what I wanted, but wow it set off some unexpected surges of grief.

And such a strong sense of rejection just because they weren’t polite to me. Because they’re not Englishly overthetop with the smalltalk and polite gestures. Which I usually hate anyway.

Why does it matter so much? 

Don’t know but it has knocked me sideways. 

I will explore this further, need to check in now. 


‘Do you have a visa for Australia?’

‘What? I’m going to New Zealand.’

‘You will stop in Sydney so you need a visa.’ She’s looking serious, in her check in desk and uniform. 

‘But British citizen?’

‘You need a visa.’

Fuck me. 

I started googling it as she consulted with a colleague. I do indeed need a visa. She took my phone out of my hand and found the page for me. ‘You download and apply for visa now and come back.’ 


So I sat on the airport floor leaning against a self check in station, took another chill pill, and feeling sick with dread and shame, deleted all the videos of the fire show so I could download the Australian Embassy App and fill it in. I could just go home right now I thought. Just let me go home now. I want to go home. I could just fuck all this and buy a new flight and be in Heathrow in 12 hours. 

Have I ever been involved in domestic violence? No, but good question Australia. 

I paid my 20 dollars, clicked submit and stood up to queue before it had arrived. As I walked over to the desk I heard my phone buzz. There it was. I showed the lady. Great. Boarding pass issued. Done. 

And tears tears tears. Got through security, found a bar and now have a large white wine to cry with. 

Just so fucking lonely, that’s what this is. So alone in the complex journey. I usually love a journey on my own but I’m so fucking unhappy. 


On the plane. Thank you for a window seat, God above I’m grateful. And no-one next to me thank you Jesus. 

Thank you for the water refill station at gate D4 so I can counteract the alcohol I just downed in one. 

I should be celebrating the awesome near miss just then of getting a visa in 20 minutes, but I have no-one to celebrate with, talk to about it. God I’m so lonely. Didn’t realise I could be so unhappy after just three days without a friend, partner or sibling. I was looking at all the white people at the airport with a ridiculous longing – will you be my friend? 

No, just tears coursing down my face all over Sivaranupum airport. 

Thank you white wine and pink pills. Feeling OK now. Looking forward to sleeping this whole way. Bangkok – Singapore – Sydney – Queenstown. The cheap traveller’s multistop hand-luggage-only budget adventure. 

I actually clung on to my little travel sheep Jeff earlier, on the boat as we left Samet, like he was my friend. What the fuck is that about? And now on this flight I’m so bored of trying to document my travels, as if anyone cares, I have left Jeff up in the overhead lockers in my bag, and instead of the busy paraphernalia of all my tasks and toys for this flight, I just have water, my phone and my stupid fucking thoughts. 


*Even if you’re just transiting in Sydney you need a visa, you unbelievably unorganised woman. 

*Scoot airlines serves no food! Even on a 7 hour flight you need to order your sustenance from the 12-dollars-a-cake menu on board. 

*They do a bag security check right before the boarding gate so they will empty your water bottle, but don’t worry there’s a refill tap in the corner once you’re through. 

*When your sense of value and identity has been crafted artificially by the many projects and services you provide to a whole town full of people, it will be quite a jarring and unsettling experience to realise that without them, or any substitute, you will suddenly feel like you have no reason to exist. However, an experience of perceived ‘rejection’ is incredibly helpful as it can serve as a useful reminder that it is really time to cultivate that inner sense of self and strength that you asked for, and to stop needing other people to make you feel worthy of love.

Solo Thai times

Friday 19th, 10.30am

I dried my stupid face and walked through the nighttime Ko Samet. Very soon there was Bananabar, where I sought out the same old lady who had laughed lovingly like a grandma at my brother two days ago. She looked at me confused until she remembered. 

She said, ‘He gone?’

‘Yeah he’s gone now.’

‘And you alone?’


‘Good. Now you free!’ She laughed. 

‘I am. And I’m hungry,’ I smiled. 

I sat at a little corner next to a pond full of huge koi, at which point my love messaged me from my allotment in Melksham. He had gone to water the pots for me and sent me a photo of my pond. 

Oh my love, I cried some more, and video called him so we could share ponds. It was lovely. 

After a very generous dinner there, I thought I’d open up my universe to whoever Thailand wanted me to meet but I didn’t have the energy or love for small talk with strangers, so as soon as I saw one, I got a bumpy jeep taxi back. I sat on my own at my familiar bar where there’s no foreigners except me, they were all on the main beach laughing and dancing. I said goodnight to the musicians and the bar staff and they did the lovely two hands bow and said goodnight, and as I walked up the path to my little hut I cried again. Something to do with the love, the leaving, the impending loneliness. 

At my door, the cat Latte sprang in to my room. Yes cat, you can stay. Now my brother’s gone he wants to hang out with me.

It was only 11.30, my earliest night. I was ready to lie awake for hours or wake up several times but suddenly it was 6am. 

Oh no, the dragon! I’d set my alarm for 5.30 to try to spot the massive lizard but today, maybe because it’s Friday, the place was already buzzing with gentle human activity. Sweeping porches, prepping breakfast, swimming in the sunrise. 

