The Daily Explorer

March 21, 2011

Turning Over A New Leaf

Chiang Mai, Thailand: March 2011

MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): A warm welcome to all our Daily Explorer readers. For those of you who are joining us for the first time, Ray has been living nomadically for nearly five and a half years since he left England in November 2005 and has visited 18 different countries so far on his journey. We have been publishing exclusive news and stories about his many encounters and experiences (you will find all of these in our Previous Issues archive).

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 our second issue of 2011, we have an update for you from Chiang Mai, Thailand where Ray has begun work on the writing project he talked to us about in the last Daily Explorer. He recently attended a five-day “Writers Retreat” to learn some of the basics. He has been meeting on a regular basis with his newly formed club of fellow authors in the city and it is likely that he will be writing for the next few months at least rather than travelling. Consequently, new issues of The Daily Explorer may appear less frequently during this year. Aside from writing, our global nomad is also exploring a couple of new business ideas and to wrap up, we have some amusing video clips which were sent to us by readers.

In case you missed our last issue, Ray was in Sydney where he celebrated Christmas and New Year amongst friends and sent us a fantastic selection of personal pictures to give you a flavour of his visit there. You can read it now at: Between The Lines

Above: Our global traveller experienced the spectacular, $5,000,000 firework display in Sydney on New Years Eve. You can read all about it and find out what else he got up to in Between The Lines

Back in familiar territory, I asked our global explorer how it felt to be in Chiang Mai again for a while. “Well Mozzie, it is actually quite wonderful to be here” he told me. “I am in my favourite room in my favourite guest house and have made so many friends here since my first visit in 2006 that whenever I show up, I actually feel a sense of joy and calm, like I have arrived home. This is a bit of a revelation to me as it suggests that the feeling I refer to as ‘home’ is just that – a feeling – and not a specific place as I have habitually thought of it. The longer this great nomadic experience goes on, the more I am letting go of mental concepts that just don’t seem relevant or applicable to me any longer and this is a typical example. I am intending to distill and capture some more of these examples in my book” explained Ray. Naturally, I was curious to find out what progress Ray is making with his writing and whether or not the world of book publishing is as alluring now as it seemed initially.

“On reflection, it was a good move to attend a five-day writers workshop at the end of January – an opportunity that arose after I had made the decision to come here and start work on the book, so quite serendipitous” he told me. “The course was run by Wendy Goldman Rohm, who has masses of experience. She published a controversial, best-selling book in the nineties called The Microsoft File, about corruption within the software giant” recalled Ray. On the workshop, I was in a group of fifteen people with mixed levels of experience. Some people have published two or three books already whilst others, like me, were complete newbies” he added.

Above: Our global traveller returned to Chiang Mai to discover that the seasonal weather patterns in Thailand, and the rest of Asia for that matter, seem to be changing – “We have had some of the coldest, wettest days I have ever seen here, at a time of year when you can virtually count on it to be sunny, dry and very hot” said our rather puzzled traveller. “It’s been so cold, I have actually been wearing my fleece some evenings” he told me. This picture was taken by Daily Explorer reader Susie Moberly, who managed to capture a typhoon in action near her home off the coast of Ko Samui, an island in Thailand’s southern gulf

Below: Ray’s rather posh transport whilst in Chiang Mai is this 35-year-old Honda moped (left) which he borrows from the manager of his guesthouse – “It’s great for running around town and I only have to fill it up with petrol about once every 10 days” said Ray, who really enjoys the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful garden at his favourite Tip Top guesthouse (right)

Above: A peaceful, comfortable and inspirational space is required if you are trying to get to grips with the challenge of creative writing and the Tip Top guesthouse provides it for Ray

Ray’s course teacher, Wendy Goldman Rohm, New York Times bestselling author and literary agent, has taught and lectured for MediaBistro, Yale University, onboard the QEII, and numerous universities and organizations in the US, Europe and Asia. Her work has been published by Random House, The New York Times Syndicate International, Wired magazine, Tina Brown’s Talk magazine, Men’s Vogue, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Financial Times of London, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and many others. She’s been a literary agent and author for Sterling Lord Literistic, New York; The Waxman Agency, New York; Waterside Productions; and founded the Rohm Agency to represent emerging authors of fiction and nonfiction. She’s been a commentator on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including: The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, and dozens of programs on NBC, CNBC, PBS radio and television, CNN, CBS, ABC, and BBC radio and television. She is currently working on her fifth book. I was curious to know what it was like to work with someone of her calibre at such an early stage?

