Posts Tagged With: Travel Blogging

Twice In A Lifetime

It’s funny… I’m writing this as I sit on a plane flying east across the Pacific Ocean. In fact, this is the 6th time in the 6 months of this calendar year that I’ve made this roundtrip journey from the USA to China. Even though I’m quite accustomed to the trans-Pacific travel, there’s something a little unsettling about my next trip.

8 years ago, I set off on a grand adventure, to ride my motorcycle from my home in New Hampshire, to the southernmost city in the world – Ushuaia, Argentina. Many of my friends called it an opportunity of a lifetime, or a once in a lifetime adventure. Rather, I often romanticized about a life time of adventure.

But then life happened. I was nearly broke so I spent time working and making money. Coming back into the working world, I quickly advanced my career – enjoying the problem solving and critical thinking along the way. I moved to California, got married (yay!) and focused on my career for the next 5 years. The job is wonderful. I really do enjoy it. I had many small adventures during these years, but I often dreamed of another grand adventure.

Despite taking an 8 year gap, I’ll soon be on sabbatical and setting off on another once in a lifetime adventure. The term, twice in a lifetime adventure just doesn’t have the same ring to it…

I’m not the same person I was back in 2009 when I did my motorcycle trip. I have more wrinkles in my face and more aches in my joints. There is less hair on my head (and the hair that is there is a lot more gray) and I have a few extra pounds around my waist.

I was a 26 year old kid who had his whole life ahead of him. A bit naive, yet optimistic. There was less than 4 years of career under my belt. Nevertheless, there was a restlessness to step outside of my comfort zone and worry about the consequences later.

I’m 34 now. Perhaps considered by many to still be quite young. I suppose it’s all relative. I’m still restless, but my world is quite different now and this journey, while having the similarity of international overland travel, feels significantly different.

Despite the fact that my savings are an order of magnitude greater than what they were before, I’m more concerned about financial security. Maybe it’s because I’m in my mid-thirties and this is the time in life when ones career can take off and achieve the greatest earning potential. Or maybe it’s because Amberlynn and I plan to start a family in the near future. Or maybe it’s because that’s what older people do – worry about money.

On the one hand, my mother and father are reaching retirement and I see both the opportunities and challenges they face. On the other hand, the painfully fresh memory of my step-father’s passing is a sharp reminder that we’re only here on this earth for moment in time and despite our best attempts, we can’t for certain control our future. All that said, I realize that in the larger world view, I’m extremely fortunate.

But still, life is so busy these days. Work keeps my mind constantly occupied. Caring for family is an honor yet not without requiring significant energy. And worrying about the future is never far off.

Departing for South America had a surprisingly anticlimactic feeling. I rode out of my driveway on my motorcycle, visited friends along the way, and settled into life on the road under the comfort of familiar travel in the USA. This time however, we are flying across the globe, with little opportunity to purchase quality gear if there’s something we forget. On day one we’ll be thrust into a foreign culture unlike the Americas. Language will be changing often and the western way of life will be abruptly removed. It makes me chuckle to think about the Marco Polo airport in Venice. If only he had a plane…

Despite the exhaustion of flying to China once a month, I enjoy the time spent on the plane, disconnected from the world. No internet, no social media, no text messages, no phone calls. Just the time to myself, to pause, if only for a moment. I suspect that over the next several months, I’ll have a lot of time spent in my own head. Pedaling through the searing steppe, freezing mountain passes, torrential rain storms on the plains, and windy deserts; Slogging up relentless hill climbs, continuing on straight, flat roads for miles upon miles upon miles, and as I’m sure, several wonderfully idyllic back road downhills with the wind at my back.

I’m curious. Will I get bored with the space that I so desperately desire today? I recall feeling alone while battling the unforgiving Ruta 40 in Patagonia. In spite of that, the trip refreshed me; eager to get back home and connect with friends and family, and to devote newfound energy to my career.

