6 January 2016

The Trip to start the Trip

So, I'm here. On Koh Phangan, my soul island. I am happy and I am well. The trip here wasn't the smoothest and there were challenges on the way, which is all well and good actually, since I got to start working on some of my previous mental models of dealing with unexpected difficulties (getting super annoyed, frustrated and anxious about situations I cannot change, going into full-blown martyr mode "Oh why me, why now, why can't anything ever work, blah".) So, let's recap, shall we:

 1. Challenge: The delayed flights

 The Flight Gods haven't really been favouring me lately. My trip to Kajaani for Christmas holidays  took 31 hours and included a broken plane, another plane which had "severe problems" (quoting the steward here) with the loading, a night in a hotel (with a very decent breakfast, I must say!), a flight to Oulu instead of Kajaani (as there were couple of other people wanting to visit their families around Christmas time) and a taxi ride from Oulu to Kajaani (which, I now know, costs 300 euros - detail which I'm sure will come handy some day).

So, as I was preparing to pretend I could still get a decentish amount of sleep during the night before trip, I checked my e-mails for the last time. And so, the first challenge was upon me: I found a nice little message from Eurowings saying my flight from Cologne to Bangkok would be departing about 4 hours later than planned. Which naturally would lead to me missing the connection from Bangkok to Surat Thani. And, also naturally, as the information about the delay came so late, there was no way to change the dates on the AirAsia connecting flight. So, out with the plans for sleep, in with the Mastercard and flight rebooking. This time, Lion Air. With a big enough margin to take into account the change of airport and immigration...

...which got narrower and narrower, as it turned out the flight would be delayed another 1,5 hours at least. And to make things a little more interesting still, and add on to the time pressure in Bangkok, there was the 2. Challenge. But first:

Lessons learned: Don't book connecting flights. At least for the same day. Or, like, just don't, at all. At least when they're so cheap as they are in Asia. Less problems, less money loss, less hassle. Yes?

2. Challenge: To check-in bags or not to?

I was very proud as I was packing my bags: I actually managed to stuff everything I needed into the shiny new Osprey carry-on backpack. Plus another small Deuter daypack. And my enormous Thai handbag. Yes, and there is a limit of only 1 carry-on bag per passenger, and although it worked on Christmas, this time I wasn't so lucky. So, my cunning plan to travel with only carry-on failed miserably. And now I would need to wait for my Osprey in Bangkok. Sigh.

Lessons learned: Stop kidding yourself with the daring "carry-on only" travel plan. Just ain't gonna work. Next time: take the real backpack. Less worrying, less hassle, more room for shopping (which you will do, no matter what lofty ideals you might have now ;)).

3. Challenge: Staying Zen while time is ticking

As it became more and more obvious that the plane would indeed be even more delayed, the old worry patterns were pulling at their leashes, snapping their teeth and pawing at the ground eagerly, trying to get loose to wreak havoc on my peace of mind. Which they did. But only for a little while. After having a cup of coffee which weirdly calmed my nerves, I negotiated a peace treaty with my mind: I could either lose only time and money, or time, money and my balance, and ruin the start of the journey by giving in to the Old Worrying Lilje. I decided to take the first option. And suddenly there was so much space inside me. Space to take all the frustration and worry and let it dissolve. A chance to look at everything from another perspective and catch the amok-running Worry Monsters in a tight leash again. It was a proud moment which proved that the work I have been doing on myself is really paying off. Go, me! <3

I also think I'll never forget the feeling as the plane took off from Berlin: the whoosh of overflowing happiness that brought tears into my eyes as I listened to In Legend's To New Horizons and watched the cold, gray city disappear.

"Let's jump into the unknown /
We're sailing close to the wind /
We seize our own destiny /
Come on - jump off - to new horizons!"
Lessons learned: When there's a difficult situation, there's always a choice about the way to react: to resist and to suffer or to accept and move on. Not an easy shift to make, but infinitely worth it when it works.

So, the time spent in Cologne airport was not for nothing. I also gained the first new friend on the trip, a Thai woman living in Ayutthaya, who invited me over to her house if I happen to travel around there. I might take her up on her offer in April :)

But the Universe wasn't done with the Challenges....

4. Challenge: Mr Osprey takes a solo journey

So, we arrived in Bangkok after 11 hours of flight, 2 movies, a less-than-mediocre meal of salmon and something that might have been potatoes in a previous life, and more pretending to sleep. The immigration was very swift and I was silently congratulating myself for not having to book yet another flight as I stood and waited at the baggage claim. As time went on and the dreaded "last bag" announcement was flashing on the board, congratulations changed into a cold pit in the stomach. Where was Mr Osprey? 5 hours in Cologne had apparently been too much for him to take, and he had gotten anxious to spread his wings and taken a solo flight somewhere. So, no bag. Glancing at the watch. Holding back tears. Filling forms. Asking questions. If Mr Osprey was found, how would he get to me on Koh Phangan? Apparently he'd be flown to Koh Samui, where I then would have to go pick him up. More ferries, yay! (Sigh.)

 But, there's always a silver lining: I would get to do shopping rather earlier than expected, since I didn't have any clothes except a couple of socks in my daypack. And then harass the airline long enough that they give me compensation for the stuff. Which they have to, right?

It has now been two days, and still no bag, although the bag tracking service status has gone from No info to Item located to Delivery process initiated, so there is hope. Maybe tomorrow?

Amazingly enough, after the initial shock of losing the bag (on top of the nerves already being somewhat frayed due the sleep-deprived status), the calmness was found again quickly enough. I made it to Don Mueang airport, flew to Surat Thani, took the bus (2 h), waited for the ferry (1 h), had the first fried rice in Raja ferry terminal and remembered how to say spicy fish sauce in Thai, and spied the first rice cakes with brown sugar drizzled on top which are absolutely amazing. The ferry trip (2,5 h) and a short taxi ride later, I was in Srithanu. On my soul island. At home. And reunited with a dear friend. Finally <3

Deliciousness in a pretty dress

Lessons learned: I will always get there in the end, and the difficulties of the trip just make the arrival that much sweeter. The intoxicating feelings of bubbling joy as the first blast of tropical air hits me, as I smell the distinctly Thai Suvarnabhumi airport, as I take in the lush greenery of Surat Thani on the bus ride, as the warm sea breeze greets me as I get off at the Raja terminal. The first sip of a fresh coconut, the first pad thai, the first sunset... The list of Amazingness could go on for ever. So thankful to be here once more!

View from Raja ferry Terminal. Tropical sea breeze. A moment of gratitude <3

The end? Stay tuned for the next post about the first days in Paradise <3


  1. So proud of my calm, collected, and endlessly brave Lilje! <3

  2. "Lessons learned: When there's a difficult situation, there's always a choice about the way to react: to resist and to suffer or to accept and move on. Not an easy shift to make, but infinitely worth it when it works."
    Reminds me of me being left behind by the tour bus somewhere in France. When you know you got your wits about you and some money in your pocket; you can either panic or try to get out of the situation. Seems you managed perfectly well. And so next time, think back on this one and know you will always manage. Kuddos to you sister. I'm looking forward to your next post and adventures.

    1. Thank you dear! I was quite surprised and very pleased to notice that it's possible to do without the annoyance and worry <3

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