Meditation is a tool I’ve used to help calm the mind. Oftentimes, I escape to a place like Koh Lipe – beautiful scenery, gentle waves curling into the sand. Whether to contemplate something specific, or to just relax, it’s always been an effective way to relieve stress.
Meditating on a beautiful beach is easy because you’re already in an ideal place. Meditating after a stressful day at work is a little tougher because you’ve gotta transport yourself to that ideal place. Meditating on a rickety overnight bus with no reclining seats that is tearing down a bumpy, winding, unpaved road is an entirely different experience all together.
The beginning of the adventure turned out alright. A comfortable mini-bus picked us up from our hostel on time and took us to the Thai/Lao border. We were stamped out of Thailand and shuffled on to a small boat to cross the Mekong River. We reveled in the few moments that we were stamped out of everywhere and stamped in to nowhere.
Once we hit the shore we were promptly stamped in to Laos! We hopped on a tuk-tuk that took us to the bus station. This is where our second comfortable bus with reclining seats would take us to Luang Prabang – a 13 hour journey, 6pm-7am.
This is an example of the bus the travel agent told us we’d be on. Fancy, huh?:
We get to the bus station and there is only one bus there. It’s a small, older-looking bus with no reclining seats that was packed with people. It had three seats on one side, one on the other and then an additional un-cushioned seat folded out into the aisle. At that point, I was thankful I actually got a cushioned seat. The reality set in quickly though – we’re about to spend the next 13 hours on this thing.
This is the bus we got:
By 2am, my nostrils are full of dust. The bus is not totally sealed from the outside, so a thin layer of dirt is all over me. The road is so bumpy I’m bucked out of my seat every so often – not a slight bump, an inches out of my seat bump. The road is winding up and down the mountainside, the full moon casting an ominous glow over the landscape. We pull over a few times for the driver to check on the busted front tire. There’s really nothing left to do at this point but to grit my teeth and wait until the journey ends.
I decided it could be quite possibly the most challenging meditation experience of my life. How could I let this opportunity go? (Keep in mind how deliriously tired I was at the time and this game might make more sense.) I closed my eyes and went to Koh Lipe. I timed my breathing with the tempo of the waves. I felt my feet sink into the cool sand. I felt the slight breeze on my cheeks. And I disappeared.
Five hours later, we arrived in Luang Prabang. Although it was quite the challenging journey, we made it safe and sound. Plus, I was able to transport myself out of my body in a way I’ve never done before. I’ll take it.