Your soul is ready to go ride around the world, but your bank account begs to differ? It’s more common than you think – but don’t despair. Adventure travel doesn’t need to be an expensive undertaking at all, as long as you’re willing to compromise (a little) and plan ahead (a lot). And no, adventure travel on a budget doesn’t mean sleeping in ditches and surviving on pot noodles – it just means a smarter way to ride around the world.

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1. Set Your Priorities

What level of comfort do you need? You can buy a $20,000 bike and ride around for a month, or you can buy a $5,000 bike and ride around the world for a year. It’s all about the level of luxury you require. Do you absolutely need a big, comfy bike, nice restaurant meals and decent hotels? Prepare to spend $100 and more a day. Are you happy with a smaller, maybe second-hand bike, simpler lodging and cooking your own meals once in a while? Your expenses might drop to $50 and less a day.

Be honest with yourself and manage your expectations. Are you going on a fancy holiday or an adventure ride? Those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but just think about whether you want to invest in things or happiness and freedom.

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2. Get Creative

As mentioned above, compromises are important but it doesn’t mean you’ll have to sleep under a tarp and eat canned tuna all the time. There are ways of making adventure travel both exciting and comfortable without depriving yourself.

• Barter - Miss staying in a nice hotel? See if you can ask for a discount or a free stay in exchange for, say, great photos or a website upgrade for the owner.

• DIY -  Want a good steak for dinner? Instead of splurging on a restaurant meal, buy a nice piece of filet mignon at a local butcher’s and cook it yourself. This will reduce the cost significantly but you’ll still have a fantastic dinner!

• Pause - Life on the road can get exhausting sometimes – so plan a little break once in a while. Stay in a peaceful jungle lodge and catch up on reading or get an AirBnB in a beautiful city someplace and go out for drinks if that’s your thing. Stopping once in a while and doing the things you’ve missed while traveling can be a huge boost for morale – and finances, because the slower you travel, the less you spend.

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3. Travel Slowly

Speaking of slowing down: most of the time, it’s wiser to pick a country, a region or a continent and explore it slowly rather than race around the world. If you travel slow, you spend less on gas and accommodation, see more, and have a much more in-depth experience of the places you’re traveling through.

Adventure travel isn’t just about motorcycling – it’s also about immersing yourself in local cultures and experiencing the world on a very human level. So hold your horses, spend less, and see more!

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4. Cheat Currencies

If your budget is tight, think about where you’re going. North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand will be very expensive to travel, so if you can’t afford it just yet, go to Asia or South America instead (Africa is also on the list, but the sheer cost of paperwork – visas and carnet de passage – might be on the pricier side).

If you are planning to hit all six continents though, see if you can leverage currencies. Splurge on good hotels, restaurants, and activities in places like Bolivia, Tajikistan and Laos, but consider camping and cooking your own food as much as possible in Norway and Canada.

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5. Be Prepared

We make irrational decisions when we’re under stress or duress – so plan ahead to avoid this as much as possible.

If you have great riding and camping gear, you’re more likely to camp more instead of caving in and checking into hotels when the weather turns bad. If your bike is well maintained, you’re less likely get stranded somewhere and spend a fortune on DHL services to get you parts. Equally, research political situations and borders ahead of the trip: having to detour for thousands of miles because of civil unrest or buying an expensive carnet de passage or a guided tour last minute can get very costly, very quickly. Sure, you can’t be prepared for everything, and unexpected things will happen – but being aware and having a plan B just in case can save you a lot of headache and expenses.

So what’s the bottom line? Adventure travel is achievable for as little as $15 a day and as much as… well, I guess there’s no limit of how much you can spend if you want and are able to! The point is, a little creativity, willingness to compromise and slow travel can all be huge factors in your budgeting decisions. So do your research, decide where you want to go and what you’re comfortable with, and hit that open road!

So, you bought brand new gear, serviced your bike, bought all the camping equipment including a tent, stove, sleeping bags etc. You tested it all, downloaded and installed maps and apps, ticked everything on your list, and now you’re ready to go on the adventure of your lifetime. But, I have a question for you: Are you REALLY ready? Don’t worry, I don’t want to discourage you from hitting the road. I just want to mention one or two things that you’re going to come across sooner or later, and I’m not talking about flat tires and muddy roads. It’s most certain that you’ll bump into people and situations difficult to understand and sometimes difficult to accept or even to co-exist with.

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Different cultures, different people, different situations and different environments! They all sound interesting, challenging and of course, new to your eyes. But what happens is that your eyes are the same good ol’ eyes that you always had and that your perception of the world depends on what you’ve seen up until now. And before you tell me that you’re an open-minded person who understands other cultures and is always ready to learn, please keep in mind that this can be way more difficult than you may have imagined.

