In 2019, Sandra and Fiona, aka the ADV Travel Bug, set out on a journey across the United States on a BMW F800GS motorcycle. At that point, Sandra had never ridden an adventure bike before, and Fiona hadn’t ridden at all, including as a passenger; but as the couple hit the road, they soon realized they were hopelessly hooked…and decided to ride from Alaska to Ushuaia instead of just spending three months exploring the States. “Although I had my rider’s license for years, the most I’d spend on a bike were a couple hours at a time, max”, Sandra says. “In addition, shortly before our trip to the US, I had a bad motorcycle crash resulting in a serious injury, so that was scary, and both I and Fiona were unsure about this whole let’s cross America on a bike thing. We went anyway”, Sandra shares.
Two weeks into the journey, the couple knew this was it. “We loved it so much that we just didn’t want to stop. We rode across the US, Mexico, Central America, and by the time we got to Colombia, we both decided we wer going to ride around the world”, Sandra remembers.
As Sandra and Fiona are currently exploring the UK aboard a loaner Triumph Tiger, we caught up to chat about improvised journeys and what’s next for the adventurous couple.
What was the biggest challenge during your travels?
Riding off-road! I had no off-road riding experience whatsoever, and at first, I was somewhat naive – I thought, I don’t have to ride gravel if I don’t want to. And while that may be doable in the US, once you hit Mexico and Central America, sometimes, you just have no choice – the gravel road is the only road, and you’ve got to get through. So that was tough in the beginning, and riding off-road felt like a huge hassle, like something that had to be endured. After I got some good training, though, it became a joy, and now, I’m looking forward to it.
-By the time you reached Colombia, you decided you’d ride around the world… and the COVID hit.
Yeah, that put a spanner in our wheels! At first, as we were traveling the more mountainous areas in Colombia, we didn’t quite graps the magnitude of this thing. But when we reached Bogota, it became clear this was serious. Eventually, we had to leave our bike in Colombia and head home – Fiona to the UK, and me to Germany. Before Colombia, we weren’t really involved in the ADV community much as it was all such a novelty, but when we were stuck in Bogota looking for options to store our bike, so many people reached out and helped us – it was an incredible feeling.
However, what followed was no walk in the park – it took a month before Fiona could join me in Germany due to the whole COVID mess, and then, we realized we’d be left bikeless for quite some time.We reached out to Triumph Germany asking for a loaner bike; to be honest, we didn’t expect so much as a reply – but within a day, Triumph offered us the Tiger for a loan!
– And just like that, you could travel again?
In a way. The loaned Triumph had mileage restrictions and we could only take it to Germany and Austria, but it was still a wonderful time – we did so many routes in the Alps, joined some ADV events along the way, and finally, returned the bike. Then followed a bleak and uncertain winter – we couldn’t come back to Colombia yet, we were bikeless, and we were just trying to figure out what to do. We spent most of the winter working on our social media, website, and YouTube channel; in the spring, Triumph offered us a bike again, but this time, we could travel Europe because of Brexit – Fiona is a UK citizen, and she would only get 90 days in continental Europe. So we figured we’d just stick with riding the UK – the classical Land’s End to John O’Groats route, and it’s been a lot of fun (except for the bad weather!).
-Are you funding your travels via your YouTube and social media?
Not quite! We both have properties that we rent out, and we live very frugally – lots of camping, lots of our own meals, cheap AirBnBs, that kind of thing. On the other hand, we do plan to eventually monetize our website and YouTube simply because the amount of work, time, and energy that goes into creating all that content is huge, and it would be nice to see some sort of a reward for the effort. we both love creating content, and we’ll just see where it all goes.
-What’s next for you?
Frankly, we have no idea! Currently, Fiona is now getting her bike license and she will probably start riding her own bike soon. We would love to ride Africa, but it all depends on the border situation and the COVID-related restrictions. Another plan is to just go back to Colombia, get a second bike for Fiona, and stick to our original plan of going down to Ushuaia. It’s absolutely impossible to plan anything right now, though, so we’ll just play it by ear.
-What would you say to people who would love to ride RTW but feel they don;t have the means, the experience, or the time?
I think it’s all very simple – if youreally, truly want it, you’ll find the time and the resources. The experience thing…Both Fiona and I were experienced travelers before we took up adventure riding, so for us, the traveling part came easy, and the motorcycling part – we’re just learning along the way. And sure, anything can happen – but remember that anything can be figured out, too! And finally, deciding to go on a RTW trip or any other long-distance journey isn’t some sort of a fixed, permanent, final thing. You can always stop and turn back if you realize it’s not for you. Nothing is set in stone, so just go – and who knows where the road may lead you.
Images: Sandra and Fiona