CMG catches up with a Montreal couple who were back in town for the recent Montreal motorcycle show — taking a break from their global trip on a BMW R1100GS.
Brian and Marie are the kind of couple that make you realize that if you put your mind to it — and most importantly, lay out a plan and don’t over-prepare — then the dream trip you keep thinking about is not that far away after all.
CMG caught up with them at the recent Montreal motorcycle show — they having flown in the week before from Guatemala in order to help out at the booth of their main sponsor, L’Ecuyer Designer (a local motorcycle clothing manufacturer).
MAKING THE DREAM A REALITY
So just what makes a couple sell their house and belongings, buy a motorcycle and head off on a world trip for the next three years? Well, according to Brian, it’s not that hard, once you’ve decided to actually do it; all you have to do is set a date and focus everything on making sure all is ready to go by then.
That includes very frugal living (even the TV got sold off), long working hours to earn as much money as possible and, if need be, selling the house.
“It’s not just a way to raise funds, but a freeing experience too … just be sure to keep some of that money aside to re-establish yourself once you get back home!” says Brian.
The couple tried their hands at traveling together back in 1999 when they backpacked around South-East Asia and the Middle East for 13 months “and managed not to get on each other’s nerves!”
The current trip was a next step, although the motorcycle wasn’t the primary focus. “We just wanted to travel around the world and happened to choose a motorcycle as the best form of transport to do it with.”
The motorcycle in question is a BMW R1100GS, which has proven to be reliable except for a failed shaft drive oil seal that they managed to get fixed in San Salvador — forcing them to spend a week on the beach while the work was completed!
To date, the Beemer has proven to be a good choice, but Brian wonders if it’s the best: “It’s a good bike, but it would help to have a brand that’s a little more common in third world countries. Getting BMW parts takes careful planning in order to find a dealership en route.”
At this point, the world travelers are five months into their motorcycle tour, having started in Canada and proceeded through the U.S. and into Central America, then flown back for a break and a visit to the Montreal show.
By the time you read this, they’ll be on the road again — probably in Nicaragua, with the front wheel of their GS pointed south.
CUE AND EH
So what’s the route?
“We’re going to head down through South America and then ship the bike over to Europe, from where we’ll cross over to Morocco, head east through North Africa and into the Middle East. From there we’ll head up to Mongolia through the “stans”… after that we’re not sure but we’d like to be able to cross through China, though that seems unlikely as they’re still not too welcoming to travelers riding bikes with foreign plates.
“The ultimate destination is India, where we plan to take a year or so volunteering. We’re really in no rush to get anywhere. We’ve got about three years and a rough plan to get us to India. After that … we haven’t thought too much about it yet.”
How do you budget for a trip like this?
“We try to keep it within $50 a day for both of us. Fifteen to $20 of that goes to lodging (they’d decided to ship the tent home as excess baggage earlier on), which has to come with secure parking for the bike, although so far that has proved to be remarkably easy to find.”
Just in case you’re wondering, Brian and Marie have a separate fund for gas, bike repairs, flights, shipping and insurance. Talking of which, the health insurance proved to be a tough one to find and costs $4,500 for them both for three years. Trouble is, they can only buy it for six months at a time, each time with no guarantee that it’ll be renewed.
So what happens if they opt to not renew?
“So far we’ve found the public health care in Central America to be very affordable. The SAAQ (Quebec public auto insurance) also covers you on a worldwide basis if you suffer an automotive accident. So I guess we’ll just deal with it as it comes.”
How do you plan for something like this — both before and while you’re on the trip?
“There are a couple of motorcycle travel sites that have been very useful — Horizons Unlimited is the best and Adventure Rider is very useful too. On the road we use a Lonely Planet guidebook, chat with fellow travelers and ask locals — although you should always get two opinions, since some people just want to be helpful, which means their info can often be wrong.”
Three years and two up on a motorcycle must translate to an awful lot of stuff to carry?
“Everything we read about doing this kind of trip says that you’ll leave with too much stuff. This is very true, you really need to justify absolutely everything. We’ve already shipped home many things that we don’t absolutely need.”
What’s the most valuable piece of equipment you have?
“It’s probably our riding gear and helmets. Everything else can be replaced relatively easily.”
Best moment so far?
“Oddly it’s probably when we had some braking failure going down a steep hill in Guatemala. I never knew that brakes could overheat on a motorcycle, but the rear did. Thankfully, we managed to pull off the road safely. It’s while waiting for the brakes to cool that we both realized what beauty surrounded us, at cloud level and looking down on a gorgeous valley.”
And the worst moment so far?
“Again in Guatemala when we hit some construction and the road became muddy clay. I (Brian) lost the bike, which landed on my leg. The pain was excruciating although an X-ray at a local clinic showed nothing broken. Still, it was very painful to shift gears for the next three weeks!”
Any last words?
“We think it’s important that whatever you chose to do in life do it to the fullest and do it while you still can. For us that means traveling by motorcycle is something we felt we had to do now rather than later. Besides, we realized long ago that the 9-5 routine just isn’t for us — unless it’s to earn money for our next trip.”
You can follow Brian and Marie’s global adventures via their blog and (hopefully) with the occasional update here on CMG.