10 Craziest Things
Now it has come to the time of the year when I would do a summary post like this to round up the keys happenings and achievements throughout the entire year. Well, to say that year 2015 is a wonderful year is an understatement.
Year 2015 is my biggest and boldest year yet.
It is a year of fireworks. It is a year where I’ve taken a few unusual decisions as a 30-year-old – decisions that many people don’t take because of fear – before a ripple of changes I would never have imagined myself experiencing, began to take shape in my life.
I didn’t say that to sound boastful. But honestly, it did take me courage – lots of courage actually – to first tender that resignation letter. Then from there, everything pretty much started rolling on its own. I would eventually find myself greeted with a chain of events leading to where I am today.
So, just like the title suggests, below are some 10 craziest things I’ve done for the first time, in 2015.
1. Quitting my job without a new one
After the completion of my Master’s Degree, my next mission wasn’t to jump on the PhD bandwagon.
I wanted to experience something different outside of the country after having served in the local higher education sector for several years. So I decided to quit my job to pursue a year-long backpacking adventure.
But there was a problem.
I had got a house to pay for, and that was probably my biggest headache. But a goal remained a goal; it had to be achieved. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and would take me some time, but went ahead and planned it anyway.
Thus, for over three years, I had lived a thrifty life. I had been saving up an amount of money enough to cover my monthly mortgage repayment and living expenses during the period I would not have a job.
So in March this year, for the first time in my life I resigned without another job lining up. I left behind a job, an occupation, a company, and some colleagues I value so much.
My resignation had me feeling sad in a way, but liberating in another. I had mixed feelings, as detailed in these posts:
While I knew it wasn’t exactly going to be a hiatus, I had no idea what was to unfold. I could be ordained as a short-term monk in Burma. Or perhaps doing island hopping in Thailand. Or I might end up doing some volunteer work in Cambodia. God knew what would happen. But that was the whole point of it!
2. Being away from home for the longest time
The longest period that I had ever left my country as a traveler and backpacker was for two weeks. This time around I managed to backpack for a much longer period of 52 days, however still about 300 days short of what was in my plan.
My otherwise long backpacking “adventure” was cut short after I was offered a teaching job at a place which I was initially told didn’t have much to see and about to skip visiting. I was on my way to Bangkok when I received a call asking me to head back South to a humble little town called Pathiu in the province of Chumphon – which I later realised to be so naturally beautiful, to meet up with the heads at the school I would eventually find myself teaching in.
Whether working or backpacking, this still marks the longest period I’ve been away from home.
Does this mean I no longer travel? Well, not really.
Between work and during school holidays, I would still travel. I would still backpack around the country, except at a lower intensity and without the “my backpack is my home” kind of vibe.
But that’s okay.
Sometimes we make plans, and only nature has the final say. We just have to accept that and be content with what we’ve been blessed with.
3. 10 days of no talking at a monastery
This year also marks my first and longest time to live a “monastic life” by indulging myself in a vipassana meditation retreat held at Wat Kow Tahm, a serene Theravada monastery situated on top of a cave mountain somewhere in the middle of the exotic Phangan Island.
But here comes the best part: for 10 days I had to go without talking to anyone.
It was 10 days full of emotions. ALL sorts of emotions, as I had put it as such in one of my Facebook updates:
There was frustration; there was anger; there were lots and lots of name-calling at the back of my mind. There was this hairy farang with really bad body odour. And the girl with a weird hairstyle just kept appearing before me every time. It was impossible not to sweat right after taking a shower because we had to climb uphill to get to our dorm. And the snake that roamed outside the meditation hall – we just had no idea when or if it was ever going to creep inside! On day 5, my roommate Andrea found a scorpion inside my room. Every day there was no music. There was no Internet. It was just not something we had expected.
The first few days just had me completely overcome with a mountain-load of impatience and restlessness and agitated feelings!
As I took my vipassana meditation practice deeper however, something happened.
Our teacher Anthony Markwell’s repeated advice so that we “know them (feelings or emotions), note them, and let them go” began to gradually sink in. It began to do the trick. Towards the end of the retreat, I didn’t become a lotus. There was also no halo around my head. But I had achieved a much calmer state of mind, with my heart being so much more at peace.
On the second last day of my stay at Wat Kow Tahm, for the first time I got to accompany a monk and be his “dek wat” (a temple boy who helps carry all the extra food) as he made his morning alms round along a street down the mountain. That was one of the most surreal experiences ever for me as a Theravada Buddhist.
4. Getting a lower-paid job in Thailand
So yeah, about 50 days into my otherwise long-term travel and I was offered a teaching job, however at a lower salary than in Malaysia.
I could have gotten a job to scrub toilets, like some travellers did. But I didn’t.
I had, therefore, accepted the job in good faith. I reckoned that not only would I be able to experience something culturally different from my own life and learn a little from it, but at the same time I could also share my knowledge as a way of giving back to the local community.
Despite getting a much lower pay than in Malaysia, I certainly feel spiritually happier here and that I have the best job in the world.
