Cabbages and Condoms – it’s all about the feelings!

Feelings!  What do you think of when you hear that word?

Andy Williams crooning in 1975?  Does it make you think of pain, for example when you slip a disk or break an arm? Or what about sad, mad or glad feelings?

It’s an interesting word and one that Sarah and I have talked about a lot over the past two or three days.

It all started when I looked at Sarah’s face a couple of days ago, whilst waiting in Hong Kong Airport’s ultra-new Departure Lounge on our way to Bangkok. I knew there was something wrong.  Clearly she was still in pain from having slipped her disk, but there was a look which told me something else was on her mind.

It was a different face from the one I’d seen for the past three weeks in China.

If there is one brilliant thing I’ve learnt travelling with Mrs Bailey over the past 9 weeks, it is re -discovering what I found so endearing about her nearly 30 years ago when we first met.  Sarah is a very funny, charismatic person, who brightens up a room simply by being there.  She gets on well with everyone, is always positive and is a real nice person to have around.

Sarah enjoying her Yangtze cruise with Linda and Jan (right)

Sarah enjoying her Yangtze cruise with Linda and Jan (right)

smiley smiley Mrs Smiley

smiley smiley Mrs Smiley at the Panda Park

I have to confess that these qualities I’d taken for granted.  My selfish, work-focussed little World, has meant for the past few years I have been looking too far in the past searching for answers, or trying to work out what the future might hold rather than concentrating on the here and now and what I actually have.  The vogue world today is “mindfulness” and there’s a lot to be said for it.

Living in the moment with the Buddha

Living in the moment with the Buddha

“I feel really sad that we are leaving this tour group” Sarah said quietly, looking down at her shoes.  “What do you mean?” was my quick, staccato, Alpha male response. “They were really nice people.  Linda and Court are lovely, Mags is such a laugh.  The Aussie girls are so much fun…..” She then went through the Group one by one highlighting individual positive traits.

MASTERS with their warriors

MASTERS with their warriors

Probably the best guide we have ever come across – take a bow Carina from G Adventures

Probably the best guide we have ever come across – take a bow Carina from G Adventures

It was clear that there was now a void as we both watched the giant Emirates A380 pull up at the stand, ready to disgorge 600 punters and pick up 600 more, for our next two and a half hours flight down to Thailand.

But there was also something else bothering Sarah.  Yes, we were leaving behind some great people, however a wider train of thought was clearly in her mind.

The last time we’d been at this exact Departure Lounge was six years ago with our son Joe who was 17 at the time.  Just like then, we’d been heading down to Bangkok.  But “little” Joe wasn’t there this time.  He was back at home and as all Mum’s do, they worry and care about their son/daughter no matter what age they are.  We both talked about our last ever family holiday to Thailand which had been a really good one with lots of stand-out moments. Joe was “mistaken” numerous times for Prince Harry (the ginger connection), the celebration (after down-loading online) of his A/S Level Grade ‘A’ in Geography at the interestingly named Cabbages and Condoms restaurant.  How we travelled deep into the jungle on the Burmese border re-tracing the upper reaches of the historic World War II Railway along the River Kwai heading for “Hell Fire Pass”.  Good times and past times.

Joe - remember the reclining Buddha?

Joe – remember the reclining Buddha?

But what was he doing now?  Was he ok?  How was his work going?  Was the house still standing?  Had the cleaning been done?  How was Ella…? How was he getting on with Jack? It was a brain in overdrive mode, reminiscent of when you wake up in the black, early hours of a new morning, mind whirling.

Lads (Joe right –Jack left)

Lads (Joe left – Jack right)

Certainly our travelling to-date has given us many highs.  But there are lows as well.  And two months into our RTW trip and with just under a quarter of our trip completed, this was one of those low times – perhaps more for Sarah in this instance rather than me, but I understood fully where she was coming from.  You do miss people. The constant travelling gives you plenty of time to think and the space afforded makes you realise what you value.  Feelings and senses are heightened.  The powerful cocktail of smell, sound, taste and sight are vivid and tangible. You think in a different way. You react in different ways.

“…and in the morning, we will remember....

“…and in the morning, we will remember….”

This trip is so unlike any traditional two week holiday we’d ever taken before.  That might sound a rather stupid and obvious thing to say.  But you don’t have this “winding down” and “winding up” feeling as you literally count the days before you return to the reality of work.  Here in Chiang Mai (north Thailand), neither of us had a clue what day of the week it was today.  We had forgotten it was November.  Temperatures of 34C and blue skies fool you in terms of dates, times and seasons.

