One cold November morning in Liverpool, England I arrived at my office early as usual. Now wearing three hats as a result of many redundancies, my days are testing. Today will bring yet another meeting with our ‘White Night’. My heart is not here anymore. We have been fighting a losing battle to keep the company following another of the CEO’s blunders. Now as I gaze out into the rain my thoughts and dreams are of Phuket. My concerns are a Captain in the Thai Army and his exquisite daughter. How well are they managing my business? Are the profits up? How about Hong Kong? According to the Captain, she is there right now, sorting out the problems. Will the new line be in out shop in Phuket for Christmas? I’m an engineer; I know nothing of haut couture. Last spring she had modeled every creation for me in the privacy of my hotel room. She was excited, as only a Thai Lady will be if she is wearing one beautiful gown after another, in front of the adoring eyes of her intended victim. At first she consumed the fashionable gowns and my adoration. That over she consumed me.
Here in Liverpool I spun in my chair and gazed out on the dreary day wondering how we were going to turn the company around. As it turned out this was to be the same day that the CEO notified me and the rest of the Directors that the hostile take-over battle that we had been fighting for months was lost. It was left to the Chairman to advise us that the terms of the successful ‘Black Knight’ required the resignation of our entire board of Directors. Our ‘White Night’ had slunk away at the eleventh hour effectively throwing us to the wolves. As the rain drops ran down my office window they were having a hypnotic effect as my eyes followed individual droplets that were determined to follow an erratic path to the window sill. My mind went back reviewing the incompetence of CEO and the consequences to myself and my colleagues. The fight had drained us all, emotionally and financially.
In a flash my mind set shifted. It was a paradigm shift in my thought processes that had me on my feet. The cardboard box easily held the few personal items from my desk. As I turned the keys in the ignition I imagined that the new owner might want my company car. Sod him! He’ll find it eventually. I’m off to paradise and Phuket is where it’s at. I hadn’t used my backpack for seven years. By the time they know that I’ve gone I’ll be in Bangkok. Seven bloody years of graft, barely had a holiday in all that time. As a director on contract, rather than payroll, and the only executive director on the board I can do what I like. My status, as with all execs like me in other companies was about tax avoidance and independence. Now it was pay back time for me. No severance for me, no glossy retirement package, nothing. That is the price of avoidance and independence. However, I had the joy of knowing that the immediacy of my freedom would make me the envy of the rest of the board. After all they will have to go through hours of negotiating and uncertainty before they get their golden parachutes. I’ve got mine, it’s in Phuket!
I completed the two hundred and forty-three miles between my former office and my home in three hours and twenty-two minutes. I’m in my garage brushing the mildew off of my thirty liter backpack. Outside a column of steam is rising from the Volvo; it never has liked being thrashed. Within two hours I’m ready. I went indoors for a cup of coffee. The fax machine on my desk was humming as the latest news came in from Hong Kong. Garments ready; being dispatched today. ETA Phuket fourteen days. I still don’t quite understand why, but I sank into melancholy as I read this good news. Why the hell did I go into the rag trade? Oh! Yes, of course, she wanted it. It would give her face. Give her security in case I didn’t come back! What the F***k am I doing? I’ve been building offshore oil platforms for better than thirty-five years. I have been managing budgets running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Why on earth am I pandering to a brown lady in pink knickers? And all for a paltry forty-thousand baht net a month. Get real mate. What do you really want to do? I thought of my already packed backpack, outside in the garage. How I hunger for those long past carefree days. Pack on my back. No schedule. Freedom! I always backpack at the bottom of the market. Live low, close to the local’s kee nee aow and proud too. Proud that I can do anything, anytime and anywhere that ‘I’ want to. And what do I want to do? I want to go around the world, circumnavigate, do a Fhilias Fogg, cop a Micheal Pailin, be my own man; no I don’t need a Passerpartout and I don’t need a film crew to do it.
When you go solo you need to plan, and that I do now. I got my health insurance from ‘Columbus’ one of the backpackers' favorites. I bought a British Airways Open ticket for circumnavigation. I chose an outline route, where I would air bridge and where I would overland? I missed out India, too soon to go back, maybe in the next lifetime. I left out China for the same reason. Finally I had it, my air bridges would be London to Bangkok, Singapore to Jakarta, Bali to Perth, Perth to Sydney, Sydney to Cairns, Cairns to Auckland (via Sydney), Christchurch to Auckland, Auckland to Tahiti, Tahiti to Los Angeles, Boston to London. The rest I’d walk or bus. In all I walked two thousand miles, bused three thousand five-hundred, train one thousand three hundred. I packed first aid kit, medical kit and condoms. I followed through by packing a minimal amount of clothing, and a tooth brush and soap. I taped my AMEX Card under the insole of my boots, and put a hundred dollars in the lining of my vomp jacket. I put my traveling cash and one credit card along with credible ID into my wallet. Into my bum bad I put some more cash, my pills, and my camera.
At London Heathrow, as I sat waiting for my flight I relished the adventure that was about to unfold at the feet of this middle aged man. In the coming months, and if Mr.Stick is generous enough to publish it, I will roll out my diary of an adventure of a life time. .I am sixty-five now and happily retired in Thailand, a decision that I took during this journey many years ago. I continue to benefit from the experiences of my circumnavigation today and recommend such an experience to all whether young or old. I have only one piece of advice for you and that is ‘If you can not travel with your equal, travel alone’. Together on Stickman we will fall in love in Thailand, get sick in Hat Yai, be engulfed in the smell of vanilla on Panang, live it up in Singapore, fall in love again in Jakarta, climb a volcano near Bangdung, be served beer standing in hot springs, kick black volcanic sand on Bali, get sick again in Yogjakarta, weather out a hurricane in Perth, shoot the rapids of the Tully River, see mud boil at Rota Ruoa, visit the Bay of Islands, experience the disappointments of Tahiti and the beauty of Moororea.
I want to thank all of the Stickman readers that have read my submissions in the past. Special thanks go out to those that have written to me according me praise that I doubt I deserve. Some of you have written asking me to write on specific subjects like sin-sot and difficulties with Thai Ladies. A particular request from two readers is that I chronicle the sights and sounds and body language that emanate from a resident Lady Thai, and that give clues to what she is thinking or planning that might affect her nearest and dearest farang.
I have answered all of the emails that I have received from you up to 22nd December 2005. As some of you know my replies are often very long and detailed. So if you had to wait a week or two for an answer I apologize. The fact is that with the work load that I have in other areas the rate at which I can reply to mail is approximately fifty emails a month. Further, I will write the articles requested by readers concurrently with the diary during the coming months.
IndyUK, a sold contributor in 2005.