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I always considered myself very open-minded, and since I have an anthropological background I was confident about my ability to adapt, understand and accept the “other.” So, imagine my surprise when I uttered for the first and last time in my life the phrase, “This is Africa!” What?! I’d fallen into the worst trap and was upset with myself for letting all the pre-constructed notions I thought I’d rejected affect me. What is Africa and who is wise enough to even make an acronym of it (“TIA”), thus to accept it as an non-negotiable truth?!

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Let’s talk about stereotypes now, because even if we think we’re not biased and congratulate ourselves for being objective, this probably isn’t that clear. How many times have we approached a police control check with the certainty that they’re corrupt? In Africa, always and in South America 90% of the times. You’ll probably tell me that it’s better to be prepared and I’ll agree, but where exactly is the line between “prepared” and “prejudiced”? Oh, and if I start writing the reasons why police may be corrupt, you’ll be surprised to find among them a Westerner willing to pay in order to get on with it, only because “TIA.” Same subject different continent, “When in South America, play the silly gringo and don’t speak Spanish to the police.” I’m fluent in Spanish and I have to admit that our first time in South America I followed this strategy. Nothing ever happened really, but this time I chose to change my style and reveal my secret ability. Guess what happened now? All the policemen started asking more questions, but not about our papers. They were all willing to chat and know more about us and our trip!

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Enough with the notorious cops. Let’s go to the loud and rude underdeveloped countries (yep, I’m completely sarcastic). I need to mention here that we’re coming from a pretty loud, rude and underdeveloped country, too—Greece—according to the mainstream cinema and news propaganda. We’re trained to survive in these conditions. If you’re wondering whether I like loud music all day long and people who shout, just know that I’m a very quiet person with a slight agoraphobic twist. But in Brazil, Paraguay or Argentina life is like this and it is “take it or leave it.” Basically, everywhere is “take it or leave it” and the key to understanding it better is to forcefully plant in your brain that NO, you’re not better than the others. You’re just slightly different and before you start bragging about your higher abilities and your higher standards, it may be better to really bear in mind that the only objective reality that exists is that some people are more privileged than others—by chance!

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The moral of this story? But what I’ve learned from our travels is that every time we’ve met the new and the unfamiliar with a more positive and open approach, the reward was immediate, and this attitude has allowed us to get surprisingly closer to the people we meet on the road. And in this way, you may feel that the things we have in common are more than the things that make us different. You may feel like part of a bigger community and overcome many of your fears. And if this isn’t the essence of traveling, then what could it be?

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I know, at first glance this phrase seems a bit contradictory, but here's the story of how we almost suffered a “burnout” when we decided to take things more seriously on our long-term journey across Africa and South America.

It was in 2013 when Stergios finally set off on his RTW trip. Up until the day he left, he had been working tirelessly as a waiter. Rewarding or not, this was his job and he was doing his best, but when he counted his savings, his only thought was to be able to spend as much time as possible without having to work as an employee. So, he left his country free from any work obligations and with no specific plans.

As many travelers do, before he left he started a blog so he could share his stuff from the trip: pictures, videos, his travel journal... No big commitments no great expectations. But what usually happens almost unconsciously to many people the moment they cut everyday stress out of their lives, is the realization of what they really love in life. So, this is how Stergios realized he loved making videos and shooting pictures. When we met and immediately after we started traveling together, I had my own “revelation” about how much I loved writing. This is how we found ourselves with a bilingual website, a YouTube channel with videos from every country we crossed, countless pictures, texts, and of course, this is how we understood that this had become our way of life. Being on the road, traveling on our scooter and expressing our creativity through what we loved, seemed the ideal life. And it was, for sure!

The big step forward was the decision to take a break from the trip and try to sort out how we would proceed (Stergios set off for his RTW trip with $11,000 and when I joined him in South America, I hadn't more than $5,000). Our wallets were significantly thin, but we were determined to find the best option in order to go on with our plans without making – at least many – compromises. We parked our scooter in Brazil, got back to our country, Greece – not the most popular for its economic growth, for the majority of its residents – and after recovering from our post-travel depression (that's another story), we started working hard on our project.

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While on the road, we couldn't realize how many things we were doing and how many hours we were spending working. It may seem easy, but since we were sincerely devoted to our plan, worldvespa had changed from a part-time-no-strings-attached hobby into a professional commitment. We were experiencing a positive type of stress, which made us more alert, energized, motivated and resourceful, and this feeling of positive stress got triggered again soon after some months in Greece. Stergios had started working as a waiter again and I had been back to my work as a Spanish teacher. But it was not enough, so I started doing some freelance translations while we were also working on promoting the book we had just released, doing presentations, writing pieces for magazines etc. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Stergios was also trying to make a documentary with his footage from Africa, all by himself. We even took a full-time pet-sitting job! Did I stress enough how much we enjoyed everything? If not, I repeat: we really loved all the things we were doing and we were trying our best in every single one of them.

