I read once that the planning stage of a motorcycle adventure should last an entire year. The same book told me to make maps and guides, and draw all sorts of lines in the sand. Take 12 months, 365 days to screw it all together and make cast iron a plan that will sail your ship safely through to the other side. Do this, and all will be fine. And, yet, here I was, blazing out of Sydney on a tiny motorcycle bound for London having packed and planned in just 48 hours.
It wasn’t my first option, but what choice did I have? Immigration had just given me 16 days to get the hell out of Australia, and there was no chance that I was going to fly back. This was it. Now or never, do or die. I would either set forth across a terrific stretch of land and stride through this momentary window of opportunity, or miss out, look back in ten years time and scream, "What if?" No, that wouldn’t do.
So, I organized the best I could and with two days down and two weeks to go I made the 3100-mile dash to Darwin. It was tough riding 14 hours a day on a 40 mph bike built originally for the mailman. But, Dot, my trusty steed and constant companion, and I made it. And on that first leg of many on our way to England, I realized that planning is not about what you put down on paper, it’s what you’ve got sorted in your head. To be mentally prepared; that’s all that matters.
Of course, the journey was not just some reactive whim triggered by the words of an immigration officer. No, it had been an idea stomping up and down inside my head for almost a year-about that, the author of the book will be delighted to hear. But, during that time, I wasn’t making lists and ticking them twice as he advised. No, I was asking myself, "Can I do this? Am I capable? Do I have what it takes to make it to the end?"
One year later, when that momentary window of opportunity opened, I already knew in my mind; yes, I was.
Not caring that we only had two days to launch our voyage, it was enough. We didn’t require any more time. No plans, no notes, no deadlines. No need. We were a couple of lone cowboys riding with a milk crate on the back and a big dose of faith. It wasn’t faith in the Almighty or in the preparation we’d made, but faith in our own mind, faith in our own ability to make it safely through whatever it took. Have that, and you’re away, rocking and rolling to the beat of your soul as it stirs amongst this vast lonely freedom.
Of course, it has not been easy. I had to buy tire levers on day two to mend a puncture, and apply for my Carnet De Passage halfway across Australia, and then collect it from a stranger’s house in Darwin whose mum I’d met at a tea stop in Brisbane. In Indonesia, I was forced to buy a 1995 Lonely Planet because I had no clue where I was going, and in Thailand I had no choice but to ride over 200 miles back to the border because I had forgotten to buy insurance at the office there.
Chaotic, calamitous, fraught with cock-ups and errors-nothing better sums up a typical day for Dot and me on the road. But we manage, bending around whatever obstacle we encounter, and not caring if things don’t go to schedule because we simply don’t have one.
We make it up, rolling with the punches, while accepting that we’re just two twigs in a stream, bobbing along as best we can, taking the knocks with the bruises and knowing that one day, someday, the waters will calm and we will lie on our back thanking the river for setting us free. Riding. Just do it.