The International Writers Magazine: Travel Action Hero
Adventure Writer Watches too much TV
had been nearly two years since the terrorist attacks on the World
Trade Center. Tuesday morning, September eleven, I had been in
Manhattan. And like all New Yorkers, I had run the gambit of emotions.
One minute I felt fear. Another, I felt anger.
There were constant
flashes of a debilitating desperation. For the rest of the world, it
had been a horrible day. But for New Yorkers, it had only been the beginning
of a period of horrible weeks, and eventually months. For me, 911 had
served as a wakeup call, a signal that it was time to change my life,
and pursue some goal, other than making money.
9/11 reminded me, once again, that we were all going to die, and that
we didnt know when. My own mortality had haunted me since my earliest
childhood. I remember thinking once. If I died to tomorrow, I
would have nothing to show for my eight years of life. In my prepubescent
melancholy I lamented that my name would be lost, across the ages. And
so, at age nine, I set out to write my first novel, which I quickly
gave up, because there was a Star Trek marathon on TV.
On that Tuesday morning, my childhood angst revisited me. But this time,
it seemed somehow more legitimate. I am thirty three, and if I
died tomorrow no one would even know that I had lived.
And so, I gave up my career as an investment banker, and headed to Asia,
to become an adventure writer. I spent the first two years writing about
Taiwan and China, climbing mountains, crossing deserts, tracing rivers,
practicing kung fu, and cycling uncountable miles. People often asked
how I got the idea for my various adventures. The answer was, TV. Between
Discovery channel, National Geographic, and Knowledge Channel, there
was always someone doing something that looked more interesting than
investment banking. And I was motivated to go out and emulate them.
I came to understand the TV liability warning, Dont try
this at home.
One of the adventures I had heard about was a monastery in Northern
Thailand, where Muay Thai was still taught by monks. The first time
I heard about this monastery was shortly after my arrival in Taiwan.
Although I wasnt ready to go at that time, I filed it away for
another day. On the night that I was packing my things to head to the
Shaolin Temple in China, I flipped on the TV, and there was an hour
long special about the same monastery. Again, I wasnt ready to
go. I had already purchased my tickets for China. After Shaolin, I returned
to Taiwan, and did every adventure I could think of. Finally, in November
of 2003, I was ready to head to Thailand. My very loose plan was to
find the monastery I had seen on TV, and do a series of articles and
a book about my experiences there. After that, I planned to remain in
Thailand, doing adventures, and submitting them to magazines inside
and outside of Thailand. When I landed in Chiang Mai, the former capitol
of northern Thailand.
I had about $200 in my pocket, and the name of a single magazine, who
said they might buy a single story from me, for a fee of $30. (In the
end, they didnt.) I didnt speak Thai. I had no friends.
And all I knew about the location of the monastery was that it was not
in Burma. One of the nice things about being an adventure writer was
that you didnt have to over-plan. This book is a compilation of
the adventure articles I wrote in Thailand, combined with my diaries,
and some commentary. Adventure writing is a lot of fun, but at times
it seems like a self-serving, irresponsible way to make a living. One
could say that I am helping my readers, by making them laugh. But, will
my writing make a difference in anyones life? Will my name reverberate
across the ages? Will Pra Kru Ba share his deep-fried bugs with me?
Only time will tell.
Boats, & Boxing Gloves,
Adventure Writer in the Kingdom of Siam
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Gom Publishing (April, 2005)
From Chapter One
The Last Muay Thai Temple- Northern Thailand
Thai is the ancient art which has kept the Thai people free.
Explained Pra Kru Ba, the stocky, bald-headed monk, who had once
been a famous boxer.
He was laying on
the bamboo platform in his jungle hut, giving me my daily lesson on
life. After months of living in the monastery, my Thai had finally progressed
to a point that I could make some sense of what he was saying.
© Antonio Graceffo
Muay Thai is a spiritual pursuit. He said. The body
is pure. The heart is pure. Only the head can create evil. And if evil
invades your heart, then you cannot win in a boxing match. Religious
tattoos played across his muscles, as he reached for another handful
of food. You live too much in your head. Evil can come into you
faster than it can the others, because of your education. He told
me flatly. You are a good man. But your anger will destroy you.
My Italian temper had become a thing of legend in Northern Thailand.
Earlier in the day, I had threatened to strangle one of the monks with
his own robe.
After the meeting, I knew that Maii, a devoted Buddhist lay-woman, would
ask me for a full report on Kru Bas diet. He had been ill lately,
and unable to keep food down. She would be pleased to hear that he was
Even when you are meditating you look sad. He said with
pity. I hope you will stay with us long enough to overcome these
difficulties. He was making an allusion to the Shaolin Temple,
in China, where I had lived for a number of months. I had gone there
hoping that they would be able to make me spiritually healthy. Instead,
I got in fights every day, and left there unchanged, except that I had
lost weight, and produced a great book, called The Monk from Brooklyn
(available at amazon.com). But I was still as angry as I had ever been.
At Kru Bas monastery, Wat Achatong, we shared everything. The
problem was, we didnt have all of that much, only the food which
the hill-tribe people gave to the monks, in exchange for merit. After
a long day of farm work and Muay Thai training, I was famished. I loved
hearing Kru Bas words. And I cherished our quiet time together.
But what I wanted now, was some food. Finally, when I judged that the
rate of his consumption had slowed enough that I could ask, a sentence
came out of my mouth that I thought I would never utter.
If youre finished with those fried cockroaches, could I
Once again, it dawned on me, just how far I was from Brooklyn.
Contact the author
out for rocks!"
Paddling the Maekok River
The Roof of Taiwan
Taklamakan by Rickshaw
Antonio Graceffo on travelwriting and Hemingway
"Adventures in Formosa," will be published in Taiwan, in June
the Garbage Fields
- Phnom Phen
Monk from Brooklyn
Antonio Graceffo in Thailand
Stories in Hacktreks
all rights reserved