I set off on this journey with the intention of leaving many details unplanned. I expected to meet people in the second week of my travels, during the yoga portion, and wanted to leave room for spontaneous adventure. However, as the flight to Thailand crept closer, my anxious planning instincts started to take the reigns. Just to be safe, I set up a hostel for a few nights after the retreat, and scheduled another one in Pai (a nature-heavy, hippie town that had been highly recommended) for later in the week. My desires for impromptu backpacking gave way to my usual urge to control what comes next.
On Sunday, the last day of the retreat, our group was scheduled to practice together in the morning, and then be dropped off back in the city around noon. I was ready for some chill solo time, and my clothes were begging to be laundered. But I soon found out that the universe was chuckling at all my advanced planning and thinking that I knew what was good for me. My new Aussie friend, Amanda, also wanted to visit Pai, but her flight was leaving on Tuesday. Could we go that day? I was reluctant. My chill time! My laundry! We wouldn't get there until 7pm and would leave to come back not 24 hours later.
Before I knew it, we were ditching our bags (at the pre-booked hostel) and riding a red truck to the bus station. The stars must have aligned since we were permitted onto the 3 o'clock bus, despite having shown up at the booking desk at 2:58. In accordance with online and word of mouth warnings, the road to Pai was rough and winding, but we made it unscathed. We sat down at a cafe to book a hostel for the night, and were amused to find out later that our room was actually a $4 sectional family tent on what looked like a riverside thatched hut commune. PaiZen River Jam Hostel was the place for us.
We spent the night out making traveler friends, trying to spend as long as we could in the warmth of bars and fellow nomads. But sleeping outside felt good to us (mats and fleece blankets helped), and the river provided a zen spot to further our morning meditation habits. The next day, we conquered my fears of driving a scooter. We saw canyons and waterfalls and ate at the most amazing restaurant I've ever eaten at in my life. If you are ever in Pai, please eat most, if not all, of your meals at Earth Tone so I can relive it through you!
As predicted, we didn't want to leave after only a day, but the last bus was heading out at 5pm, and our scooter skills weren't quite up to the 3-4 hour ride back under the light of the moon. Although it was short, this trip presented me with some of the joys of last-minute planning. If I'd gone to Pai on my own, I would've had more time there and probably a slower-paced visit, but I wouldn't have had the courage to rent a motorbike or the confidence to cruise through the countryside with a friend! I might have seen the river running through the town, but my scheduled hostel was no more than a bed in a dorm on the main shopping street. I would have missed the canyons, waterfalls, and most of the natural beauty that Pai has to offer.
Once again, I'm reminded that the most exciting plans often come from letting go and seeing where the circumstances take you. So thank you to Amanda for helping me surrender to life and taking this trip with me. I wouldn't have had it any other way!