9:57am: Greta and I are walking into the basecamp bungalows for the last time before we part ways and journey off to our next destinations. A Thai resident and basecamp worker greets us with a kind smile and asks us what we have planned for the day and we respond regretfully that we will be leaving. The man frowns back, "No leaving... you leave, no more sunshine." We both smile and I begin to sing, "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone." We make the way back to the bungalow, I grab my backpack, say my goodbyes to Greta, and head towards the pier. As I pass by, Mr. Sunshine yells out to me, "Hey, my friend, I see you when you see me!" I smile and wave. I walk about thirty feet more down the dirt road. A Thai man is sitting on a hammock, swaying with one leg propped up in a hold while the other traces lines on the ground. He waves to me and calls out, "you leaving?" I respond accordingly and he follows it up with, "My friend, good luck to you... Tonsai miss you." My smile is unmistakable. This is what a community feels like. This is my place.
Yesterday I laid on my belly, rocking and swaying with the waves, surrounded entirely only by water, with rock and sandy white beaches in the distances. The sun was setting and Greta and I had kayaked out to the middle of the ocean to see it. For a minute, I'm taken away from the moment. My legs are hanging off the end, floating on the top of the water and my face is squished into the side of the bright red kayak. My eyes keep alternating between opened and closed. I want to close my eyes, count my breaths and feel the moment, but the sights are too astounding to close your eyes for more than a few seconds at a time. My face is nearly at water level and the sun traces a dancing line of light that reaches out from the distance and finds my face. I feel alive. I want to engrave this moment in my mind and keep it safely tucked away there forever. Just then, while trying to pull myself into a sitting position, I topple off the kayak, into the water, scratching my stomach and then kicking a big piece of coral in the water... I might write gracefully but let's not forget how UNGRACEFUL I really am. A perfect seal on a perfect moment.
Two nights ago I laid flat on my back with the soft sand of Tonsai cushioning my back. Looking up to view a sky full of stars for the first time in months left me feeling breathless. I don't remember the last time I saw visible stars, but it was surely not during my year in Seoul. The green lights in the distance paint the horizon a turquoise blue, only fading to black where dark silhouettes of the island rocks shoot up to the sky. Aside from myself and my four friends, there are hardly any other people on the beach. The only interruption is the reggae music coming from the bar behind us, but it's welcomed by the swaying of my feet in the sand as I lay back on my elbows. Here everyone speaks about wanting to "get away" from the touristic beaches and finding somewhere untouched. I'm unbiased and honestly just happy to be anywhere as beautiful as this. While others are spending their time looking for this untouched place, here I am enjoying it. It leaves me wondering: Is this real? How did I get here? (And) Do I have to leave?
Staying in Tonsai was like a small slice of heaven. Sure, we had no WiFi access on the island, had electricity for only a few short hours in the evening, cold showers, a bucket of water to flush the toilet with, and a bungalow lacking airflow but excelling in insect population, BUT, we also had beautiful scenery, outrageous adventures, and a Thai community that made us feel like family every day. It was worth every second. Backpacking has definitely taught me how to be more laid back about things and Tonsai especially has taught me how people can live happily without having it all. Happiness and a good life does not come from what you have but what you making of it. Happiness is not a destination, it's a mind set. I'm happy.