(above), my Dad in Boulder, Colorado where I was raised
This past week marked the 4th year that Kevin and I have been in Thailand. We disagree a little on the exact anniversary. I mark it as April 6th because that’s when I was most certainly in Chiang Mai and training, but I think our plane touched down either on April 4th or very early in the morning on April 5th, in Bangkok. But I like it being the 6th, because that’s also very close friend Nell’s birthday. Double celebration. Four years ago I began hitting the bag passionately at Lanna Muay Thai, and fighting like hell. I’ve fought 133 times in the past four years, put up over 1,800 videos on YouTube, Vlogged almost 300 times, and written over 720 article posts. I’ve kept busy.
(above) arrived, hoping to get to training
It’s almost impossible to say what it means to me that I’ve been in Thailand for 4 years. When we first bought our tickets, having spent 2 years saving money to be able to get back to Thailand from our initial visit in 2010, we weren’t sure if we could even stay more than 6 months. The difference from 6 months to 4 years, and all that I’ve been able to experience and accomplish and share with those who follow my pages… is immense. It is, if you don’t mind me speaking freely: fucking incredible. The generosity of others, and lots of luck or some providence just stepping in at the right time, has somehow made this possible.
I’m not even sure how to reduce it all down to a blog post. How do I heave my heart into my mouth to express what 4 years of daily Muay Thai and fighting well over 100 fights (on Thai soil) means to me? I can’t. But it’s my job to try. I try to think about other things that have 4 year anniversaries, as it’s a big chunk of life: my college education lasted 4 years; high school is 4 years; a significant relationship is generally 4 or more years. What’s crazy, is that I have now officially spent half my Muay Thai career (or even just knowing what Muay is) in Thailand. Everything from this point on will become a majority.
When I was a kid one of my favorite things in the world was road trips. Driving with my dad is probably one of my highest, most precious memories – and it honestly doesn’t matter where we were going. My dad takes these long mountain drives; there’s something about his hands on the steering wheel and the way he adjusts the radio or windows or mirrors… he’s like a pilot. My dad is quite unique, but the driver’s seat in a car is “his element” as if the element were created for him. So road trips were a concentrated version of these drives, the whole family together en route to somewhere that always felt very far away. When I got to sit in the front seat (we’d rotate; my family is very democratic), I loved watching the road ahead be eaten by the car and spat out the back, which I could see by looking in the rear-view mirrors. This is a primary, poetic memory for me. And it’s exactly what it feels like to be looking at these 4 years in Thailand. The road ahead and the road behind are the same path, but it all moves through me; and I am at once a passenger and the driver, just as I am my father’s daughter.
I feel grateful for this anniversary, in the way I feel grateful for my wedding anniversary. When my husband and I started dating in earnest (again, we disagree about when exactly that was), and it became clear that we wanted to spend our lives together, there was no waiting to be married. Why wait to start “forever”? And it’s the same with this anniversary in Thailand. When we realized that being a fighter was what my heart wanted and needed, there was only this focus to make it happen. And just as I’m grateful for every moment that I’ve had with Kevin, because they are all moments that make me better than what I was, every moment that I’ve been in Thailand has improved me as a fighter and as a person. Four years is more than I could have imagined, more than I would have dared to dream… but it’s what I’ve asked for. It’s what I’ve fought for. And it’s what all of you who support me have helped to make possible. I guess the summary of these four years, including all those who have helped me be here and those who have shaped me while I’m here, it adds up to an enormous and almost unfathomable”thank you.”
It feels wrong to not thank individual people who have made this possible so far. My heart reaches out to Master K, my parents and brothers, my in-laws, people who have supported me and this site through Kickstarter, and GoFundMe and currently on Patreon, and my sponsors, my trainers (especially Pi Nu), my teammates. But my God, sometimes debts are too large to ever repay, even in words, and as I speak I’m still right in the middle of this, fighting my way up the fight mountain, and trying to write/film what hasn’t been written/filmed before. The road is pouring right through me, and each and every one of you, you know who you are, whether from the past or right now, are lifting me up and rising with me, making me what and who I am. I am forever indebted.
At this 4 year mark, the plan is for 2 more years, which at my regular fight rate should put me right at the threshold of an impossible 200 fights in Thailand, in April of 2018, and with that two more years of writing and filming as much as I can of Thailand Muay Thai. What I’ve always thought is: Can I give back enough to justify my very good fortune of being able to do this? And I’ll keep trying.