Every evening, as the sky puts on its pretty pink on, I am sitting on the terrace of my bungalow. Tonight, the sea is so calm it reflects the pretty shadow of the sky, and Shark Island looks more than ever like a precious jewel.
There is nothing like the power of the sea. Nothing that makes me feel alive like a salty wind, waving on the surface of a crystal clear water. It takes away all the troubles as it brings a powerful and renewing energy. Water is an element I can easily surrender to: floating in trust, swimming in harmony, breathing slowly, I feel at peace. Of all places, under water probably is the one relaxing me the most for I do not think about a thing and let myself float, weightless, through corals and nosy fish. I might have been floating for a good 5 minutes above that heart shaped coral today in Mango Bay before I could take my eyes off of it.
Yesterday morning, as I was walking down the rocks, about to jump into my morning swim, I met my neighbor whose daily routine consist in walking 10 kilometers, and swim about the same distance back to his place. I followed him for a bit, swimming along the rocky coast. There, shy but graceful, a baby shark, sneaking his way around other submarine lives. I figured at this exact moment that screaming a happy ‘’oh’’ under water was not a good idea. My submarine behavior training does not stop there. Later in the afternoon, chasing some more baby sharks in Shark Bay, I found myself facing a giant turtle. Peacefully having lunch, she did not move an inch when I started choking after I stupidly and contentedly smiled at her. Once I caught my breath back, I followed her, swimming back offshore. Graceful, it looked like she was flying, going up and down, playing in the waves and following the courants. Absolutely stunning. Unlike all the trash I found and picked up on my swim back to the beach.
It is unreal and upsetting to see how nature is disrespected, and misunderstood. Taking this island for example: people come and go, hundreds of them, every day. Most of them are consumers, when you would expect them to be conservators.
Observing the behavior or many people is the kind of activity that will make you lose faith in the humankind. Unless there is a real threat to our lives, we do not care; not about each other and not about anything around us. This behavior tends to radically change in the upsetting event of life threat, but other than that there hardly is any human cohesion.
In the most basic state of our human life, we respond to cultural and educational codes which taught us to be selfish and competitive. Travelling has become a trophy run: it is about checking in, selfi-ing the moment and bragging about it on social media – with the right filter. On the surface of some popular blue bay water, dozens of boats relay each other all day : hundreds of safety jackets with fins are dropped, with googles to enjoy the show but no instructions about the fragile environment they are projected into. Suffering corals become a stand for selfies, and everyday life suffocates and dies in this world of silence. Soon the happy laughs and hysterical screams come back to the surface and content faces smile at camera’s screens displaying the underwater shooting. This somehow feels like accomplishment.
We want to possess, to check in, to show the world how great we are and potentially how better our life is. We want a picture with that fish, without knowing its name. We want a piece of that coral; because it is pretty and we need to take it back home. We want to cut down that tree so we can make a table out of it and clear the view in front of our window. We want pictures of everything around, so we can show the world what we actually did not look at, and everything we are missing while looking into a camera instead of enjoying the show and feeling the nature.
We use the nature for the wrong purpose, and we think we can always make it oke. The trail is washed away by the rain? Let me make a concrete road here. When nature sends us messages, not only we ignore them but we adopt a tougher behavior to fight her reaction. This cannot last.
I walked today from Aow Leuk, in south east Koh Tao to Mango Bay, in north west. Walking up (!) hills, through the jungle, and finally down to a beautiful beach; I witnessed many human attemps to settle in nature – houses and roads in places where only trees should grow. Why is it so hard to enjoy a place wihout thinking « i want to make it mine. Let’s build a house here, there is nothing around! ».
Sure, while sitting on that huge rock on the highest peak, facing the ocean, I thought « let’s never leave ». But this is not my place, not my rock, not my land. It is my responsibility to keep it clean, and to make sure that anyone could have the thrilling experience of climbing this massive rock, and enjoy this unique spot. We must stop turning natural wonders into money machines, not everything is supposed to be efficient and interesting. Some things just are, and we have to learn to be oke with that.
Experiences should be sufficient. The need to tag, capture and possess is not only killing the essence of the moment, but more importantly the planet we live on.
I love capturing moments, I do take pictures. But not of everything, from every angle. When I find myself surrounded by anything so powerful that I surrender to it, my first instinct is not to capture it. I surrender, I let it happen. I let it get into me, into my skin, into my veins; I let it do whatever it is doing to me. I enjoy it: I breathe the air; feel the rocks, the leaves, the rain, the sweat; let the flavors and perfumes invade my full body; I hold on to a smile or a friendly hand. I let it all happen to me, from head to toes. And then, if I think about it – which happens less and less often, I take a picture of it.
But first, I let it happen. And I can not stress enough how life changing this process has been. Learning how to be a part of it all : belonging instead of owning. Respecting instead of dominating. Experiencing instead of searching more.
Finally living, instead of constantly leaving.
In that way, my travel has become a crusade. I was looking for something, for a deeper sense to life than ‘’birth, life and death’’. But it was in me all along, just buried by codes and beliefs trying to educate and shape my feelings and reactions. Being away from my social mold for a few weeks, I found out a lot more about my real needs and intentions. I have found myself in many new ways and I am pleased about all discoveries.
I am not here to possess, but to care – nothing is mine, I am a part of it all. I shall not try to dominate, but eventually to manage energies and intentions I feel around me. Competition among living creatures is a made up concept, the fight is exhausting and unnecessary. We need to re-focus.
Focus. This is what I was missing a few months ago. I could not find the time and space to think, to free up my mind and ideas, to give a place to my feelings and therefore to build anything for myself. The rhythm we live in might seem comfortable, but it is perverted and it keeps us (un)balanced between some kind of excitement / pride of social achievement – keeping us in a fake state of euphoria – and exhaustion – keeping us from thinking clearly about what we want and need. The excitement acts like a fuel, to keep the exhaustion manageable. Until, thank god it is Friday! 2 days break from modern esclavagism.
Once I got over the exhaustion and start thinking for myself, following my very own rhythm, I realized how my so called achievements were far from my interests, and values. Having free time: free to do, think and move; this is the real treasure in life. Not to be inactive, but to never lose touch with yourself.
Stepping away, just long enough to be able to re-focus. This is all I needed, and this trip is what it took. It hit me in many ways and many places. Lately, it hit me again as I was taking a Muay Thai class here in Koh Tao. Back home, I was training with the wrong intentions. I wanted to sweat out the parts of my body I was not at peace with, and I wanted to hit, aim, and fight. My lack of confidence would always keep me from being efficient in the last one, so I would end up doing pony dances and laughing my fears away.
Whatever you intend to do, if the intentions are set wrongly, the results will come poorly.
I am not scared of the ring in Koh Tao, and I enjoy every punches and kicks. I still love planking. I am having fun, finding my limits, improving my accuracy, playing with my shadow and creating combinations that actually make sense. Someone else’s punches are not a threat anymore, but an invitation to progress. I can hardly express the positivity I got out of the classes I followed the last days. It feels like I found myself physically, after working hard on meeting myself spiritually.
Being at peace with myself brought me to a better place with the world around me. I am not afraid to surrender, and I actually find happiness in being defeated for I see it as a learning opportunity. I am not exhausted, and I am not euphoric. I am in balance. And suddently, the bumpy ride is not as scary anymore.