Numerous road trips and several thousand kilometres into motorcycling have made me realize the true essence of the old saying “life is a journey and not a destination”. And what better way to enjoy the journey than to go slow. As the billboards on the roads in the hills say on every turn “dheere chalne mein hi safar ka anand hai”.
When I started my solo travels on my motorcycle it basically meant planning destinations … one after another. The journey in between was not that important. I was just going from one place to another and all my time was spent worrying about reaching my next destination.
However, when I reminisced about my travels, the experiences along the way, the photographs I had taken while on the road, the people I had met at roadside tea shops, the bun omelettes and Maggi I had enjoyed and the views I had soaked in were what made the trips memorable. I realized that I could make the most of my travels just by adopting one simple principle, ride slow.
As always, the best lessons are learnt the hard way. I remember, once while on a particularly treacherous road leading to a beautiful mountain pass, I had a flat tyre. The nearest puncture repair shop happened to be in a village on the other side of the pass some 25 kms away. I had no option but to ride the virtually nonexistent road which wound up and down through a thick forest with mountain streams gushing by, beautiful flora and fauna and amazing views of the surrounding area.
They say the road has all the answers provided one listens, and for that, every turn has to be taken slowly
As I rode painstakingly slowly on a flat rear tyre, first up to the pass and then down to the nearest village, covering 25 kms in over two hours, I realized that I had enjoyed these 25 kms so much that it seemed no bother at all. The beauty of the surroundings kept me so engrossed that the two hours just flew by. Luckily for me, the tyre and the tube did not get damaged beyond repair and I could continue my journey after getting the puncture fixed.
So as my motorcycling journey grew kilometre by kilometre. I started to stop more often along the way not bothering to reach the intended destination early or late. The road and the time I spent on it is what I looked forward to. They say the road has all the answers provided one listens, and for that, every turn has to be taken slowly. Every stretch of the road has to be enjoyed and every moment of the journey lived though. It does not matter whether you are on a week-long trip or on a weekend ride. It is the experience which counts and to prolong the experience one has to take it slow.
Mountain roads have to be enjoyed from one curve to another and as in the journey of life, they are the most interesting part of the road as it winds up and down mountains and valleys.
Now I like to travel solo on my motorcycle and there are several benefits of travelling solo. The most important one of all is that one does not have to keep up with or wait for anyone. That simply means that you can set your own pace and enjoy the journey the way you want. More so, I must also confess that travelling long distances on a motorcycle is not the most comfortable way to do so, especially for one’s backside. So, the more frequent the stops, the better it is.
Mountain roads have to be enjoyed from one curve to another and as in the journey of life, they are the most interesting part of the road as it winds up and down mountains and valleys. Every turn brings with it a new perspective on the landscape. Where the mountain was the subject of the frame a curve before, a river takes its place, soon to be replaced by a valley or another mountain and so on.
In order to take it all in and enjoy the landscape completely it is necessary to slow down on every turn. The same analogy can be applied to life. The turns in life are where things get interesting and give you an opportunity to see and appreciate life. If we make them in haste we will miss out on a wholesome perspective of life.
Interestingly, even the physics of how a motorcycle makes a turn easily requires it to slow down. You see a motorcycle turns by tilting towards the inside of the turn which is done by pushing the handlebar towards the opposite side to the turn. It is called counter steering. When a motorcycle rider applies the brakes to slow down, the front suspension of the motorcycle contracts thereby making the wheelbase smaller, which in turn assists in turning the motorcycle easily by reducing the turning radius.
I also believe in motorcycle therapy and riding along mountain roads, especially when the roads are not the ones taken by many, it is akin to meditation. There is a sense of calmness that comes over you and you become part of the whole. As Robert M. Pirsig has aptly put it “driving a car is watching a movie, riding a motorcycle is like starring in one”.
Meditation essentially implies slowing down one’s thoughts so that the mind can become more focused to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state of mind. Isn’t that what all of us want? Well, the solution is simple…slow down.
Now I won’t say that there is no fun in speed. The popular saying goes “If everything is under control then you are not going fast enough”. There is nothing wrong in speeding through the boring parts of the journey just to make things more interesting as I have done many times on bland straight highways in Rajasthan, but then the discretion to slow down when one should is what is difficult to achieve.
“You can speed up your life if you want to that’s easy. Winding down is what’s hard”.
Living in these tumultuous times with our lives moving at breakneck speed, moving from one destination to another, without paying attention to the journey, we are indeed losing out on the true essence of living a complete life. Having learnt my lesson riding a motorcycle on beautiful hill roads I can share the experience for others to know too.
In the present days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been heartbreaking not being able to go on motorcycle rides to my beloved mountains. However, the lesson of going slow has helped me get through and give everyone an opportunity to learn this all-important lesson.
“Slow down and enjoy life. It is not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”