Like most articles on this website, this one is meant to organize my own thoughts.
When I see Sarath Shenoy riding the Raid de Himalaya, or getting to influence the development of a motorcycle, or travel the entire country by two wheels, I sometimes question my own life choices.
When I see Candida Louis flying from one end of the world to another, experiencing different motorcycles in different cultures with different people, I get a bit envious.
When I read the books of Sam Manicom, watch Africa go by through his eyes, feel what he felt in Australia, see what he saw in Asia, I feel that there is no reason why I shouldn’t be doing what he has done.
Many of you may have had similar thoughts about similar people, it’s part of the human condition to want what we don’t have, and ignore what we do. My position, however, is of one who has attempted to live such a life, and failed. This article explains how I made peace with my relatively boring existence, how I started enjoying the simplicity of everyday life, and how I started appreciating people who sacrifice so much to live a life of adventure.
Before we begin, it’s important to point out that even though I’m not the wild self I used to be, my life isn’t exactly a walk in the park. I travel quite often, almost every weekend, but I’ve started focusing more on what Alastair calls micro-adventures. My life is quite a bit more adventurous than an average human, but here I’m talking specifically about the big boys of the traveling world.
Travel isn’t glamorous
Too many people, especially young, have this huge misconception that travel is all about selfies, chilling by blue waters, and trying every variety of beer known to man. The reality of the situation is far from being this sexy.
The time spent during a long motorcycle journey can be divided into following components:
- 20% is spent being worried if you took a wrong turn somewhere, if you will make it to your destination before sunset, or if you’ll find some decent food on the way that’ll not give you explosive diarrhea
- 20% is spent with your balls frozen, or your blood boiling away, being generally uncomfortable and asking yourself why the fuck did I do this
- 10% is spent hunting a cheap hotel with safe bike parking, followed by undressing, followed by unpacking, followed by cleaning dead bodies off your helmet visor
- 1% is the time spent enjoying breathtaking locations, speaking to locals, chilling
- 49% is for putting on your gear, packing and loading the fucking bags in the morning
People think that traveling is stress free, that if they could only get out of that meeting with the client and hit the open road, life would be so much better. What they don’t realize is that life on your motorcycle is much more stressful than life at your desk.
When you get stressed at your job, it could be about your boss giving you an impossible deadline, or the client shouting at you for crashing his server, or the HR spitting in your face for being dressed improperly.
When you get stressed on the road, it’s because you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with a bent rim and burst tire, or that you suddenly find yourself in thick fog at night while riding the mountains and almost fly off a cliff, or that you get happy about getting a cheap hotel with safe parking only to realize later you are sleeping in a brothel.
More importantly, you get paid to be stressed at your job, you spend money to be stressed on the road.
You don’t know the full story
This is one of the reasons why most “professional” travelers irritate me, all you see on their social media feeds are their fashionable clothes, amazing views, and bleached assholes. What you don’t see are the dirty undergarments, the snot filled handkerchiefs, or the boots that smell like a homeless guy ejaculating into a bucket of vomit next to a sewage treatment plant.
It’s quite obvious why everything you see online is disturbingly positive, the selfies against snow covered mountains, the pictures of breathtaking views, and the poses with superbikes with tits mashed together are little more than our delusional selves forcing us to believe that life is better than it really is.
My own profiles are filled with pictures of one natural wonder after another, what you don’t see is how much goddamn money I spend to get there, or the hilariously shit job that pays for all this travel.
I work as an insurance claims manager. My day is equal parts asking people who can barely speak any English to repeat what they just said, calling insurance companies to get an update only to be told to call back next week, and photocopying random stuff. My engineering degree has no value here, my IT experience is useless, my marketing experience is not needed, my writing skills are irrelevant, my photography skills are irrelevant, everything that I have done in the last 28 years has no connection to what I’m doing now.
Why don’t I put up a Facebook post every day about how intellectually sad my day was? Because I don’t, because we don’t do that, nobody does that. We all understand that life is one awkward groan between birth and death, and we’ve decided to ignore that fact all our lives.
The problem is these people who actually pretend like their life is NOT shit, and the bigger problem is these other people who believe them. The first kind of people set these unrealistic standards about how a life should be, and the second kind then compare their lives to the first kind and moonwalk into depression.
Are there people who have great jobs, travel like a ninja, and rarely ever face any real problems in their lives? No. This species of humans doesn’t exist, everyone is fucked no matter how much money you have, how many miles you do a year, how many likes you get on your pictures.
