Long term bike trips... HOW do you do it? (time/work/career)

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by MaxF, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. steveoscaro

    steveoscaro Adventurer

    Aug 8, 2010
    Boulder, CO
    Funny, I signed on to the forum tonight for the first time in a long time tonight to start a similar thread. I'm 26 (best years behind me, of course), and am three weeks into my first corporate job in since I was 21. I landed a pretty "good" desk job at 19 and did that for two years, before deciding to quit and travel on my savings. Went to SE Asia for a few months alone, and it certainly changed my life. Spent the next 5 years going to school, working on fishing boats in AK during the summer, and doing plenty of traveling in between. The day I graduated I left CO on a ninja 250 for Alaska :evil
    Anyway, I've finally taken the plunge back into the real world. I've definitely got nothing to complain about, but my mind is already thinking to how I might be able to duck out in a couple years for a long bike trip. It doesn't help that tomorrow I'm picking up the V-strom I just bought...

    I say just quit your damn job while you're still single and not responsible for anyone else. Save up and quit and just go do it. Jobs, of one sort or another will be waiting. If you want the adventure, gotta take the risk...

    Hopefully I can take my own advice when the time comes.
  2. crash a-ron

    crash a-ron mmm...burnt steel

    Jan 11, 2006
    The Great Pacific Northwet
    15 years ago on my last long (1 month) adventure I met an older German rider in a campground in Dawson City, and ended up riding with him to Inuvik. Years later, he stayed with me at my place in Seattle. Later than that I stayed with him at his place in Germany. He worked in a factory making plumbing fixtures, and saved his money to take month long trips every few years. One of those nights around the campfire he confided in me this:

    "To travel by motorcycle there are 3 things- youth, time, and money. You only get 2. Pick wisely."

    I'm remembering why I took that trip so long ago, and the phrase "you're gonna be dead a long time" bubbles to the top more and more these days.

    I say do it. Nobody ever wishes they'd spent more time in a cubicle on their death bed.
  3. EvilClown

    EvilClown Reality show stunt double Super Moderator

    Sep 3, 2006
    In the shadow of the Uncanoonucs...
    Sig line stuff right there.:deal
  4. devo2002

    devo2002 -Devo

    Nov 12, 2010
    Los Angeles
    To the OP, what about a government job?
    Government jobs over here, although who knows about the future, are very secure jobs with plenty of time off not really a problem. I'm outside NYC and toyed with it for a while but ultimately decided to try and find something I love to do, not just go to work.

    Anyway, take my mother for instance, court clerk in small claims court. Makes a fair living, gets one month vacation a year, plus like 10-15 sick days, plus she has the ability to take leaves of absences for up to one year AND STILL KEEP HER JOB, albeit it may be in a different less convenient location when she decides to return. She's not a traveler but she could if my father had a job.:lol3

    Her insurance is great through the union. Plus, if she has a certain amount of unused sick time when she retires it gets converted into health insurance for retirement! Plus pension after 20 years, if she was single she would be set.

    And excuse the 'Merican ignance but isn't it even better over there, at least in gov't jobs?
  5. greenthumb

    greenthumb b00b

    Dec 13, 2008
    Okanagan, British Columbia
    For me, the answer has been the right job, and making a lot of sacrifices;

    I work a seasonal specialized construction job. For 6-8 months of the year, the company owns my ass. I go where they want when they want. I work a full years worth of hours in that time. I make only a modest wage, but the overtime is gravy. They also provide me with a company truck, phone, housing and an allowance. I also use my personal credit card for company reimbursed expenses and get 2% back. I worked very hard at my job to get where I am and earn these perks, and I very much enjoy what I do.

    I also am very diligent about saving money. Every paycheck gets the majority transferred into a savings account that is not touched until work is done.

    I do not own a house, make any payments or carry any sort of debt on anything. I don't smoke, drink little, and am careful about what I do spend my money on. I am also single, as are most of my co-workers that have the same job as me. For some reason, being away from home for months at a time and having a job as a priority doesn't seem to jive well with the significant other.

    The trade off is getting every winter off and not needing to work financially. My friends think I have the best thing going, but I can assure you it is not all sunshine and lollipops. Everything I own is in a storage container and I don't really have a place I call home.

