(Note: Please click “Motorcycle Trip” under Categories at right to read in chronological order.)
Leaving in two days. It’s been a heck of a journey just getting here. In the last two weeks we’ve quit our jobs, sold our house, sold our furniture, gotten rid of a lot of our belongings and packed our remaining ones into ship-to-Europe boxes, store-in-NY boxes, or stuck them in the take-on-trip room or the take-on-plane room. The Europe and New York boxes are both too numerous, the take-on-trip room is impossibly full, and the take-on-plane room is strangely empty.
Stressful, yes. Agonizing over what to do with what, sometimes arguing over it (some things are easier done alone), realizing the ridiculousness of how much stuff we actually have (can you say “pack rat”, anyone?), knowing that among our peers we are actually rather lightly burdened (can you say “race of pack rats”?), and still failing to bring ourselves to throw, give, or sell away more than a fraction of it. Understanding that despite our good intentions, we’re just bringing more of the same with us on our motorcycle trip. Giving thanks that despite this constraints of space will force things to be at least somewhat reasonable.
Do we really need that French press accessory for our camp stove? Sealed coffee container to go with it? What about that water filter we’ll probably use only once? The pocket hammock? Ha!
It’s like the journey of ultralight hiking. You realize the weight of your rucksack is breaking your back and taking all the joy out of hiking. First you try cutting out a few luxuries. Then you spend a bunch of money reducing the weight of the items you continue to carry. Lightweight sleeping bags, tents, pots and pans – it’s all out there for the right price. Your bank account is hurting but you tell yourself it’s money well spent — happy experiences in the heart of nature await. Finally, excited and ready to skip down the trail in unburdened lightness of being, you set out on your first trip with all your new kit – and still find yourself busting your balls.
You may give up or tell yourself to be satisfied there. But you can also start to dig deeper and come to understand that the only way to go further is not to work on your pack, but on your mind. You need to change your conceptions not just of what you want, but of what you need. Partly it’s a matter of new skills — how to pick your campsites, what types of food calories to bring, how to layer your clothes, etc.. Partly it’s ingenuity, refusing to carry any item that doesn’t serve at least two purposes, making less do more. Eat out of your pots, sit and sleep on your pack’s back pads, pitch your tent with trekking poles, stuff like that. But mostly it’s attitude. Do you really need a tent to live outdoors, or can you get by with a tarp? Is a sleeping bag really the most efficient approach, or can clothes and a quilt do the same? And why are you carrying that book along?
In the end, you’ll find something interesting has happened. While you were concentrating on reducing your pack weight so you could enjoy nature, you’ve actually been brought closer to nature itself. By learning to work with it rather than against it, and carrying fewer distractions, you have a purer experience in the outdoors, more in tune with the surroundings.
Long motorcycle trips (including this one) should be done the same way. But it’s hard to hone the technique when you only do one every few years, and spend the rest of the time surrounded by the comforts and gadgets of modern life. We’ll see where we end up.