Today is the exact anniversary of 5 years on the road – 15 February 2017 was the day I rode out of Sydney, never yet to return. I had intended to set off the previous day, on Valentine’s Day, but when the morning of the 14th dawned I was busy learning my first lesson of long term motorcycle travel: you will always start with too much stuff.
Step one: gather all the things you think you will need.
Step two: leave half of those things behind.
Step three: repeat at regular intervals as you travel.
Experience will show you what you actually use, and what is mere deadweight; and time will gradually exhaust those last small luxuries which you couldn’t leave behind. For me, that included two cigars, a flask of cognac and Estee Lauder foundation. In a little time, they were all gone.
The most curious item which I carried for far, far too long was a tiny, sample sized bottle of delicious smelling body wash. It was easily the nicest smelling body wash I’d ever owned, but I carried it (and didn’t use it) out of sheer bemusement. The tiny bottle was the gift bestowed upon all the lawyers in the Finance division of my big law firm – back in my previous life – to thank us for the marathon effort of resolving and filing all outstanding billing documents for the end of the firm’s financial year. This was a massive effort which resulted in the recouping of hundreds of thousands of dollars of otherwise written-off earnings. It was exhausting, and difficult, and involved many late nights. And they thanked us with a free sample of body wash.
Stashed amongst my toiletries, it served as a constant reminder that being a compliant participant in society is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
In 2020, as my journey became trapped between closed borders and my money ran out, I used the last of this bodywash as I showered and reflected on what to do next. What should I do – what could I do? It was a challenging time; the world was grinding to a halt under the weight of the pandemic, I was financially vulnerable and feeling it too. Certain lovely people had taken it upon themselves to inform me that I was “insignificant” and “finished” as a traveler. But as I took a shower and inhaled the expensive smell of that ludicrous bodywash, I remembered all the reasons why.
By the time I threw that tiny, silver capped bottle in the bin in Thailand – after 70,000 km in my panniers – I knew what had to do next.
I had simply to persist. I had a vibrant life to build. I would carry on.
And so here we are again: 5 years on the road, the day after Valentine’s Day. My life filled with motorcycles, possibilities and good people. And yesterday’s roses on the table as I type this.
Because I learnt a valuable lesson along the way. I learnt this: you can buy your own roses. Which is simply to say – you don’t have to wait for others to determine your worthiness, or to paint in the colours of your life. You have that power.
Also – and let’s not get too profound here – roses are cheap here. There’s even this glorious single track route unimaginatively called Rose Garden, which brings you up over the ridge and into this vista of commercial flower gardens. The high, cool hillsides coated in colour.
Five years down the road and I’m only just getting started.