5 lessons I learnt the hard way: NATHAN millward
Nathan Millward is one of our favourite adventurers. He first caught our eye when we stumbled across footage of him riding across the Himalayas in a pair of Converse whilst having a mental break down into his helmet camera. He rides with his heart on his sleeve and we've been fans ever since. Nathan has ridden the world on a Honda CT110 with a max speed of 40mph. In 2009 he spent 9 months riding heart broken from Sydney to London, then three years later, still not satisfied, he flew the bike to New York on a whim and started a Forest Gump like quest to find 'the end of the road'. He's an esteemed author in the adventure motorcycle world and now works as a motorcycle journalist. We checked in with Nathan for five pearls of wisdom learnt the hard way on the road...
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1. WE ARE ALL THE SAME
When I set out on my journey across the world I'd never had that much interaction with people of different cultures and ways of life before. It meant that I was distrusting and apprehensive about interacting with the local people at the start of the trip. Over time I came to realise this was a stupid, naive way to travel. The road forced me to open up and engage with different people. These guys were working on the Karakorum Highway in Northern Pakistan. The road was blocked because of a landslide and I had to stop and wait for it to be cleared. They coudn't speak my language and I couldn't speak theirs, but you come to realise that it doesn't matter too much because you can still interact and share the moment. They explained through gestures that they worked repairing the road and lived in tent communities further down the mountain. My fondest memories about these guys is that despite the conditions they were working in, and the wages they were probably earning, they all seemed incredibly happy and content. Once the road re-opened they waved me on my way.
2. you can run, but you cant hide
At the start of my journey I never could have anticipated such massive shifts of emotions that I would experience throughout, from complete contentment to absolute despair. It took me a while to accept that these adventures are as much something to endure as they are to enjoy. But for me it's this that makes them worth doing. Probably half of the problem is that when you embark on these adventures you think you can leave all of your problems behind; that you can be free of them, and when you get to where you're going you can start again with a clean slate, cured of all your ills. Sadly it doesn't seem to work like that and whilst movement can help keep you happy - or distracted - it's when you have to stop or get to the end of the trip that it all catches up with you again, like being chased by a pack of dogs. It's then that you realise that adventures like these are never the solution to your problems and if anything only serve to compound them. The dilemma is that it can become easier to just keep on travelling rather than stopping to take care of your problems first. It can become a vicious cycle.
3. trust in the angels and the fairies
At the start of the trip I met a lady at a tourist information centre in the Australian mining town of Mt. Isa, she told me that if I was ever in trouble then I was to ask the angels and fairies for help, and that they would come. I doubted this for a while but over time came to realise she was right, and that whenever I thought I was in trouble, alone or stuck, someone would appear as if by magic to help. This time it was Swiss biker Sascha who helped me fix a puncture at the top of a mountain in India, but there were many others, such as the old man on the Indonesian island of Sumatra who seemed to appear from nowhere and helped me get my bike going when it refused to start. Good people play a crucial part in your journey, so much that you come to accept that it's not by fluke that you come across these people, or that these people are particularly special or unique. They're just people, with the reality being that many people on this planet would stop and help in such circumstances, especially in the developing world where there doesn't seem the same level of apprehension about helping people in need. My travels have certainly taught me to put my trust in the people of the world, knowing that the vast majority of them are good.
4. TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Patience is virtue, and its one of the hardest lessons I had to learn. When you set out you struggle to cope with difficult situations like border crossings or ferry docks. After a while you realise you can't change anything by getting angry or impatient. You just have to chill out and let things happen in their own time, which they always seem to do. It does take a while to get used to this way of thinking, at least it did for me. I remember at the ferry dock at the top of Indonesia, trying to get a vehicle ferry across the Strait of Malacca to Malaysia. I got to the docks on the next but last day of my visa only to be told there were no vehicle ferries to Malaysia. I wanted to give up and go home there and then but rode back into town to catch my breath before returning with the docks with the determination, and patience, to find someone with a boat who could take my bike to Malaysia. A few hours of going from one man to the next - asking if they could help - I was finally introduced to a man who could take the bike on his cargo boat and I had to sail on the passenger ferry without it. That was definitely a test of patience and trust. Equally, when trying to leave Kazakhstan the boarder guards wanted $200 before they would let me on my way. I had the money in a money belt but I thought, 'no way am I giving it to these guys,' so I told them no and for the next four hours was led from one office to another, being asked again and again for the money but still politely saying no. After those four hours they finally got bored and let me on my way. Patience paid off on that instance. Getting mad would undoubtedly have made things worse.
5. it's okay to be alone
I spent so much time alone on my trips, but if I'm honest, it was this time alone that I enjoyed the most. When you're on your own you can live life exactly how you want. You can ride when you want, stop when you want, and I don't think I could or would have done this trip with anyone else. Riding alone I'd sing to myself, talk to myself, talk to the bike, meet people, stop to take photographs, make friends at hostels in places such as India, Thailand and Pakistan. What I disliked the most was when I had to stop and wait for documentation and visas and such like. I had over a month in Delhi for example, waiting for the documentation to come through for China. That was when I felt most lonely and alone. I would meet people, but they they would move on and I'd be left on my own again. And I think you can feel lonelier with other people around than you can when you're on your own. This night in Kazakhstan, sleeping in the steppe, I was completely alone, no one around for miles, and I loved it. I was completely alive and in the moment. I didn't feel any hint of loneliness, possibly solitude, but I loved solitude. It's probably what I miss the most when I'm not travelling. Solitude can also bring out the best in you. It can make you feel the most alive.
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