The Daily Explorer

November 7, 2010

Three Pairs of Shoes; Five Years on the Road

Filed under: Special Features,Thailand — The Daily Explorer @ 1:35 pm
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Chiang Mai, Thailand: November 2010

MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): A warm welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. This month marks a big moment for Ray, who has been living nomadically for five years since he left England in November 2005. During that time, he has visited or lived in 17 different countries and we have been publishing news and stories about his journey (you can find all of these in our Previous Issues archive). Personally, I can’t quite believe that it is five years since Ray invited me to put this team together and we published the first of his online journals. So to mark the occasion, as well as catching up with his recent news from Chiang Mai, I have asked Ray to pick out some of his most significant or memorable encounters from the last 1,826 days which I hope you will enjoy.

Our aim at The Daily Explorer is to create a great publication for you, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com

In case you missed our last issue a few weeks ago, Po Scard, our cultural correspondent had been following Ray as he explored mainland Malaysia before bidding farewell and returning to Thailand. Highlights included Ray’s visit to Malacca and Terengganu, his 50th birthday celebrations on Cherating Beach, trekking in Taman Negara National Park and a sighting of the rare Rafflesia flower in the cool, lush Cameron Highlands. You can read it now at: Mosques, Mid-Life and Michael Jackson

Above: On his return to Thailand, Ray spent a couple of days in Bangkok. He walked past this hoarding surrounding part of the Central World shopping centre, which was set on fire by ‘Red Shirt’ anti-government protestors in the city earlier this year. Despite these political troubles, Ray is always very happy to return to the ‘Land of Smiles’. If you missed our last issue, you can read the full story at: Mosques, Mid-Life and Michael Jackson

Four months have passed since our global traveller was last in Thailand and I was curious to find out what had made him return. “It was a fairly spontaneous decision” said Ray. “I had been on the move for quite a while, first in Nepal and then Borneo and Malaysia where I was travelling with a Canadian friend of mine called Michele, which had been fantastic. When she had to return to Vancouver, it made me think about what was next for me” explained Ray. “For some time, the idea of writing had been getting stronger in the back of my mind. I have no experience at book writing, and realise it is a huge challenge to produce something which other people genuinely want to read. Yet so many people I meet ask me about the way I am living and they always seem so fascinated when I tell them I have been a nomad for five years! When I explain more about how it has been working, I notice people seem quite intrigued and I have started to see over time that they tend to ask me the same questions, so I cannot help feeling that it’s time to try my hand writing about this amazing experiment of mine. I have even met a couple of publishers who have been extremely encouraging. I am not sure exactly what I have to say yet and am giving it some serious thought – as well as researching what’s already published; I believe it would be valuable to capture all of the experiences I have had (and maybe the experiences of other travellers I have met) so that any inherent wisdom and knowledge can be made explicit and available to anyone who may be considering living outside of convention for a while” said our adventurer. “As this goal became clear in my mind, I thought of places where I could base myself for 4-6 months and Chiang Mai seemed perfect. I know the city, I love it and have made a few friends there too over the last four years” explained Ray.

Above: Two of Bangkok’s iconic attractions. The Baiyoke Tower is Thailand’s tallest building (left) although it will soon be surpassed by the Ocean One Tower in Pattaya which is due for completion in 2012. The Standing Buddha at Wat Indrawihan (right) is 32 metres tall and 11 metres wide. Devotees believe that it can bless everyone with success, particularly if they present the head of a mackerel fish, a boiled egg and a lei of flowers!

