It is 1am in northern Thailand and I have achieved the impossible: I have outlived a Bic ballpoint pen. Not by the mundane manner of running out all its ink across my journals, but through the mysterious process of having carried it around on a motorcycle for more than four years, across seas and straits and continental borders. I haven’t used it; I’d thought, for some reason long ago, that I might need a red pen. Perhaps I imagined some sort of corrections on immigration forms at a fraught national border; but I have since learnt that the more fraught the border, the less correct the forms must be.
Just smile. Just tell them you are on an adventure, and just let them think that you are lonely and brave and mad. One or all of those things will keep you safe, and keep you rolling, most of the places. Most of the time.
It’s been more than a year since I rolled across an international border, though: covid. Seemingly overnight, in April 2020, all the borders of south east slammed shut. They have remained so ever since. I, having traipsed across the Thai border for a week’s visit, gaped in horror as it slowly and painfully dawned on me that I would not be getting back to my KTM in Phnom Penh anytime soon.
No visa, no motorbike, and no machete: what is a girl to do? Carry on, of course.
After all, adventure is a state of mind – and, sometimes, a state of bank account. “When are you going home?” hollered expats of friendly persuasions, while the unfriendly ones simply told me, “You’re finished.” But whereas ‘going home’ implies both resources for the going and a place to go to, I had my eye on something better: the horizon. Or more specifically, the blurriness at the end of my field of vision beyond which lies the unknown and thus theoretically vast potential.
Having a minus 13 optical prescription, as I do, certainly helps make the unknown feel rather more imminent than average.
So, what to do? I made a plan:
1) Try not to die.
2) Get better at riding motorcycles.
So on the second of January 2021 I plunged into the jungle on a diminutive klx150, giddy with excitement or maybe it was just lack of oxygen from all of the blue two-stroke smoke hanging over the track in front of me. Details.
I heard that NANG NANG NANG of two strokes that I hadn’t pinged my eardrums since childhood, and something tingled in the cockles of my heart.
This is it, I thought. This is where I’m meant to be: I’m here to figure out how to ride better, how to ride enduro, how to ride trials, how to throw myself up and down mountains and do stupid things on motorcycles of which I had not yet dreamed. For now, I cannot leave Thailand, but don’t pity me: I’m not dead yet, and the new adventure is here.