Motorcycle practice

In July 2019, I started to get my motorcycle driving license. I had no driver’s license yet. This would be my first one. I could have chosen a more opportune time to get this done, but my friends dragged me on a trip to Japan in May that year, which meant I didn’t have the funds for the first few driving lessons available any sooner.

Getting a driver’s license in Germany is expensive.

Anyway, I wanted it. I didn’t want to put it off any longer and the time felt right. It wasn’t quite the best timing, though, as the instructor was on holiday for the latter half of July, which meant that getting my first lesson had to wait until August. Bummer.

And then it was really hot, too. Not the ideal conditions to get started. Still, I’ve been wanting to get that license for 15 years, though I’d never been in a place where it had been feasible.

Finally getting started was immensely exciting. I was super nervous before my first lesson, which ended up being a little ridiculous.

I was all fitted out and the motorbike was ready. It was a bigger size since I decided not to start with a beginner’s license. I’m old enough to get the proper A license without first having to get an A1 or A2.

That also meant it was a little heavier than a smaller bike. But sitting on it immediately felt right.

My instructor explained how the machine functioned, all the bells and whistles, and what I needed to look out for. Then we started the machine and he showed me how to move in first gear by just letting go of the gear shift ever so slightly, so the engine would pull without engaging the throttle at all.

We slowly rolled down a quiet side road. My instructor would alternately hold onto the bike and then let me go. It was a little like learning to ride a bicycle, though with a much bigger and heavier bike.

He wanted me to know the gear shift, throttle, breaks and how to balance myself. Once he was confident that I could operate all the parts of the bike, he encouraged me to open the throttle a little more and drive up and down the road. He was always close at hand, which meant a lot of running for him that day.

At the end of the 90-minute lesson, I was driving down the road at 15kmh, which was oddly exhilarating, even though I routinely cycle at 30kmh. Never mind that the power of the motorbike is intimidating when you are not careful with the throttle.

I have no need for speed, though now I do enjoy getting up to speed more than I did then. I was very careful, which ended up being the right approach. And my instructor was very pleased with my progress and said I have a talent for riding the bike.

Ultimately, as cautious as the first lesson was, it was also a lot of fun. It put me out of my comfort zone but pushing ahead was absolutely the right thing for me to do.

When I jump on my bike now, I feel right at home.

Just posing. I did wear gloves during the lesson.

In Theory

In Germany, you have to go through a whole driving course and two tests (one theoretical and one practical) before you get a license and can get yourself a motorbike.

Well, you could probably get a motorcycle at any point before that, but that would make no sense whatsoever since you wouldn’t be allowed to ride it.

So, we go through the motions, which is usually for the better.

Usually, theory and practice are done side by side. Since I don’t even have a regular driver’s license, I have to do most of the general driving theory on top of the special motorcycle theory. That means you get to sit in a class with other people who want to learn to drive a car and listen to an instructor explaining driving rules and regulations in Germany.

I had to go through 12 modules of general driving theory and 6 modules of motorcyle-specific theory. We had several instructors, depending on their schedules. One of them was really entertaining, teaching us a lot of things beyond the grey theory.

Of course, as a cyclist, I have been aware of many traffic rules and regulations already, but there was a lot to learn beyond the general knowledge I already had.

Additionally, we have a learning up that contains all the theoretical questions and scenarios that we need to know for the official theoretical test. The app includes over 1,000 questions, which we had to learn, though the final test would only contain 40 general and 5 specific questions.

I’m a total geek and I really enjoyed learning everything. The catalogue of questions was sometimes a bit much to go through, but I’m glad to have gone through it all.

It also made me more aware as a cyclist, even though I have always been riding defensively. But it is better to know the rules and adhere to them than just winging it.

I passed my theory test without any mistakes, which did make me a little proud of myself.

Fernweh

I’ve travelled a lot in the past. Two round-the-world-trips, over three months of travelling in the US (not at once), many shorter trips and living abroad.

In 2016 I returned home. Sort of. I did not return to the city of my birth but chose another one instead. A new beginning. I didn’t know anyone in Hamburg, but eventually I found my way, made friends and discovered that this is the best place for me to live in. I love Hamburg more than any other place I’ve ever lived in.

