July 9, 2007

Predictably Unpredictable
Bangkok, Thailand

Lindsey was stood-up by a backpacker this morning—teaching her a valuable lesson: Travelers are totally unreliable.

After several repeated street encounters with a Dutchman (who apparently also spends a significant part of each year in California), Lindsey was tickled with the notion of seeing his upcoming destination: A temple full of tigers. The catch was that the place isn't in Bangkok, it's in Kanchanaburi, which is at least three hours west of the capital.

To do a day-trip there is pushing it in my eyes (I'd personally opt to relocate), but the opportunity to tag along with this fellow presented itself, and I encouraged her to take it. So Lindsey woke up early, packed up the things she'd need for the day, and went to meet him outside the hotel that he was checking out of.

This was not an easy decision for Lindsey to make. There were a lot of unknowns for her to try and mentally mitigate, and the idea of traveling to this place was indeed a daunting one of her. Where I saw a simple bus ride, she saw navigation through a mine field of danger. "What if" questions seemed to be picking away at the confidence I know she has.

I'd slipped back to sleep when the opening door awoke me. I think she waited for about an hour before calling it off and returning to our room, disappointed. The guy was a no-show.

Options and Adventure

I had researched the city of Kanchanaburi already, as it had been recommended to me as a nice spot to get out of Bangkok for a few days. The town is small (around 60,000 people), and sits next to the River Kwai. This town is known for the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai and WWII prisoner-of-war camp.

Seeing the town was something I was up for, and I offered her the option of packing up and relocating, or, at minimum, showing her how to get there on her own—but she declined both. I didn't feel like spending the time and baht to go there and come back the same day, so this offer was never made to her.

I think Lindsey is fast discovering that relying on others (when traveling) is on the quick path to frustration. Adventure, satisfaction, danger, fulfillment, and independence go hand-in-hand with each other when abroad.

I know people (both men and women) in the United States that can't bring themselves do things alone, such as watching a movie at a cinema. Say there is a new movie out that this person is really excited to see, has been waiting for months for it to come out, but can't find anyone interested in going or that hasn't already seen it. This person will not go to the cinema. They just can't bring themselves to go to this place alone, and for the life of me I can't understand it.

This sort of mentality does not work in the world of travel. If you can't go to the cinema alone, you sure as hell can't travel alone.

Getting back to the point at hand, I believe that travelers are so unreliable because to be otherwise would conflict with one of the primary functions of travel: To take care of yourself first. Travel is inherently a selfish act, which eventually turns most travelers into self-centered people. I would never claim to be an exception to this. I look out for myself, because I'm use to living with the notion that no one else out here is going to.

I'm sorry that Lindsey didn't get to see her temple. And I'm sorry that this guy didn't show. But hope that she has seen the value of this experience, and to remember that everyone talks a lot of game out here, but few are those backpackers that actually give a damn about following through on things—especially here in Bangkok, around Khaosan Road.

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