The Ponderosa, Slab City

Recently, I was invited to write a guest post for a friend’s website.

So I dug up my memories from the past 4 years of being a traveling nomad. 

There are so many stories enough for me to write a book.

But here, I’ll share just one, with you. 

Right before Thanksgiving of 2017, I was back in California. Without any solid plan, one thing led to another, I got an RV – another dream fulfilled.

I’d never even been on an RV before I bought one. 

Long story short, I spent the next two months traveling and living out of my RV. 

The last two weeks of my RV journey, I spent at Slab City, known to be the last lawless place in America. It’s located near Salton sea in Niland, California.

Slab City, not governed by any local government, has rules of its own. I have heard a lot about this place but at the same time, not knowing much about it. 

At the entrance of Slab City, sits The Salvation Mountain, a mountain hand-made by Leonard Knight. Before he passed, he spent 28 years painting and making this mountain to spread the message of God and Love. Words got out, the reputation of this place grew. Leonard became the most visited man on earth.

The Salvation Mountain, Slab City

Slab City is known for squatters, hippies, snowbirds, calling this place their home. 

It’s also a place full of art, weird structures, dogs, murderers, rapists, drug dealers – did I just catch your attention?

Yes, this place has an interesting reputation. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should come here by myself. But with some reassurance of women who live there, I had a feeling it was safe for me. 

I arrived here in my RV, not knowing where to go. I circled around the city, found a place close to the center to park and spend the night. During the night, I could hear people yelling, dogs barking. I didn’t have a restful night. 

I woke up the next morning, decided to find a quieter spot. I drove away from the center, wandering around the city. I was excited to find a piece of land that I thought was perfect for me to camp out and have some peace for myself. 

As I was situating my RV to park, my 23-foot home sank into the sand….!

Oh my… the sand is soft, and now my RV is stuck… in the sand!

At this point of my journey, I’ve encountered countless ‘mishaps’, so this accident didn’t shake me as much anymore. 

I am out of nowhere in the desert, on a hippie land, the AAA I applied for a few days ago is not yet valid. Having the RV towed would cost a fortune. I thought to myself.. “Ooopsieee! But I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Ha!

Not knowing how to get myself out of this situation, I decided to just continue with my life. After all, I had everything I needed in the RV to survive. No need to panic. I proceeded to make myself coffee and lunch. 

After I finished eating, I heard a truck approaching, and a voice shouting “Do you need help?”

The angel has come! I got out of the RV and shouted back “YES!”

Then, I saw an old man, getting out of the truck, with a beer in his hand, his name is George. 

George and his buddy accessed my situation and said I had been stuck in the ‘sugar sand’. Sand that appears to be solid but is actually soft. Okay, I learnt something new today. 😉

George asked me to stay put and they would get some help to pull me out of my rut. 

After 20 minutes, he showed up with another truck, 3 other guys, 2 shovels and a chain.

Two young guys started shoveling the sand around my tires. Another guy hooked my RV to his truck with the chain. I can’t believe a group of angels have arrived to my rescue. 

After about 10 minutes of shoveling, they decided it was ready to pull my RV out with the truck. It took a few tries but eventually… dun dun dun… my RV was out! 

I felt exhilarated, thankful, relieved. 

George then asked if I wanted a tour of the city. Of course I agreed. He then took me to his hood called “The Ponderosa”.

George has spent his time in Slab City building this beautiful camp. He even converted a few trailers into Airbnb accommodation. People from all over the world could come to get first-hand experience living in this crazy town. 

At the time I was there, there were a few Airbnbers, very interesting people. As you can imagine, the people who would spend their money and holiday in the desert should be interesting people as well. 

After my rescue, I was sitting around the fire pit at Ponderosa, surrounded by interesting people, talking, laughing, playing music. I was in awe with Life, again. 

During my time there, I also gathered up courage to perform at the infamous stage “The Range”. This stage also appeared in the movie “Into The Wild”. In fact, I felt like my whole RV journey was like the movie. 

At that time, I had only been really practicing guitar for 2 months or so. I wasn’t ready yet to perform. But I have a habit of overestimating myself sometimes. So I thought I could do it and went for it. 

Some of my friends from LA even traveled to come see me on stage. 

While I was on the stage looking down, I could see my new friends from the Slab, and my old friends looking at me, cheering for me. 

