“Better to ride … Better to get lost down the wrong road, disoriented by winding byways and a maze of tiny lanes.”
What a superb day! Yesterday I rented a 100cc motorcycle and toured the hills, highways and byways of this part of Northern Thailand. Eight glorious hours –up hills and down dales via my petrol-fed steed. (okay, it was a glorified scooter, but it still felt incredible!)
I didn’t stop at any famed attractions along the way, even though my journey took me down the heavily touristed, Mae-Rim-Sameong highway, with its gobs of ‘sites’ for foreigners and Thais alike.
Nope, no bungy jumping, elephant riding, tiger-snuggling or crocodile wrestling. No botanical garden strolling, zip-line high-flying or monkey musings for this girl. Just me, my pastel-blue chariot, and mile upon mile of mountain road :D.
Travelling on a Budget?
I opted for the reconnoiter yesterday. The solo exploration. The “Refuge of the Road”…
The experience offered countless breath-taking views … and a priceless insight. All these years I thought my travels excluded some of the more well-frequent tourist attractions in order to ‘save money,’ because I’ve usually been on a limited (and sometimes downright puny) budget.
But yesterday, I could have done one, two, or for that matter, all of the sites, without making much of a dent in my wallet. But I didn’t. I didn’t avail myself of wildlife attractions, wild adrenaline rushes or a wild bounty of botanical beauty. Why?
The Lonely Road of the Solo Traveler
“I am on a lonely road and I am travelling, travelling, travelling … looking for something, what can it be?”
For those of you who remember the music of the 60s, you probably recognize by now that Joni Mitchell has been, let’s just say an influence in my life. Like her, I’ve traveled many a road the wide world over … alone. In time, it has indeed become a refuge of sorts. A way to be entirely WITHIN a place, and yet utterly apart from it.
So why didn’t I opt for the “amazing Thailand” tourist must-sees? Two reasons really:
- I’ve come to understand that, for me anyway, the joy is in the going. Yesterday’s insight was simply this: That the exploration of place, the absorption of its rasa – its sweet flavor – is the quintessence of the experience itself.
- And to wax far less romantically: some things are just not as fun alone! Riding elephants, strolling botanical gardens, and plummeting to earth via bungy chord is so much more fun when shared with another.
The time it would have taken to do any of those “must-sees” would have been time away from the lonely road calling me … time away from that next mountain pass, that next vista or lush, sun-soaked valley.
Better to ride. better to get lost down the wrong road, disoriented by winding byways or a maze of tiny lanes. Better to pull over, asking for directions in my broken Thai and not making any sense of the answer anyway.
Better to breath and drive and sing at the top of my lungs to the bamboo forests, rice paddies and misty mountain tops, for the burst of joy in my heart!
Tigers, Elephants & Zip-Lines Ahead
Now for those of you eager to find out about conscious elephant care, docile tigers and tree-top zip-lining … don’t worry … I will do these thing in the weeks ahead 🙂 But as cool and fun as these things may be, I have found a truth upon my lonely traveller’s road: That I am most at home in a far-off land simply strolling the streets or driving the back-country, ranging wide with no destination but the journey itself.
Perhaps I have those years of financial constraint to thank for this easy, low-tech travel style. Whose to say? But it’s clear that when I am Being In, when I am absorbed by ‘sense of place’, even a strange land brings me home.
How do you travel? Are you an ‘action adventure’ kind of gal or guy? Are you a ‘culture vulture’, seeking the next museum, monument or historic marker to read? Have you ever felt a sense of ‘refuge’ along the highways and byways of far off lands? Let me know in the comments below.
Many blessings on all your sojourns!
Oh! to see some of my pics of the journey, just visit the Northern Thailand Photo Album on this site!