No more than 2 or 3 years ago I was a productivity freak. Back then I was in charge of my own business, an online publishing company started 10 years ago. I was managing all the aspects of that company and…
Every trip is making me better in some way. Every travel enrich me so much and every time I am back home I discover myself a better person in so many areas. I’ve already wrote extensively about that in Travel As A Personal Development Tool post series so today I’ll just get practical and tell you how I benefit form my trip to Thailand that you’ve read so much about in the last week.
Exposing myself to a new culture, to a new country and to an uncontrolled flow of experiences seriously shook some of my already established concepts. In some cases those concepts enlarged, showing me that they can cover a lot more than I thought, and in other cases they become more profound revealing deep layers that I didn’t even thought possible to exist.
Size Does Matter
Bangkok is a huge city. My concept of size was seriously challenged during this trip. On the vertical dimension Bangkok is almost incontrollable. I was able to stay a week in the modern center of this city, a fast developing area with lots of skyscrappers and new buildings. Even smaller blocks – compared with the super stars – are already huge concrete compounds overwhelming your intention to understand them.
The overgrown vertical dimension is present only downtown, but on the horizontal dimension of Bangkok is even more impressive. After cruising on the Chao Phraya canals I can remember endless lines of houses, almost growing out of water, over and over again. Each house hides another house and that house makes room for another house. The huge river hosts an impressive horizontal layer of small but ceaseless buildings.
My understanding of “big” was deeply modified during this trip.
Beauty Is Everywhere
Is surprising how everything can be beautiful in such a crowded and hot city. The first impression is visual: the colors are strong, bold and contrastive. Everything, from the color of cars to the color of clothes, from the colors of sky to the colors of buildings is a continuous visual dance.
Even the concrete jungle holds gentle lines and integration with older architecture. Harmony is the second word you find after “huge” when you try to define the modern areas of Bangkok. The buddhist temples are also living proofs of an inner beauty ready to be expressed along with vibrations of respect and devotion. So far, the temples visited in Thailand are the most beautiful religious buildings I ever saw.
Of course, not only what was man made is beautiful, but also natural areas. Being so little out of the big city I can only guess, but I do know that other parts of Thailand, like Phuket island (which I intend to visit quite soon) are ready to confirm and enhance the natural beauty of this place.
Last, but not least, the beauty of women is something completely mind blowing. It’s so different than our western definition of beauty, yet so close to it. It’s a gentle mix of harmony, fragrance and shyness, a soft silhouette floating around you with a promise of something yet to be discovered. A silence created by no need of words, a sense of completeness and still the drive to find out more.
Friday was supposed to be my last day in Thailand. My plane was scheduled early Saturday morning, in fact, just 25 minutes after midnight, so I had to leave the hotel around 9 PM. I had little time to do anything else than the scheduled tour to Damnoen Saeduk.
This time the pick up was scheduled even earlier than yesterday, at 6:30 AM. Exactly at 6:30 AM a young lady appeared in the hotel lobby and explained me she is my guide for today tour. “What happened to the other girl?”, I said. “Well, we’re different agencies”, the young lady answered and I suddenly had a bad feeling. It was confirmed when I got in the little van: this was not my yesterday group. They somehow managed to switch cars, guides and groups in a totally chaotic way. Well, I was starting to get used to the way things are happening in Thailand, so I get a seat near the window and prepared to sleep. The ride to Damnon Saeduk was around 1 and a half hour.
Damnon Saeduk – Thailand Floating Market
We arrived at the floating market around 9 AM. In the car I learned that this floating market – which basically consisted in a large water canal network – was built by man 100 years ago with the same purpose as the name: to serve as a market. For many years it did, and people did their shopping out of their boats but in the last 20-30 years things have dramatically changed. Modern Thailand do has super-markets and people are doing their daily shopping in modern locations. Sits like Damnon Saeduk are only used for touristic purposes.
I was soon to find out this as I saw that all the merchandise that was sold on the boats. Cheap souvenirs, plastic bags and all kind of small overrated artifacts. The whole feeling was one of sadness and boredom. Locals seemed somehow bored of this game and guides were only preoccupied to show us as many shopping places as possible. The only natural stuff that was sold was food prepared on boats.
But the place in itself was really fantastic. I decided to not tune into the overall vibration of sadness and boredom, and focused instead on people faces. In minutes I realized that this is a big opportunity to make some of the most interesting protraits I ever made. And, without further ado, here are the pictures:
After 2 days in Thailand I started to get used to the BTS skytrain and also started to have a crush on Chao Phraya cruises. After seeing Wat Pho and Wat Arun in my first day and visiting China Town and Flowers Market in my second day, I thought it would be the time to relax a bit and take a lighter approach. So, I searched on the Chao Phraya brochure something a little more manageable, maybe a shopping location. I’ve heard a lot about Thai silk and antiques boutiques and I thought to pay a visit to the River City shopping mall. On the following day I was suppose to goÂ on my first organized tour (one of the tours booked by internet) and I thought to relax a bit before that.
