Walking into the Sex Industry

I was in Bangkok staying in the Miami Hotel in the Sukhumvit area thinking; this is the kind of place I usually don’t spring for – it was $15 a night and I wanted them to charge me less but I had my own refrigerator and bathroom so I was happy. I just didn’t know that I was living in the middle of Thailand’s sex industry.

At 5:30AM I was leaving my hotel with my yoga matt going to the city park where Thais congregate to do Tai Chi or walk briskly. Darkness shades the street, dawn has not arrived yet.

And there in front of my hotel is a barrage of tables with big African guys sitting and looking over the livestock. I know they are African because they have that kind of skin that can be seared for years in the sun and it will always be black with those impossibly white eyes and heave-ho musculature I don’t see on white men. I see women in skimpy outfits parading around their tables and realize oh my god they are all hooking up and selling sex while I walk thru the crowd with my yoga matt.

I decided I would not look more deeply at any of the men’s eyes who were now staring at me like who is this new chick? They hadn’t picked out their prostitute yet from the pack so I was fresh meat walking by in my yoga pants.

I felt safe but naked being probed with their eyes. Here in Thailand where people are not running around with guns I never hear about rapes or robberies.

Maybe I am living in a bubble of calm but when I go back to my own country I read about grisly murders in the press or hear about oil spilled over virgin waters and lands. Well, maybe these things are happening here in Thailand but I never hear about them. Does this mean they don’t happen?

Take the red shirts for example – the protesters came from Issan where I was living in the northeast part of Thailand – farmers and the bottom class of people who were not making much money. They were pissed so they set up shop in the middle of Bangkok and peacefully protested. Well that turned into bombs and killings and 2 months later most Thai people were concerned that nothing was being done to stop them.

And I told everyone, “Don’t worry it’s just a bunch of Buddhists.”

Yeah, right.

I’m not sure why the red shirts failed or why they thought they could do a better job than the current bureaucracy but they kept their red shirt city in operation until they were jailed and some of them were shot.

So. I still feel safe in this country. Even with the red shirts and the sex industry I know that what we have here is better than what we have in the USA.

I am slowly evolving into an ex-pat.

Here there is superior medical facilities at an affordable price, clean and reliable transportation, and kind people.

There are no big burly scary men beggars living on the street. There are just peaceful nuns and monks who ask for money or food. If I had a bag of rice I would give it to them. Many people do.

I lived with monks and nuns in a Buddhist temple for 2 months in Loei and they go out at 5:30am and receive food from the town’s people. I was humbled that this was how we got our food to eat every day. Divinity provides.

People were happy to give their food to the monks on the street. I saw it on their faces in the soft glow of dawn as they piled the monks’ begging bowls with rice, fish, sweets, eggs, everything. They did it with love. That does not happen in the USA. It’s every man for himself. How little we have learned from the east.

But then there is the sex industry.

How does that continue here and why is it allowed? I love this country and now it is my favorite. I never expected that Thailand would steal my heart like this. It’s clean, I have friends here, its holy, there is an abundance of fresh fruit and wifi.

All is good.

Tulum, Mexico, Simply Being

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMPsKuZnGt8]

Life has been so juicy that I have not had time to write. I’ve been too busy eating fish tacos, guacamole, and growing another rear end. I’m teaching private photo crash courses, walking around with a look of wonder on my face, eating, reading in a hammock, dreaming about my next adventure in Belize and seeing my son in Guatemala, and trying to stay warm in the soft rain but mostly just being content.

I moved off of Isla Mujeres and now I am in a tiny town by the sea living in a hostel where I finally have a kitchen to make a darn cup of tea. I had my water heating coil from Thailand with me but those prongs don’t ignite in Mexican electrical outlets.

So I was camping at the sea and got tired of sand in every crevice of my body, spartan accommodations (meaning no sofas or cushions) and living on sand. But now that I am in a crowded hostel I appreciate seaside camping.

Nature rocks! Nothing comes close to its beauty. As I laid in my tent trying to sleep while the rain pelted my tent I thought warm thoughts of Belize and being in the sun – being safe in Guatemala with my son and daughter and eating healthy food. Just appreciating that we are alive in this moment and not elsewhere.

I am experiencing the good karma of simply being. I am shedding anxiety and just being. I don’t feel in a rush.

