The Far Horizons
I still remember that night, so many years ago, sitting in the back of a Bedford van lucidly drifting along to the strains of Santana's’ Caravanserai while being engaged by an 18-year old, large-breasted, hippie hitchhiker I’d
picked up on the road earlier in the day. It was the early '70s and the new age of Carlos Castaneda, Lobsang Rampa and Transcendental Meditation. We surfed by day, puffed on pipes of Kiwi green at night and sustained ourselves on brown rice
and fresh fish. As the rain pelted against the van's windows we lay there chilling out after another round of horizontal folk dancing. My amorous friend decided to add to the mood of the moment by lighting one of those scented candles that
were popular amongst the hippie crowd at the time.
“Give me your left hand,” she said, looking at me through a haze of smoke.
“Why?” I said, uncertain of what she was about.
“I’m a palmist. I’ll read your palm and tell you your future,” she said, continuing to look at me serenely.
I opened my hand and held it out to her. She took it in the dim light and stared at it intently for the next minute or so.
“Hmmm, interesting,” she said, letting my hand go.
“What?” I said, intrigued.
“You will leave this place and never return.”
Life, as many will attest can be an uncertain path and very few can accurately predict what the future holds but 40 years on it seems as though my buxom, hippie friend had it right after all; I’d left my native land and never looked
back. Not that this was entirely intentional, it just seemed that there was always something new, or different, to experience and that there was another adventure just over the next horizon; going back never seemed to be a preferable option. The
fact that I live, and continue to live, in Thailand certainly reinforces this idea. The attractions are obvious and many, but the challenges for a foreigner to reside here long term create difficulties that would leave many looking on from the
safety of their western suburban dugouts questioning our state of mind. And that, judging by some of the recent posts, is an issue that a number of contributors seem rather concerned about.
I have no problems acknowledging the fact that there are many farang expats here that have lost their way. Understanding why, and how, raises a complexity of poor life choices which there, by the grace of whatever god one wishes to acknowledge
and a reasonably disciplined approach to life, goes I. Suffice to say, many are at the last chance hotel but instead of arrogantly denigrating such individuals, as some posting on here are apt to do, I just give thanks for my good fortune and
remember a prescient piece of advice learnt years ago, when we are quick to rush in and judge others; if you have nothing good to say about someone, say nothing. A judgmental mind is often a negative mind.
For every example of an alcohol ravaged soul down the alleys and sois of Thailand's bar areas, there are many fold others who have come here and prospered since leaving behind the forgettable experiences of the failed relationships and
the divorce courts of their native lands. Many I have met and befriended in the twilight years of their lives are probably healthier and more alive than fellows of comparable ages back in what we amusingly call “the real world.”
And the need to be mentally and physically alive when you are in the sixth, seventh or eighth decade of your life probably counts for a whole lot more than any other consideration at that stage in your life. The other option is really no option.
You can sit around in some over-taxed, over-insured, PC-governed state or you can venture out, challenge yourself and see what’s out there. This is not for everyone of course. There are some that are quite content to see it out in the assured
safety of a familiar setting or routine.
There are many, and I include myself in this group, who are often looking to the far horizons and have an unexplained need to go forward (some might jokingly call this the “Star Trek Syndrome”). Nevertheless it is what it is
and I would hazard a guess that for many men of this inclination, there’s some kind of primeval urge – the hunt – that needs to be fulfilled. I would also add with certainty that it’s not just about sex. More to the
point I would surmise that a lot of men with this this inclination don’t make very good marriage partners and no doubt probably rank high in the numbers of marriages that fall apart. The statistics for divorce in some parts of the western
world – Australia and the USA – seem to be steadily increasing so apart from the fact that there are people getting married who are completely incompatible, it would stand to reason that there’s something else going on here.
