You may have noticed that there has not been as many updates to Traveling Mark as there used to be in the past. There is a very good reason for that. It started several months ago during my stay in Pakse, Laos. Something happened during that stay that made me have a different outlook on the way I do things and subsequent events set me off on a whole new adventure. It all started with my initiation to motorcycle riding.
Learning to Ride a Motorcycle
I have vast car driving experience and have not had trouble staying safe on the road even in countries where driving chaos is nothing short of anarchy. I am also an experienced mountain bike rider having used my awesome Specialized bike as my main means of transportation back in Edmonton since 2007. I love bike riding and I enjoy driving when exploring new areas, but up until my visit to Pakse, I have never ridden a motorcycle.
Number of other backpackers I met in Pakse were renting motorcycles to explore Bolaven Plateau, a nearby stretch of land with beautiful waterfalls and traditional villages. The whole plateau is too large to cover on foot, there is no convenient bus connection and hiring a taxi for the whole day (whole day is definitely necessary to cover such vast area) would add up to being rather costly.
In this case, renting a motorcycle was the most economical means to explore the plateau (despite rentals being unreasonably expensive in Laos). However, it was also the most fun way to explore the area as with a motorcycle you could do it at your own pace and stop where you want and for how long you want without anyone pressuring you or charging you more. It was clear beyond all doubt that renting a motorcycle was the way to go, but how could I possibly consider it, never have ridden one in my life before.
I was encouraged by other backpackers who said that if I could ride a bicycle, then I could ride a motorcycle. Everybody assured me in striking unison that it was easy and that they never used to ride either and learned it in much more dangerous places, such as Vietnam where roads are congested and bike riders speed by default. Despite all that, I felt extremely apprehensive about renting a motorcycle, but continued to relentlessly search for reasons why I should put my fears behind and do it.
One of the best reasons to “learn how to ride a motorcycle now” was that I was in Laos. Unlike many surrounding countries, Laos is not overpopulated so not even in its capital city of Vientiane are the roads congested to a point that it takes you 15 minutes to cross the road. Furthermore, Laos has a reputation for being laid back which is also evident in the way they drive – nobody rushes it on the road so the conditions for one’s first motorcycle ride were perfect: slow moving traffic with nobody minding if you are excessively slow yourself, plus there is not that much traffic to begin with so if you screw up, chances are you won’t cause a jam.
It was clear to me that if I am to try to ride the motorcycle for the first time in my life, I need to do it in Laos. And if Vientiane is not that traffic heavy, then Pakse is ditto not traffic heavy. And when one passes the borders of the city and gets on the highway encircling Bolaven Plateau, the roads become literally empty with only a few vehicles passing by you every now and again. I wanted to do it – I wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle and I wanted to explore the plateau riding. Motorcycle was without doubt the only feasible way to do it and I knew that there will not be a better opportunity for my virgin bike ride than now. Yet still I felt very apprehensive about giving it a try.
The breakpoint came when I met two American travellers who overheard me asking around about how it was riding a motorcycle for the first time and joined the conversation stating that they had never done it before either but would like to try. We started talking together and this feeling of being on the same boat, each of us having zero experience riding motorcycles but understanding that this was the right place and time to change it, generated feeling that if we do it together, we could support one another and successfully do it.
I think that up to this point, my main issues were that I only had two options I could choose from – either go on a bike ride alone and struggle along with all the challenges a first time rider faces on my own, or join a group of already experienced bikers and feel like an idiot who hinders the group and causes other needless troubles. But if I joined the two guys who were as new to it as myself, I knew that we each would be equally inexperienced and equally slow until we get the hang of it. On our own, each of us would be lost, but together – together we could not only offer moral support to each other, we could also share tips and “how to” tricks should any of us find something difficult. We were the rookies, but we could be there for one another if there was such need. The apprehension suddenly diminished.
So we went to rent a motorcycle each. The beginnings were shaky. First few meters were downright dangerous and didn’t go without mess-ups however nothing major had happened. We made a few slow circles around a block, got a hang of it and proceeded towards the outskirts of the city, riding at a very slow pace but steadily increasing the speed.
By the time we left Pakse, we felt comfortable enough to ride at a speed exceeding 40 km/h and eventually made our first stop where we parked and went to admire beautiful waterfalls. From that point on it was sheer excitement. We got a pretty decent hang of it and rode along passing one another, shouting out of our lungs as we were savouring that feeling of air against our flesh.
