Swiss family Robinson in Thailand

So after a couple relaxing days in my bungalow, I decided to move to cheaper digs for my last night on Koh Lanta. After hearing some chatter about the Chill Out House, I decided to schlep my backpack over to their beach. As backpackers know, it’s annoying to pack up your bag just to move digs for one night so there must have been a good reason. My reason was the Chill Out House was actually a treehouse. That’s right, you got to spend your nights sleeping in a treehouse. Ha, right up my alley. In the end, with my backpacker’s bag, chickens clucking, frogs croaking, and bugs doing whatever they do, it really felt like camping. While I was really worried about the mosquitoes eating me alive, the nets did a great job and I woke up with no new bites.
While this wasn’t the most ideal situation for a lot of people, it was fun for a night. It really felt like a camp out at a hippy music fest as there were lots of Rasta-themed bamboo bungalows scattered through the woods with peace signs and well, everything that goes with that. My day was spent shuffling to the beach to read and laying in one of the many hammocks hanging in the treehouse. Maybe the Swiss family Robinson’s and Robinson Crusoe were on to something after all.

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How to celebrate your birthday on an island

I suppose if I’m doing a solo trip, I should celebrate my birthday by myself as well. I decided to make the day special and find a place I thought would be memorable. Having heard good things about Koh Lanta, I decided to book my own bungalow on the beach and relax for a couple of days.

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At the end of the walkway was the beach. Ahhhhhh!

Koh Lanta was headed into low season, so many of the shops were closing but the town still provided a nice afternoon for a birthday shopping spree. I had snacks at a super nice Thai family’s roadside restaurant and did a lot of smiling and head bobbing with the owner’s 90 year-old mother. I still have no idea what we were trying to talk about but she seemed like a dear.

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My actual birthday was spent in an open air hut on the beach taking a 2-hour yoga class taught by an intense Scottish yogi. It was rather surreal and something I wanted to do while in Asia. After yoga, I wobbled over to an adjoining café for muesli, yogurt, and an Americano followed by a Thai massage. Beach life in Thailand is so great. Everything you want is usually within a 5 minute walk of where you are staying. Life literally consists of a swimsuit, sarong, bare feet, and sunglasses for days at a time.

Feeling the need to do something productive and because I was wildly missing my dog Nellie, I headed over to Lanta Animal Welfare, a rescue and care facility for the island’s pets. They head a huge sterilization program for the island, as well as offer treatment, adoption, and education about animals and their care. After taking a tour of the facility, I walked Carrot, one of the dogs available for adoption, and chatted with a volunteer, also a solo female traveler who was taking a month to work at the shelter.

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Here are some of the other cuties. Seeing them just made me want my dog more :(

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I spent several dinners and happy hours at Time for Lime, a cooking school and restaurant that sponsors the shelter. The food was amazing, drinks delicious, and view, well that was priceless. I guess if you were to have a birthday by yourself, this was the place to celebrate.

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And then it hits me….

Oh wow, I’m in Thailand. Leading up to the trip, the day of the trip, and mid-flight of my trip, people kept asking me if it hit me that I was flying around the world for a solo adventure. Well, no, not really. I kept thinking it would. Every time I went shopping for travel gear, I waited for that feeling. When I said goodbye to my family and boyfriend, I waited. When I said goodbye to my brother in Cali before boarding my international flight, I waited. When I landed in Krabi, I thought “this is it!” But still, no feelings were different other than exhaustion and “what the hell am I doing?” And then this happened, Koh Phi Phi.

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Mostly known for its epic parties, blue waters, and Leonardo Decaprio’s “The Beach,” Koh Phi Phi is visited by swarms of people and scoffed by serious backpackers for being “too touristy.” Not sure what I would think, I decided to book a 4 Island tour that would include all of the highlight of the area. In the end, after booking through 2 tour companies, both ended up being cancelled as they were overbooked. I literally was 20 minutes out from being picked up when a lady rushed into my hostel to refund my money (I was wildly impressed she took the time to find me). I was slightly bummed but decided to take it as a sign that maybe a speedboat tour wasn’t a good idea. I walked across the street, booked a ferry ticket, and in 15 minutes I was on a ferry to the island. Two hours later, we pulled up to the island and are immediately dumped into a rat maze of stalls, bars, and cheap rooms for rent. There was no beach in site. After 20 minutes of wandering, I find “The Beach” (actually the party beach) which was mostly a pool of trash and super hot water with several people passed out. “Um, this can’t be where I’ve seen so many epic pictures” I thought. Wandering back through the rat maze, I find a map and directions to another secluded beach about 30 minutes in the opposite direction. I literally hiked through a jungle and just when I thought I wouldn’t see any fabled Phi Phi beaches, this popped out before me….

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Yes!!! I literally threw my stuff down on a rock and jumped into the waters. All around me, schools of yellow fish swam. The water was so clear, no snorkel mask was needed. I had never seen anything like this before. Dorothy was definitely not in Kansas anymore. As I lay in the water, watching the blues turn to green and the long boats whizz by, I suddenly realized, “I’m in Thailand! This is what I’ve worked so hard for these last 3 years! OMG, I’m really here!” Best. Feeling. Ever.

Take Flight and Live!

