It feels a long time since I’ve last written about our trip, potentially because it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of island hopping, with many boats and bus trips to facilitate our journey.
I left you last with my 40th birthday celebrations about to arrive. I look back to my 30th birthday, a wild party in my flat with all of my friends, a very drunken (and ill) me, who had a second wind at about 3am, having passed out on my bed prior to this. All very classy.
This year was a little different. Ben surprised me with some of our friends coming to visit, which was lovely. On the day itself, we all went on a boat trip, which was lovely, although a bit more touristy than we’d normally like, as we were only able to join a group trip. The most stunning of locations can sometimes be a bit marred if you’re surrounded by 10 other tourist trips, all gasping in wonder at the same time. Despite this, it was great fun, and we ended up on an island that was jaw-droppingly beautiful, allowing time for a bit of contemplation on what this reaching 40 lark was all about.
That night, our friends kindly babysat for Ben and I, so we could have a rare night out to celebrate my birthday. We don’t get to go out normally, and rarely get to dress up, so we excitedly sped out of the house to a restaurant that had been recommended to us. Little did we know that it was a local Buddhist festival that day. We sat down, put our orders in for cocktails, only to be told that the town was dry that day. Happy 40th to me. So, at 9.30 off we went home, to drink champagne, play games with our mates, and eat birthday cake.
Not so rock and roll you think? I agree, it’s a different picture to me at 30, but it kind of felt fitting. Life has moved on. I still love a drink, albeit I can’t handle my drink post baby. Two drinks now knock me over, vs. the 10 pint capabilities of my youth and drinking is a pretty rare occurrence now that we’re travelling. I love a night out, but we haven’t had many this year. We’ve had a pretty placid way of life, and have actually been enjoying it. Eating at the same time as our toddler and conking out at 10pm at night means that we are raring to go on all of the fun stuff for the day.
One of the best parts of my birthday was Ben organising a day and a night away on my own, at a local yoga retreat in Koh Lanta. I felt strange about it at first, as it was my first night away from Otis, something that would have happened far sooner in our lives at home. I have to say it was bloody brilliant, and something I was in dire need of. I did yoga. I swam. I walked on the beach. I took myself out for drinks at sunset and had dinner. I actually slept terribly (a curse of motherhood is fear dreams about your son it seems), but I came back refreshed, and so excited to see my family.
Our life in Koh Lanta for those two weeks would probably seem deathly boring to many, as we fell into a familiar routine whilst there. We never stay anywhere for this long, so it was a treat to be in a place for more than 2 or 3 days, and in the kind of accommodation that we don’t normally budget for, with multiple rooms, and our own pool. As a result, we spent our time playing with Otis by the pool, going to the local beach, eating in familiar haunts, and just relaxing. We did so little exploring, it’s a bit embarrassing, but that wasn’t the role of this time for us. It was simply to chill out, with no agenda for us, or for Otis.
At the end of the two weeks, we were raring to go however. Ready to see new things, and meet new people. The islands of Phi Phi didn’t disappoint. It’s a stunning place, and this could well be to its detriment, because parts of it have now become ridiculously popular. We’d managed to book a place on the east of the island, where it’s all a little more relaxed, but seeing how busy some of the popular snorkelling locations were, even in the rainy season, made me realise it’s probably not so much fun to visit when it’s summer here.
Our days were spent on a long boat, just the three of us, exploring local islands and taking turns to snorkel, with Otis looking over the side at all the fishes. I’ve spoken to people who are apprehensive about taking toddlers on long boats, but we’ve found these days work really well. Otis gets to explore beaches, he loves the trips on the boat itself, and we get to do something we love by taking turns.
The only downside of our time in Phi Phi was that the timing coincided with needing to update our visa’s, something that you need to travel to Phuket for. We wanted a bit longer in Phi Phi, so decided to do it via a day trip. It involves two boats, and a taxi, and you’re highly dependent on the timings of the visa office. It’s the kind of trip you can be really apprehensive about with a little one, but we took stuff for overnight, so that if it all screwed up, we’d have what we needed with us. Luckily, despite it seeming chaotic when we arrived, it was more efficient than we’d expected, and we made our last boat back. Otis is a little superstar on this kind of potentially stressful day. It’s probably chicken and egg, that we are now more relaxed about doing them, so he’s more relaxed with us, but it’s also that he’s an adaptable little boy since having travelled since he was so young. Either way, we’re pretty thankful for the lack of meltdowns and other drama.
From Phi Phi, we travelled (via Phuket again) to Khao Sok, a national park further north, providing a change of pace from beach days. We still love our walking, and the nature side of this trip, although it’s a different thing to arrange now that Otis is older, and less keen on spending 4 hours a day in a sling. The park here houses one of the oldest rainforests that exists, and is seriously beautiful, filled with bamboo trees with every spectrum of pattern imaginable. We had a lucky walk when it comes to nature spotting, with troops of monkeys, various lizards, and many tropical birds. Ben has definitely honed his spotting skills while we’ve been away!
Our last day here was a little bit of a non-event, as Ben came off the back of some stomach illness, and I got the full brunt of it, spending the night being sick and the next day feeling nauseous. These are the moments when you realise how lucky you are to have two of you there to parent. Otis obviously doesn’t understand that you don’t feel well when he wants to play, so Ben being able to take him off and give me some rest was absolutely priceless.
As we grow even closer together as a family on this trip, having overcome the challenges of 24/7 living, and the ups and downs that travel brings, we realise that this is such a unique opportunity to have bonded together in the way that we have. We’re working through our options for next year currently, with me waiting to hear on a couple of long term contract options which would mean that we keep travelling, but stay in places for longer periods. Simultaneously, we are exploring work options in Australia, one of our most loved destinations, and somewhere we think meets many of our goals in terms of location for our family.
As we explore these options, it’s clear that our priorities are about our little team. How we can continue to get this precious time together as Otis grows up. How we can live a balanced existence where work isn’t the be all and end all. How we can continue to explore this beautiful world of ours as a family. How friends and family can still be a core part of our existence, even if we’re on the other side of the world for a while. It’s a huge machine of moving parts, but we have faith that it’s going to work out for the best, somehow…