    I have done this now for the last 6 years, spending 5 of them traveling outside the country in my time off. I think you can travel in a modest and comfortable way and spend less than you would staying at home.

    My sister and her husband both work for the foreign service. Traveling at the taxpayers expense is pretty nice, but they have 3 university degrees each and are very hard workers. They are currently on a 4 year posting in Tokyo, living in a very nice house. Having 2 kids and the recent events in Japan, the last month has been rather hellish to say the least for them.
  6. Dan Diego

    Dan Diego Long timer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Tampa Bay
    First off, excellent question and fantastic responses so far. Here are my dos centavos:

    I have about 23 years in a federal job. I'm 44 and am retirement eligible in 3 years. I have taken 1 "major" trip every year since at least 1995, and even before that I made time for myself outside of my career. I often do 2-4 Big Rides a year. Last year it was the USA 4 Corners and a couple of Iron Butt rides. This year it's the GAMA (Great American Motorcycle Adventure). OK, that was some background, here's how it happened.

    At the start of my career, I took time off because, "damn it, I've earned it" with no thought about work. I was in a job that afforded me about 28 days of vacation time a year and I used it.

    Now, at the top end of the food chain, I have the time but it's more difficult to be away from the office (i.e., responsibilities). I live on a BlackBerry and field calls via a BlueTooth helmet phone on the road. That sucks, big time, but I do it because I must.

    Now, like others have said, you must FORCE yourself now to take time off for these rides. Once you ride to Deadhorse or Sturgis or Patagonia it becomes habit. YOU expect it of yourself and so do employers. Everyone that knows you understands that you'll disappear for 3-4 weeks a year. That's just how you are.

    And once it's in your blood, kid, there's no changing.

    You'll thank us for this advice someday. Someday, somewhere you'll be sitting over a campfire thinking about your decision and you'll smile, thinking about the suckers back at the office, and you'll thank us.

    Have fun.
  7. Noone

    Noone Long timer

    Aug 23, 2009
    Sitting at a Cross Roads lookin' for a sign
    My BIG question: How the hell do you guys manage to do multi-week or even multi-month (let alone RTW) trips? .[/QUOTE]

    When one is younger money is more valuable than time. When one is older time is more valuable than money. It is a question of priorities: which one is yours.

    I get a lot of vacation time (most Americans get very little). I live below my means all the time. You can have a hell of an adventure in one week.

    Perhaps at your next job review, rather than ask for or accept more money, negotiate for more time.

    Money is replaceable; time is not. - ME
    DaMonk45 likes this.
  8. mtncrawler

    mtncrawler Long timer

    May 17, 2003
    Fort Collins, CO
    Interesting timing. I just went through an interview process, got selected, they wanted to make an offer. I knew it was going to be a cut in pay (I new the company from 5 years prior experience), but was hoping to add a week or two of base vacation through negotiation - I have three now. With 20 years overall professional expereince (directly related to the position) being brought to the table, I was hoping this would work. NOT. They wouldn't budge. Paid or Unpaid. Not any additional time - just matching the 3 weeks. And they made no cencessions regarding my previous stint with them - no "credit" towards advancing in the vacation accrual process.

    Pretty disappointing actually - and I had a really good reputation with them including stellar reviews. Oh well.

    Onto Plan C...:lol3
  9. MaxF

    MaxF Zee German

    Oct 10, 2006
    Sorry for bumping this olf topic and being so passiv in this thread. FWIW all of the responses are extremely interesting and helpful. From this thread I understand that the guys doing the "longer-term" bike trips are either retired, doing some "flexible" consulting work, are fresh out of college or are senior employees who have a good relation with their employer and can take sufficient time off. Hope y'all appreciate your good fortune.

    For what's it worth I have undergone some internal job change that gave me some free time but it just wasn't enough time for a long enough trip. I guess the field I'm currently in is not in any way suited to such endeavors (big law literally means selling your lifetime). Of course there may be time for weekend trips but you can only cover so much mileage over a weekend.

    In any case all your posts have been truly inspirational and when (not if :clap) I leave the biglaw gulag, I will plan for at .east 3 month for an awesome bike trip.

