Yes I don’t believe in destiny, fate or a heavenly presence with a plan for me. Something about struggle and lifting myself up by my own bootstraps since my teen years has encouraged a belief in my own will. The power of my choices has propelled me through my life, if I had sat back I would not have survived with the kind of mind I have now. I know believing in destiny doesn’t stop everyone in acting decisively in their own best interest but my particular combination of life events made me focus only on the tools in life that I did have an ability to affect. I forgot about gods and destiny in favor of human choice and phycology. Belief was simply too complex for my teenage self to handle on top of everything else.
However I recently rediscovered a post I wrote what almost sounded as if I believed things were being controlled by some universal force, something with a plan. After reading it I started to think about the idea of a force moving my life in a certain direction. Either that triggered it or perhaps the four Mormon missionaries I met on the bus from Chiang Rai had placed the idea of god’s plan into the undercurrents of my consciousness.
Whatever the case it felt like a good time to share this story.
I saw the sign from down the street. I read “Hostel” and I wondered how I had missed it in the two hours of wandering around town. It was big and bold, but again I had missed the sign for the hostel in town. It had become a trend that I only found a decent hostel after I had already paid for a room in a guesthouse without much a chance to meet other travelers. It was uncanny how often I would find myself in some isolated hotel where I couldn’t even communicate that I wanted a room without using sign language.
But this was different, I had found a hostel. I walked down the alley where the sign had pointed, when I looked through the glass walls of the building I saw a haven of the secret dreams I held only for myself. I never told these and I believe that they were not to be had but only wanted. After weeks of this trend I started to believe it was necessary and best for me even though I wanted to be around people.
I saw a shining pool full of smiling people and a lounge full of people chatting. An employee opened the door for me and I walked in smiling to myself. I still held some superstition that this too would somehow not work out for me.
I had been through a few days of too-perfect non-connection with other human beings. Part of me really wanted to meet some good people and then spend more than a few hours or a single day with them. It was hard to stay happy without the connection that I think all people need, it was starting to wear me down. I was so happy to have finally found a good place to meet some new people.
A few days before I had gotten scammed in Phnom Penh and it left me really annoyed with the world of people. Our ability to sacrifice other people for our own good when we are desperate or moral-less enough is hard for me to reconcile. I was in a hostel at the time but typically it had only two people in it, one spent her time coughing very loudly and ignoring me and the other was an elderly man that only spoke to me after two days of ignoring each other. I asked him what his name was and in five minutes he taught me to regret asking him anything. It was immediately apparent that he was suffering from some sort of mental condition that made human connection confusing for him, he struggled to understand that I didn’t want to hear about random things anytime they popped into his head even when I was clearly doing my own thing.
I came out of this to a small town where I spent a revitalizing afternoon walking around a national park on my own, I enjoyed my own thoughts and it felt good to be in a quiet place. I don’t hate my own company, I actually feel good when I’m alone and I’ve been feeling more at home alone the longer I travel. I had a very insightful think about my life and by the time I had gotten back to my hotel that night I felt more myself. The big city had left be frustrated with feeling like a human vending machine that seems to say “free money” on it.
I arrived in Sihanoukville the next day and I was braced for the impact. I knew Sihanoukville was essentially a party town with a dark underbelly. It was said to cater to the kind of sex tourism that wasn’t as easy to find in Thailand, I knew they were old stories but I expected the old white men with young Cambodian girls and the tuk tuk drivers that have to yell at every white face just to get a couple passengers a day. It didn’t feel good to be there but I wasn’t surprised. I had resolve because I knew I was only there to get to my own personal jungle paradise a few hours away, it was a step on the journey. It was a pleasant surprise to find a hostel away from the grimy street, all I wanted was a place to relax before heading out early the next day.
“Sorry we’re full” I immediately starting grinning, I held back laughter as I thanked the employees and walked out the door. ‘Of course’ I thought, it has to be this way. Nothing will stop me from facing myself. It was already starting to feel like the universe wanted something for me and nothing I could do would push me out of its current.
I still tried to jump out again, I found a hostel. I almost always take the fan dorm instead of air con but this time I chose the air condition because there were two girls in the room and I wanted some company. I put my bag down and went back to reception to pay. When I was almost to the door to my dorm it opened and the two girls walked out with their backpacks on. I smiled at the persistence of this lesson. I sat down alone on my bed and was still glad I had chosen air con, the cool air washed over me and the greenhouse effect of the architecture was somewhat mitigated.
I went out to book my bus for the next day and soon after I arrived back in my dorm an older guy walked in. I said hello and he totally ignored me, I thought it was weird but I just figured he was at least partly deaf. Pretty soon though he started talked to me, I found out he was Russian and spoke very little English. We talked for a little while and it was interesting to try and glean some information about Russia since I’ve never talked to someone from Russia before. There are many Russian tourists in SE Asia but they seem to mostly stick with their bigger groups.
Soon though I was getting a headache and the talking wasn’t helping. I couldn’t disengage though, our beds were two feet apart and nothing was between them. The beds were just mattresses sitting on a wooden platform. It was difficult to take a nap or do something easy for my headache on my laptop while the water I was drinking counteracted the headache.
He asked me if I wanted to go swimming. Two voices spoke in my head, one said ‘I just want to take a nap’ and the other said ‘you’re traveling, go with the flow. You can always rest later’. I said yes and almost immediately regretted my choice. We walked to a bar close to the beach and sat down. I was confused at first but I soon realized he had a different way of doing things. He had said earlier that he didn’t drink water, he only drank beer. He ordered me a beer before I could stop him. I thought ‘okay, one beer is okay, it won’t hurt my head more to have a beer’.
I went back after a weird hour of drinking two beers and taking a five minute dip in the ocean twice. I was feeling worse, I didn’t think I could eat so I started watching a movie until it got dark enough to sleep. Unfortunately the Russian guy came back after half an hour and began interrupting me every few minutes to say some random complaint about the Russian economy. He was clearly pretty drunk after drinking beer from morning to after dark. He was that kind of drunk where he couldn’t judge the situation very well.
I began to hate my meek politeness at that point, I felt that I had to pause my movie and listen every time he said something to me. My headache was getting really bad and I felt like the universe not only intended to keep me alone but also it wanted me to want to be alone. It kept sending me the kind of person that I preferred my own company over. On my walk the day before I was thinking about what I wanted my time traveling to mean, I wondered why I wanted company and why I was beginning to feel jaded. It was almost three months away from home with many more to come but already I’m feeling like I keep seeing the same people and places over and over. It feels like watching the same movie with a different title. I long for more and my life wants to be lived but my time alone is spent wondering why I want more than a cup of coffee to wake up to and a place to sleep at night. I wonder why my own company is not enough and why new food doesn’t inspire me like it did three months ago. I had no answers and sleep came as the only way to move past the pain of a debilitating headache.
The next day could not have been more welcome. I knew that being in nature would help clear my mind. I’ve always felt at home deep in the woods.