Some time back in 1991, my friend Jan and I made a trip to Kenya. Sort of last minute, with adequate preparation, but totally unaware of what we were going to find there. I had traveled a fair bit as a kid, mostly with my parents. Whereas I had flown lots, Jan had never been on an airplane. "I think this is going to be a fairly easy trip." Those words were mine as we stepped out into the Kenyan open after we left the airport. It still looked all very civil at that point. Later, we laughed hard at those words, for it was all so different than we had anticipated. The trip was an eye-opener and an unbridled success in every aspect imaginable.
We also realized the extreme pinnacle of wealth we live on during our day-to-day life and our total disconnectedness to the world at large versus what we were confronted with. We had stepped outside of our glass bubble, shocked to realize we were in it all our lives. After that, our outlook was never the same. Since then, we have traveled a lot. Jan especially has been "bitten" by the travel bug and has succeeded in traveling about 10% percent of his time since 1991. Since Kenya, we tackled, among others, Vietnam, Peru, Laos and Nepal together, as well as swaths of Europe and the Middle East. There are about 45 more countries to add to Jan's list and maybe 30 to mine.
All of our traveling up to now had been along roughly the same lines. Get a plane ticket, arrive, and look for a cheap place to stay. No advance reservations and no agenda to keep. Just a return flight. Of course we have a rough idea of what we want to see, but in what order, length of time or any variation to the theme, are split second decisions made "on the ground". A bit more challenging of course than observing the scenery from the luxurious confines of an air conditioned bus, whilst listening to the drone of the travel guide. We prefer to be the ones who wave smugly at the washed masses behind the shaded reflective glass, then dive back into the thick of the local scenery. Returning back to "civilization" is always greeted with happy anticipation of the luxuries of warm running and potable water, flushing toilets and the availability of Scott Extra Soft toilet paper. Then we sit and reminisce for a while in our respective corners of the world (I moved to Vancouver, BC in 1993) and talk back and forth about what we saw and experienced while away. Sometimes we connect with other like-minded individuals, which is always a rewarding experience. Too quickly, however, our minds drift back to the open road. Fridge magnets, diapers and minivans are not our destiny.
In 1999, I bought a motorbike and the lure of the open road quickly became an addiction. While Jan and I were in Laos at the end of 2000, I coined the idea of a world trip by motorcycle. We started talking more seriously about this over the following days. One evening, as we relaxed on the beautiful wooden porch of our guesthouse in Savannakhét, Laos, we heard footsteps lumbering up the stairs. "Howdy mates", greeted the stranger. As we peered over the balcony, we saw two motorcycles neatly parked below.
Chris and Cuan found two very eager listeners in us. Their arrival couldn't have been timed better. By the end of the trip, our sights were set on the ultimate adventure.
Too much time passed, but in 2006, we managed to squeeze in a semi-serious trip. Jan and I rode from the Netherlands to the south of Jordan and back. I continued on to Iran and eastwards, eventually shipping the bike back from Bangkok after about 10 months on the road. The write-up of that trip can be found here
Game, set and match for the adventurers. The lingering but ever present tug of the open road wins at last. Careers are tossed aside, suits and ties ritually burned and astounded onlookers in our life share a mix of joy and fear at our plans. We've "bagged it" and are now free as birds, without a care in the world. Jan arrived here in April with his bike. The first leg of the trip will be south, towards Ushuaia, Patagonia. Between here and there, lots of adventure awaits. From South America, the next stop will be Australia or New Zealand.