As it was the coolest part of the day – about 28 degrees – I got straight onto the gardening project I have volunteered for. They moved the iconic massive heart of straw from the stage to a blank bit of ground next to the welcome path. So I have offered to pretty the area up and have been moving heavy dusty pots of jungle plants to arrange around the heart. Lovely. 

This morning though, I had not yet applied the mosquito spray and oh my god they ate me alive. I moved five pots, sweated five litres and fed five hundred little insects with my blood. Now, having absolutely earned it, I am showered, sprayed to fuck, and enjoying a coffee in the dappled shade of the breakfast bar. 

There’s a fun game to play here, called Guess The Pain. Is it sunburn, mosquito bites, random bruises or surprise acne? Who knows?! Who cares. I’m going snorkeling today so might add any kind of sea related stings to that list. 


I’m doing it. 

Sitting here trying to socialise. But everyone is tired and on their phones and so I am too. They probabaly don’t want me here but I don’t care. I don’t want to be on my own right now. So I’ll sit here and type away. 

And drink my gin. And ride the awkward. 

How long is it appropriate to stay here in the dark empty bar while two guys at on their phones to girlfriends…. 

I like that there is very little time for ‘appropriate’. There is just what is authentic. 

And I’d rather sit here now. 

But that last gin has made me sleepy.

Or getting up at six, doing heavy gardening and then three hours on a snorkeling boat trip has made me sleepy. 

It was lovely, but actually quite lonely. Me on my own with a boat load of Thai or Japanese couples, they all went bobbing around together and I floated off on my own to look at the fish.

my brother had helped me book my snorkel tour the day before. The tour starts at 2pm so wait on the beach at 1.30 and they’ll pick you up here at Sangthien on the way to the main beach. Wonderful. So I was ready, swimsuit and shorts, towel in the bag, sitting on the beach. Waiting. Of course they’ll be a bit late. By 2pm I thought I’d got the wrong date maybe, I started to fall asleep on the beach. Suddenly an urgent man was peering at me with the receptionist tapping my arm to wake me up. ‘You go with him!’

Of course. 

And suddenly I was on the back of his motorbike, speeding thought the island to the main beach. When there’s only one person at Sangthien they don’t bother bringing the boat round and they send a man on a bike instead, he explained, as we flew through the jungle and hit all the speedbumps hard. On the beach right by Audibar a boat full of annoyed looking people in life vests watched silently as I hopped off the bike, ripped off my shoes and ran through the water to climb on the back of the boat.

I wanted to explain that no-one told me I was at the wrong place, they should have picked me up earlier, sorry for the delay, are we all excited for the fish?

But without a shred of Thai I had no chance.

It was lovely, even though I felt like such an outsider, but I was so proud of myself that I did it. On my own. On my period as well. 


*When going on a snorkelling trip in Ko Samet, don’t bother trying to keep your shoes dry. Everything in the boat will get wet. 

*Wear sleeves or you’ll get a surprisingly painful life vest rash under your arms

*There is a toilet stop on the second island half way through so don’t panic

*Find someone on the boat with a bit of English cos the tour guide likely has zero 

*If there is a guy with an underwater camera, hang around with him cos he knows where the good fish will be. He will also take 609 photos of everyone on the tour and if you’re not nearby there’ll only be two of you 

*Wear some sort of a bracelet or identifying feature so you don’t have to sift through 609 photos on their facebook page wondering which snorkel obscured face is yours. 

*Once you stop trying to control the buoyancy of the life vest, and get over your own Darth Vader breath, it’s really blissful to just completely relax and float face down for ages in the warm tropical water. 

Goodbye my brother

Thursday 18th

It is my brother’s last day on the island. Tomorrow he flies to Korea for a show that he has been preparing and rehearsing for this week, and I have two more nights on my own in Ko Samet before my flight to New Zealand. I feel so at home here that I’m fine on my own. 

Last night we went to several bars, including to the flourescently graffitied Audibar where the inviting little pots of paint sit on the bar for anyone to add to the thousands of messages, initials and drawings on every available surface. Walls, speakers, tables and the well tanned chests of the many topless Thai men who will oblige. I found a small patch of wall by the door to add my mantra ‘All I know is love’ which does look like touristy cheese I know, but comes from a song by Sivani Mata who helped me reach a place of peace and love that enabled me to let go of a bad thing before. 

The accompanying gin, the warm night breeze and the banging dance tunes meant we were soon dancing on Audi’s beach, while huge illuminated jellyfish twirled and swayed from the trees, happy tourists sipped their luminous cocktails and motorbikes and trucks sailed past with their gleefully shouting occupants. 

It was a very happy night. At one point we were leaving Lima bar and a bottle of beer needing finishing off. ‘Take it,’ the owner said, so I was suddenly that annoying girl on the back of a motorbike, swigging a beer and shouting ‘Fundeeeeeee!’ as we cruised away from the bar. How many rules of England could I break in one moment? I did make my brother stop and look for a glass recycling bin though. 

