Colleen Thornton's Blog

Travelling alone might be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Yes, it gets lonely, especially when you’re at an age seriously underrepresented in the travel world, and yes, it is sometimes scary. But loneliness and fear are a bit like mosquito bites, they affect everybody at some point but they only bother you if you give them attention.

Recently, I decided that a great way to spend each birthday is to celebrate someone I aspire to be like. Someone with magic good-person dust, willing to sprinkle it into my needy, greedy palms.

Where am I? I asked myself this a few hundred times a day as I pondered all the things I would have been doing had I not rolled up on this remote tropical island. I had fallen off the map, or it felt that way. I was in a place were clocks don’t matter because the time of day falls into two categories: before sunset and after sunset.

Are Western women easy? The answer depends on who you ask. I am a single white female (SWF) travelling in Indonesia, a country that has conservative values regarding women, so my Western perspective is biased. This musing may provoke a bit of controversy but isn’t that the best kind of reading? It’s certainly the best kind of writing.

Way out east on the South China Sea, in Hoi An, Vietnam, tucked away in a quiet corner where frangipani trees meet rice fields, is a place called Nomad Yoga. Within Nomad Yoga is a fierce little guru named Rahul.

James is an awesome guy. I met him in Wakai, one of a small group of remote islands in North Sulawesi, Indonesia called the Togian Islands. I was waiting for a boat to a smaller, even remoter island than Wakai. Turns out James was going to the same place. I asked him where he was from and he replied, “Jersey.” Weird, he didn’t sound American.

When I first moved to Indonesia I did a 100-day “happiness challenge” on Facebook. Each day I wrote a short anecdote or sentiment about something I was grateful for. Sometimes it was a bottle of wine. Other times it was a simple smile from a stranger.

I awoke as a delighted child to the sight of misty mountains and the sensation of fresh cool air on my first morning in Sapa, Vietnam. My friend and I finally made it unscathed on our second attempt to escape the 40+ heat of Ha Long Bay. I was snuggled beneath a comforter. I jumped out of bed and went exploring the town. I found a quaint place for breakfast with proper coffee and fresh juice.

I am approaching the age that my 20-year-old self used to see as some distant thing in the future that seemed impossible, like time travel, and then one day my 30-year-old self said, “well shit, if 30 years old and the Internet can happen, then 40 is looking a little more real.” But now I am approaching it with less impending doom that I expected.

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “the first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” No kidding. I’ve spent a great deal of time in South East Asia. My senses have been abused beyond what I thought possible, to the point where the sight of some things don’t affect me like they once did.

Pages