Life and stuff: First world problems in a Thai paradise
I am writing this on a beach in Ao Nang in Southern Thailand. My work has brought me to a 5 star resort that costs more per night than I dare to think about. The sun is shining. The water is the colour of a Scandinavian’s eyes and I sit surrounded by baking Europeans. And yet I feel anxious.
The past few days have been stressful due to the fact that I have been trying to navigate the subtleties of managing the expectations of several groups of people; colleagues, clients, journalists and tourism boards.
I have been so stressed that I can’t sleep and yet I feel monstrously ungrateful. How can I be in paradise, receiving complimentary spa treatments and eating fresh seafood by the Andaman sea and still feel like I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown?
The only answer I can come up with is that I am having a first world meltdown. My problems are so Western and so white that I feel utterly ashamed. In no particular order, this is what has been bothering me:
- The Tourism Board refusing to pay for things so I have to pay for them out of my own pocket. Five star places have five star price tags so this is freaking me out no end. And yet I am paid well, I get to stay here for free and I should be having a great time, which again, freaks me out. Why can’t I just be happy? I should be happy!
- The wi-fi in my stunning spa villa is really slow. It’s like 1998 all over again. I am trying to be responsible and check my emails, stay on top of all my clients’ comings and goings and respond to things in a timely fashion but it takes about 15 minutes to load a page; 15 minutes in which my blood pressure increases steadily until I feel like I am going to start whistling like a kettle.
- I am completely exhausted. I have had weeks of long work hours leading up to this trip and today is the first supposedly ‘free’ time and yet I am completely incapable of relaxing. Good times.
- My neck is killing me. I slept on enormously fluffy feather pillows on my first night here and now I feel like someone had stabbed me in the back of the head
Before I left Australia, I caught up with my beloved friend Nell who has been living in Delhi for the past year. She lives in very basic conditions (no hot water – in fact, no shower at all – just a bucket), the electricity in her apartment comes and goes with erratic frequency, she has to over every inch of her body when she goes out to combat the leering men in the street and she gets paid absolutely bugger all to work on East African prison reform, which involves trips to said prisons.
During our conversation, we laughed about ‘first world problems’ and how pretty much everything I complained about would be considered a huge blessing in India.
Fluffy pillows, access to wi-fi, a professional career with high level contacts and the ability to travel overseas on (largely) someone else’s dime.
I think I need a good dose of poverty, disease and hardship to snap me out of my first world neurosis.