“It was both a blessing and a curse in some ways” explained Ray. “Wendy is very smart and knows her stuff from a technical standpoint inside out and back to front, so in that sense, she was a perfect tutor. However, I felt the course structure could have been improved. There didn’t appear to be a set agenda for the five days which is something I am used to in the business world, so I was not entirely sure what specifically we were expected to learn. Before arriving, Wendy asked me to complete a questionnaire regarding my goals for taking part, which she did not refer to during the course so I never knew if there was any correlation between the work we were doing and my personal aims, or if the programme had been adapted to take these into account” recalled Ray.

Was the course useful? “Some parts were. The content we covered helped me to see more clearly how to get started with my writing and gave me one or two good ideas for how to set out a story” he told me. “On reflection, it may have been better for me to have worked with a complete group of beginners, as there were several people in my group with years of writing experience, including one or two authors Wendy actually represents. So when it came to do some of the writing exercises, I felt out of my depth and found some of the instructions hard to understand. My confidence was low and it was hard to follow much of the conversation going on in the room during de-briefs, due to excessive reference to literary works and techniques I am not familiar with. This was quite frustrating for me. On a more positive note, I got an opportunity to practise technical writing skills using different tools and techniques, like constructing dialogue and writing in the third and first person and got some useful feedback. And I found out about many of the things I need to know in order to get a book published, so when the time comes, I have a better chance of success” explained Ray.

Above: The five-day writers course was hosted at the Nugent Waterside Resort just outside Chiang Mai – “It was a great place for a learning event” said Ray

Below: Fellow writers Philip Cornwel-Smith (left) and Salisa Pinkayan (right) attended the five-day course. Both are published authors. Philip’s book is an unconventional guide to Thailand, called “Very Thai” and Salisa writes romantic novels – “I was able to learn a lot from them” Ray told me. “Salisa shared some of Ernest Hemmingway’s wisdom with me: All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you’ve read one of them you will feel like all that happened, happened to you and then it belongs to you forever; the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, wine, beds, people and the weather. If you can give that to readers, then you’re a writer”

Above: Ray and the other delegates at the writers workshop during an exercise – “Typically, Wendy would ask us to close our eyes and visualise a scenario that she would describe to us. After a few minutes, she would ask us to open our eyes and start writing immediately, with no censorship or editing, so we could see how to tap into our consciousness more deeply for greater expression. Wow, I sound like I know what I am talking about!” he laughed

Below: All good writers need plenty of refreshment breaks (left) to get their creative juices flowing. Wendy Goldman Rohm (right) led the five-day course – “She knows her stuff, but her course did not seem to be structured very well or particularly suited to someone just starting out. It does contain some useful and relevant material but overall, I would have to say that it was not good value for money and would not recommend it” said our traveller

Above: Breaks also provided a great opportunity for Ray and the other delegates to get to know each other and get feedback on some of the exercises. Left picture, from left to right: Sherry Tousley, Ezio Tamburrini, Ray and Joanna MacLean. Right picture, from left to right: Ezio Tamburrini chats with Tammy Stone and Prasad Tgc – “Many of the books that these people are writing have great potential” said Ray. “Their stories include a Harry Potter style fantasy novel, charming short stories from a retired hairdresser and personal recollections of travel adventures” said Ray

Below: Ray talks to fellow writer Amber Christensen from the USA as they head towards the meeting room for another creative working session. Mo Tejani, who is behind Ray (grey shirt) lives in Chiang Mai and has had three books published, including “A Chameleons Tale

Above: There were some great opportunities for everyone on the course to socialise – “My life gets more and more interesting every year” said Ray. “If someone had said to me a few years ago that I was going to live out of a bag for five years, act in a play, trek to Mount Everest, meditate with Buddhist monks, run a marathon, become a successful global fundraiser and write a book, I would have had trouble believing them” said our appreciative adventurer. “It seems that there is truth in the statement “Anything is possible” he mused

Ray and I touched base a couple of weeks after his course had finished which gave me an opportunity to discover how he was getting on. “In the workshop, I came up with a ten chapter ‘plot outline’ which is writers jargon for a plan of what goes in the book and in what order. This is a crucial decision as it will determine how engaged (or not) my readers will be. In my case, I am writing a ‘narrative non-fiction’ book, which means that the story is describing actual events that took place as well as my thoughts, feelings and insights that relate to them. Currently, my main task is to get all of the information that resides in my memory on to paper, which generally means writing a couple of hours a day or at least as often as I feel I can. I am attempting to recall events spanning seven years so the farther back I go, the harder it is sometimes to remember the detail. And I have understood from all the input I have received that the devil is in the detail. My challenge is to describe reality in such a way that anyone who reads it feels as if they were actually there seeing it for themselves – very easy to say but not so easy to do. That is what I am trying to learn and am quite a way from where I would like to be” admitted Ray.