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I’ve died and gone to paradise

So after 30 hours of flying and layovers, I finally made it to the doorstep of paradise, Krabi, Thailand. I was way overdressed for the 90% humidity and 110 degree temps and hadn’t showered in what felt like days so I headed straight for Pak-Up Hostel in downtown Krabi. My ambitious plan was to shower and then walk around but I quickly realized my mind and body had other plans. Looking back, I was overly tired from not sleeping in 2 days, probably a bit dehydrated, and plain overstimulated from plowing my way through 4 airports and all the international muck. So here’s what happened. I got to the hostel, walked down one block, walked down another block, and then went straight back and sat in the lobby paralyzed in fear. Not the kind of fear like “omg, I’m going to die” but more like “what the hell am I doing over here by myself?!” Even the thought of walking across the street for the ATM was slightly frightening. So, I just sat in the lobby, drinking water, admiring the Asia backpacker fashion, and trying to gather my wits. I decided to call it a day (at 2PM) and headed off to bed where I slept till 7 the next morning. New day, new perspective was the hope. Thankfully that logic worked because the next day, I was up early and ready to start my adventure. Fresh mango and banana smoothie in hand, I walked down to the pier and took a long boat (essentially a wood canoe with a weed-eater for a motor) over to Railay beach. Oh my goodness, this is my first day in Thailand?! Even with the overcast, it was still beautiful. You could walk the whole area in about a hour but there was so much to see. Three beaches, caves, a market, and world-class climbing. By the end of the day, I had no regrets making the journey over to Thailand. While there was still some apprehension, the paralyzing fear was gone (thank goodness). I could now stroll out of my hostel and wander the streets without worrying about getting lost or figuring out how to navigate the roads. Not going to lie, I still haven’t mastered crossing a busy road with 1,000 scooters barreling down at me, so I just wait for the locals to cross and hug their backs.

Next adventure, Phi Phi island!

Take flight and live!

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‘Round the world we go

Well, things here at Take Flight and Live might be looking a bit different for the next couples of months. Finding a happy heart and healthy body takes more than just exercise and nutritious food. Sometimes it requires flying far, far away. Right now, I’m somewhere over the China/Asia area. To tell this story, we need to have a flashback moment. About 8 years ago, I met a woman in her early 30s who spent 17 months traveling around the globe visiting every continent. I was wildly fascinated by her stories and never dreamed that this was something people could do. As we ended the convo, she handed me a book on how to plan a round the world trip (RTW as more commonly known). I buried it in the back of my mind not quite sure how I would ever have the time or money. Several years later I spent a lazy weekend floating in a tube on a lake reading a book called “The Lost Girls.” Here, 3 friends quit their jobs and their Starbucks addictions and take off to explore the world together on their own RTW trip. Again, the thought got buried but it was still there brewing, waiting for the right moment. Well, that moment came last year when I was working 80 hours a week flipping between night and day schedules, trying to finish grad school and totally burned out on life. I was at the point where I needed to start deciding what I would do when school was done. I really don’t have a definite time where the thought jumped into my head but I’m sure I was staring at the mirror one morning, horrified at the look of death on my face, and thinking ” I need a vacation.” Slowly, things started clicking. I was going to have to quit my job to look for a new nurse practitioner job. I hadn’t spent any money in a long time because of my crazy schedule, and I felt like I had lost all passion in life in order to finish school. So here I am today- a one way ticket to Krabi, Thailand and an unlimited rail pass in Europe. I’m on my 3rd of 4 flights to Asia, and have already had my own “Amazing Race” moment by sprinting through an international airport in Taiwan because my flight was 20 minutes late for my connection. Ironically, I saw a blond hippy chick in a floor length skirt also sprinting off my plane and thought “she looks like she’s headed for a Thai beach.” Sure enough, we raced through the airport together yelling out where to turn for connecting gates.

My tentative plan will have me start in the south part of Thailand where I can live island life for a while, then make my way north to Chiang Mai and then over to Laos and Cambodia and finally to Europe. Suggestions, comments, and encouragement are always welcome.

Take flight and live!

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Saying goodbye to America as I board my plane in San Diego.

A new you doesn’t start with a New Year

Anyone else feel like the week between Christmas and New Year is rest week? Between my graduation, getting a life back, reconnecting with friends, Christmas, and work, I’ve been slowing catching up with what’s happened in the last month. 2014 isn’t even here yet and I already know it will be wild. Actually, it won’t take much after the tedious, mind-numbing year I had finishing clinical.

With graduation, Christmas, and parties, my house (and my tummy) have overflowed with yummy treats. Twitter, FB, and the blogger-world have been full of cookies, diet plans, resolutions, cheese platters (mmmm), and those who keep powering through with workouts or those who’s biggest workout is lifting another plate of fudge. I’ve taken the middle of the road by still enjoying happy hours, wine time, parties, and friends, but decided not to do any baking this year. I also made a secret stash for January and February of all my holiday candy instead of eating it all now (out of sight out of mind, right? maybe?). I had some amazing cupcakes left over from my graduation party and decided to cut them up in little single servings and freeze them so I could have an after dinner treat later. It’s all about the little steps. January is such a high pressure month of lose weight! salads and chicken only! no bread! no carbs! gym 7 days a week! No wonder we give up and hope for the best next year.

As we end 2013, I hope you realize your new life doesn’t start January 1st, or on a Monday, or when you turn 21. There are thousands of moments a day where you can change your life. They might be tiny, they might be monstrous. But realize a day isn’t wasted because you didn’t seize that moment. Just make it right the next time. My dumb example (but I know it happens to all of us ) is when I made it a cupcake lunch earlier this week. Did I make it a cupcake dinner? No. Was the day ruined? Nope. I had a balanced dinner and moved on. Don’t kick yourself and write the day or week off because you failed at one moment.

Here’s to taking flight and living in 2014!

PS- Here are some pics from this week. I made the best of some nice weather and decided to start working on my post-graduate body. No need to wait till 2014.  There will be no 2014 resolutions for me. Just taking flight and living each day.

Nellie playing in the snow! Snowy prairie walk Kansas beauty 100 stairs

 

Another chapter closed

December 21st, 2013. I am a graduate. My master’s degree is complete. The road has been long and there are no answers as to what the future holds for me next.  I am at peace.
Song of the open road- Walt Whitman