It was at some point while we were working with a translator for the release of the English version of our book “Rice & Dirt”, when the first symptoms started cropping up. Sincerely, I have no idea when exactly the positive stress started shifting into this chaos, but we found ourselves not wanting to get up from bed in the morning, not having the energy to do things, finding it hard to meet and talk with people, suffering from headaches and stomach issues... So, we did what everyone does these days: we googled it. The articles we bumped into, explained everything: we had reached a point at which our stress had become too much to handle and we were about to hit the level of burnout. We even had booked our flights for South America, but we couldn't feel relieved, just more stressed! Endless lists of e-mails waiting for a reply, sales, prospective sponsors etc... We had achieved what we dreamed of and we were finding it hard to smile about it.

You'll be probably waiting for the magic plot-twist, but actually there isn't any “Deus ex machina” making his entrance to help resolve the situation. We had to find ways to help ourselves and the truth is that we are still working on it. What we managed to achieve is to acknowledge the fact that our devotion has been rewarding (to be honest, not much financially but mainly morally) and to stay faithful to our promise of living according to what we love. Soon, we'll be on the road again resuming our RTW trip, doing some scooter traveling therapy. Let's see what happens next!

WorldVespa.net

 

My wrists and hands are so sore I can barely open a bottle of water. My legs are black and blue, I have just slept for fourteen hours straight, and my bike, a Suzuki DR650 I call “Lucy,” is trashed. I’ve just completed Bosnia Rally, a four-day roadbook navigation event near a bucolic small town of Kupres in central Bosnia. I’m still processing what had just happened, but one thing’s for sure: the rally bug has bitten so hard I can’t help it anymore. And it turns out, that’s no bad thing.

My first forays into adventure riding began six years ago on a small Chinese motorcycle in South America. I’d never ridden a motorcycle before, and back then, I couldn’t have imagined ever being any good on off-road trails, let alone handling a larger, more powerful bike. Little by little, with plenty of involuntary landings, bruises, missed turns, weird bike choices, and second-hand men’s riding gear, I ended up on an indefinite round-the-world trip on my DR650. I traveled so slowly it took me almost three years just to get to Chile from Arizona; speed and racing were never my thing, as I’d always preferred noodling about places with little clue about destinations or records.

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That’s still true today when it comes to traveling. Yet, somehow, I have now completed three multi-day cross-country roadbook navigation rallies in five months. I got intrigued by rally racing when I chased Rally Dakar in Peru; an unexpected invitation got me riding the Trans Alen Tejo Rally in Portugal, followed shortly by the seven-day madness that was Hellas Rally Raid in Greece. The Portugal rally taught me roadbook navigation, while Hellas Rally taught me that yes, both Lucy and I can survive seven insane days of cross-country rally.

But it was the Bosnia Rally that sealed my fate as a rally fanatic. Bosnia Rally, organized by an Austrian rider and rally maniac Stefan Rosner, is technically not a race as participants are not timed. The goal of the event is to teach riders roadbook navigation and put them through their paces under real rally conditions, minus the pressure of timing. During the four days of the rally, riders and their bikes are put to the test as they tackle technical sections, a marathon day, tricky navigation, and gnarly terrain. “Lite” tracks are available for riders on large adventure bikes as well as those who aren’t very confident at riding technical tracks just yet, whereas the main rally route is as real as it gets. Although Stefan hopes to attract riders of all levels, the main rally route and distances throw you right into the deep end, and it’s up to you to sink or swim.

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Having completed the two previous rallies, I figured I’d go for the harder rally version. My DR650 is more of a pack mule than a racehorse, and my riding skills were more of a “potter around” situation than “beast mode.” During Trans Alentejo and Hellas, I always came in last, a good hour behind the last rider, and was simply happy to have survived. I couldn’t chase after the “real” rally riders, nor could I wheelie across streams or jump off hills. I could ride the Trans America Trail, the BDRs, and some Andean trails. Race… not so much.

The Bosnia Rally has changed that. Barely perceptibly, as I still got gravel sprayed in my face, dumped Lucy countless times and only barely made it up the gnarly uphill climbs. But I wasn’t the last one to limp into the bivouac when all the other riders had already changed out of their gear. I didn’t get sent back because I didn’t make time, and I didn’t bail out of the technical sections until the very last day when I incinerated Lucy’s clutch. I made it through all of the four rally days riding like my life depended on it, improving my riding by leaps and bounds as something finally clicked in my brain allowing me to open up that throttle. I was terrified most of the time—but I also had a ridiculous amount of fun.

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What made all of this possible was pure chance of meeting three other riders at Bosnia Rally. Gabriella, an Australian gal on a rented Yamaha 250, Lieven, a Belgian rider on his Husky 701, and Nick, a South African-German rider on a KTM 690, all came to the rally alone—most other people were there with their friends or partners. Somehow, we ended up riding together and had so much fun in the process we decided to stick together for the whole rally, christening our newly founded motley crew “The Rally Bunnies” as we were all new to the scene and refused to take ourselves too seriously.

