Both literally and figuratively, we carry some odd things on our motorcycles. Every motorcyclist’s packing choices are different and gear lists are quite unique to the individual. The physical and tangible items are much easier to think about and list out than the mental luggage I carry. Let’s take our clothing for example. Mike and I are carrying some cloths that are bulky and not practical for riding (like jeans) because we both live by our self-coined motto “if you won’t rock that outfit at home then you won’t want to wear it in a foreign country, will you?” In any city we visit you won’t find us wearing ExOfficio pants with zip off legs, socks with our sandals or a floppy brimmed hat from Gilligan’s Island. We just can’t do it. Our friends who do wear these things look perfectly normal and well put together. I think we are either subconsciously trying to be hipsters or just insecure. Of course when camping we do wear the weird, ugly, and useful shit, function over form has its day in the sun too.
We both bought our jeans in Panama – a well fitting pairs of Levis. Anytime we are in a city they are our “go to” pants. I had a shoe crisis before we left on this trip as the shoes I thought would be “ok” wearing for all occasions weren’t going to cut it. Yup, I have a pair of low-top converse sneakers that I wear with my one dress, so much for fashion hipster.
Don’t get me started on synthetic clothing – sure, it dries quick so theoretically great for travel right? Most people who bring it have only one or two with them with the intention they will wash them daily. I call bullshit. Synthetic shirts get and retain stinky smells fast – usually within a day if not faster in hot weather. Yup, you guessed it – we wear cotton shirts or wool and we don’t smell (I think???). We also have multiple changes of clothes so we don’t have to wash daily. Granted a cotton shirt can last a good five days as long as deodorant is applied daily, we call this “adding oil”.
I am a firm believer that all the things you carry are personal and who am I to judge you or you me, there is no right or wrong. And, while I am on my soapbox, I am so tired of the critical nature of so many motorcyclists on social media. As if there is a “right way” to have a motorcycle adventure, or right things to bring, or right roads to travel, or right motorcycle to ride. There are as many right ways as there are people riding and you don’t need to ride to exhaustion everyday, always in the middle of nowhere, and staving off dehydration by drinking your own piss in order to have an adventure.
So, what do we carry? I would say we are right in the middle. Half the riders we encounter will have more than us and the other half will have less, sometimes a lot less. We have the things we think will keep us comfortable over a three-year period. When I say we are in the middle it is because when we need to add a bunch of stuff (example five quarts of motor oil) we can easily fit it inside our bags and not resort to strapping it somewhere on the bike. We are not over packed and the bikes are in harmony with the load. We camp often and love our tent (it is very large); it has a vestibule you can stand in, chill in bad weather, and is big enough to store all our gear. Things like this are important to us. We have flannel pillowcases.
We like comfort in camp so we have a REI camp chair for each of us as well as a small folding stool for Mike when he works on the bikes. Overkill? Probably but it makes us happy and doesn’t keep us from riding the roads we want to ride. We often cook our own meals so we end up carrying a significant amount of food and water at times but there is piece of mind knowing we would be just fine if we broke down in the wilderness.
We haven’t gotten rid of too much stuff over the past year. When we leave a country we tend to pass on paper maps and travel books (unless I have torn out too many pages). Some things of Ducati’s that are sentimental to us were mailed home, but after many months, the tracking number still shows the box sitting in Costa Rica.
What have we added? One of our favorite adds is a 9-foot extension cord that continually comes in handy both in hotels and campgrounds. A wool blanket in Peru because our sleeping bags haven’t been up to the task when camping at high altitudes in the Andes Mountains. We will gift the blanket to someone when we are no longer freezing at night. Some t-shirts have been purchased along the way to replace ones tossed or too baggy after Mike’s revolutionary giardia weight loss program. What else did we add? Camelback style water packs, travel books added as we go, underwear (replenished), and a continuous stream of bits and bobs like zip ties, laundry soap, and instant coffee.
What do I carry in my head? I am a world-class worrier. I worry about the weather, road conditions, and the day’s route. Mike worries about the bikes and our security, though he is nowhere near the world-class worrier that I am. I carry some fear as well. I have fear of speaking a foreign language, fear of road conditions that will steal my mojo, fear of falling off my bike in the mud or sand. And, conversely I carry confidence because I walk through the fear every day. I spoke Spanish and was understood even though I feel like an idiot doing it. I did that knarly dirt road in the wind, and the mud, and the fatal cliff inches from my front wheel and didn’t fall down or turn around. Each day it takes more than the last for fear to set in and today I don’t blink an eye at things that would have stopped me in my tracks a year ago.
I carry sadness – sadness for the loss of my beloved chihuahua, Ducati.
I carry memories – memories of Ducati, of friends and family from home, and the unforgettable experiences and worldview this trip has given me. My memories bring me joy, confidence, smiles, and laughter.
I carry confidence – confidence because fear, worry, or insecurity hasn’t stopped me yet. I fell down then got back up and carried on. Suck it up buttercup.
I carry wonder and appreciation – wonder for the places we see, gratefulness that we are doing what we are doing and grateful for the people we have met along the way. I am also grateful to be from a prosperous country that is wide open with opportunities; opportunities that many of the people we have met on this trip can only dream about.
Which matters more? I think the things we carry in our heads are all that matters and it makes us who we are. I know I carry less fear and worry then when we left Seattle but I carry more sadness as well as homesickness. I am truly alive.
For a current list of everything we carry see attached – we put strikethrough on items we have let go and italics for items we have added.