Salmon Surfing Rocks Chapter 2

 

The beach this morning was very quiet. It was a cool grey morning and I was walking at a similar time to normal. The tide was higher than it had been on previous mornings and there was less compacted easy sand available to walk on.

I am a creature that used to work best, with a relatively set, yet flexible routine,  but this morning, nature reminded me that the universe doesn’t work to my schedule.

 

Tides have ebb and flow, higher some days than others and waves oscillate and resonate just as waves should. Waves have highs and lows……that is life, that is balance.

 

Money and Financial Rocks

This is probably the biggest rock at the start of your journey. It might be your biggest excuse for not making change with an attack of the “What ifs”.

So ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen? For me, it was being in the same situation in 5 years time with regrets that I hadn't change things. And believe me I have seen this happen.

Money is a tool. It is not success, and it cannot buy you happiness. It can be USED to make choices. Money is useless and of no real value if it is “tied up”

Like a hammer, a tool, money can be USED wisely to build things but only when it is moving , or unwisely causing damage .

A hammer sitting in a tool box or locked cabinet  has no value.

 

What is important when changing direction is CASH FLOW. So whatever your situation you will need to plan your cash flow situation carefully.

 

When I turned to go with the flow I had decided to give up my job and sell my business. Effectively I had no income but I had a little bit (and I stress “little bit”) of capital, about 4-6 months worth of income, to see me through the changes. I also had a little bit of “savings and investment” emergency funds to fall back on if things didn’t work out longer term . I didn’t have equity in a house to help either or property I could rent out.

So I had to lease a flat paying up front for 6 months because I didn’t have a job and begin my journey.

I had decided to travel and give myself some space and had also wanted to “give something back” doing charity work or volunteering. That year was the year the tsunami hit Thailand. Signing up with an NGO which I found online, then six weeks to have all the injections, I was ready with my booked flight to Bangkok.  

So began an adventure with amazing highs and lows. Lots of life lessons, and experiences that even now are beyond incredible.

 

The Thailand Tsunami hit December 26th 2004. It was caused by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean and thought to have the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.

230,00 people lost their lives.

 

I flew out to Bangkok from the UK in mid February with the anticipation of being met by one of the organizers from the NGO and then taken to the destination where my help was needed. On arrival after a long flight the reality was very different. There was no-one there to meet me, so I waited hot and sweaty in the arrivals wondering what to do. My phone wouldn’t work in the airport so I couldn’t phone anybody, and I didn’t have an address to go to. Thinking back alarm bells were ringing before I had started my journey but I had chosen to ignore them after all I had emailed confirmation of things so what could possibly go wrong? It was an NGO after all.  Deep down I had resigned myself to the worst case scenario of being scammed and having to sort myself out anyway.

I was on the point of getting a taxi into downtown Bangkok and booking myself into a hotel for the night when I saw a flustered and sweaty lady pounding up the arrivals. She was on her phone speaking in a demonstrative agitated way. She had a roughly written sign with my name on it, which she was waving while loudly attracting attention to herself .  I actually did question whether to make myself known to her or whether to stay silent and sneak off to the hotel. But my concience got the better of me and I WAS here to volunteer so drawing a deep breath I marched up to her and introduced myself. She acknowledged me whilst saying into her phone “I’ve got one of them. When did you say the others were getting in?”   

So began the adventure!! We waited another hour for another plane or two of eager volunteers to arrive. By the time we were assembled there were 3 of us, with another one of uncertain arrival, a doctor from New Zealand, dentist, nurse from America and the other one was also a nurse. The Doctor had bought 3 or four suitcases of drugs and emergency aids.

We were bundled into an SUV and taken to a flat in the centre of Bangkok.

We were told our accommodation, ie on the floor would be 300 baht per night and were told where we could get a meal and supplies. Water was provided.

It turned out the NGO was in the process of falling apart and splitting up, and was now being run by 2 ladies who were really not running a proper organization at all. It turned out that although we had been told that there were projects for us to be assigned to, in the areas worst affected by the tsunami, there was nothing formerly organized. We were holed up ,waiting in the apartment for nearly a week before news came through that a contact in the Thai Red Cross had things going on in Khao Lak, where medicals could help.

