Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Somewhere in Latin America
48. Get Up, Get Out - Riding Antigua Guatemala
Hanging out with the guys at the hostel isn’t a bad way to go through the day. To classify it as work seems to be a loose definition.
David brought in an old Super Nintendo so we hooked it up to the flatscreen for some good ol’ Donkey Kong.
When we are just kicking back this is fun, but other times I’m sitting on my computer building a database and staring at a computer screen. Just like back home, do enough of this and sometimes you need to just clear your schedule and take the day off. Yesterday I decided to ride into Guatemala city and look for the oil filter bypass valve that I had lost. I had been looking around town here in Antigua but couldn’t find what I needed. On the way out of town I decided to stop by Motomundo, an adventure moto place in town that had been closed every other time I’d gone by. Today though Taz (the owner) was in and there doors were wide open.
Taz does work on all kinds of adventure bikes, but he seems to specialize in KLRs. He had boxes of old parts laying around and just so happened to have the piece I needed. 50Q (120Q cheaper than I was quoted in the city for a new one) and I was back in action. Thanks Taz.
Johnny, a rider from Alabama, was in getting some work done on his Triumph. Johnny is a rad guy. We got to talking and grabbed lunch together. I meet a lot of intriguing people while traveling, but every now and then I meet someone special. A character that rises and shines brightly above the rest. They don’t come around often, but when they do they sure leave an impression. Johnny is one of those people. Here’s Johnny on the right, with Taz on the left.
Over the last 5 years he had started to really rethink his life and what he was doing. He had a good life, a successful life, but he wasn’t really happy. He started changing little things here and there with how he went about his daily life and began seeing the benefits. 2 years ago he met a very adventurous person and that person turned him on to motorcycles. They also turned him on to using them as a way of travelling, this was something he had never really considered. In Alabama where he’s from, he says going out and seeing the world via motorcycle is something that people just don’t really think to ever do. Nor did he know anyone that had ever done something on that scale. But with the changes that he had been slowly making in his way of life were having positive effects on his quality of life, and he decided it was time to really put the things he had learned into practice. It was time to make a drastic change. He bought a motorcycle and set out for Alaska knowing that’s what he wanted to now be doing. No plan, no timeframe, just a new passion for a new way of life. He would stop where he wanted to stop, and just go wherever the wind took him. He ended up in Inuvik, and all over the north, criss crossing and zig-zagging the entire time. In the first 11 months of owning his new motorcycle he put 27,000 miles on it. He had found a new love and was happier than ever.
He was retired, so he began closing up shop in Alabama, got accepted as a member of Jupiter’sTravellers, and set out south on his great adventure solo. Johnny has a way of talking that I just can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s the Alabama accent, maybe it’s his ‘everything’s groovy’ attitude about life, maybe it’s his warmth of character - but whatever it is, it’s captivating. I spoke with him for a while over lunch about where he’s been, and his plans. But what was the most fascinating wasn’t his stories, or the places that he has been, but the way in which he was doing it all. No plan, day by day he goes wherever he wants and just see’s what he finds and where that leads him to next. Although more uncommon, I have met other people doing this, but there was something so very different about the way he spoke about it. As if he simply knew no other way. This has lead him to spend 11 months just getting from Alabama to Antigua Guatemala. He’s not here to impress anyone, or be on some big mission, he’s just here to experience the place he’s in, live life for the present moment, and learn from the cultures and people he’s around - nothing more. I picked up a habit from my last job of asking people what we call the “Three Questions”. We asked these questions during birthdays to summarize someones experiences over the last year. I find them to be applicable not just during birthdays, and anyone that has experienced a lot in life tends to have fascinating responses. Johnny was no exception.
The three questions are:
1. What’s one thing that you have learned?
2. What’s one thing that you have grown to appreciate?
3. What’s one thing that you are looking forward to?
I wish I had been recording them, as it wasn’t just what he said, but it was how he said it. The honesty, thoughtfulness, and casual sincerity of his responses was captivating. Maybe it was just that alabama accent?
In response to question 1, what have you learned, Johnny leaned back in his chair from the table and thought carefully for a few moments about this new question. After a bit he said in his eloquent southern accent, that in the last 5 years, since he really started reassessing his life and putting his new thoughts and ideas into practice, that what he has learned most about is himself. He’s learned to listen more to what he wants and needs to be happy in life. Before these changes he had everything, a successful career, family, kids, etc, but there was always something else missing. He had everything that society told him he needed, but not what he himself wanted. He’s learned that he’s far less in control of his life than he ever thought before, and he’s learned to embrace and enjoy that aspect of the unknown. Life’s a ride, and you have learn to show-up and do your best to enjoy everywhere that it takes you. Finally, he said, “I’ve learned that you can cross entire continents on nothing but a smile.”
In response to question 2, what have you grown to appreciate, Johnny gave it just as much thought as the first question. He said that he’s grown to appreciate the present for exactly what it is, for both the good and the bad. He’s grown to appreciate just going with the flow and being excited about where that takes him in life. He shrugged his shoulders and looked around us with his his hands palms up in the air “I mean, just look around us. Look where we are right now. This is pretty darn great. You just have to enjoy wherever you are.”
In response to question 3, what are you looking forward to in the future, Johnny thought for just a brief moment and said with surprise in his voice “You know, I really haven’t thought all that much about what comes next?! I’ve just learned to show up with my pants on and enjoy!”
We talked for a while longer finishing our food in the open air restaurant and chatting about anything and everything. If there was ever a conversation that I wish I had on tape it would have been this one. There were so many more things that he said that really made me think about what he was saying, and the things that he had come to learn over his life. I think a lot about things, some have said almost to a fault, and have been fortunate enough to meet and engage in great conversation with fascinating people in my life so far, yet in this single conversation with Johnny, I found him saying things that were reality rattling and fresh, yet still so deceptively simple at their core. He truly is a fascinating character, and with absolutely zero pomp, 100% chill, and humble self awareness, he was an absolute treat to have met. Johnny , thanks for the good chat, and all the best on whatever comes next for you.
Here’s a shitty picture from my GoPro after lunch.
I had been planning to go to the city for the part that I had needed, but since I found it at Motomundo I had the rest of the afternoon now free. I decided to get out and go riding, so I headed out of town with the rest of the afternoon to spend as I wish. I headed southwest towards the volcanoes and where I figured I would find some offroad. A guy in town pointed out a dirt route that I could turn into a loop so I went looking for it. Wanting a nice decompression ride, and to get out of the city, a relaxing trip through the empty woods would fit that bill perfectly.
Here’s a video I put together from the afternoon, sorry for the smudged lens.
SeanPNW screwed with this post 01-31-2014 at 10:04 AM