It’s a world away from the flashes of the cameras. It’s miles and miles from the tape recorders and microphones that have been shoved in his face. It’s certainly the polar opposite of the media circus that has surrounded him.

The plane touches down in Phuket, Thailand, and it feels as if it was all a dream. Nobody wants to know his story. There’s no stampede to get the first television exclusive. He’s just another fresh tourist face in the Thailand crowd.

Earl (Alan Media)

Earl (AlanMedia)

Some have assumed that Sandor Earl is running away from a former life. They think that the star Rugby League player is hiding from the alleged truth associated with his ban from the league following an investigation into his role in performance-enhancing drug use and trafficking, charges for which Earl has admitted his guilt.

Earl isn’t fleeing, though. Instead, he’s on a journey to find out what life should be about. He’s discovering a passion that he can share with fellow athletes from all around the world.

“I’ve been here for about six months and have just been getting focused on training and running my new business,” Earl explained in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It keeps me busy, that’s for sure. I do a lot of training myself, and it’s pretty much what my life revolves around. I’m also a trainer at Unit-27 Strength and Conditioning, which is something I really enjoy doing.

“After I got over here, it took about two months to get everything together, but [in November] we opened up [Phuket Pro Nutrition] Muscle Bar, where we do meal plans and nutrition, and it’s also a smoothie and juice bar. We didn’t open it up to see it get massive or anything. It’s really just my passion, being able to help other athletes and connect with people. It’s something that I have really enjoyed, and Chalong has become like my second home to me.

“It’s a bit of a getaway, and I still get to do something that I love. I get to connect with a great deal of people that I may not have been able to before, and I have met so many athletes from all around the world who come to Thailand to train. I feel I never would have gotten the chance to meet some of these people if it wasn’t for being able to open up the business.”

After a successful opening and continued growth, the Muscle Bar business has certainly been a lot more successful than what Earl had originally anticipated. Eventually, he plans to move back to Australia, and he is open to the idea of bringing the business back with him.

“It is a good concept and I think it’s definitely something that could work in Australia,” Earl explained. “It’s just about finance and having the time to run everything when I do eventually go back over. We are looking to expand eventually, and we just recently signed up our first athlete sponsorship with ONE FC fighter Rob Lisita. He’s one of the best fighters to come out of Australia, and I’m looking forward to seeing him make his ONE FC debut this year. He’s already shown he is the best fighter to fight out of featherweight in the country, and I can’t wait to see him dominate in the ONE FC cage. The shop has been pretty full-on since we opened up and it’s something that people are really getting behind.”

For most young adults in Australia, the trip to Thailand is about the parties, the sun and the cheap shopping. So many tourists visit the country every year, but only a small percentage of them will actually go on to experience what Thai life is all about. Earl was guilty of making the trip for the wrong reasons once before. Not this time, however.

“I came over to Thailand for a little holiday years ago, and I kind of regret that trip,” Earl admitted. “I just went to Patong and didn’t really get out to experience everything else about Thailand. I have a mate who owns Australian Top Team in Wentworthville, and he just loves it over in Thailand. And he told me I should head over [to Thailand] to do some training. When I came over for a couple of weeks around Christmas 2012, before the footy season started, I came to Chalong and I just loved the place.

Earl (Alan Media)

Earl (AlanMedia)

“It’s just kinda one of those things. You know, it’s probably around 90 percent of guys who like some kind of contact sport or combat sport. Because it was something that I liked and it worked in with my football training, I thought I’d do a bit more of it.”

At the age of 24, Earl is entering his prime as a professional athlete. The years ahead are the most important ones for him, and with his immediate future in Rugby League on hold, other sporting opportunities certainly hold some appeal.

“Because of being banned from playing football and not having any idea from ASADA [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency] when I’ll be able to play, yeah, it has crossed my mind [to look at competing],” Earl revealed. “It’s a bit of a hard one to decide, though, because I don’t wanna be putting all my eggs in one basket and focus on a career in combat sports when I could be going back to playing football this year some time. I am hoping for around August at this stage, but it’s really still up in the air at this point.”

In Australia, professional sports stars are forever in the public eye. Every movement is watched and every step is documented. Earl’s story has been splashed across the media over the course of several long weeks, and not a day went by where he could go unnoticed. Life in Chalong offered a different pace.

“There are some people that will recognize me, but there isn’t any bad blood or anything. I find that I get to connect with a lot of people I probably wouldn’t have hung around with, so it’s been good in that sense. I’ve learnt a lot about myself coming over here,” Earl admitted. “I do miss playing footy and being around the team and all the boys from the [Canberra] Raiders. If, and when, I do go back, I look forward to being able to one day play footy again.”

Whilst a career as a professional athlete is still a very real prospect for Earl, his love of martial arts and helping other athletes has been able to reach new heights in conjunction with his absence from Australia. In the very near future, Earl’s life may become all about scoring tries and the camaraderie of being part of a team. Right now, however, he’s happy serving up smoothies and being just another guy living the dream in the beautiful city of Chalong.

Follow Sandor on Twitter: @sandorearl