‘Weinstein, yeah, he’s probably a nice guy’

As heard by a man in his sixties on a patio at a hostel in Northern Thailand – an American who retired there, I discovered, after briefly chatting with him the night before.

As I overheard his commentary on Harvey Weinstein, I was working on something at a table nearby and despite my gigantic urge to weigh in, I chose not to – I figured where exactly would it get me? I’ve tried having these types of conversations before – with men who think that women should just calm down and basically ignore all of the double standards, power plays, indignities, assaults. Just quiet down because…. because of art, status quo, and well, it usually goes back to – ‘what about the men?’

Perhaps this guy identified in some way with Mr. Weinstein because his next subject of conversation was about a 25-year old Thai woman who was ‘playing shy’ after they had gone out the night before.

I don’t know too many (read: ANY) women who would make a statement about Weinstein probably being a nice guy. Most of us have experienced some version of the guy and his behaviour – sexism, misogyny, assault or normalization of women as second-class citizens – that we simply believe. I know I’ve been waiting for the day when the conversations would change – one of the items on my bucket list is to see women and men have equity in all spheres of life. Ellen Page said it well in her recent Facebook post: ‘this is a long-awaited reckoning’.

I believe the stories about Weinstein because as Maya Angelou (that sage of all sages!) wrote, ‘at the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, people will remember how you made them feel’.

I know loads of men that I would put in the category of ‘nice guys’. Despite never meeting him, Harvey Weinstein wouldn’t be one of them. What a trail of disgrace and bad behaviour he left behind – and how many voices have we not yet heard about this one man? What about the many, many others?

Harvey Weinstein is just one of many power-hungry men who was able to act the way he did because of power dynamics – because people accepted the status quo, because they felt like they had no other choice. Thankfully power dynamics are finally shifting. My hope is that this reckoning leads to the amplification of the voices that we haven’t heard.

And to the man on the patio in Northern Thailand, I hope someone shows you ‘The Rock Test’.

Stay noisy, my friends.

Sharing food

Eating together is the most human way I can think of to make new friends. Cooking together may be even more fun than just eating together.

A few nights ago I did a cooking class at the Asia Scenic Cooking School in Chiang Mai. We learned how to cook a few delicious Thai dishes and got to share many laughs in the process.

My favourite part of the whole evening was learning that the business was wholly owned by Thai women.

We started off getting a tour of their organic garden in the middle of the city where they grew everything from basil to bananas to keffir limes.

Our host for the evening then showed us the local market and the type of things the locals buy and how they discern quality.

The first thing we got to make was miang kham – betel leaves filled with delicious goodies like shallots, limes and an amazing syrup.  So fresh.

Next up: pad thai, of course.  With emotion.

Followed by making our own curry pastes!

With a brief interlude for spring rolls before diving full into the curry preparation.

And to cap it off – mango sticky rice for dessert.  What more could one want?  Half of that rice is dyed blue with a naturally occurring dye.

We truly feasted like royalty.  I had such a fun 4 hours – laughing over food prep, coughing at spicy food and sharing stories from our travels. A great reminder to cook more with friends when I get home.  I’m truly so thankful for this experience.

Lush

Being away from home helps you recognize just how lucky you are.

I’m so lucky to live in beautiful little Fredericton, NB – perhaps one of the cleanest cities around. It’s lush in the summer, on a river with fantastic tributaries and overall, a safe, friendly community.

Us Frederictonians like to complain about certain things like the lack of a great public transit system or the traffic on the bridge in the morning, but the truth is that we’re so lucky. We can certainly do better in some ways, which is important – it’s motivating to always be striving for improvement.

I’ve spent the last 2 days scootering around the mountains in northern Thailand. The countryside is so lush compared to the cities of blistering heat. And it smells so much better. If I was to spend a lot of time here, I’d want to be in the countryside – though most Thai leave the country for the bustle of the cities. I understand that desire – the lure of opportunity, and I have to say – almost everyone here seems to be an entrepreneur of some sort.

The truth is that I’ve far more enjoyed my time in Thailand away from the cities, which are so hot and hectic, cobbled together and a little on the smelly side. It’s so lush and beautiful away from the bustle, which somehow makes me appreciate the lushness of my own home just a little bit more.

