What people think:
“This is so amazing, I wish I could drop everything and travel the world, you are so lucky, I am soo jealous. I wish I could be as free as you.”
“You are so brave to do this. You are doing what millions wish they could do.”
”You get to see incredible places, and meet all kinds of different people, and you don’t have to lead a mundane life and go to a stupid job you hate. “
“You are doing this on a motorcycle? That is so cool!…”
Though I am lucky and I do get to experience and see and eat what others never will, there is a whole other side to my reality which people do not realize, and which, I am guessing, would make them slightly less jealous of me…
What it actually is:
My face is burned from the sun and in constant pain from rocks and bugs of various sizes and densities hitting it at 70mph.
My hands vibrate for hours after dismounting from my single cylinder’s attempt to satiate my desire for ever greater velocity around mountain bends.
I am either hot and sweaty or freezing cold most of the time; rare is the day when I comfortably ride in the clothes I have on. And once wet and cold only a hot shower can restore my body – and that is not always so easy to find.
I am never relaxed as absolutely everything, from rocks, sand, weather, the road, cars and trucks to stray dogs, birds, and other wild animals… and even the very tires that are supposed to keep me upright, is constantly threatening my life.
Every border crossing or checkpoint leaves me a little breathless and wondering how much money it will take for me to continue (though thankfully so far I have only had to pay 2 bribes).
My lips are burned and chapped and I’m in a general state of dehydration because often there is just not a good place to pull over and drink.
My head hurts from the constant squeezing of a helmet.
My back, neck and shoulders are in constant pain from not being able to move to a comfortable sitting position, again, for hours on end.
My eyes are dry from the wind finding its way around glasses and goggles, no matter how tightly they are wrapped around my head.
I have hemorrhoids the size of fists from sitting for endless hours on a hard, viciously vibrating leather seat.
I go for days without showering or changing shirt and underwear – the resulting funk is enough to distract me from the keeping my bike on two wheels.
I sleep in questionable places, under questionable conditions – usually uncomfortably, which results in few hours of sleep per night and a perpetual state of exhaustion, magnified by the after-effects of a constant rush of adrenaline from being on a motorcycle.
There is rarely a ready reprieve from the dirt, wind, rain, mud, salt, loneliness, danger or discomfort. It comes and goes, but almost never when I need it most.
The water and food are always changing, never giving my stomach a rest or time to catch up and get used to the place’s particular family of bacteria and parasites. The effects need not be mentioned.
But lets mention them anyway: in three months (out of 2 years now) I took more antibiotics than in the last 16 years. I’ve had throat, lung and stomach infections, which have left me writhing in pain for days.
Best of all: I’ve had dengue. Though I am alive today, there were a few days where I was not so sure…
I got tendinitis in my hand which forced me to get an injection of anti-inflammatory meds. The pain is not something I can accurately describe – but I did consider chopping off my hand just to stop it.
As a writer I am beset by the constant flux of incredible events from which I must separate myself in order to write about them – hence the paradox.
The bike is such an incredible drain on my resources I may as well have stayed in New York with a girlfriend.
There is a loneliness which is omnipresent – no matter with how many people I find myself, nor how wonderful they may be, all relationships on the road are ephemeral, and hence are dissatisfying to some degree from beginning to end.
These are just a few of the difficulties I face, almost on a daily basis. After 10 years and 100,000 miles you get used to a lot of it; the hard part is not having a break from it. But in the end it is this shared struggle with other bikers from around the world which brings so much meaning, and so much joy, to every wave we share as we pass each other on the long road. It is this struggle which binds us as an international, inclusive community of incredibly diverse people. And of course what I see in months, 99% of people won’t see in 9 lifetimes. And the people I meet are so wonderful that my faith in humanity is renewed on a daily basis. So I say it’s worth it, but then again I’m a little insane.