Bottle properly disposed of, late night noodles purchased, we sailed back thought the dark, with him driving extra slow so he could savour the moment. With him leaving Thailand tomorrow, he was as mesmerised by the beauty of it all as me, and with the warm night air washing over our faces and arms, he marvelled at the beauty of the high jungle either side of the road and the sound of a thousand night creatures chirping and singing and croaking. 


*That alluring fluorescent orange paint that everyone gets creative with on the walls of Audibar does not wash off your hands, clothes or phone case. But that is totally fine 

*Thai people don’t swim in the sea until the sun starts to go down at about 4pm, so you can have an entire bay to yourself most of the day. 

*Sunrise is 6am, and is just glorious over the Sangthien beach, and there is not a single human around. 

*If you see what appears to be a fucking DRAGON leisurely walking along the empty beach at 6am, it is in fact a Thai water lizard and although as big as a deckchair, is not dangerous, but you’d be right to keep your distance because apparently it can bite, or smack you hard with its tail. I was so scared I hid in the empty bar (with a broom for protection) googling ‘massive lizard thailand’ until it disappeared. 

Friday 19th. 6.49pm

My brother is leaving in a minute. He’s just having a last meditation and then we’ll go down to town on the bike and I’ll say goodbye at the pier and then I’ll hang out a bit and get myself a taxi back at some point. Of course I’m scared. And sad. And suddenly lonely. It would be easy to stay here in my little room and – Ooh shall I take an anxiety pill? 

Look, I get to have another bike ride with my brother, I get to wave his boat off the island, and I get to experience Ko Samet at night on my own. Could be awful, could be amazing. Could be just boring. I’ll be fine. 


Oh my heavenly father the tears. Such a streaming sobbing mess of tears right now. Sitting at the pier on a bench under a streetlight trying to work out what that’s all about. 

Lonely. Very much that. Love for my brother. Loads of that. Grateful. Yeah that’s not what the tears are about. 

I was crying as soon as we got on the bike. He said, ‘You nervous?’ I had to pause to steady my voice. ‘Probably,’ I said. ‘Part sad, part scared’. Voice already cracking.

‘You’ve done so well to overcome your fears,’ he said. ‘I know. I have.’ 

Tears on a bike are great cos the wind just pulls them away from your face as you fly through the night and no-one can see. 

I wanted to take a picture of us, our last bike ride through the Ko Samet darkness, but it wouldn’t capture it. I saw the shadow of us as we went under each streetlight, the shape of us two, him holding his luggage and me holding his shoulder, safe with him, listened to and looked after by him. So relaxed and peaceful, hair blowing, bare tanned arms loving the warm air, orange-paint-spattered trousers rolled up to let the breeze get to my heat swollen mosquito bitten legs. Him with headband holding back sunbleached hair, laptop bag over one shoulder, necklace from mum round his neck. Barefoot, earnest, fearless, my brother. 

Tears tears tears. 

He started talking and I was glad I didn’t need to speak as my face was screwed up in tears. He drove really slow, several bikes overtook us, as he started saying, ‘You need to not settle for even an inch below your greatest dream. You can be whatever you want – don’t say I don’t have faith in myself, that doesn’t make sense.’


And I don’t want to sound too negative but some of the people that you tell me about, it sounds like they are not great for you, and will hold you back. They won’t understand that you need to do something totally far away from their priorities.’ 


‘And you can have wisdom like how to overcome fear or how to cope with anxiety or all these techniques but that’s just tricks to play the game, when really you can step out of it and realise it’s a game. And that you don’t need to play. Reality is more than the tricks of surviving the game. I know I can’t explain it but once you realise it, once you feel it, you will know that’s what I was talking about.’

At the pier a private speedboat was waiting for him, of course. He hugged me and said I love you. I said I love you too – ooh so many tears now – he said, ‘I have enjoyed serving you and seeing you be so brave. I’m very proud of you.’

I wanted to say ‘me too’ but had no voice. He jumped on the boat and as it left the pier he shouted ‘Bye!’ 

‘Bye!’ I tried but it came out broken. 

And his boat disappeared into the dark sea and I have been sitting here for half an hour now crying and typing and catching all my tears in my filthy tank top. No bloody sleeves in Thailand. 

Need to drink a lot of water now, that is very dehydrating.

And here on this empty concrete pier out of Ko Samet, as a bizarre white girl is crying on her own on a bench, someone over there is gently playing a guitar in the darkness. 

Thank you my crazy little brother. You are something magical. It has been a privilege to have a week with you. I hope I remember the wisdom and strength you showed me. 

Yes Woman, Yes Cry

May 16. 7pm

After another day of doing very little, my brother and I shared fruit smoothies at a nearby resort and returned to Sangthien just after 4. I had plans to meditate, read, write or plan ny life in the hour before sunset. 

But I lay down for a minute and disappeared into a world of tangly dreams and woke up at 6.30. Quickly washing the sunscreen and sweat off my face, I headed to the bar where my brother was just setting up on stage. Good morning, he grinned. And I found a table and ordered my gin. 

And now I sit here, beautiful Thai music filling the evening air, an additional electric fan providing breezes at this part of the bar, waves lapping in the darkness just over there, and I find I’m crying. What’s that about? 

