Sunday, December 30, 2012

Koh Phangan or the Hotel California?

The winds of change blew threw this island with almost the same amount of whirlwind force as the water cyclone I witnessed off my beach.
Within the span of two days, the group of friends that I'd so lovingly grown accustomed to at my bungalows all departed to either continue their travels or return back home.
(Not only did I have to say goodbye to Matthias, but to his monkey skull as well).
I suppose I'd been a bit spoiled in Chiang Mai. The majority of my friends in that city remained there as long or longer than I did, so I was unaccustomed to such short lived/intense relationships with other travelers. But these brief relationships were just one more reminder that this island is not like Chiang Mai. The other, and most pressing reminder for me, has been that Koh Phangan is way more expensive. In fact, I was unaware how often I repeated that mantra until the Burmese workers at my bungalows nicknamed me "It Too 'Spensive!"
I hit a bit of a financial wall right before coming down to Koh Phangan, so I began looking for work in other islands. I applied to numerous volunteer jobs online that would supplement food and housing in exchange for [slave] labor. I had ten days to look for work before checking out of my bungalow, but as that date inched closer, I was still in the same jobless rut. I had to get creative so I began offering massages to friends at my bungalow. Word spread and before I knew it, I was booked for an entire week. More importantly, I had cash in my pocket which allowed me to eat.
I massaged one of my friends, a reiki master, who had been attending classes at the Yoga Retreat up the road from our bungalows. (A little bit of backstory about the retreat. Three years ago, I lived with a girl in India who had attended the retreat in Koh Phangan. It was a dream of mine to go there ever since, but for various reasons, aka financial/space availability, I was unable to attend. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that the retreat was randomly up the road from my bungalow!) My friend referred my massage services to one of the teachers at the retreat, so I ascended 20 minutes up a steep hill to meet my new client. It was my last official day on the island, and with no job/nothing to lose, I asked the owner of the Yoga Retreat if she needed any help around there in exchange for room/board. She didn't have any space for me to stay there, but offered me a room in which to practice massage.
Still unsure of what move I wanted to take, I didn't commit to the offer right away. I met the yoga teacher I was booked to massage and she offered to read my cards as an exchange for my services. I usually shy away from psychic readings due to my skepticism, but I was feeling particularly confused/lost that day, so I accepted the exchange.
The teacher put a crystal from New York in my right hand and almost immediately a butterfly landed on my thumb. The teacher assured me this was a good sign and it meant I was transforming.
As the reading progressed, I was shocked with how relevant the cards were to my life. The questions I had about where to go or what to do began to melt away. The most peculiar part of all was that tiny butterfly remained on my thumb for an hour despite me moving my arms and reaching for cards and crystals. It didn't fly away until I let go of the New York crystal.
Completely overcome with emotion by the end of the reading, I knew that I was going to stay on Koh Phangan and accept the job at the Yoga Retreat. Although I wasn't sure where I was going to stay or if I was going to make money or not, I knew that I needed to trust that there was "nothing to worry about" and just "go for it."
I'm entering my fourth week on this island and I cannot believe how incredibly things have worked themselves out. I've been getting booked so much that I've actually had to turn away people. I'm grateful for my work, but I haven't lost sight of the importance of enjoying my time on this incredible island by exploring beaches,
hanging out with friends,
and going to all-night parties.
(what? I can't actually show you photos FROM the parties...)
I tried to leave Koh Phangan, but I've found myself completely engrossed by the lifestyle here, putting my plans to travel through other islands and countries on hold for a little while.
If you find yourself in Koh Phangan, you can give me a call and book a massage with me up at the retreat. As the Thai's on the beach say, I make good price for you!

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