Thursday, June 2, 2011

Final Final Thoughts

Getting to ride the Americas on a bike is an amazing experience. I have had the chance to see many different landscapes and meet tons of truly fantastic people. Since the Americas were never really at the top of my list of places to go visit I was able to experience all of the different places and countries without any per-disposed bias or favourites. Our trip was simple, we just quit normal life and set out with a course due South. We never really had a plan more than a few days out and chose places to visit and roads to ride on the fly. Doing our trip in this hap-hazard way helped us get an even experience of all 12 countries we visited. But if I think back at the whole experience as an overall package it wasn't something I would go back to do again and again.

Everyone has their own travel style and priorities and my main priority when I do motorcycle travel is the riding. For me it is not about where I end up but how I get there. This is why you will have seen throughout our trip that we didn't hit up some of the common places travelers do or when we did we didn't really get out and see stuff or stay long. In a perfect world I would have a day full of fun riding and then find somewhere remote and peaceful to camp for the evening. We were only really able to achieve this perfect travel nirvana in Peru and Chile, and not coincidentally these are the only two countries I would re-visit by motorbike.

I enjoyed the whole trip overall but there were long sections where it felt more like endurance instead of enjoyment. In particular Mexico and Central America didn't really match well with my style. In hindsight the driver's in Mexico weren't as bad as they seemed at the time but the weather was way to hot to be wearing riding gear. It's hard to fully appreciate the beauty of a country when you are constantly uncomfortable. In Mexico's defense we didn't go during the favourable weather season, but in order to time reaching Tierra del Fuego there isn't really much flexibility for riders starting in North America. Also it felt that Mexico didn't offer anything specific to my personal tastes that I could not find riding in Canada or the United States. At first we were really enjoying Central America but as the weeks went by the whole experience felt worn and repetitive. The riding wasn't satisfying enough so we tried to compensate with typical tourist activities. This just turned into a continuous loop between beaches, volcanoes, colonial cities and jungles. We were missing out on diversity. We experienced spectacular spots here and there, Roatan and Playa Venao stand out in my mind, but they alone could not make up for the monotony. The mostly uninteresting riding and the terrible borders made a bad combination. And the funny thing I found on the road was that most of the other riders we met felt the same way about Central America: fine to do once, but no need to do it again.

Arriving on the continent of South America was a huge breath of fresh air. The Andes breathed new life into our riding and scenery viewing. Also because of the difference in scale, South American countries are a lot bigger than Central American countries, it felt like there were more route choices which in turn resulted in better riding. There was also a downside to the larger countries, sometimes there were long periods of riding with little change in topography or scenery.

This is all part of any long journey. The cruel reality is that not everyday will be filled with hand picked epic riding, at some point you need to get where you are going and it can't all be fun times. That's what makes it a worthwhile experience though, the diversity and adversity. But in the meantime I will focus my riding trips to selective epic riding adventures and focus my energy on conquering a new continent. The Americas.... been there done that.

One of the best parts of traveling is meeting people, both locals and fellow travelers. There are exceptions of course but across the board we met amazingly friendly people in every single country we visited. Not to mention the joy you get when you meet a fellow adventure rider on the road. Despite having no clue what this person is like in normal life you immediately completely trust them and become friends. This trust is a two-way street as you will find that locals will invite you into their homes just because you are an adventure traveler. The human aspect is one of the truly amazing facets of travel.

I think that 8 months of travel was the perfect amount of time for me, maybe even a little long. Near the end I just wanted to come home. I think that traveling through Latin America has advantages and disadvantages. For Canadians and Americans it is very accessible. No paper work required you can jump on your bike and leave today. Also there is only one language to learn, however I think the harmony of Latin America was a negative for me. I got bored. The fact is, a large amount of land and countries share the same cultural foundations and it means that you aren't confronted with anything really new or fresh during the trip. Africa or Asia, in my opinion, has more diversity to offer for a similar amount of distance traveled.

There is a reason why it is called the comfort zone; it's comfortable. I missed my things and the freedom to do other things besides riding my bike. It was a great trip but I was okay when the end came after 8 months of travel.

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