Hi Kellie! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I’m from El Reno, Oklahoma. I do mostly seasonal work while I work on developing a location independent career as a blogger and travel expert. I also have a passion for fire dancing and food justice, both of which I’m continuing to incorporate into my life as well. Post university, my travels have taken me to Hawaii, all over the US music festival circuit and to Southeast Asia. Next up, Alaska.
Where’s your happy place?
Pai, Thailand. It’s a small town nestled in the foothills of the mountains in Northern Thailand.
When did you last spend time in Pai?
I’ve actually only been there once so far, during the winter of 2014. My plan was to stay for about a week, and then all of a sudden, I’d spent a third of my time in Southeast Asia in this sweet little town. I was there for a total of around five weeks. Next time I make it back there, I plan on just renting an apartment and settling in for a bit.
What makes it special for you?
It’s such a peaceful place. The tourism industry is booming in Pai, so there are plenty of backpackers there at any given time. But other than at the scooter rental place in the mornings and the night markets, you wouldn’t know how many people are actually around. During the day, everyone goes off on their own adventures outside of town.
When I first arrived, I sat down in a coffee shop on the main street to people-watch. While sitting there, I met a woman from New York who had settled in Pai for the time being. She was a beautiful spirit, very talkative with long dreads and lots of energy. After talking to her for a while, my friend and I committed to a day of helping some of her friends on their small farm. And we were stoked to get our hands dirty and maybe learn a little something.
We spent our time working in the dirt, learning about local agriculture, until we were so sweaty and tired that a hearty homemade meal and fresh juice felt like actual medicine.
We went and helped out quite a few times in exchange for lunch and swapping stories with the couple who ran the farm. They were both such sweet souls and a beautiful example of life partners–not just husband and wife, but actual life partners. It ended up being an experience that made me feel less like a tourist and more like a traveller because I had given back to that community in some way.
The artists we met were also inspiring. People from all over the world have settled in Pai to be inspired by each other, by the serene nature of this little town and its beautiful setting. Of course, the cost of living has a big hand in that is well. It’s very affordable, even by Southeast Asian standards and it’s possible have a stress free existence.
It sounds incredible. What else did you get up to?
I loved people watching from bars, cafés, whatever. Every establishment on the main street has a few tables facing the street. I loved grabbing one of those seats and reading or writing for hours while people passed by.
When I first arrived, I checked into my hostel, the Pai Circus Hostel; and yes, it was a circus. Every day in the wide grassy area, there would be people spinning poi, hula hooping, attempting to ride unicycles, tossing a staff in the air, or just practicing handstands. I spin poi and this one of the things I was most excited about before coming to Pai. Practicing flow arts with a bunch of flow artists from all over the world? Done. It was amazing. I learned a lot and got to try so many things, even walking on stilts!
N.B. All photos in this post belong to Kellie
I also loved just cruising the countryside on a scooter. We explored local waterfalls, Pai Canyon, the Land Split, and a few little hikes we found. Every night for dinner, I’d hit up the night market and give most of my money to this wonderful woman who made veggie rolls. I also bought these moist and heavenly scones from a company. I think it was called Carrot Over the Moon. Every night, both local people and travellers played good music.
Primarily though, I moved real slow, and took it all in.
Do you think the town will change much over the next few years?
I’m sure Pai is growing, with more huts and hostels going up daily. But I hope that it still has its peaceful allure when I return again.
How would you describe Pai in one sentence?
Pai is a vortex that will cradle and inspire you with sunshine and authenticity, if you pay it just a little bit of attention.