Bangkok River City
River City is a traditional location for antiques and traditional thai artifacts situated near the Chao Phraya river. The shop was surprisingly empty and at the ground floor there was an art exhibition.
I walked a little from shop to shop only to see that some of the higher floors shops didn’t actually had anybody inside. Looked desert but nevertheless cozy. I did a little bit of shopping: small jade elephants, some silk accessories for my wife and daughter, and a Tibetan dzi bead for me. The dzi bead was by no mean an original dzi, those are well over 1000-1500 USD (the most affordable, of course, an original dzi can go up to 5000 USD), but at least it was from a stone not resin, so I thought it would make a nice memory.
Although the mall seemed mostly empty I was able to have some interesting conversations with at least two shop owners while looking at some very interesting antique pieces. But after finishing this, I realized I didn’t have too much to do there and got back to the hotel.
Bangkok Victoria Monument
In the afternoon I took the BTS and stopped to a station called Victoria Monument. Didn’t know its historical meaning (and I still don’t) but the station seemed interesting enough for a shooting session.
The area is something between Siam upscale malls, all shining and new, and lower areas like the night market in Silom near Sala Daeng skytrain station. Overcrowded and filled with shopping booths to the point that you actually had to walk on the streets:
Watched the traffic for a while, looking at the motorcycles and how they managed to squeeze through the bigger cars.
It was still hot but either I was already adapted, either it was a little bit colder than yesterday. I think I spent at least half an hour on the Victoria Monument skywalk.
My 3rd day to Thailand was a fast-forward day.
After my first day of my trip to Thailand I was so eager to explore more. My sensors were still overloaded with shapes, colors, smells and my body, although recovering from the extensive walk rides from yesterday was light and flexible. I was really enjoying the fruits breakfast at the hotel, especially the watermelon juices and carrot juices. Without too much planning I took the BTS skytrain again with the destination Saphan Taksin, the main pier for Chao Phraya boat cruising. After I bought my ticket I started to peruse the brochure and picked my destinations. Seemed like a visit to China Town in the morning and then visiting the Flower Market could be a good choice. Minutes after getting on board I was getting down to the pier for China Town.
China Town In Bangkok
In the morning, China Town didn’t seem overwhelming at all. People were slowly moving their chariots with food and set up their places.
The place looked overcrowded with merchandise in a very Chinese style:
Every 20-30 meters a sudden color explosion arrived out of nowhere:
The streets where rather busy, and not only with people. Suspended wires, cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and a low noise were making a rather intriguing setup. Building were no match to the ones in the downtown Bangkok, on the contrary:
I arrived in Bangkok at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. I checked in to my hotel, a nice one located in the Siam center area, and then went out for a quick check of the surroundings. Most of my impressions after this quick walk were described in the first post about the trip to Thailand. Not only I walked 3-4 blocks around the hotel in several directions, but I also checked out on the public transportation, changed some money in the local currency and tried to identify some shops and restaurants around the hotel area. A part from this, I also checked the hotel pool and spa, which, in total, took almost my entire Sunday.
So, although I arrived in Bangkok on a Sunday, I consider the next Monday to be technically my first day there. With just as much information as I needed, I started to explore Bangkok completely “a l’improvista” . Please be aware that this post contains more than 40 photos, so if you’re on a slow connection or just short in time, make sure you bookmark it and come back later to fully enjoy it.
I though that going with BTS a little far today, maybe until the end of the Silom branch, to the main pier for the boats that are crossing the Chao Phraya River would be a good idea. I went out from the hotel a around 10:00 AM. Outside it was cruelly hot and humid, but apparently that didn’t stop those who make their living by selling food on the streets.
Just 50 meters away from this street food vendor it was Gaysorn Plaza with the boldly BTS rails curbing away.
Watched the morning traffic for a few minutes
And then walked 5 minutes to the nearest BTS station from my hotel, Ratchadamri
I had to go 4 stations from Ratchadamri to the final station, Saphan Taksin, which is also the main pier for the boats which are cruising the Chao Phraya river. I took a one day ticket (120 BAHT) and waited for my boat. This ticket gave me the possibility to go out and down at any station whenever I wanted to for an entire day. While waiting, I watched the spectacular boats of the luxury hotels from the other shore ferrying their customers to this side of the river.
