What I’ve Learned Driving a Motorbike

You know that little voice in your head when you’re at the bar that tells you not to drink that shot of Fireball and then you do it anyway? Well I’ve heard that voice a lot lately, except instead of warning against throwing cinnamon flavored gasoline down my throat, it’s been telling me to write.

I’ve been ignoring this conscious for quite some time now, but enough is enough and I had to throw out a stupid little post that I’ve had in my head almost since I arrived in Thailand.

When I was researching how I was going to transport myself through my daily life in Chiang Mai, I kept reading over and over that the best way around was by motorbike. I looked at more and more resources, begging this not to be true. I thought, “well I’ll probably get a bicycle instead. I’ll get some exercise every day and it’ll be safer.”  As soon as I took one glance at the reality of Thai traffic, that idea became the hopeful wish of a toddler.

Already overwhelmed with culture shock and homesickness, I had to give myself a little pep talk. OK, this is happening. You’re going to learn how to drive a motorbike.

For 11 months, my bike and I have been inseparable. It’s always there for me, takes me where I need to go and reminds me of how far I’ve come.

So here are just a few things I’ve learned in my life on the road. Take them at face value if you wish. Or not, the decision is yours.

1. Just jump in 

There are no halfsies. You are either driving on the road or you are not. Unless you’re a Chinese tourist with their helmet on backward, you have to join the fray. As soon as you see an opening in the traffic, you gotta go for it.

2.Whatever you do, do it confidently

On that same note, don’t slow down. Are you cutting someone off? It doesn’t matter, as long as you go fast enough, the organized chaos will forgive you and you can go confidently in the direction of your dreams.

What happens when you hesitate? Best case scenario: honking and anger. Worst case: ambulance sirens.

3. It’s as dangerous as you make it 

You have two choices of thought when it comes to driving in Thai traffic. Either, “It’s too dangerous and I’ll never learn.” If that’s the case, you better enjoy your apartment a whole hell of a lot.

Second choice, “This is about the most fun you can possibly have going from Point A to Point B.”

Thailand has one of the highest road fatalities of any country in the world. Obviously I’m aware of this reality. But if we only ever do things that are 100% safe, we will never see beyond our own neighborhood.

4. Getting there is half the fun

I would say for about 60% of my trips in Thailand, the travel time has exceeded the time at the destination. In America, I’m basically George Costanza and obsess over making “good time.” But in Thailand, I often forget where I’m even going because the views are so beautiful, the roadside snacks are so delicious, and the gas station bathrooms are so repulsive.

5. You might be really good at something that once terrified you

Not to brag, but I know my way around now. I can squeeze between cars and balance a second passenger on the back, no problem. All of this coming from the person who used to wait until 8:30 when there was less traffic to leave for dinner.


Was this profound? Quite honestly, these sounded a lot better when I was thinking of them while driving down the Super Highway. But here’s another lesson I’ve learned, unrelated to vehicular things: not everything I write has to be life changing. Because it IS my life, and that’s why I do it.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I loved this post… and I have learned after many, many a shot of Fireball that it is almost impossible not to listen to that voice in your head haha!

  2. alrharris says:

    Excellent advice!

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