When you travel long distance - will you travel fast or slow?
Season 6: Project Alaska16 April 2022
"It's about the journey, not the destination". This is a great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that definitely has some ring to it. But I guess I'm the type of person that really likes setting a goal, or in this case a destination. Right now, my goal is to ride to Alaska. I'm trying to see and experience as much as I can along the way, but I like keeping a destination in mind. Something to aim for. Knowing that I'm getting closer to that goal, each kilometer that I ride my motorcycle, makes me feel happier and more excited. Every single kilometer, no matter how exciting or boring, is an accomplishment. Not having a goal makes me feel like I’m aimlessly riding around.
Sometimes, I do make detours where I end up riding 180 degrees in the opposite direction of my goal. And I've realized that I'm okay with that, but only for a limited amount of time. As soon as I'm heading in the 'right' direction again, it instantly gives me that feeling of excitement again.
Fast or slow traveler
People travel differently. My best friend likes to travel slow, she spends months in one country, or even in one place to really get to know it. Others like to visit the same area for a few weeks every year again. Some try to set a record and circumnavigate the world as fast as they can. I think I am somewhere in between, but definitely on the 'fast travel' side of the spectrum. And I've been a fast traveler for as long as I can remember. The name 'Itchy boots' doesn't come from anywhere. I have always had itchy feet, a never ending wanderlust. When I was backpacking around the world, many years ago, I would stay two nights, maybe three, in one place at the most, and then I'd move on. Always hungry for the next adventure. Always wondering what is around the next corner. And well, not much has changed since then, except that I now travel on a motorcycle.
Often I think, I'm tired, I'm going to spend a week in this place to rest and enjoy it. But after one day, I miss riding my motorcycle. And after a day or two, that restless feeling starts to kick in. Riding my motorcycle all day, while moving closer towards my goal, simply makes me the happiest. Staying in one place doesn't.
Nevertheless, I receive complaints that I travel too fast and miss out on a lot of great things. They often come from those living in the country that I have traveled through. I realize that even though the way I travel makes perfect sense to me, it may not be for others. I think it might be a good idea to share with you my considerations regarding the choices I have to make when it comes to long distance, long term travel. How I make the most of it while running a YouTube channel at the same time. And things to consider when you are thinking of doing something similar.
Seasons to travel
One of the most important things to consider when you are doing a long-distance journey, like from Patagonia to Alaska, are the seasons. Unless you want to convert your motorcycle into a snowmobile, both Patagonia and Alaska are off-limits for most of the year. Alaska especially. There is only a brief window of about two months in which you can ride a motorcycle without freezing your limbs off or plowing through meters of snow. For Patagonia, it's a similar story. That means, that if you want to ride Patagonia in the summer, and you also want to be in Alaska during summertime, you'll either have to ride all the Americas in 6 months ór 1,5 years. Extending your trip for a few months just isn’t possible in this case. If you want to slow down, it means your journey will have to be a full year longer. And let's not forget that Canada, and large parts of the USA have long winters too.
Besides escaping winter, I've also had to escape rainy seasons. Southern Africa or Central America are good examples of where it's important to keep an eye on the season that you are in. Riding every day in the pouring rain gets old very quickly. Roads can become impassable, there may be floods, your stuff starts smelling and won't get dry, and forget about trying to make videos of your travels when it pours with rain all the time. It's just not fun. Make sure to get out of there in time!
Sometimes, the authorities of a country will determine the length of your stay in that country for you. It can happen that you are only granted a short visa, or even only a transit visa, and that will determine how fast you will be moving through that country. For Turkmenistan, for example, I got a short transit visa, and they even told me exactly which route I had to follow. I wasn't allowed to stray off that route or spend more time in the country traveling independently. On top of that, you'll have to enter the country at a specific date in cases like these too, which determines how fast you will be traveling through the previous country.
Since the pandemic, many countries have specific Covid rules. You often have to register online before you are allowed to cross the border and in the case of Nicaragua, you'll have to register a week in advance and cross on the date that you've selected. In my case, I had some technical issues and the combination of those issues and the border requirements resulted in seeing less of Costa Rica than I had planned.
