We were 314 days into our trip when a friend asked us if we would mind sharing, “What’s challenging and what’s great?” This list is our answer. You may be struck by the long challenging list and the short rewards list. Don’t let that fool you. By far, the great stuff outweighs the challenging stuff however, this is not an easy vacation-like adventure.

Challenges

  • Searching for places to sleep that are safe, clean, comfortable, and cheap.  
  • Searching for food to eat that is safe, delicious, healthy, and cheap.
  • Trying not to spend very much money on anything.
  • Tracking every expense, and thinking of everything in relation to money.
  • Transferring from our investment accounts and seeing the balances go down.
  •  Taking care of stuff from home:
    • Vehicle registration (finding a mailing address to receive the new tags)
    • Bank and credit card accounts (monitoring for activity and paying bills)
    • Money transfers using safe internet connection, rental house (monitoring payments from property management company, wondering if our house is being maintained or trashed).
    • Eventually we’ll need to sign up for Obamacare on return for our insurance in the beginning. All the admin stuff is more challenging to do from the road. 
  • We mostly wash clothes by hand and nearly always wash underwear every time we take a shower. If we’re traveling, we strap clothes to the bike to dry during the day.
  • Exercise is a big challenge for Jalene. She does well with an exercise routine but hasn’t found a system that works consistently on the road.
  • Online communication with family and friends isn’t the same as seeing people in person. Loneliness can creep in.
  • Keith monitors the bikes so things get fixed before they’re an emergency on the side of the road. If we don’t have a spare part, he has to find it, which could mean shipping to an address somewhere down the road or finding it in a big city to buy. If he uses spare parts we carry, he has to figure out how to replace them. This is both a challenge and a reward together.  Only when we have a real breakdown or difficult issue to diagnose has he considered it a challenge.
  • When gear gets used more often, it needs repaired. For example, we had the soles on our riding boots replaced and holes in gloves mended.
  • We speak a little Spanish so we get by with the language difference but it’s really challenging sometimes and it can get old.
  • It’s difficult to replace lost stuff. Keith lost his glasses in Mexico, and had to see an eye doctor to have new ones made.
  •  We rely on new friends in local areas to find high quality healthcare. For example, we had our teeth cleaned in Quito, and Keith saw a doctor about a fever he had.
  • We are together 24/7 and have to agree, or at least compromise, on everything. 
  • Sometimes we love meeting new people, sometimes we don’t have the energy for it.
  • Sometimes choosing routes to ride is fun, sometimes it’s another chore to figure out.
  •  We’ve both had medical maintenance issues. Jalene’s have been connected to menopause. Medication she was taking isn’t available south of the US and, since we only have emergency travel healthcare, it’s too expensive to buy from the US.  Similar issues with Keith's migraine rescue meds. He wishes he had brought enough to last the entire two years and is testing a close substitute available in South America.
  •  Jalene misses work. Her mind likes to ponder projects and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well-done. Keith, however, does not miss work so much, only the people there.
  • We miss our individual freedom. Isn’t that strange? You would think we’re totally free but we’re limited by what the other person wants to do, money, transportation, space, etc.  
  • Clothes, shoes, blow dryer, make-up: Jalene misses having this all as an option. She gets sick of looking the same all the time. Yes, she could change this but wonders what will come of the experience.
  •  Jalene likes planning and it’s really tough to plan much of anything out here.  As soon as we plan something, we either choose to change the plans or something happens that forces a change. 
  • Seeing injured and/or starving animals (horses, cows, dogs, cats). Two days ago, we saw a stray dog convulsing and dying in the town square in Vilacabamba, Ecuador after being poisoned by local officials. This is their method for controlling stray dogs. Keith was surprised and disturbed by how little he was affected about the poisoned dog, as it was in the context of Ecuador and that’s how they do things here. Jalene was totally disgusted and wishes she could forget the scene.
  • Seeing disfigured, dirty people begging in the big cities.
  • Seeing small, dirty, children walking around trying to sell stuff to individual people.
  • Jalene injured her rotator cuff in her shoulder a few months into the trip and it still causes her pain and reduced mobility.
  •  Last, but certainly not least, is this hugely challenging issue of receiving an important package from the US in Ecuador (a re-supply of Keith’s rescue meds). We can only do what ’s possible for us to do and then wait for the local system to work through its process. We have been waiting for 40+ days and it’s still not resolved.

Rewards

  •   Finding places to sleep that are safe, clean, comfortable, and cheap.  
  •  Finding food to eat that is safe, delicious, healthy, and cheap.
  • Being with each other 24/7 and getting to know each other’s wants, needs, and dreams more deeply.
  • Learning to be humble, to accept things we don’t understand, and then to search for the knowledge that helps us grow and see new ways in the world.
  • Becoming better human beings. Sometimes this is great and sometimes it’s painful. We’ve had some interesting conversations about it.  A trip like this builds strong self-confidence and self-reliance, for example.  Conversely, we have also learned to ask for help when we need it, and to have the grace to accept it when offered.
  •  Taking lots of photos, sharing them through our website and Facebook, and seeing the return comments from others.
  •  Looking back at all the photos we’ve taken. It's easy to forget all our amazing experiences so far. Looking back through our photos helps our state of mind on tough days.
  • Watching Jalene grow as a motorcyclist.  The other day she insisted she take her bike through a slow, steep, rocky section where I had helped her before, and I was so pleased to watch her ride right through it with no problems.
  • Seeing new beautiful scenery. Some of our favorite scenes are from the road, not the tourist destinations.
  • Meeting new people. We’ve made many new friends and have been helped daily by generous, kind strangers. Our trip is less about beautiful places than it is about beautiful people. The people we meet make the trip, and form the basis for almost all of our stories.
  • Seeing new ways of living, and experiencing new cultures. We’ve stayed in some really cool hostels and yesterday we visited a new friend’s property in which he is building everything off the grid. Very cool. It’s fascinating to hear stories of why people decided to live outside their country of origin.  Also, we are constantly reminded that there are always other ways of doing things, not necessarily better or worse, just different.  And therein lies the richness of experiencing new cultures.
  • Hearing fellow travelers’ stories. When we stay in hostels, we get to hear lots of different travelers’ stories.  We also learn a lot about how others have overcome challenges or made their travels easier and more fun.
  • Rising to the challenge. We like the feeling of accomplishment that comes with the fact that we’ve managed to live off our bikes and travel for this long with the joint goal of making it to the tip of South America.
  •  We have as much time as we want to read, write, talk, etc. This is a new experience for both of us.
  • The unexpected little things that create a sudden “Big Happiness” such as, a washer & dryer, hot water in the kitchen sink AND the shower, a comfortable bed, really waterproof riding gear, good food, time to sit on a park bench and watch the world go by, time to work through feelings either together in conversation or while riding or while writing, the surprising kindness of total strangers, seeing amazing new plants and animals, having a dog around, being able to put toilet paper in the toilet instead of a trash can, or just having a toilet with a seat, kind words from strangers who see our posts and blogs (this one can be huge).