Rather than just passing through Georgia, into Russia and on towards Vladivostok, I slowed down and took the opportunity to spend a bit more time in Georgia. One of the best decisions of my trip so far … thanks Russia, for not taking me in!
The most frequently asked question by far regarding long-term travelling is: ‘how do you do that? Financially speaking…’. Here’s how I manage to stay on the road, without the security of having a job and income.
The trick is straightforward: save more and spend less. Travelling for me is a way of life; it comes with choices. Since decades I’ve chosen not to spend money on make-up, the latest fashion, stylish furniture or expensive holiday destination; I was always dedicated to saving money for this type of freedom. Also during my travels, I am very selective with my expenditures as to make my money last longer.
My motorcycle journey started off as a trip through South America. In September 2016 I set off together with Tom – both on a CCM GP450 Adventure. After traveling 24,000 km through Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and a tiny little bit of Brasil we decided to both continue on our own: after changing motorbikes I set course towards Vladivostok.
Tom was interviewed about his South America trpip by Valle (Valle on Tour) last year; it came online recently. His story and the footage give an impression of the first part of my journey – the interview can be found here.
When searching for a hibernation location for this winter, I would have thought anywhere possible except Holland. And so I ended up in Holland…
Over the last 15 years, I’ve been wandering around the world; the intention to move back to the Netherlands steadily declining with time passing by. However, I agreed with myself, if there comes a time when my parents need my support, the world can wait. I’ll do whatever I can to take care of them like they once took care of me. That time came, and so I did what I thought I should do. Not in the slightest way was I prepared for what was to come.
Mid November, still in Georgia, I received a phone call that my father was hospitalized with what seemed like a stroke. Coincidentally I would fly to the Netherlands for a motorbike fair 2 days after. Just when I arrived in the hospital, so did the suspected diagnosis of a brain tumor. Exactly 8 weeks later my father passed away.
I was lucky to spend most of that time with my dad and his wife; I postponed my return flight to Tbilisi and decided to stay as long as my support was appreciated. It turned out to be the most precious time I’ve ever had with my father. We naturally made the best of it, knowing that time was running out … just not knowing how fast exactly. He told me stories like he never did before; showed me pictures that I had never seen. I sat down and listened. Enjoyed getting to know him in a different way than the past 40 years. Was the tumor in his head causing him to behave differently than he used to be? Or did he just sense that it was now or never? I’m glad that I used the time when we still had some. I’m glad that I chose to stay, when I shouldn’t have gone away.
Although my father never showed himself overly enthusiastic about me living my life rather different from the ordinary (let alone his little girl traveling by motorbike for who knows how long!) at last he seemed to start to better understand my choices. In his last days he urged me to move on and to write a book one day.
I assured him: I will.
All this just made me wonder … aren’t we all running out of time? We are! We just don’t know how fast. Why do we wait for death knocking on our doors to become so much aware of the limited time we’ve been given? My father passed away, but we are still here. Do we need any more reason to live life to the fullest? To add our personal touch to the world? To express ourselves without fear, without shame, without doubt? To make sure we won’t have any regrets when our time’s suddenly up?
It all comes down to those 2 words – spoken by many, but lived by few:
During the winter months I am representing Mosko Moto (the manufacturer of my luggage system) at several motorbike fairs throughout the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and England. Although I’d prefer to be outside riding, with the fresh air through my helmet and the world passing by like a real-time movie, meeting other travelers and sharing my experiences with the Mosko gear, is a good second-best.
It’s always great seeing people stopping by at our small booth and realize time after time how small a world we are… Here’s an example of the many ‘Fair(y) tales’ – from the Intermot in Cologne (October 2018):
3 guys are talking to Roel Bremmers about the Mosko Moto Reckless 80 luggage system at our booth on the Cologne Intermot. One of them has a CRF 250, so I’m asked over to share my experiences and set-up. We have a great chat, and the second guy asks how the bags would fit on a Yamaha Ténéré 660. I jump to my telephone, and look for the pictures of Peter Paes who just made a trip to Norway with a friend. ‘Hey, I know that bike! ‘ is the immediate response. ‘It belongs to a Dutch guy, Peter! He had a problem, saw my YouTube videos and contacted me for advice. I recognize the shed in the background and everything! ‘…
Wow, it’s a small world, isn’t it?
But the story gets even better…
I ask him for his name, and he hands me his business card. It shows the Driftix logo on the back; he’s the founder of a motorbike riders platform that I recently joined. It takes only seconds to find out that the same guy and I have been in contact a few months ago, when the Driftix app was blocked by Google from out of Georgia (the issue was solved within a couple of hours)! The third guy is witnessing all these purely coincidental connections and his wonderment is visible – he’s setting up the bikers platform in Poland. We are still chatting and sharing our passion for bikes and bags, when another genuine traveler whom I happened to meet in Spain last year, and came to catch up at the Mosko Moto booth, puts me a piece of paper in my hand as he moves on to visit the fair. On it is his address – he has a football field sized garden available for travelers to put up their tent. Thanks for stopping by, Patrick O’Connor! Great to see you again, and hope to run into you in Bulgaria next.
Our little booth turned into a meeting point for Discover Overland visitors, presenters and others who regretfully missed out.
It’s been a long week, and I’m looking forward to be back on my bike in a few days’ time. But fair(y) tales like these, and seeing more and more people appreciating the Mosko stuff surely made it worth a detour!
After a full year of traveling through Southern and Eastern Europe, the Balkan countries and into Eurasia, winter is now approaching. In the midst of the summer heat I decided to dedicate the 3rd and upcoming year of my journey to a project: with Solob-STOP I will combine my professional background of trainer in development and humanitarian context with the solo-motorcycle adventure to Vladivostok.
