The Year of Living Dismally: A Life and Blog Update

Posted by - November 1, 2016 | Category: Escapees

“Alarmingly dull. As dreary in real life as he was on his blog. Leaves to mourn only his hosting company, who although did not know him personally, grew quite fond of his timely payments.”

headstone-in-hanoi-vietnam

That’s what my tombstone would read if I croaked today. At least, if the engravers were post-morteming my last year of blogging activity. It’s been a year of cobwebs and tumbleweeds, a few half-hearted attempts to get things off the ground, all punctuated by a sprinkling of embarrassing sponsored posts to up the mortified ante.

In short, it’s been a train wreck. Luckily they were few looky-loos craning their necks to witness the derailment. Readership down means reader don’t-give-a-fuck level is way up. (Sorry, I usually don’t curse on the blog. But the times, they are a changin’. Also sorry for saying “sorry” but I’m Canadian, so that sort of behaviour is a condition of my passport.)

I remember it wasn’t so long ago that people actually read the stuff I was writing, and sometimes, yes sometimes, they even commented. I wrote sagas about border crossings and run-ins with ladyboys and even witnessing a woman die in Vietnam.

Mostly I wrote about my love of travel. It wasn’t all roses and flowery prose. But it was mine. I loved what I was doing, and I was proud of the content I was churning out. 

I haven’t written a lot lately, not only because I didn’t believe I had anything worthwhile to say, but also because I haven’t done a heckuva lot of interesting travel recently. 

Over 4 years ago I wrote a post titled The Year of Living Deliriously in which I fawned giddily over what a spectacular time I was having. And I was. This past year though, I haven’t been having much of a great time at all.

The Downside to Slow Travel

hanoi-gentleman-in-pajamas-vietnam

Pretty much what I was doing this past year.

You see, I had myself convinced that slow travel was the answer. Spend a month or two in one place. Work on a business plan, grow the blog readership, all the while chumming up with the locals and really immersing myself in my surroundings. You know the drill.

So yeah, that didn’t happen. I’ve come to realize that that sort of travel just makes me want to Netflix my nights, and extended-nap my days. 

You can only travel so slowly before you realize you’re standing still.

I spent a month holed up in an Airbnb rental in Bangkok. It was comfortable and easy and safe and I basically lived off of microwaveable concoctions from 7/11 and green curry from the restaurant about 100 metres down the road. Not really the intrepid world traveller now am I? 

It’s one thing to mope around at home in your pyjamas, but to mope around in places like Bangkok or Manila adds a whole new dimension. The truth is, I was in a rut. And I have only myself to blame. 

There’s a bit of a tale involved, so grab yourself a cup of tea and pull up a chair. I’m glad to have the company. 

The Unexpected Bookending

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On November 11, 2011 I attended a festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand called Loy Krathong. “Loy” means to float, and a “krathong” is a round vessel crafted from banana leaves,  adorned with flowers, and topped with candles and incense. While the main object of Loy Krathong is to honour Buddha, many believe floating the vessel down the Mekong River carries away with it all the sins, grievances and angst of the person at the helm — a symbolic cleansing of the soul, and with it, new opportunities and a chance at a better life. 

A week after the festival, I moved in with the person I would spend the next 4 years with.

Now, I’m not saying that whole sailing-my-krathong-down-the-Mekong shit works, but I’m not saying it doesn’t either.

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We lived in Oman for two years and Portugal for a year and it was fantastic. The best of both worlds really — I still travelled heaps for work, but it was good to have a home to come back to. It was exciting and exotic, while still providing a blanket of comfort and familiarity that a shared routine affords. 

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Then came Australia. And for both of us, it was the end of the line. Sometimes the best of both worlds means you start to compromise too much on the one that means the most to you. The one that started you on your path to begin with. Our lives were taking markedly separate directions, and no amount of concession-making could remedy that.

I read somewhere once that when you’ve got to choose between your love or your life, well you’ve got to choose your life now haven’t you? At the time what struck me was the raw extremism of the words. But now I get it. At some point in your life, if you’re not happy with the direction things are taking, it’s time for an about-face. Head back to where your road diverged, and maybe even attempt a do-over.

I got lost somewhere along that road. I did some things that left me scratching my head, wondering if I had gotten myself in too deep, wondering if I’d even come out of it alive. It wasn’t only a year of living dismally, it was a year of living hazily. 

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This past August I went back home to Newfoundland to sort things through. It was the best decision I’ve made in a while. I went fishing with my brothers and visited friends on the West coast and even spent a week on the island where my Dad was born (population 110.) Familiarity, and family, can act as cough syrup for the soul. 

sunrise-on-the-salmonier-line-newfoundland

Things didn’t go to plan quite as I expected though. Days before I was scheduled to fly out, I ended up in the hospital. (I’m fine by the way!) I spent a full two weeks confined to a hospital bed with one of those weird ailments that I could never have anticipated. In retrospect, I think it was my body’s way of saying, “Wait. Stop. You need more of this.” Family can indeed be cough syrup for the soul, but apparently, you also need to run the full course. 

