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!”
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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!