It All Changes In An Instant (or Why I’m Riding a Motorcycle Across Asia)

Proposed route

5000 miles to Mumbai

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When I wrote down the goal “ride a motorcycle across Asia”, I really had no idea what that meant. I had no conception of how far it would be, what it would involve or even why exactly I wanted to do it in the first place. I had my inspirations: a long-ago reading of Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Top Gear: Vietnam special, and a reference Tim Ferriss made to riding a bike across China like it was no big deal. A nice fantasy, but not much more.

The most appealing thing about it was that it was completely outside of my current intellectual schema. The kind of thing I would never have seriously contemplated if not for my policy of being deliberately ridiculous. Which is exactly what makes it such an excellent goal.

Another quality of excellent goals is that they are rooted in emotions and passions. Important because they not only fuel the goal, they give it meaning. In this case, it was all about freedom. I just loved the idea of exploring exotic, unknown landscapes with wind in my hair. No cares, no responsibilities, no deadlines. Just the bike and the open road.

But though I had declared it as something I intended to do, there was still an air of unreality about it. It wasn’t a right now goal, it was a someday goal. Something to work towards. Something that would seem more feasible at some nonspecific, future date after I had already worked it all out. Something I could do once I was already “free”. I wanted to play around with the safer goals first. Goals that seemed more accessible.

But something very interesting happens when you start to take deliberate steps in the direction of your calling: things that used to seem ridiculous and impossible, suddenly become a lot more realistic. And things that used to intimidate you begin to look like the next natural step. And when you begin to draw an outline around a big, nebulous, impossible thing, suddenly it’s no longer nebulous or impossible. With a little bit of imagination it might actually be doable.

All you need then, is a kick in the pants.

Enter Ric Elias, and possibly the most profoundly understated 5 minutes of TED I’ve ever witnessed: in this captivating talk about the day he though he was going to die; and the three things he learned about himself in the minutes before his plane dropped from the sky and dove into the Hudson River. Here’s one of them.

It all changes in an instant.
I no longer want to put off anything in life.

You have to think…

How many days have I wasted replaying yesterday’s faults or staying somewhere I don’t want to be because I’ve made it into my identity?

How many days have I wasted deferring life because it just didn’t seem like the right time to start living?

How many days have I wasted complaining about setbacks or hiding from insecurities instead of deciding who I want to become?

Too many.

One day you’re going to look back on your life and wish you’d taken more risks, had more adventures, expressed yourself more fully and loved more openly. One day you’ll look back and realize how what a gift it all is. One day you’re going to realize that every moment is an opportunity to be awed, be grateful and be inspired to ring every drop of life you can from your time here.

How ’bout today?

In Defense of My Recklessness

Set a goal so big that you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can…

So…

That’s my justification for the foolishness I’m about to embark upon.

This is like no other challenge I’ve done up to this point. It will involve a lot of some planning and preparation. Preparation I’m only just beginning to do.

Frankly I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into here. I don’t know how long this will take. I don’t have much of a concrete understanding of how far 5,000 miles really is (the furthest I’ve ridden a bike thus far is about 10 miles). I don’t know what kind of problems or challenges I’m likely to run into along the way.

All I really know is this is way outside my comfort zone and that accomplishing it is going to give me a new perspective on life and on what I’m capable of achieving.

I’m sure many a more seasoned adventurer would say I’m a complete nutter a little naive for jumping into something like this without more experience. Just today I was reading Johnny Vagabond’s white-knuckled biking experiences in Vietnam which give me more than a little pause for thought. But I’m doing it this way deliberately…

I’m not going to set-sail completely unprepared, but I wanted to announce this challenge before I get too deep into planning it all out, because otherwise you’d miss out on the journey. You’d miss out on the revelations and setbacks and seeing the process unfold. Where’s the excitement in that?

The risk is that this might turn out to be an epic failure. Then again, that’s really what makes it worth doing.

So, I take inspiration from these shining examples of spontaneous adventure:

  • Torre was spontaneous when she decided to sail across the Pacific Ocean with a mysterious man she just met in a bar, despite having a mortal fear of water.
  • Earl was spontaneous when he decided not to come back from his three month SE Asian holiday and instead to wander the planet for 12 years and counting.
  • Colin spontaneously packs up his life and moves to a new (essentially random) country every four moths.

I figure if they can do that, I can ride a bike across a few little time zones.

The Challenge

The image above gives an indicative (read: subject to change at any moment because I haven’t done all the research) outline of the itinerary. I’ll copy it here again so you don’t have to scroll all the way up.

Proposed route

5000 miles to Mumbai

Roughly…

  • Fly to Hong Kong (I’ll be using a plane for this bit)
  • Bungee jump from the Macau Tower—highest bungee in the world (this is to make the rest of the trip appear less scary)
  • Bus it from Hong Kong to Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Buy a motorcycle in Hanoi
  • Ride said motorcycle to Ho Chi Minh City
  • Continue on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and through to Bangkok
  • At this point, things get a little bit less certain. Unfortunately, traversing Burma on a motorcycle is logistically impossible, forcing one to look for alternative routes between Thailand and India. Mostly likely case at this point is to ship the bike to Bangladesh or Nepal and continue on to India. Or simply sell it in Thailand and pick up a different bike in India.
  • Continue to New Delhi
  • See the Taj Mahal
  • Ride to Mumbai
  • Sell the bike
  • Fly back to Bangkok
  • Be home in time for Dinner

Total overland distance approximately 7,642 kilometers (4,748 miles)

The Obstacles

Remember when I said there was some preparation to do? Here’s what I mean:

  • Never ridden a bike bigger than 125 cc
  • No experience buying and selling motorcycles
  • Tend not to do well when negotiating with Indians
  • Don’t currently hold a motorcycle license
  • Know sweet F/A about motorcycle maintenance
  • Unfamiliar with various governmental regulations pertaining to the transit of vehicles across national borders
  • Never done any kind of extended road trip
  • Don’t speak any of the local languages (except Thai, poorly)
  • Only have carrying capacity for the bare essentials
  • No idea what to expect

There’s a high probability this plan might completely fall apart. But as I’ve no experience I don’t know what that probability is. I’ll also have to contend with the chaotic, Asian traffic and a litany of dangers, including (According to the Australian travel advisory):

  • Bandits
  • Land mines
  • Terrorists
  • Bombings
  • Kidnapping
  • Political unrest
  • Mechanical breakdown
  • Vietnamese mafia
  • Torrential tropical downpours
  • Delhi Belly; and
  • Cannibals

(I may have made one of those up)

Participate

If you’re hanging out in South East Asia and want to hook-up, tweet-up, ride the road, or shelter me, please…

Spanks! And let’s get this show on the road.

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