Disappointed in myself for sleeping so much, for not getting done the few things I had to do today. 

But also an inexplicable and surprising sense of homesickness. At which point a familiar guitar chord starts up and my brother’s voice fills the bar with ‘I remember, when we used to sit, in the government yard in Trenchtown…’

And the tears stream down my face as he sings No Woman No Cry. 

A song that I have cried over many times since I fist heard it at 15 years old, in my religious times, my student times, my married times, my difficult recent times. With always a different person, a different sadness, a different purpose. 

And as I sat here with warm Thai breeze blowing through my hair, pink and turquoise lights illuminating the trees overhead, my little brother making music over there, I got a sense of the distance I have come to get here, the many sadnesses and fears that I used to feel, that have all gone, and that everything I think is important now will also be gone. The relief and grief to let each thing, each person, each worry and fear gently drop away, to stand bereft and empty with none of the safety of familiar pain, of work, of people or all the things that I have surrounded myself with to avoid the empty simple existence of me. 

Just me. No purpose, no deadlines, no stress. And without all that I am such a small weak little thing. A childlike soul standing alone and unsupported in a warm Thai breeze. It is both beautiful and scary. And invites more bloody tears. While Thai families eat their shellfish salads and a group of guys laugh and the nimble waiters deliver trays of drinks, I sit on my table on my own, full of gratitude and sadness, that I get a glimpse of letting go. It takes time, which I have given myself. This is only my second full day here, it makes sense that after the blissful touristy excitement of yesterday, that once I was on my own long enough there would be sadness. 

May 17th. 8.30am

And so I drank. We biked to ‘town’ – the couple of streets crammed with shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars under multicoloured lights and flags. The lady at Bananabar scolded my brother for something, laughed at him for something else, then brought us delicious vegan spring rolls and coconut curry and rice. Just magnificent food. And gin. 

On the way back, warm night air swishing through our hair as the motorbike cruised gently through the dark jungle road, every now and then the sound of dance club beats can be heard and then the twirling lights and illuminated stars/hearts/jellyfish come into view to present a beach bar full of lights, music and people as one of the little oases of late night humanity in the dark insectful jungle. Gecko bar, Starlight bar, Naga bar… 

We stopped at Audibar to say hi to the owner Audi, a small topless tattooed man who greeted us with warm sweaty hugs and another gin, which was somehow luminous blue, and had to be downed in one as my brother was late for his 10.30 recording appointment with Magan. 

At Sangthien, without my brother, I joined the staff in the empty bar who were eating their staff meals and drinking rum. They continued their leisurely Thai conversations, and I smiled politely and sipped my rum as they laughed at each other’s jokes. The head waiter’s girlfriend was especially keen to keep topping up my glass, and we had a laugh about how Mao I was. ‘Just a little Mao,’ I protested, ‘Just Tipsy!’. ‘No, you Mao Maaaaak!’ they laughed.

And so the next two hours were spent with a handful of the Santhien family, one bottle of rum and one of brandy, and a lot of Google translate. They spent a while trying to explain what the noises in the night were. Frogs, grasshoppers and a very loud Ka Ka Ka Ka kaaaaaap right in the window above my bed at 4am, which we finally deduced was a Toucan. The lead singer talked about my brother’s tattoo – the Thai words for ‘Live in the Moment’ – and they shared some honest and awestruck opinions about how much they love him. That was nice.

And the drinking and laughing took away my sadness and I gratefully fell asleep just after 2am. 

So now, having woken up in time for the breakfast buffet, I sip my black coffee and eat my toast and vegan spread and watch the sadness return. I accept this is part of the letting go and I am grateful for the time to allow it.

Lessons for today:

*Bike helmets don’t even exist on the island, just roll with it. 

*Buy more mosquito spray. Seriously. 

*When getting on the back of a motorbike, lift your foot VERY high to swing it over, or you’ll whack your ankle on the sticky out metal bit at the back and cause a world of indescribable pain (that your brother finds hilarious). 

*I am not a size medium when buying shorts in Thailand. Everyone here is tiny, I’m clearly a large. 

*Fundeee means goodnight and will be greeted with delightful smiles. FANdee means good girlfriend and will be met with confusion. 

*Relax into the speedbumps and go with the flow. This is a good lesson for life and one I am reminded of many times a day. 

*Our brains are wired for safety, not happiness, so when you feel like going back into familiar safe patterns, know that they are there to protect you from the new thing which might be scary, even if it is the thing that will make you happy.

Grateful for:


My brother’s effortless motorbike riding

The endless supply of cool drinking water behind the bar to refill bottles

The little lizards that glide around on the walls outside my cabin

The fridge full of vegan snacks my brother brought over from Bangkok

The excellent wifi here

The people in Melksham who lovingly tell me to stop watching Council meetings and to enjoy my tropical adventure here

Taking a while to let go

May 15. 8.32pm

As it got dark, my brother arranged a short motorbike ride (him barefoot, me holding on and laughing at the lack of a shred of protective gear) to the west side of the island so we could watch the pink sun set fire to the clouds over the sea, before returning to the Sangthien stage for his evening set. The lovely Thai waiters settled me at a table under a palm tree in view of the stage and the sea, with an apple mojito full of rapidly melting ice, as my brother joined the owner on stage with his guitar. 

