Preparing your mind for a motorcycle ride around the world

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by hollywood996, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. hollywood996

    hollywood996 Adventurer

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    Riding a motorbike around the world is obviously no mean feat. The financial and logistical burdens can be enormous, it puts immeasurable pressure on relationships (and ended a few of mine), the daily grind is at times intolerable and the risk to life and limb cannot be overstated. Given the myriad challenges that an undertaking like this throws at you, how do we ensure that our mind is in the right state to maximize what is for many a once in a lifetime experience? I have assembled a few points that I wish I had considered before I set off on my own 7-month odyssey.


    Patience

    When I wrote a piece called 'Ten Principles to Remain Sane on the Roads of India' a few months back, ‘Patience will set you free’ was at the top of the list. Some of us may already have some international riding miles under our belts before we start our circumnavigation. Some will not. The advice here is simple: you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy, and the rules are different. Merely porting your mindset from your home country to the more challenging corners of the world is a recipe for disaster. Feel that tenseness building in your neck when you’re now in your 3rd hour of being lost in Bangkok’s evening rush hour? Take a breath, let it out and keep going.

    Open mindedness

    Riding a motorcycle around the world should not simply be about the act of letting kilometers pass under your feet. It’s about exploring the new worlds you will pass through, worlds very different from your own. It might seem strange at first when a checkpoint guard in Baluchistan invites you to his humble dwelling for a meal, especially when you have 8 more hours to the Iranian border. Getting kicked out of your comfort zone and diving into all that is different is the purest distillation of how an RTWer changes your life. Open your mind and drink it all in.

    New Friends in Balochistan.jpg


    Presence

    Yes, that hippie word. Sorry. But the concept is relevant. Every day on the road can range from blissful to revolting, even on the same day. Being present underway simply relates to not using the current day as a pathway to the next. Slow down and take the time to explore. My best personal lesson came while riding through the Thar Desert with my wife on the back. Passing through a massive congregation of camel herders, I asked her through the Bluetooth if we should stop. When she didn’t respond, I assumed she was tired and wanted to keep moving. When I tapped her leg and shouted my suggestion though my visor, she said **** yeah and we turned around. Spending a couple of hours photographing the exotic scene became a highlight of our RTW experience.

    Compassion

    Depending on your route, you are likely to pass through countries where the motorcycle you are riding cost more than the people around you could earn in two lifetimes. That being the case, think about ways you can give back. Donate to a local charity, donate some of your time to help build a school or just make an effort to connect with the people you meet, regardless of their social status.

    Vigilance

    Ah, now the ‘risk’ part. Yes, riding around the world on a motorcycle is dangerous. Self-preservation is hard-coded into all of our brains and is active whether we’re barreling down a country lane in Belgium and striking out for a meal in Quetta, Pakistan. The challenge is dialing vigilance in as you pass through different cultures and geo-political situations such that curiosity and open-mindedness are not squelched. The best way I have found to optimize the two is simply the acquisition knowledge. Read, ask, sense: all of these information sources allow you to pick a path that is both safe and rewarding.

    Curiosity

    You obviously already possess this trait in spades if you are considering exploring the world on a motorcycle. But when you’re on the road, sometimes the world becomes myopic and satisfying your curiosity pays the price. Yes, compromises are always required even if you’re planning on spending ten years on two wheels. There are an infinite number of paths you can choose as you make your way around the globe. Allow your curiosity to be factored at each decision point and you will be rewarded.

    Tenacity

    Yes, tenacity. Persistence. Determination. Perseverance. Resolve. Whichever noun you choose, you must have it above all. Riding a motorcycle around the world is like solving any complicated problem. It is conquered by taking the challenge one small piece at a time. One day, I chose to take a dirt road along the Mekong from Kampong Cham to Phnom Penh instead of the main road. With each passing kilometer, the road ruralized until is was nothing more than a path through the Mekong mud. The 70km ride took 10 hours of toil in tropical heat with multiple falls and a seemingly endless goal. Stuck in a steep ravine with no apparent way out, I wanted to throw the ****ing bike to the ground a leave it there. That’s when a half dozen villagers stumbled by and helped push the 700lb bike out of the ravine and on our way.

