You wake up each morning and start your day like any other. You fall asleep at night and assume it'll repeat tomorrow, and then the day after that, too. You hate to think of the worst that could happen. But don't delude yourself into thinking that this is forever. Tragedy can always strike. What are you waiting for? Why are you procrastinating your own life?
It’s now past the one-month mark and I’m still in Cambodia. My visa here was only for 30 days, and the last stop I made with my travel partner was to a place called Lonely Beach on the island of Koh Rong. We stayed as guests for three nights and realized that we weren’t ready to rush onto our next destinations, especially given the tranquil vibes of the place. I wrote earlier about the need to move slowly and stop backpacking from time to time, but this will be the longest I’ve slowed down in one place since I volunteered back in Bali last September.
We asked the owners of the eco-resort if they were looking for help, and they said they could use both of us. So the plan now is to work here for the next month learning about the ins and outs of the restaurant and beach bar, while bringing our ideas to the large property and private beach that they own.
Lonely Beach is only accessible by taking a 3-hour private boat. There’s no other way to the eco-resort, and no neighbouring stores or people at all. The pacing of life is slow here. Hammocks line the beautiful beach while crabs crawl in solitude digging deep holes for themselves.
The other day after serving a few tables for lunch, I headed out for an afternoon swim. I floated on my back for about ten minutes with my eyes closed, embracing the warmth and quiet of the sea. When I opened my eyes and scanned the beach in the distance, I couldn’t see a single person anywhere.
At times this place feels like an undiscovered island that I have all to myself. But it’s moments like this when I most realize that I’m lucky to be in this tropical place, and how I’m lucky to be on such an incredible journey- but that this life is also fragile and the future is not guaranteed.
How do we deal with thoughts like these? If we live our whole lives in fear of the dangers lurking in the shadows, then we’ll never step outside of our comfort zones.
First, we need to come to terms with the fact that death is inevitable for all of us. Once we stop suppressing this thought, or living in fear of it, we can be at peace with our being and start living our lives fully and mindfully, knowing that the end date is irrelevant. A wholehearted living in the present is what we need to focus on, but we can't be ignorant about the future.
What do we leave this world with in a century after we've died? It isn't the clothes we bought or the possessions we owned. It'll be about the action you've taken.
"When we die, the only things that continue us are our thoughts, words, and actions-- that is, our karma ... All the thoughts you have thought, all the words you have spoken, all the actions you have done with your body -- these are your karma that follows and continues you. Everything else you leave behind."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
A perfect example is with one of the guests staying here recently. She was a friendly Canadian, travelling solo, and appreciating the beauty of the island. I told her that one of the absolute highlights here was swimming at night with the glowing, bioluminescent plankton. I retold her the story of my first encounter with them the night before.
You can only spot the plankton in their natural, beautiful wonder, if you head outside when it’s perfectly dark. You have to avoid any artificial lights (luckily there aren’t many lights at the shore since everything is run on solar power, which is limited in the evening). You should find the time of day when the sun has set but the moon is hidden. From there, you have the perfect dark conditions to see the beauty of the glowing plankton.
The only trouble was that the polite Canadian girl was afraid of open water. Her only swimming experience was in shallow pools. She smiled at me and told me the experience would probably be nice, but that she wasn’t feeling so comfortable about the darkness and the water. I had to tell her more about the beauty of the plankton- this wasn’t something she should miss after coming so far.
As you swim in the darkness, further from the shore, you start to see the glow. If you stay perfectly still you might see only a slight shimmer around you, perhaps the reflection of the bright stars in the sky. But when you move your arms and legs you see the glow around them. The plankton are everywhere, and they illuminate your body entirely as you swim and play like a child in the water. You’re guaranteed to marvel at the experience -- I can’t think of many other natural wonders that provide this much experiential, dreamlike beauty.
To think that she might have missed this experience because of her fear. Had she not pushed her limits and explored the darkness of the sea, she’s have missed out on this natural phenomena. We looked for her in the evening to have her join us, but couldn’t find her. The next day I heard her telling another guest about the magical experience and how she pushed herself out at 10pm, and I couldn’t help but smile. This is the strength that so many travellers have within them. This boldness that pushes us out into the unknown to explore land, but also our limits and souls.
Tomorrow is not guaranteed. The girl could have read a book in her bungalow from the shore that night, a fine choice, but instead she got her swimming suit on and waded in the waters of paradise - a far livelier choice. Trust your instincts. Know when something seems too dangerous and take it only to your edge, but know when your mind is talking you out of living because of sheer laziness and fear. The choice is yours.
You can read this as mere inspiration, or you can act and take one step now in the direction of your dreams
When will you start taking steps?