I never realized there could be a fear of feeling small, but as I was riding my light, barely-larger-than-a-moped, 1970s motorcycle through the towering, colossal Alp Mountain Range, my anxiety was rising. With each passing mile I was cursing myself for embarking on such an overwhelming feat; I was wishing I could have just been satisfied with lying on an overcrowded beach with a trashy magazine for a couple weeks instead.
I couldn’t help but think that whole “Getting there is half the fun!” adage was complete and utter bullshit. Whoever thought that one up had not been whipped around in a valley’s cross wind, overtaken on an incline by a roaring 18-wheeler, or ridden through icy cold rain and fog. Parking my motorcycle and taking my riding gear off at the end of the day was 100% of the fun.
This feeling of fear—and near hatred—for motorcycling was a new emotion for me. I had grown up riding dirt bikes around our farm. I had got my motorcycle license and bought my first road bike at 18. Riding had always given me such an exhilarating feeling of adventure and freedom. Over the years I had found myself in scary situations, but the feeling of fear quickly fled as my adrenaline subsided. So the first day I noticed my love of riding being replaced by loathing, I mourned as though I had just been dumped by my first love.
I had a sneaking suspicion this newfound fear was a result of a crash I had in the beginning of our road trip. On a wet, curvy, mountain road in the middle-of-nowhere Slovakia I went down and damaged more than just my bike’s front end; my confidence was shattered. This mood colored the lens in which I viewed the rest of the trip through.
The riding and emotional drain this trip had on me was more intense than I had ever expected. In the moment I could see and feel my shortcomings clearly, but overcoming them felt as impossible and daunting as the mountains themselves.
In the planning stages I knew it would be an adventure. But no one ever tells you that an adventure is not always fun. No one tells you that an adventure is a compilation of moments of misery, dread, pain, growth, beauty and strength. Embarking on an adventure means flexing and finding muscles you didn’t even know you had; it means realizing new ignorance and facing fears. Bravery is earned and the growing pains sting.
I had never quite felt so relieved as the moment I rode into our driveway at the end of our trip. Finishing the trip had taught me not only the importance of recognizing and challenging my fears, but also of the value of a big, powerful, touring motorcycle when crossing mountains.
Slovakia’s Tatra Mountain Range