But just because I’ve found my home, does that mean I’m done travelling?

Of course not. When you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, there’s no real cure.

Two years ago, I started getting my motorcycle driving license, which I’m writing about elsewhere on this blog. I finished at the end of the season in October 2019. And when the new season started, we were already in the middle of a pandemic.

I had planned a one-month road trip to Norway for the summer of 2020. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

I thought of doing a shorter trip within Germany, perhaps even ten days. But instead, I only went on a 5-day trip, circumstances didn’t allow for much more.

I went on a week-long vacation with my brother late September last year as well. I don’t consider that travelling, but it was a nice change of scenery.

In any case, I obviously didn’t do much travelling last year. Nobody really did. And given the circumstances, I didn’t feel that this was overly lamentable. It’s a luxury problem to have when you are unable to travel the way you usually would.

All things considered, I had absolutely no reason to complain, even though I’ve been on furlough in my second job for a long time.

But as I am sitting on the train, on my way to Berlin to visit my parents for Whitsunday, and celebrating my brother’s birthday next week as well, I look out at the horizon and realise that, yes, I miss travelling.

In German, we call it “Fernweh”, a word that has made it into the English language as well since it captures the notion of longing for the distance so well. One simple word to summarise a feeling that longs for everything beyond the horizon.

That doesn’t mean that I want to leave home or that I am not contend with my life where I am right now. Travelling is an addition to my life, not an escape from it (though it can be). Sometimes it is a way of life.

I don’t think long-distance travelling is in the near future for me. That’s simply not feasible. I’d be happy for some motorcycle trips, however. Germany is a beautiful country and there is much to discover.

Until then, sitting on the train and watching the landscape pass by for the hour and forty minutes it takes me to get from Hamburg to Berlin on the high-speed train will have to do.

The view from the train at 170 km/h

When at first you don’t succeed

Try again.

And, yes, again.

It sounds so much like a cliché and perhaps it is, but not trying is worse than failing. We only learn from our mistakes, from those trials and errors along the way. Not doing anything, not even trying, keeps us in place – stuck.

When I feel stuck, I tend to go on a journey. I once left home for 10 years because I needed to know what else there is in life. I found my answers. And myself.

I returned not quite home, but somewhere else to build a new life as this new version of myself I had grown into.

But I digress.

I still feel stuck sometimes. In life, with my work, with my writing, sometimes even with my friendships. Whenever I feel stuck in one way or another, something needs to be done. During a pandemic, travelling is rather not an option. Which is a shame because it really helps. Not because I am running away from something or towards something, but because I am more myself when I am travelling than sitting on my sofa.

So, lately, I have needed to find other ways of handling things. Since moving helps, I may go on a walk or cycle through the city if the weather allows for it.

Whilst showers make me feel better, they don’t help with runaway thoughts. Cooking doesn’t help either and if it’s really bad, I can’t even eat what I cooked.

Writing helps.

Music too.

What’s the takeaway here? Whatever it is you need to succeed at or need to at least try, you first need to figure out what works for you.

Sometimes last-minute panic is the way to go. Sometimes careful planning. And every once in a while, a leap of faith.

Whatever your goal is, as you long as you keep working your way towards it, it doesn’t matter how many times you stumble and fall and fail. It matters only that you get up and continue – perhaps not right away, but eventually.

There is no shame in failing. There is also no shame in not trying. There may be regret, though.

When I announced to all my family and friends that I would go and travel the world, a lot of people called me brave. Nearly everyone told me they would never dare such a thing.

For me, it was a simple necessity. It was the only path I wanted to take, and I never considered myself brave for taking it. I still don’t. I know it was the right thing to do and I know I would have regretted not going.

I might tell you one day about the many times I fell and failed. But I always got up and continued onwards. And I always will.

Riding My Life Away

When I started my motorcycle journey, I also decided to write about it. What’s better than to write about something you love? And, boy, do I love it!

I began writing a blog that I titled “Riding my life away”. It seemed suitable. But, as these things go, I didn’t keep up with it. There are plenty of reasons for that, but I do actually want to write it.

