I have a policy when it comes to counting where I’ve been: I have to either leave the airport I landed at or something really memorable needs to happen. Basically if I can see the actual local area or at the very least get a story out of the destination then I’ll count it.
My friend, on the other hand, counts airports because his criteria is “if I died here, what would the report say?” Would it say “Chuck died in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport?” if so, then yes, he’s been to Chicago.
Yet another person I know doesn’t even need to touch the ground to count the stop. He says he flew over the pyramids of Egypt and, since he saw them with his own eyes, he says he’s been to Egypt.
On road trips, my wife won’t say she visited a town unless she was going to that town specifically for a reason. We stopped for gas in a ridiculously tiny town in Georgia that had – with no exaggeration – one gas station and about five houses, all within view of said gas station and she still wouldn’t count it. Maybe if we had gone on a trip to visit the town specifically to get gas…
Everyone’s got their own criteria for where they’ve been.
This made me wonder what the criteria was for the adventure riders whose pictures I often see. The ones with hard luggage usually have stickers of the places they’ve been and I just wanted to know what counts.
I posed the question to a Facebook adventure rider’s page and got some unexpected answers. Some seemed to understand and gave their honest answers (“if I pooped or slept somewhere”) and some gave answers that were either meant for a different question (“I just make fun of Harleys”) or condescending (“no-one cares, work harder”).
To the ones who answered the question I actually asked, I followed-up with a question of how they commemorate the trip or stop. Some said they don’t – they just tell stories – and others said they use maps and mark the routes.
This answer intrigued me. Do they use different maps for different bikes, or is it the same map regardless? They said that they used the same map regardless of bike.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of data and have thought about getting a great big globe and putting pins in for everywhere I’ve been, but there’s no way I would be satisfied with just one color pin. I know this because I have an app where I track the places I’ve been and I have tons of different colors. I have one color for places I’ve been before I met my wife, another for the places we’ve visited together, another color for places I’ve been on business, etc etc. The result is a world map that has a ton of dots on it with a bunch of different colors, but I like knowing exactly what the context was for whatever dot.
Which brought me to souvenirs! I come from a long line of pack-rats and hoarders and try to control it as much as I can, but the need to collect random stuff from my trips… it’s strong.
Whenever I travel on business, I always pick up a Starbucks mug for my wife and, in an effort to help mitigate clutter in the house, make postcards for my kids with pictures I take.
But what kind of souvenirs would be good for motorcycle trips? They can’t be too big, bulky, cumbersome, or heavy.
I was thinking of finding some random gumball toy machine in each state and getting something, but I’m the kind of guy who likes a theme.
Similarly, I could send myself post cards of the places I’ve been, but you have to ask yourself where it will stop. How many pretty pictures with a little map would you want printed at $3.00 a pop? That would get expensive pretty quickly.
Then it hit me: Starbucks.
The joke of the ADV world is that people just get BMW GS bikes to go to Starbucks, but I genuinely like Starbucks and it makes for a handy meeting/rendezvous/break point.
And they also have distinctive gift cards for each place.
Yeah, that’s the ticket! They’re small, easily packable, distinctive, themed, easily framed for a garage wall, and cheap enough that I could buy one each time I visit a place if I roll up on a different bike. I mean, I could visit all 49 states in North America and every province in Canada and still have plenty of room in my bag for my essentials.
But why? Why have souvenirs? Aren’t the memories enough and isn’t this like bragging?
Well, yeah, it is. But also, you forget stuff. I’ve forgotten going to all sorts of places in my life which might mean they weren’t very significant to me or it could just mean that some stuff slips. Too many penguins, not enough iceberg if you know what I mean.
So I’ll get a great big atlas and mark it up with my routes, days, and whatever other data I can think of and I’ll probably transpose those routes onto a big map in my garage or office, but I like the idea of bringing something home with me that doesn’t involve me taking anything natural from that place (like rocks) or filling my bag with inconsistent trinkets. It’s even money that I would spend otherwise, so I might as well load a piece of plastic with $5.00, transfer that to my Starbucks app, get a coffee and get to keep the gift card!
And yeah, it is bragging and do you know what? That’s fine. If someone wants to think I’m bragging by going places, they should put me in my place by going to more places and not telling me about it (otherwise it could be considered bragging), but if I’m being honest with you, I don’t think I would take it as bragging anyway. I’d love to ask people face-to-face about their adventures in different places and think that we should all get out a lot more than we currently do (I’m sure I’ll touch on this in a later post).
Besides, I’m not saying you should use it to hold over other people and make yourself feel better about going more places. You should never try to make someone feel bad or inferior. But maybe your travels would be considered inspirational rather than boastful. You never know. Perhaps you could make an Instagram channel of your own and post pictures of your mementos and amazing pictures from the road that may inspire someone to take up riding or at the very least go for a drive and see something new.
Also, it’s fun. I’ll admit that not everyone collects random stuff like I do and some won’t see the appeal of loading yourself down with even more stuff, but to me this is just a bit of fun. I’m not hurting anyone and I’m making myself happy, so there’s no harm.
Finally, I’d like to thank anyone that reads these or follows me on Instagram so whenever I do get these gift cards, I’ll post a picture of the code there and the first person to cash it in will get a coffee on me. It’s a small way of saying thanks for paying attention to me.
See you out there!