Below: Map showing the location of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand which Ray has chosen as his base for a while as he gets to grips with writing his first book – “If any of our readers would like to come to the city, I would be delighted to show them around” he told me

Above and below: Chiang Mai is a colourful, vibrant city full of charm – “My friend Susie Moberly and her partner James (from Ko Samui) are in Chiang Mai visiting for a couple of weeks” said Ray. “Susie takes some really fantastic pictures and she gave me some of them for the Daily Explorer to include in this issue, including these two” added our global nomad. “The top picture was taken in the famous ‘Walking Street Market’ which takes place every Sunday and is spectacular. And the bottom picture will give you a good idea of the excellent food that is available in the city, which is so healthy and tasty, it always makes me want to come back for more” he told me

Above: Our global nomad poses for our photographer (Susie Moberly) outside the moat which surrounds the old city (left). As you can see from the photograph above these two, the food in Chiang Mai is spectacular, with the possible exception of the ‘fried crispy bowels’ on this menu (circled, right)

Below: A hairdresser who works in a salon near Ray’s guest house – “The Thai people are so friendly, graceful and charming” he told me (Photo: Susie Moberly)

Above: The TipTop Thai House has been Ray’s ‘home’ in Chiang Mai for some time now – “I really love the house and the people who run it” said Ray. “I have been staying here on and off for the last three years and I feel like one of the family. There are only nine rooms for guests and they are all beautifully kept. There is a peaceful, well-kept garden and a fully stocked, communal kitchen for people who want to cook for themselves. The guests who stay here tend to be long term like me, and many are really interesting. I have made one or two really good friends here. It is located within the walls of the old city, which makes it very easy to get to anywhere around town. Perhaps most important for me, the house has a really good wi-fi internet connection, which means I am able to do my online stuff whenever I want to and no longer have any excuses about missing my deadlines for sending pictures to The Daily Explorer” he laughed

Below: The TipTop Thai House has just the right blend of traditional Thai style with modern facilities – “My room has a lovely, large teak desk which is perfect for writing. And the atmosphere in and around the house just feels so good for creativity” said our wannabe author. “Many foreigners come to Chiang Mai to learn Thai massage and students often stay here. If I am lucky, one or two sometimes ask me to volunteer for them to practise on” said Ray. “Of course, I usually say yes!” he added (Photo: Susie Moberly)

Above: Ray relaxes in the peaceful garden – “If I need to take a break or just sit still and think for a while, the garden is a great place to go” said our traveller (Photo: Susie Moberly)

Below: The TipTop Thai House draws some lovely, interesting guests from all around the world, like Aisha Khan from Brisbane, Australia pictured here with Ray (left). Our guest photographer, Susie Moberly (right) and her partner James are also staying whilst they are visiting the city

Above and below: More examples of Susie’s excellent work with the camera. She took all three of these photographs in the ‘Birds Nest Cafe’ which is a few metres down the street from the guest house – “We are so lucky to have this place close by” said Ray. “They serve a great Americano and the best grilled sandwiches in town. I usually come here for breakfast and it’s a cool place to sit and chat as many of the town’s musicians gather here. For TipTop guests, it’s a bit like a common room for all of us” explained Ray. The picture above is of Susie’s partner James, sitting in front of one of the huge, colourful mural’s inside the cafe. The girls on the left (below) work there and are cleaning up the kitchen area, whilst our traveller makes friends with the ever-so-life-like resident deer (right)

Above: Ray tucks into a tasty breakfast with fresh coffee in the Birds Nest Cafe on Singharat Soi 3 (Photo: Susie Moberly)

Whilst I was in Chiang Mai, I heard a rumour that Ray was learning to speak Thai, so I asked him about it. “Yes Mozzie, it’s true. After being in and out of the country for the last four years, I have finally reached the point of frustration of wanting to engage more with people here and simply not knowing how to. A friend of mind told me about an American living here who teaches the language, which you might think is quite unusual. So does he, which is probably why he has branded himself under the very original “Learn Thai from a White Guy” moniker. My friend claimed that this chap had taught him the Thai alphabet and how to read in just a few hours so I decided to meet him and find out more about his (very effective) teaching methods. Having done so, I signed up for lessons for a couple of months and I am happy to say that I am making excellent progress. I am now able to read Thai (slowly), order food, give directions, give the day and time, talk about the weather and a few other topics of small talk. The Thai people seem to really appreciate the fact that I am going to the effort of learning their language, even though many of them speak English. And whenever I engage someone, they are always very tolerant as they know how hard it is for me. Many of the sounds in their language simply do not exist in English so I am having to learn how to make them with my mouth for the first time and it feels a bit weird!

