GRAHAM FIELD
Overland motorcycle travel author, strong desires and infinite dreams

One of the biggest bonuses of independent travel is when you come face to face with the real world.

I think we can get numbed by repeated images on TV news about international crises , tragic though they are, ultimately, they are just another image that streams across our vision and even if it does stir something in us, moments later another story or image produces another sensation and the semiconscious reactions amount to little.

I recently rode to an abandoned airbase just inside Croatia, right on the border of Bosnia, so close in fact that my phone wouldn’t let me use the free European data entitlement of Croatia, instead finding an expensive Bosnia signal. This doesn’t matter but I only mention it to show just how close I was to the dividing line between the countries.

I arrived late in the evening, it was almost dark. There is a tunnel with a plane shaped entry that goes deep inside the mountain, how deep? I’m not sure, more about that later.

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When my first book came out, I went to my first bike show as a trader as opposed to a punter. It was the (now defunct) BMF show in Peterborough. I put a bit of plywood over my Black and Decker Work Mate, covered it with a bed sheet and set up my very limited display. Behind me were a stack of 400 books under a blanket, ready to rapidly replenish supplies. I later learned a tenth of that would have been adequate but it shows the level of optimism I had.

By pure luck, because where my optimism fails my luck remains, the stand next to me was occupied by two guys who did a show every weekend all over the country and had been doing so for years. They sold a product that stopped your glasses from misting up. Their technique was to stop every spectacle wearing passer-by and offer to treat their lens for free with their unique formula. They then held the glasses over a steam machine and behold, the treated lens remains clear whilst the untreated one was opaque with condensation. Their clincher was, to get the other lens done you had to buy the special potion. They were such smooth operators, there wasn’t a comment, negative or otherwise that they hadn’t heard a thousand times and had a sure-fire direct hit retort to.

Over the weekend they took me under their wing and taught me a lot, they even went so far as to say to their customers of undistorted vision ‘now you have such clarity of sight you can take a look at this lad’s book’. It was a spectacular introduction to the show circuit, which, over the next five years,became my life, my income, and my social scene. I lived in my van every weekend, sleeping between stock and rapidly thawing precooked frozen meals, which doubled as refrigeration for my evening beverages.

It takes a while to learn what works at a show and what doesn’t. I think the most frustrating thing is a bad pitch at a good show, you leave your lonely stand for a toilet break to find the isles are heaving but no one has ventured to your solitary, off the main drag, gazebo of inspiration.

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From our pocket instamatics containing a 110-film cartridge until the arrival of the first digital compacts, cameras were there recording what felt worth the cost of a photograph. Film and development fees were always a consideration to bear in mind, it limited frivolous clicking. That’s not to say there wasn’t the possibility of taking 24 photos of the same cloud, whilst laying on the grass at a festival or bike show as the intensity of the acid heightened.

But generally, there was a value to a photo that wasn’t just sentiment alone. Digital took the development cost away and with it to a degree, the value of the photo too.

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I used to say (as a solo traveller) that the hardest part of any journey is getting to the point where you are actually ready to leave. From the initial concept of the plan, to the obtaining of the visas, carnets, ferry tickets, the packing, route planning, climate research, bike preparation and pannier packing. Life pre-trip is an endless list of things to do, preoccupied and paralysed by contradictory information and opinions.

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Travel Influencers: It was a new terminology to me, I had no idea there was this breed of professional ‘travellers’ on Instagram, who post photoshopped pictures of their beautiful selves, their backs to various exotic sites. This is done in order that their multitude of followers actually follow them to the picture-perfect place to replicate their glorified and influencing photo. The influencers make a living by doing this. I have, in the last 12 months become shockingly aware of just how narcissist the smart phone generation have become. The point of travel for the selfie obsessed generation seems solely to get ‘likes’ by standing in front of a ‘likable’ site. Thus, reassuring themselves that their vacuous existence has worth, purpose and meaning.

 

You know when you get those equatorial types and the inhabitants of states of permanent sunshine taunting you with their year round t-shirt temperatures as they sit outside watching their sunset (which only rose 12 hours ago)? Knowing full well you will be scraping the ice from you windscreen to leave your house before dawn only to return from work to see it once again in darkness, as the bitter wind rips at your inadequate clothing as numb fingers fumble with the front door key.

It’s that time of year when our attention is drawn to love. Among calendar dictated events, this is perhaps one of the saddest of the year. Even if you are happily single, on Valentine’s Day a hint of sadness or loneliness can be brought to the surface by the omnipresent emphasis of the expectations of the day. A day when the perfectly happy and confident couple feel almost guilted into having to say something that would have so much more sincerity on any other day of the year. The truly obedient buy into the chocolate and flower racket, leaving the most gullible and insecure to join the procession to the trough of the VD dinner. To be charged more than usual for less than average, surrounded by crowds of doe-eyed diners, separated by flickering flame reflections, glistening in the condensation of obligatory all inclusive fizz. But then I am just a cynic, although to be fair, a cynic in love, with one girl, several countries, hundreds of albums and quite a few bikes. It’s the latter I want to talk about.

