Foreword by Bonnie Truax
In March, we found ourselves scrambling for a location to shelter in place. Every lifestyle has its pros and cons. The greatest benefit of being a nomad is the freedom to pursue the adventure of exploring the world. The downside of being a nomad is that when a pandemic hits and everyone says to go home, we don’t know where exactly that is.
Thankfully, Toby Richardson offered us a place to park Lil’ Beaut, and it is a beautiful place to call home for now.
Many of you have asked us to thank Toby on your behalf for his generosity and we ourselves are also very grateful. We want to dedicate this article to Toby.
Toby is a fan of adventure and freedom and lives his life outside the realm of the 9 to 5 grind. He is a freelance journalist, licensed commercial pilot, and an independent filmmaker.
Toby has explored some of the same regions in Peru that we were in, but he did it adventure-style on a motorcycle with off-road experiences and camping in sand dunes. In this post, Toby shares a bit of his adventure with us so that we can all live a bit vicariously through him while travel is on hold for most of us.
Photos in this article are owned by Toby Richardson, and used with permission.
The Smell of Adventure
by Toby Richardson
Riding a motorcycle across Peru, any country, or even the world, is not without significant risk. If I ride long enough, I will fall off and will eventually hurt myself like I have many times before. I’m battling statistics and it’s not a case of if I’ll get hit by a driver one day, but a hope that it will be a minor collision. It’s a scary proposition, though I know it’s a risk worth taking and one I would recommend others to take.
In fact, I thought it was such a worthwhile risk I dragged my Dad along with me for the trip. The very person who taught me how to ride and showed me what a sense of freedom it can bring.
If Rudyard Kipling was believed to have said: ‘the first condition of understanding a country is to smell it’, we can believe that exposure to all senses is an integral part of the experience of travel.
In a car, I would have seen the Atacama Desert in all its glory. On the bike, I felt it. Coming down from a high pass, you can feel the air getting hotter and drier at an alarming rate until you’re riding at sea level at 45°C (113°F) with a dry, dry throat and barely able to speak.
Meet Sandra Richardson, Toby’s mom, in our video “In This Together.” She is at minute 10:13
Being in the moment
It seems like a great inconvenience, but when it happens on the bike it’s a part of the authenticity. Uncomfortable for sure, but I absolutely knew I was in the heart of the adventure and was loving every minute of the new territory.
Reaching the humidity of riding along the coast brought respite from the dry air and instead brought with it incredible wind that had not been interrupted for thousands of kilometers across the Pacific. Whipping up the sand to blast us while we had to ride on an almost 45° angle to combat the crosswind, was another experience that was less than comfortable but brought with it an undeniable truth of the power of nature. I imagine it would be like the first time someone goes to an area without light pollution and sees the stars for the first time, realizing how wonderfully vast the world is.
When something puts you right in the moment, not thinking about the future or dwelling on the past, the experience is far more poignant. It’s why people jump out of planes, off of cliffs, and the same feeling I got when I did my first solo flight. This is precisely what makes motorcycle riding a true meditation.
When I’ve been racing at home, the task at hand occupies all my mental space and I’m not thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner. The same goes for when I was riding around the twisting clifftop bends of the Pan Americana highway, with a drop to the Pacific on one side with a rock wall on the other and a truck overtaking another truck on a blind corner.
I have found Australia to be much safer in terms of traffic, but when complacency and boredom start to make my mind wander on a long road, an unexpected turn will no doubt smack me right back into the moment and remind me of what to focus on.
Having been able to take a glimpse at Bonnie and Trin’s traveling lifestyle over the last 6 weeks, I find myself quite jealous of their steady-paced travel around Australia, while I’m temporarily back in the rat race at “home”. Traveling by car, camper, or bus is another fantastic way to travel and something I have done a lot of myself, so I don’t think motorcycles are a better way, just different and suit differing desires at varying moments in time.
I have no idea what petrol (gasoline) cost us in Peru because the price was in Soles per US Gallon, but I know it would have cost much more in a car and it’s hard to escape the cost-effectiveness of travel by motorcycle.
Some of us travel to experience constructive discomfort. To be exposed to new sights, sounds, and smells and to expand our comfort zones while being placed right in the center of reality and the experience of now. This is certainly achievable by any means of transport, but traveling by bike has its own distinctive brand of presence and can provide a wonderful experience to anyone.
In honor of the Richardsons, I challenge everyone to pay kindness forward this week to a stranger. Maybe you will be someone else’s blue door.