Combining Business and Motorcycle Travel Requires a Minimalist Mindset

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working in a mobile, make-shift office setting. Not in a trendy, We Work shared office space (though I’d love to try that out sometime), but from remote locations away from my office in Costa Mesa, California.

Last week, along with a couple of coworkers, operated from a business partner’s conference room in Salt Lake City, Utah while closing out a project. This week I’ve been working from Karen’s kitchen table in San Jose, California…or as I refer to it, the Cambrian Park satellite office in Greater San Jose.

My minimalist set up for the past two weeks has been what you see pictured above. My 15-inch 2015 MacBook Pro and that’s it. No mouse, no external keyboard, no 27-inch Apple monitor… just the MacBook Pro.

Before I left my office in Costa Mesa, I debated taking my Apple Magic Mouse and full-size Apple keyboard, as well as my 12-inch iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I opted to take only the MacBook.

In the past, I’ve traveled for work with all of these items (save the 27-inch Apple monitor – it’s a tad bulky). Each provides a useful and singular function, but this time I had to consider a lighter than usual carry…

… because everything I took to Salt Lake City I’d eventually be carrying back to California on a motorcycle.

Um, what?

Part of my plan for the conclusion of the Salt Lake City trip was to fly from Salt Lake City to San Jose to see Karen as we had plans for the weekend. I make this travel detour when my travel coincides with our commitment to see one another every two to three weeks. It provides us both the opportunity to see one another for an extra day prior to my jumping on a Southwest or Alaska one-way flight home on a Sunday.

I had another reason for flying to San Jose: it’s where my BMW 1150GS motorcycle has been garaged for nearly a year. If everything went according to plan, I’d replace its dead battery, pack it up with my clothing and other essentials, and enjoy a two-day ride to southern California. 

My 2000 BMW 1150GS pictured at Vance AFB in Enid, OK during the first leg of my cross-country road trip in 2016. That was a 6,000+ mile ride over a three-week period.

The photo above demonstrates the maximum storage capacity of the bike and even though I took only a 20-inch rolling suitcase and a backpack with me to Salt Lake City, I knew I’d have to be creative in packing since the bike’s luggage is already holding road essentials: a battery charger, a portable air compressor, minimal tools, and some extra gloves for cooler temperatures…because southern California winters are so frigid.  🙄 

I’ll leave the suitcase behind with Karen and pack my clothes into either my backpack or in the large Wolfman waterproof bag that will sit directly behind me on the bike.

I’ve missed riding

I’ve missed riding and being part of the two-wheeled world.

There is an unspoken camaraderie among motorcycle riders on the road; we drop our left hand from the handlebar and give a two-fingered peace sign as we approach a rider riding the opposite direction; we share parking spaces, are instant friends at roadside fuel stops and cafes when the helmets are off; and we always stop when another rider appears stranded on the side of the road.

There was a time when I lived in Santa Cruz County, two blocks from the beach when a motorcycle was my sole mode of transportation. It suited my needs at the time. These days, at nearly 61, I like having the comfort of a small SUV on occasion and my 2006 Ford Escape is perfectly suited for these needs.

Before minimalism

If I’d been in this situation before I adopted minimalism as a lifestyle choice, I can imagine how different the experience would’ve been.

Before minimalism, I would most likely have had a very different experience: I’d have packed too many clothes and computer peripherals, become frustrated when confronted with the reality of not having enough storage space for it all on the bike, and then spent money to ship home most of what I packed, representing needless frustration and expense.

Before minimalism, I would have probably made two separate trips because of the necessity of bringing my motorcycle tools to have on the ride home. (Since I needed to bring my tools from my home in Irvine to San Jose where my bike was located, and the TSA doesn’t allow tool longer than seven inches inside a carry on bag, I had to twice check my rolling suitcase, at a $30 expense each time (SNA to SLC and SLC to SJC). By combining the two trips into one, I saved the expense of a one-way flight, and potentially two if I was unable to get the bike running again.

Before minimalism, I wouldn’t have stopped to consider my essential needs. I’d have just plowed ahead and packed two suitcases with everything I might potentially need: mouse, keyboard, iPad, Pencil, and their associated chargers. I’d have ignored the 20-20 Rule that states anything I might potentially need is obtainable for less than $20 or within a 20-minute time frame and brought everything instead.

Tomorrow I depart

It’s Saturday as I finish writing this post and tomorrow I’m set to leave San Jose and Karen behind and embark on a two-day ride to Orange County. As a younger man, I could do this ride in a single day—in fact, two years ago when I rode across the US and back with my son Benjamin, we rode from San Jose to Needles, California, arriving well after dark and totally exhausted—but these days, I choose to ride no more than four or five hours and then spend the night. Tomorrow night my target is to spend the night in Pismo Beach and enjoy a nice dinner, maybe catch the sunset, too.

I’ll spend a few hours this morning deciding on what to pack and what to leave behind. For example, I have a ThermaRest self-inflating sleeping pad for camping that I’m leaving here for Karen’s daughter to use as she’s a big fan of sleeping on the cold, hard ground kind of camping.  I’ll never use it again, but it’s too good to just toss.

I’ll pack the essentials for the bike, my clothing, and see where I stand. I think I’ve planned accurately enough, but the process is always enjoyable to see how everything fits, kind of like a puzzle.

In another post, I wrote about how it’s possible to live as we travel, just with the essentials. I find motorcycle and business travel to be very similar in this regard. Not everyone shares my view, as I’ve seen hair dryers, curling irons, and portable fans making the cut for weekend trips. 

By Baz

writer | coach | practical buddhist


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