Framed by a huge ornamental heart made of straw, the stage is draped with fairy lights against a backdrop of the evening sea. Gentle waves wash over the beach as they sing chilled tunes including ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘Everything’s Going to be Alright.’ My brother improvises a song about last night’s storm which kept Magan, the owner, awake checking on the electricity all night. ‘Magan is my man, my man’. After a few more relaxing tunes, I notice a group of young men gathering at one end of the restaurant. A recording of a deep voice (my brother’s with special effects) announces that it is time to turn off the lights for the start of the Fire Show. The leisurely lounge music gives way to a fiery display in which a crew of glorious grinning topless young Cambodians twirl fire around their beautiful bodies to a banging Prodigy-based soundtrack for which my brother provides the energetic drums. The acrobatic young men fling fireballs into the darkness, twirl flaming hoops around themselves, and spin musical rings of light around the restaurant.

They are fucking amazing. I’m torn between trying to capture it on video and experiencing the utter beauty and energy that is so mesmerising and intoxicating that I’m crying with sheer love and joy for it as the pounding bass and drumbeat pulse through my whole being.

The expert waiters dodge the flames as they deliver cocktails and Kai curries to the many guests; a woman with a baby walks through the display nonchalantly.

My brother on the drums shouts to me – ‘They will take a photo of you!’


‘With the fire, they’ll come to you!’

And sure enough, one glorious fire boy is suddenly spinning a ring of fire right around my face and someone is taking photos up close. 

Zero risk assessments, I absolutely love it. The finale is a series of immense Catherine wheel effects of spinning sprays of sparks that fill the beach below the bar. The energy and beauty is intoxicating and I am brim full of love and gratitude as I settle back at my table with another mojito for the rest of the night. 

In a few hours in Melksham they will choose their new mayor. I wish for this much bliss and love and peace to be in the room when they vote, but I realise I am lucky enough to have bought my ticket out of it, and find all the love of a gorgeous sunny Thai beach resort, a few thousand miles away from the people I care about in Melksham. I know the stress and fear and confusion of it all and I love how far away I am, but sad for those who I love that are still troubled by it. 

I wish I could give everyone a week on this beach, with this deliriously healing and beautiful warm breeze. It is like anger and fear can’t even exist here, the purpose of the whole island is pure bliss. Everyone here is either choosing peace or providing peace. The purpose and values of everyone here is beauty, love, peace and leisure. 

Leisure. Recreation. Re-creation. It takes a few days to undo the heavy complex tangly web of duties, jobs and fears that you might arrive with, but the complete gorgeousness of the place gently teases all that out of you until you are clean and peaceful and your biggest priority is to sit with your feet in the clear lapping water until the sun sinks low enough that it’s time to move on to the next peaceful beautiful place. 

We had our family zoom last night, our weekly intercontinental gathering which this time included the hilarious moment in which Thailand brother, in his separate little zoom box on the screen as always, suddenly knocked on my door and popped into my zoom screen. Oh how we laughed. And then someone noticed my haircut and I said, ‘I know, I’ve got rid of that long boring frumpy look!’ London brother apologised for always calling me frumpy. I said, ‘Well I was, I chose frumpy and boring and safe and good. That was my story.’

‘Yeah you need to work out your new story now.’

‘Maybe it’s scary because your story is actually something absolutely amazing.’

‘You know sometimes we hide our lights because we think it will upset someone.’

‘Oh yeah, you know that quote – our greatest fear is not that we’re rubbish, is that we’re absolutely amazing or something.’


New York brother said, ‘I like to think that I should live each day like I time travelled back in time to change something for the better. You don’t know what it is, but you know you have to do something to make the future better.’

‘Ooh nice.’

Right now I can’t imagine doing anything important, I’m just loving sitting still for a while.

My Thailand brother outlined how he came up with his priorities. For 30 days he meditated for an hour and then wrote down fifteen dreams. Crazy, brave, beautiful uninhibited dreams. Which included things like ‘Own a lion’ or ‘Speak 100 languages.’ At the end of the month, he looked at every day’s list, and although it kept changing, there were some constant themes. And from that he found his five pillars – Music, Love, Friends, Travel and Languages. And then it became clear. If any activity, person, conversation or task isn’t in service of one of these, then it is not a good use of his time. And he won’t do it.

I like that. To be so clear what is important to you that you can easily say no to what is not.

May 16. 7.39am

Thank you for my speech to text facility so I can write while walking along the main road that runs all the way along the skinny island of Ko Samet. In an attempt to get my body onto Thailand time I said goodnight to my brother at midnight and settled down to sleep. I thought that if I happened to be awake at 1am I might tune into the Town Council meeting just to see who was going to be mayor this year. I’m sure it wasn’t a good idea to dip back into my old job and I did feel a ridiculous surge of fear as the opening public session involved the usual criticism – some of it directed to the tasks that were dropped when I left. But I will take this as a benchmark of improvement that I quickly got over it and saw the value in the feedback being articulately but angrily levelled at the council.