Traveling with your own vehicle, like a motorcycle, means that you are going to spend a lot of your time looking after your machine. From experience, I know that it's not always easy to plan maintenance at exactly the correct mileage when you are constantly moving and riding in foreign countries. Depending on the motorcycle that you ride, it can also be a huge mission to find spare parts exactly when you need them. And if you want to travel light, you simply can't carry too many parts with you.
In Season 1, I spent months carrying around a spare front tire and a spare rear tire because I worried I wouldn't be able to find the right tire. It was once, but never again, that I would carry all that extra weight around for thousands of kilometers! On the other hand, all the time you spend riding around searching for workshops, making phone calls, or doing detours to find a good motorcycle mechanic, you can't spend it on sightseeing.
Running a YouTube Channel
I choose to make my travel videos while I am on the road. Another option is that I would complete my Patagonia - Alaska journey first, and then edit and release the videos. But I enjoy sharing my experiences with you and taking everybody with me while I am on the road myself. The downside is that I spend more than 50% of my time in a country, sitting in guesthouse rooms behind my computer, editing my videos. Fifty percent of the time! Imagine how much more I could see and experience if I wouldn't be creating videos, but then I wouldn’t be able to make a living like this either.
Always leave something for next time
It's okay not to have ridden every road and seen every sight. I think you should always leave something for next time! Now that I am riding through Central America, I'm glad that ten years ago, when I backpacked here, I was also a fast traveler. That means that I have left enough places unvisited, which I am now thoroughly enjoying in round two. And I'll make sure, there will be enough left to see and do, in order to come back for another time. Maybe in another ten years!
The most important thing to keep in mind, whether you are a slow traveler or a fast traveler, is to find the right pace of traveling that works best for you. A pace that makes you happy and enjoying your journey to the max!
There's a word that describes a rare feeling of being "swept away" by a wonderful experience. I love riding windy roads, leaning into turns, loving the experience. Then I watch one of your many videos where you're riding through majestic, incredible places, then here comes the beautiful music and I am swept away. Am I just simple or have I (all of us) come across a grand "Maestro"? You time the scenes and music perfectly and make wonderful sound track choices. Perhaps revery is a fair term. The design of old cathedrals in Europe and a few here in the US were meant to do a similar thing when music fills the space. Powerful stuff. Then there's the cathedral of the world (our planet and its people) you pass through Noraly, that you share with us to enjoy and learn. Count me as a member of your quire, please. You tell us you spend a lot of time creating video episodes. That's hard to hear, and I understand. But please know you are appreciated, respected and (I believe) loved for what you do. As for speed of travel and having an objective: Weather and travel conditions are variables to factor in. Watching you pick your way over washed out passes, roaring water over a concrete pad you're crossing on foot!! Mud of all descriptions. Riding wet, rocky drainages hoping you're not lost. Time for drama music! As you head north I hope you make "good time," as you choose to define that term. I hope you find passable routes that are still interesting, yet safe and not too difficult. The last few episodes have been rough going. A long journey north awaits and this is a coolish year, i.e. not as hot as last year. I am a recent viewer (Dot, see below) has bugged me for years to watch Itch Boots. I gave in a month ago, then discovered binge watching. Ha. My wonderful wife has put up with me. I wonder if someone will write a book about you (modern day heroin) and your travels. Stay safe, have fun. Bob, Puget Sound
Hi Noraly, my husband and I are really enjoying your journies....journey.... been a fan since season 1! Totally get your wanderlust and practice of staying 1 -3 days at a place. We follow that practice on our explorations as well...knowing we may be missing some excellent sights/experiences but ok with that as our boots are pretty 'itchy' too. We are simpatico in that! Keep up the truly excellent work...and we know there's a lot of work involved to get these videos and blogs out!
Charley was funny grouching about how "some people' put out three videos a week and he does one. And like you say, others put out videos long after the adventure is over. Your way keeps the adventure more in the moment, even though they are somewhat delayed.
