THAI BOXING ADVENTURE A LIFE LESSON
Writer loved Thailand trip so much, she came home, sold everything and moved right back
Name: Laura Dal Farra
Occupation: Writer, Editor, Online
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.
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.