I’m glad I was there for the next bit in which the mayor gave a lovely speech about his first year in office and all the brilliant colleagues who had made it good. Because I was on my own with it all I sent a few messages to people in Melksham who might be watching the meeting too, and immediately felt ridiculous to need to reach out from thousands of miles away just to remind people I still care and hope that they still care about me. So I accept that the whole letting go of Melksham project of this adventure is a gentle gradual untangling.

The thing that is ironic about this trip to Thailand is that it is directly because of my recent challenges in Melksham that I am here. My current wander on this road through the magic morning jungle is in response to and rejection of my previous job in Melksham. (Let’s not forget it is also paid for by my savings that I earned from that job). It is because of that place of confusion, stress and obligation that I found the strength to depart to this place of tranquillity, emptiness and peace. 

So I am grateful for the unhappiness and inauthenticity which provided enough contrast to push me to seek the happiness and truth that lands me in a tropical piece of paradise the other side of the world.

Lessons for today:

*Bring Mosquito spray for goodness sake woman. 

*When you pop on to the beach to film the fire show from a clever sideways angle, you need to stand WAY back because those sparks go about 30 metres along the beach. 

*Veggie pad Thai has eggs in it so you will displease the vegan gods with that order. 

*But chicken coconut soup is completely vegan if you ask for it without the chicken (mai kai) 

*If you are in a cabin with huge windows overlooking the main path, remember to close the curtains before taking a shower. Or you will emerge all refreshed and grinning, and suddenly be aware of your unrequested exposure, and have to hurriedly pull the curtains closed. 

*If you hurriedly pull the curtains closed in a Sangthian Resort cabin with too much force, they will fall apart and you will be left with a crumpled pile of curtain and rail that, while hilarious, offers little privacy from the aforementioned  immense windows. 

* That quote I was trying to remember is from Marianne Williamson:

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Ko Samet

May 14. 20.52 Thai time.

We have arrived. Ko Samet is the tropical magical chilled out little piece of wonderland that my little brother has spent years travelling to discover, and I just plonk right into it from rainy England. 

And after a two hour drive from Bangkok, a half hour leisurely sunset boat ride (surrounded by stacks of cabbages, a crumpled tarpaulin and a pile of passenger bags), followed by a very bumpy taxi jeep ride – from the winding bustling scooter filled streets of the main bit of Ko Samet, to the dark jungly bit dense with insect sounds and the clang of speedbumps – we arrived at this gorgeous Sangthian beach resort, where my brother quickly dropped my stuff at his cabin, put my oat milk and tofu in the fridge, and we came down to the beach bar where he immediately jumped on stage with his guitar to join the owner, Magan, and the other performers there. 

And so I sit on my beanbag chair, at a low table, with a huge freshly opened coconut on a plate with a straw, as the most delicious warm breeze swishes over the crowds of happy drinking people at rows of tables under fairy lights and palm trees with a soundtrack provided by my brother and his friend who owns the place. 

It’s too fucking beautiful. 

May 15.

I slept. 

Like 10 hours. Feel all wierd now. Very peaceful. Maybe too peaceful. On a little walk along the beach on my own this morning I realised I was sad.

Sad for the people I love who aren’t here. Who don’t get to share this. I keep taking photos – people asked me to – but I’m reluctant to remind everyone they aren’t here. The stunning sunshine and warm breeze, with the constant sound of gentle turquoise waves on soft white sand, the tropical birds in these jungle trees, the strings of yellow blossom hanging over the path, orange petals dotted around the sand, purple flowers bobbing over the flagstones, it’s all just too beautiful. Why would I want to show people in England that they don’t have this?

And so I spent a very chill day leisurely meandering around the various resorts along this East half of the island, some with my brother, some on my own. A little concrete path winds through the chalets, bars and restaurants of the beach, nestled between pink blossomed trees and palm trees and statues and mini temples and sun loungers and signs about respecting nature and leaving only footprints. A plate of vegetarian Pad Thai accompanied one beach, a coffee was enjoyed on another, and all with this unreal beautiful warm breeze off the pristine turquoise sea lapping at the beaches of all these little oases of hospitality and smiling Thai people. I spent one hour sitting on a rock with my feet in the ridiculously warm water, another hour on a bench watching the waves, and a couple of hours talking with my brother about the nature of reality. 

As I made a heart out of the orange petals on the ground, he sat on a rock gently asking me to explore how much of what I think is real is simply my thoughts, and how many of my thoughts are my own? ‘Thoughts happen to us the way smells happen. They just arrive and we decide how to respond. We live on the idea that I am my thoughts, but what if there is no thinker?’

Every now and then I get a glimpse of his metaphysical mind, of the sense of emptiness and simplicity with which his life is a magical experience of unfettered unpretending authenticity. It’s nice to be near it and get snippets of it but I am far from living into it.

For now let me settle for an acceptance of the fact that life is bigger and lovelier than I have let mine be, that the nature of existence could be something higher and more profound than I have been worrying about, and that if I sit still and listen to myself long enough I might get in touch with something that provides even the slightest hint of a direction to clarity and peace.