The next time you look at some video of some dude racing on his S1000RR through the highways of Germany, or some girl sailing across the world on a luxury yacht, or some popular instagrammer getting a billion likes on a picture of a single pubic hair, remember that all of their lives are exactly the same level of shit as yours, they are just slightly better at fooling themselves and you.
On the other side of the bridge, there are people like Sachin Nair and Rohit Upadhyay. All you see on their profiles are good pictures, nice locations, and big adventures, what you don’t see are the sacrifices made behind the scenes, compromises made along the way, and the sheer amount of planned risk that goes into living a life like them.
Sachin has worked in Accenture since the last 10 years. He saves like a squirrel, networks like a router, and plans like Sherlock Holmes. I can’t do any of those things, I refuse to save, I don’t like meeting people, and I love chaos. His Facebook posts contain no trace of these qualities, why? Because nobody cares. He had a baby a few months ago, for a lot of people that would mean the death of motorcycling life. That tit has now bought a 1000cc bike. Do people care how he does it? No. All they look at are how many kilometers he’s done, or the bikes he’s ridden, or how many people he knows.
Who is at fault if someone is envious of Sachin Nair’s life?
Rohit Upadhyay saved up money after working onsite in IT. Me and my wife have saved about 10,000 pounds in the last 1 year of working in the UK. The difference between us and Rohit is that he was willing to spend a large part of his savings on travel. I am not, most people are not. What do you see in his social media posts? Smiles, beautiful locations, and Rajnigandha. He is actually one of the more open travelers I know of, sharing trip costs, bad moments, and mistakes. But the problem is people would rather ask you how many countries you’ve been to than how many times you had to spend a night shivering inside a tent.
Who is at fault if someone is envious of Rohit Upadhyay’s life?
Life is like a rubber band made of shit. You can stretch it in different directions to increase the amount of shit in some areas, while leaving others less shitty, but the total amount of shit remains the same.
There is little money to be made
I have mentioned this a number of times, travel, at least in India, is like burning yourself like a candle to light up your life. You spend your own money to go on trips, work hard to maintain your social media profiles, write, vlog, sell yourself, and what you get in the end is riding gear manufacturers from Pakistan emailing about bulk-order third copies of Alpinestars gloves.
I have published my earnings reports in the past, I haven’t done it in a while because there is nothing to report. I had a full-time job in 2017, so I didn’t bother with this website. Why give a shit if you are making 10 times the money? However, even when I was completely focused on RiderZone, money was something that never came my way.
It is possible that my methods are wrong. There definitely appear to be a lot of people making a good living off the internet. I think part of the problem is India, you get next to nothing for a click on an advertisement, 1000 times next to nothing is just slightly next to nothing. Most of these internet celebrities are not in India.
The other part is that your earnings also depend on how much you are willing to compromise. It’s not difficult to create a click-bait post, nor is it difficult to get sponsored something with a promise to give a positive review.
More importantly, it’s a shitload of work if you want to be popular online as a traveler. You gotta travel, write, create videos, engage with people on social media channels, and then some. It’s a 24 by 7 task, think of new ideas, execute, see if they work and then do it all over again. You need to be ambitious, cunning, quick on your feet, neither of which I am. If I was, it would have made much more sense to invest that energy elsewhere, live like a king, and travel just for fun.
The future is uncertain
Stability is something I have only come to recognize in the past 1 year, before that it did not exist in my universe. As a married man, that isn’t a good thing. It’s fun for a teenager to be unstable, for a 28 year old man it’s a medical condition.
When I began RiderZone, there was no such thing as Motovlogging. Nowadays it’s bigger and more popular than what I do. I hate Motovlogging, and I hate video editing just a tiny bit less. If I want to survive in today’s market, I must do what I hate.
Trends change in a matter of months. It’s nearly impossible that you would be able to keep up with them all. What happens when you lag behind? You make less money, which means less money to travel, which means less things to talk about, and the cycle continues. It’s fickle, transient, impossible to predict, and when the train leaves the station, you better be on it.
Read Sam Manicom’s books, especially Tortillas to Totems, and understand what that sort of uncertainty looks like. It takes a special kind of person to live with that uncertainty, not everyone can compromise the way he did, for a lot of people the entire point of travel would be lost if they had to travel like Sam.
It is also important to understand that there is such a thing as too much travel. There have been times when I didn’t even want to look at my bike, much less ride it. If it’s your job, there is no choice, and it’s hard to describe the feeling of disgust at being “forced” to ride your bike.
I have said these things before as well, in more or less the same words. The difference now is that I’m talking from the point of view of an outsider. I am no longer dependent on the world of travel for my living, I can see it from outside, and I have seen what’s within.