We hit the landmark – 365 nights on this trip. We remember the first day and night so clearly– the fantastic party and driving away with huge smiles and bellies full of excitement. The bikes were not perfectly packed but it was no matter because we were finally on the road after years of planning. And, two hours later we were stopped. At a gas station in the shadow of Mount Rainer Shannon’s bike “Zippy” wouldn’t start.
As we write this today, a little over 365 nights later, Zippy once again won’t start. Is this what she will do to celebrate every annual anniversary? We better plan to be in a good spot a year from now. That first breakdown turned into a wonderful encounter at the gas station with a kind stranger who let us stay in his mountain cabin for as long as we needed for the bike repair. This was a sign of things to come as each “adversary” event since leaving Seattle has generally worked out the same way – an unplanned adventure that works out in the end.
A year later, we bask with the warm springtime sun on our faces in Sucre, Bolivia. The owners of the hostel are lovely, there is a beautiful garden courtyard to work on Shannon’s broken motorcycle, the room is big, and there is endless hot water – all for the staggering sum of 100 Bolivianos per night (around US$14).
The year is full of numbers: miles driven (18,566), money spent ($39,026), countries visited (13), nights camping (143), tires purchased (7), days of diarrhea due to Mike’s giardia (45), bribes paid (1), weight lost between the two of us (38 pounds), and the list goes on. The year has truly been full of unique experiences and amazing people. It has also been intense. Marked by the passing of Ducati – our most beloved and cherished chihuahua. We are grateful for the 12.5 years we had with him and for the 24/7 of our last six months together. We think about our little bug every day and see his spirit in the eyes of other dogs we meet. However, none of these other dogs are as amazing as Ducati but it helps fill the space he left in our hearts giving scratches behind the ears and treats when we can to the street dogs of Latin America. In Peru there was a little black doggy at a remote Inca ruin, high on a mountaintop that Shannon could not take her eyes off. She desperately wanted to scoop up that wet and shivering fur ball and make it part of the family. Rational thinking prevailed, for now it is much easier to travel without a dog, however, if we were in a four-wheel vehicle instead of on motorcycles we would probably have more than one new dog by now.
Has this trip been everything we imagined it would be? Yes, and much, much more. It was impossible to anticipate everything that could and would happen to us in the last year and everyday truly became an adventure unto itself. Are there shit days?-absolutely. We get tired, too hot, too cold, hungry, and sometimes all this comes with a steaming pile of grumpy on the side. We are often dirty at the end of the day and once we find a room for the night, the hot water usually doesn’t work and the damn toilets are often missing the seat forcing a cold squat on porcelain. We wouldn’t change this for anything. This life is rich and interesting and we live more in a single day than we did in an entire week of stationary career life in Seattle.
It amazes us how much the places can look alike. The smells and the vistas we ride through sometimes remind us of other places we have been and often break our stereotypes of what we think a country should look like; Mexico is not all tumbleweeds and cactus and Guatemala City is not solely populated by murderous drug cartels. The overwhelming majority of the people we have met on this trip are kind, honest, and friendly. Language, place, religion – doesn’t matter – people, regardless where they are from, have much more in common than they do different and generally want the same things as you (warmth, purpose, income, safety, love, family, health). Grandmothers around the world just want to feed you.
We have been places on this trip that are spellbinding in scale and beauty and we are often without words to describe these moments adequately. There are only so many times you can say awesome.
The best part of this nomadic life is the people we have met along the way – both citizens of the countries we pass through and also the other travelers coming from all around the world. We have made lasting and lifelong friendships with people, sometimes in short amounts of time; encounters like this rarely happened to us at home and we are blessed to have our horizons expanded to such a degree.
This trip has pushed us out of our comfort zone on a regular basis and reminds us to move forward through fear, uncertainty, and the confusion of being a stranger in a strange land. Between the two of us our fears, worries, and insecurities are a daily reminder that we are living in the moment, enveloped in an adventure of epic proportion and happy beyond measure.