When I first started blogging about my two-wheeled adventures years ago, I was often met by skepticism. I heard opinions that you had to have experience to ride long distances, around the world, or cross contintents; that, in short, you needed to be an expert adventure rider before doing any “serious” adventure riding. I’ve always found this notion puzzling, because how are you supposed to gain all this experience without simply doing it?
Still, people often feel intimidated when thinking about bigger journeys. “But I don’t have the off-road skills, the mechanical knowledge, the language skills”, and so on, seem to be among the chief concerns. Thing is, it really doesn’t matter much. Here’s why.
I’ve met countless riders who set out on long overland trips without ever riding a bike before, like Greek rider Christina Pefani who rode around Africa after just a few bike riding lessons. I ended up riding South America for 18 months after just two hours of practice learning to ride, as did these Aussie guys. If you’re planning a big trip, should you get proper training, as well as book some off-road riding lessons? Of course; the more training and practise you can afford, the better. But is it absolutely necessary? Hell no. You’ll learn as you go along, and you’ll go at your own pace.
For the past few years, I’ve been traveling on my trusty DR650. Now granted, this bike was set up by a RTW and mechanics expert, and I was privileged to have ridden with him for a couple of those years, so right off the bat, I had the advantage of having a reliable bike set up for travel, and I’m not ungrateful for it. However, it’s been almost a year of me not only traveling on the bike solo, but also racing cross-country rallies on it, and I have very limited mechanical skills (translation: I can lube my chain and clean my air filter). Guess what – both the bike and I are doing just fine, with the help of knowledgeable mechanics in Lima, Karpenissi, and Sarajevo. Equally, I had no troubles while traveling on my little Chinese motorbike all those years ago. Does mechanical knowledge of how to maintain and fix your bike help? Obviously. But should the lack of said knowledge stop you from traveling?
I didn’t speak a word of Spanish when I first landed in South America, and I made a complete idiot out of myself while learning more than a few times, to the amusement of the locals. But, I did learn, and I was able to communicate. In countries where learning a local language seems to be too difficult, or just not worth it for the time I’m passing through, like Albania or Serbia, I’m relying on English, facial expressions, and gestures, and it still works. Languages are important, but openness, zen, and patience matter more. If you only speak one language, don’t be intimidated – you’ll figure this out along the way!