I’ve spent some time reflecting on my 14 months traveling through in Asia. Those months took me through 12 countries and gives me plenty to keep my mind occupied. There is still one question which is on my mind the most. What makes a grand adventure? After careful consideration, my answer is the people. The people are the difference between just seeing great structures and landscapes and having a fantastic adventure. Its the people that come to your rescue. Its the people that offer local advice. Its the people that invite you into there homes and cook you food, show you compassion. Quite honestly, people are always the answer.
In communities halfway around the world I’ve been welcomed and treated like family. People have gone far out of there way giving me their most precious gift. Their gift of time. The only gift I can offer in return is a Perpetual-moto-discovery.com sticker and maybe a photo or two. Both of those seem simple but one has a unique value. Unique in its ability to capture a moment. A moment that may never be able to be repeated again. A moment to change a person or families life by giving them the gift of immortality in a single image. We can never under estimate the value of a moment.
Using Photography | Making Moments
I’ve been using photography to break down barriers and give a secret look into the furthest most obscure communities around the world. I go to these locations seeking a true unfiltered version of culture. Of course I still hit the “must see” tourist locations, but along the way I try my best to go to places that people only talk about. When you get out of the “tourist trail” this is when you are greeted by a sense of wonder. People are quite curious by nature and will be very interested in you. Inevitably you will be presented an opportunity to engage with the community. I choose to engage through photography, and it is my gift to them in return.
In the US we often say, “Take a photo”. In other parts of the world they commonly say, “Make a photo”. I feel like make a photo is a much better description of the action. The moment that you capture can make a fantastic impact on the life of an individual or family. They may lack the resource to make that photo so when given the opportunity, I do it for them. I will often print the photos when I pass through a city and then return at a later point to present the printed photo to the family or individual. At other times people have enjoyed just having the digital copy. In either case these moments are precious not because of their monetary value but rather a value based on scarcity. Moments which are not likely to be repeated but are captured and shared concurrently by the people who make them possible.
Click HERE to see a short video I’ve made explaining my take on the value of a moment.
On the Horizon
In September I’ll be embarking on a multi-year journey to South America. Starting from Seattle I’ll be riding my motorcycle to South, once again heading into the wind. Working along side The Muskoka Foundation I’ll be seeking out these opportunities to make moments with those I meet on the road.
I’ve been traveling for the last 9 months. As much as possible I choose to travel by motorcycle. I feel like this gives me more of a connection to my surroundings and an open ticket to go anywhere I want whenever I want (within reason). Of course, I’ve spent a good bit of time doing the bus thing as well. I find that mode of travel keeps me a little more on the general tourist route. On the plus side, its so much easier to socialize when your with a loads of people who are also excited to talk about their adventures! There are times however when I would like to take a picture without any random tourists included…is that so much to ask?
Lets face it, sharing is so easy these days and we love to do it! Sharing photos, thoughts, check-ins. Tagging your friends or commenting in any number of forums. We all get a little Tweety from time to time, throw in an Instagram here and there and before you know it there’s always a outlet accepting that EPIC photo you just took. From the selfie to the jump, all pics have their place and it seems as though we place them all over the inter-webs. I know I’m guilty, lock me up! But can I just get one pic of my cell to post before you take my phone…I just have to show EVERYONE!
Its no secret that some great memories can be made far from the tourist trail but there are times when you literally NEED to see that one thing which every other out of town traveler is going to as well. Allow me to set the stage; So there you are in the proverbial people herd marching towards your destination when you see it, that singular location where you can take the perfect photo! The world seems to stand still as you quicken your pace to reach this glorious spot from which the best photo in all the world will be made! However, just 3 steps before you get there you notice another quickened paced traveler whos’ white knuckles on his camera and fixation with “YOUR” spot brings a cold shiver up your spine…another EPIC pic thwarted, or at the very least delayed. Then again, maybe I’m the only one in the world this happens to…?
I’m not exactly sure why it can be frustrating at times…I mean seriously, I take loads of pictures and share maybe 1 out of 50 anyway. Its also important to point out that EVERYONE has just as much right to be at these places and grab photos as I do. But while I’m waiting for someone to finish taking pics its just seems like maybe one of the last 7 dozen selfies could be a keeper? Maybe not, the world may never know. Are we all guilty of getting caught up in the moment, that shot looked so perfect. Do we all get a little carried away? One day I asked myself, “Why do I want the exact same photo as everyone else anyway”? At that point I really started enjoying travel photography a lot more. Now, I’m challenging myself to find creative angles that no one else is looking at. In fact, the way to get an AMAZING pic in a sea of people is to start by removing yourself from the sea of people. No doubt, a lot of the time the standard shot is from a pretty good point of view to create a powerful image. For me that’s where the challenge lay. I often just go the opposite direction as everyone else and then start looking around.
