Creating and the Creatures Who Live Here

I arrived in Thailand and plunged into creating Vagabond, my online magazine about Being Free, and Discovering the World as a Global Nomad.

Apple Computer approved it today!

Thank you Steve Jobs, and all those artistic engineers and creatively powerful people who work at 1 Infinity Loop in Cupertino (Apple headquarters.) Talk about creating!

It’s available in the iTunes store for iPads, Vagabond, a free app under newsstand.

Check it out!

Thailand the land of milk, honey, and mangoes gives me creative goosebumps.

I create my way out of any excuse I come up with here – I just do it.

In this tiny hamlet atop a mountain peak, Pai, sings with expression and communication.

Here’s me in my bamboo and coffee office.

Image

I’ve been in Thailand 6 months. It’s not that easy to stay here so long. Why?

Here’s what I was required to do:

  • Go on a visa run to Burma by bus ( took the entire day)
  • 2 visa extensions after riding over the highest mountain pass in Thailand (twice) on a puny motorbike. I did not die in that ditch I landed in – a kind truck driver pulled me out.
  • http://youtu.be/CI74Rgu6law Burma/Myanmar Border Crossing

But it was worth it — I moved into my cottage in the woods here in Northern Thailand in Pai, a breathtaking village that sweeps you off your feet with its astoundingly vibrant scenery, tons of hot springs, and sparkling waterfalls to boot.

You can get a Thai massage here for $7 or less, and eat scrumptious food for a few dollars a meal in a restaurant – serious. 2 reasons I love it here.

So what’s it like to create with the creatures who live here in my home?

Last night I heard a scritch-scratching noise near my actual head and turned around to see the underside of a 12-inch gecko 10 inches from my eyeballs on the other side of the screen window. That’s why it sounded so close; he was hanging out with me but I didn’t know it.

I guess we’re getting to be friends.

Just the other day I was wondering where King Kong gecko had gone – he had not shown up in a few days. Last I saw him he was parked behind my refrigerator making a racket trying to catch bugs. He was shaking the Frigidaire!

A pang of hunger arose and I bolted to my hanging bunch of bananas from the ceiling in the kitchen and there was my abominable gecko just inches from my fingertips staring at me with his bugged out eyes.

He didn’t even flinch when I grabbed the banana from its bunch of 8.

He just stayed there clinging to the top of the wall with his rubber-cupped feet.

I marveled at how I don’t scream any more when I see him.

He stays out of my bedroom and has the full run of the kitchen when I am sleeping. I don’t know what he does in there but he has not eaten anything that I know of.

This is all very colorful for the creative process. I may be editing my writing and hear geckos chirping mixed with crickets singing. Yes geckos like to congregate on my screened windows and get close to the light rays coming from inside.

It’s like the Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC outside my bedroom door when I go to the bathroom at night; they are surrounding the ceiling light pow-wowing.

I like being inside my screened domain as bugs and lizards cannot find me in there and no one slithers across my computer screen either.

So my creative process goes like this:

Wake up in paradise hearing birds singing their hearts out.

Smile.

Turn over and suggest to my body that it sleep longer.

Most of the time get up and turn on the electric teapot.

Chinese or Thai Tea in hand I am delighted by the light show on the treetops while butterflies flitter around.

Meditate and chant then walk to my yoga pavilion down the dirt driveway. There is no asphalt here and I like that. The dirt driveway is between two rows of frangipani trees. Then I get to the yoga pavilion and I am rewarded. I didn’t ditch yoga I am doing it every day oh yes and I feel like an eagle looking out from its nest.

The mountain scape is intoxicating.

Here is the view from my front porch in Pai:

And a sunset view from the same porch.

Then I do my email, as the yoga pavilion is my home office.

What do I do after yoga? I eat a hearty breakfast in my cottage on stilts.

See me in my kitchen cooking here:

http://you.be/outTblup4CeKv0

After showering I jump on my motorbike to go to my real office to “work.”

A plump pillowed coffee and bamboo covered lounge area in the village – that no one seems to know about but me as now the owner is leaving me there solo while she slips out to do errands.

I lay in a hammock and do my writing/ photography editing/ more email /posting.

I am learning a language that I never knew before. And I’m not talking about Thai.

Internet marketing is another language for me – and its not as sexy as Italian but OK the creative process is not comfortable. I learned that from Billy Wilder that crazy wild amazing director from the 40’s and 50’s who wrote and directed intelligent comedy i.e. Some Like it Hot.

I learned how to use the magazine platform that they said was easy but it was not easy.

I am learning and ding-dang it I needed to learn how to use tools I never knew I needed before.

It isn’t comfortable to stretch past pre-conceived notions but somehow doing it here with the geckos and spiders (I forgot to mention them) and birds and butterflies isn’t so bad. In fact its downright invigorating when I consider that afterwards I can go to the hot springs and wallow in sacred spring water from the earth’s crust healing me with heat and effervescence.

So there were a few times I felt apprehensive but I let myself feel that and my acupuncturist from Morocco noticed. She needled me with an infusion of confidence.

She charges me $10 a session – that is far less than what she charged the people she used to treat when she lived in Manhattan and had clients at the World Trade Center.