    Thanks & cheers,
  10. Jeff B

    Jeff B Socially Awkward

    Feb 13, 2008
    SW PA.
    Your measure is not how much time you get to travel, but how you utilize the time that's available to you. Many weekends that I want to break free for a few days of exploring I get the kibosh because I get scheduled to guide or teach fly fishing that Saturday. So instead of moping I'll pack the bike the previous day and leave right from work. That night I'll be in the middle of nowhere. I'll be roasting brauts on the fire and enjoying the starlit sky before retiring into my hammock. When I wake up the next morning I have all day to put in lot's of miles. I love to get away for long trips but sometimes you gotta make due w/you can.

  11. Benjava

    Benjava ?

    Jul 22, 2006
    Location Location
    Dangerous book :deal in a good way
  12. LWRider

    LWRider Been here awhile

    Aug 4, 2011
    Lake Wales, Central Florida
    I blame my father for my wanderlust. We used to go on family vacations, sometimes out west, sometimes out east, and sometimes down south. I think that planted the seed in me for travelling. Here's my experience, for what its worth:

    After a couple years in college, my first adventure was several weeks traveling throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize as a non-student on a college tropical biology field trip. That watered the seed my dad had planted. After that trip, I was jobless, and it was cold as hell with deep snow in Michigan so my brother (who had gone on the trip also) and I packed up and headed to Florida with precious little in our pockets. We worked crap jobs for a while. Meanwhile my folks moved to central Florida, so my brother and I moved inland near them.

    I worked a crap job in central Florida for a few years and married the wrong girl when I was 25. That lasted a year and was over, with no kids as a result. Thank goodness. I got a better job and lived cheap, rooming with a couple other guys in a rat hole that only costs each of us $33 a month. This was my opportunity, and I took advantage of it. I worked for a few years, paid off all debt, including college, and saved money for a small, austere, little sailboat. Then I took off--no wife, no kids, just the waves, wind, sea, and me.

    Back then, if there had been such a thing I would have been a member in an advsailor forum. My boat was small and I mostly singled-handed her. I found my way around the Bahamas for six months and up the east coast and back to Florida, being gone about a year and a half. I also managed to get a berth from time to time on boat deliveries and found myself in the Virgin Islands and other places. Voyaging in a small boat is very similar to roaming on a motorcycle.

    This was a good time to go back to school, as I had no income for the previous year, so I sailed to Tampa and applied to USF. I lived on my boat cheaply for a while while going to school and eventually moved in with a girl for the remainder of the time. Before I hooked up with my girlfriend, I went to Grand Cayman and stayed all summer captaining a large sailboat for a summer job. Lisa and I sailed together down to Grand Cayman the second summer, and I sold the boat for almost twice what I paid for it. I worked the boat again the next summer after Lisa and I broke up.

    I came back to the states and after some idle time, training for emergency towing, etc. I went back to work as a graphic designer for the college print shop I used to manage back when saving for the boat and my first adventure. I moved to a job with another small print shop in town until I got a job with a local publisher in 1997, which over the years turned into full time and then a managing editor position.

    About this time I got remarried and started a family. I got my first bike a few years back now and have to work out rides in short bursts when family obligations allowed, but I still got out once in a while.

    During the time I worked as managing editor I could take off time when I wanted, but for no pay, so with some planning I was able to get away for rides, and even got away for a two week ride from central Florida to Michigan and back and a shorter one to Barbers Vintage Festival in Alabama. As of January 2010, I now own the publishing company, which the former owner had decided to abandon, mainly out of lack of interest. He is independently wealthy and businesses are often just a hobby for him; making money with them for him was relatively unimportant.

    Now that I own the company, my financial situation fluctuates a lot. The company was in bad shape when I picked it up, and took a lot of money to get it back on its feet. Now after a year and a half it is showing signs of improving health. I started a new imprint under the parent company early this year of motorcycling books. (The first one was out in March and three more are in the works now.) I was able to once again get away for a week and spend a few days in the Blue Ridge last June and just got back rom a 1,700 mile ride to Maggie Valley and from there with the Kickstart Classics riders to Barbers again and then back to Florida. Having the motorcycling book imprint opens new possibilities for me to ride as it now is often a business expense. Of course, that means doing some work on the road like my blog and networking with other writers and editors at the places I go. [edited to add] When in working-for-a-living mode, you may not be able to make those epic long distance trips, but you can scale back and still enjoy the road without bankrupting your family. The recent ride of six days cost me less than $400, and that was including sixty dollars worth of souvenirs for the kids and myself. You might be surprised how cheap you can ride on a small bike, so while you are in the money making years, you can still satisfy some of the desire until time and money free you to do more.

