THAI BOX­ING AD­VEN­TURE A LIFE LES­SON

Writer loved Thai­land trip so much, she came home, sold ev­ery­thing and moved right back

Toronto Star - - TRAVEL - NI­COLA BROWN SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR Ni­cola Brown is a Toronto writer.

Name: Laura Dal Farra

Oc­cu­pa­tion: Writer, Editor, On­line

Pub­lisher

Num­ber of coun­tries vis­ited: 10

Tell me about your most life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as a solo fe­male trav­eller.

It would def­i­nitely be my stay in Thai­land. I packed a duf­fel bag and flew to ru­ral Chi­ang Mai to train Muay Thai (Thai box­ing) at a gym called Siam No. 1 (now San­tai Muay Thai) for six months. I didn’t know any­thing about Thai cul­ture or the Muay Thai scene there at the time, and there wasn’t much about it on­line yet, so it was quite the jump for me. I had been train­ing Muay Thai in Toronto for a few years. I just wanted to go to Thai­land, up my Muay Thai game and write. The ex­pe­ri­ence changed my life. I came back to Toronto, sold al­most ev­ery­thing I owned, flew back to Thai­land and stayed for an­other three and a half years. The se­cond trip was far more life al­ter­ing than the first. It was dur­ing this trip that the ro­mance of a new cul­ture wore off, and I re­ally dove deep into ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a new way of life at a very vis­ceral level.

What did you learn about mar­tial arts?

Muay Thai is a to­tally dif­fer­ent sport in Thai­land than it is in North Amer­ica. In Thai­land, bravado isn’t en­cour­aged out­side of the ring; you only see it with some fight­ers who are ap­peal­ing to a western mar­ket. For most Thai fight­ers, hu­mil­ity and a low tol­er­ance for pos­tur­ing are em­pha­sized, which pos­i­tively af­fects phys­i­cal train­ing and men­tal tough­ness. I think the way many westerners ap­proach Muay Thai can be im­ma­ture. I sup­pose that les­son, on bravado, in it­self, has spilled over to how I view other aspects of life as well.

What were some of your most lifechang­ing mo­ments in Thai­land?

I went to train at a very es­teemed, old-school Thai gym in Bangkok. When I ar­rived, I was told a woman never had and never would fight for them, but they would train me.

I wasn’t even al­lowed in the ring, but I stayed to watch and learn what­ever I could. Within less than a year, they asked me to fight for them. I was deeply hon­oured and ex­cited.

What are the eas­i­est and hard­est re­al­i­ties of be­ing a solo fe­male trav­eller to­day?

Try­ing to lift and squish heavy lug­gage into weird ve­hi­cles by your­self. I’m jok­ing, but it can def­i­nitely add to the hard­ship, es­pe­cially if you’re trav­el­ling solo long-term.

I think the hard­est thing re­ally is the lone­li­ness that some­times creeps in, par­tic­u­larly with long-term travel. I be­lieve it’s im­por­tant to sur­round your­self with like-minded peo­ple, be­cause travel will change you, and some­times your friends and fam­ily back home may not un­der­stand aspects of you that are emerg­ing.

Al­though it can be easy to meet lo­cal peo­ple, it may be dif­fi­cult to foster deep friend­ships with them due to lan­guage and cul­tural bar­ri­ers, or sim­ply lim­ited time. I sug­gest seek­ing out groups of peo­ple on­line that res­onate with your path.

For ex­am­ple, there are Face­book groups of solo fe­male trav­ellers and ex­pats who of­fer friend­ship and sup­port; some may even be in the area you’re trav­el­ling to. It’s def­i­nitely a good place to start.

The eas­i­est thing about be­ing a solo fe­male trav­eller is ac­tu­ally mak­ing it all hap­pen in the end. There is so much sup­port and in­for­ma­tion avail­able on­line, it takes a lot of the guess­work out of it, and can help you make safer de­ci­sions. The Solo Women Trav­el­ers Face­book group is a good place to start: face­book.com/groups/solowomen.

What ad­vice would you give to other solo fe­male trav­ellers?

Do your re­search on­line about lo­cal cul­ture, where you want to visit and speak with ex­pat women there, es­pe­cially if you plan on spend­ing sig­nif­i­cant time there and when trav­el­ling off the beaten path.

Se­condly, travel with a rubber doorstop to place in­side your room door while you’re in your room.

Should some­one try to get in (note, this in­cludes ho­tel staff who have ac­cess to keys), it pre­vents them from com­ing in, or at the very least, gives you enough time to re­act. It’s nice to have that ex­tra peace of mind, and it doesn’t take up much room in your suit­case.

Lastly, al­ways trust your in­tu­ition. You prob­a­bly know more than you give your­self credit for. Be­ing a solo fe­male trav­eller has its dan­gers, as does any­thing else, but it also prom­ises lessons and ex­pe­ri­ences that nour­ish who you truly are, and move you to grow.

It’s def­i­nitely worth the ad­ven­ture.

COUR­TESY LAURA DAL FARRA

Dal Farra works with famed Thai boxer Ngao­pra­jan Chuwat­tana at the Chuwat­tana Gym in Bangkok in 2009.

Writer and editor Laura Dal Farra says her most life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as a solo fe­male trav­eller was her stay in Thai­land.

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