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So as I’ve been alluding to, I realized fairly quickly after my breakup that staying on the island just wasn’t a possibility at that moment. I took two weeks to pack up our house, sell things, say goodbyes, and make a tentative plan for my next move.

Very soon after the breakup I wrote this post detailing my future plans, which I reread now and flinch a bit at how raw it is. But it describes how I was feeling brutally and honestly, and this is an excerpt from that:

I quickly realized I could not stay in Koh Tao. There are too many memories around every corner. The bar we first met in, the restaurant where we had our first date, the bungalows we have lived in, the beach we used to sneak off to and whisper I love you on a busy night out. And then of course the bad memories as well, of things starting to unravel. Just in the way that I couldn’t quite describe all the things Mark has meant to me over the years, I have a similarly difficult time trying to describe the effect Koh Tao has had on my life. I spent the month I was home in New York thinking about my deep love for Koh Tao, about how much I adored my life there, how grateful I was for it and how I couldn’t wait to be back. Sadly, I was back on Koh Tao for less than 48 hours before all the joy was gone. I mourn the loss of Koh Tao in the same way I mourn the loss of my relationship. Two weeks after arriving back on the island, I was leaving again, this time with a troubled mind, and broken heart.

So that is how I found myself saying another brutal goodbye to the island that has meant more to me than any location on Earth, save for home. I’d left and returned to the island dozens of times throughout this year but always on a temporary leave or vacation, always with a return ticket. I hadn’t said goodbye like this since I left the island in 2009, when it first got its hooks on my mind and heart. At that point I left with no idea when I could possibly return, but the strong conviction that I most certainly would. This time was a little different.

The puppy love stage was over and Koh Tao and I had a more grown-up relationship, and all the messy history and deep understanding that comes with it. I still like to think that I will return to Koh Tao someday, or at least find another place on this planet that makes me equally as happy.

Luckily I didn’t have to make the journey off the island solo; I was joined by Freya, who was leaving the island to move back home, and Hannah, who was kindly joining us for the trip to assist with our combined ten trillion tons of luggage. (First thing on the Bangkok to-do list: post home 28lbs worth of stuff. Amazing how much crap you accumulate in a year.)

As we sat on the deck of the Lomprayah ferry and watched the island turn into a tiny speck we talked and talked; of our favorite day on the island, of our favorite beaches, the foods we would most crave and the people we would most miss.

I can count the ways that I would miss Koh Tao: being paid to be underwater, spending days off with my toes in the sand, watching the rain from my porch deck, fresh orange shakes for a dollar, dancing till the sun came up, starting the morning at the Muay Thai gym dripping in sweat. But what I would miss the most is immeasurable, and almost beyond description. I would miss the way the island made me feel like I was simultaneously at the center of the universe but also on a distant planet where the real world would never find me.

I spent a few days in Bangkok running errands, saying goodbye, enjoying the city, and soaking up the final moments of being surrounded by these wonderful friends.

Because soon the girls would be heading off and I would be on a solo journey up through Northern Thailand, where I would be reunited in Chiang Mai with my lost-long visiting friends from Grand Cayman, followed by more solo travel and more meeting-up-with-friends. A great adventure was about to begin…

  • I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to say goodbye, but it’s never permanent with cities you know (maybe with people yes). Just remember in times like this that if you hadn’t had said goodbye to another great city like NYC then you would have never said hello to Koh Tao! 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2012

      I have a strong feeling I haven’t seen the last of Koh Tao 🙂 This was just a particularly heart-wrenching goodbye considering the circumstances and not really knowing if I would return. But I find myself missing the island more and more…

  • Keith
    June 12 2012

    May I ask how much it cost you to mail 28lbs. I was stunned at the cost of mailing something from Thailand to the US where the shipping cost was a lot more than the stuff I was shipping was worth.

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2012

      Hi Keith, I actually have my receipt right in front of me so I can tell you! The cost was 2,370 baht, so about $75usd. I chose the slowest and cheapest option, which takes two months. I was traveling for another month after that though so didn’t mind the weight. At that point I was so grateful to lighten my load I would have paid double!

  • Grandma Burr
    June 12 2012

    Are those tatoos on your arms permanent? Gram E

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2012

      That’s not me, that’s my friend Hanna! No tattoos on me 🙂

  • Jonathan Look, Jr.
    June 12 2012

    I think I can understand where you are coming from. Eight months into what was to be a ten year around the world adventure my wife decided that it (or I) wasn’t for her and went permanently home. We had been planning our adventures for our whole relationship and then she opted out.

    I have decided to stay the course, live the dream and continue solo. Traveling alone is of course different than couples travel but opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

    It may be lonely at times but such is the nature of life. Better to be true to yourself and live the life you dreamed.

    Coincidentally I will be leaving Mexico for Thailand soon. I wish you the best on your journeys.

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2012

      Wow, Jonathan, what a story. Congratulations on realizing what your priorities are/were and sticking to your dreams. I’m sure you have an epic journey ahead of you. Good luck along the way!

  • Toni
    June 13 2012

    I’m sure once you have gone out and ‘explored the world’ in your own way, when the day comes to visit Koh Tao again, you’ll fall back in love with it for all different reasons.
    Koh Tao also gave me something special and I plan to get back at some point but Asia, as a whole, was full of heartbreak for me which means I didn’t fully enjoy it after a while…that’s why I plan to go back and kick it’s butt! 🙂
    I hope you find another happy place on your journey Meihoukai xx

    • Meihoukai
      June 16 2012

      I feel that way a little bit about my trip through northern Thailand and Laos…. I saw beautiful things and explored wonderful areas, but I was in a pretty bad place mentally. I will definitely have to return and really enjoy it to the fullest! Thank you for this comment 🙂

  • Vicky
    June 14 2012

    Wow, great to read your story. I was on Koh Tao in 1996. I was totally hooked like you and stayed for 2 months at Tommy’s. We had geckos in our rooms and they were no where near as posh as they look now. My friend and I would eat with Tommy and his family, which was amazing. We did work around the resort in exchange for beer. I formed a relationship with Tommy’s right hand man, Chet, while I was there. Unfortunately, I contracted hep B during our time together and as a result have never returned. I fell in love with the island X

    • Meihoukai
      June 16 2012

      Wow, Vicky, fascinating story! Koh Tao is an interesting place, lots of layers there. I know Tommy’s well, still a presence on the island. Hope you have found a place that you love just as much…

  • Anton
    January 25 2013

    Hi Meihoukai, I loved your comments on Koh Tao, very intimate, moving and emotionally involving. Having just arrived here myself, I hope I can leave the island with something close to what you felt

    • Meihoukai
      January 26 2013

      Hi Anton, thank you for your comment. Best of luck in Koh Tao, I hope it brings you all the happiness it brought me….