You learn more from failure than from success; don't let it stop you. Failure builds character. – Author Unknown
I’ve traveled so many months and days that I’m unsure if the past 24-hours has been the longest consecutive travel day or not, but regardless, I was in transit in some form of transportation for 21 consecutive hours before reaching my 30th country–Laos. I suppose that it would be fitting that even without timing the date of my arrival in Luang Prabang (ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ) that it would fall on American Thanksgiving, because I have so much to be thankful for over the past year and this new chapter of my life. I am thankful for the incredible support of my family (both in the States, and now in Korea), thankful for the friends that continue to provide me with encouragement from the States, often through just short messages or fb posts, thankful for the amazing people I meet on a daily basis and that I’m fortunate enough to call friends, because for those that do travel for extended periods of time understand through their own personal experiences that while this life we may lead may appear to be a symbol of absolute freedom, just as with my journey from Thailand to Laos, it can be downright exhausting. Since I want to continue to provide a bit of travel advice for others, today will be a short section on preparing for overland border crossings–everything from what to expect to what things will make the crossing a bit easier.
OVERLAND BORDER TIPS:
Waking up at 7:45am excited, yet also exhausted with the knowledge that over the next 24-hours I will be going through one hellish journey to reach my 30th country. After packing up my gear and doing a thorough double check of my room, I head downstairs for some brekkie–scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee. I’ve found that a decent meal before departing on a long travel day is always a great decision, because you never know when your next proper meal may be. Yes, there are generally the roadside stops that are made, but this is often far from a meal with much sustenance. Since I was told that the pickup time would be between 10am and 10:30am I’m sitting waiting in the common area or lobby of the hostel. Just before 10:30am a young kid, whom I’m guessing is 16, but with Asians you can never truly tell their age, for all I know he could have been 12 of 40, walks in and yells out, “Luang Prabang.” Jumping up, I wave at him and gear up. Walking past the open garden area and toward the front entrance gate of Deejai Backpackers I’m expecting the shuttle bus to be parked, but this is soon a faded dream. Without saying a word he climbs on his motorcycle and motions for me to climb aboard. Surprisingly, this is not my first dual motorcycle experience carry both my large backpack and my smaller one. He signals for me to give him my smaller backpack, which he places on his lap where I climb aboard, awkwardly with close to 40lbs strapped to my back, and before I know it we are racing through the streets of Chiang Mai. Winding through narrow neighborhood streets that would be considered alleys back home, as he slams on the brakes and looks down another side street I realize what he is doing. We are attempting to chase down the shuttle bus as it is also driving through the city. A few more turns–flying through an intersection without hesitation–he turns over his shoulder and we both laugh, even though I know I’ve just been blessed by not being sideswiped by another crossing vehicle and we have caught up to the shuttle bus. Climbing off the back in the most ungraceful of manner, almost falling from the shifting weight of my backpack, I thank him and climb in the shuttle bus, sweaty and already dirty. What a great way to start a long journey?