While they were all better and faster riders than me, they’d wait up for me here and there, and we’d get back to the bivouac together for celebratory beers. Gabriella constantly had me in stitches with her Aussie humor and forced me way out of my comfort zone as I tried to keep up with her riding faster than I have ever ridden before. Lieven helped me fix a mangled gear shift lever, waited for me, and helped me get up a particularly nasty, rock-littered hill. And Nick stuck with me for morale when Lucy wouldn’t start, helping me get the bike off the track and fix a flooded airbox.

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Since I’m traveling solo and I’d always go it alone in the other rallies, I never knew how awesome it is to have the right people to share motor oil, laughs, and incredible scenery with. Deep ruts and navigation mistakes seem a lot less scary when you’re in the company of the funniest and most badass rally people on planet Earth, and your own inhibitions fly out of the window when you’re chasing after them across a vast open Bosnian grassland.

But back to those open throttles. Several things happen when you finally let go of fear and tear across the tracks like never before. You realize rally racing isn’t quite about the dude-bro mentality, nor it is about brutal competition. It’s about ditching your own old stories about yourself, daring to get out there, discovering a whole different world, and being so impossibly alive in the moment that reality seems heightened—sharper and brighter somehow. Cross-country rally racing can add a whole another layer to adventure riding, even if you’re not planning to get onto that Dakar podium or win the Silk Way Rally. You find a new appreciation for your motorcycle, even when it’s an old banged up DR650; you realize you’re capable of more, and suddenly nothing seems impossible.

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Bosnia Rally is structured in a way that never lets you get comfortable in the best possible way while still allowing you to be in awe of the scenery and the people. Bosnia is an undiscovered jewel of the Balkans, and riding here feels like you’re experiencing half of the world in just one region. It felt like the four rally days took us to Mongolia, Scotland, Georgia (the country, not the state), and back to Bosnia, as the landscapes varied from boundless plains to rocky mountainsides and fjords, turquoise-blue rivers and lakes, serene farmlands, and old forests.

Bosnian people are among the most welcoming and friendliest in Europe, and we all felt right at home in Kupres sampling local cuisine and Bosnian plum sljivovitza (imagine a cross between Louisiana moonshine and Italian grappa). Stefan pre-rides all the rally tracks himself, and his roadbook design is straightforward but with plenty of additional information helping you to stay on track.

I don’t yet know where in the world I will be in 2020, as I’m considering several route options from the Balkans. But I do know that in July, I’ll be at the Bosnia Rally again.

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ProfileEglė Gerulaitytė is a motorcycle adventurer and writer currently traveling around the world slowly and discovering new places, stories, coffee, and rallies. She’s dreaming about going from a rally chaser to racer one day, and in the meantime, she and her Suzuki DR650 are slowly making their way towards the African continent. Egleontheroad.com

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As we sat in our classroom at our university writing our seemingly never-ending theses, and were stuck on ideas about what to do once our formal education was over with. The corporate grad-roles didn’t excite us enough, but what did was an idea about riding motorbikes across South America. Fast-forward four months and we were handing over money for three dual-sport bikes in Chile, ready to ride to Colombia. So, this one is for you guys, the fresh-faced students and Gen Ys and Zs who are looking for a little inspiration on ideas for an epic adventure.

You don’t need a fulltime job, lots of money, life experience or even riding experience to partake in such a stint. Of course it helps, but here’s just a bit of advice that will help you on your way. 

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First things first: Your adventure can be student-budget friendly. Our part-time jobs and summer internships allowed us to travel for the entire year of 2018. How? The bikes we bought were solid ADV bikes (Suzuki DR 650, Kawasaki KLR 650 and a Yamaha WR250R). We bought each for $3,000–$3,500. At nearly every city along the way we took them in for servicing and did our own basic mechanical work. This meant by the end of the year we were able to sell them for roughly the same price. No doubt we still gave them a thrashing on epic remote roads and deserts, but if you take reasonable care of them you’ll likely make your money back. To buy and sell the bikes, use Horizons Unlimited (HorizonsUnlimited.com), a huge adventure riding forum which has practically everything you need.

Secondly, we were fully self-sufficient—the most important factor for extending that budget of yours. Our panniers were filled to the brim with all the necessary gear (see list below). All through Argentina and Chile, the more expensive countries in South America, we camped in deserts, on the side of highways, in the mountains and beside rivers. Not only did we have almost two months of camping under the stars each night, but we also didn’t spend a dime on accommodations. Even when we got to cities, hosts from Couchsurfing (CouchSurfing.com) were more than happy to accommodate three smelly Aussies on motos. But for when you’re on the road, here’s a list of essential gear to make your trip run smoothly:

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● 3–4 season tent
● Sleeping bag (rated -8°F or more)
GORETEX jacket
● Down jacket
● Insulated jacket
● Insulated sleeping mat
● Solar panel light (Luci)
● Trangia or hiking stove

No doubt all this gear is expensive, but when you consider the costs it will save you (and experiences it will give you), it makes sense. Additionally, good gear will last 10+ years.

