According to Buddhists, the only way to achieve nirvana is by traveling down the path of suffering. There is a lot that can be learned during traveling down that path as long as we are willing to sit down and reflect on those moments and think about how they have affected us. In principle, this sounds like a beautiful thing, but it is really hard to reflect back on those moments and think about how they have changed us or what lessons we are supposed to learn from the experience. Sometimes this is just something we wish to forget all about.
My travels to my Songkron Break location, the island of Koh Lipe in southern Thailand, was one of these experiences that I would love to forget about and I don’t know if I will ever want to revisit the experience to see if I can come up with a lesson that I have learned from the experience. There were a lot of steps that I needed to take on this commute, but one of them hung everything up and turned what should have been nine hour travel day into one that took a little over fourteen hours to arrive at our destination. We scheduled a driver to take us to the airport at five in the morning, and we had plenty of time to get on our seven o’clock flight which left on time. It took a few extra minutes to find out driver to take us down to the pier where we were going to catch our ferry to Koh Lipe, but once we found him, he did a great job of getting us there on time.
It was when we hit this part of our travels where things came to a grinding halt. After a year and a half of getting hit with low tourism, the industry saw a sudden surge in travelers this week. Some of them took advantage of this fact by overbooking certain services. The ferry was one of these services that was overbooked. We were a little late for the ferry we booked a month ago, but it didn’t matter because they were running so far behind that we were not able to get on a ferry four hours later.
There is nothing like sitting on a crowded dock during a pandemic with dreams of a sandy beach dancing in your head. I looked at the people not wearing their masks and wondered if they were going to be packed in my ferry, and I wondered if I would ever get off of this concrete slab protruding out into the sea. It didn’t help that the only shops in the ferry building sold either expensive jewelry or coffee drinks, neither of which would satisfy my grumbling stomach. I might have left to go to another restaurant close by to get a quick bite to eat, but we had to wait around in the hopes of getting on whatever ferry they deemed us worthy enough to join.
It might not have been the worst suffering that anyone had to endure in their lifetimes, but I did feel like I was on Buddhism’s famous path, and I should meditate about the moment in order to reach my Nirvana. And now that I have finally reached Koh Lipe and have a whole week to do nothing but enjoy the beauty of this small island far away from the hustle and bustle of my regular life. Yes, it was a painful day and some of that pain seemed a little unnecessary with a little more organization, but in the long run I made it to Koh Lipe. I am safe. I have a comfortable hotel room. I am surrounded by kind and caring staff. I have choice of excellent restaurants to eat at. I have options of many sea activities to entertain me during the next week.
Maybe there is something to that path of suffering.
Maybe I have reached my Nirvana.