For the last few months, weve brought you a fascinating conversation with 30-year-old Ramona Eichhorn about her around-the-globe motorcycle trip. We interviewed her this past summer as she was nearing the end of her five-year journey. In this, the final installment, Ramona reflects on what shes learned from the trip so far and what she plans to do with her life when she returns. She also has a message to all who are held back from pursuing their dreams in some way.
WRN: Now that youre more than half way through your journey, what is the biggest thing that surprised you about the trip, yourself, etc.
The biggest surprise (and excitement) was to discover the REAL world, the world beyond TV reality. You have to go places, smell them, see with your own eyes, listen to peoples stories, and only then you may allow yourself to form an opinion. I’ve learned never to make any judgments without putting myself in someone elses shoes first.
Let me give you an example: Everyone warned us “Dont go to Colombia.” Admittedly, the first thoughts that came to my mind about that country, the negative way it was portrayed by the media, had been drugs and guerillas. Although, after three and a half years on the road, we considered ourselves somewhat experienced, we hesitated to deliberately go to a place that smelled so much of danger. It wasnt until we met another motorcycle traveler who told us that the Colombians were the friendliest and most hospitable people he had come across on his entire trip. We changed our minds and ended up spending three beautiful months in Colombia. It isnt exactly a walk in the park, but if you use common sense (like NEVER travel at night and ALWAYS ask for local advice before venturing off the main road), you should survive it. And he was right: the Colombians welcomed us with open arms to their country, which turned out being a true tropical gem.
WRN: Do you miss your family and friends? How often do you keep in touch with them? You obviously have made friends along the way. Will you keep in touch with some of them?
One of the things I miss most is my folks at home. Can you imagine that I havent seen my family in more than five years? My little sister was a flat-chested 14-year-old girl when I left and will be a 21-year-old woman with real boobs when I get to meet her next. What a thought! I try to keep in touch with them by email as much as I can. Since were writing a weekly half page article for our local newspaper, they can easily keep track of our adventures. It wasnt until we made it to the pages of the infamous “Freies Wort” and thus became the heroes of our little town that our parents eventually made their peace with the “crazy” lifestyle we had chosen.
In the course of my journey, Ive made many friends all over the world. Im lucky that way. Meanwhile, the list of people who are happy about a sign of life from me, is getting longer and longer.
WRN: Whats the hardest part of the journey?
Coping with the odds and ends of every day life seems to be the hardest. Also, its sad to wave goodbye to friends Ive made along the way and not knowing if Ill ever see them again.
WRN: Have you cried along the way?
Ive cried out of pain. I was riding my bike in snow in the Bolivian highlands at an altitude of 17,000 feet. It wasnt only literally breathtaking, but also icy cold. Unfortunately, a Peruvian thief had gotten hold of my thick, waterproof motorcycle gloves shortly before and left me with no other choice than riding with thin motocross gloves. I had no heated grips then and my fingers turned blue from cold. It hurt so much that I couldnt hold back my tears.
Ive cried out of frustration when I couldnt get my bike across some very deep rivers and needed Uwes help to fjord them. Its stupid, I know, but sometimes Im too proud to let someone else ride my bike. But its all about accepting ones limitations.
WRN: Have you ever felt “Im done. I just want to go home?”
I felt pretty exhausted after we had been taken hostage by some African warriors in Ethiopia (read all about this hair-rising adventure in our “Fear amp; Roving” article in the March/April 2005 issue of Roadrunner magazine, rrmotorcycling.com). Thing is, that we were out in the middle of nowhere when that drama happened and it took us about a week until we made it back to “civilization” (a handful of straw huts called a village). So even if I had wanted to go home, there was no way of doing so. But Im not someone who runs away from problems.
WRN: At what point did you realize that this trip you are doing as a woman is an amazing thing that you can capitalize on and use to benefit your life and possibly others?
Being the down-to-earth person I am, its hard for me to accept compliments on my “outstanding courage” etc. to do such a trip. I think that its not that special to ride a motorcycle around the world for five years. Really! Im convinced that many other adventurous spirits could do the same thing if they made the choice. To me, it doesnt really matter if you are a man or a woman. All you need is determination, endurance and some patience. Some language skills and common sense come in handy, but you progress as you go. I think that its essential to be true to yourself and have a passion for what youre doing whatever that may be. The most rewarding thing for me is to inspire other people with my photos and travel tales.
WRN: Have you felt real fear during this trip, either for your life or in a particular situation?
Yes, in Ethiopia (see above).
WRN:What have you learned about yourself during the trip?
Ive learned a great deal about happiness and the art of living the moment. Money cannot buy it. It has a lot to do with positive energy, finding my peace of mind and being grateful for what I have. I owe it to life to be happy! I love this sentence and therefore say it again: WE OWE IT TO LIFE TO BE HAPPY.
WRN: What will you do with your life after the journey?
After such a long time on the open road I cannot see myself being confined to a conventional life. To make the full circle, well end our trip in our hometown of Steinach, where it all began. This will just be a stage of my life, with a home base.
At the moment, Uwe and I are working on two books, one with short stories, one with pictures (coffee table book), which we intend to self publish soon. We will continue giving slide presentations and selling our prints, of course.
I have so many ideas that Im afraid one lifetime isnt enough to realize them all. For the time being, Ill have to learn to focus on a few things. I would love to get more involved with filming documentaries. I also want to run a marathon under four hours within the next three years (working on it). And for the rest of the story: Yes, I have the travel bug, and will probably end up being an eternal wanderer, some kind of gypsy, which isnt too terrible a prospect, after all. What do you think?