While I was in Ao Nang, Thailand, I took a day trip out by longtail boat to see Khao Ping Gan, a beautiful island in the bay, made famous in the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ as Scaramanga’s secret den. We had about 30 minutes to see the island, and so, like a well behaved tourist, I was rushing round trying to see as much as I could, and to capture the movie locations.
I found myself simply following the crowd – wandering from one spot on the beach to another – climbing a little path that led to a new vantage point and a different scene. And something inside me rebelled.
There are times when it feels right to follow the crowd – to do what everyone else is doing, to be part of the ‘gang’, to share in a common experience. It’s like that at Bangkok’s Kao San road. All the backpackers and tourists go there to eat, to catch the street entertainment.. to buy things they don’t need from street vendors, and to watch the world go by. The food is pretty safe, the menus are in English, and it all feels very comfortable. You know where you’re going, you know what to expect.
And yet there’s more fun to be had off the beaten track. There’s a whole crazy city out there. Eating food from a street vendor who speaks no English, ordering by waving and pointing, prices communicated by holding up fingers or pointing out which note you need. Wandering round the little shops that seem to sell just about everything, piled high on dusty shelves. Stumbling on a local wedding, or a group of monks at prayer.
I’ve always been one of those rebels. I’m the one who has gone off down a different track when out walking – who’s missing, exploring something different. I want to push the boundaries, to see things no-one else has seen, to go places no-one else has gone. Sure, it’s a little bit scarier. But it’s a lot more unpredictable, a lot more fun. And it yields the better stories.
So everyone takes that taxi from the airport. So no-one travels Thailand by train. Sounds like really good reasons for doing it then…
My hero of deep and meaningful rock music, Larry Norman, once wrote ‘I took the road less travelled by, and that’s made the difference every night and every day’ – and he’s right. That’s where the difference is found. For Larry, the ‘road less travelled’ was his walk as a leader of the Jesus Movement in the 60s and early 70s. For me it’s been refusing to conform to someone else’s beliefs, someone else’s rules for how I should live my life.
A very precious friend of mine, who stood by me and encouraged me when my marriage was falling apart, once sent me the following quote:
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds”. (Edward Abbey, US radical environmentalist (1927 – 1989))
..and although it’s years since I’ve seen Clare, that message has always been burned deep into my heart. I’ve sought to take the road that’s less well travelled. And that’s made me who I am. That’s fuelled my sense of adventure. Have I followed the right road all the time. I’m certain i haven’t. There have been detours, diversions, roadblocks, U-turns – I’ve been ambushed and gridlocked, I’ve spun off the road or blown a gasket. And yet it’s all been worth it – every single moment of it – for the view I have, for the sights I’ve seen, for the people I’ve me, for the adventures I’ve had. It’s been worth it for the places I have visited, for the fun I have had – and for the person I have become.
So what will you choose? Will you choose the safe path, the path that everyone else follows? A safe career, a life full of security and safety… or will you choose the path that beckons to you, the path that calls to your heart, the path that hints at adventure, at risk, a path that promises huge rewards?
Only you know – but I hope that the view beckons to you – that the adventure calls out to you… and you choose to be the person only you can be, and make the difference only you can make.