Charles and I had many unforgettable times motorcycling together through Latin America. However, spending time with anyone 24/7 is a challenge. Ultimately we decided to part ways in southern Ecuador. We remain good friends but at that moment we needed a break from one another. I’m rather laid back, but at the same time I like to do things my way. Because of this, I can get annoyed easily, and similarly I can become quite annoying.

This time I’ll be traveling with my wife. That brings on an entirely new set of challenges and opportunities. Without the luxury of a motor on this trip, we’ll be more vulnerable and exhausted. Surely we’ll have incredible highs on this journey, but also challenging lows. How will we be able to care for ourselves and support one another? Time will tell.

There’s also concern for our safety. I’m not too worried about myself, but with my wife traveling along, I won’t be so eager to throw caution to the wind. Before setting off for South America I was warned about the danger, particularly in Mexico and Colombia. It’s interesting that those are the two countries I fell in love with the most. I’ve been back to each of them three more times since and contrary to what we see on TV, I feel very comfortable traveling there.

This time around I received the same words of caution from within my circles. I’m only traveling to the “good -stans” is what I tell my parents. And the there’s the term “Middle East” which sparks fear in most Americans. Modest countries like Oman are often lumped into the popular worldview with the instability in other countries of the region. Yet of course, it’s difficult to deflect all of these comments and what we see in the news. Even as a well traveled person, I can’t help but think of the risks and the fears. Even if they are overstated, they are still a possibility.

Nevertheless, we’re nervous. We’re nervous not for what lies ahead, but instead for what we leave behind; our friends and family as well as a conventional life of comfort and convenience. However, our excitement for all the new challenges and opportunities overshadows these fears. It won’t always be easy, but we think it will be worth it.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’ll try to enjoy the journey. And I hope you will too.

 

PS. It feels good to be writing again!

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Categories: China, Silk Road | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the road again

Dear Friends,

If you’re reading this, then you already know… My wife and I are pregnant preparing for a cycling adventure!

In just over a week, Amberlynn and I will fly to Northwest China and pedal west along the legendary Silk Road through Central Asia.

Our rough plan is mapped out in the photo below. We’ll start in far west China, cut across a corner of Kazakhstan, meander through Kyrgyzstan, suffer and delight through the roof of the world on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, explore ancient cities and gorgeous architecture in Uzbekistan, potentially visit the mysterious country of Turkmenistan (if we can obtain visas). Sadly, as Americans we’ll have to bypass Iran. It’s very challenging to get a visa there. As our governments duke it out on the world’s stage, we’ll miss out on the infamous Iranian hospitality. Instead, we plan to hop on a plane and explore the Arabian Peninsula as the temperatures recede into the winter months. Tentatively we’ll fly into the modern United Arab Eremites before cycling through the less flashy Sultanate of Oman.

If these places sound foreign, you’re not alone. Until we started researching the trip, my geographical knowledge about this part of the world was scarce. With ill-formed borders from the collapse of the Soviet Union, these countries are still young and redefining their identities.

It all seems so simple on Google Maps! In reality we’ll travel somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 miles over the course of 6 months.

We’ve been planning this trip for more than a year, yet inevitably there is so much to due as the starting line approaches. We’re down the wire with a little more than a week to go, it’s crunch time. As the calendar whisks the days away, we’re hurrying to make final preparations and say our farewells to friends and family. This isn’t goodbye, it’s simply au revoir.

So if you’d like, please feel welcome to follow along on our journey. We look forward to sharing stories, photos, and videos from the road. If you’d like to get emails on your inbox when a new blog post is published, you can sign up here for emails. If RSS is more your thing (it’s totally my thing), the RSS feed is here. You can also follow us on Facebook.

My apologies that this blog is really out of date (still detailing my motorcycle ride back in 2009). I’ll be updating it in due time. If I say I will l fix something, I will. There is no need to remind me every 6 months…

Let the adventure begin!

-Ben

Categories: Bicycle Touring, The Silk Road | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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