By this time there were about six of us, frustrated and rather angry that so much precious time had been wasted already. We took a bus to Phuket from where we were supposed to have been picked up. It was late when we arrived so we had to find accommodation for that night and I will never forget the shock of the cockroaches and foot plate toilets and smell of that accommodation.

The following morning we at least could have a cold shower and then meet for breakfast at the café next door. Our phones were now working having swapped the sim cards in Bangkok so we phoned to check that our transport onward had been arranged. Thankfully it had, and we were able to proceed up the coast to Khao Lak.

When we arrived we were taken to a house, which had been given over to volunteer occupation by the owners following the tsunami. It was all a bit surreal. The floor upstairs and downstairs was a mass of sleeping bags and kit. There much have been about 50 volunteers camping there with the family in amongst it all.  There was one toilet and one bathroom.

Later in the afternoon we had a visit from the head of the local Thai Red Cross. He was very smart in his uniform and almost seemed military minded. We were given red arm bands to wear to distinguish us from other volunteers ( American churches etc) and were put into teams and given projects to work on.

These included building sustainable inland catfish farms, that locals could build for themselves in their own “back yards” , rebuilding school building and setting up a baby clinic in one of the “camps” that had been set up and built by the Thai Government, in response to those that had lost their homes in the tsunami . These were good and very well run. We also helped to distribute the donated items such as nappies and I became responsible for an inter-camp nappy delivery service. We also went to schools to give some education.

Interesting relationships formed and the teams ticked along, fell apart, changed and ticked along again, due to the many individual characters that had been attracted to volunteering. Egos were not a good thing.

The doctor and I moved out of the house and found ourselvesvery cheap room to share in one of the hotels on the worst affected beach. She was from Dunedin New Zealand and was a similar age and temperament to me.

The hotel was on the edge of the destruction zone and had somehow missed out on being totally destroyed. It was only one of two to remain standing. The rest of the beach looked like a war zone. It was breathtakingly horrific. Houses were destroyed, half collapsed and sticking out of the sand at peculiar angles. Debris of shoes, clothes and belongings strewn around. It was as if a bomb had gone off.

The stories told by the locals were equally horrific and haunting. They describes the aftermath in the the days after as eiry…….I deafening silence on the beach except for the cries of a few buried survivors which sadly became less and less over time untilthe silence was uninterrupted.

A lot of the locals wouldn’t go to the beach where we were staying, calling it haunted and a beach of ghosts. I could understand why.

But this beach of Ghosts was where one of the most magically beautiful and spectacular events I have ever had the priveledge to be part of took place.

Out in the bay of Khao Lak there was an out crop of ROCKS. It wasn’t far off the shore and you could just wade out to them and watch the moon come up from behind the forest on the hill which overlooked the bay.

One particular night we there was a buzz of excitement, and we were told that there was going to be a ceremony of 1000 candles on the beach and that a 103 year old buddhist monk from Burma was coming to do the ceremony with his 30 or 40 “nuns”. As the beach was still considered to be haunted by the lost souls not many of the locals would go and it ended up with about 40 or so volunteers attending lighting the 1000 candles on the beach.

When the monk arrived he blessed the beach and was carried out to the rocks by the most “robust” of his nuns.

About 20 of us were invited to sit with him on the rocks as he performed the ceremony.

I will describe the magic. 1000 candles lit all the way along the beach. The sea was still and calm, no breeze tonight, the light beginning to fade as the sun began to go down. We were looking to the land to watch for the bright, clear and full moon ascend above the forest. Behind us the sun slowly descended to a beautiful sunset and all was serene and peaceful.

When the moon had risen, the ceremony began, chanting , singing and praying punctuated by the tinkle of tiny cymbals and the odd bong of a gong. It went on for quite a while, past midnight I think, after which the monk thanked us for being there and was carried back to the beach. We all got wet striding back through the water but it all felt very cleansing and spiritual. 