    I am now 54. I had the opportunity that many seem to wish for of adventuring back in my late 20s/early 30s, then had the job/wife/kids obligations, and now as I near retirement age (at least in theory) I look forward to more freedom and more time on the road, which seems to be the time many others start rambling.

    What have I learned? That taking off when you are young and in the prime of life is a great experience and one I would not trade for anything, although it comes with a price--I started any real career late and with that the ability to easily make a good financial future for my family and myself. The managing editor job I had might sound high-falutin' but paid no benefits, and anything saved for the future came from wherever I could scrounge it. For health insurance I was on my own and it cost us dearly; so dearly that I have had to recently abandon it completely for myself. The kids are being moved to a state run option that we may be able to afford. Luckily, my wife has a decent job and insurance (for now) and we squeak by.

    The question now is, will I ever get to retire? Perhaps not. But owning the publishing business has given me options, and I have worked from the ground up to make it a business I can do from almost anywhere on the globe. That gives me time. I have also worked putting a firm foundation under it, which it never had with the old owner, and I expect it to grow into a profitable, if not extremely so, enterprise in the next couple years. That will (maybe) give me the money.

    For now, I do a couple week or two-week long trips a year. My wife has no interest in motorcycles and doesn't exactly understand the need to go off rambling and that makes it harder for me, but I set aside at least some time to satisfy that need. If it wasn't for family I would have no qualms about going off on open ended tours making my way as I go. I feel most happy on the road, even alone, although I do like the company of one or two other bikers from time to time.

    I feel almost guilty leaving my kids home, like I should be so homesick for them and my wife that I could not stay away for long, but I have to admit I could handle long, long times away. That's not to say I don't love my kids and wife; I do. I would lay my life down for any of them in an instant, and I make sure that they are taken care of first before any of my desires, and I've abanoned rides before because of their needs, but that old wanderlust is deep rooted somewhere in me and is hard to deny. It would be nice if my wife understood that, but I know I am on my own there, unless the kids have the same desire (they both like to ride pillion with me) when they get older and can ride with me while I am still able.

    Marriage, and more so kids, make a huge difference in your life and ability to travel. Having young kids late in life like I have, also throw a difficult twist in as the need for college funds, etc., is huge at just about the time many get to take off riding again. If you can get some of it out of your system when young do it, but be smart and don't throw away your future. Wander, but while wandering keep your eye on the future. When you return to work and the kids get older I think you are lucky, if you can find a job that you can mold into compatability with riding as I have, that often means self-employment. A career with some kind of retirement plan is worth a lot. Nowdays, many things can be done on a laptop sitting on the top of a mountain, things that people are even willing to pay you for so keep your mind open to the possibilities.

    I see it as all a balancing act--living for the present, for we never know when it will all end--and planning and working for the future, too. I try to balance my duties as father and husband with my inward need to wander. I don't want to shortchange my family, but it is also important to enjoy my own life, too.


  13. mightymanx

    mightymanx Cheap-ass KLR rider.

    Oct 3, 2011
    Land of the Sasquatch and Mossbacks
    Words to remember.

    At either end of the economic spectrum there exists a leisure class.

  14. Shibby!

    Shibby! Long timer

    Aug 24, 2010
    Currently - Canada
    Like some of you, my parents planted the seed of travel. Not just any travel, but trips where you interacted with the environment through camping, hiking, etc.

    Since becoming dependent I've taken 1-3 week trips for the last 12 years on my motorcycles. Everything from western Canada to Western US and Baja, MX.

    In just over 1 weeks time I'm quitting my job and setting sail south for an undetermined amount of time. Somewhere at least in the 3-6 month range with no plans, no itinerary, and simply a direction: South.

    Life can wait for when I return. Till then I'll enjoy it to the fullest.

