I remember that everything was really all right when Dad was taking vacation and we were leaving somewhere. It was like another world, like transition from reality to a beautiful fairy tale or a pleasant dream where everything was different. Therefore it didn’t matter for me where we were going to. From the moment when the train was off, I could stick my nose to a window and look at changing images until it was getting dark outside and I could see only my reflection in the window.
With the time passing by, our trips together with my Dad were happening more and more rarely until they completely stopped. The reason was aggravation of my father’s alcohol abuse, so there was no way to entrust him with a child for a long time. But the memories of those days on the road with him and at the same time bitter and sad feelings because it was over, remained with me forever.
Several years passed. My mother died because of cancer when I was sixteen, father and I were left alone. My wish about everything to be all right was fulfilled in such an unexpected and ominous form. There were no quarrels and scandals between parents anymore, there was no fear of coming back home, there were no desperate attempts to fall asleep early, in order not to witness another evening drama. I was angry with the fate for such interpretation of my dream. But despite this, I decided to get out from the state of shock and take responsibility for my life in my own hands. Ironically, my mother died the same day when I had to get a passport and when I could consider myself an adult, March 14, 1996.
I finished school with excellent marks and entered the Institute of Foreign Languages, even before my graduation I started to work as a translator and to earn my own money. There appeared again that tenderly rising feeling that I could believe again, that everything can be all right.
One evening I was surfing in the Internet in one of chatting forums, such pastime was quite usual for me. My circle of friends was not very big, and sometimes I could get along easier with strangers on the other side of the web. That evening my chatting friend was a man with the nickname Invader. The moment he asked me a standard question about what were my interests, it suddenly seemed like I got an electric shock and without any hesitation I said that I would like to learn riding a motorcycle. He commented that I was very lucky, because he is a biker and he can easily teach me to ride.
It is still a mystery for me – where I got this idea from, and perhaps it is one of those answers that I would like to know. I understand that according to the law of energy conservation nothing comes out of nothing, and some impulse, or motive, or influence from aside had to precede. But there were no motorcyclists in my circle of friends or family. After my mother’s death I started to visit church again and almost all my spare time I spent there. It was giving me a sense of peace, hope and belonging to something big and meaningful. I found there support which I was looking for and opportunity to distract myself, to get answers at least to some of my questions and claims to God. Nothing to do with motorcycles or anything associated with this lifestyle.
Anyway, we met with Invader and agreed that one weekend he will pick me up from my home on his motorcycle, we will go together to a park nearby with no cars, and he’ll start teaching me. That day I was very stressed. First, because I have never ridden as a passenger on a motorcycle before. I was too scared, and even those few hundred meters from my house to the park seemed an insurmountable abyss. Second, I had no idea how to drive any vehicle. I didn’t know how to drive a car, we never had a car in my family. And by the way I don’t know how to drive it till now:) But it seemed like Invader was stressed no less than me. He arrived on a big heavy Dnieper, which he haven’t used for a while, and he was not so sure that the bike would bring us to the park. Moreover, it was clear that he didn’t have much experience of riding with a passenger, and he didn’t feel very comfortable. Anyway, we got to the park, chose a stretch without people and cars, and the teaching process started. But that day was just one big disappointment both for him and for me. When I moved from a passenger seat closer to the handlebar, I felt like I was immediately paralyzed. The bike was so heavy that I couldn’t imagine that I could get my feet off the ground and ride at least one meter. Also when the bike was started, it roared like a wounded animal, and it was a real torture for me to sit on it. When Invader tried to explain me anything, it seemed like he spoke another language, and I could not understand anything at all. But I think he did not have much teaching experience either. Every attempt to make the bike move failed and every time it just stalled. I could not start it again with a kick-starter by myself, so every time Invader had to do it. He was getting more and more nervous, I went deeper and deeper into the gloom of incomprehension and fear, until it led to emotional outburst in the form of hysterics. Both of us were sure in one thing. Nothing will come out of this idea. At least, with our duo.