The life-changing magic of tidying up

Marie Kondo got it right. Tidying up is life changing – it helps focus both thoughts and actions. I ‘konmari’d in February after reading her book by that title. My thoughts felt clearer after my home had only the things that sparked joy – I began working more intently on my goals.

I took the philosophy into packing for my multi-month adventure. This fantastic 28-L pack is my home for the next few months – everything in it is organized by stuff sacks and while I tried to bring only the bare minimum, I think still brought a few too many things (konmari is still a work in progress for me).

I knew I wanted to build the practice of writing every day and my partner found this great portable Zagg keyboard on Kijiji for $15. It’s the ultimate in compact computing – just enough.

Just enough is liberating.

The love of a dog

It may be the best feeling. My guy (pictured below being a goof in a t-shirt) is currently hanging out in a lovely and loving home so that I can be on this adventure. I knew I would miss him a lot but I underestimated just how much – leaving him felt a little bit like tearing a small hole in my heart. I know from the photo updates that he’s having a total blast, which makes doing this so much easier. I knew I had to do this adventure for myself, and the only real thing I was worried about was finding a temporary and loving home for him – a reminder that anything is possible when I can put my anxiety aside. Or as Marie Forleo would say, ‘everything is figureoutable’.

Seeing the street dogs in Bangkok was a reminder of just how lucky I am to be able to give my guy a good life, and also to be able to find him a loving home while away.

These 2 dogs were definitely loved by this gentleman who was selling clothes on Khao San Road. I observed him feeding them with care while I was waiting for a ride, though each of these dogs were covered in marks – likely from ticks and fleas, scars and one of them had a limp from what I’m assuming is being hit by a car.

This little, well-groomed cutey named Chanom lives at the hostel I’m staying at and is very loved, both by the owner as well as the guests.

What’s common among all of these dogs is that they really bring out the best in people and can show us our best selves.


The city is a drag

I’ve been thinking about that line from one of my favourite Hawksley Workman songs after leaving Bangkok yesterday. I arrived in Chiang Mai last evening and it’s been a great change of pace – it’s much smaller, seems cleaner, and the food has been much better.

The people seem friendlier too – guesthouse owner chatted with us, asked us if we wanted recommendations of where to visit, introduced us to his lovely little dog, and we explored a huge night market that comes alive every Saturday. Unlike the night market in Bangkok, it was clean and the merchants were less aggressive – smoking wasn’t permitted and someone came by to clear dishes and rubbish from tables as soon as you were done.

(Sorry to these travellers who are making an unknown appearance here)

Bangkok has 2 million more people than the largest city in Canada. And it somehow feels like it has even more people than that – though I suppose it does from the sheer number of travellers who pass through each day. The Royal Palace has a reported 8 million people visit each year, bringing in what would be ~$160 million CAD annually.

Bangkok made me feel very lucky to live where I do – I saw an incredible amount of poverty. While the city was relatively clean for a place its size, it felt crowded and the Chao Phraya River appeared to also serve as a dumping ground.

At the same time, there seemed to be a lot of resilience and joy. Our bus to the airport was delayed by half an hour due to an impromptu parade where kids were marching through the street lighting firecrackers and the police directing traffic around it.

While I’m glad I spent a few days in Bangkok, the city was a definitely drag – from the pollution to the poverty.

I’m definitely relishing this change of pace.

Shoshin

French novelist Marcel Proust is remembered for saying ‘the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’.

Routines are critical in getting things done and there’s some great reading out there on it: Gretchen Rubin’s “Better than Before” and Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” being two of many great ones.

How do you maintain good routines while also seeing with new eyes?

Shoshin – keeping a beginner’s mind – is a practice I’ve been working on to foster ‘having new eyes’.

Part of my hope for this journey is that it will help me both in having new eyes, as well as setting up new routines. As ‘they’ say, travel is a great teacher. Travelling with someone teaches you a lot about the other person, but perhaps more importantly, it teaches you a lot about yourself.

Underestimating a decade

Leaving home for a while is a good reminder of how lucky I am.

In order to leave, a lot of things had to line up: my brother is staying at my place and taking care of my cat, another friend is taking care of my dog, I’m in a financially stable position, and I’m very lucky to be healthy.

