The sun roasts my exposed shoulders as my motley group of travellers and I cruise along An Bang beach on our even more motley collection of mopeds. A mosaic of palm trees and white sand blurs by as I hesitantly take my eyes off the road to soak up the picturesque Vietnamese coastline. I turn my attention back to the road just as a battered red truck hauling live chickens in open cages turns into our lane from an intersecting street, all the while honking incessantly to let us know that this is how things are done here rather than any genuine sense of frustration. We seamlessly ease off our throttles and weave around the obstacle, flowing down both sides and merging back into a complete unit. We’ve been at this all morning and have turned out to be quick learners. In Vietnam there are as many lanes as vehicles can fit wide, red often means go and if you can hear anything over the whine of your scooter engine then you’re not going fast enough.
I’m in the rear position of the group. Initially I had placed myself here as an experienced rider, relative to most in the group in any case. But my motorcycle training of years gone by floats away on the wind as I rip ahead of the crew, flashing a toothy smile in delight and getting several more in return. Each person in our group is a solo traveller, each with their own collection of stories and reasons for being here at this exact moment in time. I edge past Leonie and Tiwana; Leonie an affable Dutch with an easy smile and Tiawana an energized American never missing a chance to tell a story in her southern twang. Next up is Jossie, the German kickboxer with a carefree attitude. I open up my throttle and zip past Adam, the reserved Hungarian that I had nervously started chatting with at my hostel in Mui Ne when we found myself surrounded by cliques, and Isabella, a German with an infectious smile and a weakness for tailored summer dresses. I’m only in front for a few seconds before Jossi blazes in between me and the others, massive shoulders hunched forward over his handlebars and grin plastered on a face that also sports a mean-looking forehead scar, compliments from the beer bottle of a soccer hooligan he had tangled with a year ago. We cruise this way up the coast for hours, a disparate group hailing from different corners of the world formed into a cohesive whole, squeezing every ounce of joy we can out of the day.
Three months previous I was in the death throes of a relationship that was creeping its way towards history. And now I found myself here. I’ve had these days before, albeit rarely. These perfect travel days, where every scene was splashed with vivid colors, exotic scents wafted through the air and laughter abounded at every opportunity, creating an experience that etched itself into memory. The feeling of the perfect travel day is surreal. You want to freeze it in time so that you can rewind and play it over during more mundane moments, sitting in front of a work computer or falling asleep during a cost analysis meeting. It’s probably better that you can’t. Knowing that the memory could never be as sweet makes you enjoy the moment and stretch it out, savoring every detail knowing that it’s ephemeral and can disappear as easily as it appeared. But that doesn’t mean the memory can’t drive you forward to experience unfamiliar and amazing things. To meet people from different walks of life and learn their stories.
I find myself reminiscing about these times more than usual as my calendar winds down to my departure date for Mongolia. Maybe it’s because I’m steadily checking out of a job that I’ve already resigned from. Or maybe it’s because I’m looking forward to new adventures, and just maybe one or two perfect days on the road.
This post is from an experience in February 2017, prior to me starting Worldly Warrior