Today I felt happy just walking my laundry to the cleaners for them to do and having my teeth cleaned. I felt I had achieved something. The dentist told me I have a bunch of cavities – I don’t believe him – I think he wanted more money. But I paid him only $60 to clean my teeth – the other dentist wanted $80 but I didn’t want to pay $20 more than I pay in Thailand. I know I am not in Thailand but I also do not have health insurance – my health insurance is traveling to third world countries and hoping to never get ill or injured in the USA as I can easily afford paying for my medical maintenance out of pocket when it is in rupees, Thai baht, or pesos. My teeth feel yummy and smooth now. The dentist was a lot younger; I am now old enough to have my doctors be a decade or two younger than me. I just told the girl in the other bunk here in the dorm what my age was and I’m even older than her parents who are 48. She was lying on her bed when I told her and looked like she’d lose her lunch in a New York second.

She said, “You are NOT 54.” I usually don‘t tell people but I sometimes like the shock as it is a comic moment.

These youngsters here are partying non-stop and won’t shut up until 1AM but usually it’s later. I don’t know if I can take 2 more nights of this stupidity. A bunch of twenty-nothings getting drunk and listening to moronic music that will not be remembered in 10 years. Push my ear plugs in way deeper. I still heard them.

But these young ones are in some ways wiser than I was at their age. Some of them even get married and are responsible like my own son. And they know to travel and not get tied down to a job right away.

Some of these sweet youngsters are able to sleep in all this noise – astounding.

But after a few days I am learning how to do it too.  I always wanted to be able to fall asleep on a plank at the center of the universe, on an airplane, bus, or boat, in the middle of a rock concert.

Oh dear maybe I should not have had that pork taco right before bed preceded by the sugar doughnut slash croissant – it was not a proper croissant but a puffed up piece of bread with sugar sprinkled all over it.

I feel actual bliss and freedom. I can roam where I want to. I feel less and less anxiety. I left the western world only 10 days ago but it takes time to wash off the west.

When I made more money I was less happy. I didn’t know this until I left my life behind, filled with expensive clothing, ritzy furniture, top dollar restaurants and deep debt. I owed so much money living like that but now that I live simply I don’t owe anyone anything.

I was at the bank the day before I left the USA and was getting my finances in order with one of the bank clerks and she said, “You can sign up for online bill payment” and I said oh I don’t need that and she said, “Well how do you pay your bills?”

I said, “I don’t have any bills.”

She was stupefied.

She said, “Many people would want to be in that position.” And she smiled through her gasping. I felt so grateful that I had no debt. I am free and clear and can live my life the way I like. That is a grace and a beauty. It took a lot of work to be debt-free. Keebler cookie elves did not arrive and give me a full bank account in the middle of the night.

Courage takes practice.

Living the high debt life made me sleep less peacefully. I was nervous and stressed trying to earn more money to pay everything off.

But I can travel because I have no debt – that is bliss – I could not do it before because I had to pay for my ultra lux life; I owed on my cashmere sweaters and all the toys we used to buy. I can live life more richly without that stuff. I feel rich now but I did not feel rich when I made more money.

Interesting how more stress isn’t worth more money.

Major insight revealed.

Piling up stacks of money isn’t that fun. It is stressful and I like being relaxed. It costs a lot more money to be in the States working than it does to be here having a wonderful time.

for now kindly go to http://www.youtube.com/user/zestyzippy

to see the latest videos from Mexico – Fun in Tulum and Simply Being.

Next Stop Brazil: On the Bus from Buenos Aires

Traveling in Brasil with all my stuff

There’s mucho meat in Argentina – I think there’s some beef in my bra right now. They even give you a meat ration on the bus in case you go into withdrawal after not eating it for more than an hour.
We just crossed the border into Brazil. It feels more sensual all ready or is that just my bikini wax talking? I’m ready for the beach in Rio but I may stick out a bit with my bathing suit from Maui that covers both butt cheeks.

I like my butt but I’m not sure I want to share it with the rest of the world in Ipanema.Oh what they hell maybe someone will write a song about it.
I arrived in Rio and strolled along Ipanema beach gasping for air with my eyes agog. People of every stripe, weight, and age were walking by in bikinis and sprayed on Speedos showing every detail of their anatomy.

It was way more information than I needed.

Beer guts flopped, swollen breasts jiggled and no one even noticed. How refreshing although horrifying.

But I am in Brazil, where carnival and cleavage was born.
So it only took me five decades to figure out string bikinis. It’s for tanning every inch of your body. The strings untie at the bra back and ride high on each thigh. While sunning the strings come undone. It is not for the faint of heart.
Hedonism is rampant here. So I might as well join in. When in Rio do as the Brazilians do and this country was built on pulsating music and plunging necklines.
And to think I have not been dating madly every night. There’s still time. I’ve been looking over the livestock and the strong, dark, and handsome men appeal to me. They sure aren’t Hindus like in Bali – they want to tango.

