But as a traveler, I've become aware of the cyclical pattern of constantly leaving, of constantly saying hello and goodbye. And a part of me prepares myself, fortifies myself whenever I meet someone, because I know that I will soon be leaving them, and perhaps it will be the last time we meet. It's like a little hardened barrier I build up inside myself, always reminding me that this is temporary, and that all great things will come to an end.
Yet there is no barrier that I could build up within myself that would prepare me for saying goodbye to those who have been in my life throughout all the hard times: my family and close friends from home.
All we know for sure is that we're leaving for the other side of the world, and it's going to be a while before we find ourselves at home again. A long while.
And so the day for us to leave came: September 4th, 2019. We packed up the bike, Tim petted his cat and hugged his dad with tears in their eyes, and we rode off with a wave and an unbearable heaviness in our chests.
Riding to Montreal
It was only a few days' ride to Montréal from Chicago, and along the way we got to visit Tim's little sister in Michigan, as well as our motorcycle traveling friends Phil and Sapna near Toronto. We had first met them in Mexico and we crossed paths several times in Central and South America, so it was incredible to hang out with them in completely new surroundings, being able to once again share stories and reminisce.
But North America wasn't going to let us leave without one last surprise.
This world motorcycle traveler wasn't a guy at all, but a woman who had ridden it all alone!
Since there are no direct flights from Canada to South Africa, we had to have a layover somewhere. The bike was taking a different path from us and would be transferring in London. But Tim and I were going to have a long layover in Qatar, and I was excited because my plan was to actually leave the airport and see something of the country.
And although the majority of the people living there are not Qatari (88% are foreign workers coming mostly from India and Pakistan), Qataris are classified as the richest people on earth. Qatar will also be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will mean it's the first Arab country to do so, but that honor has been tainted by allegations of bribery.
Soccer aside, because Doha is clean, safe, and was a historic port known for trading incense, silks, and Persian rugs, I had the feeling that I was going to enjoy visiting it.
The entire market is pedestrian-only, except for horses. Gorgeous Arabian horses ridden by Qatari royal guards in their full regalia that looked like something out of Lawrence of Arabia. For me, since I'm a huge fan of horses, this was an absolute highlight. Every time they passed, I'd stop and stare, and then watch a guy who was following them scoop up any poop left behind with a shovel.
Once the sky had turned a vibrant shade of purple signaling the oncoming night, the call to prayer announced the setting sun, reverberating through the adobe and stone buildings. The street lamps were turned on, and I realized that it wasn't until night that this place really came alive. Qatari men in their white dishdashas would laugh with one another, sipping on their hookah pipes and blowing out puffs of sweet-smelling smoke. A group of three women in black robes and designer bags would haggle over prices, and there were also foreigner tourists in jean shorts and flowery dresses snapping pictures or eating ice cream. It was a perfect night out in Doha.
And so we left Qatar, thankful for our tiny but impactful experience there. And back at the airport we got ourselves ready for the last leg of the journey.
Arriving in South Africa
A cab took us to our Airbnb, and we took a much-needed shower and nap. Actually it was a seventeen hour nap. Yes, that's right. 17.
Since our arrival, it's been a few days of resting and trying to get on the local schedule as we wait for our motorcycle to arrive. Maybe it's still in the cargo hold of London's Heathrow Airport, or maybe it's on a plane right now 36,000 feet in the air crossing the Sahara... but it will meet us here soon and we'll be reunited with our trusty steed that will take us across this great continent.
So stay tuned!
A special thanks this week to Shaun Sartin and Brandon Lever. Your contributions to our journey will fill both gas tanks and bellies.