At the end of every storm (and haven’t we had some big ones this year?!) thoughts turn to travel. Journeys and adventures. I’m not sure this is true for everyone, but I’m willing to admit to a few idiosyncrasies. My long suffering partner has over the past few years come to accept my “wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in…” Africa, South America, Scotland. I don’t know, somewhere that is not here. I love it here, but these questions are a way of both reaffirming my place in the snowy landscape I chose, as well as dreaming of the different paths I could have taken.
This isn’t necessarily idle speculation; being an academic is a privileged life: there are many opportunities for travel and should you wish it, for settling in different countries (like I did with Canada). There’s always somewhere looking for someone to teach the things I know.
In the past few years I found myself stuck at home, like most of us, until early 2022, when I visited my parents for the first time in two and a half years. By the time COVID came around I must admit I was tired of traveling, of getting up early to get to airports or train stations, the endless airport hallways and corridors, taxis, hotels (after a while they all look rather similar) and sleeping on chairs in airports. I once was woken by a cross carabinieri in the airport in Rome who took offence to my sleeping in a chair, which he decided was for being awake in. Being poked awake by the barrel of a submachine gun isn’t the nicest way to be woken up, but it does ensure you stay awake afterwards.
But travel had become tiring and I was ready to stop. I admit I even spoke the words out loud “I don’t think I will be traveling (for work) again.”
Von Moltke once said that no plan survives first contact with the enemy and my enemy is myself.
Myself and the motorcycle sitting in the living room, watching and calling me like a siren: “come to me and sacrifice yourself on the rocks of ambition and movement.”
It’s the movement thing that really matters. You may have heard the phrase “it’s the journey, not the destination”, or something like it. Anyone who has traveled any distance at all knows this is true. If they’ve done it on a bike, Jeremy Kroeker’s observation that the rider makes the ride will make sense. At the end of the day, whether it’s Scotland, Germany, South Africa or Ushuaia, the destination is as unimportant as the starting point, since both become just stops along the way; and the starting point is usually the place you long to get back to anyway.
And so, on a snowy Boxing Day, whilst reading the books (on motorcycle journeys, naturally) that I got for Christmas, I turned to my partner, who had been waiting for this anyway and already knew what I was thinking. “Well?” she smiled in a knowing way. “I’m thinking of South America,” I said by way of an opening gambit. I hadn’t been really, at least not specifically, but it’s on “The List” (did I mention Ushuaia?). The conversation turned to plans for 2023 (across Canada on the Trans Canada Adventure Trail – The Trans Canada? That’s in July, and that’s certainly happening. I’m planning to write about it here) and I may have popped in a couple of weeks in March, whilst teaching, just “to see if it could be done.” “Where to?” “South, I guess. Too cold in Canada in March.”
“Did I mention, there’s a conference in Germany in June. I thought of flying the bike over and touring a bit of Europe…”
Long suffering indeed.
The result is that I find myself sitting in front of a computer with a bunch of maps, planning journeys I may never take, but which I have every intention of taking as I plan.
All of which is made slightly more interesting in that the bike is electric and just as with a gas bike, planning refueling stops is its own challenge. The good thing is that, at least in this country, power is pretty much ubiquitous, even in places where gas isn’t. That’s the hope anyway. It gets more challenging in some other places around the world, but every journey, particularly on a motorcycle, has its complications.
Every single one; even the ones to the store and back. Never doubt that the suburban warriors aren’t facing their own challenges, either the ones they bring with them or the ones thrown at them along the way, and riding the bike to the store “the long way round” is as much time as they can afford, and as rewarding in its own way as that cross Canada trip my own two-wheeled siren calls me toward.
Every journey has something to teach us. That’s why they’re called adventures.