When I stepped off the longtail boat onto a remote beach in the southern gulf of Thailand, I had no idea how it was to shape the course of my life, and my ideas around family and community.
I had heard stories about this particular bay for many years, stories that etched images in my mind of sun salutations at dawn and dancing under full moons, of drum circles in the jungle and dynamic meditations whose vigor could be heard from the next beach.
The stories spoke of lost souls who had found themselves and found souls who had lost themselves, both with joy and relief. With a one-way ticket to Thailand in my pocket, this was the place that was calling me home, screaming to my heart above the chaos of Bangkok and the lure of Chang Mai.
One of the things that amazes me the most about travel, regardless of the particular destination, is connecting with people that you share your life story with upon meeting and dive into the vault of your inner-most secrets with little fear, or judgement.
I have met people on the road that I have only spent a few days with, but who know more about me than people with whom I have spent years of my life.
There are people that I have met that will disappear after we part ways, and then later down the road I will find myself sleeping on their floor in a country on the opposite side of the world.
There is something about the bond that develops between people when your “normal” or “routine” lives seem like a fairytale stories a million galaxies away.
There is a freedom, a lack of expectation, an unspoken permission that you can be exactly who you are and share exactly what you like, for tomorrow could take you anywhere. When life is lived in the present, there is a simplicity in relating and an ease in sharing.
Having said that, there is something unique about the people that, over the course of several years, I have come to meet on this beach.
Some people may come and leave the following day. Some come and leave in the haste to see the rest of the country, only to find themselves returning the following week. Some come with the idea of staying a week and stay a month. Some come and find themselves returning back to their original home, quitting their job, selling everything they have and returning to call this bay their permanent home.
Many people find somewhat of a balance in between; they come for the high season, sink into the world and lifestyle that they love and then spend the rest of the year working, saving, dreaming of the day when they step back on the beach that holds their spirit in safe keeping.
Many of us that fall deliriously into this category receive updates from Asian airlines where we tempt ourselves with deals that seem almost possible come that mid-winter flash of desperation.
Many of us spend late night hours on Facebook connecting with one another, supporting one another, strengthening bonds that grow like vines and stretch across the world, building bridges from continent to continent, from country to country, linking the web within which we all somehow manage to survive.
We call it a family or a tribe, we call one another sister or brother, we are intrinsically aware and grateful for the fact that no matter where we are in the world, we have a home with someone who is part of this web. There is an understanding, an unspoken vocabulary, a way of seeing through eyes that have witnessed unfathomable beauty, in the salt water drops of the ocean in another’s eyes.
I have couch-surfed with people that I have met on this beach across California.
I have moved in with people from this beach when I first moved to Canada.
I have been welcomed with open arms in a small village in Bali.
I have been embraced in the chaotic sprawl of London.
I have been welcomed back home to Australia by those who know the heartache that leaving this bay causes.
Collectively, this unique web spreads to the far reaches of the globe, and with only one degree of separation between this collective, a connection from this magical place is never far away.
In this day and age, the idea of family is dramatically skewed from its traditional sense.
I remember a card I once received that read, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” And indeed, as we grow, move, wander and entwine with others in this world, we come to find the people who resonate with us.
As time quickens and distance lessens, we find ourselves needing to hold onto and ground into things that serve us and remind us of our path, of who we are and what truly matters.
We seem to fall gracefully into geographical locations and into units that become family as we seek to dive deeper into our own sense of self and purpose; these reflections offer another window to explore our inner and outer worlds.
We seem to gravitate towards people who share our ideals and sense of purpose; we find community in commonality. In a gentle way, by surrounding ourselves with like-minded souls, we are held accountable for the choices we make and the promises we carry. Are we walking a path that fills us with overflowing joy? If not, where did we get lost along the way?
It is a unique and remarkable community, one that I feel grateful to be a part of every day. I know that when December comes and that ocean calls, to refuse that siren is like telling birds not to fly south for the winter; my need is instinctive.
There is a special place on the shore where people tie a strand of their hair, a ritual that promises them they will return again one day.
I have yet to tie a lock there myself, yet I keep returning. I figure I have left locks in other places: in the currents of the waters, in the scent of the frangipanis, in the woven fabric of a hammock, in the footprints on random jungle tracks. So, I seem to have etched myself into this glisteneing web, tangling myself in a community that deepens in my heart day by day.
As the world continues to become more chaotic and in many ways separate, it seems so important to find spaces and places, people and community that can be our call back to our heart, that can become, no matter where we are, a place we can always call home.
Kelly Kaiana is an aspiring writer, a raw food chef and a passionate yogi, practicing and teaching in the style of Ishta Yoga. A lover of travel and culture, this gypsy poet calls Byron Bay home, a place abounding in natural beauty, spectacular sunsets and endless inspiration. An eternal optimist, Kelly is passionate about community, vegetarianism and all things environmentally friendly and sustainable. The spirit of bhakti inspires her creative flow, whether that be through making jewelery, creating a new yoga practice, serving beautiful, nourishing food or collecting natures treasures for her alter. When she is not traveling the world or making raw wedding cakes in the kitchen, you can find her strolling through farmers markets in the sunshine, dancing barefoot in the rain, or etching spirals and dreams into the sand.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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