5. Teaching a group of students who don’t speak my languages
Teaching in Thailand, I’m no longer dealing with young adults like I used to; I’m teaching, for the first time, kids who are at least half the age of those I used to teach – something I never thought I would or could do.
As I’m teaching these kids, I’m also learning, like really hard.
To me it’s a triple challenge.
For one, I need to teach the kids what I’ve been tasked to teach. Secondly, I need to learn how to speak a language they can relate to at their levels, because teaching the content and teaching in a way students can understand are two separate matters.
On top of that, I’m also trying to pick up their native language. There are, of course, co-teachers to help me with the translation, but hey, knowing their language not only makes my life easier, but also my fellow co-teachers’ too!
6. Going viral for doing what I’m doing
Alright, THAT was insane.
Yes, It still strikes me as a little odd, even until today, how my decision to resign as a lecturer to travel then teach in Thailand would eventually attract the attention of some media, including two major radio stations.
I went viral overnight in July. Jean Khoo of Singapore-based online portal Vulcan Post first wrote about me – for which I’m really thankful. Then everything took off like a wildfire.
Read some of the articles about me here:
- This Malaysian lecturer quit his job to earn less, but affirms he now has the ‘best job in the world’
- He has the best job in the world!
Friends and strangers alike not only shared articles about me in a magnitude I had never experienced before, but also took the time to write in to me to compliment my brave decisions and also express their admiration of what I was doing.
For all the praises and support that I had been showered with, I was and still am very thankful. However, I had to turn down the opportunities to be interviewed by Hitz.fm and BFM89.9 The Business Radio Station because I didn’t like the sudden fame I was getting.
7. Being in an international relationship
Just like any other typical farangs in Thailand, I came here, got lonely, then fell in love with a local girl.
Just kidding. That isn’t the least bit true, even though I now have my significant other.
I’ve told a little bit of my love story here, so you can read more about it in that post. What I can say is that life happens. Sometimes we just don’t have the answers to things we don’t understand.
Looking back it’s a little creepy though. Back in June when I had just started teaching in Thailand, I wrote “Why I Gave up Lectureship in Malaysia to Teach in Thailand” with the following picture set as the post’s feature image.
Did that parody image which I had photoshopped from a movie poster foretell my relationship status? After all, my better half is a teacher.
8. Getting my first motorcycle – outside my own country
I bought myself a cheap, second-hand motorcycle in Thailand, and it was one of the best decisions in my life.
Thanks to it I’m now able to race to my school with the kids, and perform my favourite “superman” (lying flat on the seat) stunt every morning.
Being the proud owner of a motorcycle for the first time, I’ve gotten to learn a couple of things from it.
For one, I’ve simply learned how to ride it because, truth be told, I had never ridden one before. I’ve also learned how to check the engine oil and how many PSI to inflate the tires.
With a motorcycle, I’m now able to explore places every other weekend and learn where major roads lead to. I love how it gives me a sense of satisfaction and freedom every time.
On a not-so-good note, I discovered the “Mat Rempit” in me over the last couple of weeks when I realised it gave me a liberating feeling going at full throttle.
9. Missing my sibling’s graduation ceremony
In 2010, I got to attended my brother’s convocation at the University of Malaya. Two years later, I had the best fun of my life attending my elder sister’s graduation plus vacationing with my family in Sabah.
Last month, my youngest sister just graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering, but I had to miss it because I’m too far away.
Anyway, congrats sis! You were once a dream, but on your graduation, you were an achiever.
10. Thinking about a more serious future
When you’re in a relationship, everything else changes.
You no longer can live like you’re still single. You no longer can do things as you like. You need to consider the feelings and expectations of your better half.
Like I’ve said in my previous posts, I had never seen this relationship coming. I’m someone who loves freedom. I’m also spiritual.
Given my carefree and free-spirited personality, it is no surprise that for the past ten years or so, I hadn’t been in any relationship. I just had no plan to get married because seriously, I couldn’t give a damn about it.
Once again nature has decided otherwise for me. Four months into my otherwise long travel, my better half came into my life.
Over the past two months, I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve been thinking not only about my future, but our future. I know it’s no laughing matter now that I’ve chosen to commit to this relationship. I don’t want it to end up like my previous relationship because I didn’t take it seriously. I don’t want it to end up leaving everyone hurt.
The reality of an international relationship is not as glamorous as it may sound. There is an element of distance involved; there are issues pertaining to future prospects and career opportunities to consider; there may also be limitations or complications arising from nationality and immigration laws.
Someday, my stint as a teacher in Thailand will have to come to an end. I’m not sure when, and I still love what I’m doing very much, but I know I can’t be doing this for good. In the long run I will have to pursue my PhD and a more “serious” career, save enough money, then marry her.
The future is full of uncertainties.
However right now, what I can do is to make short-term planning for us, while living my life as a teacher in Thailand. I may not be able to plan too much ahead because of the uncertainties. No one else can. But I make sure I know very well what I’m doing right now and what I need to do in the near future. If all else fails, I know that nature will still have the best plans for me and for her, perhaps for us.
Whatever it is, for now I’m just trying to live every moment, every single moment as I contribute my knowledge to this very community I call home.
See other crazy things I’ve done throughout the years: