I’m going to fast forward a few years, leaving my experiences in Iraq and South East Asia for a spell for they are vast, and to be honest a bit painful for me right now. Between my book, and the last few blogs, I have attempted to create a bit of a prelude as to why I am finding it necessary to do this 25,000-mile journey through Central and South America. Truth is, I my self am not entirely sure why I can’t seem to settle down and find some peaceful place to call home. Maybe because, deep down inside, I am afraid. Certainly not of the wild places of the world, but of you! You being people in general. It’s been my experience that people can be, without question the cruelest creatures on this planet. Acting without mercy, compassion or empathy.
Let’s face it, when we first meet new people there is all too often a costume, we all put on. One that allows us to entertain the freshness of a new beginning. Sub-consciously, we hide many aspects of our personalities in an effort to, well be attractive to others. Given time, we relax and allow our true inner characters to be revealed slowly. Traveling as I do; I get to enjoy this freshness far more often. It’s when I see the costumes coming off is when I fear what lay underneath, and so I leave.
LEAVE! Or Leave!
Knowing this, deeply saddens me, not because people change character. It’s because I feel I simply do not have the strength in me to face the brutal truth of people lately. One would think, after all my years and experiences I would be able to handle people elegantly, and many believe I do. But what they fail to realize is the drain of energy I experience as they talk to me of all their own traumas. Never do they realize, I my self am trying desperately to understand my own traumas.
Escape seems to be my only respite, thus leaving behind wonderful people who deserve so much better than I can offer right now. Having no one to talk to, I find compelled to lose myself into the wilds of the world, the ultimate distraction. It’s there I hope to find answers to the deep questions toiling within my complicated highly responsive mind. But each time it gets vastly more difficult!
You see, I am coming to realize that I am running out of places to hide. Hiding from people is easy, it’s the hiding from oneself that is becoming increasingly more challenging. With the gain of knowledge and understanding I have acquired by traveling the world in a manor to which I do, meeting its people while experiencing their multifaceted character traits and behaviours as a once Highly Sensitive Person, I feel now that I lost something. Something very special, something I truly miss called joy. I am not exactly sure where or when I lost it as I have been so busy fending off the ugliness of the world, but I do miss it dearly. Its when I am reminded, I have lost it between battles that I find myself faced with two extremely difficult decisions. LEAVE! Or Leave! The first “LEAVE” is the harshest one. Feeling the way, I often feel, I just wanted to end it all. The ultimate escape. For some, I know that would give them great pleasure knowing their efforts to hurt me were successful. But it’s the one person, the most important person I have left I continue to fight for. It’s for her I keep standing up, donning the badly beaten armour I have left and continue to fight. That special person is my mom, the only gem I have in my life!
The other “Leave” is to escape the life I find myself living, and in my traditional fashion I tend to go out on scary limbs in order to reach another tree! As I decide to make this next trip a reality and escape the world, I begin as most Highly Responsive People do, by planning. A journey through the wilds of Central and South America on my beautiful Honda Africa Twin adventure motorbike. At first, it was just me going on a much-needed holiday, but as I started my research, I found a magical connection. That connection was to put real purpose in my saddle bags. That purpose was to bring awareness to whom ever I could about people like me, Highly Sensitive transformed into Highly Responsive. I asked myself, other than wanting to escape the harshness I was experiencing, why was I going on such an endeavor? Then it hit me. To find good people! To experience fun and joy again! To live an amazing life and to heal, while sharing those experiences through the eyes of an HRP!
And so, The Living Adventurer was born! I spent several months planning and accumulating the equipment and supplies I would need for a year-long journey. Knowing I had limited room on my motorbike, I tapped into the experience I had gained in my wilderness adventure days so long ago. I planned on tenting it most of the way, while occasionally staying in hostels and low-cost hotels. No journey like this should be undertaken lightly, so I needed to be prepared (See lesson 5).
Figure 1. A year-long adventure requires a huge load of supplies
Reading lots, and watching YouTube videos helped a lot. My 2021 Honda Africa Twin Sport SE has an approximate weight of 553 lbs. It can carry a maximum of 430 lbs, including riders, accessories, and luggage. The added accessories equal approximately 30 lbs, give or take a pound. I weigh 215 lbs, which left me room for 185 lbs of additional gear. More importantly, I had to think about the total weight of 553 + 30 + 185 = 768 lbs. If that bike fell over, could I pick it back up? Not in the shape I had let myself get into, and that concerned me.