I left Newfoundland with the full intent of setting up a home in Bangkok for a year or so. But the month I spent there made me realize that I’m not ready for that yet. The travel bug has resurfaced. And my time in that hospital bed made me realize I am not getting any younger.

Fast forward 5 years from that day in November, and I’m “loying” my “krathong” down the Mekong again. This time from Luang Prabang in Laos. While it’s technically not Loy Krathong (it’s a boat racing festival), the spirit of it is similar.

Same river, same me, just both of us a lot further downstream.

raymond-walsh-luang-prabang-laos

It’s not quite back to where my road diverged 5 years ago, but it is appropriate closure to the past 5 years — 4 of them well-spent, and 1 of them lost searching for that “about-face” road. In my estimation, that gives me a grade of 80%, and an 80 is a solid “B” in my books. And I’ll take that over the “F” road I’ve been on this past year any day. 

After so much time spent “aww-shucks’ing” and “woe-is-me’ing,” this past month in Laos was just what I needed. I’m feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and ready to take on the road again. 

An unlikely bookending, but a bookending nonetheless.

What’s Next for Me and Man On The Lam? 

Raymond Walsh -- Hot Air Balloon ride -- Vang Vieng, Laos

Flying high above Vang Vieng, Laos.

Right now, I need to travel. Replacing moping with moving is the only way out of a rut. Standing still for a time certainly gives you pause to be sure, but isn’t pause just the stop button without the commitment? And I’m not quite ready to stop this life of travel just yet. 

I’m in Laos for a few more days, then Bangkok for a week, then another new country is on the horizon — Myanmar. I’ll spend close to a month exploring before heading back to Canada for Christmas. In January, I’m heading to South America for only the second time in my life. I found an error fare from Calgary to Santiago, Chile for only $329 USD return. The rough plan at the moment is to spend a month travelling, then a month staying put to do some work. 

I also plan on doing a lot more writing. I take a long time to write anything, but it’s proving to be quite therapeutic. And this renewed travel bug has supplied me plenty of fodder. So might as well roll with that, wouldn’t you say? 

As for Man On The Lam, I need to find the right balance for the blog. I need to infuse some more personality into this thing for certain, so you’ll (regrettably) be seeing more photos of my ugly mug on here (I say regrettably because I’m one of those folks who HATES having his photo taken.) I’ll also be featuring more personal stories. I feel it’s time to finally shed some of my layers. 

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I also need to make a viable living from this thing, so there’s that aspect to consider as well. I’d like to follow the “One for the heart, one for the head, one for the wallet” philosophy.

  • One for the heart — something inspiring or funny or just something I feel passionate about writing.
  • One for the head — an informative post or guide that does well in Google search. (Gotta get new eyeballs on here from somewhere. And when was the last time you Yahooed or Binged anything?)
  • One for the wallet — a post that somehow makes me money. How that’s gonna happen is still TBD.

They may not all be funny, and they may not all be good, but at least they will “be” — and that’s more than I can say for this past year’s effort. 

For those of you that have stuck around, from the bottom of my heart (and at the top of my lungs) I’d like to shout: “THANK-YOU!!!”

Now, time to get back to work.  

Raymond signature

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62 comments - add one
  1. Very refreshing short story written with honesty, reflection and just enough witty humor! You’ve seen a lot of interesting places!!! And it reminded me of my own traveling days when I traveled every country in Europe, then stayed in Norway for a year. Traveling is so good for the soul!!! I recently moved from the west coast to the east coast to once again start out on a new road🤗 My favorite poem, by the way, is Robert Frost’s poem: The Road Not Taken. I think there’s more than just two roads in most of our lives~ Enjoy your many roads and keep writing about your travels🌴😎

  2. “…then a month staying put to do some work.”

    After Chile, et al, might I suggest that “staying put” month here in Cuenca, Ecuador? I’ve been here 2+ years now, and it truly is drop-dead beautiful, perfect climate (at 8,000+ feet) and uber-cheap. A fine place to recharge and get some work done.

    I’ve long followed your mots, and you’re a damn fine writer. Besides…

    “…family, can act as cough syrup for the soul.”

    Anyone who can string together such an imaginative analogy – I need to meet IRL!

    1. Dyanne, I couldn’t have paid someone to write a nicer compliment. Thanks so much!

      Since I’ll sort of be in your neck of the woods, I’ll definitely add Cuenca to my radar. I’ve heard so many great things about the place. And with you there, well that’s just icing now isn’t it. 🙂

  3. Yeah a interesting read.. Been stuck in a few ruts myself over the last few years!! I too want to travel again!! All the best.. Safe travels, look forward to reading about them!!

  4. Hi, Raymond,
    I always thoroughly enjoy your blog. This one was refreshing for me to read, as well. Renewal is always a confusing mix of death and rebirth – mostly of ideals, dreams, and relationships – so am cheering you on in yours. Wishing you safety in your travels and joy in your journeys.

  5. Been following your blog for a couple of years now, and was wondering why your content production had slowed down quite a bit this year. But this backstory makes a lot of sense! Happy to hear that the travel bug has struck you again and look forward to following your adventures in 2017.