So, I’m reusing some of my old blog entries and will add new ones as well. The old blog will be retired and become a part of this new venture.

I’ll write about learning how to ride a motorbike, about actually riding, how it is different for women, and about the gear I wear and use. Basically, I want to write about every aspect of it, being still very new to the whole thing and taking anyone interested along on the ride.

I’d say “buckle up” but it’s more a case of helmet on, gloves on and onwards.

Why I don’t wish I knew at 20 what I know now

We all know that hindsight is always 20/20. Our views mature with experience and, yes, suffering. We get to know ourselves better, revisit decision made in the past, consider mistakes we’ve made and how we have improved (hopefully).

Oddly, I keep coming across YouTube videos or blogs where people talk about the 3, 5, 10 or 20 things they wish they’d known 3, 5, 10 or 20 years earlier. Or something along those lines anyway.

Why?

Sure, if I knew at 20 what I know now a lot of pain may have been spared me. I would have made completely different decisions. I would have avoided a ton of mistakes. I would be in a completely different place now than I am.

But this is no more than a thought experiment. I can’t go back and warn my younger self of all the mistakes she will make. And I honestly don’t want to. I value the journey I have been on in the last 20 years.

It has made me into the person I am now. And I am happy with myself.

Changing any of that would make me into someone different. Provided the multiverse exists, then there is an alternate version of me in an alternate universe who has made a lot of different decisions. Perhaps, she was wiser at the age of 20, 25 or 30. Perhaps she made one foolish mistake after another (though I’d like to think I’m not overly foolish in any version I might exist in).

I will never know, one way or another. And I cannot go back in time to enlighten my younger self either.

So, what is the value of wishing you could convince your younger self of adopting 5 habits that it took you 10 years to develop?

Other than appreciating that you were young and foolish then but have managed to adopt those useful habits in time, I don’t really see it. Am I missing something?

Is it not okay to appreciate your younger self for who you were then? And is it therefore not also okay to value the journey you have been on, every painful step it may have taken, and be proud of who you have become?

Ultimately, we can look back all we want, but we cannot change the past or who we were. I honestly have no desire to change anything about my nerdy, shy and still woefully awkward 20-year-old self.

Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Mental decluttering

Do you ever feel as if everything is crowded in your head? As if your brain is about to overload? A million thoughts, ideas, bits of information and impressions have all gathered and cram inside your skull with nowhere really to go.

This happens to me when I’m consuming too much information and social media. Watching the news, reading articles, refreshing YouTube for the latest recommendations, endlessly scrolling through Insta.

I take it all in.

But then it doesn’t go anywhere. I’m not doing anything with it. It just fills up my mind and there is no outlet.

With the result that I feel my brain rattling around inside my skull.

It is unpleasant.

It’s not exactly a headache but bordering on one. The pain isn’t so much physical as it is mental.

That is usually when I realise that I have to declutter my mind. If, for instance, a decision must be made after doing a lot of research, I must come to that decision. At some point, I cannot watch yet another review on an item I consider purchasing, especially when all the reviewers essentially repeat the same findings.

I make the purchase and stop doing any further research as it won’t serve any purpose anymore. That’s one way to ease mental pressure.

Another way is to focus on one thing at a time. I often have some mindless show on TV whilst also browsing social media or playing a game on my phone. Many of us do. And we all know that this is not good for us.

So, I stop scrolling through Insta, Facebook, Tumblr or even the news. I either watch what’s on TV (or Netflix, really) and focus on that, or I switch it off entirely. I grab my tablet to read a book instead or grab an actual paperback if one is available.

Sometimes I listen to music and look out the window.

And now, I’ve chosen to write. TV off. Phone off. Lights off. Just my laptop and me.

It’s bedtime soon and I need to give my mind a little time to rest before going to sleep. Otherwise, I’ll have trouble sleeping.

And whilst I know that this consumption of all types of media is not good for me, I’m not consistent when trying to do this mental decluttering. I fall back into this habit over and over again.

Tomorrow, I will at some point have the TV on, my phone in hand and scroll through pages upon pages and pictures, and see everything and nothing. Until mental exhaustion hits again.

