We were doing final checks this morning, before heading to the airport with the bikes. Paul said he was feeling strange today, then he looked at me and asked:” Are you feeling anxious too?” I said:”Oh yes!”
We took a moment to talk and ‘be present’ about where we were really at. I loved Paul more deeply for sharing his fears. He explained that he suddenly felt overwhelmed at realising the responsibility of taking care of me on this journey, which suddenly seemed insane. I smiled at his selflessness and felt relieved – I’m not alone in all this…
Johan and Caity helped us with the process of preparing the bikes to be crated at the shipping agent, Matzen Cargo, down at Botany Bay. It entailed removing luggage, windscreens, mirrors and eventually also the batteries. The bikes also had to be empty of fuel. Johan was master packer with his huge roll of bubble wrap and Caity made sure we had drinks aplenty in the crazy heat.
Today was such a remarkable day as the realisation hit home that we’re actually doing this incredible trip! Paul summed up our lives: “No job, no car, no home (come Saturday) and as of today, no bikes!” Paul told me this evening that he thinks I’m amazing for being up for it all. I think he’s amazing for granting me this gift.
Imagine leaving home for a trip of at least 18 months. You’re going to be facing many extremes, snow and desert heat, sun, wind and rain. You’re going to be independently camping and carrying basics like water, fuel and medicines. You’re packing for travel on a motorcycle, so space and weight is of a premium. Plus you need to carry essential items for the bike, like tools and spares. You want to document your journey, so photography and computer equipment is a must…
Packing for any holiday has its challenges. So many “what ifs” and “maybes” to consider. Imagine the logistics of packing for a trip on a bike!
We did 2 exploratory trips in 2016, to experience packing for and traveling by bike. The main thing we learnt was that we packed way too much, didn’t use half the items we had originally taken. There were also one or two learnings about items we should have packed and didn’t.
Today we packed our bikes for the final time before leaving Australia for our trip across the Americas. It was an exciting day, yet still fraught with decisions and debates…We have lost count of the number of times we have packed, re-packed and re-packed again. Weighing items, trying to decide the best way and place to pack each item.
Paul is carrying the heavy items at 53kg: kitchen, toiletries, tools, tent, computer, drone and sleeping mats. Paul’s bike has 2 panniers, 1 top box, 1 tank bag, 1 tent and 1 (red) Ortlieb waterproof luggage bag. I’m carrying 47kg which is our clothes, shoes, first aid, medications, sleeping bags, pillows, fly fishing rod and cameras. My bike has 2 panniers, 1 tank bag, 2 saddle bags and 1 (yellow) Ortlieb waterproof luggage bag. We’re good to go…
Tomorrow we ride the motorcycles to the airport, where we will crate them for their flight to Vancouver Canada.
The adventure begins
Paul and I have talked at length about many things and how we want to live our lives – these words of affirmation by Woodrow Wilson sum up our dreams, hopes and values …
”You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
We dared to dream of taking time to travel, to learn, to explore and to consider another way of living…but it has not been an easy decision to make, nor an easy goal to pursue.
‘Unexpected’ is how I’ve come to think of the obstacles we’ve faced in preparing for our journey… obstacles just aren’t unexpected anymore…they’re just a natural part of any journey.
I’m learning about being brave as the past 6 months have been both frightening and challenging. Paul has beautifully encouraged me that “brave is what you feel after you’ve overcome a challenge and fear is just what you feel before you’ve begun…”
Obstacle one came dressed as opportunity. Unexpectedly I was head hunted and offered an insanely awesome career opportunity. This threw Paul and I into a whirlpool of emotions as our travel plans were still incubating at the time and it made “oh so much sense” to keep building our careers and earning greater Aussie dollars. I welcomed the affirmation this career step would bring, yet longed for affirmation that came from within, was more meaningful and lasting. Through this period I learned that Paul’s support has no conditions and my values became so crystal clear when faced with conflicting opportunities. I chose to risk, to pursue our dream, I chose us and our travels. The rollercoaster of uncertainty and fear that I’d just dented my professional reputation, does still linger but I’m sure with time I’ll be richer for the decision to back myself. Making decisions is challenging at the best of times but I learnt an invaluable technique when I trained as a business coach – when faced with a decision simply ask yourself: “Will this take me towards what I really want and value or away from it?” Decisions made simple…
Obstacle two came one evening when Paul suddenly clutched at his heart, which had started racing. He was deathly pale and sweat broke out across his brow. Days later friends joked that I had that effect on him and asked lewd details of what we were doing at the time (which was eating dinner at the airport!) Paul now jokes about “the night Maryna abandoned me at the hospital” but it was the best place for both him and me. Through this period I learned that Paul laughs despite adversity and that nurses are drawn to him and his infectious humour, checking his ‘vitals’ way too often. We were reminded of our vulnerability and health as simply a gift to be grateful for. All turned out well and it was soon clear that neither airport food nor Caitlin’s departure to London could break Paul’s heart.