Does this mean that Ray is planning to make Thailand a longer term base? “No, it doesn’t. At least, that is not the reason for learning. It just feels so good to be acquiring a new language and it keeps my brain active. It’s also very satisfying to be talking with the people here in their own tongue as it makes me feel more engaged in the community. I have put it off for a long time and now I have found someone who is great to learn from, it has made the whole experience quite fun. I am really amazed at how well my teacher knows Thai, although he has been here for seven years and has studied the language extensively during that period” said Ray. “My landlady at TipTop, Noi is also very supportive and often makes time to sit with me and chat in Thai. She speaks perfect English so she is able to help me with pronunciation too, which is quite critical as the meaning of the word can alter if it is not spoken precisely with the correct tone” explained our new student linguist.

Above: Ray listens carefully to ‘White Guy’ Brett Whiteside during one of his Thai lessons – “We meet 2-3 times each week for an hour and in between lessons, I practise on my own using computer software which really speeds up my progress. When I am out on the street trying to communicate in the real world, it feels a bit scary but it is so rewarding when people understand me, plus they really appreciate me making the effort” he told me

Below: Ray often practises his Thai with TipTop landlady Noi (right) – “She is so good with me. She knows my vocabulary is limited and she is very patient as I speak much more slowly than someone who is fluent. I don’t always get the tones right, so there is a risk that me asking a question like “What are you doing today?” could end up sounding like “Is the lamp post blue!” laughed our traveller

Above: Ray can now do his shopping in Thai too, although I am not sure how well he would be able to translate what his friend James might be thinking!

It seems quite hard to believe that this month, Ray will have been living as a modern-day nomad for five years and as you might expect, I was very interested to find out what he was thinking and feeling about it. “Gosh Mozzie, where do I begin to try and answer that question” he mused. “Of course, when I first started with this experiment, I had no idea it would last as long as it has and there is still no clear end in sight. Many people I meet ask me when I will be ‘going back’ and I have to tell you that for me, there is no longer any sense that there is somewhere or something to go back to. In some ways, I have gone so far away from the life that I knew and being the person I once was that I literally do not remember myself back then. Yet in other ways, in terms of my inner world and who I am as a person, I feel very much the same so I conclude for the time being that I am going to have to look at life through both perspectives – the external and internal – in order to make sense of it all and draw out what I am learning from this experience. And this is one of the reasons I wanted to plonk myself down in Chiang Mai for a few weeks and think about it. These questions are calling me to answer them for myself first, so that I can share any insight I have gained with others” explained Ray.

Understanding that Ray’s nomadic experiment is still a work in progress and that any book he may write could potentially contain a lot of answers, I asked him to choose just a few of his most memorable experiences from the last five years and tell us a little bit about the story or meaning behind each one in his final selection.

Above: Ray takes one giant leap from safety to begin his great nomadic experiment. It was 12th November 2005 that he completed the sale of his house and all of his possessions and left the UK to travel through Asia – “My closest friends will tell you that this was a scary decision for me as I had to literally de-construct a life, and an image, that I had been painstakingly building for years. In contemplating the idea of quitting the ‘rat race’, even for a while, I remember feeling very guilty about not working for the first time in my life. I started to get a sense of how narrow my perspective was and how structured my life actually was – with virtually no spontaneity at all. Naturally, I had fear about practical stuff like money, security, dropping out of the workplace and my ability to re-enter it and a load of others that are too numerous to list here. But I reached a point where my whole instinct was telling me that for me, this was the way my heart really wanted to go and I could not ignore it any longer. So I finally plucked up the courage and made the leap, but the experience of procrastinating and overcoming my fears of doing so will stay with me for many years to come” he recalled

