Years ago, I visited a hotel spa in Nong Khai, Thailand. It was a beautiful retreat, situated next to the placid MeKong River. I was drinking a beer and basking in the glory of an hour-long massage. Magical Thailand.

The idyllic Mekong River as it rolls through Nong Khai, Thailand…

Just then, the owner of the spa emerged. He was a British man, about 6 feet tall with blond hair. Next to him was his Thai wife. He kissed her on the cheek, walked over to me, and sat down. We talked about a variety of things, sharing our travel stories.

Here was my first encounter with a genuine expat. A man who picked up, left his country, and married a foreign woman. He wasn’t on the two-week vacation, the Caribbean cruise. He was the real deal—a modern day pussy pilgrim, looking for love in a distant land.

We spoke for about an hour. Then I got around to the big question, the thing I was dying to know.

“What’s your secret?” I asked.

He got a serious look on his face. He took a sip from a beer, a drag from a cigarette, and leaned forward:

It’s like the Dali Lama said, my friend—it’s all in your mind.”

I paused a moment….eh, that’s it? That’s the big secret?  Really, I was hoping for more: an age-old riddle, a mystery unraveled. But I got the cliche, “It’s all in your mind.” Very disappointing!!

“Thanks,” I told him. “I appreciate the advice.”

Sometimes we have to solve our own puzzle. The question – as well as the answer – is for us to find out.

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