When all the online language and things that were supposed to be “easy” to do were actually hard I questioned why I jumped into this ocean of new things. But I kept swimming and now the magazine is done. I created an app!!! And Apple Computer is selling it for me! OMG

I do not have an iPad yet and having recently learned just what an app is I feel like I’m thriving in the right direction. Now the momentum is going and I am letting it take me.

So the moral of the story is (remember that cartoon show about Mr Peabody; they always ended it this way?)

Keep going even when it doesn’t feel so hot. Keep going even when you are treading water and this dang program won’t let you delete text or move something simple in your graphic layout.

Just get up and go outside and say hello to all the critters who may be clinging to your house, notice the spider who is weaving a web under your window, say hello to the baby gecko who lives in the tree trunk post holding up the entryway stairs – notice the large winged insects who bash themselves against the lights and end up kicking their insect legs in the air as they can’t turn over again.

http://youtu.be/oWGLt2zuCGA Spider and Bedroom Chat

I pick them up and send them soaring again. I freed a butterfly from a spiders web today and it swiftly flew off happily. I was elated. So what that the spider missed a meal?

Take a minute and be grateful that you have the moments to make this mountain out of – you know that phrase making a mountain out of a molehill?

Yes I see it as making a mountain out of moments in your life that you want to express to the world, the heavens and the ethers so you do it and let the day become what it will. And the rain and the clouds and the sun shining through rainbows lights up your heart and you keep on.

Check out my web site to stay current with me and get a FREE e-book

on Secrets of Stunning Photographs

this is my life’s work in 40 pages.

Love and Peace, Mary

How to Travel Solo and Be Safe (for Women and Men)

Trust your gut. Your body knows before your mind does. Listen. If your body tells you not to go down that street in the dark – don’t. I’ve stopped my friends from walking down a street with me in Bogotá because it felt off.

Don’t get so caught up in checking off the sites to see that you forget to listen to your gut. If you listen and act on it, your gut gets stronger and gives you more and better advice. Follow it.

Solo Travel Tips:

Don’t say you’re traveling alone or where you are staying to all and sundry.  I was followed once in Ecuador. Why are they asking you? This is a personal question and similar to asking a person’s age in the first 2 seconds of meeting them; you don’t have to tell them. Invent a partner if you like – if you’re feeling the least bit anxious.

Taxis: keep your luggage next to you on the back seat not in the trunk. If there is a dispute with the driver you can open the door and leave with your stuff. I had to do this once when it was clear the taxi driver didn’t know where my guesthouse was located after he assured me he did know and expected me to pay for his blunder. I got out of the car with my luggage. Drivers encourage you to put it in the trunk so they have you hostage in case there’s a problem.

Leave your passport with hotel or hostel and carry a copy.

Picnic at markets if the food is too pricey or makes you puke. Fruit, cheese, and

olives work for me. Add a few hard-boiled eggs and I’m set.

Eating out solo: I love to listen to people talking and watch the passing scene. If you like bring a book, do some writing, or be more daring and ask to sit with others. In many countries this is encouraged unlike in the States where it is frowned upon.

Be careful who you are intimate with. It may be a lark for you or him, but feelings

can be hurt.  Be responsible and don’t lead someone on making him or her think its love. Be careful dating, you don’t want to trust someone too soon. I may be the only person who left South America with the same camera I started the journey with. Expensive items have legs and can exit quickly.

Learn how to greet people rather than just intrude on their space. Manners are important and people in most countries outside the West are taught to say hello, Buenos Dias, etc before asking questions or blurting out comments.

Assume that everything will go well for you. It works until it doesn’t then you must learn deep breathing and how to stay calm. I do kundalini yoga and meditation every day – it helps.

Decide to be happy. Leave your Western ways in the West, shed your pre-conceived ideas when your passport is stamped and enter a new country with a fresh perspective.

There will be moments of culture shock.

It happened to me yesterday. I hired a Thai tech guy and he wanted me to pay him by depositing the money in his bank account. For this I had to pay extra even though I have an account there too. I will continue to do business with him so I said, I’m going to close my account, having all ready decided to do so earlier.

The bank teller said, “You can’t close your account here – you have to do it in Chiang Mai.” Four hours away from here. How idiotic is that?

So I asked to see the manager, “There is no manager here,” the teller told me, smiling. In Bangkok Bank, the biggest bank in Thailand, with shiny countertops and bonafide tellers, I am hearing this.

I soon calmed down after talking to my friends from Belgium and Italy about life here. They have businesses in town so they are used to the mafia malarkey mentality. I had an iced coffee and remembered I am in a foreign country, I’m a guest here; this is not my home country. I am visiting until I buy land, then it will be my country too. Oh right, I can’t buy land here, only leases.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun, be safe, learn something new, make friends, and take photographs.

Flying free of the West solo takes practice but you’ll get the hang of it. Soon you’ll be smiling and feeling drunk on your own freedom – let it happen.

In 6 years of world travel I’ve been robbed only once and “lost” one camera, gratefully without bodily harm. Read or hear the audio on the incredible journey from the rooftop of the world in Nepal to the magnificence of Machu Picchu here:

Kitten Heels in Kathmandu, Adventures of a Female Vagabond

How to Travel Solo and Be Safe is excerpted from my new magazine:

Vagabond, it will be available soon in the iTunes store for iPads.

Mary Bartnikowski

http://www.bartnikowski.com

Discover Mary’s worldwide adventures on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/zestyzippy?feature=mhee

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.