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.
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:
● 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.
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.
After 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