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.
Let-down by travel companions and any other company that you relied on to do as they promised. The day of departure arrives; the shed door is shut and locked but the bike is not inside. Everything has been crossed off the list, if it hasn’t, it’s too late, doesn’t matter anymore or has been overlooked, in any case now it’s just you and the road. The long-awaited departure is now, and you wobble off on the first mile onto the planned, predicted, dreamt of, talked about, fretted over and ultimately, unknown, the beginning of your journey.
Congratulations, many fail to even make it to this point, unless you’ve done it, you just can’t comprehend how much effort had gone into the point where you actually leave. So many loose ends needed tying up, so many ties needed severing, so much routine need rerouting. This is the moment it was all about, the riding away from it all. So, are you feeling liberated? Are you feeling free? Got ya motor running, heading for the highway, looking for adventure in whatever comes your way? Yes? Liar, you’re shitting yourself, aren’t you? Tummy full of butterflies, heart full of sadness and loss from the goodbyes, mind full of anticipation.
Maybe you should wait and leave tomorrow. But no, you must push on, the road is so familiar the feeling is not though, you could be going to the car boot sale, you have some friends you could see there. Or to the shops for last-minute supplies, a little snack at a road side bar whereyour face is known. But you have to press on, your thoughts a matted mesh of confusion, so many emotions, ultimately you got to have balls to do this bit. To keep on going, as the road becomes less and less familiar the threads of fear and worry blow away like the strands of a prayer flag.
It takes a while, days, weeks sometimes to gain the clarity of the moment, to be focused and open to opportunity, to slow the pace, and find a way of travel that suits you. The time of day, place to stay, when to snack and when to sit, the right gear for the weather ahead, the time to fill up and where to stop. It’s hard, really hard, that dream you think the nomadic road warriors are living can be a bloody nightmare but in time you find what works for you and all the research becomes the algebra you learnt at school, memorised but at no point in your life have you ever had a use for it.
Finding the elusive road mode is the key to the success and enjoyment of the trip, and it’s equally hard to hold onto. It’s not on Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype, that’s the comfort blanket of submission, that’s the regression back into the world you wanted to leave behind. It’s for your convenience, not for your habitual reaction to the ‘Wi-Fi’ sign. In time you know when you’ve lost road mode and where to find it again. There is a momentum to the trip but rush it and you lose the beat, stop it and sometimes you find the spaces in between are the journey.
When that happens you’ve just got your reward, this is the dream you were looking for, this is the romance of the motorcycle traveller, this is the indescribable point of it all. And the elation is enormous because it came at a price, the sacrifices you made to get there, the braveness you needed to continue, the hurdles you overcame and naysayers you ignored. Now you reap your reward, if it was easy everyone would do it.
Buying accessories off the internet is not travel, not adventure, that’s just a substitute for all things you can’t actually do, and if the only reason you can’t do it is money, then sell those accessories, improvise and leave. The real journey is exploring, finding yourself deep in distant destinations or internal reflection. And you are now one of the few who realises the futility of the material world and the value of travel in the real one. Ride on.