Monthly Archives: March 2014

ours

I wrote a long post about what happened, but that’s not what’s important—it never has been.

Yesterday the English boy left for good and my heart aches more than I thought it would.

With him I felt safe at a time when I was afraid of my own shadow, beautiful when I was scraped and scarred, and looked after when I felt ready to give up and throw in my travel towel.

It didn’t occur to me until after he told me he thought continuing this would be impractical, until after we fought, until after the tears came and I started missing his presence, but now I wonder: if what we had wasn’t love—however short and messy and imperfect and improbable—then what is?

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cheers

It was just easier to start calling him my boyfriend—to other travelers, hostel owners, the Thai police—because otherwise he was “this English boy I just happen to be traveling with and splitting everything with and spending all my time with right now,” which is long, and vaguely misleading.

So that happened, which solidified our relationship on the outside, but, with his impending one-way international flight booked for Thursday, it hasn’t really made anything simpler.

———-

We rent a motorbike to explore Koh Tao and from the start I can feel that the shop owner has it out for us. The next day, he holds my passport hostage for a $150 USD fine, yelling at me when I try to negotiate, and I fall apart. While I (gracelessly) continue my dive training, the English boy sorts it out with a trip to the police station, and while I feel so lucky to have someone like this on my side, my immediate deference to him makes me angry at myself. A month ago I could’ve, would’ve fixed it all myself. I am more comfortable and happier right now than I’ve been my whole trip, but also lazier and more dependent—a tradeoff I’m far from satisfied with.

———-

I have been ripped off more times than I can count on this trip, which I expected and accept. Except, there are three times that I can pick out when I was especially unhappy with the outcome, and all three were times when I felt that something was wrong from the start, possibly voiced my concern, but then ignored my gut because someone else told me it was okay. I didn’t trust myself, and so those times there was no one to blame but myself, really, and I always blame myself hard.

———-

I don’t know what happens after Thursday. I’ve sort of tried this before, but I freaked out with us a continent apart, and I’m still ashamed at the silence I left in the wake of such a good friendship.

Plus, the English boy and I are both jealous creatures with strong personalities, and with me returning to solo traveler life and him returning to a solidly stable life, I think there is a high possibility of misunderstanding. We’ve already had far too many face-to-face falling outs, and it doesn’t take long before you forget the details that come with living another sort of lifestyle.

We talk about me coming to visit England this summer, an obviously temporary solution and one that, if I’m being honest, I don’t even know if we’ll follow through with. I keep asking myself: would we have even liked each other if we had met in one of our home countries, under normal circumstances? I don’t know. And a lot can happen in a few months.

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different skin

Excerpt from a beautiful, honest post I wish I’d written, by a much more traveled friend:

“You spend the best part of a decade surrounded by people advancing their careers and trying to claw that six figure salary before they hit thirty but the happiest people I’ve ever met live for bed and board in hostels around the world. I feel like I’ve missed out, but I guess I still have forever.

Travel is addictive. Like alcoholism, you don’t ever “get over it” but it remains part of you for life and I feel that once I get back to the UK, everything that follows will be the next step towards the next trip…”

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falling action

I never expected the aftermath of my accident to be so much harder than the actual crash.

More than the pain and inconvenience, I’m crippled by embarrassment. I am a cliché, hobbling around wrapped in bandages like so many other stupid westerners. And I’m angry at myself for caring so much about others’ opinions, but it’s hard not to when locals and travelers alike stare at the massive scrape over my entire arm, and my accident has been the only topic of conversation for the past week. I’m starting to see (on a much lesser degree) what it might be like to have a deformity, and while I put on a good front, I don’t like realizing just how much vanity drives me.

Beyond the superficial, I can’t shake the feeling of helplessness that has descended on me like the gritty humidity of Saigon. The crash itself made me feel like such a burden to travel with, and still not being able to walk well is infuriating. I ride my motorbike to the hospital to get my stitches removed, and I feel myself finally breaking down when I get utterly lost for hours in the maze of Saigon’s never-ending traffic.

