Various times when on the road or talking about bike travel, someone has mentioned how much freedom you have on the road with a motorcycle. Or that I have more freedom to do this kind of travel because I don't own a house or have kids. Even backpackers (people traveling with a backpack) have said how they would be so much more free with a bike. I have also, lately, had people talk to me about freedom. What freedom is, how much we have, how to get more. I do not agree with the conventional usage of the word freedom, but I will get to that later.
First let me talk about the *freedom* of traveling by motorcycle. Yes, there are things about it that make it seem like I have more freedom. I can go where I want, when I want. But, there are things about it that are less free. It costs a lot of money to travel by bike. Especially in foreign countries. Getting a bike or getting your bike there. Gas, maintenance, insurance, taxes to get the bike into the country, the list goes on. Also, you have to worry about where you will park it at night. This often means you will be paying more for a hotel either because there are few with safe places for the bike, or because it is harder to shop for, and bargain for hotels when you have to worry about leaving your bike unattended.
This brings me to the next problem. Sure, it might be easier to hop on your bike and go visit some ruins or other highlight, but you have to worry about your bike and your gear when you get there. A backpacker may need two days to get somewhere and back, but will be mostly free to walk around and do things without having to worry about a lot of gear. Realistically, a backpacker has more of this so-called freedom than a motorcyclist.
So how should freedom be defined? As used above, freedom means the ease of doing something. This to me is just convenience. Freedom to me is more being free to do things. With this definition, everyone has the same freedoms unless they live in a country with a truly restrictive government, like a dictatorship, or some legal issue such as being in Jail. There are some legal restrictions to your freedoms, but even with these, you could still do pretty much whatever you want, but there might be consequences (jail time) to doing it. It is what you do with these freedoms that really makes the difference.
I will stick to the kinds of freedoms that a US resident has. Anyone could just sell everything they own and go backpacking around the world. We all have that freedom. But, lack of money could be a restriction. This could be gotten around by finding ways of making extra money on the road, or before you go. Or, you could just really economize on the trip and live for less than $10 a day as many backpackers do.
No, you might say, I could never do that. I have family that needs me, a wife and a child. A dog. A house. Well, that does not mean you don't have the freedom to pick up and leave, it just means there are complications and consequences to doing so. You are just as free to do so as I am. It may be that you are not willing to give up everything to travel. That does not mean you are less free.
Many times, previous decisions that we have made in our lives dictates how easy it would be to exercise our freedoms. Sometimes, the difficulties are not our own doing. If you are missing most of your legs, you may think that you cannot travel around the world by motorcycle. Well don't tell David Barr that. David is missing most of his legs and he traveled around the world on an aged Harley Davidson. He even rode across Siberia. *In the winter.* These obstacles just make it more difficult. Another example I witnessed was on a hike to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. A man wanted to go to the top. He was in a wheel chair. If the park had a law saying no wheel chairs, then his freedoms would have been limited. But the park had no such law. So the man decided to go up. It is a tough hike even for someone with full use of his legs. I don't know if this man made it all the way, there were areas he would have had to crawl and drag his chair, but I know he made it most of the way. That's called freedom.
Back in the 60's and 70's there was a so called freedom movement. I am not talking about the civil rights movement. That movement was to remove laws and rules that allowed some people to restrict the freedoms of other people. I am talking about the hippies and others that talked about *being free*. Kids across the world were leaving home and traveling. Most did not own much to begin with but they often got rid of what they had and preached about the freedom of life without possessions. About how this somehow made you more free. They would state how free they were on the open road. What they did not realize was they were no more free than any citizen. In some ways they were less free, as they often violated vagrancy laws that could have put them in jail. They were just exercising their freedom differently.
The hippies often looked down on the *straights*. They would say how a guy who is married with a child and a house is less free. That person was just as free as the hippies. Their wants and needs and likes and dislikes may have been different, but they were just as free. A person's upbringing may dictate to some extent what that person will feel right doing, but it does not change their freedoms. Something like a house can be an encumbrance if you want to travel the world, but it can be a serious help if you want to raise a family and instill a sense of home in your children.
So what brought this on? Wade at www.openroadsong.com aka. www.vagabondjourney.com wrote a review of Isabelle Eberhardt's Novel, Vagabond. It sounds like an interesting novel, but he put in an excerpt from the book that got me thinking. In it there was a person who has decided that they have too many sentimental attachments to a past life and tries to get rid of these so that they can follow an imagined dream. I wrote the following comment.
Freedom is defined so many ways. Too often freedom is defined too definitely. The women with a physics degree decides to be a stay at home mom is free, but some don't think she is free. The person who travels continuously, without stopping because they don't really know how to stop may be less free. The person who has decided that they have too many sentimental attachments to a past life and tries to get rid of these so that they can follow an imagined dream may be least free of all. The lack of freedom may not be the sentimental attachments, but rather the feeling that these need to be eliminated. The feeling that there is something wrong with the way they are. The inability to either accept how things are, or grow from them AND with them. Too many people try to gain freedom by cutting the very foundation that their love of freedom grew from.
I think that cuts to the heart of it. Part of the reason many people don't feel free is they are looking for excuses why they are not doing what they think they like. A person who thinks they want to travel might believe that it is their house that is limiting their freedom. That is not true. If they want to hit the road, the house should not stop them. They can sell it, rent it or just walk away from it. The house is a minor inconvenience, a minor complication. If you want to sail around the world, you have the freedom to do so. You might need to find a boat first. Maybe learn how to sail. But those are just details.
For example, I could sell everything and just head out on the road on my bike. This would be fairly easy. But there are self imposed obstacles to this. I am a bit conservative and would rather not go around without health insurance. I have a good job that I can retire from in a reasonable future. I have family that I would not want to be away from for so long. The list goes on. Plus, I don't really think I would like that as much as I say I would. Long trips I would love, but to actually live on the road, I don't know. But these restrictions are not restrictions on my freedom. They are complications that prevent me from doing such a thing.
Now, if something suddenly happened, such as losing my job, or winning the lottery the balance might shift. But I would not be more free.