I started to read the brochure they gave me with the ticket. Apparently, there were around 8-9 piers where you could stop and for each pier there were listed some main attractions. I had no idea how much time would take to go to a specific pier, not to mention how much it will take to actually visit every attraction mentioned, but I decided to give it a try with the temples Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Wat Pho was on the same side of the river but for Wat Arun I should take a ferry (3 BAHT) to the other side of the river. In around 5 minutes my boat arrived and I walked on board along with a crowd of curious tourists. In about 6 minutes we were already at the Wat Pho pier. I get down on the boat and slowly walked into my first Bangkok individual exploring adventure.
Traveling for personal development isn’t just a recent post on my blog (quite popular if I’m looking at statistics) but a real lifestyle for me. I always do my best to practice what I’m preaching so several days ago I started a trip to Bangkok. A week before the trip I had no idea that I would go there. Bianca had a one week holiday from the kindergarten and Diana decided it could be great to spend it at their parents. That gave me a window of opportunity, so to speak, so I jumped on it.
Planning For Thailand
Planning the trip took me around 3 hours top, including printing vouchers and arranging payments. Everything was done online of course, and you can imagine I did planned a little loose. I bounced back and forth a little between orbitz, travelocity and expedia, and eventually chose expedia. I first booked the hotel in Bangkok, the flight and 3-4 additional services, out of curiosity. For instance, I booked transfer from the airport and to the airport, and 2 half day tours.
If I would go again I won’t chose any of those services, because you can find your way around without them, but overall it was a useful experience. I know by now that a taxi fare to the airport from downtown Bangkok is no more than 400 BAHT (around 13-15 USD) and that a tour to one of the temples can be done with no more than 2-300 BAHT (including transport via BTS and Chao Phraya boat).
Oh, ok, ok, I started to talk a little ahead and mentioned things like BTS and the Chao Phraya river. I’ll stop that and come back to the main story because there is still some more to say until we’re in Bangkok. Just teasing you a little, of course.
Flying To Thailand
I flew with FinnAir and that proved to be a good choice overall. The route was Bucharest – Helsinki – Bangkok. The flights were very well connected and from what I read in the planes and in some of the materials in the airport, Helsinki is trying to become the first Europe – Asia flying hub. One of their key points in achieving that is to provide good flight connections and fast transfer of the passengers. When I flew to Bangkok I stayed in the Helsinki airport around 4 hours and when I come back I stayed around 3 hours. The airport is quiet, clean and it has free internet connection in one of its areas. Not in the whole airport, which is a little strange, so you have to go through passport check in order to reach the free internet area but it didn’t felt like an inconvenient to me.
From Bucharest to Helsinki I flew with an Embraer 170 which might be the tinier airplane I flew with so far. It’s an airplane manufactured in Brasil, quite exotic in Europe. But the Boeing MD 11, a somehow obsolete tri-jet which took me from Helsinki to Bangkok was even funnier. The entertainment system in the economic class consists on 4-5 large monitors with a fixed program for all passengers. All the other transcontinental flights I had so far had individual entertainment systems. Other than that, both planes proved to be extremely reliable, clean and well-serviced.
From Bucharest to Helsinki you fly 2:40 hours and from Helsinki to Bangkok 9:30-10-30 hours. When I got back I was so relaxed that I slept most of the time and when I arrived in Bucharest I actually didn’t felt tired at all. On the way to Bangkok I had some mild anxiety moments, but all of them were related to my old pattern of “not being able to enjoy stuff” that I’m working on for several years now.
By now it should be no secret for the readers of my blog that I am a raw vegan. At this specific moment I have more than 6 month of eating only raw, unprocessed and uncooked food. My health has improved dramatically over the last 6 months. I lost 14 kilos in the process and I sleep like a baby. I had a nail problem at my left hand, a tiny exfoliation that started to slowly aggravate in the last 3-4 years. Never knew the reason, just observed helplessly that my nail started to lose consistence. In the last 2 months this condition has been completely reversed, my nail is practically complete again. During May last year I had a horrible cold, with more than 5 days of high fever (40 degrees Celsius). I never had the tiniest cold since I started the diet, although I was exposed to viral contexts.
The main reason for that dramatic change in my “physical layer” is my diet, without any doubt. It’s the way I eat that improved my physical health in such an incredible way.
Overloaded With Toxins
After more than 6 months of observing my body reaction to my raw food, I can affirm that my main improvement area is in the toxins speed elimination. I can feel that my body is having less toxins than before, and when it happens to have more than normal, it eliminates the extra toxins much faster. I can’t explain exactly how it does, I can only tell you that I experience states of lightness and elasticity. I feel like I’m cleaner and more functional than before. It’s not only my weight and my body elasticity, it’s like my whole body mechanism is functioning at a better rate.
Our divine machine, the body, it’s a sublime project. We humans could only aim to create substances as complete or as functional as our human tissue. When we can create something good, we do it incompletely. Every food supplement out there, a part from providing you with a list ofÂ allegedly needed ingredients, insert into your body loads of incomplete, toxic structures. Each thermal modification of our food (apart from allegedly making it available for more time) fundamentally affects its base molecular structure. Every “improved” food contains in fact much more harmful substances, making your body working extra hours to eliminate them. And this extra stress weakens your sublime machine that you call your body.
