Life and stuff: First world problems in a Thai paradise

first-world-problems-in-a-thai-paradiseI 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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

9 comments on “Life and stuff: First world problems in a Thai paradise

  1. No honey, I think you need to absolutely refuse to pay for a thing – you are working for the man! They are getting rich benefits out of this! Is a perk still a perk when it costs you a fortune as well as your sanity? I think not.

  2. Hello beautiful, it all makes complete sense. Sometimes the most outwardly beautiful/glamorous (see, glamour is all about ‘show’, not reality though) things CAN be incredibly stressful / unlike how they seem. And similarly, ‘basic’ conditions can often be the most exquisite. Simplicity, it’s all about simplicity.
    I went on a famil to Tahiti when I was writing my book and i did not have a spare $100 to my name at the time. I was told the PR was covering it. Suddenly, $100 sandwiches and $20 plastic combs (everything is expensive over there and nothing is available) were being charged to my visa card! I wondered if my card bounced if i’d be allowed to fly back to Australia?!
    Yet I came back saying that i was ‘exhausted and stressed out’ after a trip to Tahiti!! Let me tell you, nobody was really that interested. Haha.
    Anyway, it’s all about learning of the absurdly paradoxical nature of life, and travel, isn’t it?
    I’ve had the most lovely times in some of the scungiest of digs. Roll with it, laugh, take a mental snapshot of that aegean sea to use when you meditate back in the merry old land of Auz, and maybe sleep on a rolled-up jumper instead of that feathery pillow tonight?
    PS And have a BATH in your spa suite

  3. PS Forgot the funniest irony of my Tahiti famil. I had the wi-fi problem you have, and got a commission for a column at – gulp – an hour’s notice, for a major metropolitan newspaper. I paid the faster connection to wi-fi fee (it was a 5 star hotel) to get the column submitted, then when i paid the bill, I’d been charged $60AUS for the internet use. The column only paid $88!!!

  4. Just remember Em that feeling guilty about feeling stressed only makes it worse! Take a deep breath, have a big glass of wine, and just accept the fact that you are as close to perfect as you can get and can only do what you can do. ;o)

  5. Not at all Em! If it’s annoying, it’s annoying. And you have different expectations in different places – it’s the strange problem with 5 star places, you expect so much that the smallest thing is annoying. I still complain about not being able to get a ripe avocado in Marrickville, don’t worry!

  6. Ah babes that sucks. Don’t you dare pay for anything else! You better get get reimbursed by someone as its not your holiday…YOU ARE WORKING!

    Don’t stress, try and enjoy what time you have left there and the luxurious hotel as before you know it you will be back in Marrickville with me, the smelly dogs and house duties! (although I will make sure I wash the dogs and clean up before you get back) See you Sunday!

  7. Oh Em, I can totally relate. I’ve just arrived in Kathmandu and what am I doing? Worrying about insignificant crap and checking Facebook. You can take the girl out of neurotic Sydney, but you can’t take the neurotic out of the girl! Hope it all works out and you relax and enjoy…

  8. I feel for you Emma, and hope that getting it off your chest helps a bit, and I particularly love the comments of Elly and Husband #1.

  9. Hey Em, I am just so thrilled to hear that you are living your dream – being paid to travel, write and experience life to the full. You go girl!!!

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