21 July 2017

An Experience Shared by All

Last year I wrote a blog questioning peoples’ motives for travel and my own disdain for the word “tourist”. Originally, I wanted to title the post ‘Why I hate travelling alone’ but divulged into a pretentious post about tourism. Read it here.

I have never truly enjoyed travelling alone, hence why in the past I sought out volunteering organisations and made my way around the world. But for a long time, I wasn't able to place my finger on why. It was only recently upon watching one of 'School of Life's' incredible videos, where I realised it is related to our inability to convey the particularities of our emotions related to the experience in great detail to each other.
Arguably, it is much more pleasurable when you can enjoy the moment with someone else rather than in isolation. The reason being, that on your own you experience the event and simply move on. Sure you can savour and appreciate the moment, but moments are always fleeting. As described in the video, we attempt to translate our experience in words but it rarely does it any justice.

Hence why people are always too happy to bombard your feed with pictures of them at the beach or doing something adventurous. With the impact of social media and pocket sized cameras we try and share these experiences with everyone but it simply doesn't have the same profound impact.
We are only truly able to experience the same thing when we are there with someone. When it comes to choosing that person, heed Hemingway's words, 'never go on trips with anyone you don’t love.’

On that note, as I finish up my contract with the hospital next month, there will be some shared experiences coming soon.
Photos from a recent stay in an Ecolodge and trek in a Hmong village.

Luke T.

3 June 2017

Existentialism and Modern Life

With the recent accident rendering me incapacitated and homebound I spent a lot of my free time reading. Before falling into the trap of overestimating my reading ability and ordering a number of new books from Amazon marketplace, which, inevitably sit collecting dust on the shelf only to be picked up when the next accident occurs, I selected a few books from my tiny collection to finish. After finally completing my year-long journey of reading Fitzgerald’s’ ‘The Great Gatsby’ (I don’t read nearly enough) and Wilde’s ’The Importance of being Earnest’, I decided to reread ‘The Outsider/Stranger’ by Albert Camus, an author who has always intrigued me but never fully appreciated until now. I implore anyone who has the slightest interest in social commentary to read 'The Outsider/Stranger'. Although written over 70 years ago the novel is still as poignant and relevant to today's society.

This then led me down the deep rabbit hole of exploring philosophy and existentialism, focusing primarily on Camus and Montaigne, who largely lean towards the Absurdist school of thought. In short, Absurdists proclaim that the pursuit of understanding our existence is futile as the answer is unreachable and unprovable, rather, it is better to live the life you're given in the present and to the fullest.
While one can see this notion as being extremely attractive and liberating, living out one's desires with full disregard of the impending notion of death, one thing I would argue they neglect is the importance of the other.

In this modern time, it has never been easier to escape from others and live in our own worlds', fixated on what could be considered 'time-wasting activities', social media, computer games, apps, TV, Youtube. An absurdist would simply argue 'who cares?' Part of the absurdist notion is that no one can determine what the right or wrong way to live life is, not psychologists, politicians or society. Nevertheless, the notion of achieving and protecting happiness is an evolutionary trait in all of us.

Yet, in this new interconnected world where travel and communication have never been easier, everyone contains the power to bring this happiness to others. How you go about and to what extent you utilise this power will always be down to the individual. However, the first step will always be to commit the ultimate sacrifice of stepping away from our own worlds. While at first, that may seem difficult for many, you shouldn't underestimate the power of out of sight out of mind. It's surprising how less likely you are to check your social feed or play that game for 'just five minutes' when it's just a little bit more out of reach.

So delete that app, hide the bookmark toolbar, unsubscribe from that mailing list, turn off the notifications (all things I've done recently) and start living aware.

Luke T.

7 March 2017

Turn and Face the Strange

It’s been awhile since I have written frequent new entries to this blog, largely due to being busy in my new role at LFHC, and the minor incident leaving me with one hand incapacitated, but also because I’ve decided I want to change up how the blog is currently being used.

I've stated before that this blog was started purely as a way to relay stories of my travels to friends, family and those who donated towards my fundraising campaign. This blog will still be doing that but with a much more personal take to it.

Regardless of the content itself, it will never be impactful if it is only ever written haphazardly. In all of my writing I have always been very matter of fact, which, admittedly, doesn’t always make for compelling reading.
Creativity has always been something I have struggled with, possibly a result of too many video games and TV during my formative years.

On a number of occasions, I have relied on my photography to help guide the reader through my posts, allowing me to be a little lazy with the story telling. However, I now plan on ("plan" being the key-word) investing more time into my writing so I can create something that I am proud of. 

