As we grow up we develop our own philosophies of life – mechanisms for coping with the various challenges we will face in the path ahead.
Making life difficult for myself was one of those philosophies. I am not sure what prompted it – but it soon became a way of life when I went to Laos as a still 21-yr-old. I needed to toughen myself up for some of the eventualities that might befall me.
This was life at a different level with few luxuries. It was a war zone in the late 1960s. Life was cheap, and the kidnapping of foreigners quite a frequent event. Some got killed, others had their throats cut – but survived. If you encountered a burglar in your house, we were warned, don`t resist – else they might kill you! (`Who would want to kill me?` I asked).
That was the backdrop.
My philosophy was this: If I can make myself do difficult things now – voluntarily – it will be so much easier to do them when forced… Lurking at the back of my mind was the sense that one day I might be captured (as some of my friends had been) – but how would I handle that? Better to prepare oneself now…
Endurance was possibly the easiest of ways for making life difficult. It was one way of discovering one’s limits. Besides, if you have never done something before how can you know?
One such crazy endurance test was this – walking across Bangkok. It was not something I had planned (these events never were) but something that came about because of circumstances. Happily I had more time in those days. My walk across town began down in one of the sois off Sukhumvit Road. In those days Bangkok was badly affected by flooding at high tide. The khlongs had been filled in so there was little place for the water to go when it rained. It backed up into the streets. I took my shoes and socks off, rolled up my trousers and started wading through the water to get to the main road – Sukhumvit. Soon a taxi stopped to give me a ride. I waved it on. A few minutes later and it happened again. The more taxis I turned down the easier my resolve to keep walking.
And walking… Happily I have a good sense of direction. I was heading for the north side of town where I was staying in a Guest House.
In the process of walking I discovered a side of Bangkok I had never encountered before when riding buses and taxis. With a very basic understanding of the language it posed few fears. On top of it all I was saving myself some money…. These were all part of the justification for continuing. Soon i was relishing the sense of achievement by being able to tell people of my achievement.
It was just around 6pm when I arrived back at the Guest House just in time for dinner – a 6-hour adventure! Now I know how big a city it is!