Gnarly experiences are amplified when you’re on a budget. I can’t count the number of shooting stars I’ve seen this year, the isolated deserts we’ve camped in, or the amount of times I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude, as we slept in the most epic environments ever. This is way better than any hostel in the world. How did we find all these spots? Mostly through the app iOverlander (iOverlander.com). Check it out.

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Once you hit Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, and you feel the need for a warm shower, a bed and maybe some decent food (after all those camping meals), things become amazingly cheaper. So, you can live like royalty if you want.

Back when we were signing the documents to get our bikes, I reflected upon my riding experience. I had ridden a motorbike once, when I was 13, on my cousin’s farm. When I got my Yamaha WR250R, before packing the pannier with gear, I spent two hours in a driveway working out how to use the clutch and change gears. Obviously, Mum wasn’t stoked on this, and you’ll save yourself tons of anxiety if you know how to ride a bike beforehand…. All I’m saying is don’t let a lack of experience stop you. What’s more, to do basic service on a bike, all you need to know is how to turn a spanner and a few other simple tricks. We have an incredible gift as humans to learn new things quickly. So, don’t let that nervous monkey in your brain get to you, give it a crack.

Things will definitely go wrong, and you’ll continuously be frustrated, cold, sweaty, tired, beaten and worn-out. But, most definitely, you’ll learn more in an adventure like this than most of your schooling years. You’ll see corners of the globe so foreign to home that it will blow your mind. You’ll meet people who live opposite lives to yours. You’ll feel humbled, grateful and just plain stoked to be out in the world experiencing these things. What’s more is that this will be your unique adventure, and no one else’s. And that right there is one of the best things in the world.

Get out there.


Pat Corden mini bio portraitAfter landing in South America with no plan or riding experience, Pat Corden has just polished up 10 months riding the length of the continent. He is a travel and adventure photographer who is most inspired by the ocean and the mountains. His passion for true adventure generally takes him to where the road ends and the unknown begins. Dumbthings.co

 

From the moment we set off for what later proved to be a RTW “no-schedule, no-plan, no-deadlines” scooter trip, we heard, overheard, and of course, read many stories about the “ideals.” What do I mean? Countless are the opinions about the “ideal traveler,” the “ideal bike”, the “ideal gear” for a “proper adventure” and of course, countless are the debates on every single one of these issues. Along with all the above, comes the “What should I pack with me?” question, which seems to a favorite of travelers—one that can trigger endless conversations or even all-out warfare on the forum threads.

I remember seeing a photo—it was on a popular social media group—picturing an overloaded bike, filled to the top with custom cases, saddle-bags, various gadgets... I think I saw a water cooler somewhere on that pile, emerging through two spare tires that were tied somewhere…. I laughed and immediately thinking to myself, “Oh, ours is even funnier!”

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When we do presentations about our trip, we like to include photos of our loaded scooter with both of us on it which always seems to garner a few giggles from the audience. We never take offend in this. Actually, we also laugh and introduce our scooter, “Kitsos,” a popular name people in Greece give to their donkeys. So, now that you’ve got the idea, let’s start from the “Hows” and the “Whys.”

The Hows

We don’t have heavy, hard panniers or top cases. The luggage we use (backpack, waterproof duffel bags, saddle-bags, etc.) are all lightweight, but hey, they provide plenty of packing space. We tie everything on the front and rear rack, hang the saddle-bags, put some stuff—mostly tools and some spare-parts—in the glove box, and last but not least, tie our jerrycan on the scooter’s floor.

Before you say anything, I should remind you that the purpose of this text isn’t to suggest any wise tips or teach you what’s right or wrong… rather, it’s just about how we have done more than 70,000 kilometers across Africa and South America with no significant breakdowns. And yes, some of the problems we had are connected to the heavy load, but as proved later, not as directly as someone would think. To put it more correctly, the only issue we’ve had to deal with was the faster than usual deterioration of some spare-parts and maybe some pushing on the steep slopes in the Andes—above the altitude of 4,000m.

