It had been nearly three and a half months since leaving home and my outlook had started to shift. At the start of my trip, each day felt like life 2.0. I always awoke feeling a higher high than I had ever felt before. I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t travel all the time. Why, it was the perfect way to live!
“Enjoy it,” I was told by other long-term travelers, “the initial high is unlike anything else, but it’ll eventually wane”.
How could that be true?
How could there be any better lifestyle than to wake up every day with no idea what might happen, where you might end up, what you might see, and who you might meet? Remember how stoked I was after my first month in Cambodia? I never thought the feeling would change.
Then, sure enough, a few months in, travel fatigue hit me. I sat on beaches in Southern Thailand and all I could see was the trash on the sand. I met new people, but they were overshadowed by the raucous, drunken backpackers around me. I took photos, but they just weren’t as cool as the ones I had taken at the beginning of my trip. I ceased having the omigawd I’m in (insert amazing locale) moments I had so many of in the beginning of my journey.
I was also told, “You’ll have the highest highs when you travel, but also the lowest lows”.
I couldn’t have known how true that would be until hitting Koh Tao. I hit the lowest low of my trip, and felt the kind of anxiety I had worked so hard to get away from in the first place.
Then I started to feel like a total and complete brat for losing the appreciation I had for travel.
What was going on? What was wrong with me?
I got myself to a wat and meditated. I emerged feeling like a new person, but still stranded in a kind of limbo I didn’t know how to interpret. For the first time during my trip, I actually wanted to be alone.
That’s when I ventured to Khao Lak.
Normally, I would have headed to a hostel and promptly found a dorm to throw my stuff down in. I would have then proceeded to insert myself in a conversation with a group of friendly-looking backpackers.
This time, I was in no mood to be social. I shelled out a whole $20 for a private room, turned on the air conditioning (something I hadn’t had much of for months), and plopped down on my bed, happy to be completely and utterly alone.
It took me a few days to finally make it to the beach. There, I also found solitude, apart from one other guy, who remained far away, both of us apparently keen to hold onto a stretch of beach in Thailand that wasn’t overrun with tourists:
It was perfection. Just at the moment when I needed to be completely alone, I found the opportunity, and I soaked it in, along with the warm Thai sun.
There were plenty of activities to do in Khao Lak, but I failed to do anything more than write, visit the beach, and got lost in a truly amazing book.
It was finally slowing down and taking a break that allowed me to approach my travels from a different light. The first part was the honeymoon phase, naturally. Then, trials and tribulations occurred, throwing me for a loop. Finally, I made peace with where I was, and made myself simply appreciate it. It wasn’t an overflowing love affair, and it wasn’t a depressed low. It was a balance.
After all, who in the world could not appreciate this?
Thank you, Khao Lak, for bringing me back.
Get there yourself:
Take a bus from Phuket (about 2 hours) bound for Surat Thani and tell the attendant that you’d like to exit at Khao Lak. If you are in Bangkok, take a bus headed for Surat Thani, where you will then change busses to a vehicle bound for Phuket.
The big thing in Khao Lak is SCUBA diving. From November to May, the Similan Islands are open for diving. Other times of year, simply relax on rather secluded beaches, and support the local economy, which was the hardest-hit part of Thailand by the 2001 tsunami.