Obstacle three started with “C”. Calling Paul to tell him I had just been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma was frightening because I had no idea at the time, beyond the doctor’s assurances that it was easily treatable with surgery and that I would be okay. With three months left ‘till our intended departure, it was a race to find a surgeon, eventually two who could surgically remove, reconstruct and repair. Through this period I learned about patience, about asking for help and gratitude. For Paul’s support, my health, the timing of the diagnosis and the positive outcome.
Obstacle four…yes it seemed insane that there was more…came as a hail storm. Six weeks from our departure it smashed its way through Sydney and rendered our car a write off along with thousands of others. Again we were grateful, it could have been worse as Paul and I were riding our motorcycles at the time – it did confirm that our helmets do indeed work! Having no car for our final weeks has eased us into our new lifestyle of walking or riding, and planning everything according to the weather.
Aussie champion of courageous living, Margie Warrell so eloquently describes just how it was that we were able to overcome all unexpected obstacles: “Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.”
Obstacles are part of any life course. Indeed they’ve shaped our resolve, sharpened our vision and given us such affirmation about the journey we’re on…
It took a few years but I decided to leave South Africa for one main reason. I didn’t like who I had become. Always anxious and angry and scared. Always fearful of having no future for myself and my girls. Feeling there was nothing further I could do to effect positive change. I felt I was building my life and business on sinking sand. I had lost faith in the political leadership and was despondent about the negative changes all over the country, particularly with respect to diminishing personal security and escalating violent crime. It meant giving up what I had, leaving people I loved behind and risking everything I knew or had built. It meant starting over and having faith in a place I risked to go. I believed I had greater opportunity for a future for both myself and my girls. Unfortunately I chose not to go alone…
I had been engaged (on and off) for a few years. Our engagement was tenuous because we had different views on migration, from the start. When we met I was in the ‘process’ of leaving, just did not know yet when or where, expecting clarity within 2 years. I had plans in place and exploring options in Europe, the UK and US. My scepticism that our relationship couldn’t last was dismissed, he said he’d always wanted to leave, but never could. Each time I uncovered an option, he said ‘no’ and our engagement called off. Then suggested Australia, saying he would come with if that’s where we went. I now know I was daft to reply: “who would want to go there, it’s the arse end of the world?!” Thankfully he challenged me, after all… I’d never been. The ten day trip I booked included interviews in 3 cities; Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
From the moment I arrived in Sydney I was smitten. I’d found my new home. Australia was generous and I flew back with 7 job offers in 3 States on a 457 VISA, granting work rights. Within 2 months I had packed up my life: accepted a job in Sydney, sold my home and business, got married and arrived in Sydney to start anew.
What I remember most about that time was the pain. It was emotional pain, but I experienced it physically. An aching pain that I felt deep in the marrow of my bones. It took me by surprise. I anticipated the move being painful but I did not expect emotional pain manifest physically, how intense it would be, nor how long it would last…
Despite the pain I got to work within days of arriving and simply never stopped. I chose to be positive, chose opportunity, chose to just keep on going. I eventually chose to end that marriage which essentially never started, because one of us chose negativity, pity and blame. The lesson I learned all those years ago was about choice. People can experience the same thing, yet how it plays out is so vastly different because of one simple thing within our control: the choices we make about how we respond to whatever life brings.
Almost 9 years later I look back and see the progress time has brought me. I’m still the same person, but have another life. Married to my soul mate I stand at the cusp of my next adventure. I’m hopeful about my story being happy in the end.
On Saturday 18 February 2017 I married my best friend Paul. We had an intimate ceremony under the trees at Clontarf Beach with a few friends and family in attendance. My brother Deon was able to join us from South Africa and my niece Pia flew over from Perth. Our celebrant Anita Oates was wonderful and represented our love for each other eloquently and made sure we got hitched in a fun, relaxed way.
