Dealing with pre-trip anxiety
Okay. So you’re getting increasingly further out of your comfort zone. Time for departure is approaching fast, it simply feels o-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-i-n-g. Jacking it all in, packing up and just taking off IS scary. Initially, it can feel that way. One of the biggest trepidations can be relinquishing the safety blanket of your sheltered happy life: stable job, long-standing friends, loving family, everything you’ve ever known—all comfortingly familiar to you. There are no two ways about it: it’s a huge upheaval to be uprooted, if not torn out of a life you know inside out and invariably like.
The hardest part
For us, the hardest decision was to decide to go. It wasn’t selling everything down to a few boxes going into a friend’s spare storage. We were selling up anyway (to buy rental property); once we had, we felt lighter, free from the trappings of our assets owning us, having almost become a slave to our own success. Nor was it jacking in our jobs. Neither representing appealing ways in which to define ourselves. The clock’s always ticking and no one in the winter of their days is ever going to wish they had spent more time in the office. I salute those, however, that do love their job.
Motivations and new aspirations
The pre-trip nerves I experienced beforehand were challenging at times but manageable, just by the prospect of the unknown had to be better than feeling constantly bound by my old Blighty bubble. Nothing new. Our home in the UK represented an insignificant dot on a monumental map, and we’d lived out all of our aspirations there long enough. Luckily, we both wanted to diversify by making a change and decided on a big one.
Admittedly, the day I rode away from my mother’s doorstep was stressful. I was worried about dropping my laden bike on the motorway, somersaulting the bike at some stage and breaking my neck or simply not enjoying the nomadic lifestyle on two wheels for months on end. None of those have happened.
Satisfying beyond measure
Gloriously, once we got on the road and settled in after a couple of weeks: in a developing country; living out of two panniers and a roll bag; riding a motorcycle as my sole mode of transport; being a new rider; having virtually no experience on the dirt; and suddenly having to be with one’s “marvellous other” constantly!—we began to learn the ropes of living nomadically. All my pre-trip fears and undue worries dissipated. Mostly unfounded concerns that mattered little and less compared to the enormity of the freedom bestowed upon us.
Superbly, travelling on two wheels gravitates many people to you. Time and time again, we meet some of the most incredible folks and have experienced things beyond our wildest imaginations. Without realizing, our mindsets about the world rapidly began to change, and increasingly for the better.
There’s a whole world out there where 99 per cent of people we encounter are good, decent souls. Just like you and me. With a lick of common sense, bike security and personal safety have never been an issue from the southernmost tip of Argentina to Prudhoe Bay at the top of Alaska. Really. When we don’t get a good vibe about a place, we keep going until we do. And incredibly, complete strangers will bend over backward to help you when you most need it, more often than not. You’ll be amazed and may not believe it until it happens to you.
If or when you’re feeling nervous or scared out of your wits or both, I can only urge you to plow through your current feelings, try to compartmentalize them, knowing that once you’ve been on the road for a while, you’ll start to relax. Get into it. Start to relish the feeling of not knowing who you’re going to meet, what you’re going to experience, where you’ll finish at the end of every new day.
Travelling is totally liberating, and doing so under your own steam is empowering. To simply be able to govern your own lives, with total autonomy is for us, about as thrilling as it gets. You won’t return as your former selves, you’ll become the best versions of you.
Going solo or not
If you’re going solo—the greatest respect to you if you are—you will undoubtedly become a problem solver guru. Adapt quickly. Immerse in the language as much as the culture around you. Make fast friends en route and harness the feeling of vulnerability, which often breeds exhilaration and serendipity. Some of the best times on the trip were because things didn’t go according to plan.
Of course the same can happen with a travelling partner(s) although you’ll have each other to: problem solve; contribute differently based on your individual strengths and interests; pool resources; live out the adventure ahead side-by-side, and share in all those phenomenal firsts. You will also have to consider that person/the others during decision-making, which can be frustrating if compromise continually comes at a cost to your personal contentment. (Here’s my article on riding as a couple.)
Nothing to lose, everything to gain
You’ve done the career-oriented, frenetic-paced, conventional living and worked darn hard. Inject that energy into getting out there to take the bull by its horns. You might not be terribly confident now, but trust me, travelling is easy. It’s not an elitist thing, takes no unique strengths or skill set—anyone can do it. It’s all an attitude of mind.
Overplanning is counter-productive
One of the best tips I received before the trip was to avoid planning too much, getting bogged down with things that may never happen, potential future events out of my control: if researching, planning, analyzing and budgeting for the trip becomes too difficult, spirals out of control and insurmountable, then stop. Just breathe. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll be fine.
Finally, IF you loathe life on the road after a few months, then know there’s always a get-out option. Go home. No big deal. You have nothing to prove to anyone, and there’s no shame in trying something and not liking it. Do what makes you happy but don’t let fear immobilize you before you’ve even left. That’s just daft.
Sincerely, I hope something here will help you to glean a more positive perspective—it is scary but stay on it, it will be beyond worth it. Trust me and just go!