I was asked by Cee Cee Broughton to share my rules to follow when traveling in third world countries. It’s really quite simple and has worked for me for over 60 years. Respect the culture; remember you’re a guest; leave entitlement at home; listen more than speak; show admiration, gratitude and humility to your hosts; smile and greet people with kindness, no matter the situation; remain calm and act with confidence and assurance; always move slowly and think before you speak; and most importantly, smile. Actually, that works everywhere. Remember, if nothing goes wrong, it’s not an adventure.
I have to confess, these rules work me for simply living.
In case you were wondering why I spend so much time down in Baja. Here are some clips from the famous Baja 1000 a few years ago. Thanks to my friend and fellow rider Tanner Jett of Herwaldt Motorsports in Fresno, CA. for providing the clip.
It’s always the same. Every time I start planning and packing for an adventure, I get so wrapped up, I’m exhausted by the time I throw my leg over the motorcycle and twist the throttle. What’s craziest about all this is I always pack too much which is half the reason I’m tired in the first place. I realize it is not the effort of packing but how all that stuff weighs on the mind not to mention my motorcycle.
I’ve learned from many past adventures, except for emergency gear, if you haven’t used it in first three days, you don’t need it. So, I pack it up and send it home at the first chance. This makes for better traveling; as packing and unpacking gear is faster and less cumbersome when setting up and breaking down camp and it’s just plain easier to find where I stashed something on the motorcycle. Life on the road becomes less cluttered.
Nowadays, it is easier for me to get ready for an adventure because I pack less. And really, I’m down to two pairs of cargo pants that make into shorts, two pairs of underwear, one Jetbol to cook in–you get the picture.
I have slowly grown into to a minimalist on the road and I’m noticing this philosophy has carried over into my life off the road. After several months out, I return needing less, and more importantly, wanting less.
To paraphrase Thoreau, we don’t own things–things own us.
Have any of you found this to be true? Or is it just me?
I will be giving a seminar at BMW Motorcycles of Riverside, on moto camping, March 4th, and 5th if you’d like to spend some time talking about heading down distant, dusty roads toward the empty spots on the map. Oh, and we’ll talk about how to do it without carrying the kitchen sink.
A year ago I was well along to finishing the sequel to Almost Human when I got a phone call.
Little did I know the winding path I would follow or how much I would learn about how the two parts of my brain work when it comes to writing. The Superintendent of a school district I had consulted for had an emergency and he wanted me to come back and help put things right. I agreed to come back for a few months. Those few months stretched to a year. It was then I realized that this school district didn’t hire consultants, it took hostages! I found myself beginning the second year.
I had been asked to take over a struggling school and reestablish leadership. This kind of work is administrative and political. It requires long hours and lots of paperwork interspersed with workplace and small town politics. Much of my time was spent in hard conversations with students, staff, parents and district administrators–politics.
From the start, my creative writing ceased replaced by dry reports and number crunching. The flow of my new novel, More Than Human, had disappeared. My characters had faded and had left me. I suspected that this was partly because my routine as a writer had been interrupted. But I soon realized on the days I could jump back into my routine, that I was dry and blocked from getting back into the world I had created. Something was going on in me as a writer that was more than just an interruption of my routine.
It seemed the more I immersed myself in the day-to-day work as a school administrator, the more distant and resistant my characters became. Their world faded from me. The flow I feel, as a writer, when my story is revealing itself was frozen. I was shut out, block.
Yet, I could write pages of reports about attendance, discipline, mission statements, grant proposals and the like. I could be absolutely creative and articulate in the art of expository persuasion but it seemed at the expense of my novel.
Like in a good story that requires conflict and climax, my life took a turn at the closing of that first year. I needed a surgery that would require several months of recovery away from work, a painful recovery. During that recovery, I found that removed from the politics and problem solving, my creative juices began to flow again. It was though I was able to switch back to another compartment of my brain where all of my characters and the world they lived in had been patiently waiting. The flow came back in spite of the physical therapy and pain that was my reality. I could write again. In fact, I had to write again. There was an unexplainable sense of urgency while I wrote.
As I healed from my surgery, I began slowly returning to the work of the school district and finally back my office. I was dry again. I realized that my novel would have to wait until I could tap into that other place in my brain that kept the world I had created safe and waiting. But what if I wasn’t there when I returned? What if I couldn’t find that place again? This was my mindset as I entered year two of this consulting gig.