But I don’t want to catch an STD or start anything without firewood. No smoke and mirrors for me.
Maybe I don’t feel so horny because I had my menopause. I plumb ran out of eggs so now I’m free to roam the earth and do what I want.
But the best thing I ever did was having a baby.

He is now taller than me and is out saving the world. He’s helped a lot of people and inspired me to do the same.

People can say whatever they want about me but if anyone ever said anything against him I would rip their heads off and stomp on them; they’d be toast.
See how wandering in the Himalayas has helped me be calm?
At first I thought this country was over-priced for what it is but finally I am falling for Brazil. It took a tropical island, a travel companion who is a professional bartender, and my own bathroom.

Add sudden warm rainstorms with sandy paths and a car-free landscape to calm me down. There’s no traffic here in Barra Grande! We have donkeys with carts to carry things.
Everything is tranquil and my tan is deepening. That is my true wealth to be outside in the sun and fresh air and not cooped up in an office. Good thing I got my bikini waxed. It’s fun to always be ready for a string bikini no matter what. No panties or shoes; this is the way I like to live. I haven’t worn a bra in weeks or bothered to hold my gut in.
I feel rich. My assets are: experiences, cameras, and jewelry. And a few stocks.
And I am safe as I don’t travel alone – I travel with my angels. They speak to me in gentle whispers, give me short directions; go there, stop, don’t buy that.

Major tip to self: always listen to the inner voice. It’s never wrong.

Join me on Kauai to discover paradise, 3 day photo safari and yoga retreat

Being a Global Citizen

I went and did it – I sold everything I own. I am now free of the USA and the Western world. No more furniture, no car to maintain, and no home to rent out. Poof – all gone.

I feel liberated.

My stuff didn’t make me happy. Adventures and exploring make me happy. I don’t need my sofa or bed – I can fall asleep on a plank now.

I live in bungalows on the beach, ashrams in the mountains, temples, tents, hotels and family guesthouses. I teach photography and yoga and stay open to change. I work as I live, moving and staying in a place for two to six months then going somewhere new.

It feels light; like I lost a hundred pounds and can now fly free. I love this feeling of no car insurance, no bookcases, no huge hulking objects, and did I mention no car to take care of? I cashed in the car when I went to South America for 6 months. I feel like I’m floating.

Houston we have lift-off.

Now I can be happy eating a banana. The pear and fresh cheese from Italy help too. I’m rich.

I started to travel and teach five years ago taking 6 to 8 month chunks of time to do it. I discovered a new universe of helping non –profits with photography and writing, conversing with kids in schools, and enjoying my life without having to keep up with California.

With no itinerary, no big budget, and very little electricity I’ve ridden elephants bareback in Nepal, taught yoga in India, photographed the Dalai Lama, meditated in holy caves, taught salsa dancing to babies in Colombia, and surfed in Ecuador and Peru.

While my colleagues were seeing their retirement accounts dwindle and patronizing upscale bars I was hitchhiking in the Himalayas freezing my ass off on the highest motor-able pass in the world in Ladakh and being invited to live in a home for abandoned people in Argentina; feeding them soup with a big dose of love. I discovered that living a simple life was better than buying the latest Italian cashmere sweater, overpriced jeans, or drinking premium red wine from California vineyards every night.

The West has a lot of knowledge but not much wisdom. Wisdom is what I find in Asia; being invited into the homes of people who live in a mud brick dwelling who happily offer their food and friendship, or in a nunnery where the nuns are living 4 to a room but laugh and pray all day and get me to smile just by their presence and freshness.

I don’t have a wealthy family who supports me or a spouse who sends me cash. I’m an artist and writer, with my own photography business. I raised a son and supported my family on the income from my business in one of the priciest places to live on the planet in northern California.

I am grateful.

I took the chance to do what I loved to do and got paid for it. Living life this way without working for a big corporation and lots of perks taught me to leap into the unknown and trust that you will fall in rose petals.

When I first started traveling I would go back to the States every 6 to 8 months to work at my photography business, see my family and friends and then leave again. I’d touch down in the Western world, go into culture shock, get down to business, and a few months later get on a plane and leave.

Now that I am a professional vagabond I don’t have to go back. I will stay here in paradise. Koh Phangan has taken hold of my ankles and held me in this mystical aura of no stress, devastatingly gorgeous nature, barbecued catfish and other delicacies I can’t identify.

I notice I’m still here. I only leave to get a new visa.

I have tried to buy plane tickets to other countries but when the web site asks me to hit the submit payment information my finger will not do it.

I have learned in my round the globe travels when you find a place you love just stay and soak it up. It took 3 years to figure that out. I pushed myself to cross more borders and search other mountains and swim on new seashores. Now I have friends all over the world and the longer I stay in one place the longer I want to stay.