Below: In the five years that our traveller has been on the road, he has lived, worked or been a visitor in 17 different countries. The green dot in the USA depicts his visit to New York last year to run in the marathon as part of his “Calling All Angels” Global Fundraising Campaign – “This may sound a bit weird but I feel like my personal space has got much bigger since I became a nomad. The world feels to me like my home country used to and the whole planet feels like it has shrunk in that sense. Landing in a strange city does not feel anywhere near as daunting as it used to as I have evolved a kind of ‘entry checklist’ and routine that enables me to feel ‘at home’ within a day or two. And I am much more comfortable with living in a temporary way. 17 countries may sound like a lot, yet there are still plenty of amazing places that I have not experienced, including India and South America which are high on my list” said Ray

Above: “After I had been travelling for 1,000 consecutive days, Mozzie published a Daily Explorer Special Edition called “Man of a Thousand Days – How it All Began” which became (and still is) one of our most read issues online. In my first three years on the road, many people had been asking me what had happened that led me to begin this journey and I became aware that quite a few people dream of having more freedom to live their lives with greater discretion about their choices. So I attempted to explain the circumstances of my own life and the calamitous series of events that led to my departure from convention which gave me my first real taste of what it was like to write about my experiences. This really inspired me to share what I have been learning and is still doing so, hence my interest in the publication of a book at some point in the future” (Editors Note: The photograph was taken on the red sand dunes in Mui Ne, Vietnam. On 12th November, our nomadic explorer will have been on the road for 1,826 days)

Below: “I have been able to have a direct experience of some of the poorest parts of the world and see, feel and know the truth of these places for myself, as opposed to believe what is broadcast in the mass media which often skews and distorts the real picture or has glaring omissions. One of my earliest experiences was in the Hill Tribe villages of Laos, where I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with local people and playing with the children. Despite having very little in terms of material comforts that we take for granted, these people are so warm, friendly and engaging – just being with them started to affect me and made me want to relate differently to others I met from that point onwards. I think it also sowed the seeds for my fundraising work which I began later on” said Ray (Editors Note: The photograph was taken in Muang Ngoi, Laos in May 2006)

Above: “Before I left England, I had never meditated or had any experiences where I had become still and quiet for any length of time. I got my first opportunity to do so in February 2006, when I spent 10 days in silent retreat with Buddhist Monks at the International Dhamma Centre in Suan Mokkh, in southern Thailand. During those 10 wonderful days, I did not speak to anybody and spent most of the time getting to know myself – observing my own breath and my thoughts and coming to a new level of awareness of the sometimes crazy noise of my own mind. Spending several hours a day in walking and sitting meditations in beautiful, natural surroundings gave me much needed inner peace as at that particular stage of my journey, which was only after six months of leaving my established life in England, I was still very anxious about the future. I continue to meditate and make quiet time for myself when I feel I need it and it always helps me to centre myself and be able to hear the inner voice of my own intuition speaking to me” explained Ray

Below: “I have come to realise over the last five years that my own personal journey has two dimensions to it – an inner and an outer world if you like. The latter is all about experiencing different geographies, cultures, architecture, food, language, climates and stories that vary from place to place and I feel that I grow from these experiences. My internal world has a different dynamic to it. Wherever I go, I obviously take “myself” with me and I believe that this self needs to be constantly examined, nurtured and fed if I am to reach my highest potential. So I pay close attention to who I am and how I am being in the world, noticing when I get angry and what triggers it, when I feel sad and what is behind it and so on. And I have looked for opportunities to participate in workshops and events that have enabled me to become better at doing this for myself. One of these events was something I took part in earlier this year, called the Hoffman Process“. (For readers who have not heard of it, this is an eight-day intensive residential course of personal discovery and development. The process allows you to examine and better understand your life and reveals why you behave the way you do. To date, more than 70,000 people around the world have used the tried and tested Hoffman techniques to improve their quality of life and restore their relationships with friends and family). “It seemed like perfect timing. I turned 50 this year and this was a great way to start 2010 and the next decade, by reflecting deeply on the first half of my life. I have gained a deep understanding of who I have become and how I got to this point and now have a stronger sense of vision for my life” said Ray. “Let me put this in perspective Mozzie – if someone had said to me back in 1999 that within ten years, I would have ended my marriage, sold my business, lost my father, become an actor, given up my permanent base in London, ran the New York marathon and have over 1,500 people around the world every month reading about my nomadic journey, I would definitely have told them they were crazy! But that is exactly what has happened, and it has been an unbelievable gift, helping me to learn and grow as a person in so many different ways. It makes me believe there is no reason the next 10 years will be anything other than an exciting, life changing set of unexpected experiences. I want to be as ready as I can on the inside for the inevitable ups and downs and emotional twists and turns that accompany that kind of living” (Editors Note: We published details of Ray’s experiences during the Hoffman Process, which he attended at Florence House in Seaford, England in All You Need is Love in February 2010)