 

Generally, when we travel we slow our pace, we find time to watch sunsets.

I’ve gained quite a lot of travel experience over the years, here are some of the things I've remembered and relearned, the tips and tricks I wished I known before I left. This are my hard wisdom based of firsthand experiences and predicaments.

b&w portraitI would describe the extended bike journey as an independent overland trip, it doesn’t become an adventure until an event occurs beyond my plans. However I generally don't have much of a plan, just a destination. I do have a pretty good idea of what I don't want to experience. I don't want to be sitting at boarders for ages, enduring fines and body searches. I don't want terminal break downs in uninhabited areas; I don't want hunger, dehydration, frost bite or heat exhaustion. I don't want to pay out hard earned travel money to rip-off merchants who prey on my desperate circumstance. It’s not unavoidable but there are certain steps that can prevent this from being a regular occurrence. So in no particular order of importance. What follows are my and this is important, only my hard earned top tips.

It went like this:

'I'm seeing yellow, aren't you?' Said Paddy Tyson as we brain stormed a cover. We had just looked at about 20 other motorcycle travel book covers and discussed and analyzed them.

'Ureka, it's an epiphany, a flash of brilliance a ray of light, we need light' he said

'So it won't be black then? Like, how black can it be?'

Mount Ararat'Yellow, and a lot of the journey was centred around Mount Ararat so let's have that on cover, Eastern Turkey, Armenian, the Iran aspect of the book. Plus it’s the place when Noah's Ark supposedly came to land when the floods subsided so that's significant, land is essential  in an overland journey.'

This seems to be one mans visions and I'm not about to interrupt him, he's on a roll.

What happened

I really was unsure, should I keep this personal, it is after all quite invasive surgery, my Bulgarian teacher said ‘your books are very personal perhaps you should share this too.’

Sam Manicom suggested posting on my behalf, I was reluctant, I’m not a fan of sympathy seeking posts “hugs hon, thinking of ya’’ I do remember when I posted a photo of myself hooked up to a drip last year with kidney stones the response was overwhelming I could see how someone could get addicted to such things.

Wheelie GoodFor my 50th birthday, Adventure Bike TV surprised me by taking me to Wheelie School. I learned that at 50 I could get it up on the back wheel.

An extract from Ureka

The streets are lined with pavement cafes endless tables of mostly older gentlemen drinking chai whilst indulging in their weekly catch up. I see a phone shop, I bet I can get a new memory card there; I pull up and weave my way through the maze of tables on the pavement. I can’t quite explain what I need so I go back to my bike to get an example, all be it 4 times the size. An elderly Muslim gentlemen calls out to me

‘Monsieur we would be honoured if you would drink chai with us’

Ang on, I’m in the middle on a transaction here.

‘One moment sir, I’ll be right back’ I continue with my quest, he looks at my memory card, understands exactly what I need and confirms he hasn’t got anything like that at all. I go and sit with the chai drinkers.

day 20Having just finished Ureka, my talented, witty and modest friend Bob Staunch, felt inspired to write this song. He sampled my voice, edited it and took my ramblings out of context, making for a funny but incredibly catchy little ditty.

Warning it's a bit of an ear worm.

Different Natures and different covers, hundreds of the bloody things.

There I was riding through Central America when I was hit by a divine flash of inspiration, it’s not unusual, some of my clearest thoughts and dearest wisdoms have come to me through an open visor. However this particular inspired thought was simply wrong. I'm a writer not an artist or a graphic designer. I’m quite good at creating content to go between the covers but it’s the covers that people judge the content by, and all you would surmise from my first attempts at cover design is, the book is shite.

Little m PressWhat can Little m Press do for you?

As I have journeyed into the world of publishing I have inevitably and inadvertently discovered many things. It’s been a steep learning curve on a hard road, rampant with highway robbery and pitfalls to extort cash from the inexperienced and unsuspecting author.

Deal or No DealForty-five minutes of fame, (although that was a by-product) and the money was a bonus. I accidentally got obsessed with the game over a winter of too little work and too much spare time. I got fed up with lying awake, considering what combinations and offers I would deal on and what would be worth a gamble. There was only one remedy, I just had to go on the show myself, to get it out of my system.

Introduction

‘And after the break you’ll going to find out something else about this gentleman, he wants to make a long journey, on a motorbike. Have a think about where he might like to go; if you can come up with it we will give you… congratulations.’ Said Noel Edmonds before the commercials started for the viewing public, and for me the makeup lady waited with her brush poised to apply yet another layer of crud to my face. The sound man came and fiddled with my microphone and the motivational production crew told me to be more appreciative and give more consideration to the money that the banker was offering me. ‘It’s a lot of money to some people who watch, don’t disregard it’