Before arriving to the Dominican Republic, my experience with motorbikes was limited to a singular weekend of touring Block Island on a rented motor-scooter. That, and listening to my friends’ tales of motorcycle crashes, which mostly ended in “I had three operations to fix my knee,” or “…and he died.”
This didn’t do much to allay my fear of motorcycles or prepare me for life in the Dominican Republic, which requires hopping on the back of a motoconcho to go shopping, get to the beach, or go about your daily business. So, when we rented a motorbike so I could learn to drive it and get around town on my own, my first thought was that the Cabarete Medical Center was going to be seeing a lot of me.
Luckily, I’m married to a very skilled teacher. Ryan patiently coached me through my initial inability to coordinate my right hand on the throttle, left hand on the clutch, left foot on the gears and right foot on the brake until, eventually, it became as second-nature as driving a car. And after that, once I’d gotten my hands and feet to cooperate with my brain, I just had the busy roads and Dominican traffic rules to contend (you know, nothing big). Which was luckily conquered with a little more practice and some mental coaching from Ryan.
Now, I can’t imagine not driving around the Dominican Republic on a motorbike. When I’m out on the road, I can hear, see, feel and smell my surroundings like I’m an integral part of them. I’m aware of every little change in scenery; the sound of cars, birds and cattle; and I get an adrenalin buzz even on a ten-minute ride to the beach.
And, sure, I get scared sometimes, like when I have to stop on a hill or pull out into traffic. But the more I ride, the easier it becomes, the less scary it is, and the more I realize that I won’t get hurt as long as I stay vigilant and make sure I’m aware of other drivers and my surroundings.
The real gift of this new-found skill, though, is a heightened sense of adventure. It’s opened up new possibilities for where we can go and how we can travel on land when we reach a new country. And it’s injected excitement into otherwise mundane chores like going to the store to buy milk. Going anywhere to do anything has become such a sensory experience that now I look for excuses to go out just so I can take the motorcycle.
For sure, motorcycle riding is a lot of things, including potentially dangerous and unpopular with protective parents. But it is anything but boring.