So as I’ve been alluding to, I realized fairly quickly after my breakup that staying on the island just wasn’t a possibility at that moment. I took two weeks to pack up our house, sell things, say goodbyes, and make a tentative plan for my next move.
Very soon after the breakup I wrote this post detailing my future plans, which I reread now and flinch a bit at how raw it is. But it describes how I was feeling brutally and honestly, and this is an excerpt from that:
I quickly realized I could not stay in Koh Tao. There are too many memories around every corner. The bar we first met in, the restaurant where we had our first date, the bungalows we have lived in, the beach we used to sneak off to and whisper I love you on a busy night out. And then of course the bad memories as well, of things starting to unravel. Just in the way that I couldn’t quite describe all the things Mark has meant to me over the years, I have a similarly difficult time trying to describe the effect Koh Tao has had on my life. I spent the month I was home in New York thinking about my deep love for Koh Tao, about how much I adored my life there, how grateful I was for it and how I couldn’t wait to be back. Sadly, I was back on Koh Tao for less than 48 hours before all the joy was gone. I mourn the loss of Koh Tao in the same way I mourn the loss of my relationship. Two weeks after arriving back on the island, I was leaving again, this time with a troubled mind, and broken heart.
So that is how I found myself saying another brutal goodbye to the island that has meant more to me than any location on Earth, save for home. I’d left and returned to the island dozens of times throughout this year but always on a temporary leave or vacation, always with a return ticket. I hadn’t said goodbye like this since I left the island in 2009, when it first got its hooks on my mind and heart. At that point I left with no idea when I could possibly return, but the strong conviction that I most certainly would. This time was a little different.
The puppy love stage was over and Koh Tao and I had a more grown-up relationship, and all the messy history and deep understanding that comes with it. I still like to think that I will return to Koh Tao someday, or at least find another place on this planet that makes me equally as happy.
Luckily I didn’t have to make the journey off the island solo; I was joined by Freya, who was leaving the island to move back home, and Hannah, who was kindly joining us for the trip to assist with our combined ten trillion tons of luggage. (First thing on the Bangkok to-do list: post home 28lbs worth of stuff. Amazing how much crap you accumulate in a year.)
As we sat on the deck of the Lomprayah ferry and watched the island turn into a tiny speck we talked and talked; of our favorite day on the island, of our favorite beaches, the foods we would most crave and the people we would most miss.
I can count the ways that I would miss Koh Tao: being paid to be underwater, spending days off with my toes in the sand, watching the rain from my porch deck, fresh orange shakes for a dollar, dancing till the sun came up, starting the morning at the Muay Thai gym dripping in sweat. But what I would miss the most is immeasurable, and almost beyond description. I would miss the way the island made me feel like I was simultaneously at the center of the universe but also on a distant planet where the real world would never find me.
I spent a few days in Bangkok running errands, saying goodbye, enjoying the city, and soaking up the final moments of being surrounded by these wonderful friends.
Because soon the girls would be heading off and I would be on a solo journey up through Northern Thailand, where I would be reunited in Chiang Mai with my lost-long visiting friends from Grand Cayman, followed by more solo travel and more meeting-up-with-friends. A great adventure was about to begin…