We’re in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s a perfect 24°C with a slight breeze. After chasing winter around for half a year, we are finally warm. The day we left Toronto, the poor city was heading into another deep freeze. That day most of the ground hog prognosticators, from Ontario’s own Wiarton Willie to Punxsutawney Phil, were warning of several more weeks of winter.
But not for us.
As we boarded the streetcar, heading to Union Station and the UP Express to Pearson airport, it was a very nippy minus 24°C. We were happy. We knew we were getting out. It had been a chilly and busy month in Ontario.
The start of a new year is a sensible time for reflection. If you’ve been following our blog for some time, you know that 2017 was a special year for us. We made the radical decision to leave our nine-to-five life in Toronto and try an experiment, to orient our life around the things that matter most to us.
What life looked like before we quit our nine-to-five Toronto life
Instead of fixating on career ambition, we wanted to spend time with each other and with our family. Instead of throwing our resources at home ownership and material accumulation, we wanted to devote substantial energy to our own spiritual development and to helping others develop theirs.
The middle years can sometimes make people loopy. As you move through your 40s, at some point it becomes clear that life is short. You might still see yourself as you did in your 20s, but you’re close enough to 50 that you begin to understand we all run out of years quicker than we thought. And if you’re not careful, you wake up one day to realize that decades have quietly disappeared behind you, sweeping away the things that really matter along with them. We’re not loopy. But we want to make the most of the time we have.
In July 2017, we set out to see if a more balanced approach to life were possible.
So far, things have worked out better than we imagined. We reconnected with old friends, and spent time with family in Canada and Germany. Karen proved, once and for all, that she can indeed thrive outdoors in a tent. And she did it carrying 40 pounds on her back. With a broken tooth. In the rain. We spent several weeks volunteering our service. We were also able to spend substantial time developing our own meditation practice.
We intentionally left our itinerary a bit loose to allow ourselves to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. We got so much out of our time serving in Ukraine we knew we wanted to serve more in 2018. At the end of our 45-day retreat, we saw a list of places without Vipassana centres that needed teachers to conduct courses. We put our names down for several of them. We’re planning 2018 around those periods of service.
We’re also fortunate that Karen is now working part time and that her employer allows her to work remotely. This work is allowing us to donate our flight costs to serve in these countries. And it’s enabling us to serve more courses than we had planned. All of the money we make this year on contract will be spent on service. We’re grateful to Karen’s employer. The extra income will allow us to serve at least half a dozen courses in five different countries in 2018. Some of these places will only put on courses because we are able to go. The flexibility of Karen’s work allows us to be there. It’s a win all around.
For now, we need a bit of a break. Thailand is perfect for this. We’ve finished a very busy period of service, family and work. Now, we’ll slow down.
Ironically, to get to warm weather we had to fly north from Toronto, over the Arctic Ocean, Siberia, Mongolia, and China. It was a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong, followed by a three hour flight to Bangkok. At the end of the journey we were awake for 33 hours.
But after all, we awoke to the hoo-woo sounds of cuckoos, to the smells of Asia and the warm breeze coming through our hotel window, in a city we adore. We’ve both missed Asia. A lot. We ate breakfast outside sitting by the Chao Praya River. Over the next few weeks we will focus on photography and exploration, a little work and a lot of rest. We are making plans for our next destinations, Hong Kong and Japan.
More on that in a few days after we get over our jet lag. Until then.. here are some photos from warm, sunny Bangkok.