At the end of this failure lesson Invader recommended me to go to a motorcycle riding school, learn how to ride and get my license there, and gave me the address and name of an instructor. Though I was very upset about my failure, and my self-esteem went down, I didn’t want to give up. I called to the school and came to get enrolled. The studying area did not look very promising. It was just an ordinary sidewalk of no more than ten meters wide, on one side it bordered with a road with busy traffic, and with a cemetery on the other side. Not the most inspiring neighbor for learning to ride one of the most dangerous types of vehicles:) But at that time it was the only available motorcycle school in Kiev, and I’m thankful to it for opening me the way to the life full of motorcycles and adventure.
My training started, and I was looking forward to my next lessons. I already could manage to do some simple things , at least, I could get my feet off the ground and ride! My training motorcycle was a small Minsk, which belonged to the school, and it didn’t give me so much horror as Dnieper. Nevertheless, my instructor told me that it is preferable to learn riding on my own motorcycle. I perfectly agreed, moreover, I wanted it a lot. Now I was confident that my wish to learn and to ride was not a passing whim, but passion growing stronger day by day.
At that time I had a job, but I couldn’t afford to buy a motorcycle. The only solution was to take a loan, but neither banks nor credit societies agreed to give me a loan, I was not eligible for that. And I did not have friends who would loan me money. Besides I did not want to tell anybody about my idea. I was in despair, it seemed that all options were tried. But when I was ready to give up, I was recommended another company, with simplified procedure of giving loans, but at the same time with extremely high interest. I would have to give almost all my salary. But it didn’t embarrass and didn’t stop me, and after a couple of days I was a happy owner of a new Kawasaki Eliminator 125. It was my first motorcycle, and it was also my first serious purchase, my first real property. Nobody knew, except Invader, that I bought a motorcycle, it was my little secret, which warmed my heart and carried me with my dreams far away.
The course came to its end, I have managed basic skills of motorcycle riding, but I still did not ride outside of the school ground next to the cemetery. So when it was time to take the bike home from school, my instructor agreed to accompany me on his motorcycle. Suddenly, when I found myself on the road, I forgot everything I knew, I stalled right at the crossroad and couldn’t start the bike again, several times I did not stop at the red lights. I was so shocked that I didn’t remember how I got to my garage at all. I was very lucky that I reached it safe and alive. When I stopped and took off my helmet, I saw my instructor’s face distorted with horror. I’ve never heard phlegmatic and always reserved Oleg shouting so loud. After calming down a bit, he told me that I shouldn’t dare to ride on public roads, until I learn to ride confidently, and in the meanwhile I have to practice riding around quiet streets of my neighborhood. So I started my real life training. Almost every day after work, I was taking my bike out of the garage and slowly touring around the neighborhood and park, proceeding to some busier streets and roads, and finally to the very center of the city.
And here I am going to my first long trip to a biker’s gathering around 100 kilometers away from the city. By that time I already had several biker friends, besides Invader, but that very day nobody could accompany me. So my first more or less long-distance trip was also my first solo trip on a motorcycle. I was a bit worried, but after coming out of the city, I got that incredible feeling again – when everything is all right, when you just go and watch the images slipping by . But you watch them not through a train’s window any more, this time there is no barrier between you and them, you just become one and the whole with everything around you.
That year, 2005, was the first and decisive. I was riding as much as I could, sometimes breaking the rules, sometimes transgressing all imaginable boundaries of caution and common sense. I got my driving license only by the end of that summer, but I did not want to sit and wait, at my own risk I was riding, not just around Kiev but also to other cities of Ukraine. It seemed like I was replaced with somebody else, I could not recognize myself. If only a year ago somebody said to that decent and shy girl who was afraid to make a step aside, that she would ride her motorcycle without driving license, hiding from police or making up silly stories why she was riding without a helmet and where were her documents, it would be, as minimum, difficult to believe in. But that year I felt really good, I was discovering the new me, without limits, fears and doubts. But one of the following careless decisions led to sad results, and this sobered me a little bit.