Though, I hope I’ll catch myself and develop better habits. I’m trying. Just not always succeeding. Thankfully, I’m not in the habit of beating myself up over my failings.

And neither should you.

Going back to find yourself

I’ve been rereading some of my old blog entries. It’s been delightful, enlightening and, occasionally, embarrassing. But that is all part of the journey.

Some of my opinions, ideas and thoughts have not changed at all. Others I have discarded. And yet others matured. I recognise myself and where I was when I wrote these blog entries. Sometimes there was a lot more foresight than I feel comfortable with now.

Some things I already knew. And still, the knowledge didn’t prevent the pain of true discovery that was to follow.

Other things I was rather naive about. Or perhaps, hopeful. Hoping despite my better judgement and eventually, paying the price for it.

Rereading some of these blog entries feels a bit like meeting my younger self. I’ve been running my original blog for many years, though I haven’t written anything there in a long time.

Still, whilst I do plan on deleting the other blogs after I’ve moved some of their content over here, the original one I will keep. I may never return there to write anything new. But I may return to read what I wrote so many years ago. We should keep in touch with our younger selves on occasion.

It reminds us of who we were and how we got where we are.

The Empty Page

Where do you begin when you have a million thoughts running through your mind, dozens of ideas, no thread to follow? There are so many things I want to write about. But I have to start somewhere.

So, I am starting here. With the challenge itself. To begin writing.

The empty page can be daunting. What to do with it? Which word to put first? Which ones should follow? Will I make a fool of myself when I put this ‘out there’?

But everything that stops us is merely in our heads. As is so often the case, we’re our own worst enemies. Nobody can stop us. Nobody ever truly has the power to stop us. Unless, we give it to them. But that’s on us.

The only one stopping us is us. The empty page just sits there. That it is waiting for us to put words down is merely our projection. We are waiting to put words down. We usually just don’t know where to begin.

Never mind that, though. Just get started. I am committed to this new project, which means I have to regularly post new content. Or, at least, re-post content I’ve written before.

That is a lot of work. I mean a lot. And that, too, is a daunting prospect.

But I am also looking forward to all of it and I am no longer afraid of the empty page. There will always be words ready to flow. Whether they are the ones I wanted to put down or not doesn’t even matter. Anything I write is good (not qualitatively speaking, mind you, but for the mere fact of having written anything at all).

Writing is good. It’s life. My life anyway.

As is riding. My motorbike. But more on that elsewhere 😉

Room for growth

We’ve all been there. Whiling away in our little comfort zone only to venture outside to take a risk, be open with someone in an attempt to be understood, to be seen, perhaps even to be loved. And then for it to backfire in the most painful way, forcing us back into our little box of comfort, where nothing can hurt us.

Making yourself vulnerable is always a tremendous risk. The brave among us will leave their boxes time and again. We dare because there is always the hope that this time we might not get hurt.

Except, we almost always get hurt. It’s what people do in their self-centredness that doesn’t recognise anyone else’s pain or the effect our thoughtlessness might have on someone else.

We hurt each other whether we mean to or not. We don’t know the other’s vulnerability, the wounds they carry with them, which we inadvertently open again and again.

Of course, it is easier and so much safer to retreat into our boxes and never come out again. At some point, it feels as if we’ve had enough and can take no more.

But shutting ourselves in leaves no room for growth. There is nowhere to go when you live in a tight little box. Yes, no one can hurt you, but life also becomes considerably less interesting and utterly predictable.

Instead of nursing our wounds every time we get hurt, we should try to grow with the pain we’ve sustained. It’s not easy. Indeed, there is little that is more challenging. But there is so much potential to become stronger, to accept our vulnerability as a part of ourselves and to use it as a strength instead of regarding it as a weakness.

I won’t deny the urge to simply head back into that box and protect myself from future pain. But I have found it suffocating to remain inside for too long.

So, hopeful or hopeless, I will venture out again, carry my vulnerability as a shield and accept that I may get hurt. It’ll never be easy, but it may just be worth it because the best experiences of my life I had outside that little box of comfort.