What I think you think I am

7.42 UK time (22.43 Abu Dhabi) 

I have been exploring the options on my inflight screen and discovered that next to the map icon you also have the ‘Mecca Pointer’ which shows you the direction and distance to the Holy Land, and when your next prayer time is. There is also a tab for the ‘Full recitation of all the verses of the Holy Quran,’ which is indeed a delicious sounding recitation in Arabic. It’s several hours long though so for my cultural enlightenment I choose from the music range, a friendly looking man with a headdress and a sitar called Abadi Aljohar. Lovely voice, lots of jingly bells and sitar strumming, like the soundtrack for the bit of an action film where they land in Egypt.

Or the soundtrack for my flight in which I absorb the wisdom of Jay Shetty. He smiles at me with excellent teeth and green eyes from the cover of the book and tells me that he will explain how I can, one: Let go, two: Grow and three: give. 

It is quickly apparent that he is exactly the travel companion I need on this exploration as he starts off by quoting Charles Horton Cooley’s synopsis of the problem of identity: ‘I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.’ 

Well no wonder it’s so hard. 

I have avoided the sentence because it’s so cliche, but I really am on a quest to find myself. I need to find out who I am when I’m not encased in the patterns of destructive behaviour that have turned me into a person I don’t think is actually me, and who has become exhausted, depleted and disillusioned with herself. The whole church doctrine of ‘live for the sake of others’ is one I didn’t let go of, to an unhealthy extent that manifests as self destructive workaholism. How much of it is me being a kind and caring person and how much is it a desperate need to be approved of as the good girl? Some untangling to do. And maybe some people to disappoint. 

‘It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’ s life with perfection’. Bhagvad gita. Nice. P3.

After an introduction on the importance of knowing what your values are, Mr Shetty says something that I think is the motto for my adventure: ‘When we tune out the opinions, expectations and obligations of the world around us, we begin to hear ourselves.’

21.14. Descending into Abu Dhabi. They play us adverts for how great the city is. A child nearby screams in the pain were all feeling as our ears suffer the altitude change. Ow. Jesus ow.

May 13. 10am. Abu Dhabi airport is a shiny buzzing place. Very international, very 24 /7. At 3am it was quiet – ladies polishing shelves with spot-lit handbags, Costa workers slouching on their phones, bins being emptied – but still fully open. The departure boards showed flights right through the night. In among all the western commercial glitz, there are the many prayer rooms, the red crescent charity collection box, and the robes. Elegant men with neatly trimmed beards, in flowing down to the ground white robes, with perfectly swished headscarves held in place with a black band. Beautiful. And the stunning women, gliding elegantly through the duty free, full body black robes flowing silently, head dress nearly framing perfectly made up faces. 

1128. I love watching the terrain below. You get a real sense of the immensity of the world. There are rugged grey and brown mountains, with wildly meandering rivers outlining the contours, and then nestled in safe little alcoves, near the rivers, are clusters of tiny little white buildings. Humans have explored and settled wherever they can, like insects building their colonies. 

As we took off, the impressive geometric rows of Abu Dhabi – with shiny great buildings along ruler straight roads and perfectly arced crescents – spread out to the edge of the city, and then there was just vast dusty desert. Humans have built a stunning congregation of wealth and opulence in the middle of this sparse and sun-bleached terrain, which would have started as a simple settlement millenia ago, when some wandering tribe decided it was a good spot to pitch their tents. The essay on the problem of overpopulation is for another time, but for now the perspective up here, of seeing how the story of humanity and our need for survival and connection is helpful in reminding me of my place in it all. If I had been born here I would have different values, priorities, and fears. And my unique set of personality bits and bobs arrived because of who I was surrounded by, the church doctrine I was infused with, as well as the geography of the Wiltshire countryside and how our settlements grew up around those rivers and hills just like the middle eastern children growing up in those white buildings 40,000 feet below me.  Here I am, the result of civilisations growing and reproducing and popping out another human who is wired for connection and driven by the fear of loosing it. My whole identity is based around an urgent need to keep connected, that I only deserve if I please everyone around me, even the ones I don’t like. Because the fear of disconnection is irrationally terrifying for a very powerful part of my brain. 

Is this the bit where I start to talk about where it all went wrong in Melksham? Perhaps that story isn’t ready to be told yet.

7.15pm. Half an hour till Bangkok. If you don’t arrange your own sleep on a plane, sleep will grab you suddenly and will really hurt your neck in the process. With not even a jumper to support my head, I’ve slept a head bobbing hour or two full of confusing dreams. Snippets of colleagues, countries and quests. And in my last few minutes I grab a bit of Jay Shetty. He’s very keen to get me to understand my values, and suggests that every time I’ve done something I regret, it’s because it wasn’t aligned with my values. I haven’t fully pinpointed what they are now but I can begin to work out what they’re not, by what I regret. And I regret the things that I did because someone else wanted me to and my need to please them was greater than my own sense of self and value. He says in order to find out what they are, look at what you admire in others. This is great homework as I have just written out a stash of thank you cards outlining the qualities of the people I admire. 

Strength, integrity, stability, compassion, care, wisdom, authenticity. 

