Why are we doing this?
Only a couple of generations ago global overland travel was something requiring significant financial means and the backing of sponsors if not entire governments. We have an opportunity now that is unique in the history of mankind where a person of normal means and wit can actually circumference the globe on an overland trip of their own design, and have a high probability of success. We can step out of our door, straddle a motorcycle and be our own Christopher Columbus, National Geographic, and Sir Ernest Shackleton all rolled into one. The freedom of raising your sights above the next career move or two week vacation is intoxicating, slightly frightening, and absolutely possible. Life is finite and precious. We cannot accept the fact that we did not take full advantage of our dreams when the opportunity presented itself.
Are you really taking your dog?
Ducati, our Chihuahua, is part of our family and we love this dog too much to imagine being without him. We understand that we are setting ourselves up for additional obstacles and frustrations having a dog in tow. That being said, if the trip proves too arduous for Ducati (stressed, sick, or unhappy) Shannon will take a break from the road and the two will fly back to Seattle. Ducati will move in with his best dog friend, Paco, whose human parents have agreed to foster Ducati while we are abroad. We made a commitment to Ducati when we adopted him and no one should ever take adopting an animal lightly– it is for their whole life, not just for as long as it is convenient. We have every intention of getting our little fellow around the world however and we hope his presence opens as many doors as they close. Ducati has a specialized carrier that is secured on Mike’s passenger seat. He is well protected, comfortable, and is used to riding there. Ducati has clocked considerable time on the road and is a seasoned motorcycle traveler.
Three years for a motorcycle trip? Why so long?
While we have been riding for many years and have been properly trained for off-road dual sport riding, we are both of average ability and are not risky riders. Slow and steady wins the race. We have sacrificed a great deal to make this trip possible and we do not want to rush through the world for the sake of covering miles or having to end prematurely because the money ran out. We put more time into saving money and delayed our departure so we could have a small financial cushion that would allow us to stop when we wanted (within reason of course as we have a daily combined budget of $75). If we like a place we can stay for a while and be open to opportunities and new friendships that would be missed by rushing through this world. We are fully prepared to finish this trip broke, destitute, and happy as a bug in a dead dog’s ass.
Why on a motorcycle?
Freedom baby! To do this trip justice we should probably do it on foot or by bicycle but sadly that is way too ‘real’ for lazy bones like us. Next best is two wheels and a petrol motor to do the heavy lifting. On a motorcycle you feel that you are an active member of the environment instead of a passive observer behind a sheet of glass. Probably all bullshit of course and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I have jealously looked at other travelers safely snuggled into their VW van while we shivered under a bridge waiting out the rain. Motorcycles are really fun, relatively cheap, terrain versatile, and you find yourself more approachable by folks wanting to know more about your adventure. And, since we are on relatively inexpensive second-hand Suzukis, if one of the bikes totally grenades we can find another and carry on.
Aren’t you afraid?
Sometimes – Shannon is afraid of deep sand, light sand, brown sand, imaginary sand, dirt that looks like sand, photographs of sand, and also the wind and heights. Mike is petrified of getting rabies, intestinal worms, and his current obsession has him researching how to remove a human bot fly larva in the field. So, really a whole lot of fear but not around the things that most people assume. We are coming into this with a healthy awareness that there are hazards out there: crooked officials, robbery, kidnapping, civil unrest, and a laundry list of other things that happen in the big bad world. We will strive to minimize vulnerability, make use of research, and current information, and we will always calculate the risk before we commit to a route or activity.
But we will not let the hypothetical ‘what ifs’ stop us. Bad things happen in your hometown too and overland travel is not necessarily more dangerous than going out for a pint with your friends on a Friday night. In every corner of the world there are moral, honest hardworking people and we will strive to search out and surround ourselves with these kinds of people. In 1994 we were living in Phnom Penh Cambodia. At that time there was a barely functioning government, a UN peacekeeping mission, lingering civil conflict with the Khmer Rouge, and a very poor and heavily armed society. By being thoughtful of our actions and cognizant of our risk, we came through a relatively dangerous time unscathed. Shannon also believes in moving through fear just one little step at a time and if things don’t feel right it is okay to turnaround and not go down that road. We have found that people are generally good and generous and helpful.
Are you going to carry a gun?
Crazy talk, of course not. The most likely outcome of being armed would be our own arrest and jail. We will be guests in every country we travel through once we leave the United States and will act as such. Imagine if armed foreign tourists on dirt bikes were rolling around your hometown, yikes!
How can you possibly afford it?
We challenged ourselves in the late 1990’s and went to college as full-grown adults. After college we started careers, got a dog, settled in, bought a house, and put down roots. About five years ago we looked at each other and said “now what”? We were slowly getting bored and needed a new challenge. A trip by motorcycle around the world sounded like just the ticket. We saved and saved and then saved some more. That is it. We did not inherit money, win the lottery, or take a loan. We got really serious and we were okay going without buying things we didn’t really need, but we were not so frugal as to suffer. We put a plan in place and mostly stuck to it. The goal was to put a quarter of our income into savings. About two years ago the plan was drifting off course and we needed to dig deeper and refocus if this thing was going to happen. For the final two years we put close to half of our income into the plan. Most importantly we picked the date that we would leave on the big trip and built the savings goal around this date. Shannon loves a good spreadsheet so we had constant data on our progress. We paid our trip savings account first and we stopped most of the extras (no new clothes, no cable TV, few dinners out, pack a lunch, no fancy coffee drinks, etc). As we watched it grow and checked the days off the calendar it got easier to keep saving. We have sold off most of our possessions and only packed away the stuff that has sentimental value. We have no idea if our nest egg is big enough but we are approaching the departure day we set in stone, it will have to be good enough.
How can you leave stable careers?
We are hardworking and like to think of ourselves as clever and adaptable. We are not picky about what we do and careers are not how define ourselves. After the trip concludes we will be poor but we will work hard and claw our way back up. We have learned how to save money and will do it again. After the trip and a few years home, we hope to have filled the financial hole left by not working for three years. And of course we will be planning the next adventure.
Isn’t this risky?
Probably. But so is leaving the house for work every morning.
What if you get sick or hurt?
We have been human pincushions with all the immunizations we have had leading up to the trip. We have had in-depth consultations with travel medicine physicians and have a wide array of prescription emergency medications and malaria prophylactics in our kit. We both have specialized medical insurance for a trip like this that covers serious disease or accident but has a massive out of pocket deductible, so it will not be used unless absolutely necessary. We have found that, once outside of the United States, pay-as-you-go medical treatments for day-to-day ailments are affordable and reasonable.