Errol of Judgement
I have always been a fan of Hollywood star Errol Flynn. In my early 20s, I led myself to believe that the way Flynn lived set the standard for a man. Imprudent, hedonistic, happy, lively and free. Of course, by the time I read his autobiography at age 30, I realised that he was a rare fellow; hardly anyone is ever blessed with looks, height and spirit in his godly measure. I had also matured enough to know that hard living on the Errol scale sends men to early graves. Thus, I abandoned my impossible idea of emulating the great Tasmanian and settled into my profession. Still, I made a mistake. I should have abandoned Australia in the late ’90s. I know that now.
And it was not as if I had been denied a glimpse of paradise! My first trip to South-East Asia was a jaunt to Bali for 10 days with a mate of mine who surfed. I was 1997 and I was 27. The Aussie dollar, once exchanged, yielded fat, jolly wads of rupiah. So, we were young lads, letting our hair down in Kuta and Sanur and Ubud and everywhere on the island. Bintang…the Sari Club…surfing…’jiggy-jig’…cocktails at midnight with cute local ladies in tow. Complete hedonism. Good-hearted fun. Yes, we were acting like what you would call two-week millionaires, but we didn’t know or care. It all seemed so new.
The return to Australia was my fatal error…a killer. Things were changing; political correctness was creeping into the culture, women were becoming less feminine and the cost of living in capital cities was rocketing. Despite earning a professional salary, it seemed that I was not living as well or having as much fun as I was when I was a student working 3 days a week and driving an old Renault. How does this happen?
In hindsight, I should have lived cheaply, saved for a year and a half and set upon Asia like a ravenous young tiger in 1999. As I have since learned, Thailand at that time was a paradise for Westerners. Why oh why didn’t I throw my profession aside and work my way around Asia? Why did I miss the boat? Two words: naïve commitment.
I ended up in a de facto marriage, which ended badly. The years rolled by and my youth did, too. I remember suggesting to my girlfriend in 2002 that we should take a trip to Thailand. She – who had been there about the time that I had been to Bali – said that it was not her cup of tea. She made sure to tell me about the rubbish, the flies, children pissing on the street, ‘bad’ food…she really put the knife in.
Sad to say, I was temporarily duped by her mendacious ruse. Of course, we all understand why she delivered such an effective verbal hit-piece on the Land of Smiles. Deep down, she must have known that if we ever went to Bangkok, I would have abandoned her at the airport on the way home.
(“Sorry darling, but I’m moving in with Nit, the girl from the restaurant. I am changing my life, wholesale. So long. At least you’ll have extra room on the plane….”)
Long story short, she did a number on me and I also did a number on myself for putting up with her all those years. In 2012, we split.
Which was great, because I discovered Stickman’s site around that time… the internet had exposed all!…and Thailand was calling.
I armed myself with as much knowledge as I could and flew to Chiang Mai in September 2012 for a month. It changed me like a car crash.
Year on year, my trip count has grown, the sweet sanuk memories of Bangkok, Sukhothai, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and the islands have made balm for the mind of a 40-something man with little to lose.
But now, I feel a change in me and a change in my favourite destination. Eight visits in, I still look forward to my next trip, but it might be my last for some time. I have yet to see Cambodia and Burma. My interests are less nocturnal. And the exchange rate is like a sad fog, thickening.
I now know (like so many others) that I made an error of judgement in not abandoning all ties and exploring South-East Asia 20 years ago, when it was ripe. We can get more money, but we cannot get back our younger selves. And we cannot make a whole nation relatively innocent again. Technology will not unwind a bit, just for us.
I should have…should have…yeah, too late, sport.
I believe that a man under the age of 30 should always seek adventure and pleasure above all else. You will never be as lively. Also, the opinion I have now is that the world is getting more tarnished each year. The world that Trink knew is not our world, and the world that we have enjoyed will not be the world for young men in the next 10 years even, if trends continue. There will, of course, always be fun, but things will not be as we would wish them.
The world is now one big, messy, dopamine-driven, non-geographic lump of interconnected data – and it holds few secrets.
I drink Singha Light and watch the Thai bar girls of 2019…the new breed, the girls with tattoos, the girls with phones. They have the world in their slender but coarse fingers.
And they are glued.
The latter part of this article where you describe the wind of change and how things just aren’t the way they were is oh so true. Thailand used to be everything you describe and more – and I count myself lucky to have been there then. If Thailand was still the same happy-go-lucky, carefree place I first moved to in the ’90s, I’d never have left.