I drank through pounds and pounds of instant coffee in my college dorm. My friend Sylvia got me hooked when she brought a bunch of it back to UMASS from her home in Columbia after holiday break. (Subsequent testing has proven that it was definitely just instant coffee.) This was a time before all-night coffee shops or fancy Keurig one-hitters. I mostly drank it in the dark, while working through the wee hours to complete an art project imminently due for my BFA. I associate this instant coffee aroma with the magical quiet of pre-twilight and a feeling of flow, focus, creative life force and the smell of oil paint or pencil shavings. Instant coffee and solitude and anticipatory delight all come rushing back to me now as I pour the boiling water from the hotel's t-fal pot into my mug, primed with an extra heap of brown caffeine crystals. The pungence hits that sweet spot in my nasal cavity right behind and below my eyes and it all comes flooding back. There’s an electric hum hitting high notes over my head that I’ve only ever noticed when possibility, curiosity and trepidation are present in equal parts. This energy shoots through my skull and down the length of my spine, pulling my eyelids way back as it passes, to the back of my stomach encouraging sweet butterfly flips as I sit at this lovely desk and write. It’s 5:30am - twilight in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I’m in an upgraded, high floor room at the Holiday Inn. It is arguably about the size of the apartment that I left behind in New York City, and 99% less expensive. (I don’t know math so just use that number as a descriptive, not a fact.) I have to admit, when pondering sweet hotels to stay at when traveling, the Holiday Inn doesn’t enter the conversation so I wasn’t very optimistic, but at the price I was more than happy to jump Inn. (<— see what I did there?)
Flashback: Chris Guillebeau is a world traveler best known for sharing his travel hacking tips, amazing world experience and entrepreneurial encouragement in his books, blog and his insanely popular yearly event in Portland Oregon called WDS (The World Domination Summit). I was skimming his blog last January in anticipation for my first trip to WDS this summer when I came across: http://chrisguillebeau.com/ihg-free-nights/. This blog post by Chris described how to get 6 free nights at an IHG hotel if I filled out 97 postcards, addressed 97 envelopes and licked 97 stamps. I was skeptical but I already had the envelopes and the time so to buy note cards and stamps ended up being about a $60 investment. This was worth it just to feed my curiosity and to give me a project to keep me off the dangerous streets of New York City for a few days. I batched out the letters over a few days then waited. I was told I would receive an email for each entry with directions to redeem my rewards.
I put this whole nonsense on the back burner and started focusing on my then upcoming trip to the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco that I was totally pumped for. Long story short, while at W2.0 97 emails from IHG flooded my inbox and with each one my rewards points began to accumulate massively. I figured it would be a nice stash for a time when I found myself needing mediocre quarters by and airport in some crappy small town someday. Little did I know that within 3 months, as luck would have it, I’d be moving to Thailand and that there happens to be a Holiday Inn right in the middle of Chiang Mai. Booking my 6 night stay cost a majority of the points I’d earned allowing me to stay for about $100 plus my original investment of 60 bucks for stamps and notecards which tallies out to approximately $25 per night. Thanks Chris. UPDATE: I just saw that the charge from the hotel was just a hold so my stay for 6 nights was completely free (minus the stamps) plus I have leftover points for 2-3 more nights free stay. even better.
Back to present: So I sit here in the peace and quiet of pre-dawn, sipping my instant coffee, mind blown that I am able to be on the move and learn new things and create new experiences when once, not so long ago, I felt trapped in a job that I was absolutely not suited for, before that, deeply trapped in layers of addiction, and yet before that, somehow having adopted limiting beliefs that the things I always dreamed of doing, having or experiencing would always be just beyond my reach. Moving to Thailand is not a cure for limiting beliefs, addiction or job dissatisfaction but for me it represents a milestone in the pursuit of a number of dreams and a step further in the process of healing and growing. This process over the past 10+ years has included Private Therapy, Daily Meditation, Landmark Education Curriculum for Living, 12 Step Recovery, DharmaPunx Sangha, Silent Retreats, One-on-one mentoring with a Buddhist Teacher, Training in Improv Comedy, Yoga, Recovery Life Coach Training, Mentoring and Coaching others….the list goes on and on. Sometimes I need to remind myself that this journey is not something I’m doing by the seat of my pants but the next step in a series of deliberate, mindful choices that have built upon one another over time. Sometimes things happen slowly then all at once. Baby steps forever, slow, invisible progress, then it seems one day you are in a familiar city with a million predictable things in front of you and the next in a new country with a million mysteries on the horizon. All in an instant, the way I like it, just like my coffee.