Additionally, there are a host of other tactics to employ, such as getting to your location ridiculously early, if that’s an option. Choose to visit places out of the high season…and bring a rain jacket, LOL! Then there’s the, “OK, I’ll just wait, approach”…I’ve had limited success here and don’t recommend this approach. It seems the sea of people are endless, and when there is a break someone will stand in your way and take 471 phone selfies while you stand 2 feet away with your massive camera 3” from your face waiting for them to finish or the phone battery to die, whichever happens first. When I’m caught there, I walk away and try to be creative elsewhere knowing that I’ll give it another “shot” in a while.
One of the reasons that I really fell in love with photography in the first place was the infinite possibilities you have to create a distinctive image with a camera. Its a medium where I can truly show my personal point of view. There are so many different angles and perspectives that, given time you even create your own style. So now, when I see the crowds forming with the selfie poles raised and swarming around like some sort of protest/selfie sword fight, that’s my cue. I happily step away from the madness and enjoy creating a few pictures which I can be happy to call my own. Good luck out there, keep sharing. ADV ON!
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”
There is just no way around it, India is a reality bitch-slap of sorts that will leave you both captivated and inspired. I showed up knowing that in completing this ride I would be challenged both physically and mentally but I never dreamed there was this place on earth that would end up challenging so many of my thoughts and supposed inner truths I’ve carried through life thus far.
There’s the unrelenting and extreme heat. The endless clouds of road dust that will leave you chewing on grit and have your sinuses a congested wreck. There’s the traffic which can be likened to salmon charging up a river during spawning season. Then there are the roads, or lack there of. The days when you thought you could make 400 kilometers and you ride all day even skipping lunch just to reach a meager 250 K’s. In the higher elevations there’s a whole different set of challenges. Nevertheless, through some of the most steadily challenging environments over 6500 km’s, I can say this trip was one of the most fulfilling journeys of my life. Or simply, I’m a glutton for punishment.
You see, India is an in your face, raw slice of life. Its truly unlike anywhere I have ever visited before. This sparkly hotbed of diversity extends to every corner of the country. Did you know India has no uniform language? In fact it has 24 different languages spoken throughout the country which makes English an obvious crutch. No one wants to hear my attempt at the local language so speaking English seems to “kind-of” work everywhere. 80 percent of the country practice some form of Hinduism which may contribute to the high level of tolerance and respect to others. Running parallel to the tolerance is a level of hospitality that is…indescribable.
India is home to over 1.3 BILLION people, thats BILLION. To better put that into perspective, thats nearly 4 times the population of the United States living on roughly half as much dirt, or in this case a dirt sand combo. From a US point of view it would be roughly 8 times as many people per square mile. There is a pace which is intense and absolutely relentlessness. Honestly, it took me a bit to get used to. A vivid moment comes to mind where I seriously questioned whether my “Travelrexia” had maybe gotten me in over my head…but then I realized I was just hungry and everything was OK.
Suffice to say, I’m not so happy with the media and the way they can paint situations or places. For this reason I do my best to keep from dwelling on what “I think” a place or experience is going to be like. I’ve been happy just allowing things to unfold organically with minimal research and maximum local knowledge when I can find it. I think its human nature to fall back on what we have heard, read or seen on TV. I’ve had to use some creativity to keep my mind focused on the present, but I really think its this totally unbiased approach has allowed me to take my adventures to a whole new level.
I was fortunate once again when the travel gods smiled upon me with a convenient connection to my now good friend, Divy. Not only is he an outstanding Ambassador to India, he is also a “Travel Adviser for All Things India”! I’ve come to develop a recipe of sorts for planning an epic adventure. If you are planing this adventure outside of your country or comfort zone its been my experience that in order to end up with success the main ingredient must be local knowledge. What better way to get local knowledge than directly from another rider over dinner. Just so happens that he had completed a very similar ride and since he understood the route and respective areas I would be traveling through as well his advice was perfect. For this ride I was searching for a Royal Endfied Motorcycle. This is a bike I wasn’t very familiar with. I was fortunate that he had Royal Endfield experience and answers to all my questions. At that point it really looked like I didnt have anything standing in my way besides just doing the darn thing! It was the absolute easiest planning sessions I have ever had. Over a dinner of “Chicken Lolipops” (which are very similar to drumstick chicken wings) some tasty veggies and a few delicious Kingfischer brewskis my next three weeks were planned out! I would leave two days later with the perfect excitement/fear ratio and full of wonder for just what lie ahead. ADV ON!
