It’s only been a year since I learned how to ride a scooter, a baptism of fire on the pockmarked streets of Kathmandu. That first day I sideswiped a taxi and almost drove myself and a buddy off a bridge. Now I’m teaching someone else to ride, on the open streets of a different Asian capital. My best advice is along these lines: “If someone beeps at you to hurry up or get out of the way, fuck ’em. Take your time. There’s no rush.”
Recording a video of yourself in public is just like any other social challenge. First you’re nervous and build it up to be a really big deal. People will think I’m weird! Then you just go ahead and do it and it’s fine. Nothing bad happens. You may get a few strange looks but then the lookers move on and never think about you again. I know this, but I still chicken out sometimes. Today I made myself record in the middle of a street market.
A young man approaches me, more Chinese than Thai. I look up from my laptop as he holds out a laminated card. “Hello,” it says. “I am deaf. Would you like to buy something?” He’s selling little wooden bracelets. I glance at them before shaking my head no. He gives a quick bow, smiles politely, and moves on to the next person in the coffee shop. I watch him fruitlessly approach everyone before leaving. His shoulders have sunk but that smile never wavered.
I’m all for voluntary euthanasia. At the hospital today they parked my wheelchair across from that of an Indian man, he a little past middle age but not very old. His mouth was stuck agape and he could only move his neck and groan at his wife who was trying to stop apple sauce from sliding down his chin. I got the impression his wasn’t a temporary condition. I can’t speak for others, but I know I wouldn’t want to go on living like that.
English man, Irish man, French woman. We sit and chat for four hours, first over coffee and then a late lunch. These are the types of conversations I love to get lost in. Nothing off limits, minds open and sensitivities mature. We’re talking about erectile dysfunction one minute and chick peas the next. Disagreements respected and opinions valued. It dawns on me that I’d never have met either of these people if not for blogging.
For the past week I’ve been trying something new on my to-do list. Every night I’m tasked to sit down for five minutes and define in writing what problems/frustrations I experienced that day. And, more importantly, brainstorm solutions. The idea is to train my brain to focus on fixes. How often do we encounter problems and just accept them, as if a cure is impossible? That’s not how an entrepreneur thinks. That’s not how I want to think.
We’re still ten minutes out when the grey sky fulfills its promise. Everyone hustles to the center aisle but it’s impossible to avoid a drenching. The ferry putters along, eventually pulling up to the dock alongside a half-sunk fishing vessel. We break cover once the rain proves relentless, taking shelter under the eaves of some shuttered store. Nobody’s there to pick us up and a strange lady tells us the power is out, island-wide. Happy birthday, babe.
I’ve got iodine in one hand, alcohol in the other. There’s gauze and cotton wool at the ready. Fuck. I wish I’d taken a first aid course or something. “Um, which do I use first?” She quits wincing for a moment and looks at me in the annoyed kind of way you look at an imbecile when you’ve got chunks of flesh missing from your ankle and elbow and blood still oozing.
We spend a couple of hours cruising around the lonely roads of Ko Sichang. It’s quiet here. I’m guessing the tourists stay away because the beaches are lacking, just one tiny stretch of sand on the western side. We talk about what kind of business could thrive on the island, settling on an adventure trekking company, combined with an organic farm homestay. Either that or you could make a fortune castrating dogs.
I used to think I was a 2-3 times a week kind of guy. That was plenty for me, quality over quantity. But recently I found myself wondering if I’d just been doing it wrong all along, and if I was actually more like a 5-6 times a week kind of guy when doing it right. Even more recently, I’m left thinking thrice. And that’s likely the crux of the problem right there: I think too damn much.
Hong Kong for August and September, that’s the plan. I’ll go up through Laos and Vietnam to China, stop off in Hanoi for a couple of days, give the whole journey about a week. Planning stages now: Do I need a multiple entry Chinese visa to go in and out of Hong Kong? Is there a good Krav Maga school up there to train? How much are classes? What’s the cost of living like? How will I find an apartment?
I step aside so the lady behind me can place her order. She comes forward and tells me that I should be more careful with my money, that it’s dangerous to have big notes out in the open like that. I walk away a bit perplexed. Six months in Bangkok. I’ve never tried to conceal my money clip when paying for something, and I’ve never had a problem. I chalk it up to that lady watching the evening news a little too often. Her worries don’t have to become mine.
“Sixty minutes. Twenty minutes. Ten!” This guy is both sides of the negotiation all by himself. I’m barely saying a word. Take a seat, he tells me, ten minutes. Okay. I pull up a stool and snap a few pics as he dismantles the front of the scooter. Just up the street there’s a sudden smash as a motorcycle taxi skids into a pickup truck. The taxi man stays grounded. The pickup trundles on. The mechanic keeps working.
I see Parkour as the flight. That’s how you get away from danger as fast as possible. I see Krav Maga as the fight, assertive self-defense for occasions when running isn’t an option. Today, at a park in Bangkok, I had an intro to the latter. Square stance, 360 fence, escaping chokes, defending against knife attacks. We used a stick in place of a blade. Which was just as well, or I’d have been stabbed and slashed to a thousand pieces.
I’m hungry and in a mood, hating the local offerings. Everything seems fake. Fruit smoothies laced with syrup, all kinds of meats from tortured animals, the decent side of the menu unavailable. I flash back to my recent trip to the hospital, recalling that they had a Dunkin’ Donuts and a McDonalds in the fucking building! I order something forgettable and eat in silence.
In the comments below, let me know which of the above is your favorite. Which can you best relate to?
P.S. For all the travel junkies out there, check out this interview I did recently with the new Love Affair Travel podcast. We chat a lot about my round-the-world journey to date, how I keep the money coming in, traveling solo, all that good stuff.