Alright, Iâ€™m back in Australia now, but I suppose for coherencyâ€™s sake I should give a brief summary of Bangkok. Continue reading
I have left Australia for Thailand for what Iâ€™m sure will be one week of exploring, misadventure and general debauchery.
Due to an error in my working visa application – the Australian government informed me over the phone that I could enter the country on a tourist visa while my working visa was still pending, then two weeks later informed me this wasnâ€™t the case and I would have to leave – I have fled to Thailand. The trip has cost me a solid half of my remaining savings, and means I will be returning to my idyllic outback farm with around Â£250 to my name. This is not ideal, and I am rather incensed at having been misinformed and forced to spend all my savings and vacate the country. But nobody ever got a puddle of milk back into the bottle by weeping over it. And so I am in Thailand, whether I like it or not, and I am going to make the most of this most irritating of detours.
I probably sound quite privileged and selfish, donâ€™t I, moaning about having to travel to a pretty country with a throbbing backpacker scene. The reason is, I was growing very fond of my little farm and the friendships that were blossoming there. I was enjoying my slow transformation from a weary old seen-it-all city bastard into a healthy and cheerful farmer. Bangkok feels like a large step backwards. But again, Iâ€™m here now, and thereâ€™s nothing else for it.
My first impressions of the city could be summarised best by a long, slow emptying of the lungs. I never wanted to visit Thailand, for the simple reason that everyone does. I had a stereotype in my head of what it would be like here, and lo, upon arriving at my hostel at 2am after a delightful 20 hours of transit, the first conversation I overheard was two American frat bros talking about how they got into a knife fight outside a brothel and how they hate anti-gun liberals and how badly they both want to get laid. Sigh. Abandon all culture, all ye who enter here.
Iâ€™m staying at a self-proclaimed party hostel, due to its being the cheapest one I could find. I feel old. Iâ€™m not sure when that happened, exactly, but at my ripe old age of 25 the idea of fifteen sunburned men in neon vests screaming at red beer pong cups, whirlpooling around one or two English girls clad in arse-cheek pinching shorts seems rather bland. Give me a gloomy bar and a weird old man to chat to any day.
I just really dislike the idea that people travel halfway around the world to a country with a fascinating new culture, and all they want to do is shag about and get pissed. Itâ€™s not my idea of fun and never has been. Iâ€™m partial to a beer, if youâ€™ve read literally anything Iâ€™ve ever written youâ€™ll have picked that up, but I prefer alcohol as an accessory to silly adventures and a lowerer of inhibitions that enables people to reveal their true selves without weeks of getting-to-know-you chatter. I loathe the muscle bound, tribal tattooed masses with their chest beating and arse-grabbing.
But maybe Iâ€™m being too harsh. Iâ€™ve barely been here one day. Iâ€™m going to try and make the most of it. Iâ€™m heading out now to wander the streets all on me bill, and perhaps Iâ€™ll find something to love about this place. Or perhaps Iâ€™ll just sink a couple of those buckets you hear about and stop being such a moany pretentious wanker and end up dancing with my top off in some ping pong show ladyboy frat bro fuckhead dancefloor.
Truly, it could go either way.
I am changing. I am changing, I can feel it, and not only that but I can feel itâ€™s a change for the better.
Iâ€™ve been a very bad person for the last couple of years of my life. Iâ€™ve done things Iâ€™d be embarrassed to write here, that Iâ€™d be afraid to admit to strangers for fear of judgement. Iâ€™ve been selfish and stupid and confused, and in trying to right previous mistakes Iâ€™ve made dozens more. A large part of is a result of cowardice and dishonesty. I wonâ€™t contextualise, I wonâ€™t make excuses. I have been a coward, and I have been dishonest. Thatâ€™s all that matters.
Living as I have for the past three weeks in the Australian outback has given me hope for my own future. With no strings remaining to unatonable sins from the past, I am finally free to consider myself a worthwhile person again. I am able to like myself for the first time in two years, because I am not hurting anybody anymore, and consequently I am no longer ashamed of my life.
The weeks at the hostel have passed quietly, peacefully, joyfully. My working visa isnâ€™t yet granted due to an error in my application, and so I have been unable to work. During the day, the hostel empties as all cars and pickups in the drive head out to the fields to pick blueberries. I spend the silent mornings cooking breakfast, lifting weights, writing my book, playing guitar, reading, sunbathing, or listening to music. The internet at the property ran out a week ago, and since then weâ€™ve been almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world. No news, no social media, nothing. The occasional message to family is all Iâ€™ve used my phone for. It is so very quiet. It is so very beautiful.
I have immersed myself in farm work to ease the days along. Years working behind a desk and drinking to excess has made me lazy. But I feel awake out here in nature. Somebody calls out that we need firewood, I take an axe outside and cut logs into small pieces until I get blisters. Somebody tells me the pigs need to be fed, I grab a bucket and a sack of pig pellets. Somebody mentions that the mound of manure out the back needs moving, I find a wheelbarrow. A shed needs tearing down, I grab a hammer.
There is astonishing clarity to be found from immersing yourself in dirty, simple, honest work. When I am outside, sweating through some repetitive task in the sunshine, my brain, whose overactivity is the bane of my life, suddenly becomes quiet. I become fixated with the present moment, with my sole, simple goal; I am not concerned with past sorrows or future fears, only the task at hand.
My palms, my forearms and my legs are coated in cuts and bruises. I like it. My clothes are mucky and hang off me; gone are the tight fitting tees of 2015, gone are the drab black garbs of Berlin. Last weekend I picked up a bundle of free work shirts from outside the local charity shop one sunny Saturday. They are practical and comfortable and all I need. And every evening I sleep soundly, satisfied that the firewood I cut up that afternoon is keeping everybody warm in the living room.
Weekends are spent in a haze of cheap wine; you can get five litres for nine dollars from the nearest town, an hour away. We lounge together on the grass, twenty or thirty backpackers, music playing, and the farm dogs lay between us. We have all arrived with equally colourful and fucked up life stories, yet the laughter never stops. Two hundred miles from civilisation, adults discover that they never quite grew up, not really. Despite all our years of experience, all the wisdom, out here on the farm everything is as it was at eight years old. Friendships are born, relationships spark and fizzle or burn out, rivalries form, alliances are made.
Arguments have broken out several times as personalities jostle and clash and vie for position at the top of the chain. I stay away from social politics. It bores me. Let the angrier boys and girls yell at one another until theyâ€™re blue in the face; Iâ€™d rather sit with Ben and Seth and chat shit together in the afternoon warmth, sipping sweet white wine out of chipped white mugs.
Iâ€™m not thinking about the future. I have barely eight hundred pounds to my name now, and until I start working, dreaming of the future is a luxury I canâ€™t afford. The past still rears its head most days, whether itâ€™s in the form of a familiar song or a stumbled-upon photograph, and it still hurts the same as it always has, but Iâ€™m not afraid to look back anymore. After years of hating myself, three weeks on a farm on the far side of the world has helped me to see that I am not a bad person who occasionally does good things, but a decent human being who has made mistakes. And from this point onward in my life, starting everything anew, I am going to be honest, and I am going to be brave, and I am going to channel all my efforts into becoming the man I was meant to be. Somebody I can be proud of.
My god, how everything has changed. You just never see these things coming. Continue reading