This day took us one step closer to our journey and we included our bikes in the ceremony. Paul and I conducted a “blessing of the bikes” and we asked guests to write wishes and prayers on Tibetan prayer flags strung across the bikes. The symbolism of the prayer flags is meaningful to us as they are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. Tibetans believe that the prayers on the flags will be carried by the wind to spread goof will and compassion into all pervading space. Paul and I will carry these flags on our journey as a gift to ourselves and each other as family & friends. On our travels we aim to “do good as we go” and the prayer flags are in keeping with that focus. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes welcoming life’s changes and an acknowledgement that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
Blessing of the Bikes:
We acknowledge our vulnerability, pray we keep safe
We acknowledge our openness to new experiences, pray we stay curious
We acknowledge our joy, passion and freedom, pray we show gratitude
This blessing was written not just for us as the motorcyclists, but for all of us a reminder of our vulnerability, openness and joy.
A reading: T.S. Eliot
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
I promise to always be present,
And to bear witness to your life.
Encourage you to be the best that you can be.
Never take you for granted,
Treat you with patience, love and care
And above all, bring courage to every adventure.
This ring marks the beginning of our journey as husband and wife
Wear it as a reminder that I’m always by your side
I am not going to pretend I know anything that goes on in a woman’s head. If I tried I may as well just get a spade and dig myself a hole in the back yard. However, I do know a rare gem when I see one, and so I wanted to share a few observations about my fabulous travel companion.
This is a girl who gave up with false eyelashes because the wind blew them into her eyes while riding the bike. I listened with interest as she reported tales of fluttering eyelashes in the wind, and eyelashes poking her in the eye. You have to love the determination.
Like all girls, you are going to find a bottle of hair conditioner somewhere in the luggage. I watched with curious joy and awe as she drops into a cold river in a forest and proceeds to perform the girly ritual of hair washing and conditioning. Not a moment of doubt. Just jump right in. Like most guys I take the slow lily-livered approach as the water gets up to the point of no return. It was chilly.
The “oil change”!! So what you say. Not for the first time I smile quietly as Maryna takes the time to go to the nail salon, get her nails neatly manicured and then proceeds to grab a wrench and drain the oil out of her motorcycle. A job well done after a couple of “f…k my hand”, and “f..k I hit my head”. You can imagine my proud smile when the lastest nail report is “f..k, I broke a nail” followed by that twinkle in her eye.
And for those of you who don’t remember, I knew I had found something rare in Cambodia. Maryna wearing a dress, standing on a motorcycle covered in red Cambodian dirt in the pouring rain. A rare gem indeed!!
With only about 9 weeks until we fly our bikes to Vancouver Canada so many last minute items remain on our “to do” list!
In March 2016 Paul started building a shed so that we had space to store our worldly possessions whilst we travelled. Our home is being rented out whilst we are away, so in readiness for tenants, we’ve been preparing to go.
These photos depict the stages of Paul’s work and remarkably he built the shed completely on his own!
In preparation for touring the world in 2017, we completed two “shakedown” trips in 2016. This was to ensure we had a few ‘practice runs’ at touring by motorcycle before we tacked the challenge of touring by motorcycle abroad.
Our first trip was to the Snowy Mountains in November and our second trip was in December. We simply hopped on our bikes and headed north, with no set plan or route, no accommodation booked. We really wanted to test ourselves, to see if we could simply set off on a journey and cope with all the unknowns?
We had an amazing time on both journeys and learnt a great deal. The two stand-out learnings were:
- We packed way too much and our bikes were over loaded with things we “may need” but never did. We soon learned that two or three pairs of clothing was sufficient – we learned to wash what we were wearing each night in the shower, if it did not dry we had another change of clothing. The same applied to toiletries, food and camera gear. We weighed our combined luggage which was +/-100kg (43kg on Maryna’s bike and 56kg on Paul’s bike) and decided on ways to reduce the load. I decided not to take my DSLR camera and lenses, replacing this with a compact camera and that alone saved me about 6kg.
- We focused on the destination instead of on the journey. Initially we were focused on “getting to where we were going”. We soon learned to take each day as it comes, to enjoy the journey for what it may be and where it may take us, learning to decide each day where to next rather than having a set plan for our journey. We soon ditched our initial plans, learned to speak with locals and asking for advice and in doing so we experienced amazing routes, people and places. We learned to listen to how we were feeling each day, taking each day at face value and this helped us to pace ourselves and we enjoyed the journey a great deal more as a result.