A Different Point of View
It is crazy to be miserable when you are living the dream, travelling the world, camping on beaches, meeting amazing new people, and free to do whatever you please. How could anyone be less than blissfully happy in these exceptional circumstances?
Last week I was miserable. I thought of turning around and going back to Canada. The lure of adventure and freedom and new places and new people was simply not strong enough to keep my mood light and happy.
A few things got me through that funk and onto the glorious other side where I am relieved to have ended up:
- This blog post by Alexander Tolchinsky, another adventure motorcyclist heading to South America, who we have not yet met, but who is already our friend. It showed me that it’s not just me who feels keenly the highs and lows of adventure.
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual EnlightenmentÂ – I read this book while we were travelling through the USA. Part of it is about how one must not dwell on the past, or worry about the future, because all we have is the present moment (the now) and therefore we should live (and be happy) in the moment. It also talks about how we are in control of our mind and our feelings, so we mustn’t let them take over.
- Various e-mails and messages from friends and family, who didn’t necessarily know that I was feeling down, but whose thoughts and love made me remember that nothing is ever so bad.
- My brother and partner in crime, Phil. Although one of the causes of my misery – his patience and my desire for him to be happy and not to ruin his journeyÂ are strong motivating factors for me to carry on regardless.
I hear you asking what terrible things happened to bring on such a negative state of mind? Everything and nothing is the answer. It started on the road down to Playa del Requeson.
Playa del Requeson is a beach that we camped on after our very enjoyable stay in Mulege (I won’t mix our trip report in with this post, will post separately on what we’ve been doing recently). The short road down to the beach from the highway was arguably the most difficult stretch of road I have navigated so far. A dirt road down a steep hill full of rocks, canyon-like holes, bumps and cacti, leading to a landing of soft sand, broken concrete and many other hazards. Â I gently lowered my bike down the first steep stretch, feeling like the bike was going to summersault down the hill taking me with it at any moment. I have learnt that it is infinitely more difficult to go downhill on the bike than it is to go up. Gravity is not my friend when I need to pick out a careful path!
I found out from our neighbours on the beach that the road had only been made “passable” recently after being washed out by the hurricane.
That beach was stunning. White sandy beach, with clear ocean and lots of birds. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, and it was cool and windy the whole time we were there. We still did some exploring, crossing the sand bar that led to a small island. Phil climbed all over it with our neighbours, Ken and Helen.
The next day we decided to move on, although the beach was beautiful, it was too windy to sit out and read or relax. With only a tent for shelter, heading South in search of some sun seemed a better plan.
We rode for a while, looking for another place to stop that would be more sheltered or more suited to our needs. Phil had his heart set on going to Agua Verde, a beach that had been recommended to us by a man in Mulege. Just before we found the turnoff I had to pull over and put a sweater on because I was feeling so cold riding along.
When we found the turnoff I had a look at the map and realised that Agua Verde was at the end of about 10km of dirt road. Given the condition of the very short road leading down to the last beach, and the fact that the weather was no better, and perhaps worse than when we had decided to leave the last beach earlier that day, I was not keen to go to Agua Verde.
I told Phil that because I was cold, and it wasn’t beach weather, I didn’t want to go to a beach. He said that because it was recommended to us, he wanted to explore this part of the coast, no matter what. Besides he was tired, and didn’t want to ride a long stretch of boring road. (I didn’t bother pointing out that dirt riding was much more tiring than pavement.)
We decided to split up for the night. I would continue on towards La Paz, and Â he would go to Agua Verde. Except, other than the tent, I have all the camping gear on my bike. Phil doesn’t have room to take the food, stove, pots, fuel etc on his bike. He decided to just take some instant oatmeal, which he would eat cold.
I put La Paz into my GPS and found that I would arrive there just after 6pm. Phil was not keen on me arriving in some strange city by myself after dark.
This plan to split was not going well. I could see Phil hesitating, and because he had said how badly he wanted to go down this road, I decided to just go with him.
This is when the misery set in. I didn’t want to be there, the road was not the worst we’d been on my any means, but it was dirt, there were tricky sections, and I DIDN’T want to be there.
