I returned safely from Cambodia to Thailand, sans KTM, the Laos border still closed. A day later, as I languished in 24 hour quarantine in Bangkok, Laos opened its land borders. The opportunity I’d been waiting for – and now I’d missed it only by a whisker.
Still, it doesn’t matter if you miss out by a whisker or a week: either way you looked at it, the KTM and I were no closer to a Laotian stamp landing in my carnet.
Nevermind; I’d dusted off the cobwebs, resurrected the big LC4, cleaned her up and got her back on the road. We were a team again.
Coming home to Thailand was a strange sensation; when you think about it, I’ve not come home to anywhere in the last five years. For so long, nowhere was home. Now, I landed in Chiang Mai with thoughts of the old teak house which was being renovated into my garage and office space; thoughts of dirt biking and the business I was going to build.
In fact, that’s exactly the reason I’d come back on this particular day: to run my inaugural off road motorcycle tour. I had a client flying in from Australia and an unforgettable experience to create for him. Everything had to be perfect; but simultaneously flexible; and ultimately laid back. I urgently needed my client to experience no sense of urgency; my mind was laser focused on making sure that the client was completely relaxed, their mind free to wander.
In a relationship, it’s always a bad sign if you feel responsible for the other person’s happiness; but as a tour guide, it becomes a metric of success. Not one that you can always control; but on the days when you know you’ve not just shared a place, but shared a sense of joy? That’s a good day.
The tour went smoothly and delightfully. Josh is a laid back Australian, and a pleasure to tour with. There were days of riding and cold beers in the evenings. Every morning, I was awake with the dawn, ready for whenever Josh’s day would start. As we rode through the mountains, we adapted our route to suite his preferences.
When we passed by a village celebration, we stopped to distribute sweets to the local children who roamed around the food stalls; as we rested beside a river, the water buffalo came by to wallow, unperturbed by the presence of our bikes. On remote mountain summits we watched the clouds billowing through the valleys and passed carefully by the spirit houses of the local supernatural inhabitants.
We watched electrical storms light up the mountains behind the village one night, and the next ate pizza and went for massages among the comparatively cosmopolitan attractions of Pai.
Amidst three days of riding, we spent another at the gun range, with weaponry far outstripping anything permitted in Australia. Josh was rapt; and I was stoked to see it. Here was something else he could not try at home.
The whole thing was… amazing. Imagine getting to share the pleasures of a place you love, doing the thing you love – and that’s your job. We delivered Josh to the airport with a glow of gratitude: grateful for his custom, grateful that he believed in us, grateful that he’d had an incredible experience.
Now let me tell you a little more about the sense of enthusiasm and wonder I have when I think about this, my business, which I have created in partnership with Paisan. First, I never thought I would create a business: I grew up in a working class home where income came from wages, and your job was controlled by someone else. To be that person in control was merely a dream; an opportunity that other people had, not you. Second, I never thought I could sustain my passion (motorcycling) by engaging in my passion (motorcycling). It was simply too good to be true.
And now every day I get up at dawn and plan itineraries and correspond with customers. I take deposits and bookings, and place reservations with hotels, and recce tracks and inspect homestays. Except for the days when I go to the airport, to pick up real people, to show them this amazing part of the world.
With love (and excitement),