Here’s a curious idea: dreaming is healthy. While an ADV travel bucket list might sound like some weird hipster fluff to you, thing is, having a set of places you want to see or routes you want to ride can actually help make it happen.
And no, I’m not talking about the “law of attraction” or any other New Age “spiritual” revelations. I’m talking about a simple (and very non-voodoo) fact that once you have a set of goals in mind, your mind follows: consciously and subconsciously, you begin to look for opportunities and ways in that you wouldn’t have sought out otherwise. You spot connections that may propel you into action and people who can help make it happen. You gain momentum; before you know it, you’re not dreaming anymore. You’re planning.
The Dakar Effect
Just over a year ago, if someone would have told me I’d chase Rally Dakar on my own bike, I would have laughed. I was unable to afford the official accreditation fees, which meant I had no way to access the bivouac, and if you can’t enter the bivouac, you’re missing 70% of the race. My Peruvian visa was running out. I wasn’t entirely sure I could do the enormous distances that following the Dakar would require. Finally, I barely had gas money to pull it all off.
Yet last January, I did chase the Dakar, got access to the bivouac, kept up, and survived financially.
And it wasn’t because there’s anything special about me; it wasn’t because of any extraordinary talent, incredible luck, or generous sponsors. It was mostly just stubbornness and a bit of creativity. I didn’t get the pricey accreditations: instead, I reached out to racing teams offering to help with whatever they needed – hotel reservations, SIM cards, forgotten batteries – before and during the rally, and some of them, in turn, offered me guest passes to the bivouac. I made a quick dash to Chile and back to extend my Peru stay for the duration of the race. When I had to cover crazy distances to chase the Dakar, I learned to power nap at gas stations while the attendants filled my tank. And I made sure to sneak in a couple of hours of work during the race, even if it often meant sacrificing sleep and sanity.
None of this would have happened, however, if I’d thought about chasing the Dakar and told myself, “but that’s impossible”. Because it kind of seemed that way – the astronomical accreditation costs, the enormity of it all could have easily put a stop to it right then and there. But I kept dreaming, thinking, and mulling it over, trying to look at it from different angles. I sent a tentative message to one of the Lithuanian racers and, having received a positive reply, I kept thinking and scheming…
A few weeks later, I was leaving the Dakar bivouac on Magdalena Beach, chasing after the rally riders and traveling south with the Dakar caravan.
What I’m trying to say is, bucket lists aren’t just something you stick on your fridge, look at in the morning while making coffee, and forget about. An ADV travel bucket list can actually help jumpstart a RTW journey, a rally race, or whatever it is you dream of.
So here’s how to get started.
The thing with dreams is that they need to be crazy enough to keep you inspired, but realistic enough to keep you motivated. Your own definitions of “crazy” and “realistic” will vary, but think of something that is big enough to truly excite you, but still potentially feasible (even though you can’t see how just yet).
For example, I’d fallen in love with rally racing, but I know that the Dakar is out of reach for me for three reasons: it’s moved to Saudi Arabia; even if it moved somewhere else, the budget is insane; finally, I’m a slow rider.
Africa Eco Race, on the other hand?.. The budget is still huge; I’d still need to seriously improve my skills. But, while I can’t see how I could pull it off just yet, I can see that it might be feasible. And that’s enough to set things in motion.
So if you’re dreaming of riding around the world for, say, two years, but have small children at home or any other serious commitments, or can’t see how you could ever afford it, your ADV travel bucket list could contain a “ride around X continent for 4 months” item instead. Less breathtaking than a RTW idea, but much, much more exciting than a weekend on the Ihado BDR. A little crazy with your current commitments/work/financial situation… but feasible. Feasible enough to get you thinking, researching, and planning.
…But Not Too Big
The cheery, relentless belief that we can do anything we put our minds to can be beneficial because it’s largely true. However, when it comes to dreaming and converting your dream into a plan, then action, too big can be just as off-putting as too small. If the dream or goal is too small, you might not feel it’s worth much of an effort, so you never really get round to doing it. But equally, if it’s too big, you might find yourself postponing it forever because the enormity of it all feels overwhelming and you choose to postpone or procrastinate instead. It’s human. But it’s not helpful.
To get back to the two-year RTW versus the four-month journey in continent X example, it’s not to say that the RTW dream is impossible. But, if you have serious family or work commitments, it might feel overwhelmingly huge, so you keep reading ride reports, watching Youtube, and scrolling your Instagram feed following other travelers currently “living the dream”. Then, you put the phone or tablet down and go back to your office, and while the inspiration about RTW travel may linger in your imagination, deep down you’d already decided you couldn’t do it.
But when you replace the two years with four months, and RTW with, say, Europe or South America, suddenly it seems a lot more doable. Your imagination kicks into a different gear; you go from “it’s impossible” to “what could be possible?”, and you begin to think in solutions instead of seeing immovable obstacles everywhere. You start googling cheap motorcycle shipping options, part-time jobs, and ways to make it up to your family, like having them fly out for a couple of weeks to see you, or letting them go on their own dream holiday or trip once you’re back.
And then you find yourself riding a motorcycle across Patagonia, or rolling to a rally start line.
The Trap of Perfection
Aside from setting goals that are too small or too insane, there’s always the trap of perfection that stops surprisingly many people from doing anything at all. In addition to having a big dream, they also come up with a bunch of painstaking details so that it’s perfect.
But life never is, and that’s part of the beauty of it. Besides, if it was perfect, would it still be an adventure?
If your dream is to race a rally, do you have to win, or can you enjoy the experience even if you come in 158th?
If you dream of riding RTW or just someplace you haven’t been before, does it have to be on the perfect bike?
All the Ifs and Buts
Of course, the bucket list idea and the way you go from dream to reality isn’t that simple. People have different circumstances, some might have health issues, some might have loved ones who are dependant on them; everyone’s in a different place financially, and so on and so forth. And sure, it takes a little more than just the bucket list itself to actually get to your goal.
But the thing is, once you actually do it – sit down with a piece of paper and a pen, and have a good, long think about it… Once you write it all down and imagine how it would feel to actually be doing it; when you know that that is what would make your soul sing and that it is potentially feasible, there’s a slight shift that begins to happen. And then, if you take it one baby step at the time, if you start looking for ways in even when all doors seem to be closed shut, you might just start to see contours of a path emerging.
And then suddenly, a few months from now, or a couple of years from now, you might find yourself doing it.