Living the unexpected, seeing it and getting through

Prior and proper preparation prevents problems on an adventure tour. Let‘s look at the preparations from another point of view than just tyres, oil and motors. I asked doctor of medicine and season traveler Gudmundur Björnsson at the Touratech Travel Event 2017. The subject of his lecture was  „The real adventure travelling psychology“.

Like with every sport or activity there is also the psychological side to be considered. Take Golf as a sport, for example. Golf is 90% psychology and 10% mechanics. I have thought about this subject a lot. Nothing similar seems to have been done before, at least not that I could find on internet. So, as a seasoned traveller myself, I consider this an important aspect for the motorcyclist to think about. The first topic of my lecture is anxiety and fear. Anxiety can be defined as a fear of the unknown.  You might get butterflies in your stomach because you don‘t know what‘s going on. This is an anxiety of the unexpected. Fear is more like being confronted with a real threat. For example, if you are suddenly confronted by a large bear and fall off your bike in fright. In this case, you are in a situation where you are physically threatened or your life might be at stake. This creates an intense feeling of fear. Fear increases your heartbeat and makes you sweat. You are ready for survival. Once your adrenalin is up and you are in survival mode; you will breath faster, can run twice as fast, you can lift a car.

I have had interviews with a couple of seasoned travellers. The question is, “How to prepare for the unexpected?”. The answer is plain and simple: “You cannot prepare for everything!” I have made a list of what you should prioritize. The main priority is the practical things like the bike, visas, permits and whatever you need to be able to do the trip. You choose a route that is safe. Those are the practical things. Another practical measure would be to attend a course to learn how to fix a bike or change a tyre. These are necessary skills to prepare you for some of the most common things that might happen on your journey. First aid is important too. For example, you need to know what to do and what medical equipment you should have if somebody breaks a bone.

Another important subject is how to interact with people from different cultures. All road travellers are bound to interact with locals during their journey. It is very important to respect the local culture, religion and customs. You need to travel without prejudice. It doesn’t matter how the locals behave and what they do, if they fart or burp at the table, it‘s o.k., it‘s their country. Just say yes and do the same. As the saying goes, ’When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. Another thing I recommend is to take off your helmet when you stop somewhere. It‘s very rude to talk to somebody with your helmet on, even at a gas station. Take your helmet off and smile!  This facilitates immediate communication. Approach people and, when you are sure it‘s not dangerous, shake their hand. Introduce yourself and ask them questions. Even if you are unable to speak their language, use a kind of signal language. Ask them about themselves, their name, their life. If you do this, you will really get to know the people and your journey will become a real adventure.

If you start an adventure-tour it is likely that you will get into an unexpected situation at some time. Getting yourself out of that situation safely and continuing your journey.  – That is what adventure travelling is all about. If everything goes smoothly it is not an adventure.

The real adventure is, “Living the unexpected, seeing it and getting through. Solving problems. You have to rely on yourself. You become a stronger person”.

“There are no problems, just solutions waiting to happen!” Pat Parelli.

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