This is something I’ve spoken about before; for all our advances in technology, the DNA encoding – our primeval instinct – of human kind remains the same. The basic characteristics of who and what we are remains unchanged
since the days when we were running around in bear skins hunting mammoths. Men need to procreate to extend their lineage and women are concerned with food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their progeny. A man's instinctive urge for
sex, according to Richard Dawkins at least, is a reptilian hangover in our cerebral cortex. The urge can be controlled but not suppressed; to do so is unnatural. I would argue that monogamy for a man is an unnatural state of being and it is only
the pervading influence of Christianity and its guilt philosophy that has made it the accepted social norm for the western world over the past few hundred years.
Those that survive the stresses of a poor marriage assignation and the ensuing divorce struggles often find relief in their new found single status. Even allowing for the fact they may have suffered greatly, in financial and emotional terms,
the freedom that follows sees many expanding their horizons. Horizons which often run to South-East Asia. Many of course do arrive on these shores with baggage and many, rightly or wrongly, seek redemption with the wrong ladies. I would suggest,
however, that many arrive in Thailand simply through curiosity. That they are fulfilling a need to go on a journey into the unknown. Or, perhaps, it’s the last great adventure where they’re putting it all on the line and seeing what
unfolds? Because really, how else do we completely find out who we are or what we’re made of? Kind of reminds me of that great line in ‘Lost World Part 2’ when the grizzled old hunter – played by Pete Postlewhaite –
who was trying to bag T-Rex was explaining to the young journalist why he was trying to bag a T-Rex.
“A while ago there was a chap who summited Everest. He nearly died doing it and when he came back down someone asked if he’d gone up there to die. He turned to them and said NO, I WENT UP THERE TO LIVE.”
And so it is for many of us that end up in Thailand; we’re going there to live. It might well be that a lot of us aren’t here for any particular noble reason but it’s the journey, the adventure and perhaps – even
though we might be loath to admit it – the search for some kind of answer that we weren’t getting in the places we left behind. It is in some respects an existentialist approach to life; one of living by the day and seeing what turns
up. This isn’t to say as some would intimate that we’re just drifting along aimlessly without any long-term life plan. It’s just that living in Thailand, or any part of S.E. Asia for that matter, seems to offer a vibrance
that isn’t there in a more normal way of life back in our western homelands. It’s the feeling of living close to the edge; that each day anything is possible. That each day something new and different will jump out and amuse and
entertain us. The fact that many, after returning to their native lands, experience a let down is a testament to this. The often heard remarks are that although things are nice, clean and safe it’s also the epitome of boredom. Little wonder
that many return as often as they can for vacations and are planning a permanent move on retirement. And of the many that I know that have already made that move, most seem to have their lives well sorted with pension plans and rental incomes
providing a decent standard of living; they are not losers. And many, if not all, are Stickman aficionados and contributors.
Whether or not the abovementioned are men that hate women; I have no idea. Many that I know have an unbridled fond regard for women but I would venture to add that due to their relationship histories in their native countries, they’re
now much more circumspect, wary and less trusting. They, we, I are also single by choice and not because we don’t know how to conduct ourselves in a relationship. For those that are happily married, or living in a loving relationship with
the right one, I say good luck to you. That is your choice just as it’s the choice of many of us who choose who live in the LOS to remain single. Some need the comfort and security of a women at their side in front of the home fire. Others
don’t. The choice to be married or in a relationship is one reality. The choice to be single and enjoy the fruits on offer in Thailand is another. One choice isn’t better than the other, it’s just the way it is. Some make
a point of promoting the idea that if a guy isn’t married or in a relationship then he’s missing out on something, abnormal or he’s socially inept. Much of this type of thinking is driven by the conditioning of modern western
ideology; normalcy, and acceptance, equals being married, one point seven children, a mortgage, a secure job and a barbecue at the weekend. If by some chance some don’t measure up to this expectation does it make them redundant to western
humanity's idea of normality? How about the Muslim guy in Malaysia with four wives and thirteen children; is he and his family to be written off because they don’t conform to the west's narrowly accepted social concepts?
