Spiritual Teachings / Travel Advice / Travel Stories

Karma and Motorbikes in Thailand

When I fell off a motorbike and crushed my left wrist in Koh Phangan, Thailand, I quickly went into spiritual-existensial crisis mode.

Why did this happen to me? Was I supposed to die? I could have died! Is the Universe trying to tell me something?

Earlier that morning, my travel-mate Mandira, a Dutch girl I had met at an ashram in Australia, and I had been driving around on a rented scooter, discovering the island. We drove past beaches vibrating with colorful energy, Thai markets boasting coconuts and bananas, and countless reggae bars. We also found many detox centers and Yoga schools, which we stopped into and learned about possible courses to take. We were getting excited to stay on this island for a while, make lots of friends, do yoga, drink from coconuts, and bliss out. Our energy was skyrocketing with excitement and gratitude to have found ourselves in the right place.

Mandira and I, the day before the accident

Then we crashed.

I don’t intend to blame anyone but myself for my accident, but I will mention for your travel references that in Thailand, the locals will rent you motorbikes without teaching you how to drive them, without insuring you, and without even asking you “Do you know how to drive this?” It was Day 2 of my improvised self-taught scooter “lessons” and we were driving on completely foreign, dirt-road territory.

Long story short, I didn’t understand the proper way to brake when driving down a steep hill, and I lost control of the bike. We fell onto some grass (thank God not onto boulders just a few feet away) and my fractured left wrist was the worst damage done. We went to a Thai government clinic hospital rather than a private tourist one, because I had no travel insurance. After resetting my wrist by hand with zero pain medication and wrapping it up in a cast, the Thai doctor hushed my screams and used his little English to tell me “Broken. One month.”

After my accident, I continued to backpack around Thailand in a cast and sling, happily, for another month.

I’ve been procrastinating writing about this experience, mostly because I don’t enjoy reliving it. The accident was horrifying, and was the ultimate low point of my travels. But I recently read something that convinced me how important it is to share this story.

In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, it’s suggested that all events that occur in our life are results of Karma. Chopra says:

“Whether you like it or not, everything that is happening at this moment is a result of the choices you’ve made in the past.”

At first, it is hard for me to accept that I attracted this awful accident into my life. I am an extremely positive person who consciously tries to spread joy every day. So why did I deserve to go through this terrifying experience, to wear a cast for months, and later have to end my travels and go home for surgery?

Then again, it’s rather simple. I made the choice to travel without insurance. I made the choice to drive a motorbike without knowing how to. I made the choice to drive down that steep hill. These were all my choices, and they were made with minimal consciousness.

So I admit it. I deserved the accident. Karma got me, bad.

I wasn’t the only backpacker with a broken arm in Thailand. I found other travelers with casts like mine everywhere!

Chopra also says you can “transmute or transform your karma to a more desirable experience” by asking yourself:

“What can I learn from this experience? Why is this happening and what is the message that the Universe is giving to me?”

That’s exactly what I’ve been pondering since the day of the accident. Now that a few months have gone by, I have a more objective view on the event that clarifies a lot for me.

See, I found another one! I know we look happy, but we’d probably be a lot happier if we hadn’t broken our arms!

I think the Universe was  telling me to mellow out my energy, slow down, and be more responsible. It’s easy to get high on travel-adrenaline, but we must remember, we are not invincible!

Chopra says we can “redeem our karmic debt” by passing on our learned lesson to others.
So, this is for you:

If you go to Thailand or another country in Southeast Asia, you will see that nearly all the locals drive motorbikes. I saw people from ten-year-old boys to eighty-five-year-old women nonchalantly scooting around without helmets. I saw entire families of five stuffed onto one scooter, babies squished between kids and adults. They make it look easy, but it’s not.

Count the Thais

A typical sighting in Thailand PC: Alessandra Caprice

Be conscious when considering to drive a motorbike abroad. Many insurance companies will not cover motorbike accidents, because they happen so frequently to travelers and the damage is devastating and expensive. Get travel insurance that covers motorbike accidents, like World Nomads. Then, before you even think of driving one, make sure you properly learn how. Have someone really experienced teach you. Tour the area with a local who knows the roads before driving around alone. Lastly and obviously, drive carefully.

