Should I stay or should I go?

Many themes keep coming back in the motorcycle travel forums.

One of the things that seems to worry people is, coming back after travelling for a long period of time. How to find another job? How to quit work and maybe a successful ( if unfulfilling ) career? How to resume your life at the end of the trip?

Each traveller I have met (and I have met many!) is different and has different circumstances.  I can only talk for me in this subject.

The first time I decided to go travelling for a year, around South America, risigning was a tough decision to make.

It had been so hard for me to build some sort of career. I went through years of minimum salary temp. jobs in France, after university, unable to get a permanent job. In France, unless you know someone and are part of some Business school and its network, it is extremely hard. Youth unemployment was, and is still, huge.

Then, I moved to London, finally landing a permanent job, in a big company.  Through hard work and very long hours, studying and going through a lot of grief at work, I made my way from the bottom of the ladder to a decent wage… yes, resigning was hard. Would I find a job again? Ever? Would I get the opportunity to even resume a career I had spent over 10 years building?

It was scary. I hated my job, but I still needed to work after my trip.

I took the plunge, and Alistair with me. After a year around South America with the bikes, we came back home.

We found jobs, quickly and at the same level than when we left. Since then, we have come and go many times. We now both work as contractors, giving us much flexibility for our trips.

My CV has more holes than a Swiss cheese, and yet, I seem to be very much in demand, in my industry. At least for now.

What most overlanders will have is a sense of purpose, independence, problem solving skills, the hability not to panic when the SHTF… all qualities that are in demand. No boss wants to worry about their staff. Turn up on time, do the job well done with minimum fuss, don’t made demands, be nice to everyone and at all times, even the one you would love to punch in the face… That big gap in your CV should not be a problem.

My first overland trip changed me. I learnt a lot. It made me confident enough to apply for jobs I would have thought beyond “my level”….

Do you come back to your previous life? Not really. You may appear to… but everything will be different.

For me, the only way to keep my sanity at work these days, is to plan the next trip!

The hardest part of any first long trip is not the trip itself and its challenges. No, the hardest part is making the decision to go, making that leap unto the unknown, plunging way beyond your comfort zone. That is the very hard part.

As one guy, who had never done anything or gone anywhere, told me angrily, “anyone can do it”!  Indeed, anyone can travel overland by motorbike, yet, very few chose to. Why? Because that leap of faith, that jump into the unknown, is too hard for most to comtemplate. However, without risks, there are no rewards.

Can you jump?

With apologies….

I have been ruthless this evening ! since I incorporated wordpress blog into my website, I have been bombarded with attacks from spammers and hackers. I have also had many subscriptions that looked to me suspicious. Either I am incredibly popular in Russia or these are just robots spammers.

So my apologies if I deleted your subscription. You will find if you register again that my security settings have increased. It’s a learning process…

If your user name is something like ivan_Smithy2548732421 and then your email is something like…. i might think you are a robot. So I removed those.






We have our tickets!

I plan to terminate my contract at the end of March. Alistair will be done by then too. The beauty of being contractors!

We bought our planes tickets for Cape Town. Departure the 28th of May. That’s it! No way back.

I have confirmed the shipping for the bikes. I am shipping with Moto Freight. They come recommended by other travellers, and Roddy, my Moto Freight contact, has been really helpful, answering all my questions and more! So the bikes have to be delivered to him no later than 16th of April, preferably earlier.

I will arrange for the Carnet ( the bikes’ passport) to be delivered at that time, so I can give them to Roddy. He can then send those to the freight company dealing with the Port authorities and Customs, in Cape Town. Still some paper work to sort out but my time frame is fine.

We have about 2 months to get the bikes ready, including a bespoke frame built for the CRF.
Gabriel, from Zen Overland, will do the luggage frame and fit a 5 litres fuel canister on it. Fuel might be a problem is some lightly populated sections, so we will need to carry some extra.

I have not looked at vaccinations yet, but most stuff should be up to date from our previous trips. I don’t think we need anything other than Typhoid.

For the anti-malarial tablets, I am not sure what to get. Malarone is good, no side effect on us, can be used to treat malaria, but extremely expensive. Each tablet is about 3 pounds! One a day! Argh!

I am not keen on taking Lariam (also known as Mefloquine) , because of the potential side effects. It comes with long lasting risks of hallucinations, psychosis, depression etc… So bad that even the US FDA issued warnings. So this one is a big no.

The mix Atavaquone/ Proguanil, made me very ill for few weeks, when I used it for one trip.

Then there is Doxycycline. I have used that one before with no side effects. But a lot of tablets to carry.

I will book the travel clinic and discuss the options with the nurse. Also I am not sure I can get 4 months of prescription drugs at once.

Few weeks ago, I contacted Johan, one of my south African former colleague and friend. We both contracted on and off at the same company. We worked in few big projects together. He moved back to Cape Town with his family, soon after the birth of their first daughter. I was asking him recommendations for accommodation with secured parking for the bikes. His quick answer was “ no if, no but, you are staying with us”. With his growing family (a toddler and a baby) I was not angling for an invite. Honest. They have enough to deal with the kids and jobs. But the offer is gratefully accepted.

It will be great to open my paper maps and get some input from him and Jo-Ann, they know this region of the world very well.

There is no greater pleasure in life than opening a map flat on a table, gathering around ( with few cold beers!) and getting (or giving!) tips, write on the maps, highlight the best roads, mountains, jungles, deserts and settlements in the most unlikely locations… dreaming about and anticipating all those places with mysterious names. I love my maps. Paper maps. I am going to be controversial here, but I care very little about GPS. It is useful in town when looking for a hotel, I will grant you that! But more than once, the stupid thing has taken us too many time through donkey trails and rivers, while there was a perfectly nice tarmac road a mile away!

As for the many farms’ tracks and disused roads it took us through, in Russia and Siberia, to this day we have no clue where we were! I presume, in one way, it does not matter much. When travelling, we are rarely going anywhere precise, so we always end up somewhere!

I think my love of maps started at 12, reading The Hobbit and then the Lord of the Rings. I loved to look at the map in these books, the details, the kingdoms, the mountains, the Moria, Mordor… ah yes I am “One of Those”! Many books with maps followed: SciFi, Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, Classics (Jule Vernes!) anything…. I was not fussy, world maps, Fantasy maps, any map.. so full of possibilities, so full of stories…

When I was a student, playing “Dungeons and Dragons” with my friends, I always volunteered to draw the maps!

Yes, I am “One of Those” too! From Nerd to Motorcycle traveller, it was not such a big step!

( this was the birthday card I got from Alistair! I love it! )