So here’s the thing about stuff: it is, for the most part, irrelevant. When I say stuff, in this context, I mean things. I mean boots and motorcycle tank bags and socks and sleeping pads; you know, stuff. As an adventure traveler who is on a questionable yet more or less indefinite RTW trip, and as someone who gets paid to produce content for mainstream moto media once in a while, I can’t help but notice how much emphasis there is on stuff out there. Gear reviews are everywhere: magazines, blogs, vlogs, even social media – you see a review of that helmet and that other helmet, this boot and that other boot, as well as reviews of bikes, daily, and it’s plastered all over the place. Why are we so obsessed with talking about stuff?
For one thing, blogs and moto magazines want clicks and visitors, and to attract clicks and visitors, you’ve got to write about what’s relevant. Stuff, it seems, is always relevant. Besides, you’ve got to pay attention to holy SEO – in other words, be mindful of what people search for on Google. The more people search for a particular keyword or phrase, the more likely you are to get traffic using that keyword.
Here’s an example. I use a very basic keyword research tool, so this might not be very accurate, but let’s see what people search for. A keyword “Sidi boots” gets over 4,400 searches a month. Cool, so if I write about Sidi boots, I might get some of that 4,400 traffic. What about bikes? Those are even better: keyword “BMW GS 800”, for example, gets 27,000 searches a month.
Supply and demand, demand and supply. If people care about stuff, magazines and blogs are going to publish content about stuff. Reviews of stuff, comparisons of stuff, ideas for new stuff and of course, upgraded, new edition stuff that comes out every six months or so, at which point old stuff becomes obsolete.
I am an optimist by nature, however, so I don’t want to be cynical. Perhaps people search for stuff a lot; but they might be searching for non-stuffy stuff, too, right? For example, how to communicate with locals when you’re riding around the world, or how to have a meaningful journey.
So, what’s the search volume of the key phrase, “how to connect with locals while traveling”? 70 searches a month. What about “how to have a meaningful travel experience”? 0.
Since I’d declared I’m a sworn optimist, I’ll try to stay positive here, too, and say that maybe people search for those terms less because it’s a personal thing that they just don’t wish to discuss, or read about, publicly. Or perhaps people are already so in tune with themselves and the world that they don’t need to Google meaningful journeys or connection; they’ve got it already, and all they need right now, really, is a pair of those new GoreTex gloves.
Thing is, of course, that I am no vegan hippie riding around the world on a bicycle with nothing but one tatty t-shirt on my back (I hate pedaling and own several shirts). I have stuff. In fact, I have nice stuff, like those aforementioned Sidi boots, a nice Klim Artemis suit, a lovely Mosko Moto luggage set, some really neat Leatt knee and neck braces, and even a bourgeois First Gear heated jacket. Even more: I have talked about said stuff on ADV Rider, Adventure Motorcycle, and ADV Pulse, because the stuff’s amazing, and hey, people want to hear about it. But for me, the best thing about all this stuff is that I don’t need to talk about it. In fact, I don’t even need to think about it, which is the best part. It’s so functional that I can forget it altogether. My feet feel nice and snug in my Sidi Crossfire boots, even if I’m standing on the pegs for ten hours during a rally, and I don’t need to think about foot protection, or comfort, or any of those things. I never have to worry about losing stuff or getting my stuff wet, because the brilliant minds at Mosko Moto have already figured out a fantastic saddlebag and duffel bag design that keeps everything safe, dry, and in place. So to me, the best indication that stuff is great and works perfectly is when I can completely forget about it.
I love not thinking about stuff. Because if I don’t need to think about stuff, I can think about people, ideas, books, or that thing where if a tree falls and nobody hears it, did it make a sound? I can sip coffee and watch people and ride along listening to music contemplating the fluffiness of the clouds. Bliss.
Of course, I am crazy lucky to have all this stuff in the first place, and me saying I don’t care about stuff is, I imagine, somewhat annoying; it is, perhaps, a bit like when exceptionally beautiful people say they don’t care about looks or when wealthy people say they don’t care about money. Like, whatever, easy for you to say, you smug, self-righteous cow.
But I have in fact traveled the entire South American continent in blue jeans, knock-off Chinese pair of CAT boots, and a cheapo backpack I got from a supermarket, back in 2013. So I know what that feels like, too. Mostly, though, the change in the quality and niceness of my stuff has resulted in more comfort and security. More happiness, or more vivid travel experiences, or more interesting interactions with locals, though? Not really. Stuff had zero impact on that.
I am more than happy to recommend the Sidi, Klim, Leatt, and Mosko Moto stuff, and I will probably continue to do so here and there because you’ve got to acknowledge the genius behind the design of it all. And, stuff is simply a part of our motorcycling adventures, one way or another.
But can we stop talking about stuff so obsessively? Can we stop focusing on the Pink Jacket vs Kind of Salmon-Pink Jacket, and Those Long Underpants vs Those Slightly Shorter Underpants, and just hang out? Can we stop endlessly discussing These Very Functional Tires and Those Less Grippy Tires, and spend countless hours debating yet another farkle that might, at some point, have some use, but then again, it might not?
Look, Hannah travels on this bike, and Charlie travels on that other bike, and Leah is riding RTW on yet another bike. Wolfgang has aluminum panniers, Jerry has soft luggage, and Jenna has no luggage at all.
And all of it is good and just.
Regardless of all of this stuff, all is well in the world.
Let’s just chill out and check out those clouds, and have a cappuccino, and read a book, and help someone to change their spokes or fix a fence.