Ten years ago, around this time of year, I was hiking through the rugged northern B.C. terrain, keeping one eye on a bear in the distance while rooting through dirt along forested hillsides trying to find valuable morel mushrooms. I was mid-trip from Ontario to Alaska and desperately needed the money to continue travelling, and I wondered at the time if this was the best job I could get on such short notice. Over three months, I travelled 23,000 km from my home in Ontario to Alaska and back on my mom’s trusty steed: her Suzuki Gladius SFV650. Some long-time readers may remember the first article I ever wrote for Motorcycle Mojo was about this experience.
I was 18 at the time and I hadn’t saved much money. The trip was a risk, but I knew if I could do it smart and cheap, I would be able to make it happen. While I didn’t have much money, I had the drive – and that’s often all it takes. When my father and I first left our home in Ontario (he rode with me to the interior of B.C.), I didn’t think I’d be going to Alaska; I just wanted to ride west. We parted ways in Revelstoke, B.C., and I thought I’d stay there for most of the summer. After a few days, I realized I had to keep moving. I had my first taste of travel, and I liked it. The addiction had taken hold, so I packed up my bike and headed north.
Parting ways with my father stirred many emotions for me: I was proud as I felt his confidence in my ability, and I was sad because I would no longer have my favourite travel companion with me. And I was frightened, as this was the first time I was truly on my own. There were no wise words of advice or guidance during this part of my trip to ensure I was travelling right. I was alone.
The trip comprised a full spectrum of emotion and inspiration. All at once, the constant stream of experiences that I was thrust into ripped my world open. I went with the flow without hesitation. Each rotation of my wheels drove me to a new awareness, and I pushed aside fear for the desire to learn something new about the world and myself.
Hitting a deer in South Dakota, travelling on my own for the first time, making countless connections with strangers, motorcycle breakdowns, and so much more. I was on a fast-tracked course in life, new understandings and feelings were constant, and I experienced all of it without anyone else’s influence. This was tough at times, as I couldn’t share the moment with someone I loved, but the trip led to me finding my individuality.
Each place offered a new geological marvel; Every ounce of terrain was seen through fresh eyes. Each person I met offered words that I would keep with me in my helmet while riding, and I continued to learn. Experiencing unhindered interactions with people each time I would stop. Being able to listen is an incredible skill, whether it’s small talk or someone telling their life story. Whether people know it or not, they often offer much more than just words during their conversations.
I also remember a lot of fear and loneliness, often dissolved by the immense beauty of an area or by someone who reminded me how lucky I was to be able to do this. Still, those feelings are a very real part of travel, especially while solo. I remember thinking on some days how I wished I could just be home in a warm bed instead of sleeping on the ground beside a logging road. It would’ve just been easier to go home and call it quits, but every day I would get on my bike and, instead of going back, I would continue. I realized I had something to gain from this trip: experience, adventure and inspiration.
I never knew at the time how much that trip would influence my desire and passion for not only travelling but for improving my motorcycle skills as well. The Gladius is anything but an adventure bike, but somehow I found bliss by riding the rural logging road networks through Williams Lake–Prince George area. Not to mention being able to keep my bike upright when I accidently demolished that deer. I realized how transferable off-road skills are to all facets of riding, especially on long trips in rural areas where road conditions vary.
As I cut tiny brown mushrooms from the ground and looked over my shoulders for larger creatures, I never once thought that I was in the midst of a monumental moment in my life. Yet, ten years ago, I created a foundation of knowledge that would drive me to continue to travel and see the world by motorcycle as well as inspire me in every facet of my life.