The Whys

Would we be able to travel a bit more comfortably with less luggage? Let’s define “comfortably,” first. If comfortably means a bit faster, without the stress of thinking about the chances of burning the clutch or overheating the engine by riding across the Andes in first gear and at full throttle almost all the time, then yes. But there is another side in this. We try to spend as little money as possible—without compromising our having a good time, according to our needs and preferences. Until now, we have managed to keep our expenses at around $20 (in total, together for the two of us) per day. We don’t want to be obliged to look for accommodation at every place we visit, and we don’t use our tent as a backup solution, or as a fun alternative, but as our main option. So, we have to carry our camping gear (tent, sleeping-bag, mattresses, etc.). We also don’t want to be obliged to eat at restaurants, nor have poor quality canned or dried food all the time. We prefer to cook tasty, healthy, economical meals with fresh, local products. And we also like variety—Greeks have a thing with good food! This requires a fully-equipped kitchen (stove, pots, condiments, olive oil... we even carry a small pressure-cooker in order to cook properly on high altitude).

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As for clothes, no, we don’t have much. We carry one or two pairs of pants, 3−4 T-shirts and our thermal set for the harsh weather. Personal hygiene: the basics. What comes last but not least: electronics. We both work on our laptops and this is non-negotiable. Otherwise we couldn’t edit photos and videos nor write thousands of words for the articles, blogs and books. We also carry our cameras, lenses, chargers, etc. Why? Because this is what we love to do, this is what we do for a living and because not doing these things would make us miserable.

Oh, and I should mention that our trip has no expiration date, so being patient until it’s over and we return to our “normal” lives is not an option in our case.

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To sum up—and this is a conclusion I reached while writing this piece—we are kind of minimalists, but it is difficult to tell when you see all the stuff piled on our scooter. We carry only the necessary for our needs, preferences and, of course for our (extremely low) budget. This way, we are able to spend less, be more independent and, as we’ve seen until now, we have done it with only some minor compromises. So, the next time you see an overloaded bike, think twice!

WorldVespa.net

Meeting People

Everyone has his or her own style, taste and thrills. Some motorcyclists travel solo, some travel 2up and others in groups, for various reasons. However, after being on the road for some time, meeting various travelers and following a number of blogs, I believe that one thing is common amongst all—at one point or another during the trip, everyone shares wonderful experiences with different people from across the globe. Following a couple of backpacking trips, I have noticed that travelling on a motorcycle amplifies the opportunities to meet people as well as to be invited by locals wanting to host you, which is great. I’ve connected, I’ve made friends and I have plenty of good memories, but is this always an easy going, wonderful experience? Hell NO.

This might be one of the challenges of long-­‐term travel, especially when it is your first long trip and you’re still learning about what you can live with and what doesn’t work out for you. Besides this, if you’re travelling with a partner, it is even more challenging, as amidst of it all, you need to realign and find a balance between the wants and needs of both.

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The Annoyances

I am a wanderer, a free-­‐spirit, and freedom is fundamental for my sanity. This is quite understandable, no? I left my home, my full-­‐time job and a shedload of comforts back home to travel after all. Furthermore, I left on a trip at the back of a guy’s bike whom I had only known for a couple of weeks—so, adventure is a big drive for me. As much as I like and appreciate the people we come across, and as much as I embrace certain memories, I find myself in situations, where I simply feel like suffocating.

In certain countries more than others, being a traveler on a big bike turns you into an entertainer and an attraction for many. I get it – in some countries, there aren’t even bikes over 250cc on the road—Iran is one example, so it’s only natural for people to react, ask and get super interested.

What becomes irritating is, when people put you in certain situations, for their own benefit. I am referring to the notion that is present in certain societies, where being seen and additionally having a foreigner at your house somehow makes you look good or even superior. It is definitely a cultural thing, and in my opinion, it is unfortunate, that simply having white skin might give the impression of superiority, but when you are in the middle of it, it sucks even more.

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The phone rings…and amongst the jargon of a language that I do not understand, I hear ‘world traveler’, I hear the name of a country, which most of the time is not where I come from, because most of the people do not know that tiny Malta exists and BAM—this is where I must prepare myself, to shake more hands, take more selfies and answer the same questions, even if I’m drained, dead tired or simply need some space.

I have to sit, drink, eat, sleep when my hosts decide I should, and I must be careful because I don’t know how to hide my emotions! If I express myself, I have to be very careful because due to language barriers, one thing might be understood completely wrong, and that’s when things get awkward.

Being a Woman in Different Cultures

And you know the worst part of it all? Being a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of being a woman, but all of this in a male-­‐dominated environment makes my blood pressure explode a lot faster. We were invited for lunch once, and I was sitting with Daryl and the man of the family. The wife was only serving food, and that already made me upset. At one point, the guy looked at Daryl and asked him a direct question about me, like I am totally invisible whilst I was on the same table, trying to engage, very capable of answering.

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Maintaining Balance

Whilst dealing with all of this, I somehow still try to keep in mind that most probably, these people are unaware that they are making us uncomfortable. For them, allowing us time and space might be unacceptable, as we are their guests and they must entertain us, whilst for us, it is a need. Disregarding me as a woman might be natural for them, as the way that they were raised in society didn’t teach them otherwise. After all, whenever we ended up in situations like these, there were still moments that we enjoyed, where we learnt something new or simply experienced something that we couldn’t have found on our own.

