Read that title closely. It doesn’t say “making” time, it says “marking.” In the military there is a drill movement called “mark time,” which is really just a precise way of walking in place. Movement without going anywhere. Most of the world is marking time right now due to shelter-in-place orders putting many people at home.
Everyone handles it differently. Some people are cleaning out the garage, some are compulsively shopping online, some people are going out of their minds. You can only read so much: you can only do anything so much. For Kate and I the main changes are for Kate. I work from home already but Kate is finishing up her degree from home now, like many others.
If anything it is a trial run for having to spend a lot of time together. Our apartment is small but it’s a lot bigger than a sidecar or a tent. The best thing we have going for us on that front is that both of us know that no matter how much we prepare, we are going to have days where we just don’t get along. How many times can I ask Kate to stop in at some airplane museum and how many times can she ask me to peruse the goods at an apothecary?
Besides being two different people there are going to be long days on the road, heat, cold and rain, broken tent zippers, closed roads, and any number of unforeseen delays. That will wear down a solo traveler over time, and people who share a travel experience have to flex even more with someone else around.
When you imagine the glorious sunsets or the roads that snake along through a river valley, remember there are also flat tires and rainsuits that blow out a seam. Glorious nights listening to the river flow by and the crickets chirping will have wind-whipped nights that batter the tent or muggy nights with thousands of insects attacking the tent like rain.
You can know what you’re signing up for, but not know what you’re signing up for, sure. More helpful though is knowing who you are and what you want. If you know those things, it really doesn’t matter what you’re signing up for: the world comes to you. I can’t say I’m at that level of enlightenment, but without a doubt I know what I want: I want to explore this country to a depth you just can’t find at a TA Travel Center on the side of the interstate.
I also know I don’t want to spend those 5-6 months without Kate, and that I was smart/lucky enough to find a partner that also wants to travel. She may not be a vagabond like me (she appreciates having a garden and creating a welcoming space to come home to) but she is an explorer. Partly it’s natural enthusiasm and curiosity, but I’ve seen people motivated in that way and Kate is a step above that.
Curious people just like to learn and exploring is a means to that end. People who adventure are after the experience, and the lessons learned from that experience are one of many rewards, with the means and end being the adventure itself.
I don’t know how Kate sees herself but to my eyes I see her landing in between those two descriptions. She doesn’t want to deal with the discomfort of living out of a saddlebag but she takes to it naturally and without complaint. She won’t live on gas station food like me but also has the ability to make a four-star meal out of leftovers using a campfire and a single pan.
If we get lucky then Kate will push me to eat better, be more inquisitive and compassionate to other people’s situation, while I push her out of her comfort zone and show her that being uncomfortable has more to do with mindset than the weather. I’ve always been a solo traveler, only running with a crew for short weekend-trips or when going to a rally or other type of gathering. Riding with Kate these past few years has taught me a lot though.
Usually it’s the road that gives me the lessons. Perhaps it’s a chance encounter with someone at a youth hostel or a one of those crazy road-poets working at a gas station, surprising me with some wisdom. You haven’t met one yet?!! You gotta get out there more. It’s like finding a hidden bonus area in a video game. Just trying to get some jerky and a pack of smokes and you’re walking out a half-hour later with a new outlook on life. The road is a crazy place.
Anyway, the point I was making is that having Kate along gives me little mini-lessons. Having to hammer down the I-5 in 100-degree weather with her on the back taught me attitude in the face of adversity. I’ve been hotter, I’ve been in worse wind, and I’ve been in far more danger, but sharing it with her taught me about managing emotions.
I just get angry and attack anything in the way; real things like threats but also things like hot air trying to sap my energy. But much as old airplanes would break apart in rough weather because they were so rigid, I learned that having some flex and give could actually be better. Modern aircraft bend against force and yet you rarely hear them creak while in their air.
Taking some time at a fuel stop to check in with your emotions and de-stress (or grab an ice cream sandwich) can get you home 15-minutes later, but not nearly as road-worn and battle-fatigued compared to just doing the iron-man thing.
But hey, I’ve prattled on long enough, mainly because there is nothing trip-related to update you on. Revisiting our budget put us $1,600 short on our trip so we need to dive back in and see what numbers we can change around. We can always shorten the trip but the goal is to find a way to finance the adventure and do it the way we want. We prefer campsites and friend’s couches to fancy hotels so this trip shouldn’t feel insurmountable or like it will leave us debt ridden.
The main thing is to just move forward, step-by-step, until we’re on the road. Then keep going, step-by-step, until we’ve seen what we want to see and can pronounce our journey complete. Then, onto the next journey.