Whichever choice one makes there will always be a sacrifice. The married guy has the closeness of a wife and family, but he also has the ongoing long-term commitment and responsibility of paying a mortgage and raising a family. For the average
Joe back in Farangland, this means an unending work treadmill for years. Those such as yours truly who’ve chosen the single man's existence obviously have greater freedom but that is tempered by the very real fact that there are many
days and nights of being alone. Dealing with being alone is a very real issue for many but the fact is it’s really an individual thing; some handle it better than others. In the end I suggest the difference between emotional disintegration
or control of one's personal situation at all times all comes down to what’s going on inside a guy's head. Do your feelings determine your path in life or is your mind in firm control of your actions? For many, getting themselves
into a pickle with the wrong type of Thai lady or suffering from alcohol related problems, the former seems to be directing what they do.
Each to their own of course but I can’t help thinking that many that seem to come unstuck with the ladies of this enchanting land do so simply because of the inability to control their urges. A show of restraint towards ladies of a
questionable background would probably see less farang losing their life savings or even their lives. But having said that, the human mind is a complex piece of equipment and when emotional overtones are thrown into the mix, better judgment often
takes a back seat to the short term picture. I’ve talked about the mind before and of the idea that it is the ultimate controller of our decision making processes. Many throw about the idea that one should follow one's heart, but I
would argue that the idea of following one’s heart is precisely what lands many in a state of confusion and disappointment here in the LOS. Decisions based solely on how one feels – or the idea of following one's feelings –
are never good decisions; they are emotion based and lack clarity.
To be in control of your emotions doesn’t mean to say that one needs to go through life as an unfeeling automaton. Spontaneity for the moment should be embraced by all means but reasons for entering into a relationship with your teeruk
should be considered carefully and objectively. Loneliness and the need for companionship often cloud the thinking of many into believing that an ongoing liaison based on having sex is not really based on having sex; to the desperate, lust is
often seen as love. And people who claim they are in love I’ve often found are not really in love at all. They’re just in love with the idea of being in love. They eventually realise, often too late, that the things that really matter
in a relationship such as honesty and integrity aren’t really part of their teeruk's love equation.
Not that I’m free of guilt in that regard. The story of my time in this seductive land also includes a “pickle” with a demimondaine of the night. The important thing is that those who’ve been through the “bar girl done me wrong saga” learn from it and don’t repeat. Unfortunately, many often do.
The paradox for many single expats heading towards or who are already in retirement is the need for a bit of companionship without unwittingly ending up as a Thai lady's walking ATM. Ladies closer to our own age are the safer option but most also have dependents from previous liaisons in tow as well. When I see guys in their 50s pushing a pram through a shopping mall with a girl form the North-East 30 years younger hanging off their arm, I often wonder if they’ve really got a grasp of the situation they’re in? Or perhaps I’ve just become too much of a cynic? Whatever the case, the thought of raising children into my 60s or 70s, is enough to keep my amorous liaisons strictly to one night affairs with a fit, young pole swinger; condom firmly in place.
It may well be that I am destined to be a single man for the rest of my days. And it may well be that complex, and often elusive, emotion called love will not fall my way again. Perhaps, in some regards, I’ve never really experienced what people describe as true love but that’s okay because I’m now at that fortunate stage in life that I can live with myself. I understand who and what I am and don’t feel I really need to prove anything anymore. Being single in S.E. Asia has its advantages in terms of freedom of movement to get out and explore the region and I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t have been to so many of the great locations I’ve been to in the past few months if I had a teeruk hanging off my arm. No doubt they’re nice to have lying next to you in bed but I just can’t see one wading thigh deep in water through a cave or scrambling over boulders on the way up a waterfall. It’s my choice once again, and I never go out of my way to try and convince others to follow my lead. But if you’re tired of the bar scene or the monotony of city life, then go and check out those far horizons; you won’t be disappointed.
PS: I’m planning a trip up to Mae Hong Son at the end of the year – when the weather is cooler and dryer – to check out some of the longest caves in Thailand. If anyone's interested in joining me – providing that you are still reasonably fit – please contact me at the following email address. email@example.com
PPS; My latest book “The LOS Diaries – Part One” is now available online at BKK Books. This is the link if you’re interested:
I have always said that those who seem to me to be genuinely happy in life are those who are honest with, and true to themselves. You're a great example of this. Fantastic submission!