So how can you take control of situations like these, without eradicating yourself from any type of interaction? It is not easy, and in reality, when you are approached by someone and you accept their invitation, it is always a risk. But like almost anything else in life, it is all about balance. First of all, if you’re not traveling solo, maintaining healthy communication with your travel partner is essential. Secondly, you have to learn how to find the balance to stick to your plans and stay comfortable whilst respecting and appreciating what these people have to offer. In the end, the way you travel is your choice and you have to figure out how often or how long can you handle such situations for yourself. One thing is for sure—crossing borders and facing all kinds of situations including some like these broaden your perspective about a lot of matters—including yourself.

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There are many times when we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to listen to those who brag about the number of countries traveled, mileage covered, mountains climbed, oceans crossed, etc. We sincerely don’t have the slightest issue discussing these details. But what is exhausting is explaining that we don’t feel we’re in some kind of an imaginary contest.

Competitiveness is part of human nature and in some cases it’s encouraged by the social context we grew up in. While in others—less individualistic ones, where the sense of community and belonging are considered more important—competitiveness remains a secondary feature or becomes “absorbed” by the sense of community and belonging.

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What we have seen until now are many travelers who tend to measure lengths, widths, heights and various other quantifiable dimensions for reasons that mystify me. “How many countries have you been to?” “How many kilometers have you done?” “How many food poisonings have you suffered from?” Numbers, numbers, numbers....

What’s confusing is why the hunt for world records or generally the notion to be “the first to do something,” whatever that may be, is so important. I’ll never forget the traveler who needed so badly to be the first who made it through a difficult route that we’d crossed some months earlier. So, he just had to publish a statement that went like this, “I was the first one to do this ride on a [specific motorcycle] and with no mechanical failures,” only to differentiate himself from us.

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Yes, he was right, but what was the point if the joy of achieving something difficult has to be compared to something or someone else? Did he really enjoy the ride or did his need for recognition spoiled it?

As for the records, of course I’m not referring to important world firsts, such as: the first astronaut landing on the moon, first physicist to prove the theory of relativity, and other significant achievements that have helped humanity progress. I’m mainly referring to the meaningless “world records” like these: the first senior married couple to do the Panamerican Highway two-up on a motorcycle smaller than 400cc, the first young not-yet-married-but-soon-to-be-married couple to circumnavigate Africa in less than six months on two 125cc bikes, the first 25-year-old momma’s boy to ride his motorbike along the Mediterranean coast, etc. And, I’d also like to make it clear that I fully support attempts that may clearly motivate groups of people to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise dare to do.

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Back to the not so important records—what if one fails their goal for a record like the those I mentioned above? Does it really matter? Did the success or failure make the world a better place? Did it have any impact whatsoever? What probably happened is that having done everything in pursuit of “beating” someone else made them more stressed or more competitive towards imaginary adversaries.

Before I close, here’s my last comment on the topic: Aren’t most of us out there traveling to break free from the demanding and mentally (or physically) exhausting reality we live? Why would one want to jump from one into another exhausting reality? So, what if we tried to see things in a new light? We all have different motives and needs, and I respect everyone’s views, but perceiving life as an opportunity to learn and grow and not as a constant need to dominate things may turn out to be a surprisingly uplifting shift in PoV!
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profileStergios and Alexandra (both Greeks) first met in 2014 in the DRC while he was on his RTW and she was doing Ph.D. fieldwork. Since then, they’ve been traveling together. They write, film, photograph and ride their scooter around the world, combining their passions—and have recently released their first book, Rice & Dirt: Across Africa on a Vespa. WorldVespa.net

Travelling has become a substantial part of many people’s lives and the number of adventurers embarking on long moto-trips is increasing rapidly. Blogging, in many forms has become a new trend… but why do people do it?

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Some share their experience hoping to inspire others, others for breaking stigmas on certain countries and cultures (this in fact, was one of our main reasons when we set up Wild Feathers)… others to attract sponsors by offering brand visibility and first-hand reviews of using various equipment. I believe that in every scenario this offers some level of satisfaction, especially when one manages to get a good reach, but is it worth the time and effort?

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Before getting into all the brainstorming of finding a name, and taking the time to set up everything, you might want to consider the following Pros and Cons. I got further insight from Michnus and Elsebie from PikiPiki Overland Blog. Born and bred in South Africa, this awesome couple have been travelling together since 2010 on their DR650s. The first thing that I asked them was to explain why they had decided to share their travels online.

“Originally we just wanted to share the information on our preparations for Africa we gathered to help other people plan their journeys. At that stage we were not on any other social media such as Facebook, so we started using our blog to ‘update’ to friends and family on our travels. Now we use it again more as an information and general update blog.”