I didn’t realise as I was scribbling out lovely words that these are the values of the people I choose to spend time with, and the qualities I wish I had more of. The qualities that hopefully this trip will help to identify and strengthen.

Which is a good thought to hold onto as we start the descent into Bangkok.

21 days away

May 12, 5.20pm UK time.

I’m somewhere over some snowy mountains between London and Abu Dhabi. My hangover headache is still lingering and the buzzy happiness of getting my plane has worn off now into just tiredness, but even though I have three seats to myself on this half empty Etihad flight, the sleep doesn’t arrive.

As I wandered through the departure lounge my London brother called for a goodbye chat and asked, ‘What are your goals for this trip?’

‘Good question,’ I said. ‘It’s pretty much to get strong and clear in my head, to recover I guess, and come back brave enough to make some clean decisions about what next.’

‘Good.’ he said. ‘I think you need to stop doing what everyone else wants.’

‘Yeah I know. That’s like, my whole problem.’

‘People who keep trying to keep everyone happy end up as….’ 

‘Victims,’ I said. ‘I know. I need a spine really.’

So maybe this is my quest to grow a new spine. I don’t even know what that will look like. All my strength has been directed towards what everyone else wants and I dont know what it feels like to stand in the integrity and strength of my own spine. The strongest thing I have done was said no to my job. Because it was all wrong for me. Still doesn’t mean I know what is right though.

Mum phoned as well, with some chat about times and stopovers and how lovely it will be to see my Thailand brother and my New Zealand brother. When she said goodbye she said, ‘Well I’ll be thinking of you. I won’t pray for you, but I’ll think of you.’ 

‘Oh you can pray for me mum, I’m happy to have your prayers, just, not those weird church people.’ 

‘OK love.’ 

So with my mum’s prayers – and an Islamic journey prayer that Etihad Airways offered us all just before the safety video – plus a phone full of messages of love and support and godspeed, I embark on this little adventure. 

I’m aware that having the space, money, time and brothers to enable such a trip is a complete luxury, but here goes the start of my savings for a house. I’ll have no mortgage for a long time, and no kids at any time, so I get to adventure away my savings in exchange for my mental wellbeing.

Heathrow Terminal 4 has about nine WHSmiths in it, and realising that – on a journey where I will spend a combined 53 hours in airports or planes – I haven’t brought a book, I wondered if one would jump off the shelf at me. Books on leadership, management, clever business, smart thinking…. no not this time. It’s not time to try to fix broken systems anymore. A bright orange ‘the art of not giving a fuck’ looked like it was going to be caught. Yes I like the idea, but it feels like the title is doing all the heavy lifting. Instead, in my search for peace and balance, I have found ‘Think Like a Monk’ by Jay Shetty, which contains the promise that it will ‘shift your focus from self image to self esteem’ which feels like what I need right now. So much of my life is built around what everyone needs me to be, and I have to let go of that and work out who I am without all the people pleasing pointlessness. I learned early on as a child in the Church that my safety and value was derived by how much I kept everyone else happy, so I can see where the pattern comes from and why it’s so deeply entangled in my brain.

Talking to Teresa the other day, I said, ‘You know, I am clearly not a fan of Rev Moon, but he’s the reason I exist, and all my siblings, and right now the fact that I can go to Thailand and new Zealand, I mean, that’s cos I have brothers there because my mum had loads of kids cos Rev Moon said to. So, like, thanks.’ 

The not great and the wonderful can be all a bit entwined. 

Lessons for today:

* The new Elizabeth line will take you free from the Heathrow Central bus station to terminal 4, but there’s a half hour wait that needs to be factored in.

* Do have a piss up with people you love in Melksham but maybe not the night before you have to get yourself to Heathrow at 7am.

* Do bring a water bottle. Even though you can’t bring a full bottle through security, you can drink it and then fill it right back up on the other side you silly woman.

*Do bring a few Berocca tablets. 

*There is a postbox in the departure lounge but you need to know the address you’re posting to. 

*Stop picking up your phone during the flight to check for messages. There are none. 

Grateful for:

Sue and Colin at the bus stop this morning, baffling the sleepy travellers with a flamboyant display of flag waving and frivolity that my partner had to join in with – before his coffee. 

The hug from my love like he didn’t want to let me go this morning. 

The lovely people who gathered in the pub across the night, and the card that everyone signed for me, and the 2000 Thai bobbin notes in the envelope. Wow. Thank you. 

Gloria for being an absolute angel of beauty and love, buying so many rounds and sharing plates and vegan snacks.

The many messages and texts today to make sure I’d got the bus and wishing me well

My love for letting me borrow his fluffy black hoodie as we were leaving the house and I realised I’d probably need it for the plane. I really do and it’s so snuggly. 

Leanne at Glow hairdressers for my surprisingly excellent new haircut. As she chopped off great handfuls two days ago, I grinned and said I haven’t had it this short since I was a teenager. 

When I was 17 I went to America to save the world. All my passion, energy and bravery was totally exploited by the Moonies, but I had it. It was real. It was me. I need to find that same strength and use it for what I want now instead.