Grief, mourning and trains

view of the Gulf of Thailand

Grief, mourning and trains. It’s been that kind of last few weeks. Noelle here:

What a full last few months we’ve had. From Pacific Crest Trail hiking to the daily intensity of assisting aging parents and back to the trail again, a couple times. It felt chaotic and unsettling, like being sling shot from a canon.

Crater Lake, Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail

But at the same time I’ve felt blessed to have the sheer amount of time we’ve had. I know I’ve said it before, but in regular life we could not have spent so much time with our parents. There were bills to be paid, bills simply related to existing, to earning an income to have all the things.

Choosing to disconnect from the corporate world has been full and challenging in a different kind of way. Yes we still have bills; in fact, it costs about $2500/month just to exist before actual living, like roof and food. Health insurance is the bulk of it. Our system in America sucks, sorry but it does.

We’re trying to figure out what to do about insurance now, since we’re out of the country and aren’t really covered, even though the bill is 3/4 of our expenses. We’re looking into options, so if you know much about health insurance, drop us a comment, enlighten us about how we can lighten our expenses.

Anyway, I’ve ended up on another train, heading down a different track, so let me go back to my original topic.

view of a farm in Thailand
Farming along the train tracks

PCT Simplicity

The Pacific Crest Trail was simple in that each day was a familiar routine. I would do a round trip hike with Steve in the morning, drive ahead and either hike back to meet up with him or just hike with whoever was around if Steve & I weren’t meeting up.

At the end of this upcoming July, we’ll pick back up on the trail where we left off and we’ll hike a little more. There are still logistics to work out, like where in California to leave the van, where to mail resupplies, but the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the other beckons to us both. Yep, I’m parking the van and backpacking. Yay me! Yay us!

Currently, we’ve been in Bangkok for almost a month. That’s so hard to believe. We planned to stay a week, but we kept extending. Switched hotels to stay in three different areas. So many experiences in a relatively short time.

rice growing in paddies
Rice paddy along the tracks

Tears over electric cords. What?

Last night Steve packed my laptop cord in his bag and left his out for me. They’re interchangeable, it’s not a big deal or a small deal or a deal at all. But I started to cry. And cry. And cry. He joked, “Ok Jack, I’ll get you some tape and you can mark your own cords”.

Our friend color codes his family’s electronic cords. It simply makes sense. Jack and I are so much alike.

But the crying. Steve just held me. For a long time.

Laptop cord gets mixed with grief over the loss of my Dad. And my mom a couple years back. And maybe over Steve’s heart. I still spend way too much time trying to feel his heartbeat to make sure it’s regular without him catching me in the act.

And I know I’m crying about Steve’s parents and his mom’s dementia and them having to be apart and how freaking sad I feel for them and with them. And maybe the crying is also partly about not having a home or roots and about moving around so much.

Maybe being a vagabond is much much harder than it seems. I think the crying is about not being a good enough mother or daughter or sister or wife. In these last weeks, it all gets mixed up and I mourn for what is and for what was and for what wasn’t and what should have been.

I’m not depressed, but I am definitely processing and it’s a bunch of stuff to process. I miss my dad and Steve’s parents and our kids and grandchildren and my sisters. I miss our kids so very much.

Adventure has a cost

cows ranging in a field. the skinniest cows ever
Skinny cows ranging

This adventure with Steve: it’s what we’ve saved for and talked about for years. Just going and seeing and doing. Being in the moment as much as we can. It’s here and I would not change it. I feel lucky and thankful that we made a lot of great choices that led to this.

But the crying. It’s real too. The grief and mourning wash over me regularly.

Early this morning we dragged our suitcases a mile and then boarded the underground at Sukhumvit Station, got off at Hua Lamphong Railway Station, then boarded Train 43 for a six hour ride down the coast to Chumphon.