My mom who had always supported my efforts as a writer advised me to quit the job and return to what was really important to me and made me happy. Writing. She cautioned me not to waste time in endeavors that did not truly satisfy me and move me forward in living life’s grand adventure. Life is fleeting and you don’t want to reach the end with any regrets. Mom loved hearing about my adventures and loved a good story.
I felt trapped and entered a very dark place. For the first time in my life I did not find joy in what I was doing. I found myself going through the motions at work and dreaded continuing. I needed out. I needed to find my voice again.
The climax to this little drama came when sadly my mom unexpectedly passed away. I took a leave from work to help care for my dad and the rest of our family. My mom must be smiling somewhere up there. In spite of the grief and pain, I found myself writing again. My characters all came back. It was than that I realized that I couldn’t take for granted that they would aways be there. I resigned, and as though to reward me, my characters and this story came back. In fact, it is so vivid that it is writing itself.
What I’ve learned from this little journey is that we can never take the creative process for granted. It can be fleeting and ethereal. I believe for me, there are two parts of my brain. One is were my writing patiently waits but I can never be sure for how long. This time, I was lucky. My characters were patient and kind to me. They waited.
I’m back writing and adventure traveling on my motorcycle. My office is now were my heart and moto take me. Im confident that More Than Human will be done soon as I am writing and traveling again; seeking life’s wild adventure as I write and think best on two wheels.
Tammy and I had just come out of a long ride on backcountry dirt trails in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming when I first noticed a fog of oil wetting the dusty surface of the rear drive on my BMW R1200GSA adventure motorcycle. Clearly, my outer seal was failing.
I was so intent on running a mental inventory of tools and parts needed for the repair that I had not noticed the man standing beside me. Apparently, he had come out of the RV, with a BMW motorcycle in tow, parked at the pump in front of me. Almost on cue, just as I had come to the realization that I didn’t have the parts to make the repair the man said, shaking his head, “That’s not good—You won’t get very far with that. Do you have the part?” Continue reading “Lessons From the Road: “Pay It Forward””
To all you adventure riders out there this is an invitation to join our group and ride with us. We’re looking for riders who pass the coffee shops and bars (well most of them) and work hard to get their bikes dirty! Just click on GS Giants below and take a look of what we do.
Back in the late sixties I was traveling with some friends along the coast road from Puerta Vallarta to San Blas. We had the road to ourselves and the stars were just coming out as we wound through the jungle. I had just repaired my BMW motorcycle and for once it was running well. I had hoed weeds all summer to earn it from an old man who had it setting in his barn (a story in itself). We were moving fast enough to cool us from the sweltering humidity when we came upon a tree blocking the road.
I was the first to stop and investigate. As the rest of our group came to a stop, a small group of armed men and women stepped out of the jungle and surrounded us. The leader pointed an AK-47 at me and demanded money. I was intimately familiar with this weapon as I was just out of the military. I could tell he was uncomfortable and surprised when he realized that we were all gringos.
Immediately, I took exception and told the leader that he couldn’t take all of our money as we needed to get home and, further, my girlfriend was expecting. This threw the whole group into a whispered discussion. Now, I admit I made the part up about my girlfriend but the rest was true. We had all stretched our spring break, which was designed to be a week long, into several months. Our parents (especially my girlfriend’s) and the college officials did not see the humor in our change of vacation plans.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the leader nervously asked me how much we needed to get home. I replied that we only had a $125US between us and we needed a least a hundred to get home. I pointed sympathetically to my girlfriend. We bartered for a good hour and finally settled on us giving them $25US and cooking them dinner.
Everyone relaxed and the AKs were set aside. It was a communal affair with us sharing what we had for dinner. This being the sixties in Mexico, the women cooked while the men shared a bottle of tequila chased by macho stories. This was the birth of one of the recipes in the one-arm cook book, Chili Mac. They loved it.
The evening wore on as many of us nodded off. Our impromptu campfire died down and as silently as they stepped out to meet us, they drifted back into the jungle like sleep walking ghosts.
After moving the log I commented that it was the politest robbery I’ve ever heard of. I learned that evening that sometimes when you step into a drama and you just have to play it out. Besides, there might be a story in it.