In these times of relentless stress, some sort of pause or escape is essential, if not necessary, in order to create balance. If that escape involves a motorcycle trip, so much the better.
But for those days when the handlebars are out of reach, there’s Sam Manicom’s new book, Current collectors, to take you to distant lands, where you are invited to experience vicariously some of the most powerful moments experienced by 20 terrestrial motorcyclists. The adventures are described in the form of short stories, each rich in detail and sporting the travelers’ unique style.
You’ve no doubt heard of some of these bikers, famous overlanders like Simon and Lisa Thomas, who have been traveling the world on two wheels for 16 years now, covering more than 500,000 miles on six continents. “They survived a broken neck and malaria in the Amazon, were shot in Russia, crossed 36 deserts and faced deportation, after being wrongly accused of kidnapping the son of a president,” just reads part of their biography in The Moment. Collectors.
In the story ‘The Hard Side of the Silk Road’, Simon takes us on the couple’s chilling and life-defining ride over the legendary Pamir Mountains in Central Asia. He writes the adventure with such eloquence and detail that you might want a fuzzy cover nearby to ward off the perception of biting chill so perfectly evoked by this tale.
Other stories are told no less compellingly by more recent Overlanders in the lifestyle, such as in “A Return to Sinai” where Brit Emma’s haunting descriptions of Lucy Cole’s time spent living with a Bedouin tribesman on the peninsula Egyptian Sinai don’t have much to do with horseback riding. That is, until years later, when inspired by Steph Jeavoirs to get her motorcycle license, she returned “home” to the Sinai where she rented a small bike and rode her first real ride.
There’s humor in it: “As night fell we were in Chihuahua, the home of dogs so ugly they’re best suited as guide dogs for the blind,” says Geoff Hill in ‘Far from Home’ , a story that highlights the teetering ups and downs of overlanding. , and how “travel makes the ordinary extraordinary,” when he is almost moved to tears at the sight of a Walmart after months of driving around Central and South America.
Not to mention Graham Field’s hilarious, dry journaling, in “Finding the Rhythm of the Road,” where he finds the definition of overland motorcycle travel revealed by an impromptu dip in a river. “I don’t know how adventurous it is, but it’s something you wouldn’t do on your commute. Stopping by a river and washing up, then spinning in the sand and stand on the poles, go up the track to the road, that’s what you do when you go on your bike.
My favorite of the stories was the first, “The Unthinkable Happens,” by Claire Elsdon about an experience she had through Sudan on her Suzuki DR-Z 400. Her writing immediately grabs you and holds you, taking you on a ride where everything you could imagine happening in one of the most demonized countries in the world, does. “With that, he pushed open the passenger side door, as if what had held me back until then had been the burden of opening it.”
Much like traveling through different countries on a motorbike, the stories in this satisfying book each have a flavor and writing style of their own. Enjoying some stories more than others also reflects travel. Your favorite stories may be very different from mine, but I guarantee there will be some favorites. Plus, when you come across an author who really speaks to you, Manicom has done the favor of including details on where to find more of their work at the end of their chapter.
Although it only took me a few days to drink through The Moment Collectors 459 pages, I would have preferred to string the 20 stories together over weeks, delivering myself one at a time, letting each one flow like a balm. Also, if you’re hesitant to hit the road, be prepared for a spur. These stories made me gnaw at the proverb for an international ride.
I downloaded The Moment Collectors in Kindle format, which I then viewed in the Kindle app on an iPad. I generally prefer to read travel books on a high quality digital screen for clarity, especially when a book has photos, so you can zoom in for a closer look.
The only disappointment I felt about the book is the lack of photography. Instead of using photos in the stories, there are illustrations, which are lovely in their own way, but when I read a true story about traveling through an exotic country, my brain begs for pictures. In the middle of the book, Manicom offers a well of photos, but only 20, one from each story, presumably chosen by the authors, but to me they looked like drops of water in a visual desert.
Luckily, there are links to each author’s social media pages at the end of their stories, where you’ll find more images. There is also a useful collection of useful links and contacts for aspiring foreigners at the end of the book.
The Moment Collectors reads like a journey – a journey where you meet a multitude of interesting guides, each offering a unique perspective to the destinations they share. It’s a real portal to adventure, and well worth the price of transportation.
It’s time to turn away from the news and take that journey.
The Moment Collectors was curated by overlander veteran and travel writer Sam Manicom, who also tells the book’s final story. You can find The Moment Collectors on Amazon in paper version (20 USD) or kindle, or on the Manicom website: Sam-Manicom.com
Illustrations by Simon Roberts | Cover design by Fil Schiannini