    BTW, I'm 28. IMO, I can "afford" to do it simply because I don't buy everything I want. I live simple to save money. Sometimes I'm the subject of light hearted jokes, but at the same time while those making the jokes are stuck here working through winter paying off their Iphones, Ipads, and whatever else, I'll be sipping drinks on some empty beach down in central America having the last laugh...
  15. ben2go

    ben2go Moto Flunky

    Jun 23, 2011
    Upstate SC USA
    I'm gonna go back through this and read everything.It's getting late so I'll share my story.

    As of this writing I am 34 years old and disabled.To look at me and talk to me you couldn't tell it most days.I'll skip the sad ass story of my disability and get on with my story.It is kind of sad but I do not want any sympathy.This is just how I came to be able to take extended leave from home.

    When I was 9 years old,my father passed away from a life long fight with diabetes.He knew his time was limited so he left everything to me.I got a half acre of land and a house trailer all payed for.No money tho.I grew up,got my driver license at 15,and a small Mazda P/U with a camper cover.I listen to the guys that hobo'ed their way across the country.While school was in,I worked were ever I could and socked away money.When I got my 8 weeks summer vacation,I quite my job(s),and I traveled the southeast US where I live.I would pack a cooler,clothes,food,just what I needed to live.Not all that I wanted.I would drive until I would nearly collapse.I'd look for a Walmart or a truck stop to sleep at.Walmart allows people to camp in their vehicles,no tents.Usually 24 hours, so at least you can get food and/or use a toilet.Truck stops are a different monster.I could get free showers,do laundry,free drinks,free phone calls.I parked at the back of the truck lot,sleep in the back of my truck,and grab a truck name and number to give the attendant for freebies.Also I would buy those cups that had free refills for life printed on them or $0.10 refills.I was friendly and out going,but I kept a little mystery about myself.I was 16 and traveling alone.Let's just say I was never lonely.I did this until I was 18.I had met a girl when I was 17.I did the whole marriage thing for a year and we had a kid.I didn't get to do those things any more and eventually I lost the desire to do them.I remarried and divorced for a second time.I got wrapped up in my own head and was keeping myself down.10 years ago I got into a permanent relationship and had another kid with her.We are still together.I became disabled soon after we met.I have had to rely on someone else(her) to work and take care of things.Again,I got inside my own head and beat myself down,again.This is becoming a problem.So I started looking to the internet to fill this void of not being able to get out and roam.So a few years back,I bought a bike.First one I owned in 8 or 9 years.I rode and took short day and weekend trips.Decided I wanted to customize my bike.I striped it down,did the work,and built it back up.During this time I found places like here and expedition portal.These two places got me dreaming about the old days but I was still all in my head.So I started a couple other bike builds.I have recently been able to restart the bike builds because of improvements in my health.I should soon find out if my disability comes through.I hope.I still can't really be away from home for long periods of time,two weeks max.My kids still need me to help them get to school and to their events.Since I own my home,vehicles,motorcycles,and have no real high bills,I can get out.My monthly bills during the summer when they're the highest,I still pay out less than $500 a month.I probably have everything you have.I got a bundle on my cable and internet.I take pains to cut water and power consumption.I got a reasonable cell phone plan and watch my useage habits.My taxes are cheap because everything is older and not the latest and greatest.I get a killer deal on insurance because I have 5 cars,1 truck,and 4 motorcycles.I can barter and trade with people.I get free fresh meat and veggies.I buy and sell stuff.I work odd jobs.Most importantly,I keep a close eye on every penny and don't let deals get past me if I can spare the cash,not credit.I do have credit cards for those times when I'm short and a need arise that can't wait.

    It all comes down to time and money management.It may mean that short trips are all you can do, until you pay somethings down.Down size your household.It's easy when you're single.Get a cheaper more economic vehicle if you can.Cut out every little cost that you can.Then start socking away the money.Pay off a bill and go for a weekend ride or two every year.Once you can afford to pay for a week long adventure,take off but conserve money as much as possible.It's not as hard as it sounds,but it takes persistence.After awhile it becomes routine and you won't struggle with it.You are young,not that I am old,and have your health I hope,so don't wait.Do it now.Don't over think it.Just do it.

