You've all heard it before, the comments coming from friends and family down the pub or wherever, who claim they are going to do 'this or that' one day. What actually is ‘this or that’ is anyone's guess. Most of the time, we convince ourselves that at some unspecific point in time, we will break free from the chains of normality so we can disappear into the sunset. Yet sooner or later, the realisation of what it takes to achieve this dream hits home – and we stumble at the first hurdle, because actually, the hardest part of ‘this or that’ is just getting to the start line.
I've always liked to travel, experience new things and be on the move, so I was well suited to the military and all the moving around it entailed.
After returning from my last tour in Afghanistan, I decided to settle down…. you know, do the things you're ‘supposed’ to be doing at 33 years old. Well, I tried to settle and embrace the 9-5 structure that keeps other people ticking along, but something inside was screaming at me. Ever since my exit from the army, I felt as though I was constantly battling some inner demons – they go by the name of Anxiety and Depression.
Trying to be the proud tough soldier, I didn't want to be labelled with anything and have to deal with the consequences of being told I had a ‘problem’. Later, my engagement ended with my partner, and so I started the process of living with friends and moving around a lot whilst self-medicating with a party lifestyle and the instant gratification of shallow attention from the opposite sex.
After disastrous attempts at finding a new relationship and telling myself that my job was great because it was easy, I decided I was in desperate need of a total shake up…something dramatic. I needed the old Aaron back. I knew it was going to take something big to restore me to the world.
A plan starts to form
I had been riding motorbikes for about two years at this point - not much time at all. And certainly not enough experience to go anywhere far, right? Well, sod it. I had this crazy idea in my head for about two months. One day I visited my parents and told them: “I'm going to ride a motorbike around the world. Oh and I'm going alone too.” That was my Yes moment! My dad's reaction was: “That's great son!” My mum's was: “Is that even possible?!”
I was certain it was possible. I heard other people had done it, so why can't I?!
A plan comes together...
I spent the next year or so planning the trip. Everything I did revolved around some element of the trip! I was throwing everything at it…saving money and selling many of my possessions – I thought to myself, “If I can't carry it on the bike, then it gets sold, and I will turn it into fuel money instead.”
The trip became the new focus I’d been searching for. My next mission, if you like. Sure, I still had some shit times. Mental issues don't just go away overnight but I was slowly learning to understand my issues and how to live with them manageably, so that I could still get excited and passionate for life, and the thought that revolved around my head most days, and often got me out of bed in the morning, was “I'm going to ride my motorbike around the world and nothing can stop me!”
The last couple of days before I left were unreal. I couldn't sleep because my anxiety was in overdrive. But when I looked in the mirror, I was beginning to recognise the face staring back at me. I was rock climbing almost daily, doing long distance assault courses, and I had stopped drinking - all these things meant I was feeling fit and strong again. But was I ready for the trip?
I don't think you're ever ready. You just have to go with it: cross that start line and embrace everything that comes your way. It's been just over a year on the road so far - right now, I am in Colombia, which is country twenty two and continent number four! I have made friends with people I will be connected to for the rest of my life, which is more than I can say about some of the friendships I was struggling with back home in England.
So where do I go from here? I still have a destination to get to: Ushuia, the most southerly town in the world. I am still making it up as I go and I'm grateful to be learning every day as new challenges present themselves. Motorcycle touring is my life now. I’ve gained so much self confidence, and am immensely proud of myself for making this happen, rather than being someone who daydreams about doing ‘this or that’.
I'm putting plans together for future trips and expeditions when I return to England. If you're reading this and have been chewing over an idea for a trip, lifestyle change, or perhaps a new business idea, then my advice is this: take some time, breathe, create some rough plans, and let the plans evolve as this can guide you towards taking the first step.
As cheesy as it sounds, just say Yes! I doubt you’ll regret it.