My right hand flexed and we surged forward, the wind blowing our faces and fighting off the clinging humidity. ‘This is freedom,’ I thought to myself as I leaned into a turn, letting my body weight steer as much as my hands on the handlebars.
It was the third time I’d ever driven a motorbike, and I was hooked.
Most people will say that it’s crazy to try to drive a motorbike in Southeast Asia, and most of the time they’d be correct. But we were on Koh Lanta, and this meant less traffic, dependable roads, and little extra room for error (as long as it was a small error). With a daily rental rate of $4/day and a whole island to explore, we could hardly say no.
Of course, my only experience with motorbike driving prior had been a 2-minute attempt in Mykonos ten years prior that had ended in me falling over and off the bike, but I had ten more years of life experience and a little more false confidence, so we took the plunge.
At first, it was terrifying. This is the common sentiment when you’re aggressively pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone farther out. I felt like the brakes weren’t responding fast enough, I was worried about balancing myself and my sister, and we had to start off on a dirt road. But I made it up the dirt road, waited until the main road was completely clear, and swung out, only minorly swinging into the opposite lane before correcting myself. From there, we were on a long, straight stretch of pavement that allowed me to get a feel for how to fully release the throttle before applying the brakes and to understand our balance situation.
When the first curve came up, I freaked out again, but it was a gentle curve and it showed me how to use my weight more than the handlebars. It took a few more lessons for me to fully grasp this, but I picked it up quickly enough.
We made our way to Old Town Koh Lanta, a relatively short drive that looked simple enough on the map. I was finally feeling like I had this motorbike thing down, when I spied a small hump ahead that I couldn’t see over. Having passed a couple of these already, I assumed it was only a depression in the road and we’d be on our merry way.
As we crested the ‘small’ hump, I realized that I was about to drive down a very steep, very curvy stretch of road that was way outside my level of expertise on the bike. But we were already going down it. If I stopped, I wasn’t sure I could get our balance back to a point where we could start again. So after a split-second of heart-stopping terror, I gritted my teeth and went for it.
I may have rode the brakes the whole way down, and I may have kept shouting at Beth to lean into the turns unnecessarily, but a few moments saw us at the stop sign at the bottom of the hill, buzzing with the remnants of adrenaline from our harrowing journey.
And, like most things that take us out of our comfort zones, I was hooked. We traveled by bike for three days around Koh Lanta in total, and by day three I was ready to patch in to the Hell’s Angels. Or at the very least, I plan to get my motorcycle license when I’m back in the U.S.