“Blame it on a Simple Twist of Fate”
You’re zig-zagging through the thick traffic of Bangkok clutching onto the bars of the tuk tuk for dear life.
You’re cursing yourself for not being more organised, not leaving the hostel on time, being hungover and unprepared as usual. You glance at your cheap plastic watch and see there are seven minutes to get to the bus station to catch the overnight bus to Chiang Mai. You are never going to make it. As you skid into the bus station you see the bus pull away slowly and all you can do is shrug your shoulders, slump your backpack to the ground and sigh.
You see a second bus about to leave and without hesitation leap over to ask where it is heading; Surat Thani, the gateway to Thailand’s tropical islands, a destination you were planning to leave for the end of your trip. What the hell, you think and in a moment of spontaneity, buy a ticket and jump on the last remaining seat on the bus. On the seat next to you is a person who you don’t know yet, but who will become your travel buddy for the next six months and your best friend for life. In Vietnam, they will help you out when you lose your passport, in Laos, they will find you when you are asleep and drunk at the side of a river and in Cambodia they will introduce you to a member of the opposite sex who may just have the potential to be the love of your life.
Moments like this happen all the time when you are backpacking.
Unencumbered by routine and responsibility, we are free to make impulsive decisions that have the potential to change the next few days, weeks, even years of your life. While an average person makes upward of 35,000 decisions every single day – most as simple as ‘what shall I eat’ and ‘what shall I wear,’ a backpacker can boast the question – what country shall I go to today? On most occasions you don’t give it a second thought, yet have you ever wondered how differently your backpacking trip may have turned out if certain, seemingly insignificant events had gone differently?
Retracing the steps of your journey it is possible to pinpoint those tiny instances that with hindsight literally changed everything, the course of your journey and even your life.
Getting all “Sliding Doors” on you here, I guess I’m talking about the concept that people call ‘fate’ ‘chance’ or ‘fortune,’ an idea that has been the topic of films and songs throughout the ages and is clearly something that we humans like to ponder. Hippies and yogis would refer to things like ‘energy’ and ‘the universe’ at this point, whilst certain religions would assert ‘God’s will’ and perhaps speak of a path that is laid out before us. Many people would discard such over-arching theories and say that life’s journey is nothing but a stream of random events that have no order. Who knows the truth? Nevertheless, it is fascinating to look back at those undeniable moments and shiver at the prospect of how close you came to not meeting the best friend you’ve ever had.
This whole idea sprung from a fascinating conversation I had in the office a few weeks ago, where a young American guy was passionately explaining to me how the magazine had changed his life. Picking up a copy in a café in Khao San Road months earlier, he had read about the Phuket Vegetarian Festival and had decided on a whim that day to go. At the festival, a domino effect of events had led to him meet someone who would offer him a job in South East Asia and in turn change the course of his future forever. I wondered how many more stories there were like this.
This made me think not only of the magazine, but the everyday occurrences of each person which create ripples in the pond that could affect someone living on the other side of the world; giving someone advice on what hostel to stay at, smiling at someone to brighten their day, recommending a restaurant or inspiring someone to try a different career path.
Each moment has its unique power and the only sense I can make of it all is how connected we are without realising it.
In South East Asia, the Buddhist notion of ‘karma’ is an underlying belief that means that you can change your fate by doing more good actions than bad. It is an interesting way of explaining that even the tiniest actions have an effect and if you do more good things then you will create more good in the world that will end up coming back to you somehow. I can’t help but warming to a concept that makes you responsible for your actions and the feeling that we are not insignificant observers, but creators in the fate of not just ourselves, but everyone around us.
The knock-on effect of your actions today can change the world tomorrow…
As a psychologist once quoted “The fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can effect climate change on the other side of the planet”. And even if it doesn’t, it may just make your day.
By Nikki Scott – Editor of South East Asia Backpacker Magazine