Above: “One of the joys of travelling to so many places is the opportunity it has given me to really appreciate nature’s wonderful gift of Planet Earth. I spent the first forty five years of my life living in a city with rare and infrequent visits to natural environments, so I never really appreciated just how beautiful and miraculous the natural world is. I have more than made up for it in the last five years! Being in nature is so good for my inner peace and keeping my problems of the day in perspective. I notice how much I relax when I leave the hustle and bustle of the city to get into the wild. The place I have chosen as the most beautiful natural landscape I have encountered is Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania” he declared

Below: “Australia also gave me an opportunity to live out another of my dreams – crossing the mighty ‘Nullabor‘ that spans nearly the entire width of the southern half of the continent. It is described as the quintessential experience of the Australian Outback. The 3,000 kilometre drive from Perth to Adelaide took around 10 days to complete and was fascinating all the way. In one place, I encountered a stretch of road that was dead straight for ninety miles! In other stops, the pleasure came from simply enjoying the wildlife all around, including sighting several Kangaroo’s along the way. The experience made me really think about how expansive this planet is and how tiny I am by comparison” recalled our traveller

Above: “Our world is changing rapidly. I have been keen to see parts of it that have held ancient traditions for thousands of years and are now in decline or modernising rapidly. Going to Tibet had a really big impact on me. We hear about the oppression by the Chinese all of the time in the media and I must admit that I had never really paid attention to it before. But actually being there, I could see with my own eyes just how much the collective soul of this wonderful group of people is being crushed. The awesome Potala Palace is no longer the home of the Dalai Lama, as it once was. Whilst the building remains in tact, it is largely a museum exhibit for tourists and no longer has the same religious significance it once did for ordinary Tibetans, whose right to worship has been severely eroded in recent years. This place stands out for me as one where I witnessed the most intense and avoidable conflict and suffering” explained Ray (Editors Note: For more information about Ray’s visit, see Seven Days in Tibet, published in February 2009)

