3rd April 2013, edited to add the article, without comments:
THE MOMENT I KNEW by Cait O'Sullivan
I have always loved writing and dreamed about writing my own book. But didn’t everyone? At school, writing essays was my favourite thing to do and should I find myself with an hour’s study spare, I’d get me a-writing. Then twelve years passed, shaped by careers I had fallen into without giving them due thought, culminating in me becoming very restless. One cold morning, sitting in the London traffic, I found myself singing along with POD and ‘I feel so alive’. And realised that, actually, I didn’t feel alive. Not at all.
So, for my thirtieth birthday present, I bought an Around the World ticket and 13 days after my birthday, boarded a plane for Bangkok. I did write a diary but, to be honest, it’s a bit all over the place. I do remember nerves and excitement seamlessly mixing to produce…nothing. I felt numb, looking out of that airplane window.
I landed, picked up my oh-my-word-so-heavy pack (I jettisoned clothes as I travelled and came home twelve months later with a different, much lighter pack) and headed out to get a bus.
Yeah, a bus. Not a taxi, which for me coming from London would’ve been ridiculously cheap, no I jumped aboard a bus.
Needless to say, I got off at completely the wrong stop on a very busy Thai street, receiving no end of stares…a Westerner here? No problem thinks I, I have a map and will get there myself. I can always ask someone.
Are you laughing into your coffee yet?
Of course I couldn’t read the signs, written in strange characters that had no bearing to the map in my Lonely Planet book. I asked some passers-by, only to be greeted with blank incomprehension. I walked. And I walked. And I walked – bear in mind the heavy backpack. I probably stooped, not walked.
|Khao San Road|
There were plenty of hostels, after all. Weren’t there? The second to last one I checked out looked suspiciously like the one Leo di Caprio stayed in, in The Beach. I clambered up wooden steps into dark, dingy halls with bunk beds, scared myself thoroughly and climbed back down again. After maybe twenty minutes in the rain, I found an empty room and so spoiled myself.
I proceeded to spend an evening with some German people I met, with my now traditionally braided Thai hair and drinking the local whiskey. We ended up in a punk nightclub and guess what song came on? You’ve got it, POD and ‘I Feel So Alive’. Up I got to dance in my sandals (am talking hiking sandals here, not the nice kind!) amidst a group of head banging Thai’s – heck I had no choice, because I had never felt so alive in all my life. It felt preddy darn fabulous.
But afterwards, I was buzzing. And not in the most pleasant of ways. The jetlag didn’t help either.
What did I do? At a misty 5am after wandering around the back streets and canals of Bangkok? I found myself an internet café and wrote to my family and friends. An hour later, I stood up to go back to my hostel, deeply relaxed and ready for my next adventure.
That was when I understood the power writing had over me.
The escapism and the grounding it provided stood me in great stead amidst the various scrapes but-oh-so-much fun the next 12 months brought. I miss my travelling days.
But now, rather than writing emails about my travels to ground me, I weave my travelling stories into my book to help me fly. Such as Pippa and Jonathon in Romancing the Seas – the lucky pair get to cruise around New Zealand and do a bit of hiking too. Lucky them.
How about you? Can you pinpoint the moment you understood how wonderful writing made you