Nothing restores the soul like leaving your relationship woes behind and motorbiking down to Central America. That’s according to Jeremy Kroeker, author of Motorcycle Therapy, a Canadian bestseller that was released in 2006 and has sold over 10,000 copies.
“I never intended to write a book when I set off to Panama,” Kroeker said. “All I was doing was keeping a journal for my own enjoyment, but then I was also sending emails to friends back home and putting a fair amount of effort into them. People were enjoying them and said I should write a book about this.”
Motorcycle Therapy is about two guys who get their hearts broken and take off on a four-month motorcycle trip and discover along the way that they don’t get along with each other very well either. “There’s a lot of humour in that book, and it comes from the tension between the two riders—myself and my friend Trevor,” said Kroeker. “It’s a lighthearted, short read—a cautionary tale recommended for anybody considering travelling on a motorcycle with a friend.”
As Kroeker travelled with his friend, he learned that self-awareness goes a long way. “At the beginning of the book, I’m talking about how difficult this person is and how irritating he is,” he said. “Towards the end of the book, the revelation happens and I realize, ‘Oh, it’s not Trevor’s fault. I’m just an irritable person.’ It was an eye-opening experience—a moment of insight into my own character. I realized I’m impatient. Knowing that, I can choose my travel partners better in the future and I can be a better travel partner by recognizing my flaws and taking a moment to step back from a situation when I’m stressed.”
Jeremy Kroeker waits for cows to cross the road in Mexico. — Photo courtesy Jeremy Kroeker
From dirt to asphalt
Kroeker has been a biking enthusiast his whole life. He grew up dirt biking across the prairies in Saskatchewan and carried on his two-wheeled passion when he moved to Canmore in 2000. It was 2003 when Kroeker made his cross-continent round trip from Alberta to Panama that inspired Motorcycle Therapy. “It was done impulsively,” he said. “I was looking for something to do that would distract me from too much introspection. My buddy was also dumped by his girlfriend at exactly the same time. It was perfect. We just jumped on the motorcycles and took off.”
When it comes to exploring the intricacies of various cultures and regions, nothing elightens a newcomer like seeing it from the seat of a motorcycle. “It’s the best mode of travel, rather than taking buses or flying all over the place and parachuting into another culture,” said Kroeker. “You can travel at a different pace. When you travel by motorcycle, you never experience jet lag because you’re always travelling very slowly across the Earth. The cultures begin to morph and change in more gradual degrees.”
Jeremy Kroeker takes in the view of Yazd, Iran, atop the Amir Chakhmaq Complex in Yazd, Iran. — Photo courtesy Jeremy Kroeker
Into the desert
Years later, Kroeker embarked on another, even grander motorcycle adventure into the Middle East, which also produced another book, Through Dust and Darkness. He shipped his motorcycle, a Kawasaki KLR 650, to Germany. From there, Kroeker made his way through Europe, through the Balkans and into the Middle East over a 10-month period.
“I decided to travel solo—partly because of the lessons I learned on my trip on Motorcycle Therapy,” said Kroeker. “I’ve always had an affinity for the Middle East—that culture, cuisine, people and history. I was raised in a very religious setting so seeing religion turned on its head from what I was brought up with is fascinating to me. Damascus in Syria is one of my favourite cities. I was there in 2008 and went back again in 2012—before things went sideways. It’s tragic to see what’s happening there now.”
Take it easy
In order to get the most out of your trip, Kroeker advises taking a laid-back approach as opposed to being overprepared. “I didn’t intend to go to Syria—I got sidetracked,” he said. “With these trips, it’s good to be flexible. If you get too tied to a plan, it can create stress. I know a lot of folks who spend a lot of time poring over maps and schedules and really setting things up for success, and I just kind of go by the seat of my pants.”
Kroeker’s relaxed approach to travelling has afforded him downtime when he can chronicle his expedition. “I journal religiously during all of my travels,” said Kroeker. “My grandmother instilled that in me. When I went on my first trip, she told me I ought to sit down every day and write something because one day I will look back on it and will appreciate the journals. Every time I go out, I either scribble things down in a notebook or type things down on a laptop. Even if it’s just one thing I didn’t want to forget about that day—a smell or encounter with someone.”
If you’d like to read about Kroeker’s stories from the road, you can find them in his books at his publishing house, Oscillator Press. Kroeker also has some valuable advice and entertaining stories worth reading here on RidersWest.