Mr James Duckworth recently sent us a very kind email with an update on his news.  It was a very good read.  I always think that if I can “hear” the person through the words they write, then they have a mastery of English.  James, I hear you.  One of the questions Mr D posed was: “I am curious to know how easily you have adapted to an itinerant (meant in the best possible way) lifestyle which is such a huge difference to the day to day work lifestyle that you had before. Do you worry about things or do you just worry about different things?” 

My abbreviated response was:  “For the first time in my life, I am worry and stress free.  A big thing for me.  I do get stressed when the laptop throws a wobbly because our life is on it, but that is all.  I live for the moment and never get that Sunday night feeling anymore.  Successive Monday’s have seen us flying over Everest, walking on the Great Wall and seeing the Teracotta Warriors, which is so weird.  Yesterday (Monday) we were listening to Radio 2 via the laptop and heard the travel reports about queues on the M3….  The average length of stay is two nights so you are always on the go and it can therefore be tiring but you soon adapt.  I don’t care what happens when we come back, where we will be or what we will do…”

Essentially it is all about this feeling of freedom and gratefulness.  You quickly realise that there are so many people worse off than you.  When you see a family living on a hard shoulder of a motorway, a man with no arms and legs. A person that has never ventured more than 100 miles from home.  It can blow your mind, if you let it, or it can have a positive effect as you accept and realise.  I hope the latter continues to happen.

I have re-read and re-written this blog a number of times.  It has not been an easy one to write.  But I needed to write it.  The fact that it does not flow quite how I would like it to flow, please forgive me.  The switches of tense and style are not great.  But ultimately it is about getting across how we both feel about this “thing” we are doing.  The sights and the people and what we are doing is one thing.  The changes to us as people is quite another.  So this an open letter from the heart rather than the head.  I hope it conveys more than just a review of “another” tourist site.

Categories: South East Asia Blog

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28 thoughts on “Cabbages and Condoms – it’s all about the feelings!

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  1. Pingback: Happiness is…. A packet of Imodium. Note: This blog contains some nasty stuff! | "MASTERS"


    I totally sympathise with Sarah – having a sore back takes a lot of the joy out of life. Backs and feet – if both are sound a lot of fun can be had. At the moment I’m coping with a cracked wrist, so I’m having to master dictation onto the computer.

    I’m delighted to hear how stress-free you are feeling. I find that feeling of complete freedom is very rare for me; I think that life has sped up and we are constantly in a whirl having to make too many choices and worrying about whether we made the right ones. And yet as you say, we are in the top tiny percentage of the luckiest people who have ever existed.

    You are doing loads of things that will make you happier on this trip! Am currently reading 59 seconds by Richard Wiseman which debunks self-help and details the latest hard research on topics like happiness motivation and creativity. (I’m not quite sure why I seem to be constantly recommending books to you, this is most unusual!) Apparently to be happy it’s key to spend your money on experiences rather than things; also dwelling on positive experiences is good (the blog!); and focusing on appreciating people who are important to you. Also, giving to others makes you happier than spending money on yourself – and this includes giving your time interest and attention – which you are great at!

    I guess the great relationships you’ve built with your group have become in some way” home”, in the absence of a stable physical location. Perhaps why you got homesick when leaving them?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Anne, I think you are right. Group = surrogate family. But will not name who is playing which part for fear of retribution here in Laos… As for the book – 59 seconds by Richard Wiseman – I will download this in a couple of days time when I have a decent wifi signal in the capital of Laos, Vientiane…. keep the recommendations coming and keep your insightful comments coming. Hope your wrist heals soon…. good luck with the dictation – who is your secretary?


  3. Steve Norcliffe

    Cabbages and Condoms!
    It certainly took us back to a time when we dined there and discussed all that was around us. We changed. We moved on and, as you know Mark, no longer have fixed paths to follow. So lucky. Stick with this journey and your sense of enjoyment can only increase.
    Love to you both
    Steve and Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    • You and I Yorkshire boy have much in common and I look forward to a beer when I get back – poigant comment and ironic you were at C and C. Best wishes to you both. M and S


  4. Pat Patel

    Mark, very good writing, now you know the meaning of life, sometimes we take so much for granted, however, there is always someone out there who is worse of then you are…..I look forward to your next blog

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pat. You more than most people know the meaning of life. I hope you and your family are well. I was speaking to a person from Uganda yesterday and thought of you and the mid 1970s – terrible with IA and terrible then in Vietnam/Laos. M


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