Tuesday 24 December 2013

Living the gypsy lifestyle

I've been thinking about the difference between "staying" somewhere, and "living"- is it just a matter of time? You stay in a place for two weeks, live there for two years. Lately I've been feeling that the time is irrelevant, at least for me, in my current circumstances. Not having a home right now, I seem to make a home out of wherever I sleep (except for planes, of course).

Writing - about Africa
- in Thailand
Since moving out and dropping out in July I've had four places I've called home. First, there was Michi Retreat, the artists' colony in Ubud - no artists in residence when I was there, for all of August, unless you count the eccentric professor who owns the place and understands what it is to be a nomad: he lived in hotels for 30 years before moving to Bali decades ago. 

Back in Sydney again, I lived in a small hotel too - in my hometown. My room at Manly Lodge was like a small apartment and had everything I needed - it was a short walk to the beach, and everything else, there was a place to keep my surfboard, the staff were super friendly (thanks, Jeff and Vincent, I've forgotten how to say "thank you" in Cantonese). 

I even reviewed it for The Sydney Morning Herald, as if I'd stayed there a weekend - in fact, I stayed there six weekends (and the weeks in between). I had a routine: surfing or swimming every morning, writing and checking emails in the cafe downstairs, walking to friends' houses nearby. Leaving it a few weeks ago was almost like leaving home all over again. 

My hammock, my home
My latest home-on-the-road was a small cottage at Blue Lagoon on the Thai island of Koh Chang. It was Walden (with apologies to Henry Thoreau) by the beach, one of the most adorable places I've ever stayed and the epitome of simplicity - just a bed with a mauve mosquito net and a light blanket, shelves to put my things on, a bathroom, a verandah with a wicker hammock and folding French doors that opened up one whole wall of the place. 

It, too, felt like home for the two weeks I had there. Maybe because I was working rather than holidaying or sightseeing (though the days were so long I did manage to read two novels, do some kayaking, and swam and did yoga every morning on the beach). 

Walden by the beach
And it's run sustainably (by a French-Thai cooperative), that's important for a home-that's-not-quite-home: fresh drinking water on tap (no need to buy water in nasty plastic bottles), a permaculture garden, chickens that eat the kitchen scraps (there's also a compost for restaurant leftovers). They also make their own biodegradable soap, detergent, mosquito repellent and, coming soon, shampoo. I've posted more pics on the No Impact Girl facebook page.

Now I am in Luang Prabang, Laos, listening to Christmas carols in a cafe that sells French pastries as monks in bright orange robes walk by and I look out on the Nam Khan, a tributary of the Mekong River. (The Lao people don't celebrate Christmas, of course, but wherever there are tourists, it seems, there is tinsel.) 

Beach sunset love, from Koh Chang
It's probably the prettiest town in South East Asia with its French colonial buildings and traditional wooden Lao houses. I'm looking forward to exploring. I don't even have any pictures yet because I arrived last night and it was foggy (and cold!) all morning and the sun has only just come out. 

So until next time, happy Lao Christmas, everyone. May the gypsy spirit be with you all.

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