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On the other hand, I discussed this with Robert Matt, a solo traveler from Liechtenstein I had met in Iran. He has been on the road travelling on his Africa Twin for more than two years and has no intention on sharing his adventures online. Robert had set up a few pages, out of pressure from his family and friends, but never pursued them further.

“At the end I am doing this journey for myself.” He continues to explain that he started his journey because he wanted a life change and wanted to learn to be further in touch with himself. Blogging and ‘enlarging’ his journey would have hindered his freedom and flexibility.

“I don’t like to present myself especially in social media and I am also not a good story writer. For me it’s much more freedom to have no pressure to post stuff, so I can be more in the moment. I prefer to be in contact with my family and friends directly.”


• The PROS

Being present online connects you to people. From other travelers who are on the same route, to locals wanting to host you, sharing your story online will bring you closer to people and can present surprising opportunities.

PikiPiki Overland explained that since they prefer to take less travelled roads, if it weren’t for their online presence, they would have missed out on meeting a lot of people.

“We got to know a lot more people that we would have ‘missed’ while travelling. We love taking the lesser travelled roads and a lot of times this leads to us missing fellow enthusiasts. Our online presence gave us not only new friends but an easy way to communicate and share with them.”

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However, they also point out, that you don’t need to be a professional blogger to benefit from this. Robert, on the other hand, doesn’t feel he misses out on such opportunities.

“During my travels, I got in contact with so many locals and had very nice experiences. I always try to appreciate if someone is interested and I do take time to answer their questions, even if I am completely tired. I also met many travelers on motor bikes and bicycles and it was nice to share the experiences with them directly. Some of them I also met again in other places or even different countries or I am still in contact with them.”

Potential sponsors are constantly looking for bikers that can become their brand ambassadors. Whilst this means hard work, and being able to give something in return, blogging can be a good way to acquire free gear and equipment. Although this works out well for many travelers, it is very important to keep a balance and maintain a fair outlook when posting reviews. Elsebie points out the following:

“To think that a blog will automatically grant you access to funding and deals might not be a good reason to start. People enjoy the ‘true travelling’ experiences and can quickly see if a blog is just changing into a ‘look at me and donate’ site.”

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If taken seriously and done in a manner which appeals to followers, your blog can help you generate money. There are a lot of affiliate and advertising opportunities that can earn you commission. Moreover, big sites such as Google can pay you money for using your platforms to run ads.

You get more connected to the motorcycle community and you can help others. When we were preparing for our trip, we used to read a lot of material from world travelers; from simple routes and itineraries, to useful data such as what tools and spares to carry with you and we wanted to do the same throughout our experiences.

Although Robert doesn’t do so online, he points out the following:

“There is a network between travelers anyway. If anyone has a problem, the chances are very high, that a traveler knows another traveler which has knowledge in this and can help. I shared a lot of information with others but was also helped many times. I also sent summaries to contact persons or agencies describing procedures in detail and shared helpful contacts. I was told from many people I met on the road, that for them it is an inspiration to see what I am doing and if this is the case I am happy.”


• The CONS

The extra time spent at a guesthouse/hotel to get the work done is indirectly costing you money in accommodation and food.

Whilst blogging, you are missing out on other things that you can do in the same time during your trip.

It can be stressful, and you can get caught up – unless you are very self-disciplined and can control how much time you spend glued to your laptop or phone, blogging, especially when you reach a level of popularity and engagement becomes demanding, you can easily get caught up in replying to comments, monitoring activity and thinking on how to make it bigger and more successful. Unknowingly, you might find yourself leaving your job at home, for another one on the road and it might not be worth all it takes unless you are happy with the return you are getting from it.

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When I asked for their opinion about this, Michnus and Elsebie said “I think if you are not careful this can easily become true. Luckily, we have time. We do not travel for a period only, it is our ‘lifestyle’ so blogging is more than just an update site for us.”

In my experience, since both Daryl and I left our jobs back home, and have no fixed plan on returning, the Wild Feathers blog gave us an opportunity to continue to practice our passions in an environment that we love. Being a professional photographer, Daryl continues to practice his work, through an adventure that he’s been dreaming of doing for years and in my case, it has given me the opportunity to practice my love for writing—something which I did not have the time to experiment with in my busy schedule back home.

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To anyone that is still unsure whether to set up a blog or not, PikiPiki Overland suggest:

“Truly take time to consider what your ‘purpose’ is with your blog as it is very time consuming and for a lot of people we know it became a cumbersome task. Also, take into account that internet connections in some countries can lead to much added annoyance and time wasted. So, do make sure you understand the long-term commitment you are getting yourself into.”
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Daryl and Deborah: @Wildfeathersblog
Michnus and Elsebie from PikiPiki Overland Blog: Robert Matt

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