And despite spending six nights recovering in this city that reminds me too much of my dislike of Bangkok, my plans are still quickly leading me to a dead end, as I hurry back down to the Thai islands for a diving course I won’t be able to do with fresh wounds, a volunteer assignment that will in all probability fall through, another Full Moon Party that I’m terrified will be a disappointment compared to my first one, and another chance with the boy that I didn’t manage to leave behind after all.

Though I suppose, if anything, this trip has taught me that everything works out in the end. So here’s to the end of Vietnam, and another adventure in Thailand.

A Motorcycle Diary

The story wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I decide to remind myself that I am a girl who travels by renting a motorbike in Dalat to ride the last ~400 kms to Saigon, with a stop in the beach town of Mui Ne to make up for skipping Nha Trang with the English boy.

The best way to get over a boy is to get on to a motorbike, right?

This is an unusual plan, though, and I have trouble finding someone who will let me ride the bike only one way… until Loi.

I meet Loi at a motorbike shop that first tells me that they can’t give me a bike. I am about to leave when it seems as though they change their mind, and I agree to rent the bike for five days and then pay to send it back to Dalat on the bus.

It is only later that I realize that Loi is actually renting me his personal motorbike, with absolutely no deposit from me and no guarantee that he’ll ever get it back—except that he trusts me.

I will never again doubt in the goodness of mankind.

———-

That’s supposed to be the end of this story, except turns out, it’s not. When I call him the morning after it all to tell him the story and cry, he reminds me that life is full of curveballs.

———-

I team up with two Dutch boys to make the four hour ride to Mui Ne. We have been driving down the curvy, bumpy roads for about an hour when I hit a hole the wrong way, fall off Loi’s bike and scrape the left side of my body.

These are the moments I hate and love travel. My friends are about a kilometer ahead, but a Vietnamese man going the other direction immediately stops to help right Loi’s bike. And then I have a choice, but not really. I’m bleeding in the middle of nowhere, so the only thing to do is to pick myself up and keep driving.

Two hours later, we finally pass a hospital and I am cleaned, bandaged, and fixed up with four stitches. (For the record, all of this plus antibiotics costs less than $10 USD.)

It hurts—my body, my confidence, and my pride—but I know that I am strong and lucky and I will be okay.

And then 30 kms to Mui Ne, my bike breaks down. The battery is dead, and there is nothing I can do but helplessly sit there in my bandages and let the Dutch boys save my life yet again and push me and my bike the rest of the way. The repairs cost me about the same amount as it cost me to rent the bike from Loi (who I still believe is possibly the best person in all of Vietnam).

———-

So what is actually the lesson in this? That Mom was right and I should’ve just been content with the bus? That I’m not so competent after all? That I shouldn’t let my emotions cloud my judgement and run away from boys so hard?

I want to believe that everything happens for a reason. That people like Loi come into our lives just when we’re about to give up on mankind. That sometimes we have to get hurt to stop us from being so reckless—with our bodies, our hearts, our money. And that sometimes we just need the opportunity to prove to ourselves once again that we are stronger than we know.

As usual, I’m not sure yet—more proof that he’s right (once again) and I’m still not ready to go home, as much as I’m currently figuratively and literally aching to.

But despite it all, I will be driving from Mui Ne into the epic traffic of Saigon later on this week. And whatever happens, I’ll be okay.

“She will never need you”

It takes about a day of mourning my loss of the English boy and his friends before I remember that robberies and heartaches aside, I am a girl who travels.

And while my two weeks with the English boy ended up more of an in-depth study of beaches and cheeseburgers, I spend our first days apart indulging in home-cooked Vietnamese meals, making new friends, and pushing my boundaries. I go abseiling off a 25 meter waterfall, and while I do think to myself that I wish he was with me, I also know that I’m so glad I didn’t skip this for him.

The next day we rent motorbikes and as I drive myself around the countryside—in a skirt, no less—I already know that all my doubts were silly, and everything’s going to be okay after all.

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