Many people have been asking about Sarah lately and wanting to know more about how we met. I know I have mentioned her in several posts before, but haven’t really gone into specifics. Now that we have moved to Laos together I think it is time for a proper introduction.
I had just moved back to Chiang Mai when a friend asked me to do some photography at a dance event she was sponsoring; the 2013 International Zouk Flash Mob. The event was to be held at two different places in town starting at Thapae Gate. At Thapae Gate I saw this woman that I thought was the person that some friends (they had been showing me pictures) had been telling me I should get to know. When the first phase of the dance was finished and it was time to leave Thapae Gate to go to the next venue I asked if her name was Sarah (it was) and if I could follow her car there on my motorcycle because I really didn’t know my way around town yet.
On the way we got stuck in traffic. The traffic got so bad that Sarah impulsively decided to park her car on the street and get on the back of my motorcycle so we could weave through traffic and not be late. Well, it turns out (of course) she was the person my friends had been telling me I should meet. At the “after party” at the lake I screwed up the courage to ask her out.
I think it is probably best to let her tell her story in her own words:
“I have always loved travel and spent most of my working life working for airlines or travel companies specializing in posh resorts in the Caribbean, but I always wanted to see more. For years, I toyed with the idea of taking a year off to go travelling but how could I? My mum was sick, I had a huge mortgage, I had credit card debt and I was holding down two jobs just to make ends meet. How was I ever going to be able to afford a one-year adventure? And hey, who was going to take care of my beloved indoor rabbit, Gilbert?”
“Well, in early 2000, my gorgeous rabbit passed away at the ripe old age of eleven and later that year my lovely mum lost her battle to cancer. A year later, my mum’s little cottage was sold and the funds split three ways with my brother and sister. That gave me enough money to clear my debts, with almost £9,000 GBP left over. Would that be enough to fulfill my travel dream or should I follow people’s advice and use it for something more sensible such as a deposit for an even bigger apartment than the one I had been living in?”
“That same week I spoke to my friend about my “predicament”. She laughed and said, “You’ll never go travelling. Don’t be silly. Get the apartment” That was all I needed to hear. The next day I spoke to a travel agent — a guy who had just come back from a year of travel — and he was so full of enthusiasm about it, by the end of the call I had booked my flight to Australia with a layover in Bangkok. This was just after 9/11; nobody was travelling; flights were cheap.”
“The next day I handed in my notice at work. It felt like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders and I knew I had made the right decision. That night when I finally confessed my plans to my family over Christmas dinner, they spent the rest of the day telling me what a terrible mistake I had made. (I knew they would try to talk me out of it, that’s why I booked my ticket first.)”
“On 28 January 2002, I flew out to Bangkok. I had the most amazing year exploring Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore and finally off to Australia where I spent five months travelling the west coast. I met amazing people and had many incredible experiences. I took to travel like a duck to water.”
“The best year of my life had passed so quickly and as it came to an end I met a great group of people who were travelling on to New Zealand. Umm I thought, “I still have a little bit in the bank, should I go home? But, then again I will probably never be this close to New Zealand again. That year I celebrated New Years in Auckland and ended up staying in New Zealand for six months. After two months I had run out of money, but ended up working in a hostel for four months in exchange for room, board and a bit of pocket money.”
“Again, it was time to return home and I stopped in Thailand for a few days on the way back. Then the US started bombing somewhere; Afghanistan? Iraq? I can’t remember exactly, but it meant there wouldn’t be any work in the travel industry for me if I returned to the UK. So, what could I do? It would be a lot easier to live on next to nothing in Thailand than the UK, plus the weather was a whole lot better! Many people suggested I teach English. I laughed, I’m no teacher but then I met someone from Scotland with a really broad Glaswegian accent that was teaching English and I thought, “if she can do it, then so can I”. Two days later, when I should have been flying back to London, I started teaching English in a little school in Rayong on the coast, near Koh Samed. It was fun! Since then I’ve worked in other parts of Thailand, traveled much of the world on nothing, and eventually ended up in Chiang Mai.”
“In September 2013, I agreed to meet someone named Jon for dinner and the rest is history.”
“Now it’s January 2015, it’s been almost 13 years since I started my ‘one year travel adventure’. I am so glad I ignored the naysayers and a big thank you to my friend who unwittingly gave me the push I needed to book my flight.”