We should arrive around 2 pm, then we’ll stay in a $14/night hotel and take a ferry to a small island tomorrow, Kho Tao. Look it up. It’s a blip in the Gulf of Thailand. We’ve booked ourselves for two weeks. I hope to snorkel, to lay on the beach, to hike up a hilltop and catch beautiful sunsets.

Checking in with home

During the first part of the train ride, I FB messaged one son, along with my sisters. Connecting with home grounds me, comforts me, heals me. My sisters each say it’s harder this time, losing Dad. It was different when Mom died, we still had Dad. And now we don’t.

The crying surprises me. Catches me right the f*ck off guard. So seemingly random. But cleansing. As miles travel by today (slowly, oh so slowly), I catch glimpses of regular life out the train window.

Construction and destruction. Wealth and poverty. Beauty and disgusting trash-filled areas. The contrasts of Thailand continue to amaze and befuddle me.

Grief, mourning and trains

The rolling of the train soothes me, rocking me. I’ve dozed, eaten, and read my book (last one in the Game of Thrones series and seriously, no wonder the last HBO season was so lame…but I’m determined to finish it).

And I’ve even cried a bit, silently, looking out the window. However, Google maps tells me we’ve still got three more hours to go. Hmmm, we left Bangkok six hours ago, something does not add up! Hahaha.

Did I mention I like the contrasts of Thailand? Some trains are perfectly on time. Some, not so much.

Our journey continues and I’m excited to be able to share ocean pictures soon. I’ve seen it a couple times, out the window, on my left. Waves lapping at the shore. And lately, my emotions mirror the tide, rolling in then back out and every so often, the sneaker wave and the crying starts again.


  1. Linda Murphy

    It’s so interesting to follow your emotionally journey, Noelle – thank you…I haven’t shared this with many, but I think it may help you, so here goes – change the names and places, and you are telling my PCT story – in those first 42 days, when I was alone, before I met my Trail Sister, I cried, oh God, how I cried, almost daily, and have shed many since returning home. You see, my Dad had passed, only a few weeks before I had departed, I had passed off my real estate business to a trusted colleague, but still lost 10’s of 1,000’s of dollars in earnings as a result, a best friend did business with another agent, our daughter got engaged before I had left, so I was missing all the wedding plans, and I was lonely, SOOO lonely. I know you have Steve, but grief can isolate our heart, even in a crowd. Since leaving the trail, I am struggling with the adjustment – to everything – and intermittently, I cry – I miss the wilderness with all my heart, but I am torn between the two callings – to live in a world with those I love, or to live in the world I love, but without my loved ones by my side. So, let the tears flow – they will eventually dry up, and you will smile at the memories, instead of ache. For now, I will simply tell you, I understand, and I am praying for your healing. NOW, I have a question for you…since you are total nomads…when are you coming to Canada?? :))

    • mcgarveysan

      Linda, I think of you fondly whenever thinking about our PCT adventure. You were such a delightful person to meet and hike with. I’m not sure how I missed your comment and am only seeing it now, a couple of years down the road. We’ll look you up when we make it closer to you in Canada. You inspire me with your hiking groups! N

  2. rosiewalkinglker

    First I think thank you for your words, thoughts, emotions. Then I think what what are they up to and why. No matter it is your journey and you seem to be on the edge and doing what the two of you have planned , saved , and lived for. Noelle, I think you are a writer. Do you have something in progress besides this site?

    • mcgarveysan

      Hi friend! I was thinking about you earlier this week. If you connect with us on Facebook or instagram then I can message you again. We’ve got the same phones but different SIM cards so if I get a text while using my Thailand card it never comes through. I’ve been wondering how you are and how you’re feeling. I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for your kind words. We’ve both toyed with the idea of writing more but only now have more time to begin prioritizing it. We’re trying to get in a more regular groove. It’s really good to hear from you! Big hugs.



  1. Returning to the United States from South East Asia - Steve and Noelle - […] talked about death, loss, grief, finances, health issues and a even a post about almost pooping on our shoes.…

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