To end on a good note, my motorbike accident actually resulted in many ironically positive outcomes. A very kind, friendly, ex-pat French woman took my friend and I in after picking us off the road and bringing us to the hospital. We ended up staying with her for two weeks (free of cost) in her beautiful home in the jungle with her dog, two bunnies, and three cats. She became our good friend and even cooked delicious French and Thai food for us every day. We also befriended a Thai man who worked in a reggae bar just next to where the accident happened. He connected us to many other Thai locals who became our community in Koh Phangan.

Four months, one rushed flight home, one surgery, three casts, and sixteen sessions of physical therapy later, I am fully healed. My wrist has ten screws, bone from my hip, and a very bad-ass looking scar on it. My scar will forever remind me (and now you) how fragile the human body is, how precious life is, and to always be careful and conscious while traveling.

My scar

*Featured image PC: Alessandra Caprice

*All other images property of the author, all rights reserved.

11 thoughts on “Karma and Motorbikes in Thailand

  1. Thank you for spreading this lesson to all of us! I am one to take shortcuts (especially with insurance and money), so I am grateful to get the reminder that our health and safety are always to be cherished and protected.

  2. Good on you for sharing your story. I’ll think twice next time I want to rent a scooter, even at home! I like to think that every painful experience has something to teach us, if we let it do so. And if you can help others when you tell your story, all the better. I’m also considering sharing a painful part of my life in a hope to reach others. As you wrote, it’s hard to get around to writing the story though, I also don’t enjoy reliving it. I’ll think about it again 🙂

    • Hi Cecile! I think if you want to share a painful story, you’ll do it when your heart says it’s time. It can be really therapeutic for yourself, in addition to spreading a lesson to others. There’s a lot of people out there repressing their pain. Imagine the kind of world we’d live in if people opened up their hearts more ❤ Thanks for reading!

  3. I recently had a scary fall in Spain (walked off the edge of a loft in the middle of the night!) and was very lucky not to break anything, though it has definitely slowed down my travels by making it hard for me to walk very much in a day. Even though it has been painful and frustrating dealing with this injury, I’m so grateful that it happened without any major or long-lasting damage and have definitely taken it as a message to be more careful…and to get travel insurance!!

    • Hi Ryan! I’m so glad to hear you survived your accident, and very sorry that it’s slowing you down. I slept on some of those type of lofts in eco-villages while traveling. They are scary. You’re a warrior for traveling with an injury. It’s challenging enough without one, hey?! Love to you!

  4. OM Emily, I feel that I know you so well, I have an undescribeable deep affection for you, an arising of spontaneous joy and love. I was randomly clicking through the pages of your site and would occasionly stop to read, every passage i read I had also experienced, example. I have also been to Samaya Ashram, I have also travelled Australia just like you did, I have also had a motorbike acciedent in Souht East Asia, I also do yoga, Im scared to read more than that. Anyway wonderful woman thank you for sharring and if you would like to send an email I woud be delighted. Blessings

  5. Hi Mika! Is this the Mika I met in Jamaica at CYC? How exciting that we share all these experiences. We are clearly connected in a profound way. This is proof in what I already believe, that I have many soul mates all over the world. I would love to connect more about all this. Please feel free to e-mail me at emilysussell@gmail.com. OM ❤

  6. I cannot thank you enough for this post! I have been traveling through SE Asia for a month now and was sure I’d rent a bike on Koh Phangan. Upon arrival My hostel warned me that there is no insurance and even a scrape could cost you buying a new bike. And when I attempted to ride it with three men and a baby watching me, wide-eyed and holding back giggles, I felt defeated and pressured after realizing that it wasnt as easy as the locals made it look. And also angry that I was supposed to just hop on and go! And another part of me, my soul more than likely, was like Sara, don’t do it! Get lessons first!! So thank you for this; a reminder to listen to your gut, to slow down, and to be mindful. I found your post after googling “motorbike lessons, Koh Phangan.” Glad you have healed. Love your outlook. This calmed my ego. I am sitting beachside right now with less anxiety to get up and go. Snorkeling now sounds more appealing. Xoxo

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