My recent 3400 kilometers (2100 miles) motorcycle trip across the windy, wet, hot then very cold great plains from my home in Duluth Minnesota to Denver Colorado got me thinking about some of the effects travel has on our minds. Now, I mean travel, not vacation. See my definition of the two here.
One interesting thing that I realized only after a few days of my 12 day trip was that while I was traveling I was completely focused on my task. My task, the thing that consumed my waking hours, was my obsession of getting to my destination as efficiently as possible. This may sound kind of silly as traveling 2100 miles on a Russian made Ural motorcycle with sidecar doesn’t have any marks of efficiency. In fact it’s very inefficient. The bike is relatively slow (55 mph on the flat, 60 down hill and 45 up hill), it doesn’t have a windshield so my body is constantly being pummeled and pounded by the wind, the sidecar pulls and pushes the bike in a constant, let me go motion, tug of war and since it’s made out of large amounts of Siberian steel it’s heavy and the gas mileage is only slightly better than a Ford pickup. But as double trailer, multi-axel tractor trucks, hauling grain passed me on slightest inclines, they created first a wind shield, then a vortex that sucked the motorcycle into the the oncoming lane, I really didn’t have time to worry about anything back at home. I was completely focused on staying on the road and staying alive.
Once at my destination, I found that as my body relaxed, mostly due to the medicinal effects of single malt scotch, I had an overwhelming sense of calm, and place. I was living in the present. No future, no past, only the immediate task of drink, food, bug dope, sleep and travel. Nothing really mattered out there, things I routinely keep up on – the national news, not relevant, the price of the Euro, who cares, politics, even more useless, book orders (that’s how I make money), only slightly relevant, just barely would I think of them. All my worries, everything I was used to thinking of, was gone. I wasn’t the slightest concerned.
What I did think about was the weather. Was it going to be hot or cold? Which way was the wind blowing? What road should I take and where can I get gas? How many miles until the next town? When I stopped I thought about the grasses, the water, the livestock or maybe the historical monument I had stopped at. I thought about hydration, hypothermia, bugs on my face shield, rain, engine noises and fuel consumption.
In short, I was immersed in my travels and that gave me an incredible sense of peace and well-being. My trip was incredibly painful, uncomfortable, and somewhat dangerous but it was the best therapy I could have found to ease a noisy mind. While traveling, while adventuring, I didn’t have time to worry about the little things, everything important, every important decision that day, was right in front of me and this was very relaxing to my mind.
Our world is all about decisions and opportunities, people tell their kids they can be/do anything they want, everything and everywhere we are offered choices and made to choose. All this picking can be daunting. It can make a person feel neurotic and panicked. We are constantly told of natural disasters, economic disasters, political disasters and personal tragedies. Worry. Worry. Worry!
Go on adventure. Try something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Push yourself to travel and you’ll leave all your worries behind – because your mind will decide they aren’t worth worrying about. And when you get home take note of that sense of ease and plan your next adventure.