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Sunday, 01 July 2018

A Year in America: Living off a Motorcycle

Written by Michael Huber
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Through my life I have had two passions, motorcycles and traveling. After an extremely gray depressing winter in Seattle in 2017 I decided to see if I could build a high-level plan to combine the two while maintaining a successful career. I am fortunate enough to work remotely so my mindset was: I can give this a try and worst case I have to return to Seattle after I fail miserably. Best case, I succeed and open up a new dimension to my life that many not only cannot imagine but would never dare to attempt.

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Although my introduction sounds like I just packed up and left - it took over two months of planning until I was comfortable enough to attempt using Montana as my beta state. It was a month of preparing finances and defining a high level view of what I wanted to accomplish with this journey, then another month of adjusting equipment and waiting for weather to break a bit so that would be in my favor for this test run.

My lease expired in April in Seattle, prior to that I sold everything I owned including my car and was left with my gear and 5 plastic tubs and my skis. I took the attempt at fulfilling my dreams quite seriously. I ensured I had zero’d out any type of bill or financial responsibility I had for two reasons, one to allow enough savings for a proper retreat should it be needed, and second not to have the financial burden of any overhead that would distract me from my dreams. I would use Airbnb’s to live in for the foreseeable future. This assured me a stable environment in which I could remain successful within my career.

I really nailed my packing list as after 8 months I returned to my Seattle storage unit and the only thing I needed was a winter hat (I had a 14°f camping night in Bryce Canyon in which a hat would have been fantastic). That's with camping and riding in temperatures ranging from 14°f to 90°f, hiking, and work. Never at any point did I need or miss anything else other than the gear I left with originally. It’s easier to start off with only the bare essentials for what you want to accomplish, you can always purchase items along the way if needed. It is still easier and less costly than purchasing everything under the sun and being stuck carrying the extra weight of unneeded gear.

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Executing the Dream:

This piece will be unique for each person and what they want to accomplish and should allow for flexibility and adjustments over time. My personal goals were to visit as many National Parks and highly rated scenic roads as possible and camp out at least once a week to fully decompress and unplug from my professional digital life.

One of the few rules I set up for myself was to not over plan. The only planning I concern myself with is what roads I want to ride, mountains I want to climb, and National Parks that are along the way between my current location and my next Airbnb. I find moving every two weeks to be ideal as moving weekly becomes too overwhelming and you can’t fully enjoy the location and culture you are living in. A good example is when I spent ten days in Baja. I never planned more than one day ahead the entire trip. I had a high-level plan and a few objectives I wanted to meet but changed the lower-level day-to-day items. I made my plans according what the locals or others I met advised I do. Another example is when I lived in New Mexico I only planned to stay for ten days, two months later I still found myself in that beautiful state. If you are going to truly live freely over-planning is not only a waste of time, but can rob you of experiences you didn’t know existed.

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Being fully exposed to the sights, sounds, smells, and elements is one of the greatest reasons why I love doing this on a motorcycle. I prepared for the exposure to ever-changing weather and wildlife. I use my panniers as a bear can and have any food leftover placed in them and moved 50 meters away from my campsite to ensure no unwanted guests got too close to my camp. Being that it is rare for me to camp more than one night at a time, I do not have cooking gear (downside to working a full time job while on this journey with limited space). Dinner has been as luxurious as a sandwich from a local store, to as little as a bag of peanuts (the evenings with peanuts have been the greatest campsites, and the most memorable). I have found National Forests to be one of the best places to camp. They are free and you can get pretty remote while experiencing wildlife like never before.

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For a bit of my background, I was in the 82nd Airborne Division. I feel this fuels my desire to live at a more intense level then what others may be open to. When I travel to new locations I avoid the tourist scene, get off the beaten path, and fully absorb what the local culture has to offer. These experiences allow me to embrace a deeper understanding of the region I am living in and puts me in a position outside my comfort zone which most people avoid. When I lived in Peru, I traveled to Iquitos and experienced ayahuasca with the Shaman, when I was in New Mexico I attended several sweat lodge ceremonies, and in Mexico petting grey whales that were coming up to my panga to say “hello”. These are a few examples of going deeply off the beaten path and embracing the unique cultures that surround me.

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I am currently 1 year, 11 states, 3 countries (USA, Canada, and Mexico), and close to 20,000 miles into this journey. I have camped deep in National Forests so many times I cannot remember. I have awoken to elks rutting outside my tent in Utah, wild horses grazing in Arizona, stalked by a fox in Utah, and gotten far too close to moose in Colorado. I try to spend one month in each state depending on the weather, completion of my objectives, and really just going off how I feel. The past year has been the most challenging and rewarding of my life. I have failed, succeeded, and pushed myself mentally and physically daily while embracing each day I am riding a motorcycle.

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There is nothing like the glow of a campfire reflecting off your motorcycle when you are alone deep in nature, and that is what keeps me going on this journey!

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©Michael Huber

Last modified on Sunday, 01 July 2018