One evening, when I returned late after riding around, I was too lazy to take the bike back to the garage and then to walk home, so I decided to leave it overnight outside of my house. My neighborhood was always quiet and calm, nothing ever happened, so I was not particularly worried. Next day I found proper reasons not to take the bike to the garage again, the day after I was very busy, and then I didn’t feel well. Finally, one morning, when I woke up and came to the window to check the bike, I could not see it outside. The idea that the bike might have been stolen didn’t even cross my mind. My first thought was that someone of my biker-friends made fun of me, and hid it somewhere. But only my own carelessness and stupidity made fun of me that time. My first bike was never found, even though there were only two motorcycles of that model in Ukraine, and it would be easy to recognize it. I felt worse than ever, I felt like I lost my best friend, but on the other hand, I realized that it was only my responsibility in what had happened. And I was not so much angry with the thief, as I was angry with myself.
Unfortunately, tears of sorrow do not help, there was too little hope that the bike will be found. But I did not want to lose that long desired sensation of freedom, confidence and good mood associated with traveling by motorcycle. I needed a new bike.
One of my friends worked at that time in the Yamaha store, and I went there immediately. Of course, now I was looking for a bigger motorcycle, and I liked a black Dragstar 650. Everything was good about this motorcycle, and I was leaving the store being sure that I would buy that bike. But on my way home I decided to drop in to the same store where I bought my first motorcycle. The doors of the store did not shut behind me yet when I saw the bike – red Kawasaki Vulcan 900. That same moment I believed in love from the first sight. I could not take my eyes off it.
– Wouldn’t it be too powerful for you? – asked the sales manager, who remembered me and my first bike.
Of course, this question made me concerned as well, because the leap from 125 to 900 CC bike was big enough. But because I was already considered a loyal customer, I was allowed a small test ride around the store, even though according to the rules it was forbidden. After the test ride, I came back with a happy smile on my face, I will manage this bike. Before I left the store, the sign “Reserved” was fixed on Vulcan. It was the only bike of this model in the store, and now I was first in the order to buy it.
We have been riding together with Vulcan for seven years, from 2007 to 2013. Not many choices in my life I could consider as the right ones as much as the choice of this motorcycle. I almost never parted with it. By that time I worked in a bank, and very often I was coming to my workplace by motorcycle. I had a private parking place, my colleagues watched me with delight when I was riding up to the bank on my motorcycle in a leather costume, and then changed into the clothes proper for a bank employee. At the end of a working day, reverse transformation took place. They could not correlate the two completely opposite sides in one person, in me. One of the few people in the bank who looked at me not only with delight, but also with understanding, was the CEO of the bank. He was a motorcyclist too.
All my weekends and holidays I spent on the bike, leaving every time for a further distance and for a longer time. First there were explored neighboring countries – Russia, Belarus, Moldova. Then Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Greece, Georgia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon. I was coming out of my cocoon more and more, I met and communicated with more and more people, I discovered new angles of myself which I was not aware of before. It turned out that I could be bold enough to go alone to a foreign country, I could be confident enough to talk with strangers, I could be smart enough to take quick decisions, I could be quite resourceful to deal with difficulties on my way.
During several years nobody from my family, except my father, knew about my motorcycle. I did not want my aunts to worry about me, and first of all I did not want to make excuses and explain that I’m a grown-up person already and I can make my own decisions. It was easy to hide my passion, Dad and me lived far away from the rest of the family, and our life was quite lonely. My father, even though he was worried every time I was leaving somewhere, but I knew that I had his 100% support, he was always proud of me. At that time he was already quite ill and went out of the house rarely. My trips to other countries and stories about them, but first of all my coming back home safe and sound, were one of few joys in his life. He was not a very emotional and wordy person, but the wrinkles which appeared at the corners of his eyes, trembling voice, vivacity of moves gave me hints that he was very-very pleased with my successes and adventures. It seemed like he saw himself in me and continued traveling with me to places where he hadn’t been and could not visit any more. I think I could trade a lot for going somewhere again together with my father, for showing him my favorite places, letting him ride my bike. It was him who taught me to love the road many-many years ago, and thanks to his support and faith in me the road brought me to where I am today.