My performance didn’t go well technically, but I was proud that I pulled it off somehow. I had a great time and so did the audience. I promised I will be back again. 

After two weeks of staying at Ponderosa, I got the inspiration to fly back to Thailand. I am a sucker for inspiration. So then, I had to say my goodbye to the Slab and to my friends there. 

Even though this place has a crazy reputation, I got to see the real Slab City from the inside. How neighbors take care of each other, how much love goes around.

It was a short stay but every day I was there, I was showered with so much love from George and all the slabbers. Every day I woke up, George would tell me how much he loves me and say “I am so happy I saw you stuck in the sand”. In which, I replied, “I am so happy I got stuck in the sand!” – a rather unusual encounter turned into I believe a life-long friendship. 

Though I haven’t seen him since I left the Slab, meeting him is something I will remember and the love he gave me will stay in my heart forever.

Koh Lanta

5 days ago, Avner and I, with our backpacks and my guitar, hopped on the boat, left Koh Phangan and headed our way to Koh Lanta. 

Waiting for our boat at the pier on Koh Phangan

I had heard about this island 4 years ago and had been wanting to come here. Finally, it’s happening!

With the 3rd wave of Corona virus bubbling up in Thailand, some people questioned if it was a good time to travel. But I knew it was time. 

We spent the whole day traveling. First, a speed boat from Koh Phangan to Surat Thani (2 hours). Then a minivan from Surat Thani to Krabi (3 hours). In Krabi, we got a private taxi to take us to Hua Hin pier (1.5 hours) where we took a car ferry (15 min) to cross the Andaman Sea to Koh Lanta. Once we arrived in Koh Lanta, we realized there was no taxi available at the pier but thankfully a guy took us from the pier to our hotel. 

This funny taxi driver appeared at the bus station to take us to the pier, when we thought we had no way to get to the pier and might have to stay the night in Krabi
First time being on an open ferry like this!

We spent the first night at a hotel next to the beach. The next day, we began to search for a home to stay for the next 2 weeks. After an afternoon search, we found a lovely place sitting on top of the hill, owned by a Swedish family, called Malee Highlands.

The property is well designed and maintained. We love our new house! It’s a two-story house with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It has a panoramic view of the ocean. The sun sets right in front of us over the ocean. The interior of the house is well-designed. We are impressed by their attention to the details. 

Koh Lanta is very quiet at the moment. Many shops are closed. But we enjoy the simplicity and the quietness. We spend most of our time working, playing pool and ping pong in the game room, checking out new restaurants, watching movies at night. 

We haven’t been around much and I am happy to have found a travel buddy who doesn’t mind having a ‘boring holiday’. 😉

The Dance

Today I wanted to write about Samui. But I decided to just let my fingers type away on the keyboard. No agenda. No plan. Just writing. 

I felt as if something wanted to come out of me. Something I had no idea about. 

It’s funny when this happens. It’s when I get to let go, trust and flow. 

Sometimes in life, it’s not about doing things as planned. But to let go and let things flow. In this case. My typing fingers. 

It’s about the balance, the dance between these two: planning and flowing. 

How do we have a goal, have our eyes set on a future vision AND at the same time, freely letting the next step unfold. 

Smell the roses, listen to the crickets, watch the cars drive by. 

“Life is the dancer. I am the dance.” – something I heard from Oprah a few years ago. 

“What is free will? If I pick up a glass of water because I am thirsty. Is that thirst free will?” – something I heard from Jim Carrey last night. 

“Am I a chess piece and Life is the player?” – something I am asking. 

I don’t have to control what happens. I get to allow things to happen. 

I don’t have to control what I want or what I don’t want. I get to surrender to it all.

What if Life is a big orchestra. The idea of the Truman show.

I am the puppet, God/The Divine/The Universe is the one directing my moves. 

The more I get out of my own way, the more God can intervene and direct His blockbuster movie. 

I don’t have to be the one in charge. And that He knows the most beautiful scenic route for me. 

I seem to know what I want and I go for what I want. 

But I wonder, who put that ‘want’ in me. Is that my free will or is it Him?

A mystery that could never be solved. But I like the mystery. And I enjoy the journey. 

That’s all it matters, right?

Noir Cafe, Koh Samui – where this post was written

From Underestimated to Unstoppable

Finishing a great book is like ending a great relationship. It’s bittersweet. On one end, I am happy to have read such a great book. On the other end, now I gotta find another great book to read. 