By the time we were half way across, we already felt pretty comfortable on the bikes and had no issue handling any traffic situation. We paused to have a meal in the countryside, got off the main road to do some off road riding towards more remote villages and it was all so exciting, the day ended up being one of the best adventures I’ve ever had. By the time we started heading back to Pakse, we were the kings of the road. We owned it, we owned the world and were not afraid to give into it. It was amazing.
Giving Yourself in to the Moment
As we sat in an Indian restaurant back in Pakse after returning the motorcycles, we munched on the food still in awe from how amazing a day it was. Later we realized one thing – we never took a single picture of ourselves with the bikes. We never took a picture riding. We never spent any time focusing on photography because we were so much in the moment, enjoying what we had at the time to a point that pulling out a camera and setting it up would have been a distraction. The enjoyment of giving ourselves into the moment and enjoying it to the fullest was so empowering, there was nothing that could distract us from taking it all in.
And as I reflected on this experience later on, I came to realize that many a time before I focused too much on photography, on setting up a camera and walking away from everything to get that perfect shot, that I may have missed out on opportunities to interact with interesting people, pausing to breathe in the scents of the surroundings, feeling the touch of grass around my feet, living a moment that could have become the best experience of my life. I may have missed out on it because I was too pre-occupied with my camera. Too keen to take a pictures so I put everyone and everything around me on ignore. It took this bike riding experience with two other guys to realize how putting your gadgets aside to enjoy the basics of life can be more fulfilling and enriching.
Slaves to the Gadgets
When I realized this, I took an even bolder step of taking the same look at spending too much time on a computer to blog about everything I did. Keeping the blog updated takes a lot of time – you do it too – and it’s just that time during which something incredibly awesome could be happening in your neighbourhood, but you will not have that experience because you spent that time on a computer. We who grew up in an information age got so used to our little electronic gadgets, we make it part of our every day life, literally robbing ourselves of amazing experiences we could be having interacting with other people. It took me a while to realize that, but I eventually did and now I live my life differently.
I no longer live to take pictures or to blog. I live to enjoy life. It started with my bike trip in Pakse and the experience has grown more and more empowering. I have been though many countries since but made each day an experience, instead of dedicating a good chunk of it to blogging. I took bold steps to set myself free from the rat race of corporate life only to catch myself in a trap of the gadgetry I carried around with me. It’s a different type of rat race, but it’s just as enslaving.
That was and will be the primary reason why updates to this blog have been slow and coming. I’ve known this for many months, I just never got a chance to explain. Now you know. There is one other thing I grew to realize over the months since my Pakse bike trip – money won’t buy you happiness, but not having enough money doesn’t make it any better.
More Money = More Fun
I was a budget traveller for many months and enjoyed it. However I missed out on many experiences because I simply didn’t have enough money. For example, I couldn’t afford to pay for a plane ride over HaLong Bay, or I could not afford to have an experience of swimming in a pool on top of Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore because it is reserved to their hotel guests and at the time of my visit, such stay was too expensive for me. So I’ve focused a bit more on increasing my passive income and made my financial situation a bit better.
I still enjoy travelling on a budget, but it is much better to travel frugally because you choose to, rather than because you have no other option. I now occasionally treat myself to a stay in a fancy hotel, such as Shangri-La in Putrajaya, Malaysia to keep the joy of being able to afford it alive, or pay for a full body spa treatment to rejuvenate my physical form.
I achieved that by pausing for a few weeks after a time of intensive travelling and focusing on work a little. I returned to Thailand twice and rented a place to focus on work so I can increase my income. It got much better but now I’m still in the process of revamping my bigger site to make it more advertiser friendly and focus on direct ad sales so the revenue gets into super high numbers. It will also make revenue far more stable as I won’t be reliant on third parties but rather have everything under my own control.
I know where my future lies. Life is good and I’m gonna enjoy it to the fullest as I continue my quest of self sophistication through interaction with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I will also focus on growing my passive income and strengthening my financial position to complete independence. Being financially secure is an important part of living an abundant life.
Man Created God in His Own Image
While I know where MY future lies, I do not know where the future of this blog will be. I will make a post here and there, but it won’t be nothing like it used to. If I’m gonna spend the time on a computer, I will spend it by doing the most productive thing I can to reach my goals. And one of the important goals is to have things run on autopilot. To withdraw myself from the equation so I have more time to do things that matter. Life is short, don’t waste it.
My great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom is well underway (Carpe Diem). How is yours?