Below: “By way of a contrast, I was given an opportunity earlier this year to visit Shanghai, which is now the largest city in China and the largest city proper in the world, with a population of over 20 million people. It was unforgettable for a number of reasons, not least of which that I was scammed in People’s Square early one evening. I had gone there to do a bit of sight-seeing and get a feel for the place, so was looking at my map as I came out of the metro, trying to figure out which way to go. A group of four students, three girls and a guy, approached to offer help and I thought “Great, someone speaking English” so I started talking to them. They told me they had come to Shanghai to see if they could get jobs at the forthcoming World Expo and were really happy to talk to me as it was a great opportunity to practice their English. Feeling good about this, when they invited me to join them for a traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony nearby, I gladly accepted. We walked a couple of blocks to a nearby building and entered a small room, presided over by a traditionally dressed tea ‘server’. For thirty minutes or so, we chatted and sipped several different teas and then we were offered a chance to buy packs of tea as gifts for friends. I noticed they were buying many of these and I remembered thinking it was unusual – they were quite expensive and these kids were students so I wondered how they could afford it. I was even more suspicious when the bill came, as it added up to about $300 US dollars! I had not purchased any gifts so I simply offered to pay for the tea I tasted. In response, one of the girls told me that is was customary for the guest to pay the entire bill, which made me feel very uncomfortable and quite angry. “You should have told me this before we came here” was my nervous response, as I really wasn’t sure if she was being straight with me. “This is a huge amount of money and although I do not wish to offend you, I am not paying this bill” I said firmly. To cut a long story short, I ended up just paying for the few sips of tea I tasted, which mysteriously came to around $45 on it’s own! When I talked to some of my colleagues about it the following day, my suspicions were totally confirmed and they laughed about me falling for the old ‘Tea Ceremony’ scam! To put it into perspective, a waiter working full-time in a Shanghai restaurant earns around $150 per month, so even a take of $45 in one night is not a bad return for them for one hours work. “I am just glad I did not end up footing the entire bill and considered the event to be a wake up call for greater vigilance on my part” said our traveller (Editors Note: See Shanghai, Chiang Rai and Goodbye, published April 2010)

Above: “Even though I have been constantly moving, it has been very important for me to continue my own learning and development and I have chosen to highlight a couple of really fantastic experiences in this area. The first was in Thailand in 2006, in Chiang Mai – the very first time I visited the city. I had always thought I might stop somewhere along the way and take time out to qualify as an English teacher (TEFL), as it meant I would always be able to create work and income while on the road. Chiang Mai seemed like a great place to stay and I decided to enrol on a course run by the Language Institute at the Chiang Mai University. For me, someone who left school at 16 and went straight into business, it was also an opportunity to experience something I missed out on in my youth and I got my first taste of University life. The five week course was very challenging and very intense, but immensely satisfying when I eventually achieved my qualification. During the course, I taught Thai University students English for two hours each day and gained experience in preparing lesson plans and managing classroom dynamics (left). When I enrolled, I heard that an outstanding student could pass the course with a distinction or even a High distinction, although only one person in the history of the course had ever achieved the latter. I decided I wanted to be the second and set about passing at the highest level. I entered the final three hour exam with 75 points in the bag and needed an overall total of 95, with the exam itself worth 20 marks. That meant no room whatsoever for error. You can imagine how proud I felt when I achieved the ‘perfect’ score from my paper and it meant I became the second person to gain the ultimate result from the course” (right)

Below: “My second great learning experience happened in Melbourne in 2007, where I chose to attend a one-day course called “Digital Storytelling” at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square. We were shown how to produce and edit a video documentary and we were given time to make our own one minute films to learn the process. The only material I had (known as “assets” in the film making business) were my pictures and video clips of me from the TEFL course in Chiang Mai (above) so I made my film about that and called it “My University Challenge”. I discovered that I love making films and have continued to do so when I have had the chance” said Ray. (Editors Note: We have included Ray’s one minute documentary for readers who would like to see it)

Below: Ray, seen here ‘catching flies’ in 2006, has been living out of the same bag for five years (left) – “I have been very careful to keep detailed records of places I have been, how much I have spent and things like that, knowing that one day this information might be needed for a book. However, one statistic that I have not kept a record of (and I wish I had) is the number of different beds I have slept in since I left England five years ago! Of course there has been the odd occasion where I have missed a night’s sleep or roughed it, but these have been very rare. And I have bedded down in some very unusual places including a few sleeper trains (in Thailand and Vietnam, see below right), a converted prison in New Zealand as well as a number of mountain shacks in Nepal and a few sofas here and there. All told, I estimate the number of different beds to be somewhere between 1,000 – 1,200!” Ray told me