We wound our way down to the coast, and then back up over another hill and then down to the coast, and then back up… There was no sign pointing to Agua Verde and the sun was approaching the horizon. We spotted some people camping on a beach, but there was no apparent way to get down to them. So we backtracked until we found a dirt track leading towards the ocean, and ended up setting up camp in a clearing near a rocky beach as the sun set.
I couldn’t even speak to Phil because I was in such a mood. My mother always told me if I couldn’t say anything nice, then not to say anything at all. Â So I didn’t.
The next day we packed up and headed for La Paz. We had arranged to couchsurf with a man called Julio and his family (wife Maria, and two sons Eduardo and Alejandro). He already had one couchsurfer, Eric, so we camped in his yard.
Just before we arrived in La Paz we stopped for gas and made an alarming discovery:
The tire which had gone flat in Hollywood was flat again. Turns out the the patch I had put on the tube leaked. So we unloaded everything off my bike, took off the wheel, changed the tube, put it all back together. Another day in the life of an adventurer. I couldn’t help kicking myself for having put the patched tube back in. I had done it because the tube contained “Ride On” a goop that blocks holes in the tire and also balances it. Needless to say this time a new tube went in.
After we finally arrived in La Paz Julio and his family took us to an intimate concert in the back garden of an art gallery. The singer was divine, and the musicians were extremely talented. I was starting to feel a bit better, having other people around helped a lot.
Then, the next day, I was in our tent when Phil decided to sit on my bike with the laptop. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but he knocked my bike over into a brick wall – shattering the extra windshield I had added in Calgary, and damaging my helmet. The new helmet I had bought after damaging the first one in Alaska. The one that costs over $500.
This development sent me into a spiral of depression. I hate dropping my bike. I am always worried it is going to break something irreparable. When someone ELSE drops my bike, resulting in damage, it is even worse.
Phil was extremely apologetic, but that did nothing to stop me being extremely upset. Every moment on the highway will now be louder, windier and less comfortable without that windscreen, and I now have to buy ANOTHER $500 helmet. One which I have no idea how I am going to find, never mind the cost. Until then, I will be riding with a helmet that I know I should not be wearing, one that will not give me the protection it should if I hit my head.
As one does in these circumstances, I also was berating myself for leaving my helmet on the mirror, something I know not to do. In fact I had left it on the ground (the safest place for it) when we arrived, but they had two dogs who pee on everything, so I was advised not to leave it there, which is why it was hanging on my mirror, off the ground.
That is how I ended up miserable, considering ways to find Phil other people to carry on with.
Perhaps it seems trivial, all things of no consequence, but I knew that many of these issues would play on my mind and that I couldn’t keep going along and doing things I didn’t want to do just to keep Phil happy. There had to be a way to keep him happy and having the trip he wanted, without me being dragged along.
I eventually spoke to Phil about it. He can understand where I’m coming from, however the fact is that there is no easy answer to the problem – he wants to go off and explore on questionable roads, while I want to only go on those roads when that is the only way to get where we must go. Â (AKA not to a non-existent beach on a cold windy day.)
I suggested that he go to Copper Canyon on his own. I had researched it, and it would be an extra 1500km to go to a bunch of dirt roads in the winter when it got below freezing at night. I was perfectly happy to stay on the Baja and finally find some nice sunny beaches while he went and had “fun” going to Copper Canyon and back.
In the end he decided to stay on the Baja with me and to forgo the canyon, but at least that was his decision, and I don’t feel that I deprived him of that experience. Yesterday we took different routes back up the coast. He took the sandy coastal road, while I wound my way back up through the hills on the pavement.
I often feel like such a “girl” because I don’t find the technical off-road aspect of our trip “fun” like Phil does. I try to remind myself that I have only been riding motorcycles for just over a year, that many women wouldn’t even ride a motorbike on the road, never mind across two continents. It’s all a matter of perspective.
I am still trying to find some more motorcyclists for us to travel with for portions of our trip. I think having some more personalities for stretches of travel will take some of the pressure off and give Phil some people who actually want to go with him to find out where that dirt road goes.
Travel, like life, is all about compromise, and finding solutions to problems that work for everyone involved. I am good at that, and we will find ways to have many more happy days than miserable ones. Having moments of misery is what makes us realise how good and important it is to be happy.
For the time being I am working hard to stay positive, and maintain a different, happier point of view.