This does not mean that I wish to paint a false reality of life, something which social media allows us to do so easily. On the contrary, I want the blog to be even more honest and earnest.
I want to be able to look back at this blog in years to come not just to reminisce about the past (which may help with my memory problems) but to also understand my thoughts and feelings at the time, and to selfishly track my writing skills.

It will probably begin with a rocky start as I experiment with different writing styles, but like George Bernard Shaw once said, "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

(See, already an over one-hundred-year-old thought-provoking quote, a staple to any half-decent tryhard blog).

Luke T.

24 February 2017

Not Your Usual Sunday

Last Sunday went from being one of the most fun days I have had for quite some time to the second most painful experience I have ever endured.

With one more lesson left to plan for next week's set of English classes I woke up late, had some breakfast, procrastinated on the internet and then headed over to a colleague's house for an arranged picnic along the Nam Khan River. 
Being only one of two "Farlang" (foreigners) in the group I wasn't quite sure what was appropriate to bring along to a Lao Picnic. In true British standard, I thought why not crisps, a staple to any decent British picnic. I didn’t want to disappoint so I went all out and purchased two, yes two, cans of Pringles (Texas BBQ and Hot & Spicy for those interested)!
Once we arrived at the picnic grounds, located near the grave of French explorer Henri Mahout, known famously for making the West aware of Angkor and Laos, we were surrounded by rushing waters and luscious greenery. 
After eating all of the delicious Lao food and the much-appreciated cans of Pringles, some of us decided to swim to a small pocket of land in the middle of the Nam Khan River. Pictures do not do justice for the sheer strength of the river’s current. We clambered along the river bank against the current until we found a safe place with enough distance to make it across to the small island while swimming against the current, it was exhilarating. We adventure around the island for some time, exploring and swimming and we made it back slightly battered, bruised and me bleeding and missing half of a toenail after stubbing it on a rock, however, it was all worth it.
As we parted ways I cycled back to my guesthouse, quickly showered and prepared for my weekly Lao lesson with Peak. One of my regrets from last year was not being able to understand more Lao, after spending an entire year in Luang Prabang. Since returning I have been having regular classes and have been attempting to use it as much as possible.
After the lesson we set off to get some food, Peak on a motorbike, myself on a bicycle, at a slow pace still chatting and practising my Lao. In a spurt of hunger, I decided to cycle a little faster. I felt the recently attached plaster on my toe missing it’s nail come loose so I quickly glanced down to make sure it was okay. Upon looking up I was met with the fast approaching image of a suddenly braking motorbike which I collided with. 

It must have been an incredible sight to witness as I successfully cleared the entire length of the motorbike and unfortunately landed on my left wrist and skidded along the ground ending up lying on my back. After checking that the motorbike owners were ok (later finding out that he was drunk and drove away), the adrenaline wore off I knew immediately that something was not right. Luckily, Peak and I went straight to the hospital and I was able to get looked at promptly.

The X-rays show that I have broken and severely damaged my left wrist and that I require surgery. I was informed by my travel insurance that I must return to the UK for said surgery and the events that followed between then and now are rather dull and mundane.

I am now sat at home in the U.K. after an extremely uncomfortable twenty hour plus journey home, with my hand in a cast and a crudely drawn arrow on my elbow pointing towards my left wrist, just in case the surgeons don’t read the medical notes properly. Each morning I have to starve myself and wait for a phone call to tell me whether the surgery will happen today. So now all I have to do is play the waiting game.

Last Sunday was certainly an interesting day.

Luke T.

28 January 2017

Returning to Laos

I returned to Laos two weeks ago to begin my new job at LFHC. Upon returning I was eager to see familiar faces, specifically those of my students. It just so happens that the yearly seven-day meditation retreat ‘Vipassana Kammatthana’ was underway at Wat Phoukhuay. It was the perfect opportunity to see most of  my Buddhist Monk students in one place. Last year I wrote all about Vipassana, read about it here
Like last year, I sheepishly stayed near the back taking photos as to not disturb their meditation and chanting. During a short break, I was able to reunite with a number of my students and they kindly showed me around the temple grounds and the various clusters of tents, where they would be sleeping for seven days.

While talking to my students I was approached by a Monk, who upon noticing my camera, asked if he could see my photos as he forgot to bring his. He introduced himself as Sathou Keonoi from Vientiane and explained that he works alongside others to help plan the Vipassana program. After sharing my photographs and film with him he then encouraged me to take as many pictures as I wanted and from any angle. 
Having this permission was a great honour and I was able to capture some incredible images and film of the 450 Novices and Monks chanting in unison, an opportunity not many foreigners have. 
It was a fantastic reintroduction back into the Lao culture and the perfect ending to a rather stressful first week of work. Sitting in front of 450 Novices and Monks chanting is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Luke T.

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