  6. Great story Raymond — honest and poignant. Glad to hear you’ve recovered from the illness that hospitalized you, and that you’ve got your mojo back! I’ll sit in my cubicle (remember, the one you escaped from?) and will continue to look forward to living vicariously through your posts! Best of luck for what comes next!

    1. LOL — I do indeed remember that cubicle Jane. I had some might swell days there, and I really miss the old gang. But I’m glad I left when I did. I can only imagine what sort of shape I’d be in if I didn’t have these past few splendid globetrotting years! 🙂

  7. wow, I can honestly say I have never read a lot of your post, but that was amazing, you are a very talented writer, it was kinda sad but yet uplifting. Safe travels and hope to see you soon.
    your soon to be sister inlaw, maybe, lol

  8. Amazing post, Raymond! I sincerely wish that I could too travel the world like you do. But till that happens, I shall continue living my dreams through your lovely blog. Keep on traveling and keep on sharing, my friend. And, between all of this and that, do not forget to take good rest and proper care and caution too. Cheers!

  9. WTF! How did I not know that you ended up in hospital! Frig sakes. Glad you are well. Nice, soul cleansing post. Keep on enjoying life. xo

    1. Thanks Leslie. I kept the whole hospital thing pretty much under wraps because I didn’t want folks to worry. Plus I didn’t want you to think that night at Quintanas caused it. LOL xo

  10. What wonderful news that we will see (I also loathe having my picture taken) and hear hear more of you here! I love your voice and stories.

    I hope that with the new travel bug we see you back in Italy. (though maybe not Sicily 🙂

  11. Way to air out your o’ so dirty laundry online ya big Newf…About time ya got back in the game..I never gave you a job recommendation for “travel blogger” [whatever in the hell that is]to hear ya mopping about in an Asian apartment and not travelling. Get out there!

    1. Thanks Shaun. I know what exactly how you feel. Sitting still too long can start to do a number on your head. Just putting one foot in front of the other and planning bus routes and attractions really add to a sense of purpose when that rut takes grip. Idle backpacks are the devil’s workshop. 🙂

  12. I’m very happy for you Raymond. It’s about bloody time, welcome back to the land of the living! Thank you for shitting and not getting off the pot.

  13. I’m very pleased you seem to have got your mojo back after some set backs. Your amazingly honest, if somewhat harsh self appraisal made interesting reading as we can all relate to times we feel we’re not achieving as much as we could or should.

    I’m glad you’re still there fighting your corner, many give up. It’s great you seem inspired once again, ready to go, invigorated and travelling again.

    Safe travels and the best of luck with the blog.

    1. Thanks so much Iain! There were times when I thought of throwing in the towel (or mouse, or keyboard, or whatever it is that bloggers throw in), but I’m glad I stuck in there. Sometimes it takes a series of downs to really appreciate and savour the ups. 🙂

  14. Nothing wrong with crashing &/or burning every now and then. You may not wish to blog forever. Or you might. Sounds like you could be running low on reserves. My solution: take a trip somewhere that’s important to you and don’t write about it, don’t mention it at all. Just put it in your tank. Important to confirm that you’re really doing what your’e doing for yourself, not for us ingrate readers.

  15. Hey look – new eyeballs! We found you by following a link on Twitter, and glad we did. Good read, as we all have some abyss we’re staring into, or worry that we will. Thought the post was refreshing and encouraging. And, having just found you, we’re glad you’re carrying on. We’ll follow along! Cheers.

  16. Hello Raymond, I loved your blog, it’s beautiful and we felt like we were in the wonderful places too. I love traveling, and if it were possible I would live like that too. But we can travel with your posts. Your blog is charming!

  17. I’m just discovering your site now and love it! I’ve looked through some old posts and I can’t wait to see what’s to come. You’re an inspiration for someone like me who would love to travel and write for a living. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you and follow along. Glad you’re getting back out there!

    -Caitlin
    http://TheGramercyGirl.com

  18. Very interesting is your experience Mr. Raymond, I really enjoyed reading your article, it inspired me a lot to know more about your story.

  19. Hey Raymond – I’ve looked a dozens but have never Seen a Travel Blogs by a Newfoundlander so this was a happy find!

    Glad to see you get back ‘home’ for visits – I go every year as well even thou I moved away eons ago! However, I wont be coming back to the Ottawa bureaucracy this time , because I’ve up and taken an early retirement, am selling the condo, moving everything else into storage and heading out for a year of travel. My first leg is Portugal so I’ll have to check out your post from your time there – feel free to add any suggestions!

    BTW – what part of NL were the pics taken? Really gorgeous place from what I see.

    1. I’m so excited for you Sherry!! You are going to have a BLAST over the next year. If you’re heading to Portugal you have to go to Porto. It’s the type of place where I’d like to retire one day. 🙂

      The photo of the pond is from my brother’s cabin on the Salmonier Line, and the fishing/gulls photos was taken in Seal Cove. Enjoy your trip!!

  20. Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us Mr. Raymond, she is very rich and inspiring, I loved reading your article, keep writing to us, okay.

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