How long is a piece of string(‘s lifespan)?

This is a blog about a piece of string. I’ll wait while you adjust your seats and get comfortable.

It was almost two years to the day that I landed in Thailand; a second time backpacker with the need for adventure after a long four years of study. I’d waved goodbye to my boyfriend for three months, bid farewell to friends and family, and set out to enjoy the escape of the British winter and embrace the summer of the South East. Things were going well. I’d made it a whole 24 hours in a new continent before finding myself in hospital. My excellent map reading skills had allowed me to believe the Grand Palace was a mere stroll from my hostel, which was probably true. However, navigational skills differ somewhat from map reading ones, and this mere stroll took me a grand total of three hours in the blistering heat. And so I passed out and threw up the bright purple cocktail I had consumed the prior evening over the floor of said Grand Palace. So I was off to a good start.

The string not long after being given it - see how thick it used to be! Oh, and a penguin...
The string not long after being given it – see how thick it used to be! Oh, and a penguin…

An embarrassing wheelchair ride, some lovely air conditioning and some actual exploring later, I found myself visiting a mountain temple observing practising monks. One of these monks was tying small pieces of white string to visitors’ right wrists – a symbol of good luck in the traditional Baci ceremony. The strings are usually tied to people’s wrists during important events or celebrations, when departing or returning somewhere or to celebrate a new year. Buddhist belief is that the strings preserve good luck, and are freely given out when visiting some temples. I didn’t know this at the time, however, so I looked up the string thing and found other travellers tended to wear them until they fell off naturally. Planning on spending my trip doing fairly physically active things, I didn’t expect it to last too long.

I went caving, abseiling, rock climbing, snorkelling, jungle trekking, white water rafting and did a hell of a lot of swimming, yet the string was still firmly attached three months later on my return home. Not long after that, I was given a book of short travel stories for my birthday, one of which was of a man who travelled to Thailand for the second time in his life. He mentioned that the piece of string he was given during his first trip lasted five years. I did not expect this. I hadn’t consciously thought about taking it off (it seemed a little rude to the monk who gave it to me, somehow), but nor had I planned to be wearing it for this long, especially as the white colour was now a distinct grey. But it stayed, it became a part of my daily appearance, no matter place or occasion. I attended job interviews wearing it and nobody seemed to mind, I often got it tangled up with bracelets I was wearing and once even managed to attach my wrist to the back of my head when it became knotted in my hair (that might have been a good time to reach for the scissors). Still, I didn’t take it off.

This morning, I got up and discovered a very skinny looking, pale and dirty worm on the floor by the cat’s litter tray. Sheer intrigue as to what sort of creature this was forced me to look closer, pick it up and discover that my string wearing days had come to an end.

It is just a piece of string, yes. But it is also a reminder of the best adventure of my life, and not anything I want to forget. So, like the man in my book, I’ll be keeping my string safely stored somewhere, in the hope of replacing it with a new one during another adventure one day. In the mean time, perhaps I’ll enjoy the chance to wear a nice bracelet again without it becoming entwined with its aesthetic opposite.

Thai string bracelet


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