    032.jpg

    One kilometer, one challenge, one day at a time. That and tenacity gets it done.

    So get your gear, tune up your bike and pack up the maps. You’re going to ride around the world and your mind is ready for the challenge.
    #1
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  2. X-wing fighter

    X-wing fighter Do or Do not, There is no try!!!!!! Supporter

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    RTW is 90% mental and the other half is physical!
    #2
  3. mroddis

    mroddis Been here awhile Supporter

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    When I retire, I"m riding around the world. Eyes on the prize, it will happen and it keeps me focused on good health and working hard to make it happen. Watch this space in about another 15 years...
    #3
  4. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    My journey ended when only 1/2 way round, but it happened in 1970, before Ted Simon for example. I was 21.
    The only information (accurate or not) was from someone face to face, ie somewhat limited. Stories could be scary, like the time, one day before, a guy getting shot for trying to smuggle a few drugs.
    Fortunately, at the time of departure, I was living in Dover, the main Channel port from UK, and there was a good infectious diseases clinic that put us on the right track and gave me an armful (thank the NHS, all for free). Back then many frontiers were closed to anyone without the correct paperwork for the required jabs. You could also get stuck inside a country if an outbreak cause a frontier to be closed.

    Reading through the comments and observations of the OP, I noted how much we agreed on so many points. Obviously I was a bit younger than most on this site when I went, leaving it until later may mean not going at all. You or your health or the geopolitics may vary.

    Decent made up roads ceased past Instanbul. Broken down vehicles almost completely blocking the road round any corner. Lots of gravel and rocks, in the case of the Dashti Kavir, no made up road, just someone else's wheel tracks and wicked washboard.

    Under the soviet regime, bikes where not allowed in at all to Russia, but the southern route was open, Turkey, Persia, Pakistan and India. China was closed, Russia was Intourist guided trips only.
    I prepared the route each day by consulting my Letts Schoolboy Diary - it had maps in the back - a continent on each post card sized spread. Although the nice tourist guides in Tabriz gace me a much better map. Not that it stopped me getting thoroughly lost a few times.

    Money was carried in your pockets. Anything other than the appalling official exchange rate could only be obtained on the Black Market - hard faced men outnumbering you in dark back rooms down tortuous back alleys, guards with guns outside and piles of different currencies all around.
    Four of us had $360 between us - no way to get more, no way to contact anyone at home. And my experience is that the UK embassy at least will not help other than make note of your presence.

    I'm hoping that some things have changed. Desperate poverty for people and cruelty to animals was common. But life persisted and endured. Kids would smile and wave. Stop and people would offer food and drink - would that happen in many places in the first world if someone turned up outside your house in a Rolls Royce?

    Do it. Do it soonest. You never know when the world's frontiers and borders may snap shut.
    Don't do it if are not prepared to be changed, expanded or with a bit of effort, mind blown.
    There is stuff out there beyond your dreams, and stuff you wouldn't want in you nightmares. Its life, as we may or may not know it, Jim.
    #4
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  5. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    Our longest single journey was less than three months and around 14,000 miles. What we did most mornings was look at each other and say “do you want to go for a motorcycle ride today?”.....sometimes when we are home we go for a ride every day....so we figured this is similar....it’s just a days motorcycle ride..one day at a time....the difference is you don’t turn around at noon or 1pm and head back....you could if you wanted to. For us it’s being in the present one day at a time. Sometimes you have a goal on the calendar....like catching a ferry on a certain date.....but really it’s just a day on your bike.....day after day after day. When we get home from multi month rides the very next morning we want to get up and go for a ride!
    #5
  6. Doogle

    Doogle Do it while you can Supporter

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    I know this link is 2 tears old. But, I believe your list of points to consider is more likely to discourage people than encourage them to do a RTW trip. Especially if you plan to go solo. Here is my thoughts for a list to consider:

    1. The bike you will take. It's been done on Harley's and 50cc bikes. But the size may determine where you can or can't go. You will have trouble riding the Gobi Desert sand with either one of these. A mid size dual sport seems to be the most popular. You can put knobbies on it if necessary. You can pick it up if you drop it in sand or mud. And it will have a good size motor to go long distances at higher speeds without exploding.

