As a teenager I was obsessed with the idea of travelling. Not cruises, 5 star hotels or trips to New York though - I devoured travel literature and dreamt of turning up in strange and exotic places with just a backpack and my dreams. Bangkok, Annapurna, Kathmandu, Bhutan, Machu Picchu, Zanzibar and Mozambique were all places that haunted me. I remember sitting around a campfire at Leeds Festival age 15 listening with rapture to a couple of guys talk about backpacking around South East Asia whilst a girl with dreads laughed and called it the tourist trail and talked about overlanding in Africa. I was wildly jealous and begged my parents to let me go the following summer but was met with a sharp no.
I spent my A-level years working a bizarre array of jobs to save up for my gap year, which was spent volunteering in South America and Malawi (I taught at a school and lived in a little hut nearby where being woken up by monkeys running across the roof was the norm). Whilst at university I managed a couple of shorter trips and dreamt of working for a charity abroad and making the world a better place.
Then the reality of student debts kicked in, coupled with the horrible realisation that I wasn't really qualified to do anything terribly useful - my teenage dreams of building refugee camps were a little unrealistic to say the least. So I did the boring corporate thing for a couple of years and hated it.
Now I am working for a charity that operates in the developing world and am off to Bangkok today to run a capacity building workshop. I'm struggling a little with the concepts of staying in a hotel, airport transfers, travelling with a case and packing suits. I mean what's that all about? I remember arriving in Bangkok four years ago in my second year of university and filled with excitement. I was meeting a friend who'd been working in Australia and who wouldn't arrive for a couple of days and flew in on the red eye, arriving early in the morning. I battled my way past the touts offering taxis and air conditioned mini buses and caught a packed local bus, got off at the wrong place but finally found my way to Khao San Road, which had been somewhere of mythical acclaim to my teenage self.
It was quiet - nothing much is happening at 7am and I remember being a little disappointed - it was all rather touristy but spending twenty minutes arguing with someone and finally taking a room in a bog standard hostel. I slept for about an hour then was off exploring. The photo above is one of my favourite 'me' photos. We were only in Thailand for a couple of days (too touristy) then headed off to Vietnam.
So it's strange to be going back in a 'business' capacity. However, what I'm doing is really valuable - these days international development has accepted that actually the locals are far more qualified to build their schools and clinics than we are and charities focus on skills training and capacity building - which is what I'm off to do. I'm still packing my flipflops and thai pants though and hoping I'll escape for a few hours at some point. Apparently there is a phallic temple - I'll try to get pictures.
Sorry that this post hasn't been about spanking at all but I will have lots of time in hotel rooms and airport lounges to muse on that. :) But you may not hear too much from me for a day or two!