It was also in Thailand that I experienced extreme kindness from people who literally had nothing, yet would gladly give you what you needed with a smile and a bow. That selflessness in the face of adversity was a life lesson to me and was a strong and very positive message I learned from that experience.

I did all this on very little money but the experiences were priceless.

 

Have you ever heard someone say “when I retire I’m going to buy a boat and sail round the world”?

Well, I didn’t want to wait until I might be able to retire, hoping I might be well enough and fit enough to be able to cope with the demands anyway. So I had to look for opportunities that were inexpensive and appropriate, and for me, ticked the box.   

 

I was looking at doing a “round the world backwards” Challenge, Global Challenge I think it was, but by the time I made enquiries they were, unfortunately not in business. But on making those enquiries I was told to go and investigate “The Arc” .This is an amature sailing race across the Pacific to the Caribean for the winter, and back to the Mediterranean for the summer. Boats of any size can enter and there are always boats looking for crew. I had limited sailing experience but was willing to do courses to improve them. I eventually got a crew position on a lovely boat for a fairly short leg of the journey back to the UK. I had to cover my expenses and that was all, but had to be very flexible about the actual dates to sail. Perfect!

I joined the boat in the Azores where the existing crew were recuperating and maintenance of the boat was taking place. I was the only female in a crew of 5. We had a rota for jobs, and I was treated like one of the boys, except for my extraordinary cooking skills, which was fine, as, if I cooked , I didn’t have to wash up!

 

We set sail after a few days of being shore -bound due to stormy weather. It was exciting heading off into the open ocean. Our watches were 4 hours on, and four hours off, in a rota system.

We were very lucky and had great weather. Mostly a good breeze for sailing and very little rain. At some points we were even becalmed, the sea looking like a beautiful big mirror.

I got to see dolphins swimming alongside the bow, a pilot whale, a huge jelly fish or two, and one of the most memorable things was the phosphoresence at night. This was algae in the water which glowed with movement, and made for a spectacular glittering light show accompanying the moving boat. That, along with a perfectly clear star-lit night made for a very romantic setting.

I met my husband on that trip, and I still remember one particular night under the stars. Nothing happened between us right then, but it was the most romantic setting a future couple could hope to experience. It was real “Owl and the Pussy Cat” ( which, incidently, we had as an informal wedding theme later on!)

 

When we got back to the UK, it just happened to be the day of the Trafalgar 200 celebrations, and we found ourselves sailing up the Solent with hundreds of other boats. The shores were packed with people looking out. The Queen was there on her yacht, and many warships from the Royal Navy. It was an incredible feeling being a part of such a spectacular event, being included really quite by accident!

 

A great sadness on that trip was when I found out that a friend and colleague of mine had taken her own life whilst I was away sailing. She had been a sailor herself, and we had been on cross Channel journeys together. She had been kind enough to lend me her wet weather gear for my trip. She was my age now when she died, and very beautiful inside and out. She was having a difficult time, but never talked about it. Always missed.

So that is two of the adventures I had on very little money. More are coming. They won’t be in chronological order but will illustrate a point I’m trying to make.

 

Not having money makes you more creative, more grateful, and less cluttered up with unnecessary things. It also makes you more focused on what is really important and able to appreciate every little win more. Changing direction with lots of money wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun or challenging. I wouldn’t have learnt so much or lost my fear, so for me it was the best way. I had to be strong, fearless, determined, independent and positive.

 

I have had the family excuse put to me, “I can’t afford to do that as I have a family to look after” Yes, and I empathize, but isn’t your family a great reason for you to change and be the best you can be? For their sake? How would they feel if you USED them as an excuse not to try to make things better? Just a thought…….can you afford not to?

 

The biggest killer of dreams is unnecessary debt. If you can minimise, get rid of debt or manage debt positively like a reasonable mortgage, you really should go for it if you want to change things. You only have this moment to live, make the most of it.  

 

CHAPTER 3  More Money and Financial Rocks

 

 

 

Available next Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

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