Happy Thanksgiving 2018 – some thoughts and recollections

Thinking about a few things on Thanksgiving Day here in Cambodia. Not a holiday that is celebrated here; however a Khmer festival has been running for a few days called Water Festival. So its handy to have our Thanksgiving along with the Water Festival here where long boats take to the rivers to celebrate the reverse of current from the Tonle Sap. End of the wet season and beginning of the dry. Our Thanksgiving where we give thanks. A nice combination of holidays.

Speaking honestly, the last few years the holidays have become less for me. This is, however, the first holiday season where I did not have this huge project which hung over me and meant that I did not get the days off but sat on phone calls, in meetings, on my company cell phone with some network engineer and cloud architect in Colorado and Florida. A wondrous reprieve and perhaps a thing to be thankful for. Sometimes its a “pinch worthy” thing to remind myself that I do not have those things hanging over me any longer.

I also listen to people and read their blogs and accounts on twitter of their desire to travel the world, to be vagabonds, to find ways to become digital nomads, or perhaps to retire as an ex-pat in some foreign land. Another thing for me to be thankful for. While retirement income is no panacea and will hardly take you anywhere in the US, the truth is that if you want a change you can live comfortably and perhaps even well somewhere else. There are some things that I hesitate to call challenges. Cultures are completely different and how people act and react are different. Money means a lot in a cash culture like Cambodia. You have to get used to dealing with changes in how things as minor as your unlocked cell phone work. You have to find ways to get things done that are different and perhaps require a bit more work or at least different work. For food, there is no real challenge. Vietnamese and Khmer people simply love to eat and drink. Some boundary of a country drawn on a map does not impact what a person thinks of Fish Amok or Pho Ba. You may have to get used though to a different diet.

Travel may be different but it is cheaper. Hopping a tuk tuk to a place or flying is cheaper once you are here. Finding decent accommodation is easy once you are here. Finding ways around a city are different and learning how things operate in your new city or the one you are currently in are different.

Happiness is different as well. What used to make you happy may have been a house full of possessions, beautiful stereo equipment and large format TV, wonderful services a phone call away. In another land, these things are not what generates happiness. Its a simpler life where you gave up those things willingly to have something else. Happiness not tied to material possessions.

So all in all many of the things are so different but yet we are all human beings and we all share in some of the joys of being one. The smile that the Khmer children give me in the mornings and waves hello. When the Vietnamese gentleman in Saigon posed for me as I walked a small alley. Children in Hanoi shyly waving on the streets but wanting their picture taken. Beautiful young people in all the places saying hello, talking, laughing and finding the same basic joy in living. I had missed all that in the US. Something there was broken for years for me. It was the job and the stress of divorce and the aftermath. It was losing my friend Freelan and dealing with not knowing sometimes if I could leave. Then it was knowing in November of 2017 I would leave leave when I gave notice. As February rolled around and I knew that I would wake up on 1 March and not owe anyone anything, it was the supreme moment.

So all of this has made a difference and as I think back on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 it makes me realize that no matter where you are, you can make something better. Perhaps its not traveling slowly or finding a new country to kinda call home. Maybe it is. Maybe you are like me in some ways and want a sea change in your life. If not, it’s not a deal. You have a thing you want. You perhaps can see it glinting in tomorrow’s sun. It can be yours.

Then perhaps you can find the path to being happy. Life is not about sacrifice or giving everything away and adopting some minimalistic lifestyle which I happen to think is bogus. Its more about finding the path and then knowing what it takes to follow the path. If you have too many possessions, be a realist. You cannot pack the TV and the car and clothing as you go. So being a realist means they have to go. If you have suffered through the pains of a previous set of life events, they can be dropped but it takes so damned long sometimes. Nothing happens in a day and I’ve read that it can take years to get through all the stages of loss. So be prepared for that too.

Finally, chart your course and know that I have found the way to be happy on this Thanksgiving day in the Kingdom of Wonder. Its not a delicate path or one that requires huge amounts of work. There is nothing special to be done besides the goal you have to make a difference in your life.

You will notice I said nothing about friendship. There is a thing about friendship to me that sets the bar. If you want my friendship, I can be a loyal yet demanding and sometimes demented person. I am very egoistical, selfish, perhaps narcissistic. Those could be my better traits. I feel that a person must meet me at a place and give something of value and that the place I go to and the thing of value I have to give back is commensurate. To me, friendship is bartering a thing of value for a thing of equal value. You give me love. I give it back. You give me dedication, its back at you. You give little; don’t expect a lot from me. You don’t offer anything, its not friendship.

I’ve made and lost friends over the years because I have a set of requirements if you want in that palace. I have a few that are there but many have dropped out. They were not able to meet me at an equal place. It’s fine really. I don’t wish them any less of a happy Thanksgiving.

The reality is that I have found a thing I value and I know how to get from where I was to where I am now. Its not so much of a climb and you don’t have to sacrifice. You can find your warrior and move forward and become both less and more. Some of the things above were met and some I still am challenged by. A friend asked whether I wanted someone else in my life. Someone to share the holidays with. Someone to travel with. The answer is no. For the decades I gave to it, I gave to it. I reached the end of that rope and that climb.

So I’m thankful for what I have and have not. I’m thankful to never have to work and worry about money ever again. I’m thankful for the walks I do every day and the people I see. For my few friends, I am thankful for them. Life for me has again become something to be thankful for. I miss sometimes my boss Lee and his boss Payman. Both were friends and both helped me in so many ways realize my final goals which they really did not know until November of 2017 when I gave notice.

So if you want to chart a course and whether its down the street or flying to Asia, I’m here to tell you that with retirement and basic planning you can be happy too. I only talk about those retired because its my current path. There is no real secret to doing it. No special character or values you need besides the ones I elaborated above.

Mostly be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 for your have’s and have not’s. I am.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.