Would you pick continued travel or short rides, and why? If you had a choice of traveling on your bike for an entire year, or doing month-long trips annually for twelve years, which option would you go for?
Right now, any travel seems either impossible, heavily restricted, or just too much hassle. But what about when the pandemic ends or there is a vaccine, and we can hit the road again? If this is the time to rethink travel, consider more sustainable RTW options, regroup, and change plans, perhaps it’s time to take a look at just how feasible continued travel is, and what are the alternatives.
Living On the Road
Although the mechanics of it all seem much the same – riding from A to B, rinse and repeat – going on a motorcycle journey for a few weeks versus a year or more are very different types of travel. Living off your bike isn’t just about the mileage, the different countries and continents, awe-inspiring scenery and breathtaking roads or off-road trails. It’s also routine (packing and unpacking, dealing with border crossing paperwork, bike maintenance) as well as a mental game of dealing with uncertainty and being away from home, your culture, and your own language for a long period of time. Some people thrive on it, fully embracing the unpredictable tomorrow and the feeling of always being a guest and an outsider. But for some people, life on the road after the 4-6 month mark gets hard. And while there are always ways to change up your routine and deal with being homesick, the fact is that living off the motorcycle and constantly being on the move just isn’t for everyone.
In addition to the challenges of living on the road, few people can simply up and go due to family commitments, financial reasons, careers, and loved ones left behind. Fewer still actually want to.
With the global pandemic still in full swing, full-time travel is even harder and most definitely, much slower. Quarantine and self-isolation requirements, the uncertainty of borders being open, and intercontinental travel on hold, slowing down – if not stopping altogether for now – seems to be the only way. And, whether the vaccine is developed soon or not, this is unlikely to change soon.
It is still possible to keep on riding, especially if you camp a lot and stay off the beaten path, like this rider who lost her job due to COVID and set out on an indefinite motorcycle trip. For me, I’ve discovered a new way to explore the countries I’m slowly traveling through by setting up a base camp, leaving the luggage, and riding the local dirt trails with an unloaded motorcycle for a few days or a week at a time, then moving on to the next country or region. That way, I’m still enjoying the freedom and the dirt riding, and my contact with people is minimal.
What about the shorter, month-long trips every year instead of continuous travel? Even without the pandemic restricting movement, this is a great way to see the world, enjoy the riding, and keep your home life stable. If the cheap flights return and the bike rental companies survive, doing shorter expeditions around the world might be the perfect way to experience snippets of RTW life without embarking on a year-long trip. The experience isn’t the same, but that’s not to say it’s less enriching or exhilarating, especially if you pick out countries or areas that aren’t tourist hotspots. I’ve met several riders traveling around the world in installments or groups of friends traveling one country at a time at this point, and they always seemed happy to both be on the road and return to their jobs and families once the month or several months of riding are up. Added bonus? If you travel this way, each time you hit the road, it’s just as exciting, and you can’t wait to be back on the bike again, whereas with continuous travel, routine inevitably sets in even if you’re traveling through the most breathtaking corner of the world.
Finally, if you don’t like riding solo, convincing your friends to join you for a few weeks is much easier than getting them to accompany you for a year or more. For a long-distance or a RTW journey spanning many months, you need a partner or a friend you truly click with, as there will be situations that will test your bond and your patience to the very limit. If you’re out for a month, however, the challenge is much more manageable and you can easily pull off a ride like that even in a bigger group.
What’s your preference, continued travel or shorter rides every year, and why?