The entire world is being shaken and reshaped right now – and the ADV moto world is no exception.
Back in January, I was leading an adventure motorcycle tour in Ecuador with Ecuador Freedom, an American company based in Quito. Among the group, there was a medical doctor from Hong Kong. I remember him mentioning this new virus in China; “I’m estimating this will become a new pandemic”, he said. I remember completely ignoring his words. Some obscure virus in China? What’s that got to do with me?
Two weeks ago, I raced at the Hispania Rally in Andalucia, Spain. By then, the COVID-19 had already been declared a pandemic, but the focus was still on China and Italy. In Spain, we still raced rallies; people still hung out together, went to tapas bars, and laughed at Coronavirus memes. So did I.
Today, I am on Day 9 of self-isolation in a country under total lockdown. As per the Lithuanian government’s and health professionals’ instructions, after coming back from Spain – which, on the day of my return, had been declared a “high risk” country for COVID-19 – I am in self-imposed quarantine for fourteen days. Being homeless at home, I’ll admit, is beyond strange: because I’m supposed to be in isolation, I can’t stay at friends’ or even my dad’s, so I’ve locked myself in a hotel room. I’m the only guest in an old, high-ceilinged three-storey building in a quiet little street of the Vilnius Old Town, and it’s a little spooky. Especially when the floors creak eerily at night, or when I play music just a little too loud and realize, suddenly, that the echo is the only complaint because I have no neighbours here.
I am very aware, however, that I am in an extremely privileged position. For one, although purely by a lucky accident, I am in my home country where I have friends, relatives, and, if all else fails, my government to turn to. For another, although the hotel is spooky and the room is unnaturally cold, I am still able to pay for it. And finally, I can still work – I suppose being a digital nomad is really paying off in a time of crisis. Corona or not, I can easily work from anywhere, because that’s what I’ve done for the last few years.
So I count myself lucky. I know that for a lot of ADV moto riders and travellers, this time is extremely tough, especially for those currently stuck in foreign countries. Some riders have reported that the locals are beginning to view foreigners with suspicion; others fear that although they have a place to stay for now, they may start running out of funds if the crisis continues.
The pandemic is affecting businesses, too. With so many motorcycle shows, races, and other events cancelled, with people being urged to stay indoors, with so many of us realizing that the economy will take a hit and becoming a lot more careful with our spending, with manufacturers closing their factory doors – needless to say, the entire industry is now navigating an unprecedented challenge.
It’s too early to make predictions, and perhaps it’s even too early to form opinions. Yet, if one thing is clear, it’s that the COVID-19 crisis will change the adventure motorcycle world. Here’s how it could happen.
A lot of us are trying to do our part in flattening the curve and staying put. However, we’re still sociable beings, and we need to stay connected. With more and more people tuning into the Quarantine Diaries, video calling each other, and generally hanging out and talking online a lot more than we used to, perhaps the technology will now move forward to allow us to congregate online in ways we haven’t experienced yet. Could we have a platform for live ADV meets, for example, perhaps a Skype or Zoom – like video conferencing app that would enable us all to have a digital bonfire, crack open a cold one, and talk like we were at the Overland Expo or Horizons Unlimited?
Virtual Reality Boom
Better yet, can we still ride together? While social distancing is still in place, and people are advised not to take unnecessary risks – such as riding motorcycles – to avoid taking away from emergency services and hospital capacity in times of crisis, will there be new VR projects cropping up allowing us to call a friend, put a headset on, and go for a ride in virtual reality?
When I reached out to Nate Allen, a fellow world traveller currently holed up in Istanbul, Turkey, and invited him to chat as part of the Quarantine Diaries, I got an immediate “yes”. I’d never met him before or come across him or his content online; yet here we were, just a few hours later, video calling and talking like we’d ridden together.
The same happened when I reached out to some of the more known adventure riders and travellers, Youtubers, and even companies. Most responded with an enthusiastic “yes”; I have never had so many meaningful conversations and fascinating video calls than in the past week.
Usually, we wouldn’t do this. We would click “like”, or at the very best, we’d leave a comment. Perhaps retweet, or tag someone in our stories. We’d be too busy, too involved in our own narratives, too exhausted, or simply, on the road.
Now, however, the ADV community is coming out in its very raw form. Suddenly, people aren’t just counting their followers, obsessing over filters, and posting overly enthusiastic captions about their journeys any longer. It feels like right now, united by a common threat, we’re realizing it’s OK to be vulnerable. It’s OK to say, I’m worried, and I don’t know what to do. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to say, I’m stuck in some obscure Bolivian town alone, and I’m afraid. And we all instantly get it, because the uncertainty, whether we’re stuck abroad or at home, is gnawing at us all.
This new raw honesty, genuine need for connection, and the focus on what’s truly important is probably one of the most positive things coming out of this COVID-19 mess worldwide, and not just in the ADV moto community.