After a month in Penang (with a little interlude staying in Cyber Valley to go the Malaysian Grand Prix), we ended up back in Thailand, excitedly awaiting a visit from my sister and her fiancée.
When we’d first hatched our plan to head to the sun, we’d envisioned living in Thailand for 9 months and told everyone to come and visit. In reality, however, we started to embark on a more transient lifestyle, travelling round South East Asia in line with different visa timeframe restrictions, rather than staying put in one place. But they’d already committed to visiting us in Thailand before we’d evolved our plan to contain any specifics about where we’d be travelling to and for how long. So, since we’d had to leave after our initial 90 day stint, we made our way back to Thailand (this time to the little island of Koh Lanta) just before they arrived.
For the last few months we’d been living in a little bubble, with past lives in the real world a distant blur. Our days consisted of taking an age to get out of the house, partly because of spending time cooking to fill up a thermos flask with food for our tot (who still hasn’t developed our love of local food), loads of swimming, going on little road trips to explore whichever island we were on, and some time just hanging out at home, with Maddy looking after Baby (a favourite 2nd birthday present), doing a puzzle, or sorting and packing various collections of new found treasures.
Picking up our visitors from the airport to the soundtrack of delighted giggles from our two year old, stepping into a luxurious private villa (which they’d generously treated us all to), and being given a load of provisions we’d requested from home, burst that bubble in the most magical way.
We’d been just the 3 of us for over 4 months. Aside from FaceTime phone calls to family, we’d only had brief interactions with strangers, and slightly prolonged ones with a few people that had become new friends for the period of time we’d been in each other lives before they or we’d moved on. So sharing time and a home with special, familiar people, reminiscing about shared history, and talking about things familiar and relatable, yet far removed from the new world we’d been living in, was both comforting and disconcerting. Memories and emotions tied up with a home that no longer exists, and a life very different from the one we’d now become accustomed to, came flooding back, along with the realisation that, at some point, this exotic existence is going to reach an end point, and we’ll need to decide What To Do with our lives.
But we had an incredibly special week, full of laughter, chatter, swimming, spicy food, and beer, and it didn’t matter that it was also full of rain. We felt like rock stars in our villa perched on a hill, taking in the breathtaking view across the sea from our private pool, beer in hand, or while marvelling at the monsoon storms over a cup of coffee. Our little tot lapped up all the additional attention, put extra effort into her funny voice and dance performances, and followed my sister around like a shadow.
We shared food, music playlists, and the feel-good experience of cuddling kitties and walking dogs at the Lanta Animal Welfare sanctuary. But, just as quickly as they’d entered our lives and changed them completely, the week was up, and we’d hugged them one last time before leaving them at the airport.
It had been a holiday from the lives we were all living, but they’d left on a plane to go home and we had to move on to a new, unfamiliar house, while wishing we had a home to go back to (with a welcome reception from the cats we’d had to leave behind, and missed immeasurably). I’d forgotten the pain from the empty, almost desperate feelings I’d felt when we’d first bid our goodbyes and set sail for this new life. I’d in some way got used to the transience, isolation, and lack of familiarity, but the prospect of not being able to see my sister, or anyone else familiar, for another 5 months hit me deep in the gut. I realised how comforting familiarity is. I realised how, as much as I’d been happy just the 3 of us, living a completely new life and not knowing where we’d end up next, I craved a home.
Of course these feelings of desolation will pass, since we have to appreciate and make the most of this opportunity to travel, live new experiences, and spend such special time together as a family. And hopefully all the emotions we’ve felt and continue to come across on our journey will crystallise into thoughts and ideas and plans for a future that we don’t just fall into.
As travelling has already taught us, around the corner from every good bye are new experiences, and friendly faces. We’d left the airport totally deflated, wishing we had a home to go to, and arrived at a new house to find 6 cats eager to greet us.