Imagine standing in the middle of the desert. Nothing as far as the eye can see. Imagine looking at the ocean. Only the horizon disrupts waves. There is a majesty and splendour in that frightening isolation.
Here I sit in a café. The cars pass by, horns sounding warnings to the market shoppers. The street vendor’s bell jangles above the humming drum of the city. All of the chaos of Asian life is crammed into the narrow streets of Phnom Penh and in the February heat it feels as if there is no space for air.
Here I sit in a café. I shift my focus. The heat cools and the sounds silence. In the glaciers of my psyche I create a shimmering isolation. The lone man lost in his mental landscape and divided from the jarring reality of life.
Once I found the world as an overload on my senses. It attacked and assaulted me with unwelcome sights and smells that left me aching and disoriented. Now I can disappear. I have made my Aspergers a rabbit hole and with a little focus I can fall into the detached wonderland of mind.
I can imagine standing in the middle of the desert for I do not fear the majesty and splendour of my own isolation.
Life is full of simple pleasures. I rediscovered one recently and I am loving the manifold delights it's bringing me.
I have always been a walker. From a very young age I would happily pound the paths of Wiltshire with my parents and explore the rolling hills and forests that surrounded the town I grew up in.
A few years ago, having moved from London to Suffolk, I decided to build walking into my healthy mind, healthy body mantra and I fell in love with Suffolk in general and the River Deben in particular. Bleak and beautiful, serene and scary, this tidal river with its constant ebb and flow was both the heart and border of Woodbridge.
Then a year ago I deserted my homeland and I ran away. Sydney was a revelation. Stunning National Parks fringe the city and the bus and train network opened up a plethora of opportunities. As I travelled Australia I realised that every town boasted great opportunities to get out and get my stride on.
Then in 2017 I landed in Cambodia and it all came to a halt. Searing heat and the traffic chaos of Phnom Penh meant there was precious little opportunity for a relaxing, life-affirming stroll. I knew I wouldn't last in the capital and in February I took a job in Battambang.
There are frangipani trees everywhere,here, and there's a magnificent muddy river that bisects the city. On both sides of the river there are shaded paths but the heat meant I never took advantage of the amenities.
Last week a look in the mirror horrified me and I decided to make a change. Now, when I wake at five, instead of bemoaning my fate and lolling like a beached whale till 8, I jump up and I am out the door. I drink a litre of fluids, brush my teeth and I'm gone. Early sunrises, other exercisers and a multitude of birds bring a smile to my face as walk up and down the banks of the River Sangker in the relative cool of the Khmer dawn.
I feel better. I look better. I get more done every day. Life has become a happier place to dwell. All of this I get from going for a walk. I try to do my 10,000 steps because on the Asperger Path we like a target but if I don't, I don't sweat it. I've already done my sweating for the day.
I’m still in Battambang and I’ve got the small town blues. I’m living in a backwater and it doesn’t matter if I have a paddle or not. This hot, dry season means the creek is a murky brown and my boat is going nowhere.
It’s time to stand still which is an odd thing for a traveller to do. I’m going to take a moment. I will count my blessings and realistically that should take a while. My life is charmed and The Asperger Path is rich in experience and diversity. I am strong and healthy. I am surrounded by good people who I should lean on more often. I have carefree days of writing and relaxation and I live life at a slow pace. There’s time to smell the flowers and time to savour my beloved flat white. My young students are interesting and kind and my teaching is going well. Life could be more interesting but it could also be more stressful.
A new day is dawning and the only blue I should be worrying about is the sky above. The air hangs and that’s not the blues, that’s just the heat. I am still, in Battambang.
It’s hot and sticky in Cambodia right now. Twenty seven degrees at five in the morning and set to rise with the sun. When I lived in Britain I constantly craved the sun and the light. It’s warmth was rare and precious and I wanted to bathe in its golden glory.
How I of all people ended up in these climes is one of those bizarre accidents. The Asperger Path is currently being planned with a haphazard carelessness that is a source of much joy. Before I came away, life had become a series of well executed tasks done without thought on a tight schedule. Waking at six and catching a bus at seven so that the gym could be visited and work commenced by eight. I was awake but there was no time to smell the coffee. It was gulped. A reverse procedure at the end of the working day delivered me fed, fed up and tired on the sofa by seven. My life in the rat race needed few decisions as the routine was followed doggedly and variations could cause a tailspin of indecision. As one grey week would end, another would loom and the weekend would evaporate. Golden moments were grasped before Monday arrived and the self imposed routine took hold of me again.
So here I am. I have escaped myself and I am meandering on the road to nowhere. Cambodia is as good a place as any to stop and smell the coffee. My life is less structured because everything is different here. I am different here. I will move on one day but for now my life is like the chilli sauce the old lady sells outside the Chinese school. It is hot and sticky but it’s so sweet.