The Elephant In The Room

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It wasn’t as though anyone came up to me and said they didn’t think it was relevant. But when I told people I was doing a presentation on the subject of anxiety and adventure and another on riding across historic British Columbia, they usually said they’d come to the latter.

Horizons Unlimited CanWest 2014 in beautiful Nakusp, British Columbia was truly an inspiring gathering of overland motorcyclists and average guys who like to ride from all over British Columbia, Washington State and Alberta. The presentations that I enjoyed featured life-changing journeys such as that experienced by fellow writer Liz Jansen, filmmaking extraordinare by the likes of Alex Chacon and challenging motorcycle adventures such as the month Alexander Conrad spent riding across Russia.

But the one I presented first thing on Day 1 was sparsely attended. Maybe 30 were in the audience. When I wrapped up at the end there were no questions. I thanked everybody politely. And then I was approached.

Several people would come up to me afterwards to speak about their experience with motorcycle travel and anxiety…about their fears of wildlife, travel in remote places, fear of really big bikes and having to pick them up again. It was then, I realized, I might have struck a nerve here.

I had made it clear during the presentation that I’m not a counselor or psychologist, but that I hoped to breach the subject, tell of a few strategies I’d developed and talk a little about what anxiety is (we all have it, some have more of a tendency towards being anxious than others). I also wanted to discuss the strategies of motorcyclists with much more experience than I, such as Dom Giles and Sam Manicom who helped me with their experience, before opening up the floor to how anxiety and adventure do connect in (surprisingly, perhaps) many ways.

The very nature of adventure is doing something that is unsafe, risky. Risk involves getting out of our comfort zones. Would there be any point in going on a motorcycle journey if we could find out, in some clairvoyant way, that we would get home unchanged and unscathed on the other side of it?

The bottom line is: we all need anxiety. Anxiety is a survival mechanism. Without it we’d be riding motorcycles over cliffs just to see what it was like. But a problem arises when anxiety keeps us from doing the things we want to do…

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Author: Trevor Marc Hughes

Trevor Marc Hughes is an author and travel writer. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife and two sons. He rides a Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle. If he can help it, he doesn't ride his motorcycle in Vancouver; he takes it out of town, where he enjoys exploring the province of B.C. and beyond, and writing about his adventures. He has written for magazines such as Canadian Biker, Rider, Motorcycle Mojo, Inside Motorcycles, and RidersWest. His two books are "Nearly 40 on the 37: Triumph and Trepidation on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway" and "Zero Avenue to Peace Park: Confidence and Collapse on the 49th Parallel".