The time had come: my Dad was soon arriving in Bangkok so we could start our journey to Cambodia. While I thought when my time at the clinic was up I might head to Koh Phangan, or maybe up to northern Thailand, I ended up staying in Koh Tao until the night before I was due in Bangkok! It was a potent mix of things that kept me there.  Namely, the island and the people- and one certain person in particular.

Koh Tao is a curious place. It’s an island in Thailand that to most casual visitors is not really very Thai. There’s one dingy wat, the workers are mainly Burmese, and only about half the restaurants feature Thai cuisine.  But there’s something else about it. It’s a little microcosm for backpackers, divers, and other people doing an excellent job putting off real life, and it has a way of sucking people in and making you feel like you could make a life there. Granted, I’m no travel Olympian (yet!) but I can say I’ve never been another place like it. Writing this, my heart aches for Koh Tao.

And there’s one other teensy detail.

Lotus Bar Koh TaoOur first photo together – classy

I love telling people about how I met Mark at a beach bar on a small island off the coast of Thailand. He thought I was an airheaded American, another silly girl trying to see the world via a well trodden path of backpacker hotspots in cheap foreign countries labeled as exotic. I thought he was, well, I didn’t think much as I couldn’t understand a word of what he said through his thick Scottish accent. I was thrilled to check of the “foreign love affair” on my list of to-dos. It was my third night in Asia.

One thing you should know is that I’m blogging this at a later date, giving me the great gift of perspective. While I almost wish I had kept up writing as I was traveling, I know that I never would have been bold enough to write about Mark anyway. At the time I was still telling myself he was a summer fling that I may or may not friend on Facebook upon return to my real life. Even if it had been, I still believe I would look back on my three weeks with Mark with incredible happiness and nostalgia. From the night we met we were magnets, going swimming in the bay where he worked, staying up all night in talking in the hammock on his porch, driving around the island on his little motorbike. All in all acting out the opening montage to a bad lifetime movie romance novel adaptation.

Around the end of my second week in Koh Tao, the night of the Clinic Fundraiser, Mark asked me to come back after Cambodia. There were some hurdles standing in our way, including a messy personal situation on his end, and a return ticket and a job at home on my end. But a week later as we said goodbye at the ferry terminal, I didn’t shed a single tear. My parents and the airline may not have known it yet, but there was no way I was returning to JFK on July 10th. I was smitten, with an island, and a boy, and an adventure ahead of me.

  • Amy M
    March 6 2014

    Been reading your blog for a little while now, but only just started reading old posts. Absolutely love this, and love Koh Tao too!

    • Alex
      March 8 2014

      Hey Amy! Thanks for reading! Koh Tao is such a special place so dear to my heart. I miss it just reading this comment.

  • Tessa
    April 8 2014

    I’m so interested in reading these old blog posts, I actually just came across this website today. I am 19, heading to Thailand for 3 months in 2 days. If you could go back and give your 19 year old self advice for your first trip, what would you tell her?
    I’m a bit nervous.

    Thanks 🙂 Tessa

    • Alex
      April 9 2014

      Hey Tessa! I would say be brave, you don’t have a thing to worry about 🙂 That trip I took at 19 was the best thing I ever did for myself and got me where I am today! You have so many exciting new people and opportunities ahead of you. I’m jealous! It will be the best three months of your life.

  • Janice Stringer
    August 13 2015

    What is it about this little island which seems to get us all!

    • Alex
      August 14 2015

      It’s definitely had a magnetic pull on me for the last six years…

  • Lori
    June 15 2016

    Not to be a weirdo commenting on an old post… but that is what I am going to do 😉 I stumbled on your blog about a week ago and loved it. Then started seeing all of your posts about Thailand and Koh Tao. I went there a year ago and completely agree with your attraction. There is no place on earth! Thanks for bringing it back to the surface for me 🙂

    • Alex
      June 18 2016

      Aw, I love when people comment on old posts — reminds me they are still being read 🙂 Thanks, Lori!

  • Anon
    December 27 2019

    Stumbled across your blog while googling “Koh Tao” and I’m so glad I found you. As I read this, I couldn’t help but feel some parallels to my own experience on Koh Tao, especially the last bit about not expecting to fall in love on Koh Tao and then listening to my heart and returning several times to be with my summer fling turned soulmate. There really is something magical about that island! I’m so looking forward to reading your ebook because my dream is to move there, and you are so inspiring for me! Thank you, Alex!

    • Alex
      January 23 2020

      Aw, that makes me so happy! What did you think of the ebook? I’m so proud of it and can’t wait to update the next edition in March! You made my day.

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