    2. Do and know how to do maintenance on your bike. Grease steering head bearings, wheel bearings, swing arm, suspension linkage, put new seals and oil in the front forks, etc.... On a long trip things can go bad. It is so easy to replace these things in your garage compared to buying and fixing in Siberia. At that point you might be glad to pay $1000 for the problem to go away.

    3. Research which countries you go to will require visas. Many you get at the border. Some require you to get before leaving home.

    4. Do a ride report as you go. You will probably see people from ADV on your trip. Even in the middle of Mongolia a hundred miles from a town. If you have problems, there is a whole community waiting to help you. Maybe bring you a part in the middle of Russia.

    5. When you start your trip in the first hour or two you will probably think "What the hell am I doing?" If your trip starts in your home country, that thought soon fades as you realize you are starting a great adventure. When you get to your first border crossing with customs and immigration, you will probably be uncomfortable again. Especially if you don't know their language. You'll get through it.

    6. How will people from other countries treat you? Almost universally people go out of their way to be nicer to foreigners. I have a long list of people I still communicate with from all over the world. Yes there are unsafe places that are dangerous. To me, much of Central America is that way. In Columbia, which had such a bad reputation for so long, I was completely at ease. Way too many people will tell you to go here and not there because it is not safe. Don't listen to them unless they have actually traveled to that area. Television is terrible at proclaiming places are so bad and unsafe. They need to sell stories so people will watch their segments. That is all they care about. Several years ago I was watching the news in Ohio. Their Breaking News was, a school bus wreck in Colorado. Then went on to say nobody was injured. Slow news day? What next- boy in Austria falls off tricycle, but no bruises?

    7. Routing your trip. I never had a room booked. I didn't know where I might end the day. I might change my mind for a better destination during the day. I had a small tent and sleeping bag. Or I have been known to sleeping on a parking lot or picnic table with riding gear and my helmet (pillow). Before leaving home I made a list of Must See places in countries from ADVrider reports and Google. At the end of each riding day I would decide where to go next. I added places or removed them when talking to other travelers. I used GPS's for my maps. And I always had a spare or 2. If you get lost with a paper map, it can't ever tell you where you actually are. Most riders want to have paper maps with them. I used OSM free maps and POI's on my Garmin. Recently I've been using my phone and tablet for maps. In volatile countries you may come to crossings you didn't know were closed to travelers- Russia/Georgia, India, Nepal, China. There will be some surprise OOPS's when you travel.

    8. You will have incredible memories. I've always said "Do it while you can". At some time you may not have the opportunity to ride: health, finances, pandemic, war.......
    #6
  7. WileyRTW

    WileyRTW Wiley

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    Eh, now a days info is so readily available and transport/borders are not that terribly difficult I say take it a day at a time, too many people over think it. Put me into the catagory of its about the adventure not the destination. Just go, you can figure it out on the road.

    Then again, that is probably why I only made it to Colombia.:rofl
    #7
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  8. Doogle

    Doogle Do it while you can Supporter

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    Some of my worst crossings were in Central America. Helpers worked with the officials and lied about procedures. One crossing to Honduras I told the official I didn't have enough money. I knew they were scamming me. I said I would go back to the city ATM and get more money. Then I rode about an hour to another crossing. No problems there.
    #8
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  9. Phuket198491

    Phuket198491 Adventurer

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    Ive recently read about some border crossings in Central America being difficult (pre pandemic) with handlers just wanting money. I guess it's part of the experience and your advice to just go to another border (if possible) is good.
    #9
  10. Doogle

    Doogle Do it while you can Supporter

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    Some places they will overwhelm you with 10 people trying to get you to chose them. You can pass all of them and get to the office to do the process yourself. I was scammed once because the "helper" must have been working with the official. They both lied to me about needing something. Don't remember what now. I doubt going to another border crossing is always as easy as it was for me. If you don't have good Spanish, you may be at a disadvantage also. I remember reading one person was scammed by a fake border crossing a couple hundred yards before the official border.
    #10
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  11. Phuket198491