Loosen four bolts and remove yourself from your comfort zone. Check the torque of your open mind bolts. Unlock and unplug your idea of what you think your dream destination would be like and discover what it actually is. Leave with as little as you can. Expect anything and everything.
I know can’t be the only person who has the reoccurring dream about riding their motorcycle to far off destinations around the world. With that dream comes the hard conversation yourself about feasibility and sustainability. Past the guided tours with a strict and predetermined schedule of specific points of interest and mileage there may be another option, if you’re game! Its a twisty road with an unseen adventures and loosely set destinations. Its a road you can take or leave, the options are all yours.
I’ve spent the last three months traveling around Asia searching out well maintained motorcycles to be my traveling companions and beasts of burden while touring the hidden destinations and the finest roads to no where. Highlights of the trip include Cambodia, Vietnam and Turkey. I personally believe there is no WRONG way to find or have an adventure as long as you respect the people and places you enjoy and leave with a smile. There’s a lot of info on what to watch out and for scams etc, so I’m not going to dwell on those. Here are a few Tips and Tricks that I’ve learned while making this idea of an adventure a reality. ADV ON!
What to Bring
International Drivers license? Your FAV Schuberth helmet? A healthy appetite? What to bring can be as easy or difficult as you like. Its been my philosophy to keep things as simple as I can and for that reason I’ve adopted the motto, “Keep it light, Keep it tight!” This is how I roll. What to bring is also as personal as where to go so I’ll leave it up to you on what you should take, I’d only suggest that you consider taking as little as possible. I’ll make an exception and recommend two must have items. These two have served me very well and will always have a spot reserved in my pack for any Destination Motorcycle Travel adventure. They will get you into and out of a lot of trouble
Map – The folding kind. My personal choice are the National Geographic Adventure maps. They are not paper so they are water resistance and fold easily in any way or shape. They make the perfect conversation starter with locals. Even with a language barrier you can still describe where you are going or ask for directions with a map. Often I will hand over a pen and people will circle hidden spots locals know. Often people write their phone numbers on the map as a Just In Case. even write words I should be familiar with. I’ve got a signature from Baja legend Ivan “Iron Man” Stewart on my Baja map!! Years later I’ve looked back at them and I’ve still been able to recreate the route I’ve taken or given advice to someone using the notes I make on my maps. I can’t stress this enough, bring a map!
Unlocked Smartphone – Ahhhh technology, its truly a gift and a curse. There are endless positives and negatives about the Smartphone but I bring one purely to have the internet at my disposal anywhere. With the internet my smartphone becomes everything from my travel agent to translator, and at least in Asia and Eastern Europe I have found sym cards and data as cheap as 5 USD for 5 gigs of data on a 3G network. Unlocked Smartphones are cheap and finding them is easy so if you don’t have one or would like to pick one up I would recommend looking into making the purchase at your destination.
News Flash…The best places on in the world are not on TripAdvisor! Local knowledge will take you off the grid and back again. Locals will help you with where to go and where NOT to. Which do you think is more important. How do you do this?? Just engage with the locals, don’t be afraid. Just keep in mind that you are an Ambassador for your country so act accordingly. In every country I’ve visited, I found locals to be the best in helping me navigate. Currently I’m in Turkey and lets face it, I don’t look local so its pretty often people approach me about where I’m heading or where I have been. I find this a perfect time to pull out the map show them where I’ve been and where I intend to go. There’s a certain confidence that only comes with heading to a destination knowing that a local recommended it. Be confident.
Know your Destination
By this I mean your fly in destination, not your motorcycling travel destination. Do a quick internet search for local motorcycle shops and position your accommodation so you can access them without expensive transportation costs. You are very likely to get more than a few hits but keep in mind the other smaller shops that and may not have a website or do not have it set up correctly. Just plan to visit these smaller shops after you talk to the bigger ones. Personally, I like to do business with the little guy because I feel like I get better service and negotiation goes quicker, but it all comes down to who has the best bike for the right price. It doesn’t hurt to let them know you are talking to more than one shop. I’ve found a good segway to do this is by asking the question, “I was just at XYZ shop, what do you offer that they don’t”?