Had being part of the newly formed writers club been helping him progress? “Definitely yes, Mozzie. By giving and receiving feedback regularly, I have started to see ways of constructing ideas that are more powerful and ironically it often means saying less” observed Ray. “It has been very beneficial to share the journey with other people and I have highly valued their input. As I will be leaving Chiang Mai soon, I will have to support myself for a while” he told me. “I am still deliberating with myself as to the overall theme of my book and how to organise it in the best way for potential readers. Much has happened to me in the last five years and I am not clear how to select what is most important or how to convey it in a compelling way so that my readers can really enjoy and get some value from it. Every time I meet people and ask them what they would most like to read, I get a variety of different responses so it is important that I give myself an opportunity to clarify the big picture first while I simultaneously dig out the nitty-gritty and get it on paper” said our global nomad.

Above: Members of Ray’s newly formed Writers Club get together for a feedback session – “Each time, 2-3 people are chosen for feedback and they circulate an excerpt from their book about one week before the meeting, enabling the others to read it and make a note of their comments” explained Ray

Below: All of us at The Daily Explorer office are very impressed with Ray as he attempts to forge a new direction for himself as a writer. Although he is still learning, I am sure he could do a better job than the people who came up with this bunch of ridiculous newspaper headlines!

Aside from his writing, I asked Ray what else was on his agenda in the next few months. “There are a couple of things cooking slowly on the back burner” he said. “For some time, I have been exploring the possibility of offering a service to bring people to Chiang Mai who are in need of expensive dental work. The facilities here are really world-class and yet are available at a fraction of the price that people living in the UK, USA, Australia or New Zealand might pay. Many of my friends have had work done here, including one couple from Sacramento who were quoted $8,500 at home for metal removal, a few caps, crowns and fillings. They were able to get all of their requirements met here in six or seven sittings over a two-week period. The total bill came to $1,500. Not only that, they commented on the brilliant service, saying that their chosen dentist had been totally focused on them and they had felt really taken care of. He even played an American radio station for them whilst they were in the chair! And on top of all of this, they enjoyed a great holiday in and around Chiang Mai which was essentially free” he explained. “Many people are aware of this but are still too nervous to venture abroad, which I can understand. Going to a new place can be a daunting experience, even without having to be concerned with medical treatments. So my aim is to provide a concierge style service and take care of people from the moment their plane lands to the moment they leave. I hope to have more detailed information for our readers later but in the meantime, anyone who is requiring expensive dental treatment is welcome to get in touch. They may be able to save a huge amount of money, depending on what they require” said Ray.

Above: There are world-class facilities in Chiang Mai for people requiring complex dental work. Slowly but surely, more and more foreigners are coming here to get their needs met – “Inflation makes everything more expensive and some people’s finances are under greater pressure than ever before” said Ray. “I am aiming to help people save money and still get a first class job done, in a beautiful city where they can also relax and enjoy themselves. Having spent so much time here myself, I am clear that many people would be thrilled if they really knew what is available and how to access it” added Ray

Some of our readers know that Ray worked in the business world for many years before he left England in November 2005 to start his global nomadic adventure. He told me about an opportunity he was looking into that may see him making a partial return to that world sometime in the next few months. “I have been in dialogue with a company based in Singapore who provide coaching services to business executives throughout Asia. That in itself is not unusual and some of our readers may remember that I have held discussions with similar businesses in the past in this region. What is unusual about Coach In A Box is that much of their coaching is done over the Internet using Skype, which makes it ideal from my perspective” said Ray. “It means that I could work from any base and be able to look after clients without having to physically travel to their office for every meeting. In the past, this has made it too cost prohibitive for me to operate from Chiang Mai but now, it would not really be a problem. Of course, I could also take on clients who require face to face coaching in the future, but for now it would give me a smooth and painless re-entry into the business world. The people who I have met at Coach In A Box are very professional and on the face of it, I seem to be a good fit with their needs for experienced coaches. Right now, I am being coached for a few weeks myself by one of their team so that I can experience what their service is like from a clients perspective, which is a really great idea and is actually helping me with my own development too! I will let you know how things pan out” said Ray.

