We blew through sticky gasoline-perfumed air for the last time. The rattle of the tuk-tuk threatened to unhinge the tears I was trying to hold back. As I kept with my obnoxious habit of starting a chorus of “Time to Say Goodbye” after any adventure ends (try it—you won’t be singing alone for long), I looked at the team I successfully got singing with me in chorus, and thought back to our first few days.
From our first awkward encounter, only assuaged by dim sum in the Cathay Pacific lounge, to the intimacy that comes with a bit of street pad Thai—so much had changed.
There are countless articles on why you should travel alone. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, forces you to trust, blah blah blah. All amazing stuff. But to travel in a group—there is a kind of magic in that which goes unwritten.
Have you ever looked at a fast friend and wondered where the veneers came off? When exactly you shed that public-facing layer for one closer to where skin meets the bone? What was the point in time or the sentence that allows you to do so?
While you might get there eventually on a regular day in a regular environment, travel has the habit of peeling you down to that vulnerable slab quickly, and those you’re with are confronted with your emotional nudity, as well as their own.
A tuk-tuk ride is never just a tuk-tuk ride. It’s a spot in time where you’re able to share anxieties about your place in the world or gush about a partner or tell stories from your wild, reckless youths. As much as we smashed our noggins together when obstacles arose in our Thai-tinerary, we also noodled such questions like “How can I make this idea a reality” and “what do I want my future to look like?”
This is the power of group travel. The incubated little world that emerges has always come to define the trip for me, reaffirming my belief that it’s never the place: it’s the people.
As we bumped along on our way to the airport, we reminisced about how fast the time had gone, and how much more there was that we wanted to do. I guess that is the nature of a place as incredibly complex, geographically diverse and layered as Thailand. I still want to go climbing in Krabi and Chiang Mai. And do a multi-day trek through the Thai jungle. And visit the Three Pagodas Pass. And explore Pai and the Andaman Sea. And, you know, maybe one day sunning myself on a Thai beach, bucket in hand, would be nice too… for old times’ sake.
With Thailand, the deeper you scratch, the deeper you go.
As we said our last goodbyes, a consoling thought popped into my mind: the road is long. While this spin ‘round the land of smiles may have ended, the bubble around our team was about to burst, the mission over; indeed, the road is long. As Deepak Chopra once wrote, “We are travellers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. This is a precious moment, but it is transient. It is a little parenthesis in eternity. If we share with caring, lightheartedness, and love, we will create abundance and joy for each other. And then this moment will have been worthwhile.”
Bangkok’s traffic may always be buzzing, and the frogs on the Khao San Road might always be cooing, but as is the nature of travellers, we might never meet each other in the same way again. Nor will be ever encounter this place just as well left it. But in the end, we shared it, this experience. And we got to share it with you.
And for that, I am so grateful. I hope you enjoyed the ride.