The Freedom to Ride
Many people planning to ride around the world on their motorcycles assume the journey will toughen them up. It will be difficult, maybe even extremely hard. It will test them to their absolute limits – an expedition of a lifetime!
But once they set out, most travelers soon realize the ride isn’t really about being tough or hardy. Sure, there are challenges on the way. Border crossings and bad weather, breakdowns and moody police officers, rainy seasons, and landslides – all of that is part of life on the road.
But there’s a lot more to it. Seeing so many cultures and ways of living teaches empathy and compassion. Talking to people from different countries, traditions, and walks of life gives an insight into the simple fact that we’re all just the same, whether we’re New York stockbrokers, indigenous Caribbean lobster divers, or saddle makers from the Ecuadorian Andes.
A long motorcycle journey also teaches a lot about freedom. Freedom to ride is the freedom to be one with the world.
But to me, freedom is also a lot about gratitude. I’ll never forget a short episode in the suburbs of Havana, Cuba, where my partner Paul and I stayed at a local casa particular – a family homestay. Alina and Jorge, our hosts, were curious about me and my country: three decades ago, Lithuania was still part of the Soviet Union, and we lived under a totalitarian regime very similar to the Castro one in Cuba.
“What was it like when you finally regained independence? How long did it take to recover?” - Alina asked me anxiously. She had a rare and precious treasure in Cuba: a Spanish passport, allowing her to travel anywhere she pleased and visited her daughter living with relatives in Miami. However, her husband, senor Jorge, could not leave for the longest time: to travel, Cubans had to apply to the government for special permits. No permit, no leaving. Needless to say, very few Cubans ever got those permits.
“But you don’t need travel permits anymore – they got rid of the permit system a few years back. Why don’t you go see your daughter and the US or Europe? Now that you’re free to travel?” - I asked Jorge.
“I can’t leave Cuba. The prison is now in my head, you see?” - Jorge said quietly.
This is exactly what my own father had told me years ago. Much like Cubans, Lithuanians could not cross the border into the West unless they were members of the Communist Party or official diplomats. My dad was neither, so instead, he taught me to travel in books, and we’d trace Silk Road expedition routes on old maps, pore over Jules Verne’s books, and join Amundsen and Livingstone’s voyages in my grandfather’s old German atlases.
When the Soviet Union fell and borders finally opened in the ’90s, I couldn’t wait to leave – but for my dad, it was already too late.
Freedom can be about little things, like wearing what you want or listening to the music you want. It can be about big things, like the freedom of speech, movement, and will. The freedom to ride a motorcycle around the world is probably the most delicious form of it.
But for me, gratitude for that freedom is a key component that makes it even more exhilarating. If you’ve ever broken a leg, you know how overwhelming the sense of freedom can be once you start walking without crutches again. After spending weeks in a hospital bed, going out into the sun, and getting an ice cream feels like glorious liberty. Having lived in an Orwellian world, however briefly, the freedom to ride the world feels nothing short of revolutionary.
So let’s make it count.
About the Author
Egle is a motorcycle journalist, writer, and adventure rider obsessed with remote off-road trails, obscure cultures and communities, and organic coffee. Egle edits Women ADV Riders, an online magazine and resource for female motorcycle travelers worldwide, and hopes to inspire more women to go out there and explore the world on two wheels.
Egle lead a special, women's only motorcycle tour for Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental here in Ecuador on October 4, 2019.
“Adventure travel is the biggest gift you can give to yourself as a rider and as a person. It’s an eye-opener, a massive confidence boost, and an incredible way to get to know the world” - Egle.