I always thought that someday I would travel. It was never a plan, just the idea of seeing the world, trying new things, breaking away from regular life.
But there was always a reason not to. I had a demanding job. Where would I go? Who would join me? What would I do? How would I pay for it? Going on a two week vacation to touristy places isn’t my thing. So the idea of travel remained just that, an idea.
I’ve been riding motorbikes for around 12 years now. Back in 2013 I traded in my totally awesome 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R for a slow and clunky KLR650 with the idea that if I had something more practical, maybe I would ride more.
Riding the KLR introduced me to the world of adventure riding. Suddenly I had riding buddies. Dirt roads were fun. We were traveling hundreds of kilometers a day exploring mountain passes and service roads. Falling down became part of the adventure. Soon after I upgraded to a Yamaha Super 10 and the adventure continued. I was traveling.
Not far. Not even out of the country. But strapping tools and luggage to the back of my bike and heading out, often alone and off the beaten track felt right. I didn’t stay in fancy hotels. I didn’t visit touristy places. I loved riding out in the middle of nowhere, with no one around. I loved the solitude, the scenery, everything.
In 2017 I decided to visit Chile. It’s one of those places I always wanted to see so I bought a plane ticket and for 10 days, I rented a car and headed off in a different direction every day, never knowing in advance where I was going, where I would sleep, what I would find, or when I would stop. Every morning I would pick a direction and drive off without a plan. It was awesome. And for 10 days my biggest regret was that I was in a car, not on a bike. I was on vacation and a car was both more practical and much MUCH cheaper to rent. The trip was excellent and when I left, I decided I would return with a bike someday. I just wasn’t sure yet how to make that happen.
So the idea of a long motorcycle trip was my next big goal. I wanted to see Patagonia. I had seen relatively little of Chile, but that short trip left enough of an impression that I knew I wanted to see more. Of course there were complications. Like money. Like my work. Like how do I see a continent on a two week vacation? And, as someone from South Africa, how would I even get my motorcycle to a different continent? Of course it could be done, but nobody I knew at the time had done anything like that. These were all things other people did. The idea was there, but how to get started?
By 2018 I’d done almost nothing towards my bike trip. The truth is the problem was just too big. There were too many unknowns. One of the biggest was would I even enjoy traveling for so long? I mean, it’s great thinking about traveling the world, but actually doing it means leaving home for a really REALLY long time. I’d never done that before. What if I went to all the effort and all the expense and realized that it’s just not for me?
So in early 2018, with a whopping one week of planning, I decided to head off to South East Asia. This trip was a test. I wasn’t going on holiday, I was going to travel. That meant I needed to work to ensure I still had an income. This limited where I could live to places with WiFi. I wouldn’t travel around much. I would be in the capital city only of four countries, in a stable environment that would allow me to continue my life from South Africa, just in a different location. I would need to travel (relatively) light because you can’t fit large suitcases on a motorcycle and that was the final, albeit distant goal. My expenses while traveling would need to be similar to my expenses back home. Every day I would get up, do whatever work was required of me, and once completed I would be free to explore my new city. The trip would be for four and a half months and cover Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and England. I hadn’t visited my sister in forever so I figured since I was traveling, I may as well stop by England.
The test was a huge success. I absolutely loved it. There was always something new to see, to do, to learn. It didn’t matter that I was alone. It didn’t matter that I hated the heat. The monotony of daily life disappeared. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I returned home towards the end of August. My final flight from Dubai to Cape Town was awful. The flight itself was fine, but all I could think of was that it was over. That evening I would be back in my boring flat, living my boring life, being bored. Suddenly a motorcycle trip around South America wasn’t an insurmountable problem. It was just the next challenge.
I took a week off everything travel related after getting home. I was tired and I needed a bit of a break. On 1 September 2018, I started working towards a South America trip by motorbike. The plan was simple. Get rid of everything, buy a motorbike, go to South America, and see what happens. That was considerably more difficult than I expected.
Over the next few months I sold, donated, and threw away almost everything I didn’t need which, as it turned out was almost everything I had. I sold all my vehicles (2 dirt bikes, a bakkie (pick up truck), and bike trailer), and replaced it with a KTM 1090 Adventure R (a dubious choice for a South America Trip, but what a spectacular machine!!). I notified my landlady that I would not be renewing my lease. I got a new passport, driver’s license, credit cards, and generally spent far too much of my life dealing with admin related tasks. I notified my clients that I would be leaving the country again, but that work would continue as normal, just with a few timezone adjustments. And that even though I was not emigrating, I was not booking a return ticket.
My bike was dropped off for shipping on 24 January 2019, from Cape Town to Montevideo, Uruguay, via Rotterdam. I arrived in Montevideo on 14 March, with no place of my own to return to in South Africa. Sure I can crash with friends or family, but there’s something about not having a place of your own to return to that drives home the idea that your old life is over. Something different has started. Yes it’s very new. Who knows how long it will last? Who knows how successful I’ll be? But none of that really matters right now. It’s like ending one chapter of my life and starting another.
After many delays. And problems at customs. And having to extend my accommodation twice with a host who thankfully was exceptionally understanding, I received my motorbike on 30 April 2019 in Montevideo. I connected the battery and it started without any problems. It was as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I left Montevideo a week later. I’m in Punta Del Este now. In the next three weeks I plan on visiting a few more cities and heading off to Argentina. This time last year I was in Kuala Lumpur, without the slightest notion of how much my life would change. A year prior in 2017, I had a vague idea of a motorcycle trip I’d like to do around South America. And back in 2016, these were all just things that would happen someday …