Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Yes, you have heard it before...the universal principle that applies directly to success, whether it be business or personal satisfaction, is primo location. And I've picked a good one. THAILAND!!

Most specifically, northern Thailand. The city of Chiang Mai!

Often referred to as the "Rose of the North," Thailand's second city, Chiang Mai dates back to the days of King Mengrai in the 13th century.

Nestled in a valley 310 meters above sea level, Chiang Mai is 700 km. north of Bangkok and has a cooler, drier climate than many other parts of Thailand. Situated on the Pin river with the old city contained within a water filled moat, one can still see large portions of the reconstructed wall of the old Lanna culture in place.

Home to 300 temples, the picturesque Lanna tiered roof architecture that is so widely associated with Thailand, dominates the landscape. Known throughout southeast Asia for the wide variety of Hill tribes living in the region, it is popular for the trekking excursions to visit the various tribes.

Twenty years had passed since I last visited Chiang Mai in 1981 en route to India. In the interim some good friends of mine from my years in Africa had retired and settled there. I decided I would go visit them, then travel through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia--three countries that were not open for solo travel when I was last in the region.

I spent ten months traveling in the region that trip; a large segment of it in Chiang Mai. Some things I discovered during that time.

1) All the hype about dental and medical care in Thailand is true. Rock bottom cost for first rate quality.

2) Cost of living vs. quality of life are astoundingly attractive. It's your basic "More Bang 4 the $$, or should I say baht?"

3) Travel options in and out of Thailand worldwide are both cheaper and more plentiful than anywhere else on the planet. This is a biggie for a travel addicted soul like me.

Add to those three solid positives a delightful warm climate and in short, we have a comfortable place to be where I can save money, have a good life and still travel. What's there not to like? Compelling reasons to strongly consider spending extended periods in the "Land of Smiles."

So here I am, nearly a decade later, calling Chiang Mai home. The juggling cycle has been reduced to a simple 1-2. I spend 4-6 months "On The Move" and 6-8 months in Chiang Mai Mode.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tween Trip Terrain

It is rare for this Cat to be truly still. When not on the road, often planning for the next journey. Travel addicted souls do thrive on the movement itself, but just thinking about where to go can get one through a physically static period.

No secret to those who know me, that throughout my life travel has played a major role. Ever since my 1st international solo trip from 1966-68. The bug took hold and I became obsessed with exploring this planet we call earth--the nooks, crannies and private corners that make it so fascinating and overwhelmingly awesome.

How to do this became a game of sorts. Time to put together a mosaic that would work for me. What evolved was a life-cycle juggling act between educational basic requirements, work diversions to fulfill budget needs and ultimately my traveling ambitions.

Just to complicate things a bit, I wasn't satisfied with a traditional 2-3 week package blitz that some delusional people call travel. I eschew the practice of running around from place to place on someone else's schedule. I want to do more than just observe the world; I want to understand. That takes more time and personal involvement but reaps untold rewards.

When I had to work sometimes 2-3 years to save the money for a journey, I indulged in long trips of between 1-2 years. It is true that the longer you travel the less it actually costs. Time indeed does become money.

Now in my retirement the juggling act no longer plays a role. I don't have to stop for work anymore. I simply have to stop to readjust the budget from time to time. So the key at this stage in my life is to settle down somewhere kind on both the budget and the soul. Thailand is a great place for that.

So now I lay low in Chiang Mai, Thailand and travel in half-year stretches. I can feed my addiction and go easy on my pocketbook all at the same time.

Still the question is...

Just what do grounded nomads do between trips?

Tune in & Find out!! Still Life With Cat!!