Anyone who’s known me for a relative period of time (trust me, working in the public relations industry has made me more vocal about my life choices), knows for a fact that my ultimate life goal was to bring my laptop and my boxing gloves 1,748 km away and spend the rest of my life there.
So what gives behind this infatuation with the mesmerizing islands of Thailand? Was it the emerald waters and soft, sandy beaches? Or was it the Sabai Sabai lifestyle which kept everything at ease? (trust me, working in public relations turned me into a high strung, raging work-obsessed machine obsessed with follow-ups and media coverage to the extent that a break is more than welcome)
The first time I realized that the only place I wanted to be was on an island away from civilization with only basic necessities was the day I went off for a yoga camp on the stunning terrain of Koh Samui.
I only realized how serious I was considering it when I was on my way back to Malaysia, with the only thought which plagued my mind as to how could I make the transition a reality.
When you’ve been working since before you graduated college and being raised in a stereotype Asian background whereby all there is to life is getting good grades and a better job that pays, observing how the majority of the people at the yoga camp lives opened my eyes to a different perspective.
There was actually another option to life. You don’t have to be like everyone else, jumping into the corporate wagon to make just enough money to pay off a study loan, car, house, taxes, etc. You earn just about to spend it again on things that deem you a ‘responsible’ adult in the eyes of society or a successful adult. You buy an expensive car you can barely afford to pay monthly to be accepted in your social circle. You pay for a classy condominium so people won’t deem you lame for living with your parents. But at the end of the day, you’re racking up a large sum on your credit card that even you can’t afford.
Samui taught me to live with what I needed not what I wanted. When I learned yoga for the very first time, I actually learned how to listen to my body instead of listening to what everyone around me was saying.
In an Asian family, it is difficult to escape this feeling. Your relatives will constantly compare you against your academically blessed cousins and make you feel inadequate at all times.
For years, I spent my life listening to what people had to say about my life choices. Why didn’t I pursue a career as a lawyer, why did I throw away my law degree? Why didn’t I get straight As in school? Why am I not married or raising children as my age closes in on 30? Why was my existence as a human being measured constantly against everyone else’s ideals but my own?
Yoga in Koh Samui taught me to pay attention to what it was that made me happy, not what made others happy. Success was the ability to be genuinely happy in what you do. For me, it was exploring new horizons in the lush island background. It was testing my body’s abilities in yoga and boxing and learning that there is so much you can do. It was appreciating the little things in life, nature’s bounty, family, and loved ones.
My ultimate goal was to pack up and stay on a Thai island, writing in a faraway setting, earning to be happy not just to make a living. I was tired of having to explain why am I not the Senior Vice President of a department or a lawyer or even married with kids. These things didn’t make me happy, They didn’t even make me, me.
So how did I fall in love with Thailand compared to any other island or region? It gave me a sense of privacy which I couldn’t get from my own country. It gave me a sense of comfort living in simplicity rather than luxury. Most importantly, it was a home away from home.