They say the longest journey starts with a single step but there are so many steps in getting to that first step. Once all those loose ends are tied up and you turn your back on your front door, that’s when you know this is the long-awaited single step: the trip has started. There are butterflies in the tummy and everything about your appearance, behaviour and baggage says ‘I may be some time’.
A lot of people fail to get to that first step but those who do often find the most difficult part of the journey is already behind them. The constraints and obligations have gone and with minimal belongings you follow an ancient human calling ‘to go and see what’s over the horizon’.
The second most difficult part of travel is coming back and it's taken me quite a while to work that one out.
My first taste of the foreign was being taken on the family package holiday, which led to the almost obligatory round the world trip with a girlfriend and a backpack (I still have the latter). It then continued with a long stay in the US, and took new directions as I rambled on through India, which progressed to cycling in China. It would seem travel has been one of the few constants in my life.
Another constant is motorcycles: as a teenager with a scrapyard two stroke, the road beckoned but the bike was too old and I was too young. Later came the Autosol years of the custom bike scene, always with a 'winter bike' back-up in the garage.
My only other passionate, lifelong duty that hasn’t missed a beat, is a daily diary documenting it all. So for 25 years I’ve travelled, ridden and written, and like anything that is done repeatedly, I started to get a bit better at it.
I worked hard and saved hard to make wild dreams become realities, with minimal means. This all led to the inevitability of bringing these three passions together; it just took a quarter of a century to figure it out. Tales from far away, overland motorcycle travel on a budget, punctuated with anecdotes from other exploits: all the ingredients were there.
My dreaming of distances started with multi-state rides in the western half of the USA, climaxing in an 11,000 mile journey to Alaska. Then, with a modest TV game show win; a £750 KLR 650 off eBay, a strong sense of desire and no sense of proportion, I headed east with Mongolian intentions. It was the journey that changed everything. I continue to plod on with the same bike, to discover truths, insights and invaluable lessons, over 50,000 miles through multiple countries and continents. Contentment, I have found, is in the slow lane.
I like to go away just long enough so that coming back is a joy. The experienced traveller knows when to return and for me it’s when the craving for a bacon sandwich becomes unbearable. Everyone wants a bacon sandwich really, deep down inside; the smell, the taste, it’s a universal craving, experienced even by rabbis and vegetarians, (probably). And the best ones I’ve ever tasted come out of my own kitchen. When palm trees, snowy mountains, extravagant architecture and ancient history lose their 'wow factor', it’s time to go home for a bacon sandwich, enjoyed with greater world knowledge and with a new appreciation for the simple things. This is until the call of the road is heard once again, with renewed enthusiasm.
I seem to have an unquenchable lust for the things I continue to find on the road: undiscovered wisdoms, both inside and outside of the helmet; the ultimate understanding that the only true impression of a country, race, religion and culture is the one you see yourself. These are the real, first hand and unbiased views of the realities you come across.
These views are so different from the irresponsible, sensationalist headlines which are motivated by profit and driven by sales, or ones created and conceived by calculating politicians who stigmatise foreigners they don't understand. People are generally good and an internationally recognised, misleading label, is often beyond the control of the people it brands. The majority of the planet spend their lives taking care of the basic human requirements of providing food and shelter for themselves and their family. On a rare occasion a scruffy, long-haired guy on a bike passes by and different lives briefly cross, interact, swap stories and then everything carries on as it was.
Travel takes us beyond our self-imposed fences, allowing us to find out what we really fear and to discover our limits and capabilities
These are my words from my travels. They are just my observations: no diplomacy, no agenda. I'm not trying to start or end wars. I just have an insatiable desire to go and see what it’s like 'over there'. This is what I've found so far. I think there is more to come.