Above: Ray on Skype on the beach in Cherating, Malaysia in 2010 (left) and on the tiny Caribbean island of St. Maarten in 2007 (right). After five and a half years of living without a fixed base, our global nomad has become very comfortable with working remotely via the Internet – “As readers of my forthcoming book will find out in due course, being technically savvy and Internet/PC literate is a pre-requisite for living life effectively as a nomad. I manage all of my finance and investments, business and personal relationships, document production and administration, travel arrangements and conversations via my laptop from wherever I am. Location doesn’t really matter, as long as there is a good Internet connection and somewhere quiet to talk” he told me

Despite the temptation to become totally immersed in ‘doing’ stuff, I discovered that Ray is still as dedicated to his personal and spiritual development as he ever was and asked him to share a little bit of himself with me on the topic of ‘being’. “Well Mozzie, as I follow this highly unconventional path, it is becoming clearer to me that my own peace of mind and happiness is totally (and I mean TOTALLY) dependent on what is happening on the inside of me, as opposed to what is happening externally. I appreciate that this can be a difficult idea to accept sometimes but none-the-less, I am finding out the truth of this for myself. And this change has come about as a result of much self-inquiry as well as taking time to be still on a regular basis so that I can tune in more strongly to the voice of my own intuition. For the last couple of years, I have been attending the weekly gathering in Chiang Mai of the Green Papaya Sangha. Every Thursday, anywhere between 15 – 40 people gather for a couple of hours to meditate in the style of Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist now based in France” Ray told me. “A couple of his books profoundly affected me and the regular meditation has been a transformative catalyst sometimes. When I discovered he was going to be visiting Thailand in March to host a seven-day retreat for 1,500 people, I registered immediately for a place. He is 86 years old and this could be one of the last opportunities to spend time with one of the truly great men of the world” said Ray. “I intend to provide our readers with an update from the event sometime in the next couple of months” said Ray.

For readers who would like to know a little bit more about him, Thich Nhat Hanh joined a Zen monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon. This grassroots relief organization rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools, established medical centers, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War. He travelled to the U.S. to study at Princeton University, and later to lecture at Cornell University and Columbia University. His focus at the time was to urge the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He urged Martin Luther King, Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War; King nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 1967. In 1973, the Vietnamese government denied Nhat Hanh permission to return to Vietnam and he went into exile, establishing Plum Village in France. From 1976 to 1977 he led efforts to rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam. “It is one of my dreams to go to Plum Village” said Ray. “But for now, I am just very grateful to have the opportunity to be in this man’s presence” he told me.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Editors Note: After the Thich Nhat Hanh retreat, Ray will be visiting the UK for 6-7 weeks. “I have got to renew my Thai visa and take care of a few personal things” he told me. “As I will be in London, I am going to visit some friends in Amsterdam and Berlin too” added our global traveller. Rest assured we will be bringing you all of the news and pictures from these events in forthcoming issues of The Daily Explorer. Some of you may recall me asking you to send in humorous video clips and I am pleased to say that we have had a great response! So here are two short clips for you to enjoy. If you find any others that you think are special, please send me the links!

1. All babies tend to be really cute and this one is no exception. We guarantee you will not be able to watch this without laughing!

2. If only animals could talk – well in this clip, they do! The brilliant voice-overs are extremely convincing!

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

Question: Can you find the man hidden in the Coffee Beans below? ‘

Doctors have concluded that if you find the man in the coffee beans in 3 seconds, the right half of your brain is better developed than most people. If you find the man between 3 seconds and 1 minute, the right half of your brain is developed normally. If you find the man between 1 minute and 3 minutes, then the right half of your brain is functioning slowly and you need to eat more protein. If you have not found the man after 3 minutes, the advice is to look for more of this type of exercise to make that part of the brain stronger!!! And, yes, the man is really there!! (Our thanks to Susie Moberly for sending this to us)

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2 Comments »

  1. Sounds like you got a lot out of the writing course Ray. You are already a good writer! I just had my teeth done in Bangkok, its so much cheaper than here. Home is where the heart is. Love, Howard

    Comment by Howard — March 21, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  2. Ha ha ha I loved the video of the laughing baby, and the animals clip had tears rolling down my cheeks, so funny. Alan! Alan! And those giraffes!! Howling I was, brilliant. Couldn’t find that man in the coffee beans though, no clue. Must ask Lola. I found your writing just gripping and also you revealed more of your inner world as well as the facts about your experiences, it was great, thanks. Great to have another Blog to read! xx

    Comment by charlotte — March 22, 2011 @ 4:05 am


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