The life of a RTW rider on an indefinite two-wheeled journey is all adventure, excitement, and freedom; these lucky souls are so fortunate to be on the road without a return date their days are always filled with exhilarating experiences, jaw-dropping scenery, and memorable moments connecting with locals and discovering remote places…
That’s the narrative we’re all too happy to accept. But is that reality?
Much like anything else in life, it is, and it isn’t. There are the living-the-dream days, to be sure; but there are also bad days on the road. And often, if you’ve been traveling for a while, you may feel like you sort of don’t have the right to feel bad. You’re living the life attainable to very few; you’re free to come and go as you please, wherever you please, whenever you please. So when bad days hit, it can be tough to figure out why – and what you can do about them.
Here’s a simple way to look at it.
Bad Days on The Road Do Happen…
It’s human to feel crappy sometimes, no matter how exotic your life may seem on the outside. Even if you’re riding your dream motorcycle to your dream destination, you may feel fatigued, frustrated, lonely, or just plain unamused sometimes, and it’s got nothing to do with objective reality; and it isn’t healthy to tell yourself, well, I’m doing this cool thing, therefore I should always feel great. It doesn’t work that way – but if you learn to accept bad days on the road as they come, you can also learn to deal with them.
…And It’s Often Due to Biochemistry
First things first – there’s the objective “bad”, like having to fix a flat tire in torrential rain at high altitude with another two hundred miles to get to your destination. And then there’s the emotional “bad”, when you feel down for no apparent reason at all.
Expect usually, there is a reason, and very often, that reason is simple biochemistry. Sleep deprivation is a huge factor; if you haven’t slept well in a while, you’re feeling grumpy because you need rest, not because you’re a faulty human. If you’ve been surviving on junk food for days, you’re irritated because your body is screaming for proper nutrition – not because you’re an ADV Grinch. And if you can’t focus or feel any interest in what’s going on around you anymore, you’re most likely just plain exhausted rather than indifferent.
Whenever I find myself feeling impatient and wanting to snarl at innocent bystanders, whenever I realize I’ve lost interest in the ride, the scenery, or the culture, whenever I’m feeling the blues or becoming a very irritating individual to be around, I check myself and look at sleep, food, and recovery, and it usually solves the issue.
If your bad days on the road are becoming more frequent and you can’t figure out why, try a good night’s sleep, healthy and nutritious meals, and some peace and quiet. Sleep, eat, rest, and restart – biochemistry is so often overlooked, and is so often the real reason you’re feeling meh.
Too Many People
Meeting locals and other riders on the road is part of the adventure, and it’s an important one – after all, that’s the best way to really get to know the local culture and link up with other like-minded souls. But here’s the thing: too many people for prolonged periods of time may not be a good thing. For me, meeting people and mingling is important…as long as I can, from time to time, slink away into some dark AirBnB cave and not see any people at all for a few days, or just ride alone and focus on nothing but the road ahead. People can be overwhelming, and it’s OK to take a break from time to time.
Not Enough People
For other riders, on the other hand, being around people is essential, especially if they’re traveling solo. Loneliness can be hard if you’re a social butterfly, and if you find yourself longing for company, don’t try to force the lone wolf thing – go out and find people. Rider meetings and social media groups are perfect to link up with other two-wheeled adventurers, and if you’re curious about the local life, hit local markets, eateries, or events and mingle to your heart’s content.
Too Much Action
Riding off-road is fun. Doing long distances brings a sense of achievement. Going on hikes or rock-climbing sessions in between the rides feels great…But too much action can lead to fatigue. These days, we all want more of everything – more success, more healthy living, more social status, more things, more achievements, more adventures – and it’s easy to fall into the trap of “more” when you’re riding around the world. More miles, more gnarly terrain, more technical trails, more remote places, more destinations… until it all becomes too much, and instead of feeling excited to tackle yet another sketchy, landslide-y mountain pass, you feel like crawling into a hotel or AirBnB bed, ordering a pizza, and watching Netflix for two days straight.
Do it. It’s OK to be plain lazy for a day or two, just so you can appreciate all the action again. It’s OK to do absolutely nothing for a while, so you can get excited about doing everything again. There’s balance to be found, and there’s no need to always be the action guy or gal – especially on a long journey when it’s not a sprint but a marathon.
How do you deal with bad days on the road? Share in the comments below!