Now that we’re temporarily stuck and miss being out there on the road, perhaps it’s no bad thing to pause and think about why we travel. As adventure riding exploded in recent years, seeing riders cover insane distances, circumnavigating the world, or doing the bucket list Alaska-Ushuaia or Nordkapp-Cape Town routes has become the norm. Traveling has become so easy and affordable, so manageable, and almost mainstream, that we might have forgotten why we travel in the first place.
I’ve been stuck in my home country, Lithuania, for over a month now. This is the longest I’ve spent home since 2015, and as the lockdown is being extended throughout Europe and the borders remain closed, I’m feeling more and more restless. I can still ride my bike, which is amazing, and I’ve done some work on it, which feels great. However, I can’t leave, and although I try to stay positive and productive, most days I feel like a caged animal. I pack and unpack my Mosko bags just to see if everything still fits in them; it does. I’m staying with a good friend who has kindly offered her spare bedroom for me, but I still keep my stuff in an old, tatty suitcase I brought back from the Hispania Rally race. As the days grow warmer and longer, I find myself pacing around the house aimlessly, staring out the big French windows and waiting. And as I pace and wait, wait and pace, and clean my gear and bike over and over again I can’t help but wonder: why? This is a whole new reality for me, one that I had, to a degree, forgotten. Whether I could get used to it again is unclear; but why have I left in the first place? Why do we, as adventure riders, have this insatiable wanderlust?
Some years ago, the movie “Why We Ride” came out, and it instantly gained a massive following among motorcyclists. It’s easy to see why:
But what happens when we combine motorcycles with traveling?
A Changing Perspective
An interesting thing happens when we start to travel. At first, everything is new and thrilling; for the first few months, a lot of riders focus on their own experiences, senses, and excitement. But as thousands of miles disappear under your tires, as the countries, cultures, and scenery change, eventually you start looking outward and find that the world isn’t just huge. It’s also incredible and welcoming, diverse and surprising, beautiful and friendly…and poor, undeveloped, unfair, unpredictable; but while nature can be both breathtakingly beautiful and severe, charming and hostile, the people, regardless of where they live, are just people. As you travel, you realize one simple truth: we care about the same things, worry about the same issues, hope for the same security, dignity, and wellbeing, long for love, adventure, and freedom, fear poverty, oppression, disease, and laugh about the same things. You may be a cab driver in Medellin or fish for lobster in the Caribbean, or you may run a business in San Diego or sell sweets in Istanbul, but the humanity is the same regardless of geography or culture. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “There’s only one rule I know of—Goddam it, you’ve got to be kind.”
Travel is a privilege, and when you live on the road long enough, you start realizing just how grateful you are for that privilege. Merely having a passport that most countries recognize as “good” and allow you in hassle-free is unattainable for so many people in the world, let alone the means, the work skills, the time, or the physical ability to ride around the world. Travel induces gratitude, and gratitude teaches humility.
Regardless of the distance covered, travel is all about freedom. Creativity, spontaneity, innovation, discovery – none of these things can happen, and no one can grow if their freedom is taken away, and if there is no more adventure in the everyday hum of things. Staying curious is essential to staying alive, and freedom to explore is vital. And granted, we can’t go back to riding around the world just now. Who knows when the pandemic restrictions will be completely lifted again, whether there’s going to be a second wave of the COVID-19 in the fall, and whether we’ll soon have that same unbridled freedom to move again.
But I hope we do, and I hope the world will remain open. We are nomads by nature, and even though we’ve convinced ourselves we’re better off in tiny confined spaces and busy, crowded places, it’s when we’re out in the wild and moving towards the unknown and the open horizon that we truly feel at home with ourselves and the world.