Your way keeps it real and that is obviously successful for you. You ride not only the bike, but also you are driving the story by interacting with the audience sincerely and by being yourself, not trying to be someone you aren't.
And, as it turns out, who you are is interesting, exciting, attractive, funny, daring, and creative. SO just keep being you!
(do I say that too much? I think I do ; ^)
Seems you've found the perfect balance between experiencing travel for yourself and travel vlogging for us. Although, I'd say you favor us a bit with the time you dedicate to making such high quality content for us to enjoy. Even this blog post shows the great attention and detail you give to all your content, highlighting travel speeds with a photo of a gentleman traveling by horseback along side of you and Alaska on a vlogging ride. Worth every YouTube/Instagram click, merch purchase, and $ sent in support of you and the moto journeys you take us along on.
Hi Noraly! I've been watching your videos since the beginning. Your blog about travelling fast or slow is very timely. I have been wondering if you are going to run out of time trying to get to Alaska and doing Alaska and British Columbia justice on your videos. It seems to me that you spend one day travelling and then one day sitting making videos. Three videos a week. Correct me if I am wrong but it seems like you average around 300 kilometers a day. Some days 200 km and some days 400 km. It seems like you are doing around 1,000 km a week. Right now you are in San Salvador. Hopefully you are actually far more north than that and your videos are behind a bit time wise. What I am worried about is you are going to run out of time. I live near Vancouver B.C. There is so much to see in British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska. Every year I drive my motorcycle from Vancouver up to the Yukon. It is 4,400 kilometers round trip if you stick to the main highways. If you travel the back roads like you do it will be 3,500 kms one way. At your speed that will take almost a month. Then you will be still 1,400 kms from Fairbanks and another 1000 kms from Prudhoe Bay back to Fairbanks if you don't take any side trips. So it might take you up to two months at your current pace to do from Vancouver to Alaska. You are going to do a minimum of 3,000 km in the United States if you go relatively straight and you are probably 5,000 km from the U.S. border right now. It all adds up to another 14,000 km from where you are now to reach the end. The trip is going to take 14- 16 more weeks at least at 1,000 km per week. If everything goes to plan you will be hitting the end of the road mid August which is about perfect weather wise. I look forward to seeing your next videos. Ride safe!
Thank you Noraly for sharing your philosophy on how you travel. What you do and how you do it is amazing to me. You and others on you tube have encouraged me to not stop traveling on my motorcycle. I was wondering if I should stop because of my age and health but you and others encourged me to go on and not give in to old age and health issues. So I am finding ways to keep going and so far I think it is working. Such things as a lighter bike and changing my eating habits have helped a lot. So keep on keeping on. Happy Trails!
Thankfully we are all a little different and we can and do change. How boring it would be if we were all the same. Please continue with your adventures and sharing with us. I have no doubt that right now this is your job. In my own travels just keeping a simple log book was hard to do everyday.
I'm glad to see Alaska getting some TLC. Having a reliable bike helps with the travels.
I'm wondering, when it's time to leave the state of Alaska, will you be coming back to the states, going to Canada, going home? Maybe it's too early to know, but I can't wait to see what happens.
Sorry to double comment but, being able to edit my comments has spoiled me and I didn't know I can't do that here. As far as "make a living like this" is concerned, I look for what motivates people to do what they do. Jimmy "Duck" Holmes was a a blues musician that inherited the Blue Front Cafe. He made his living running and playing at that Bentonia, Mississippi juke joint. It was easy to see he didn't do it for the money, better ways to get money than coming to a little run down shack every day. When someone asked why he did it he said, "If you have something you can share, that's an honor." He changed the way people felt by sharing his music. I suspect Itchy Boots realizes that when she shares by example the idea that you can get more out of life if you put more in, she does change the way people feel. Most of the people aren't going to travel the world but, I'm bound to believe there are people that are inspired to do more because they see her do more. I'd say that's making a life but, if you have to follow the money...
