I received one of those life-changing phone calls the other day. One of the ones that you just know, instantly, will become a crucial pivot point when looking back along your life’s arc. After more than twelve years working in the same job, the only one I’ve ever had since leaving university, I suddenly don’t have a job to return to. They are getting on so well without me that my job has been restructured out of existence while I’m away.
To say that I didn’t see this coming is something of an understatement. I’m floored, shocked, flabbergasted, stunned like a mullet. I had always intended to return to work refreshed after this big break, and had no inkling that that might not be possible. In fact I have structured my life over the past year around the fact that I would have a job to return to when I got home. So I’ve spent the last two days alternating between swinging from a hammock deep in thought, sleeping, or wandering to the very expensive internet cafe to get the support of friends. I’ve had no appetite, but I’ve forced myself to eat. When my mind is calm enough I read, choosing between the lyrical beauty of Haruki Murakami’s short stories or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s epic One Hundred Years of Solitude. Often I just stare into the distance.
At least I’m in the perfect place for such a crisis: Si Phan Don really is the paradise it’s made out to be. Arriving on Don Det island mid-afternoon four days ago, I ignored all the cheap places near the boat landing and headed straight for the Sunset side of the island. From my kayaking trip last week I knew this side has the best views: sweeping vistas of the Mekong and a clear view of the hills of Cambodia beyond. I wandered along the dirt track looking for something suitable, and literally stumbled upon Tena Guesthouse. With just five simple bungalows, all with spectacular views and a couple of hammocks, I got lucky as four of them were vacant (it’s been full since then). The shared bathrooms have western thrones, the showers are almost warm and the food onsite is very good. There is no need to worry about reservations, or giving notice, or anything. Now that I’m here I can stay as long as I want and simply pay the $4 a night it costs to stay when I leave. Perfect.
The only thing I have to decide soon is when to leave. My Laos visa expires on Tuesday and I have to decide whether I stay here beyond that or head to Cambodia as planned. There is a fine of US$10 a day if you overstay, but I really don’t have the urge to move on just yet…