So I just finished “Believe IT” by Jamie Kern. It’s her autobiography about her journey of creating her company from her living room to being sold to L’oreal for 1.2 billion dollars in cash and became the first female CEO in L’oreal history. 

Her story is inspiring to say the least. Not knowing anything about the beauty industry, she had a vision, a mission. At the beginning, it was to help herself cover the redness on her face due to rosacea, and then she went on a mission to change the way women see themselves. To make a change in the beauty industry. To celebrate the natural beauty of women instead of portraying photoshop-perfect images that women all around the world unrealistically strive to become. 

In the first 3 years of the business, she got rejected by all of the retail stores, QVC, Sephora, ULTA beauty you name it. Those rejections did hurt her, make her cry her eyes out but it didn’t stir her away from her mission. She used those rejections to get stronger, to get better. Eventually, she turned all the no’s into yes’s. She did it with authenticity, grace and perseverance. 

The book was written so well that I felt like I was in the story with her. There were so many times my heart hurt with her, cried with her, cheered for her, celebrated with her. I went through the ups and downs with her through her story. 

I’ve always been inspired by stories like this. How somebody (especially a woman) could start from nothing and build an empire that helps many many people. This includes Jamie that I mentioned here, Sara Blakely (from Spanx), Madam C.J. Walker, Oprah – are all my role models. Their stories touch my heart and I strive to become a woman like them. 

In their stories, I learn to never give up, to strive to be the best version of myself, to contribute to my family and the society, to live from my values and vision and to do good in the world with my power.

Many times I wonder why God wants me to walk this path. I am just a Chinese Malaysian girl, grew up in a small town, and was always afraid to speak up. Why choose me to be on this path? But I know God has a bigger plan. God wants me to learn, to level up, to grow into the woman I am capable to be so I could carry his vision and be on this mission of serving the world. 

Here are some amazing quotes that I’d like to share with you from the book:

“In life, we aren’t who people say we are, we’re who believe we are”

“Pay attention to your struggles, as they can become your superpower.”

“Sometimes those no’s are actually serendipitous grace, wrapped in a package labeled painful rejection.”

“In business, your authentic relationship is with your customer.”

“Not fitting in can be a superpower.”

“The genius thing that we did was, we didn’t give up.”

“Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

“Precision beats power, and timing beats speed.”

“Even miracles take a little time.”

“Remember the power of believing in your power. That, along with working hard and never giving up, made all the difference in transforming an idea that began in my living room into a billion-dollar company. And in turning a journey filled with underestimation into a dream that was unstoppable.”

“I love you way too much to give you what you’re asking for. Just trust me.”

“Either pray or worry, but don’t do both.”

“We need to risk speaking our truth, and brave being hurt, in order to be fully alive. We need human connection to feel true love. We need community. We need each other.”

“I’ve learned that revealing how you truly feel, even when it’s hard, can be key to connection, freedom, and healing.”

“What will you do with the power that is YOU?”

“All of our difficulties in life aren’t just setbacks, they’re actually setups from God, to help make us strong enough to carry the weight of both the highs and lows of our future calling.”

“When you follow your calling in your life, all things are possible!”

“Take away what you’re known for, and whatever’s left is who you are.”

“We need women to take chances, launch businesses, challenge industries, speak out against injustices, and shine their own lights brightly, without being afraid to fail or worrying about getting shamed for it. We need to have grace for each other. We need to lift each other up. And celebrate each other.”

“The warrior knows that her heartbreak is her map. – Glennon Doyle”

“A true billionaire is someone who positively impacts a billion lives.”

“Live for the moments you can’t put into words.”

“When fear knocks, let faith answer the door.”

“God doesn’t need us to show up perfect, He just needs us to show up.”

“Quit waiting for a plan; just go love everybody.”

“God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

“The longest journey we take as human beings is the eighteen inches from our head to our heart.”

