Everyone has his or her own style, taste and thrills. Some motorcyclists travel solo, some travel 2up and others in groups, for various reasons. However, after being on the road for some time, meeting various travelers and following a number of blogs, I believe that one thing is common amongst all—at one point or another during the trip, everyone shares wonderful experiences with different people from across the globe. Following a couple of backpacking trips, I have noticed that travelling on a motorcycle amplifies the opportunities to meet people as well as to be invited by locals wanting to host you, which is great. I’ve connected, I’ve made friends and I have plenty of good memories, but is this always an easy going, wonderful experience? Hell NO.
This might be one of the challenges of long-‐term travel, especially when it is your first long trip and you’re still learning about what you can live with and what doesn’t work out for you. Besides this, if you’re travelling with a partner, it is even more challenging, as amidst of it all, you need to realign and find a balance between the wants and needs of both.
I am a wanderer, a free-‐spirit, and freedom is fundamental for my sanity. This is quite understandable, no? I left my home, my full-‐time job and a shedload of comforts back home to travel after all. Furthermore, I left on a trip at the back of a guy’s bike whom I had only known for a couple of weeks—so, adventure is a big drive for me. As much as I like and appreciate the people we come across, and as much as I embrace certain memories, I find myself in situations, where I simply feel like suffocating.
In certain countries more than others, being a traveler on a big bike turns you into an entertainer and an attraction for many. I get it – in some countries, there aren’t even bikes over 250cc on the road—Iran is one example, so it’s only natural for people to react, ask and get super interested.
What becomes irritating is, when people put you in certain situations, for their own benefit. I am referring to the notion that is present in certain societies, where being seen and additionally having a foreigner at your house somehow makes you look good or even superior. It is definitely a cultural thing, and in my opinion, it is unfortunate, that simply having white skin might give the impression of superiority, but when you are in the middle of it, it sucks even more.
The phone rings…and amongst the jargon of a language that I do not understand, I hear ‘world traveler’, I hear the name of a country, which most of the time is not where I come from, because most of the people do not know that tiny Malta exists and BAM—this is where I must prepare myself, to shake more hands, take more selfies and answer the same questions, even if I’m drained, dead tired or simply need some space.
I have to sit, drink, eat, sleep when my hosts decide I should, and I must be careful because I don’t know how to hide my emotions! If I express myself, I have to be very careful because due to language barriers, one thing might be understood completely wrong, and that’s when things get awkward.
Being a Woman in Different Cultures
And you know the worst part of it all? Being a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of being a woman, but all of this in a male-‐dominated environment makes my blood pressure explode a lot faster. We were invited for lunch once, and I was sitting with Daryl and the man of the family. The wife was only serving food, and that already made me upset. At one point, the guy looked at Daryl and asked him a direct question about me, like I am totally invisible whilst I was on the same table, trying to engage, very capable of answering.
Whilst dealing with all of this, I somehow still try to keep in mind that most probably, these people are unaware that they are making us uncomfortable. For them, allowing us time and space might be unacceptable, as we are their guests and they must entertain us, whilst for us, it is a need. Disregarding me as a woman might be natural for them, as the way that they were raised in society didn’t teach them otherwise. After all, whenever we ended up in situations like these, there were still moments that we enjoyed, where we learnt something new or simply experienced something that we couldn’t have found on our own.
So how can you take control of situations like these, without eradicating yourself from any type of interaction? It is not easy, and in reality, when you are approached by someone and you accept their invitation, it is always a risk. But like almost anything else in life, it is all about balance. First of all, if you’re not traveling solo, maintaining healthy communication with your travel partner is essential. Secondly, you have to learn how to find the balance to stick to your plans and stay comfortable whilst respecting and appreciating what these people have to offer. In the end, the way you travel is your choice and you have to figure out how often or how long can you handle such situations for yourself. One thing is for sure—crossing borders and facing all kinds of situations including some like these broaden your perspective about a lot of matters—including yourself.