Contact the Shop
Its been my experience that making contact with the shop is essential for planning what you will need. Some places require a cash deposit while other shops may want to keep your passport for the duration of the rental. Certain shops will accept credit cards but charge a 3-5 percent fee. I ask what the prices are for the bikes but I don not negotiate over email or on the phone. I do make it very clear what I’m planning to do with the motorcycle as much as I can. Here is the basic email I send.
“Hello fellow rider! I’m really looking forward to exploring your country on two wheels. What bikes do you currently offer? Do you offer third party insurance? If so, what does it cover? Will I be able to get a helmet, jacket…etc from you as well? How much are the bikes? What type of payment methods do you accept? I have an international motorcycle license but are there any license restrictions I should know about? I would like to have a bike that I can ride both on road and off. My schedule is xx-xx. I’m looking forward to hearing back, Thanks!”
Protip – Often you can exchange money into the local currency at the airport of your destination for little to no fee. Having cash with you, or getting rid of other currency you would no longer need may be a way to save by not paying a international exchange fee charged by most credit cards.
Visit the Shops
This is one of my favorite steps in the process! Hanging out with other motorcycle enthusiasts, talking about motorcycles, exchanging ride stories, how amazing is that!! There may be some language barrier but don’t let it stop you. Smile, and use your map to help describe your plan. Best of all, get input from the owner on great locations! I like to make a checklist of things to look at on the bike, it helps keep me from missing something with all of the distractions. This is by no means an all inclusive list, its just a few things to help you make your own list. Also, this is a perfect time to ask about any gear you may need and try it on. Does it meet your standards? Look around the shop. Is the shop well kept? Take a few minutes to look at the general condition of the bikes. Look at the tires, brakes, mirrors and lights. If you have identified a bike that you like talk to the owner about a test ride. Start the bike. How easily does it start? Before its warmed up look for exhaust smoke. Listen to the engine as it warms up. Do you hear any valve noise or anything out of the ordinary? Ride the bike, how does it feel? Do you fit on the bike? The biggest deal breaker for me is a motorcycle that leaks. I’m not going anywhere on that machine, and if the owner has a few leaky bikes I question whether I want to do business with them. Remember, when you leave the shop on their bike you may inherit the last renters damage so take your time and snoop around the bikes, its worth a few minutes!
This is not a “how-to” on negotiation its rather a, “don’t forget.” Last thing I want to do is show up back at the shop and get charged a huge fee for riding the bike on a gravel road, so with that I try to be as transparent with my route intentions as possible. I also try to view this from the standpoint of the owner, so asking for a bike with brand new tires and brakes may be a pipe dream but its still worth asking. Don’t plan to get everything you ask for but always start off at the top. If the price seems high and they are not willing to come down try to include things like transportation to and from the shop or helmet and jacket for free. If the bike is an older dirt bike have them include tubes for the front and rear tires as well as a throttle and clutch cable. Normally you can get these at no cost unless you use them. Any special instructions MUST to be written on the contract or invoice. For Example; “Deposit to be payed back in USD” or whatever special terms you negotiate…get it in writing! When you pic up the bike take photos of the motorcycle in front of the shop as a record of any existing scratches or damage.
Protip – If you do have a flat or need to use a spare part given to you by the shop, find a replacement on your own before you get back. The price will likely be cheaper than what the shop will charge you, and you will replenish your spares.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the upfront and friendly nature of most shops and owners worldwide. So far my experiences have been remarkable with everyone having kept their word every time and receiving quality machines with no surprises. When I rent a bike I take care of it like it was my own and I haven’t had any major problems yet. Be confident that if you do have a problem, someone will be there to help and it just may turn out to be the best story of the trip! ADV ON!
Special Thanks to the shops who have provided me with TOP QUALITY bikes so far!! Click HERE to see recommended shops.
Here is a short video showing my motorcycle trip through Cambodia. Cambodia is an interesting place and when I left I only thought about when I would return. For me, the sights, sounds and smells have all been terrific and terrible. To say its a lot to take in is an understatement. I’m blown away by seeing where they are today and knowing that only 35 years ago a massive genocide took place . This is a place of new beginnings. So new in fact that over 65 percent of the population in Cambodia is under 25 years of age. With the Temples of Angkor an interesting fusion of old and new brings people from around the world. Hopefully, those who travel here will have a fraction of the great experience I had. Meeting people “off the beaten path” has demonstrated to me again that people are generally good and some just as curious about me as I am about them. Cheers and ADV on!
Here is a quick video showing some highlights of my Vietnam Motorcycle trip. I really had a great time in Vietnam. The people were very inviting and helpful. The roads were beautiful and at times challenging. Cheers and ADV ON!