I guess there is some point from where we don’t feel this effort anymore. After this point we’re actually overloaded with toxins. Our body surrendered and it’s only a question of time until the weakest link will fall apart, creating an illness. I’m not a doctor nor do I intend to pose into one. I can only speak from my firsthand experience on this topic and this is what I do.
A Raw Food Diet For Your Soul
Well, the other day I had out of the blue this thought: what if my emotional layer would also be fed with only raw, unprocessed emotions? What if I impose a raw food diet on my soul? What does that actually could mean? What would be the obstacles? What would be the expected results?
Without claiming that I already started such a diet, I will try to write in this post my possible answers to all those questions from above. So, let’s start it:
After almost a month since I started it, it’s time for me to write the conclusions for my gratitude experiment. Some of you may already have read a follow up on this but now it’s time to write the full conclusions. For those of you who came here directly I will shortly outline the core of the experiment, if you want to know more feel free to read the first and the second post.
Too keep a long story short: this gratitude experiment consisted in daily writing in a journal the things for which I am grateful. Being quite a geek in some areas, I chose to do this using some advanced technology like an iPhone and a specific application designed apparently exactly for that, a gratitude journal. Of course, if you ever want to start something similar you can do it with pen and paper, this is not even remotely about technology. It’s about you.
Gratitude Is Acknowledgement
It’s pretty difficult to define gratitude because of a strong cultural connotation caused by religion and / or spirituality. Gratitude has a lot to do with those areas, but it’s not entirely tied up to them. I think gratitude is only overlapping with those areas, is not contended by them. Every time you want to talk about gratitude you feel a little discomfort because it tends to take you out of the normal, day to day routine and put you into some serious and rigid realms like religion or spirituality.
We’re conditioned to perceive religion and spirituality as serious, almost limiting domains, some places where you should behave with humility, strive harder and generally lose all the fun in the life. Redemption, guilt or excessive frugality are common ground for all major religions and so we tend to act a little bit cautious toward it, unless of course, we do have a daily religious routine and we’re placing it very high in our value scale.
But gratitude is not only religion. In fact, gratitude is so flexible and versatile that sometimes appears to me to be quite the opposite from the fixed paths of religion. Gratitude is your way to tell the Universe it has been good to you. It’s an acknowledgment, it’s a confirmation you send back. It doesn’t have to be in a fixed form, nor to be contained in any ritual or structured philosophy. All it takes is to be honest.
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This is the second part of my short series about how to use travel as a personal development tool. I covered the “why’s” and the benefits of this in the first post, so if you came here directly you may want to read that too.
While started to work on this, I realized that travel as a personal development tool can be split into 2 main categories:
- short rides around the city or at maximum 3-400 km away from home, which usually last less than a day
- long trips, more than 3-4000 km, which last at least one week.
There are some differences between the those trips, at least from a personal development approach, so I will split my post accordingly.
Short Joy Rides
Those trips are fantastic perspective changers. I used to do unexpected rides all the time when I was feeling stressed or under pressure. After several months of doing this on purpose, my general approach toward my business completely changed. I switched from a very tense attitude to a more relaxed one and I was able to spot opportunities much easier.
From my experience, you should use this whenever you have feelings of lack of time or pressure. Sounds very counter-productive and somehow like escapism, but is not. Just start a short ride around the city, drive around or walk if you want. You can even take public transportation like urban trains or trams. Just go there, be with the flow and give your mind a break. Do this for at least 3 or 4 hours. Don’t even dare to think that this time could be better used if you “worked”. You’re still working during those rides, you’re only doing it differently.
The trick here is to do this on purpose and for several weeks / months in a row. Yes, you got it right, you must make a habit out of it. Sounds strange to make a habit out of short trips, but believe me, it works. You don’t have to come to the end of the rope and try it as a last resort, just do it while you’re still able to think it clear. Because you still have the capacity to shift your focus from your problems (what is pressuring you) to your solutions (what could free you).
The other key point is to not plan your itinerary, just go in the car and ride the road you see in front of you. Let yourself caught in the road, stop your mind and enjoy what you see. Extract yourself from your current flow of habits, break your unconscious walls and immerse yourself into the unknown. After 3-4 hours, return home. That’s it. As I said, it’s very important to this for at least several weeks in a row.
Short trips without an established goal worked fantastically well for me. Helped me to achieve a better clarity and sensitivity. My work actually improved, both in terms of performance and volume during that period, so I never feel I lost time during those trips.
The best image I can use is something that comes out of the fog. This is how I felt after several weeks in which I follow the habit of short 3-4 hours trips.