Blog #2 - Getting Off The Grid

We managed to do it.  Aside from what we stored, all the stuff in our lives now fits into two backpacks and two carry-ons. 

The road to here has been a lesson in “stuff” – mainly, in letting go of it.

Without noticing, our small apartment had become filled with DVDs, CDs, books and other paper, two kitchens’ worth of hardware, and many dozens of things of varying sentimental value, all of which went before the court of “trash, donate, take or store”.

We think we did pretty well considering one of us has an affinity to keeping EVERYTHING, and the other can’t stand any sort of clutter.  We will let you guess who’s who in that scenario.  So to avoid tears from either of us (hahaha) we chose to store a lot of things.  After all, we do intend to return to Toronto, and we don’t want to have to start from scratch once we return.

Aside from dealing with plain old “stuff” stuff, unplugging our lives from the grid was a take-no-prisoners process that began well before we left.  A prudent person going on a trip would book flights, get travel insurance and make a trip to a travel medicine clinic, however, with us you can add the apartment, car, jobs, furniture (thank you Craigslist), income tax and financial planning, and a myriad of other things (right down to unlocking Vince’s iPhone – very important in order to stay connected when you can’t find WiFi!).

And even though we put a lot of thought into packing we’ve already said bye to two sweaters, a pair of Steph’s flip flops, and a strange toy Vince brought that no world traveller has any business carrying around (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U3xFu0MIdo).

OK so we did it, we felt we were officially off the grid and finally able to hug our family and friends and head out to the airport.  There was nothing left in our way: we were officially nomads.   Now our goal was to get to Ko Tao, Thailand in one piece.   

Leaving Toronto, our first flight was to Chicago for an overnight stop.  It was uneventful except for the side-trip  our backpacks took onto the tarmac where they picked up tons of de-icing fluid.  They were a gross and greasy mess when they came down the baggage carousel, but at least we got them back.  The baggage customer service desk offered to dry clean them but that would have required us to stay 3 days in Chicago putting us back on the grid.  No way, we were quite happy to keep on trucking, grease and all.

The next morning we arrived early at the airport for our connecting flight through Hong Kong to Bangkok.  Three hours early in fact (a first for Vince ;).  And we’re glad we did as we spent most of that time dealing with Cathay Pacific, who wouldn’t let us check-in without proof of onward travel from Thailand.  They claimed this was Thai law.  Another attempt to get us back on that grid!  All we wanted to do is to wander southeast Asia with no particular schedule.  After exploring other options, and arguing a little, under duress we bought two fully-refundable tickets to destination anywhere (out of Thailand).  We got on our plane and were back in business.

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And as you might have predicted, upon arrival at Bangkok we were rubber-stamped without a bat of an eye.  Man what a scam!  More research and a phone call to the airline might have helped us avoid the surprise – but ah well, lumps taken and lessons learned.  We felt totally “jammed” by Cathay, but at least they were kind enough to give us rain ponchos upon arrival at Hong Kong when we had to disembark in the rain to run for our last flight to Bangkok.

After a late arrival in Bangkok, and early rise, we rushed to the train station to learn that the train we were planning to take south to Ko Tao was full.  So were the next three.  This is high season.  The only real alternative to us at the time was a sleeper train / bus / ferry combo, which departed at 7:30 pm.  Neither of us had been on a sleeper train before, however we knew we were going to take one sometime this trip – so why not now?  Steph was cool; Vince was nervous.  Either way, it certainly is easy to make a decision when there are no other alternatives!

So instead of travelling that day we spent the day exploring Bangkok.  It turned out the sleeper train was for the best.  Thanks to jet lag we both slept like rocks, from about 8:30 pm to 2 am local time, and arrived at Chumphon at about 5 am.  From there we hopped on a bus, then a ferry, and arrived at the island of Ko Tao by mid-morning.

And then we slowed down.

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We are now writing this after spending several very relaxing days exploring Ko Tao, its beaches, surrounding islands, and night life (happy new year’s!), with our good friends Phil and Miranda.  Vince tried to keep up to Phil on the motorbike without much luck.  And even though this is a scuba diver’s paradise, we chose to snorkel instead.  We love being different, but you already know that.  Well we should go now, on a bus to Bangkok (as this post is being written) where we will spend 3 days before heading to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Ciao Ciao for now,
Steph & Vince