Rules seem to be an afterthought here in Vietnam. Just dont forget to park your scooter on the sidwalk!
I’ll spend the next 11 days riding in the Jungles of Northern Vietnam. While I’m out I’ll climb the highest mountain in Indochina and follow the China boarder staying with Tribes and meeting locals in small villages. Sounds like an adventure and its exactly what I came here for. Here are my first impressions of Vietnam so far, Enjoy.
I climbed in a van with about 10 other travelers to get a ride to my Hotel. I knew it was a little over an hour away and I was looking forward to the drive as it would be my first chance to view Vietnamese traffic in person. For those who were not aware, the Vietnamese don’t use stop signs and stop lights at all intersections, only for a very few. That means the bulk of the intersections have traffic flowing in all four directions constantly…its an amazing display of survival in motion. The only way I can describe these intersections is to liken them to hundreds of fish swimming down a river and in that river is a rock. Seemingly in unison all of the fish swim around the rock at the last possible second without breaking their fishy stride. Now take that and make the fish Scooters and the rock a cart pushed by an elderly blind man ringing a bell and you have a dumbed-down idea of Vietnam’s intersections. Its insanity personified, lets just leave it at that. I could take 5 more sentences to describe walking across the street but I’ll save you the time and just say its real life “FROGGER”, and you better not second guess your movements or its game over.
The average salary is 500 dollars a month here in Vietnam. Most people work several jobs or own a business. Those who own a business normally work out of the ground floor and live on the upper level. My favorite thing to do in a new place is to take a wander. No particular direction or destination, just wander. During my first wander I realized that the temperature was a few degrees short of melting glass and the humidity was making me almost feel claustrophobic. That, mixed with the sometimes overwhelming smells coming from, well, everywhere created an intoxicating cocktail with layers of the grotesque piled on top of the amazing with every whiff. Sounds terrible but its not. Its just different, turns out different suits me well. I bought a sweat towel with little penguins on it to help keep me looking like less of a sweaty mess, that helped.
After a few days I realized that EVERYTHING here happens on the streets. Eat on the street. Lounge on the street. Fabricate a custom house stove out of sheet metal…on the street. Just don’t forget to park you scooter on the sidewalk. With minimal intestinal distress I grew more and more comfortable trying different foods and beverages. I recently had eel with onions and mushrooms (I like eel anyway) and it was AMAZING!! There are fruit and vegetables galore which is a delightful treat. Walking along and you may notice a woman carving up a pineapple or other delicious fruits, most for sale for well under a dollar. Oh, and the cheapest beer I have found on draft is around 35 cents a glass. I figure I may get sick if I drink the water so I better stick to beer and bottled water, its the smart thing to do…right?
This is where over 90 million Vietnamese people call home. They host a broad spectrum of religions and cultural differences. The people here, as far as I can tell, seem to be pretty happy. I often see laughter, smiles and joking. They are also napping professionals which may go hand in hand with the heat. They feverishly work in the mornings and some find rest later in the heat of the day. You can see people moving a little slower, and seeking out the shady areas to sit and sell their goods. You may see a electric fan but you will more likely see a head cover or hand fan. Its their way of life and it seems pretty normal, at least on the surface. Its nice to observe another culture and try to understand its differences. In doing that you often find appreciation where you had before took something for granted. Definitely enjoying my time here in Vietnam so far.
When traveling to far off places its been my experience that sometimes planning too far ahead just may get you into trouble. With every new reservation made you are essentially adding another level to your house of cards. One small event could possibly have a serious impact to your travel plans….and your wallet. In the same regard if you visit a tourist destination that often fully books all accommodations you could be left out on the street. So, as with all things in life the challenge comes to create a balance between planning to much and not enough. Here’s one situation where I’m happy I didn’t have too much planned. This allowed me some flexibility in my solution.
Visiting my “brother from another mother” Eddie in Dumas, TX we agreed to meet at the Walmart and then he would lead me to his place. I stood in the doorway under the air curtain provided as the automatic doors would open. Then the doors would partially close then open again, as I continued to shiver. The Walmart greater was a small polite looking elderly woman. As she came over to me she shuffled her feet.
I tell you that to tell you this. That’s a story of one very uncomfortable day that I have told hundreds of times. Sure, there were many more good parts to that trip but lets face it, they just aren’t as funny. Eddie still tells me to this day I looked like frozen death when he showed up to that Dumas Walmart, thinking back I guess I felt like it too. Only took one cup of Hot Coco and I was right as rain. I guess for me there’s no good story on an easy road, that’s why its an Adventure. Oh, and I bought a heated vest too!