Afterglow

It’s been 2 months since the last post. I’ve missed the writing, but a string of planned events came to fruition, which took us away -literally and figuratively- from our routine environs.

I’m still amazed somehow, with the process of planning and executing travel adventures. You formulate ideas, read travel posts and books, look at maps, discuss, debate, and evaluate for some time. Then you choose a starting point, book a flight, and carry along with your day pack, a loose set of expectations, hopes, and assumptions about the next 6 weeks. Those 6 weeks are going to pass no matter what, and you hope that once they do, you will be looking back fondly at them, versus wishing you had made different decisions -stood your ground, or relinquished it- when you had the chance.

Jennifer and I travel well together. Not perfectly, but well. We bring different strengths to our experiences, and continue to learn what those are, and to trust the other when we should. An important travel philosophy that we largely share in common has to do with prearranging. Neither of us believe in doing much of it, though we define that differently. I prefer to make things up as we go along; to strike a certain balance between reacting to what we encounter versus trying to control what that is. Jennifer prefers to do some research, and I’m still learning that a little bit of that can be really helpful. I know that our travel adventures have benefited from her extra efforts.

I’m still amazed when a trip is over, and all went relatively well. The planes took us where they were supposed to, as did the trains, buses, boats, taxis and bikes. The visas worked. Hotel rooms materialized. Our language skills sufficed. Strangers emerged to help us. The food was tasty -or not, but we managed. We improvised as needed, and encountered worlds we’d never seen: cultures, sights and sounds that we were hoping to see, hear, touch, smell, and feel. Our awareness and understanding about this earth and our place in it expanded a little bit more. We were challenged, surprised, disappointed, made the best of things, and rose to the occasions in the ways that matter to us.

I’m an afterglower. I like to revel post-trip as much as possible. The few days immediately following them often leave me feeling high. But in this case, it’s more than just the 6+ week travel adventure we just returned from. When we arrived here 7 months ago, our hope was that we would have friends come and visit, and that we would take trips away from Bali to see other countries in Southeast Asia. The past 2 months have seen both hopes realized, and the template established, and it leaves us feeling like this crazy idea is working well.

Matt and Rita are dear friends from San Francisco. They have been an inspiration to us, and were extremely helpful and supportive of our plans to unplug and travel -something they’ve been largely doing for years. We’d Skyped and emailed for months in advance of their late September arrival, and picked up our 4some right where we’d left it when we last slept over at their NOPA flat in mid-April just before flying away. The collective loose plan was to spend about 10 days in Bali, and then 10 days together in Thailand. We packed a good balance of doing stuff and not doing stuff into our all-too-brief time together. We enjoyed showing them some of Bali. We took some lovely day hikes through gorgeous rice fields; sampled many tasty restaurants; witnessed a wonderful temple birthday celebration in our own village; went on a fabulous bike ride that started at the top of a volcano, and spent 2-3 days at the small fishing town of Padangbai. But our favorite time with them in Bali was spent sitting and talking all day(s) on our porch, and swing dancing at home to Rita’s music one lovely evening. Plus, acting kudos to Rita for faking an illness one day in order to return us all home at dinner time -only to discover our house full of friends who were silently waiting to surprise me for my 55th birthday. (How Jennifer arranged for everything and everyone is beyond me. My deep thanks and appreciation to her, and to everyone who was there. It was special).

Then off to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the 4 of us went. Jennifer and I had specific medical and visa tasks to run in Bangkok that kept us busy. We appreciated that Matt and Rita were able and willing to give us the space and time to do so. It was fun to meet up at night and hear about their days, especially their biking adventures (they are extreme bikers, I give a shout out to their rare, beloved tandem recumbent in SF!), and an elaborate gems scam that enveloped around them “like a David Mamet film”. It included a team of disparate characters in many locations. Fortunately, Matt and Rita’s movie smarts and common sense allowed them to escape the trap, though abandoned on the outskirts of Bangkok -but with a great story to tell.

Chiang Mai was far more relaxed. We visited some fabulous temples, saw some bustling street markets, and spent a lot of time biking from meal to meal. Some hits and misses, but all good and enjoyable. Save for one scary bike moment as we ventured into a mysterious, distant wooded compound, only to be suddenly confronted by a large pack of angry, charging, growling dogs that came around the bend up ahead and gained on us quickly as we reversed course and tried to get back up to speed. Our thanks to the woman of mystery who just happened to come up behind us on her motorbike at that moment, and called them off as she passed our collective white knuckles, and then disappeared around that bend. We never quite knew what hit us, but figured the compound to be some military -or drug- operation, that needs a guard -or better signage.

The days with Matt and Rita went by much too quickly. Before we knew it, our driver Yut was tuk-tuking them away to the airport, and suddenly, Jennifer and I were on our own, standing in the street of Chiang Mai, ready-or-not to start the next phase of our Autumn adventure. We’d need to spend 10 more days in Thailand to complete our medical and visa related tasks, and then our long-anticipated (but hardly planned!) trip to Myanmar (Burma) would begin. Details of our experiences in Thailand and Myanmar will follow in future posts (soon!) -which I look forward to writing.

I used to love the travel epilogue of returning back home from a vacation to San Francisco, which I always liked even more than wherever I just returned from -no matter where that was. Now, we return to Bali, which is the same sort of thing: a wonderful place to call home and return to. In comparison to Thailand and Myanmar, we appreciate it even more than before this trip. Our taxi dropped us off at the foot of the Campuan steps late at night. It was quiet and still, and familiar, and was where we wanted to be. And when we walked through our gate a few minutes later, we were further delighted to see Jingga, the orange catling who adopted us in the early weeks of September. He’d gone missing for a spell while we were away, but now welcomed us back.

-matt

(The photos will appear as the techno Gods are pleased…)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matt Colonell
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 16:08:26

    Hey Matt & Jen: Great to see you posting again! Of course you’ve been busy . . . Rita and I really enjoyed our trip to visit you, and hope to do it again. We hope that we are the first of many friends who will make the trek to see you and your tropical paradise.

    Reply

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