Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Leaving It All Behind

A new client of the public relations firm that I work for has a really amazing story to share. Many of my clients do. But what really sticks out about adventurer Rene Cormier’s book, The University of Gravel Roads: Global Lessons From A Four-Year Motorcycle Adventure, is that it makes you want to hit the road and live out a dream.

Cormier sold his house and his possessions, quit his job, said goodbye to family and friends, and did what many people dream of but few actually do: Go on a global trip without setting a return date. At age 33 he left everything behind to see what the world has to offer. He drove off on his BMW motorcycle and didn’t return until logging 96,000 miles across 45 countries.  He chronicles his four and a half-year journey across the world by motorcycle in his book. 

Along the way he made many eye-opening, observations, experienced unique things with people in far off lands, and discovered universal truths about the world, life and himself.

I wish I had the courage to just dramatically change my life like he did. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to leave my wife and two kids behind and I don’t imagine I can rough it with them on board. Rene was a 33-year-old single man with no ties to anything or anyone. Though I can’t really just uproot the family, there is something romantic about simplifying one’s life, dumping what we own, and starting fresh, waking up each day in a new environment.

Of course the details of reality assault me as I try to imagine life on the road. What if my transportation breaks down? What if I get sick? How will I be able to afford being on the road for very long -- and what would I come back to after selling everything and quitting my job?

I guess the truth is most of us don’t do what Rene did out of fear, obligation, and other reasons. Few of us can surgically remove ourselves from the grid. Sure we’d like to make resolutions and change aspects of our lives, but few of us could just walk away from our life completely.

Still, I admire what he did and find his stories and photos alluring. He reminds me there is a world out there that is for the taking -- when I am ready. For today, I will seek to find the adventure that exists within the confines and restrictions of the reality I have agreed to live by.

The road warrior managed to complete his journey crash-free, though he did hit a deer, was shot at in the Utah desert (leaving a .22 caliber bullet in his bike), and escaped from gun-toting, corrupt border guards in Ethiopia. But he did not run into trouble where he expected  -- with banditos in Mexico, drug lords in Colombia, and the mafia in Russia.

The Canadian resident admits there were challenges during his journey. One such experience happened early on in Utah, when his bike was shot at. Another one happened at an Ethiopian checkpoint, where a drunken border guard, wearing only a wrap-around beach towel, insisted Cormier take a guard with him to the next town, ‘for safety reasons.’ “Drunk guards never make good travel companions,” says Cormier, who proceeded to race the BMW into the safety of the desert while the guard and his AK-47-wielding partner wobbled unsuccessfully after him. “They were looking for bribes,” says Cormier, ‘and I’m too cheap for that.”

The independent traveler reveals how he:
·         Felt lighter, freer once he got rid of everything he owned, leaving his life in the rare-view mirror.
·         Taught himself to make routine maintenance, repairs, and change dozens of flat tires.
·         Found love on the open road and married a woman he met on his trip.
·         Feels fortunate living the authentic travel experience that backpackers crave.
·         Discovers what is truly important after seeing the world on just $25 a day.
·         Navigated rough roads through foreign terrain, not knowing the language or the culture, traversing diverse landscapes through all kinds of weather.
·         Met many special people with unique stories to share.

In writing of how he held his bike together, he said: “An international collection of mismatched bolts held the plastic bodywork on, and where they were missing, the job was left to trusty but unsightly cable ties. One of the side panniers leaked and my dry bag repair in Iran had failed. The rubber handgrips had almost worn through and most zippers on my clothes, the luggage, and my tent did not work. The bullet hole repair in the tank had held fast, though, and the bike – still without a nickname – had made the journey without once leaving me mechanically stranded on the side of the road.”

“The motorcycle would be at home on dirt roads, highways, and trails,” writes Cormier. “It was faster than a bicycle, but not as hermetically sealed as a car. The limited carrying capacity forced the luggage down to its most basic elements, and any subsequent needs would be sorted out on the road with a healthy dollop of creativity.”

He was able to live out his dream of a crazy, half-planned, under-funded motorcycle expedition. As he puts it: “There was no longer a house that required a job to pay for it, and no longer a job that kept me booked 50 out of 52 weeks every year. I was left with a little bit of money and an extraordinary amount of time, my time, which was now open to be filled with whatever activities I wanted. It was like I had won a strange lottery, where each ticket cost $50,000, and I was the only one entered.”

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2012 ©

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