The End of the World Trip
We spent the last 144 days living out of two back packs. The motorcycles we rode carried us 13,500 miles across Latin America traversing 11 countries. We might have taken a wrong turn, but who’s to be certain.
Trouble rang from the Honda’s motor as we came to a stop. We had only traveled 20 miles since the last professional full service, things didn’t make sense. Yet, even after some tinkering and a couple starts we could tell damage had been done. It sounded like the sleeve had somehow become loose in the cylinder. Using the ol’ rope-tow especial, we made our way back into the busy city of Cusco to track down the man who had last touched our moto. After two additional days in the shop, the mechanic admitted to us. Originally, he thought it was odd one bike took a whole liter of oil more; even though we had two of the same bike. Suspecting engine damage, the Honda shop neglected liability stating they never touched the engine. We speculate they knew they screwed up and did their best to squeeze themselves out of it; ha! English speaking gringos.
Our breakdown in Guatemala was suffocating. Yet, outside of Cusco, Peru, realization of “the end” didn’t sting so bad. Something had changed in us. We had become immune to the ill-fortunes and stressful absurds that seemed to have become a regularity. Time had slowed down and our needs & dreams had changed. To be honest, after our central American troubles, we hadn’t expected to make it as far as we did. Since landing in Colombia, over eight weeks had passed consisting of “Wind-Time” specked by lomo saltido lunches, afternoon showers, and a variety of mattresses. It was one of the most beautifully visceral experiences of our lives. Every day was a gift and privilege. We met so many people that would never get the opportunity to leave of their town, let alone, country or continent.
Now, we are back in Des Moines, Iowa and feel a bit defeated by the eight hours it took to fly home. Five months of adventure fueled struggle was reversed by an eight-hour ride in a climate-controlled lounge chair with service. Culture shock had noticeable effects linguistically, culturally, and socially. Our reintroduction to American society seems familiar yet altered, almost like looking through a “lens”. We are so far away, yet, we still feel close to the people there.
Some have asked us what the purpose was, what we gained? Honestly, we’ve had difficulty equating and explaining this question. Adventures such as ours take a lot from a person. There is no monetary, or physical gain, only loss. However, we feel this “lens” is the inherent side effect. The “lens” is a derived perspective from our experience. It was created through our involvement and is irreversible. It is the result of being consumed by a different way of life and, for us, has created a different, fuller picture of the world in which we live. On the bikes, we were immersed in a world of Spanish influence driven by determined survivors. It was a place of deep history, in some areas bloody. Yet, everyone we met encouraged our dream. Our final 4000 miles were driven in remote areas resulting in some particularly unique encounters and experiences. We have been shaped by these moments, our perspectives forever altered. Our world and their world are incomparable. Yet, the people living in these two worlds are the same. We have shared hopes and dreams, yet, there is much divide in our ways of life. Our serendipitous experience in the United States begins to feel like an injustice, desperately needing reckoning.
Life here is easy, there is relatively no struggle for existence. This sharply contrasts what we’ve been apart of for the last five months. Here, our sewage systems accept toilet paper and work, electrical grids are sufficient and provide power, clean water comes out of the tap, there is hot water, soap and toilet paper are readily available in bathrooms, anything you need you can buy or order online, roads are open and not closed by landslides, we have washing machines and dryers, people have jobs, road rules are real, hospitals and healthcare are available (even though unaffordable), public school systems exist, we live in houses, there is air conditioning and heating, you don’t get diarrhea when you eat lettuce, this list could fill up two more pages. Why would our experience lead us to believe our fortunes in the USA are an injustice?
It is true America did things right. Thanks to generations before us, now we live beautiful easy lives. Our new-found reality taught us life can be, and is, quite different. Des Moines, Iowa is a lucky place to grow up. Nonetheless, we are not entitled to this life, but are privileged we get to live it. It was by luck we each ended up here, we did nothing but take our first breaths. The injustice lies in the fact that we are a privileged people, yet, we are not making this happen all by ourselves. The world is becoming a global society and we are positioned as the top 1%. We have everything we need right here, anything we want, yet nothing is made in the United States. From toys, to food, electronics, to building materials, cars, to everything, most anything we use is imported. We get these items at low cost and pay for them with jobs that don’t produce sellable goods. Where is our money really coming from? Beings that we are buying everything abroad, where is the money going? We didn’t see the billions of dollars we know are funneling into these countries yearly.
