When you’re far away from home, friendships develop in hyper speed. With the familiarity of family and friends worlds away, you create safe spaces more quickly. You protect each other, you rely on each other. You trust.
I spent seven days in Pai wanting to rent a scooter and get out on the road to explore. Seven days where I didn’t meet anyone who would want to set out with me. Having never ridden a scooter, and seeing backpacker after backpacker with bandages arms and legs from scooter falls, I did not feel comfortable enough going out alone. So I stayed.
I stayed and I spent seven days doing other things. Meeting people and watching them go. Meeting new people. Meeting my family (remember them?).
We talked about it together. I mentioned that it was something I really wanted to do (something I needed to do to prepare for a later leg of my journey, actually) but that I hadn’t found anyone I felt comfortable going with. One of my friends had ridden a scooter in Pai many times before. “I can teach you,” he said. “You’ll come with me.”
No hesitation; absolutely.
The next day, we set out. We crossed the street and rented three scooters. After a quick explanation of what goes where, what to press, what to avoid, we were ready to ride.
I rode a scooter named Rosie.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous; I was shitting myself. But fear soon dissipates when you’re with people you trust. It’s soothed. Enveloped in the warmth of reliability and the comfort of having each other’s backs, it is put to bed.
“You’ve got this, you’re going to do great.” The way he said it, I believed him.
We set out as a team, winding our way over back roads and out of the city. We rode slow; we rode fast.
We took breaks to check in on each other. You protect each other.
We took breaks to stare in awe at the sights. I feel stupidly happy.
We took a break to feed elephants. There’s a smile on my face now that you couldn’t wipe away even if you tried.
We rode for a while with no destination. Later we rode to hot springs and lounged in the warm water until our skin went red.
As I wound over these roads I had to laugh at the incredulity of it all. I found myself thinking that this was something I would never do in my regular life. Here it feels so natural.
Zooming over these country roads with Rosie and my friends, I have never felt quite so free.