Above: “People I meet on my travels often ask me what is the most thrilling physical experience I have had. There are two that really stand out. The first was when I realised another one of my lifetime dreams of doing the ‘Nevis’ bungy jump in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2007. A J Hackett, who created the sport is from there and it is regarded as the home of the bungy. I decided many years ago that this was the place where I would do it. The ‘Nevis’ bungy jump, one of several on offer in Queenstown, is situated about 20 kilometres out of town and jumpers are transported across steep, rugged terrain to reach the jump platform, suspended across a gorge. It was constructed in 1999, using a special patented design. At 134 metres (440 feet), it is the second highest commercial jump in the world (the highest is in Macau), with 8.5 seconds of freefall time. Jumpers are required to put harnesses on before they are transported by a tiny cable car across the gorge to the jump station in the centre. As the moment of truth drew nearer, I was a little nervous. But having done the Sky Tower jump in Auckland a couple of weeks before, it didn’t seem so bad. With only moments to go, I braced myself and relaxed into it. I watched someone go before me and saw the way they dived, and tried my best to copy their style. I remember thinking that I wanted to really enjoy it, flying totally unassisted for 8.5 seconds is something I knew I would not do again for quite a while and I wanted to be fully conscious. I was given a 3-2-1 countdown – then I just let myself fall forward and enjoyed the ride. It was thoroughly exhilarating and quite serene” (Editors Note: The official one minute video of Ray’s jump is breath-taking and well worth seeing, although the music that it has been set to by the people at A J Hackett is rather unbearable)

Below: “Another lifetime dream of mine was fulfilled earlier this year when I completed the eight day trek from the mountain village of Lukla, Nepal to reach Everest Base Camp in the Himalaya’s. The Daily Explorer wrote extensively about my trip there, in a special issue called The Roof of the World in June 2010. The base camp elevation is 5,364 metres (17,600 feet) and getting there was definitely the greatest moment in my trekking life so far. When I did the Annapurna Circuit in 2008, I went even higher, at 17,769 feet, but this felt much harder somehow, due to the terrain being much steeper in places. With oxygen levels around 50% of what I would normally be used to, as I entered base camp I couldn’t help wonder what it might be like to climb the mountain itself, which seems an impossibility at this point in my life; that’s what makes it so compelling to think about it” admitted Ray. “There were hundreds of tents at Base Camp – around 26 expeditions were granted permits to climb this year by the government, all departing during the second half of May, causing considerable congestion at the summit. For most climbers, the cost of going to the summit is in the region of $65 – 70,000 dollars each and some of those may not make it all the way. Luckily, they will all have the support of sherpas who are amongst the strongest and best mountain climbers in the world” said our mountain trekker

Above: “Last but definitely not least in my most cherished memories from the last five years would be the outstanding success of my global “Calling All Angels” Fundraising Campaign. The idea for it was germinated towards the end of 2008 as I had come across a couple of organisations on my travels that were doing really good work but lacked funding. I thought that if I could do something that would be a challenging, life-changing experience for me, I could somehow ask people to sponsor me as a means to raise the money they desperately needed. So I decided to run in the New York Marathon – quite a feat for me as I had never been a runner before at any distance! I dedicated most of 2009 to the programme and found a brilliant running coach in Chiang Mai. I decided to live there for six months so that I could train every morning and be on the phone raising money the rest of the time. Halfway through my training, Matt Campbell (my coach) entered me into an International Half-Marathon race in Pattaya (left). Crossing the line in two hours was a fantastic moment for me because I could see my training was producing superb results and my time was around 2 hours which meant my target of running the full marathon in 4 hours was realistic and achievable. As well as contacting over 500 people around the world by email and phone to raise money, I organised a fund-raising event for about 80 people in Chiang Mai (right) which everyone loved. By the time I left for New York at the end of October, we knew we had raised over $15,000 for our three beneficiaries. All of this was possible because I had lots of help from many kind people – you know who you are!” (Editors Note: For further information about Ray’s campaign, visit the “Calling All Angels” site)

