25 June 2010

The Motorbike Diaries

As the long-term readers among you might remember, one of the candidates for the title of this blog was "The Motorbike Diaries," as a play on the title of the book (and later film) "The Motorcycle Diaries," which chronicles the travels of a young Che Guevara across South America.  Regaled with stories of the living organism that is motorbike traffic in Southeast Asia, before I came to Indonesia I entertained colorful and elaborate fantasies of myself as the intrepid, motorbike-riding traveler, dodging buses and water buffalo as I set out on the road less traveled around the world's largest archipelago.  As those same readers might also recall, however, upon my arrival in Yogyakarta I discovered two things: 1) motorbikes are expensive, and 2) the traffic here is whacked.  These two discoveries, combined with the third discovery that "themotorbikediaries" was actually not an available URL on blogspot, ultimately contributed to my initial decision not to procure a motorbike in Yogya.  Having neither the funds to purchase or rent, nor the desire to die a gruesome roadkill death, I settled for walking, taking the bus, bumming rides off Luna, and bicycling -- which is how, last October, the lovely Maurice entered my life.

Just for the record, having Maurice has been wonderful -- he has always gotten me to my three main destinations (school, the gym, and Luna's house) without fail, has kept me in shape, and has fostered in me a deep love for bicycles that I expect I will carry with me home to America.  But as this spring has worn on, I have become more and more frustrated with the limitations that the lack of an engine imposes: not being able to travel far afield from home, always having to arrange rides for myself, and showing up sweaty everywhere I go.  As awesome as Maurice is, it's obvious why these circumstances would aggravate me -- after all, who wants to arrive home, having just come from a shower at the gym, newly bathed in sweat?  Less clear, however, is how or why, over the last ten motorbike-less months, I have built up the idea of driving a motorbike in my mind so much that it has become a sort of insurmountable hurdle that I can only look up at, discouraged, from the ground.  Plainly put, I felt defeated.  I felt that I had let myself -- that intrepid traveler of my fantasies -- down, allowing nerves and inconvenience to balloon into a larger-than-life obstacle between me and a set of wheels that I was unable, or unwilling, to conquer.  Driving a motorbike would have been badass, and clearly I was not badass enough.  

You could cue the forlorn music of defeat here, but you would be too hasty in doing so, because luckily for me, my brother is awesome.  As Isaiah and I hung out and caught up from ten months of sibling separation when he was here visiting me over the last two weeks, I described to him how discouraged I felt on the subject of motorbikes and not driving them, and, because he is a good brother, he gave me a big fatty attitude check.  If lots of people can do it, so can you, he reminded me -- you just have to give yourself a chance.  I had been too embarrassed to really express these hang-ups to anyone before, but a little encouragement went a long way -- all the way to Sumatra, in fact, where, on the island of Samosir in the middle of Lake Toba, we rented two motorbikes one day to explore the island with.  It took me a little while to get the hang of balancing the bike and and maneuvering the throttle, but with the hour I was cruising along.  A little shaky, sure, but cruising nonetheless.  And it was glorious: zipping up the coast, the largest lake in Southeast Asia to my right and gorgeous volcanic hills to my left, the wind on my face, driving -- something I had convinced myself I couldn't do.  It made me realize that the only thing standing between regular me and badass me was my brain; and if my brain could tell me that I didn't have what it took, it could just as easily tell me that I did.  And as it turned out, I did.

Which is why last night, back in Yogya, I rented a motorbike.  I had been toying with the idea all week since Isaiah left on Monday, but last night I was presented with an opportunity, and because I now know that I have what it takes, I took it.  I was hanging out with Luna at a coffeeshop when she got an SMS from a friend of hers who is starting a motorbike rental business, advertising a special promotion for rentals.  In a twist of true Indonesian serendipity, the coffeeshop we were at just happened to be around the corner from her friend's house, so she called him up, he drove the motorbike over, I filled out a form, and within half an hour I had a bike.  Simple as that.  

The critic in me wants to scoff at this situation: here I am, with less than three weeks left in Yogya, and only NOW do I finally grow a pair and rent a motorbike?  But the badass in me doesn't listen, because she knows: it's never too late to face the music (or the traffic, as the case may be).  And in a way, it's kind of nice to be embarking on a brand new adventure so soon before I leave -- it keeps things fresh.  Indo the wild I go again!  And this time, I have an engine.

No comments:

Post a Comment