October 20, 2014

pai love // part 1

I have been back in the mega city of Bangkok for a while now, after almost a month out of the hustle of things for summer holidays and I am still having a hard time readjusting back into the real world. I did something I have never done before and did a bit of solo traveling and life searching in a small town in northern thailand, close to the Burmese border, quite a famous place these days, a town called Pai, in Mae Hong Son province. Three hours by bus from Chiang Mai, this place is no secret any longer and it was a far cry from the hippy village it was once known as (and had been told for years I would absolutely love), and while I was disheartened by the surge of capitalism in this quaint rural countryside, there is still something magical about the air in Pai.

I needed this kind of holiday to rest and recharge between the school years, when I normally work 40-60 hours a week and suffer through grueling traffic and dirty air. I finally realize that I am not getting any younger and I really need to take care of my body and treat it with the respect it deserves. Living well is such a simple concept and it is really a shame that we even need to classify it at all, we should be eating nutritious things daily and working to feel more relaxed and healthy yet this is the opposite of how most people live their lives.

I traveled up to Chiang Mai by train, my favorite mode of transport in this crazy Kingdom, with an open mind and heart, ready to meet new people, learn new things and practice new ideas. I have been craving something totally different, the way I have been living up until now doesn't seem to fit any longer. Writing about my experience in Pai is almost too personal to share, not that anything seriously transformative happened but just being by myself for the first time in so long really reminded me how important it is do the things you love.

For me, that list includes yoga, seeing new places, reading, drinking green tea, cuddling with cats, wandering aimlessly, sitting for hours and doing nothing; all the things that I did on this perfect Elizabeth holiday. No one to please but myself for once and boy was I happy!

I spent more than 3 weeks in Mae Hong Song, each week with a different theme beginning with work on a permaculture farm called Tacomepai. This place had come into my realm in different ways before I decided to spend a week there so I knew it would be an interesting experience and I went in with no expectations. While it was only a short stay on the farm, I connected with some amazing people, learned some survival skills and really pushed my comfort zone limit. It was much more challenging than I had anticipated being by myself in this setting as it was a farm outside of the small village, surrounded by jungle and rice paddies. I was sleeping by myself in a hut made by previous volunteers on the farm, it was lovely but primitive. Every evening, I found myself amazed at how loud it was in the jungle, every single living thing seemed to come alive in the dark and as I lay under my mozzie net with only the light of my kindle, inside I was totally terrified. 

In the morning, the volunteers on the farm rise early, some making breakfast for the group, others getting to work in the rice paddies or other projects, such as the stunning new yoga house. This place really is run by the people who volunteer here and I had never really experienced this communal living first hand. I loved it. I loved being in the kitchen, using only what the farm produced to make a delicious healthy meal for my new friends when they came in from the field. I loved working together to keep the fire going, to help each other grow, learning new ideas and discussing the world we had all become so disillusioned with.  I even learned how to make a full dinner set from bamboo and really got to use my hands to make something real. It was a transformative experience mostly because I never thought I could do the things I did, nevertheless by myself. But I did and I am damn proud.

Life is constantly shaping and changing you, in order to make the most of it, you have to be fluid and have an open heart and this first week opened me up to my vulnerabilities and strengths alike. Finally letting myself let go of this idea of 'me' and 'who I am' has really let me see that I can be whatever and wherever the universe leads me.

Next up on my journey through myself and Northern Thailand......

Part 2:
Xhale yoga retreat in Pai

{ Too much love for one post, stay tuned for part 2 with my final two weeks of happiness in Pai, coming soon! }

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