It was the year of 2011, six years passed since the moment when motorcycles appeared in my life. Only six years, but I already could not remember and imagine my life without them. I was preparing for the 4-months trip to India. It had to be my longest trip so far, and I was a bit concerned whether I would manage being so long away from home. Besides, when I already took a decision to go, and my contract with the company I worked in was getting expired, I got a great career growth opportunity, I could stay in the company on a full time basis and at the same time take a managerial position. My colleagues tried to convince me to think and stay. The decision was not easy to take, and I will not be honest if I say that I did not hesitate to give up my career in favor of motorcycle traveling.
In order to distract myself from thoughts about possible regrets of what I was about to do, I started to think about where would I go after my return from India. And suddenly a hardly distinguishable idea of going around the world passed through my mind at high speed. I even had no time to look back at it as it already dissolved. I just smiled at its absurdity and impossibility.
After a while I visited one biker gathering near Kiev. One of the days was rainy, so there was nothing much to do except sitting under the cover, eating hotdogs and talking to friends. I was sitting at the table with my old friend from Odessa, Misha, whom I have known since my first moto-year. Because we lived in different cities and met not so often , seeing each other always meant that we had a lot of things to discuss. Suddenly, in the midst of our conversation, the same absurd idea wedged into my mind again. In fact, it visited me once in a while, since I detected it the first time, but I tried not to pay attention and to get rid of it. This time nothing helped, it persistently followed me and did not let me concentrate on the subject of our conversation with Misha. So I decided to make a drastic step forward and finish with it once and forever, I mean to tell everything to Misha.
Misha knew me for several years by now, and his opinion was always authoritative for me. He was my first fellow traveler, he knew everything about me, he witnessed my first steps in riding, my tears when something went wrong, when I was falling from the bike, when I refused to keep riding because of fear or being tired. He always told me what he thought, even if his opinion was not something I was pleased to hear. That’s why when I needed to know the truth and nothing but the truth and honest advice on something serious and important, I always asked him. When I decided to share with him an idea about the world trip, I secretly hoped that he would condescendingly look into my eyes and, in the worst case, twist his finger at a temple, or in the better case, will delicately try to explain why this idea does not belong to the category of the most brilliant ones. Then I will have reasonable grounds to bury this idea once and forever.
So, without looking into his eyes, with a trembling voice I forced a phrase out of me:
– Mish, I would like to consult with you ..
– Mmm? Go ahead, Anya:)
– One idea crossed my mind. But I think it is absolutely insane..
– I’m listening…
– Well, how can I say that … actually.. I even don’t know… what do you think, could I possibly make a trip around the world?
I don’ know what I expected to hear – whether a positive comment, or not – but I looked at him with hope. Without hesitation, Michael said:
– Well, why not? That would be a logical continuation of your motorcycle career, so to say:))
His eyes were smiling and I did not know whether to be happy or not. The only thing I can say, I was embarrassed. We had a long talk that day, Misha told me that making the trip around the world is not an easy task, and the probability of failure is higher than the probability of success, but anyway it is worth trying, and I have all the chances for success.
There were a lot of things to think about, but following the example of Scarlett O’Hara, I decided to “think about it tomorrow.” And in any case my priority now was planning India travel.
The subject of my Indian adventure deserves a separate article, so I will not even touch it now. I can say that after a talk with Misha I allowed myself to think about this possible world trip, and not to banish every thought about it. But I had to weigh everything on the scale of common sense and decide whether I’m ready to get involved into this. During the trip to India, I was thinking about it more and more often. And actually here, there was taken a decision that as soon as I get back to Ukraine, I would start preparing for the world trip. I felt within me, first, strength and courage, and second, incredible thirst for a long journey when you don’t need to count the days remaining until the end of vacation, when you can consider yourself not a tourist but a traveler, when you can explore, plunge, inhale the world around you and dissolve in it.
Once the decision was made, silence and tranquility finally set inside of me. I realized that now everything was just beginning, and I would have to go through a lot of difficulties which can lead to failure and frustration. But I had to try it, I had to check out and know for sure whether it was possible or not. I knew that my father would support me. And one of the reasons I wanted to do it, was his smile of approval and pride for me from wherever he was.
When I was taking off by airplane from Delhi to Kiev, I knew that it was not the end of the journey, it was the beginning of a new dream, so exciting and thrilling for me.