It's an idea I stole from Dr Robert Holden and I'll quote him badly but, happiness doesn't need a reason, only an opportunity. Is that feeling of happiness, extreme joy, there because a person has a roosterkoek at the top of Ouberg Pass? I don't think so. I think that was an opportunity that was magical in so many ways. I love seeing it but, can it be planned? Can Noraly and Savanna repeat it exactly with the same feeling? If you are able to recognize your opportunities and appreciate them when they come you have an advantage but, all of the planning doesn't make the moments happen. Someone gave me the idea that the key to unhappiness is unmet expectation. Plant an expectation, reap a disappointment. That is a trap you have to watch out for when you plan.
You constantly amaze me! You are fearless, knowledgeable, adventurous, kind, resourceful, etc., etc. You have provided endless entertainment with your videos and motivation to get out on a motorcycle. I'm 66 years old and have done very little riding over the years. However, my son left his Suzuki SV650 with me to sell since he is now working in Tanzania with a children's organization. So far, it hasn't sold, so I get to ride it. I usually ride alone. I like the feel of freedom it gives me.
I hope you stay safe on your travels. Keep posting your amazing videos.
I understand exactly what you are feeling and how you travel. I grew up in a military family and moving to a new base every couple of years was normal. I enjoyed it very much because I was always looking forward to what was new, what would I see along the way from the car window. I kept travelling and moving after high school and college. I had the travel bug! The work I did for 25 years put me on the road. Which is part of why I chose it. I flew a lot, for years, but eventually would choose to drive most of the time. I LOVE being on the road. I would often take roads and trails I had not taken before. Now I have driven through every state in the U.S. except North Dakota and Alaska. I guess I am a bit fast traveler and slightly slower traveler. I like having goals of where I am going, too. I think one difference is that when I find a place, usually a spot in the wild or an archaeological site, that I want to explore, I can spend a full day, sometimes two, exploring but that’s about it and then it’s time to roll again. I find that so many amazing things happen on the way to the goal. Amazing sites and discoveries. I love that! In the end, there is a good feeling I get from knowing I have had these experiences. It adds to the breadth of who you are, if you let the experiences happen and let some of everywhere you go become a part of you.
You've got the right mix for you and us. Looks like any good R&R for you is slim on your journey north. It's amazing to view a Noraly work day and over the years a few looks at your life behind the computer editing. The weather here on the east side of the Rocky Mountains is cool, warm, snow, cool, rain and repeat and no record spring snow yet. Last was close to sixty inches of snow in about a 24 hour period. Looking forward what you have planned.
Take care, stay safe, have fun and your in my prayers.
Noraly, your travel through the America’s has been a great challenge, yet a rewarding adventure! I enjoy your fast paced mindset that takes us to rare geological events and then onward to communities of kind and caring people. I am anxiously awaiting your route through the Continental USA as you head toward Canada and onward to Alaska. Thank you for sharing each episode with us! Ride safe!
Noraly; I watch everything. With all your water travel ,you should be receiving your merchant marine certificate shortly. You will probably need that in Alaska. Like you I love the ride but need a place to go. Heading to Alaska myself on June 26. No time table for the trip. Plenty to see . It will be interesting to see your choices for the USA, for all you do “thank you “ you are leading a million people. Be safe.
I think you and i are very similar in this, a great example where i saw myself in you was the moment you got to the most southern point of the Americas to really start the trip.
It was a road to basically nowhere and you head to track back and when you got there you made a picture and you said "Okay, let's move on".
When i see it it's in my memory, sometimes i like to take a little longer to take in the view but i don't need days.
I only have my vacations for trips and in the 3 weeks per trip i stay 1, maybe 2 places a night extra and the video's for the blog's about the trip will come in the weeks after.
In July i set off to North Cape and when i get back i start working on moving to South Africa and when i get it worked out i will ride to my new home from the Netherlands in probably the same manor but maybe then with some more extra stay days to keep the blog going. That trip will take a few months i guess.
Today i went on a ride with another Dutch YouTube solo traveller, Pedro Mota.