The Preparation of the Physical and Mental Self
Having stopped drinking, I focused on my health, both physical and mental, as best I could, given the fact I had no one to really talk to. One concern I had however was my knees were starting to show the wear and tear of my previous adventurers. So, I booked an appointment with a recommended Orthopedic surgeon just to be sure I was ok. He took x-rays and told me I would be just find, provided I had a couple of cortisone shots. Taking his advice, and a whopping $1600.00 later, I felt like I was walking on brand new legs.
Going back to the gym was easy for me, as I have always found it a place of peace. Pardon the reference, but I even called it my church. My motivation was not to get fit, nor was it to lose weight. It was much stronger than that! Every time I started to give up on the reps, I would think of that bike falling over with no one around to help me. I knew, without my physical and mental health in better shape, I was useless to anyone, including myself!
Figure 2. My old days in the gym
I recall packing the bike for the 12th time, weighing the luggage and contents each time, and ensuring the balancing was even. The total weight of the luggage was 125 lbs. Learning how to pack the bike exactly the same way each time was important, so to was unloading it as I suddenly made a big mistake in taking off one of the panniers on the same side as the kickstand. The bike instantly started to fall over due to the added weight on the right side. Because my hands were full with the pannier I had just removed, there was little I could do except yell out “No, No, No!” as if magically that was going to stop it.
Experts will advise you to practice pulling your tires on and off before you go. Well, practicing picking up my 673lb bike just became a part of the pre-trip planning process. I say 673 lbs because I had removed 35 lbs when I detached the left pannier. Response quickly set in as my mind raced to resolve this crisis. I removed the right pannier and top box, bringing the new weight down to 583 lbs. Now it was time to see if I could pick it up, and to my amazement, I managed it with out a problem. Being proud of my previous gym efforts, I danced around the bike like a happy school child on his first day of summer vacation.
The Fears with the Logistics and Making it Work
The next challenge I faced was, after strategically loading everything I needed for a year-long journey, could I ride it that way? Now, HSPs get overwhelmed by many things, and this was one that was a make-it-or-break-it requirement. If I couldn’t ride the bike with the element of control I needed, disaster was sure to follow. All the planning and all the money I had invested were at stake. Combined with all the other thoughts that I had, like breaking down in a remote part of the world, getting sick along the way, meeting those nasty people I talk about and so much more. All that made my sensitive nervous system spike!
With four days left before I was leaving, I needed to get on my loaded bike and take her for a ride. Nervously, I geared up, ensuring I had all the protective gear I could put on in the event I lost control and the bike went crashing down. At times like these, it’s best to stay well clear of an HSP, for one more drop in the bucket can create a tsunami! I mounted the bike, started the engine, and let her warm up. As I waited I looked out in front of me. Great, it’s loose pea gravel! That’s like small ball bearings under the wheel of a motorbike! Driving on that unloaded was a breeze, but loaded was a whole new question.
I have ridden thousands of miles up until now, on varying types of terrain, traveling through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam even. But for some unexplained reason, I was extremely nervous about this ride, call it my heightened intuition, for it was going off like fireworks. It is times like these we either listen to it or choose not to! I chose not to and gathered my courage, put her into gear and twisted the throttle. The front tire hit the pea gravel followed shortly by the rear. I could feel the bike wobbling a little, but nothing I had not felt many times before. Rounding the first corner at 10 miles per hour, my nervousness started to subside. Holly crap, I thought to myself! It was doing great, I’m doing great! And suddenly, that dark cloud that was threatening torrential rain disappeared and the sun came out. The bike handled the weight as if it wasn’t even there!
My Bike Gets a Fitting Name
I hit the pavement and cracked the throttle open, the front wheel lifted right off the ground for a second or two before landing back down. It was like a horse rearing up in celebration, kicking its two front legs high in the air. I yelled out loud under my helmet, “YEAH!’ as it felt like music to me, one of the only things I find makes me happy when listening to it ……and so, my 2021 Honda Africa Twin got her name…….. “Music!” Ironically, as I flew down the highway, I turned on the headset in my helmet’s comms system and a fitting song played, I kid you not! Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard singing,
Music and I rode for a good two hours before returning. Confident now that I was prepared to venture into the wilds, we settled down for the last few days, waiting for February 1st, departure day!
Figure 3. Music and Me, Jan 28, 2023 – Pahrump Nevada