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Vagabond Journey

Lost In Bangkok

Walking the streets looking for something.

BANGKOK, Thailand- It was early 2017 and I was feeling pretty good from publishing back-to-back-to-back 100,000+ view articles on Forbes. In my journalistic vertical this kind of traffic isn’t common, and I was becoming aware that I the formula that I’ve been working on for the past decade or so my finally have become refined enough to bring in the goods.

I was in Bangor, Maine then, working out of a co-working space. I took a little break after going over my recent traffic stats, walked over by the window, looked out on Main Street, and began congratulating myself. I was feeling pretty good, but then I heard it:

“But will anyone remember you.”

I don’t want to say that I heard a voice, but the effect was very much the same. I’m not sure what it was or where it came from, but I heard it again: “But will anyone remember you.”

After a pause, I responded: “No. No, nobody is going to remember some writer who found a knack for cranking out viral news stories.”

I felt my expression flat-line. Emotionally, I went splat.

Those big stories and the nice paydays that come from them suddenly seemed a lot less impressive. Everything that I was doing was perilously temporary, superficial, ephemeral. While they sometimes stir the pot today — being cited in big lawsuits and used as tools by politicians — they were all ultimately meaningless.

In that moment I came face to face with my mortality, suddenly aware that I am an adult — what legacy will I leave here? I was 36 years old then — no longer a man possessing forever to accomplish what he’s after. I was no longer in the process of becoming; what I was doing was it. I was no longer in the preparation stages; I was doing what could be regarded as “my work.” I was missing my chance.

***
So this is Bangkok now. Riding on the train into the city I realized that I no longer know this place. I had an extended visit in 2005 when I disappeared in a room on the top floor of a Khaosan apartment building just reading books and partying. Then I returned in 2007 for a short visit to backpacker-dom. That was over a decade ago and the place has been churning while I’ve been away. Shopping malls, shopping malls, shopping malls.

On this around the world trip I’m doing something a little different that I usually do. While I often go out traveling on some kind of journalistic pursuit — something about development or economics or politics — this time I’m looking for something else: good stories of life.

This is a tricky endeavor. There are stories everywhere; however, collecting and processing them takes large amounts of time. Each story is at the expense of 100 stories — each thing that you film, each thing that you write about means leaving many other things untold. Knowing what stories to engage is as vital a skill as knowing how to engage them.

Lebanon went well. In Bangkok I can feel myself sputtering; flirting with falling back in my usual patterns. For the first time perhaps in my career I feel like a man without a mission. There is also the issue of money: what I did before makes money; what I’m doing now, I’m not so sure.

I guess I’m a little lost. Lost in Bangkok. I would like to stop into a bar, sit down with a beer, pull out a piece of paper and start scrawling plans over it. But I can’t. If I stop moving here vultures will descend: “You want massage?”

Filed under: Thailand, Travel Writing

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 89 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3490 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Brooklyn, New York

4 comments… add one

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  • Rob December 25, 2018, 1:31 pm

    I’d say you’re living your life…
    Maybe you’ve found out that you can only do one thing ‘really well’ at a time? -shrug- Do ‘it’ & move on to the next to the next thing.

    Merry Christmas Wade!

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    • Wade Shepard December 26, 2018, 5:01 am

      Like they say … you can do anything but you can’t do everything. Merry Christmas, Rob!

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      • Where Is Bob L January 29, 2019, 4:45 pm

        This kind of thing happens from time to time. Seems to me I remember you going through similar soul searching in the past. Happens to all of us. I am in a similar spot myself, looking at the now and thinking about the future. I think when we are looking for something, we instead find something else, that something else is often what re really should have been looking for.

        Good Luck

        Bob L

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        • Wade Shepard January 30, 2019, 6:58 pm

          “I think when we are looking for something, we instead find something else, that something else is often what re really should have been looking for.”

          Right on!

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