We can all agree 2020 was a bust in terms of travel, but what will adventuring in 2021 look like? Having ridden in Southern Europe and Ecuador throughout 2020, I’ve noticed motorcycle tours and rentals companies are shifting focus to self-guided tours, combining tours and training, and discovering new routes in their own local, regional areas to attract people who are starved for adventures but mindful about their budgets. On the other hand, big travel sites like Amadeus are predicting big, all-out trips to faraway places once the travel restrictions are lifted towards the end of 2021. So which one is more realistic, and where can we all go once we’re let loose?
Slow, Long-Term Travel
One prediction about adventuring in 2021 has a lot to do with working remotely and going on “bleisure” (business+leisure) trips, such as 3-month stays or longer journeys combined with working from your laptop. Digital nomad trends are definitely growing stronger, and perhaps this year, more motorcycle travelers will hit the road with a mobile office packed away in their panniers. Motorcycling around the world is all about slow travel anyway, so combining riding with work might soon become more and more common, especially as many companies aren’t looking to welcome employees back to the offices but rather find ways to work in virtual spaces.
Slow travel also enables to prolong the journey, save on costs, and explore countries and continents in more depth than just breezing through. Not that there’s anything wrong in wanting to cover the length of the Pan American highway in three months, but now, with new remote work opportunities multiplying by the day, hurrying may not be necessary anymore. If you can ride for a couple of months, catch up with some work while staying in Argentina or Chile, then carry on traveling, why rush home?
Miles vs Experiences
Whether on two wheels or not, travel industry experts are convinced people will want more experiences and fewer destinations on their travel itineraries. Combining travel with adventure, cultural experiences, volunteering, action sports, or culinary journeys will become more popular, and when it comes to adventuring in 2021, that may also be true for motorcyclists. Perhaps that’s why motorcycle tours companies are now offering more than just routes and hotels: Renedian is putting an emphasis on wildlife safaris and wine tasting experiences in Africa, Ecuador Freedom offers jungle hikes and boat trips in the Amazon in addition to motorcycle travel, and Motobirds in Europe offer off-road skills training while touring Poland or Italy. It seems merely riding isn’t enough any longer, and in 2021, we will all be looking for more.
Blitz Fly and Ride
On the other hand, for those still working full time in a traditional setting, taking off for months or years to ride won’t be an option, and “fly and ride” adventures are going to remain relevant. Choosing a destination, flying in, and renting a bike locally (or, in the case of Southeast Asia and some African countries, a buy-back), or going on a guided tour for 10-14 days, then flying home is still a great way to experience new countries without having to put in thousands of miles and weeks or months of traveling in between. The fly-and-ide destinations will likely mostly depend on COVID restrictions; motorcycle rentals and tours in Ecuador, as an example, now offer on-site PCR testing to make it easier for riders to get home after the tour.
Domestic road tripping has skyrocketed in 2020 for obvious reasons, but industry experts argue it’s here to stay – and grow. RV rentals are becoming increasingly popular in the US, and the trend is likely to continue. Might campers and 4×4’s be a new way of adventuring in 2021? Lots of riders are choosing to travel in a van or truck with a dirtbike in tow, setting up a basecamp in an area they like, and exploring local dirt trails on a lightweight motorcycle free of luggage. If you’re focusing on the US, Canada, and Mexico this year, four wheels and a light dirtbike on the back might be an excellent way to travel for longer periods of time.
Once the world opens up, where will we go? For those on an indefinite or long-term RTW, the destinations probably won’t change much – we’ll just get there slower. For those planning specific journeys to specific parts of the world, however, the safest destinations will be Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and Scandinavia – once those countries open for tourists, that is. Places like Mexico, Thailand, and South Africa aren’t likely to go out of fashion, either, and once South America and Asia open up, travelers will probably flock to these destinations in numbers as great as before, the only difference being vaccine passports or better travel insurance
What’s your take on adventuring in 2021? Will the way you travel change, and where will you ride first?