As a former videographer/editor (way back in my youth), I can appreciate the effort that you take to shoot and edit the tales of your travels. Bravo for doing such an outstanding job while on the road! Your stories are entertaining, educational, and provide a unique perspective while exploring and interacting with the locals.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoy each of your episodes. Beep your horn “hello” for us if you pass through Central Texas!
As you are fond of saying Alaska took a real beating in the last few weeks but after the service she is restored to as good as new!
Hi Noraly, your preferred way of travelling gives people like me a chance to see sights I did not know existed, even in my home country South Africa. Please don't stop or change anything, everything is perfect.
Praying you stay safe and healthy.
Lots of love
Hi Noraly. Pleased you were able to get Alaska a full Service, You can travel now with a easier conscience, and enjoy the Adventure your having. It's what goes on in the background that people don't see or appreciate that makes your video's so special.keep up the good work, and stay safe.
Hi Noraly. The YouTube channel is one of a kind. Years ago web pages were the medium such as Hubert Kriegel's http://thetimelessride.com and motorcycle world travelers struggled to support themselves. Today YouTube has replaced photos and text in a blog and ItchyBoots does it best.
In some of the live chats video session we learned you often don't know where you will be the next day much less the next week. So I was happy to read about the two month window in Alaska. I am told if you get there in early July it is just before the bug season start.
Looking forward watching the channel and the route you choose to get through Mexico, US and Canada on your way to Alaska.
Hi Noraly thanks for the blog. Love your YouTube channel. Just a thought on your Double Take mirrors I was surprised that your left side one broke the way it did. I wonder if you had it adjusted to tight they are designed to fold up on impact thus the importance not to over tighten. Hope you kept the right side one because the mirrors you replaced them with will break most likely on your next tipover and you know by now it is coming. Any how safe travels and keep the videos coming our way we love you.
I would like to be there when you take the bike in for maintenance. They are used to people riding maybe on weekends to 2 to 3 times a week. Mechanic asks "How did the mirror break?" "Oh - the kick stand gave way because it was welded weakly after it broke crossing the Darien Gap in a small boat." Then you explain you are glad to be back on the road again after barely getting out of Peru during a lockdown.
You put more miles on that Honda in a week than most people do in months. If Honda was on top of it they would be in contact with you and set regular free maintenance stops. Your actual experiences do more to sell Hondas than all the honey coated ad agency words in the world. They should show a photo of you covered with mud after riding through mud and dust with the exhausted look of someone who has picked up Alaska 3 times after riding 300 kilometers.
regards - john
I've seen channels where they ride a lot and then stop for extended periods and edit and I think your way is far better. Even though we know that there is a lag for logistics and security we still live with the sense we are watching your adventures in real time. I also don't think I could stand it if your videos came out all at once because I would binge watch them and then be let waiting for months for the next series. It's hard enough waiting 2-3 days for the next one, I couldn't stand 2-3 months :D
Love watching, be safe,
Thank you very much for sharing your considerations which I totally understand and agree for the most part. Yes, more than once I had the thought that I am a much slower traveller every now and then. Sometimes your pace even seemed like being on an escape to me. ;-) Guess that´s what will make the difference when I finally get to realize my project for which I thank you for being my biggest inspiration and ambitious example amongst others (you know their names). Diving into this workflow I already see how much work is involved but more than 50% of your time? Wow, the pice for being top class. Have a nice Easter!
Some would think it a waste if they didn’t visit every church or every festival or every motorcycle shop along the way. Some would only ride in good weather. Some would take a picture at every “Welcome to” border sign. And some would take great strides through the landscape to appreciate the earth at a normally impossible scale.
I might spend a few days at each place, but that’s assuming the places are consistently more interesting than the ride. Face it, many places are built to be tasted rather than savored. Noraly experiences many things outside of my world, and that can make her fascinating. That she is so determined to share it with us is our privilege, and I thank her for it.
I agree with and understand the Emerson quote, but you won't have much of a journey to enrich your life with, without a goal and destination to aim for. Sometimes though, I find that I can't define my goal or put it into words. I have to continue the journey anyway and hope for some kind of kairos to appear. And when it does, I have to grab it and enjoy the time and place where it happens.