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.

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