    I have been planning a 2 week road trip cross country to visit a couple friends and check out their underground house they built with their own two hands.It's way cooler than it sounds.This will be my first long distance motorcycle adventure.I've pulled weekenders,but never went very far from home.Heck,I've never been more than 700 miles from home, if that far, in a car.I hope to do the trip next year(2012) some time during summer.

    So,my advice is,get outta ya head,get a financial plan down,get a trip planned,plan the time off,go ride and forget about the crappy things you will leave behind.Seek adventure.
  16. MoodyBlues

    MoodyBlues Hey! Watch this...

    Jan 31, 2010
    Belton, Texas
    Nice thread. Guess everyone has different ways of getting away. I guess mine worked out well. Get tired of milking cows at 17 years old, walk into a recruiter and knock out 21 years in the Army, including 5 combat tours. Invest religiously and at 39 call it done! (Warning- you will feel 49 thou.)
  17. hilslamer

    hilslamer 2XRedheadedstepchild

    Jan 2, 2007
    Chch, EnZed
    What does this post have to do with long-term bike trips?
  18. ben2go

    ben2go Moto Flunky

    Jun 23, 2011
    Upstate SC USA
    It's how he can afford the time and trips. :deal
  19. skierd

    skierd Wannabe Far-Rider

    Jan 29, 2008
    Fairbanks, AK
    This THis THIs THIS! The time is now, don't wait...

    Dad and I traveled every summer from 8 to 15. Most of the lower 48, Alaska, much of southern Canada, BC, and the Yukon, and Western Europe. We'd take off in late july or early august and usually make it home a few days or a few hours before school started in the fall...

    Then I stopped. College, girlfriends, trying to run the rat race to get stuff and get ahead but mainly got a bunch of debt. At 26 I decided I needed to finally get a degree and more importantly figure out what the hell I want to do with myself. My dream of being a professional race car driver was probably not gonna happen after all, started too late and too poor with too few connections etc etc. One thing I always wanted was a motorcycle, so I took the MSF and bought a DRZ400. Then bought my WR250R. Then stopped driving and eventually sold my truck. Then started reading on here...

    So at the end of my summer classes in 2009, I took my first real by-myself vacation, spent 3 weeks and rode the eastern TAT to Salida. Had an absolute BLAST! But... I can't go back to the old way of just working and drinking and working and wishing. Almost dropped the college plan too this spring when I dropped out for a semester and rode down to Key West and then to Oklahoma before deciding I should probably finish after all and come home. But just to finish. I get my magic piece of paper at the end of this semester (God willing) and plan to save enough money to do some maintenance on the bike then get rolling. I'm young, single, almost college graduated, almost out of debt, and I know all I really want is to be able to keep riding. I'd really like to get a new bike this year... but that means staying here for another year or three before I can afford it. Thats another few years gone to feed the debt machine and another few years worth of crap I'll have to jettison before I can leave proper.

    I know I'll probably stop eventually... but maybe I won't and thats ok too. I don't really want 'stuff'. I don't particularly care about building wealth that gets wiped out in a blink when the market crashes because greed on wall street got a little too toxic again. I just want never ending vista's, open empty roads, and scenery that makes the soul ache when you leave it.
  20. Motomochila

    Motomochila Moto Scientist and time traveler

    Sep 30, 2007
    N 34 22.573' W 118 34.328'
    Didn't quite do the long term...did the long ride though-4200 miles. 14 days, Rockies stem to stern by way of Cali, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and then south, back to LA again, but this was the fifth ride this year running every back road I can find in nine day stints. Doing the Nation now two weeks at a time. Just bough another bike to ship to Atlanta next week, so I can start heading south for the winter months and back up the eastern seaboard as the weather turns, then down to texas for next fall- 2012. I now store my bikes in PODS, that storage company, close to regional airports. I fly in, ride for 7-8 days and leave from another airport. It allows me to eliminate the long ride back on the interstates from where ever I end up. I never know where I end up except near a mid size city with a flight to LA.

    It may not suit many of you but at least it allows me to feed the drug addiction of open roads and back country lanes. Looking next year to do the same in S.A. with 21 day stints starting in Texas and heading south to Argentina. Bottom line; doing it the only way I can keep life, business, family and wife happy. Anyone interesting in joining, PM me and start packing for warm winter weather in the Keys the 1st week in December.