"I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the World." - Mary Radmacher
I've just returned from seven blissful days in Phuket attending Phuket Training & Wellness retreat hosted by two of my beautiful friends, Steve & Michelle. You can read more about what they do by clicking here. Essentially, the retreat is a 7-12 day experience focused on intense fitness and wellness. Each day includes a challenging workout, as well as a yoga class. There's some goal setting, group activities and massage also thrown into the mix and so thoughtfully & perfectly put together by the two hosts.
Below are some excerpts from a journal I kept throughout the trip. If you know me, or you've followed this blog for long enough you would know I am queen of sentimentality. I hold onto memories for dear life. I don't like letting go of the good stuff and feel it hard when I do. To hold on a little longer, I write and I photograph. It's my way of sealing everything nicely, and having something to come back to. For a trip as special as this one, I had to publish this. For that reason, it's a bit long.
And so I made it onto this plane and the feeling of relief hangs heavy over my body. Onward to Singapore. There have been so many times in the last two weeks where I have truly, wholly, doubted my own ability to keep going. To get me onto this plane. Only now, being here, do I realise that our strength, as human beings, is limitless. Only when we need it, and really need it, do we realise how much we actually have.
My head thumps against the window as the van transporting us from the airport to the hotel sways in and out of non existent lanes. The sun has already set and the rain is coming down so heavy that you can't make out the road; too hard and too thick. Inside the van there's silence broken up every so often by the clap of thunder. I'm in awe. Sleepy, foggy awe. When I wake from today I know it will be a whole new city. Funny thing is, I barely sleep that night.
We sit on the beach, watching the clouds roll in. Each of us clawing our way through coconut flesh. It's all a bit surreal. When heading back to the hotel, we are once again caught in the rain. This time there's no cover between the van and walking to our hotel, so within seconds we are drenched top to toe. There's no point fighting it. Let go. The material of my dress sticks to my legs and my arms. I'm spinning. Both literally and figuratively. Every ounce of pain that's followed me the last few months drips off my body and onto the pavement. Consider it a cleansing of sorts. Let's start again.
Later that day, we have our first yoga class of the trip, looking out over the gardens. From start to finish there's that common feeling washing me right over again; relief. It seems I've been holding my breath until now. It's good to be back. Actually the word 'good' doesn't cut it. But you get the idea.
After a gruelling midday HIIT workout, the trainer guides us through a stretch. Instead of doing so, the only thought I have is: "if I bend, I will vomit." This feeling of hell fades quickly and soon enough we all have smoothies in our hands and that endorphin tinged glow of satisfaction.
After a blacked out slumber thanks to gin, we hit the beach for a run. The view is clear and beautiful, though the same can't be said for the smell of butter chicken on my sixth hill run. That afternoon we go zip lining through a beautiful jungle. On one of the last platforms of the day, I'm harnessed and instructed to take the line on my front so my body flies through the air like a bird. Sounds beautiful in theory but as I get onto my hands and knees at the top of the platform, I feel the shaky adrenaline come through. 'Let go,' says the tour guide. 'Easy,' he says. A perfect activity to remember that so much is out of your hands. Jump off, you're gliding.
Later that night we head to the Phuket Night Markets where your senses explode at the same time as your taste buds. Colours, smells and sounds everywhere. My camera barely leaves my hands and my stomach stretches. I vow I'm completely full yet on the ride home, we're sharing bamboo sticky rice.
Death by 12 sets of 6 floors of stairs. Broken up with a mystery exercise between each set just for good measure. There's that euphoria when it's done though. When I'm standing outside looking over at the mountains and wind feels so damn good, sweat towel draped over my head. In the afternoon we all head to our first thai massage with foot reflexology. I breathe deep as the lady lifts me off the bed and swirls my body around, cracking me open. An undoing of sorts. Break me down, put me back together even better.
With kettlebells in our arms, we hike up to Big Buddha. It's serene and lush and peaceful. A tourist takes a group photo of us at the top, but captures mostly the stairs. For dinner we feast on a seafood buffet. I sample around five individual serves of sticky rice and mango, mostly for the mango. The luxury of being on holiday. That night we stay up late talking, knowing we get a "sleep in" til 7am the following day. The next morning however, shortly after 6am, I roll over. "I'm awake" I say. "Of course you are," she says.
For whatever reason, little sleep finds me on this trip, yet I feel more at peace and more rested than I have in months. Underneath maybe I'm tired, but I feel good. I feel at ease.
My last day tastes like impending doom and avoiding things like "I should pack" or "I should check in for the flight" because doing those things makes it feel like it's real. It makes me remember that this is temporary and that life goes on. From a morning Muay Thai class to riding in the back of a ute down to a secluded beach, this day is another beauty. As we come booming down the hill in the ute, I briefly think; "well I might die." That fades quickly and is replaced with laughing enough that my sides hurt. On the beach the water is warm and so blue. I lay in the shade, and read and read and read. When was the last time I did this?
That afternoon I do a one on one yoga class in a little hut. I sweat profusely through every breath. Another beautiful undoing. Another letting go. Another hour of being completely lost and found. Whatever has happened in the past, I am grateful for as it has led me to this moment.
I'm not done here. I'm not done the moment I wake up, moving to my last HIIT session on the tennis courts in the beating sun. I'm not done at the last breakfast, eating fresh fruit and a coffee. I'm not done in the tuk tuk back to the hotel, fresh coconuts in hand. I'm not done, packing up the room to Tom Misch, drinking hydralyte to salvage me from the night before. I'm not done photographing Michelle, the last thing I had to do before it's time to go. I'm not done walking to the welcome lobby, where I'll be picked up. I'm almost done when Michelle tears up. I'm almost done putting my things in the taxi. But then I'm on my way, trailing away from the hotel and towards the airport. My cheeks are wet and I'm hot. Apparently, whether I like it or not, I'm done here, for now.
I don't like the saying "all good things must come to an end." They mustn't. All good things must shift the ground beneath us; alter the axis upon which we are spinning on and reset us. All good things revive us.
To dear Steve & Michelle, thank you for creating such a brilliant week for myself & the other retreat attendees. Thank you for your care, attention, support and thoughtfulness. Thank you for it all.
All my love.