    Phuket198491 Adventurer

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    I had never heard of a "fake border crossing" but definitely something I would now pay attention to and keep in the back of my mind...
    #11
  12. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    We experienced a fake crossing. I believe from Mexico to Guatemala. It may have been an old toll booth or Town entrance. Two guys stopped our bikes and started to talk/grill us. Fortunately a truck driver pulled up and gave them a ration of shit. I asked the trucker '"es real?"...he said keep moving it's a scam.
    #12
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  13. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    An edit: How precient I was to mention borders snapping shut? Not really, but now old enough to know for sure shit can and does happen, hard.
    I expect many of the younger viewers thought Oh no! that would never happen. Yet here we are, far less travel to anywhere. Far less travel available for us to do what we did even a couple of years ago. And if you can go somewhere, do you really want to? And will you be as welcome as was once the case?
    Good luck everyone. Stay safe.
    #13
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  14. shepsi

    shepsi n00b

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    Alot of food for thought here and worthwhile reading, been dreaming since 2017 of a solo trip to Cambodia but unfortunately other things got in the way and now the current world situation!
    Im sure time will change things but one thing is for sure, once theres some savings in the bank I think it will be time to say now or never and let go of trying to meticulously plan more than what is needed.
    Thanks for sharing all this information everyone!
    #14
  15. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    Fake borders? Some countries, the local population sets up road blocks and charges you to continue. Local tax or income support? A couple of international transaction vouchers/handful of squiggle money soon sorts that.

    It would be easier for them just to shoot you there and then and take everything you think is important. Some countries of course, a nice tubby white man is a prized possession as a sex toy, to be passed around.
    Be grateful they only want cash.
    #15
  16. Natgeo14

    Natgeo14 Long timer

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    Or just avoid Central American border crossings.

    Have your bike shipped to South America or buy one in South America.

    That way you save yourself from the whole Darien Gap problem.

    Better to fly in and fly out if you want to see Central America.
    #16
  17. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    I believe the challenge is to RIDE your motorcycle around the World as far as you can. The border crossings in Central America are not as bad as some make out. The biggest issue for us was how long it can take. Mainly then because of the temps. They actually get easier as you travel south..we hired a helper at Mexico/Guatemala and it was probably a mistake. $40 and more time than if you did it yourself. All other borders from Mexico to Argentina we dud ourselves. Sure some took three hours. Most just one hour. Regarding 'fake' borders...if possible just slow down but don't stop. After an attempted shakedown in Mexico we decided to look the other way and not stop unless we were actually stopped. We employed this to great effect. Somebody waving an orange stick at you?.....be vigilant but don't stop. Your GPS or map will show the actual border. Take the time to use resources to your advantage. Make a pre border plan don't just ride in unprepared. Either this or stay home and follow Epic Rides on your computer screen. If you are shipping your bike over vast areas if land you are not RTW
    #17
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  18. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Safety Second!

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    Funny I have come to understand the term RTW has taken on a new meaning over time. It did at one time mean 'round the world, in an epic long journey. It now means traveling all over the place, not necessarily all over the world, and not necessarily circumnavigation. (Covid aside) There also appears to be no element of continuity of travel related to the term.

    Elge had an interesting article a few months ago in the Forum about what RTW means. It appears quite subjective
    #18
  19. Natgeo14

    Natgeo14 Long timer

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    I still recommend skipping Central American borders for motorcycle travel. If I did a RTW motorcycle trip, skipping a few countries/ sections would not bother me. My goal is to have fun, not to say that I've been to every country.
    #19
  20. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    OH OK. Our goal was to visit the Countries and have fun. We were thinking to earn 'the badge of courage' one had to actually ride the length of the Americas excepting the Darien. What's good for some isn't good for others. That's understandable. We wanted to say we did and do the ride from top to bottom.
    #20
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