Before leaving, I chatted with a lot of folks that I know who have been to Southeast Asia who gave me advice on where to visit. I also hosted a small get-together and got to catch up with some truly amazing folks who are doing truly amazing things.

Over the last decade, I’ve come to realize that networking is about making friends – about being genuinely interested in the people you meet. I never felt very good at networking – especially as an introvert – and I often wondered what networking really meant at large events like conferences. Contrasting that, I’ve always been interested in having small, genuine conversations with people and getting to know what drives them.

I’ve come to realize the truth in Bill Gates oft-quoted, ‘most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years’.

Catching up with people over the last couple of months knowing that I’d be heading out has been deeply gratifying – I realized just how many awesome people I know that are doing so many truly remarkable things. I didn’t meet all of them in a year, but instead over many years.

Part of the goal of this journey for me is setting a decade-long trajectory. I know it of course won’t work out exactly as I’m envisioning them today, though if I’m lucky and work hard enough, maybe they’ll be even better than I can envision right now.

And speaking of not underestimating what can be accomplished in a decade (or longer), we checked out the Royal Palace in Bangkok today. What an incredible complex of buildings, murals and temples. They started building this place in 1782 – exactly 200 years before I was born. I bet they couldn’t have exactly foreseen just how many people would flock to see it all these years later, though I do know that they built it with the intention for it to stay around for quite a long time.

Developing familiarity

Isn’t it interesting how quickly you can develop familiarity? Today I’m leaving a small, very well-kept hostel in Bang Rak, Bangkok after spending only a couple days here. It feels familiar already – we can navigate around the neighbourhood without GPS.

All the way on the other side of the world from where the rest of my life is.

This place was our favourite.

This woman cooked us up some delicious fried rice and chicken. All for 40 baht, or about $1.60 CAD. She had a system figured out – everything portioned out in containers, everything within reach. While she didn’t speak English (many people here do), she had a small menu book with photos of each dish ready to point at with the options pictured out below the dish. She ran the storefront with her husband and children, all of whom moved about throughout the small street and showed up when you wanted to order. We ended up visiting her for rice or noodles on multiple occasions.

I’ll miss this little neighbourhood (or big neighbourhood truthfully, if I’m comparing to my own!), though very much looking forward to exploring the next places.

Security or adventure?

Can you have both? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now. Everything I’ve read on the topic suggests humans have a drive for both security and adventure – though of course the level of drive for each differs greatly by individual.

For me, I’ve unconsciously tried to balance these competing desires – I only consciously became aware of them as competing and normal drives fairly recently.

Yesterday, I arrived in Thailand after leaving a well-paying position to travel Southeast Asia for a few months. It was a plan I starting working earlier this year after reflecting on my goals. Things weren’t going quite as I envisioned, which is sometimes a blessing in disguise – it led to a lot of deep self reflection. I hired a professional coach, which has been one of the best investments I’ve made in myself in a long time.

He helped me ask questions of myself that I was scared to ask – or maybe that I didn’t know how to ask. He helped remind me that I should keep my eyes on where I’m going – just like in motorbiking. After getting my motorcycle license recently, I can attest how true that is – unless you are looking where you are going, you are going to hurt yourself or end up in the ditch (or worse).

I knew where I wanted to go, though I wasn’t yet taking full steps in that direction.

In the spring, a mentor asked me if I was ‘getting ready’ for my bold goals or ‘getting ready to get ready’. I was getting ready to get ready.

Esther Perel recently tweeted that ‘trust is an active engagement with the unknown’. I’ve literally been thinking about that for a month straight now. As a bit of a planner, I haven’t always engaged well with the unknown. I’ve leaned on pragmatism. Pragmatism is great. And as my coach helped me learn, any strength overdone can become a weakness. At times, I found myself trying to control the unknown through planning.

So I’ve decided to step a bit away from my pragmatism for a while and am trying to explore more of the free spirit way of being. I have a budget on this trip, and it took some time to ensure the details were planned so that I could leave my secure life at home in beautiful NB behind for a while. I certainly haven’t abandoned pragmatism – I’ve chosen to consciously explore the other side of the coin to ensure I keep that drive in check.

I may spend the rest of my life asking myself how to balance security and adventure. I don’t exactly know what I will learn from this particular adventure. Though I know I’m very much looking forward to the journey.

With love, from Bangkok