As soon as I jumped on the back of his motorbike, my adventure began.
Wind whipping my hair*, Cambodian faces stuck on mine as their bikes edged forward, I noticed that there were no other white people on the backs of motorbikes, luggage hiding between the driver’s legs. I smiled as their frozen eyes never left mine.
“Dahling, it’s not smart, it’s normal,” the British hotel owner cooed as he explained a quicker, cheaper way to get from Point A (Sihanoukville, Cambodia) to B (Bangkok). Instead of lounging in the luxury of an air-con, tourist-filled 20 hour direct bus to Bangkok, Cambodians segment the trip, driving along the coast, the quickest way via public transport. “When in Rome,” I thought, “take the Cambodian buses”.
After strolling across the Cambodian border with Thailand amidst shouts of “I love you!” I asked about public transport to Trat, only to be informed that it had closed for the day. For the cost of 15 Shrimp Head Juice Pad Thai meals, a local bus driver could take me to Trat. I walked on. Along the way to nowhere, I asked again and again about cars/buses/tuk tuks/magic dragons to Trat or Bangkok, to no avail. The only option- private transport- was not an option. So I tried my thumb at hitchhiking.
Walking past the security checkpoint, the first truck I hailed stopped. Ignoring everything I’ve ever been taught about stranger danger, I climbed aboard, and after an amusing quarter hour of hand signaling, map pointing, and English-Thai translation via a helpful friend, we were off!
Pulling into the Trat bus station, my knight-cum-truck driver pointed to the ticket window. After two hours waiting, six hours of drooling/sleeping on the road to Bangkok, I arrived. Well, I still had a hot pink taxi ride to go, but I digress.
The next day busing back to my hostel**, my phone died. After insta-, tweet-, and snapping pictures all day at a travel blogging conference (TBEX), I grimaced. “My phone hath betrayed me!” I thought. Never unsticking my eyes from Google’s bouncing blue dot, I had planned to follow the bus’s progress to my hostel. How else would I know where to disembark?
I turned to the woman to my left and asked “English?” Her prepubescent daughter studied my hostel supplied map and told me that we were getting off at the same stop. Instant relief from technological difficulties came in human form.
Exhaustion. Anxiety. Hunger. Listlessness. These are a few of the states I enter when I exit my country, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, because traveling makes us reliant on our most precious asset: other humans.
After all, smart phones may make travel easier, but they make us dumber. So the next time you find yourself physically or metaphorically lost, put down your phone/tablet/computer/drone and look up. Someone is there to help you. ***
*never as sexy as portrayed in the movies
**near aforementioned Shrimp Head Juice Pad Thai, referenced here
*** I am not liable if you find yourself lost in the desert, no technology or camels at hand. In that case, ignore my advice. You’re probably screwed 🙂