“Think about your victories, where you found strength to overcome fear, and where you chose love. Think about just how far you’ve come and how strong you are. Proof that you’re a miracle in motion. Now, place your hand on your heart and thank it for beating for you all these years. Feel it beating for you right now and say thank you. Right now, at this very moment, it’s showing up for you. Again and again. It’s endured heartache for you during your lowest times and it’s pumped fast for you during your highest. It continues to show up for you, giving you chance after chance to fill up yourself and the world with love. It’s never failed you. It always shows up. Take a moment and say thank you to your heart that beats and to your soul that guides you. Next, look up to the sky with a big smile on your face. Then, still smiling, close your eyes. Visualize the feeling of complete power and utter joy when you channel true self-belief through your entire body. And just feel that for a few minutes. You can call this a meditation or a prayer, whatever feels right to you. Take a few minutes to get still and continue to give appreciation for how far you’ve come, for the challenges you’ve faced and the obstacles you’ve overcome victoriously.”

The Simple Life

I am on Koh Samui now. Unlike Koh Phangan, where I am constantly surrounded by people I know (I’ve spent a good amount of time on the island in the past few years. With my super power to make friends everywhere I go, you can imagine how many people I know on the island.)

In the past 4 years living the nomadic life, Koh Phangan has been my ‘home’. It’s the place I come back to every time I am tired of traveling and wanting to be at a place where people know my name. Where I know where to go and who to talk to for everything I need. It’s been my place of comfort living this adventurous, not knowing where I’ll be tomorrow or next week type of life. 

The past two months being back on the island (from northern Thailand), I had been so happy to see my friends again. But as time goes, I feel more and more heavy with all the connections I have on the island. I gave it the term ‘connection fatigue’. I dreamt of being at a place where nobody knows me. Where I can camouflage into the background. Do whatever I want. Go wherever I want. It sounds funny this is what I was ‘dreaming of’. That’s why I’d been wanting to come to Samui to live a ‘simpler life’.

So here I am, living the dream. Ha!

Today is the second day of my trip. I woke up really late. Then I went to the cafe I went to the day before called “The Secret Brunch” which is a 2-minute drive from my house. I ended up staying there the whole afternoon reading my book “Believe IT” by Jamie Kern. I was so absorbed in the book that I couldn’t put it down. I only planned to get a coffee at the cafe but ended up staying for hours just reading. I felt a sense of peace and stillness and JOY to be able to devour myself with a great book. 

Many people might be surprised to know (including me!) that my ideal vacation nowadays is where I could spend hours and hours reading a book without distraction or obligation to be anywhere (some call this getting old). It’s so simple yet so rejuvenating. 

I live a life that many people think I am always out doing something interesting and adventurous. But in reality, I love living as simply as possible. And I am probably the laziest traveler I know. I usually stay in my house and not really go out much. I find joy in staying put and working on my creation at home. 

To live in Lamai at the moment, I stay within the perimeter of 5km from my house. As soon as I find a coffee shop or a restaurant I like in a new city, it immediately becomes my go-to place almost every day. I like the simplicity of it. I think it brings a sense of familiarity and certainty to my uncertain life. 

I am now sitting in front of my Macbook, facing the ocean with the full moon rising and shining in front of mah face. Oh my oh my. I cried a little over the beauty of all this. 

Another moment, another day to be grateful for. 

The beautiful full moon rising over the horizon

“Then, Appreciate Your Life”

This morning, I finally took the ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui. I had been wanting to do this trip for weeks now. Even though Koh Samui is right next to Koh Phangan, I wondered why it took me so long to finally do it.

I got a very nice sea-view Airbnb in the Lamai area. I was so happy the whole trip here as if I was really traveling. Though IT IS traveling, we on Koh Phangan wouldn’t consider going to Samui ‘traveling’. 

Anyhow, I let my mom know I was here and sent her a picture from my Airbnb. And also a picture from my vacation the week before on the island. My man Avner had taken us on a mini staycation. Looking at those pictures of me, one week apart, I thought to myself and texted my mom “I have a really good life”. My mom replied, “Then, make sure you appreciate your life”. 

Hearing this from my mom made me feel all the FEELS. It really hit my heart. Yes, I do very much appreciate my life and I will continue to do so and more after hearing this from my mom. 

Sitting here in front of my Macbook Pro, facing the vast ocean, listening to the birds, I appreciate every inch of my life (is that even an expression?). My heart is so full. My joy and gratitude are showing up as tears in my eyes. 

Thank you Life. Thank you Mom and Dad. For this beautiful life that I deeply appreciate. 

Our private pool at Santhiya Resort in Thong Nai Pan, Koh Phangan

My sea-view Airbnb on top of the hill in Lamai, Koh Samui