I’m always inspired by people who engage in long term travel. Last month I shared Jema’s story of traveling around the United States with her family in an RV. This month, I’m highlighting Shannon and Mike, of S&M Boiler Works, who are currently doing multi-year overland motorcycle travel.
Shannon is a former colleague of mine. When I heard that she was quitting her job to go on her bike trip with her husband, I was super-excited to follow along vicariously. Already a year and a half into their overland motorcycle travel, they have traveled from Seattle, all the way to the southern tip of South America.
Now they are on the second leg of their trip, having shipped their bike from South America to Europe. I caught up with Shannon via email and asked her to share some of her thoughts on biking around the world.
What prompted you to go on overland motorcycle travel?
We had started doing long-distance motorcycle trips in the US and Canada. It included a lot of camping and we really enjoyed this. We then naturally started talking about a longer trip and daydreaming about a trip that was more a way of life instead of a vacation.
At first it was to the tip of South America (this was after we drove as far north as possible and dipped our toes in the Arctic Ocean). We figured that we would need a year’s time for a trip this big. Then we thought if we were going to have to quit our jobs anyway we should “go big” and do an even longer trip. So, we decided to save money for a longer period of time so we could do a full around the world trip. We felt that we would need about three years to accomplish this.
You provide a lot of useful information like expense reports and accommodation reports on your website for overland motorcycle travel. What are some things you do to help you stay on budget while on the road?
We stay on budget by first tracking how much we are spending so that we know if we are going over or under. The main thing is that we try and cook for ourselves about half the time and camp about half the time. That being said, it is possible to do the trip we are doing on any myriad of budgets. You can travel on twice as much or half as much as our goal amount ($65/day for two people).
We chose the budget that we felt worked for us and our comfort levels. At the end of our first year on the road, we have changed our daily goal budget to $55/day for two people. It has been a challenge to meet that goal primarily due to fast/far travel being expensive. The slower you go the less you spend.
Are you planning on doing anything to earn money while on the road, or are you just planning to live off savings?
We are doing the trip off of savings. It is possible that we may work a little on the road (Shannon has done a few hours of consulting). But that is overall unlikely or not enough to make a real dent in the funds we need.
We have met a lot of folks on our around the world trip who have location independent skill sets. They are making money as they travel (graphic design, website design, photography, etc). Some folks have also been able to work out some good trades. When we left we knew for sure that we didn’t at all want to worry about funds or needing to find work for at least two years.
What has been the most memorable thing you’ve seen or during your overland motorcycle travel?
There have been so many memorable things that it is really hard to think of the most or best. But mostly it has been the people we have met and the scenery. This world is amazingly beautiful. We often fail to find words to adequately describe what we have seen. Beyond the scenery and the riding it really is the friends we have made.
What has been the most challenging experience so far on your around the world trip?
The most difficult experience was when our dog Ducati died from an accident. Our challenge was to just keep going and deal with the grief when we were away from home. For us it was like losing a child. Other than that very horrible experience, the challenges go into a couple of sets: the actual motorcycle riding and day-to-day difficulties. There have been times of being scared while riding but you just keep going.
As the trip has matured our skills have both increased and the riding challenges/fear has decreased. There are day-to-day challenges of finding a place to stay, what to eat/where to buy the food, and dealing with the weather. These tasks become more difficult if it has been a long, tiring day when you haven’t eaten enough or you are a bit sick. Mike has had more difficulties with his guts so it is a challenge when you have to stop and poop in the bushes every hour. None of it has been so difficult that it has ever made us want to stop.
You share a lot of great tips on your website on how to prepare for an around the world trip, from planning a budget to fixing up a bike. What is your main advice for people who want to do an around the world bike tour (or even just an around the world trip in general)?
Pick a date to leave – everything you do needs to be focused around that. It keeps you from putting off the trip and finding reasons to postpone. The hardest part was leaving and shutting down our lives at home. Once we were on the road everything was generally pretty straightforward.
What do you think you’ll gain most from this around the world trip?
Friends. It’s also a constant reminder that we are all the same around the world and that people are good and helpful. It isn’t any scarier to be on the road in the developing world, and actually, I know places in the US that we have found to be riskier to our personal safety than I have on this trip. It is very interesting to be away from the US for so long, to learn how others view our country, and how nutty we Americans sometimes appear to the rest of the world.
It is always so inspiring to hear stories of people taking that leap to travel around the world. The wonderful thing about Shannon and Mike is that they are just two ordinary people who just happened to do this one amazing and extraordinary thing. If you want to follow along on their journey, check out their website, S&M Boiler Works.
Do you have aspirations to travel the world with your family? Share them with me in the comments, or drop me a line.
The photos in this post were taken by Shannon and Mike of S&M Boiler Works
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