Below: “Some readers may recall that I suffered a bad injury a few weeks before the New York Marathon, tearing one of my calf muscles from over-training. Although it recovered well, I was not fully fit on the day but was still able to take part in the race and completed it in 4 hours: 16 mins: 29 seconds. I was pretty satisfied with that and I achieved another of my life ambitions which was to run a marathon before reaching the age of 50, which I managed with nine months to spare! Doing all this taught me that we can do pretty much anything we put our minds to, as long as we take the correct steps and maintain the discipline and work required – if we are doing the right thing, I now know that all of the help we need definitely shows up” concluded Ray  (Editors Note: For further information about the race, see 256 New York Minutes)

Above: Ray returned to Nepal in May of this year with $5,000 to buy much needed equipment and resources for the children who are looked after by the Namaste Childrens House organisation. You can find out what happened in “The Angels Come Home

Below: The kids at Namaste Childrens House were amongst Ray’s many supporters when he was training for the New York Marathon and they sent him this ‘Good Luck’ message a couple of days before the race – “I have experienced so much joy by doing something for people who really needed my help and I am so grateful for the support that was given to me by friends around the world” said Ray

Above: The World Cancer Research Fund (left) and the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai (right) were also beneficiaries of the “Calling All Angels” Fundraising Campaign

Below: What is the most important item for a global nomad? – “I’d say its a toss-up between my laptop and my shoes” said Ray, who was pictured here during a brief visit to London in May 2008 for his brother’s 50th birthday. “That was when I replaced my first pair – I have no idea how many hundreds or even thousands of miles they have covered”. Ray is now on his third pair of shoes and we wish him well as he enters his sixth year in what is turning out to be quite an extra-ordinary story!

Editors Note: The last five years have been a fantastic experience for all of us at The Daily Explorer too. We have really enjoyed creating each issue that has been posted and hope that you get as much pleasure reading them as we do putting them together. Of course, we have a fantastic team of writers who we rely on and they never let us down, so a big thanks to them. Ray will shortly be departing Chiang Mai for Australia where he will be spending time in Brisbane and Sydney. So one of our favourite correspondents down under, Chuck Maboomerang will be re-joining us to compile our last issue of the year, which will be online in a few weeks.

Our aim at The Daily Explorer is to create a great publication for you, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com. We will keep you posted!

MOZZIE BYTE

Above: Some familiar faces; we gratefully acknowledge some members of our wonderful team at The Daily Explorer who have helped make this possible. From left to right: Chin Tu Fat (Chinese correspondent), Nick Elandimer (USA), Ivana Getachek (our “Calling All Angels” Campaign Manager), Me So Fit (Asian health correspondent), Dolly Lama (Tibet), Seymour Peaks (Nepal), Po Scard (Cultural Correspondent) and Chuck Maboomerang who will be rounding off the year for us in Australia with our final issue

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6 Comments »

  1. Happy 5th anniversary! Maak dee maak! Chok dee, Howard

    Comment by Howard — November 7, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  2. Amazing read Ray – well done you!

    Can’t believe it was five years ago that we struck up that conversation at The Yoga Cafe in The Fisherman’s Village on Ko Samui.

    Keep up the adventuring.

    Cal

    Comment by Cal — November 8, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  3. My guru, my inspiration, my hero and my friend. Another great issue. Lovely to reminisce along with you. Sorry to see you are leaving Chiang Mai as I was thinking of turning up and surprising you! Some day… Bon Voyage and speak soon xx

    Comment by Angie Calder — November 8, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

  4. Thank you for another wonderful insight in to your journeys, both inner and outer. You have a gift for words and your book will be a winner – no doubt about it. We both hope you have a great time in Oz.

    Regards,
    Shirley and Brian

    Comment by Shirley — November 10, 2010 @ 11:57 am

  5. Well done Ray! Love, Jane

    Comment by Jane Harries — November 23, 2010 @ 3:47 am

  6. Dearest Ray,

    This blog is a pure pleasure to see and read! I’m sure we’ll combine efforts one day to do something inspirational for the world! Keep on keeping on my friend 🙂

    Nicko

    Comment by Nick — December 21, 2010 @ 7:00 pm


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