The answer lays corruption. The average minimum monthly salary in the countries we crossed was $300/month. That’s $1.87/hour or $3,600.00/year. The following is an example of American power and how corruption works: Just before we entered Honduras there was a presidential election. The incumbent was put in place through a fraudulent voting process in 2012, but the President was a good trading ally to the United States ($10 billion/year). Honduras is the poorest country in Central America and life there is tough. Last year, a new potential leader had the support of the people and he intended on making real changes. In the final hours of the election process, while the favorite maintained a great majority, media across the country crashed. When it returned “somehow” most the remaining votes went to the incumbent, barely securing the majority. The president was immediately endorsed by the USA, which other major powers followed, terminating the small voices of the Honduran people needing change. What ensued was weeks of protest, burning tires on the highways. The Honduran military combated the resistance by killing over 30 protesting citizens. Overall, it was a good move for the United States. It keeps our cost of goods low and gets us what we need.
Our point is this, we already have far more than we need. We live a privilege a majority of the world will never experience. However, our privilege is contingent on the repression of others. This happens on such a grand scale our daily actions go on unknowingly regardless of the abuse we are initiating. The problem is our growing neglect of the realization of a global society and our role, as Americans, in it. With great privilege comes greater responsibility.
If America wants to survive to give our children’s children an equal experience, we need a great awakening. We possess the power to enact world changing policies. It starts on an individual basis. Self-examination of our priorities, a release of our material obsessiveness, attentiveness to relationship with our world, a responsibility of full understanding of the power of our politics, a search for truth. From here we can develop personal dogmas which relationship with others should reinforce. It is the beginning of societal change, the moving into a global society.
Seth and I have mixed emotions about our place in the world. We have seen more than most, yet, its been at a cost. The effects of our experience make us less-suitable for generic American structure. Our established dogmas make it difficult to enlist in our nations societal pretenses. We know what humans are capable of, if only, they had the motivation.
For now, we are back in Des Moines, Iowa. We own a construction business and sell labor-based services, self-preforming the building and altering of homes and businesses. We live in a 1978 Mallard camper that we fixed up after evicting the raccoons and squirrels. Everything we need to thrive is in a 250 sqft. box on wheels. Our hands are used to create real products which we sell and use to maintain a lifestyle. We are so lucky to have what we have.
As for our motorcycles, it was a lengthy ordeal. One bike runs, the other doesn’t. This was a problem for us in Cusco, nearly 1000 miles from any exporting city. Finding a carrier in Cusco, we were able to ship the bad motorcycle to Lima. Together we rode over 700 miles sharing one bike. This was the most difficult/dangerous riding of our trip, complete with a couple near death experiences. Arriving in Lima, we found shipping the bikes home to be extremely expensive. So, we opted to store them in Peru, suspending our vehicle permits for one year… We hope to make it back, to finish our ride to the end of the world, in January 2019. Unfortunately, we were out of money, and the weather was turning on us. Our best option was to come home and start working. We had only 4000 miles left, approximately one month of travel. Not once during our trip did we feel unsafe or threatened by other humans.
We drove over the “dividing lines” across “nations”, and now we’re here to tell you they don’t exist. Nothing changes, they are not different worlds. They are just suffering people in OUR world. The sooner we realize the lines are make believe, the sooner we can save ourselves. Because of our connectedness, their failure is our failure. Their success is our success. Getting behind this thinking is the key to the future.
We owe a big thank you to all who have supported World Riders Foundation. Our sponsors, our friends and family, strangers home and along the way; if it wasn’t for you, would not have made it as far as we did. Your desire to help make changes in our world gave us motivation and perseverance. You are the salt of the earth. Together we can be the light.
Miles Rode: 13,151 Dollars donated: 13,054