It is starting to feel like home here. Where is home? In my backpack. In my connection to a place, the way I feel in the morning when I see the sun rise on my beach that I share with the sky and the palm trees.

This is where God gets drunk. In Koh Phangan, Thailand.

Rinpoche, my Tibetan Buddhist lama and teacher from Sikkim gave me a fresh perspective on my travels – he said, “It’s all a passing show – everything changes.” And did you know that strokes are caused by stress and worry?

I won’t be dying of stress that is for sure.

My stress involves getting on a plane and taking my Vans sneakers off and asking to have my film hand-inspected. Or running to catch a train in India and almost missing it; the huckster I was buying potato chips from in the station would not give me my 40 rupees change back, the robber. My train was leaving and my luggage was on it. RUN for your life! So I abandoned the huckster and my rupees and ran to catch it as my Macbook thumped on my chest about to get a heart attack – that case is damn heavy.

So it costs more to be working in California than it does to be here in Thailand eating pad thai, swimming in the ocean, exploring, and teaching photo safaris.

Teaching doesn’t feel like work to me. It feels like real life. I like to share in 3 hours what took me 25 years to figure out in photography and encourage my students to shoot the moon with unbridled enthusiasm.

Being a nomad is what I have dreamed of doing for years. I am free to wander the globe and let the universe guide me. After traveling and teaching on 4 continents in 26 countries I feel more than ever that I am just beginning to see how large the world is and how much more I want to see and experience. Wanderlust is now my full time job.

 

 

Pai, Thailand, Life as a Vagabond

 

My home in Pai Thailand

 

My home countries are Thailand and India with side dishes of Nepal, Laos, and Bali.  I feel happy inside my skin in the East.

I like being in the mountains of Thailand now. It’s a blend of primitive, sacred and wifi. Kindness and Buddhism prevails. No one swears or gets angry – no entitlement issues. I’m less and less interested in going back to the States; it doesn’t soothe my soul. But I do have spiritual teachers in California. I could visit them and do some good – maybe I will set some talks up before I return so I can share what I have learned here in Asia with my fellow Americans: meditation, yoga, letting it be, and living in the moment.

Outside the USA there is more chance of letting holiness permeate the soul without all the commerce, playboy porn star standards of beauty and an over reliance on automobiles and pretense. We’ve gotten caught up in stuff and greed and showing off and I include myself in that as when in the States there is very little emphasis on the sacred.

In Bali it’s a full-time job to make offerings and go to temple – my friends in Bali said, “We spend 60% of our income on temple offerings.”

In the States it’s far different – people want to hook up with money and prestige.

When I was 20-nothing I wanted the strange and fascinating. I was looking for what I have now. Freedom to explore. And time. I wanted to roam the universe.  And I needed silence. Silence to hear what I felt; to let my soul and spirit give me its wisdom.

I am letting my sense of wonder and awe guide me without a grand plan. My decisions are made for me – they just happen without me having much to do with it. When I get caught up in planning I’m tense – should I stay or what about this other country should I go there? So now I am practicing no decisions and I like it.

Don’t be in a hurry to decide, just let things happen in the moment.

I had planned to go back to Bali right after I left the island but every time I set up the ticket online to fly there I could not press the submit payment info – my finger wouldn’t let me. OK, lets see what the universe has in mind for me and here I am in Chiang Mai having a great time writing and living in a little white room with an overhead fan and a view over an emerald green expanse of trees outside with birds singing. All for only $6 a day including wifi. I’m happy.

I didn’t have a grand plan to visit Chiang Mai but there I was in Bangkok living the high life for $15 a day in a hotel room with my own refrigerator and bathroom and I thought nope this is too much to pay I am heading out to the country and hopped on a 12 hour train to get to the mountains, here in this hick town blended with temples. It’s not posh or pushy with tons of used bookstores with English books! It would take me forever to get thru them all or at least two weeks so I am staying here and paying this low amount of rent for comfort and cleanliness.

I must be evolving – the last two nights I was woken up by other guests coming home at 3AM and I didn’t get mad or get out of bed to tell them to shut up. I just turned over and wondered if my earplugs were nearby but I never even put them in. I just fell asleep again after they stopped talking.

Then at 5:30 AM I got up to do yoga and meditation – if they heard me I don’t feel badly. We all gotta live and let live.

Maybe I am getting a tiny bit less self-righteous.

So I’m not reading the paper, watching the news, or in any way paying attention to the western world – no media crap – I can let my heart tell me what to do without the overtones of CNN and Hollywood.

I don’t know who those people are on the cover of People magazine.  They all look the same. Same smiles, same sculpted bodies, whitened teeth, and blonde hair.