Sometimes I wish I could be a traditional mom for my 11-year old to make life easier for him. But one of the things I am learning for myself is that we cannot change who our parents are at their core. I cannot make my Dad want to see me and spend time with me. I cannot tell my mother to keep her opinions to herself—it would simply not feel genuine to her.
I am a nomad. A free spirit. Someone who craves authenticity and honesty as my primary value. And it is only in this state that I can cultivate a substantial relationship with my son.
Wexler and I
And so because he knows me so well, in October 2017, when we were walking the Camino together in Spain, he encouraged me to travel alone for a while. His idea was for me to walk across America. He understands me. That is because I share my feelings with him.
It is my belief that if I share my feelings with him, he will not feel the shame and disappointment I felt growing up. And he will have someone to model this behavior and learn that it is okay to admit that you are struggling and it is okay to reach out for help.
And because I respect my son so much, I took him up on his suggestion. In the end I decided to go back to Thailand and just see where the wind took me.
This would be an important journey for me. I had been in relationships (married over 20 years) since I was 21 years old. I had been traveling around the world. But seldom alone. I was alone on the Camino de Santiago for a bit, at an ashram in New York— but never for an extended, undefined journey.
What would I be like alone? What would I want to do? What was my personal rhythm? This would be an inner journey.
I had booked the first night at a hostel in Chiang Mai for $4. Other than that I had no plans. I gave myself the license to do whatever I wanted. I wanted to say hello to the folks I had met at the tantra yoga retreat I had been to six months before, but assumed I would leave Chiang Mai within a few days. One week turned into two weeks. I practiced yoga, meditated, drank excellent coffee, got $6 massages nearly daily, rented a bicycle and rode around the city, ate amazing Thai food, and let the city take me in.
After two weeks I rented a motor bike, put my backpack on my back, and headed out of town to work on a farm project for a few days and then ride the 600km Mae Hong Son loop. I felt pretty powerful riding on the motorbike—the only woman riding alone from what I saw—through the countryside.
I could have gone anywhere in Asia from Thailand—extremely cheap. India, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia. But something kept me in Chiang Mai. I was not interested in a tourist journey. I just wanted to live quietly in a supportive environment to go inward.
Over the next weeks I used Chiang Mae as a hub—working on a natural building project, riding around on my bicycle and motor bike and enjoying the sweet environment around me. I bought beautiful flowing clothes, jewelry that made me feel powerful, and painted my nails red.
I met people from all over the world. And what makes Thailand different than America for me, is that many of these people were like me. Learning themselves better.
It felt natural to sign up for 23 days of silent Vipassana meditation— 2 back to back retreats. When the retreat in Thailand ended, I headed straight to the airport and flew to Myanmar for the second one. (I will write more about this in another blog post.)
My son was right. I needed that time alone. To be with myself. To get to know myself better. To be able to be a more present, compassionate, responsible, and respectful parent.
I have learned that in order to model “respect” to your children, you need to respect and be respectful to yourself.