Preparations are in full swing!
The winter months offer the opportunity to update my equipment and website, to consolidate collaborations and to treat my loyal travel companion ‘Harry’ with some deserved maintenance.
As soon as King Winter leaves gorgeous Georgia, I’ll saddle up again and move on!
A weekend filled with presentations, workshops, demonstrations, and panel discussions around the topic of overland traveling: the second Discover Overland weekend was a great succes!
Being briefly back in the Netherlands, it was an absolute joy to be surrounded by a diverse group of like-minded people: fellow travelers or those who’re on the jump to head off, meeting old friends again and making new ones.
From morning gym sessions, to self-built camper vans … from road side first aid tips, to motorcycle tyre repair demonstrations … it was there to discover right at the Dutch/Belgian border!
I applied for a 3 days’ transit visa to cross over from Georgia to Kazakhstan via Russia. I did the paperwork, collected all the desired documents, put on my best smile and made it to the Swiss embassy in Tbilisi. Yes: the Swiss – neutral as ever – are hosting the Russian delegation in Georgia, since the two neighboring countries are not on very good terms with each other. My first attempt was nothing more than an exploration round: I drove past the building twice, thinking ‘it can’t be here’ while the notorious crowds of people on the streets were absent. It turned out to be a holiday … and the next 2 days as well. Ok, bad luck.
In the second attempt I followed the instructions of fellow travelers who’d previously gone through it: try to attract the guards’ attention and show them your Dutch passport. They’ll let you through: don’t ask why, just take your chance. And so I did. But the time I spent inside the building hardly exceeding the time outside … Read more →
My gloves were a lucky shot; I bought them back in 2016 as ‘temporary’ until I would find something decent. But they turned out to be very comfortable and I used them for over 25.000 km in Europe and South America. Until they were done. I started looking for a replacing pair, but never found something quite like them. And so I kept going – for another 18.000 km. Until they fell apart. I fixed them with Gorilla tape, but the heat made the glue melt down … I visited several shops along the way, but there was always only one option in my size (if any at all!): pink ones.
Not just pink-ish – no… real pink! Pink-Panther pink…
So…time has come to live up to my words ‘I don’t care how it looks, as long as it protects me’. As from today you can see me approaching from a distance: it’s not just pink, but fluorescent pink! Read more →
I guess it was the second day in Georgia, not far from Tsalka, when we stopped for a roadside lunch. We: Philip and I. We met a week before, when I decided to wait at a gas station for the thunderstorm to pass and a motorbike traveller turned up, came towards me without a single bit of hesitation: ‘You must be Lobke’… Yes, that’s right. It turned out to be Philipe, who started his Silkroad4.0 trip a few weeks before. Read more →
After more than a decade of working in medical rehabilitation of people injured by conflict or disaster, I allowed myself some time to explore also the nice and peaceful places in the world. By motorbike, free from any contractual commitments. But it would be a waste of my skills and knowledge not to use my professional experience when reaching places that could benefit from it. And so, last month in Turkey I reached out to the Syrian border for a temporary assignment with an international humanitarian organisation.
Antonella, a former colleague and super-supporter of my journey, dropped me a message about the assignment without even knowing that I had just entered Turkey the day before: an international NGO was looking for a consultant to assess the rehabilitation services along the Turkish-Syrian border and to compile a proposal for future interventions. The job seamlessly matched with my professional profile and the matter was rather urgent – and so I set course to the head-office in Ankara in order to prepare my field visit to the border area. For a couple of weeks I traded my tent for a room, nature for city, and I parked Harry with the promise of a full maintenance treatment after I’d finish the job. Read more →
Taking care of my bike is common practice for me, as I regard Harry not only as my motorbike, but also my travel companion, and the platform of my freedom. So, keeping Harry happy is important.
If I keep him going, he might keep me going
After approximately 20.000 kilometres it was time for a new chain and sprockets. Via Facebook I got in touch with a Turkish traveller who’s riding the same bike, who knew a friend of a friend, who recommended a workshop in Ankara, where I would be stationed for a short job. When I went to check out the place and mechanic, there was another customer who spoke English and helped translating.
I came back at 8:30 am on the agreed date, and left the workshop at 6 pm. In between phone calls, visiting friends and customers, cigarettes and coffee breaks, the mechanic took his work serious. Very serious. Being a solo female traveller might be of help in these kind of things: I noticed that many people want to be sure that I’ll be alright. Read more →
After 7 months on the road, it happened. For the first time… with Harry, that is…
I expected it to happen at some point, just not now. Harry’s been down for the first time, since he is with me. Not something to be proud of, but all firsts are special in a way.
Nothing really, I just slipped on a sandy hump and couldn’t keep him upright. Even before I could take off my helmet and take a moment to mentally prepare myself for lifting the fallen one up again, a shepherd came around the corner. Yes, really. It was just like a too predictive movie: I heard the goat bells ringing and there he was … Universe provides, right? Read more →
A little throw-back from the way from Kalambaka to Kozani (Greece)…
The roads are empty – and so is my stomach. Shops are closed and I’m not up for the emergency food I’m carrying, so I enter a random tiny village and see what I can find. One of the 5 streets holds a taverna – it seems to be open. A woman answers my call for attention with a look that makes me believe she’s slightly annoyed with me showing up at this Easter Monday. The kitchen is closed, she says, and the best she can do fis some fied eggs. Ok, that sounds wonderful.
She disappears and comes back to set the table a few moments later. She asks where I’m from, then spots my bike… her eyes grow big. After I answer her questions where I’m going and what my professional background is, her eyebrows raise up to her hairline. Within these few moments of conversation she turns into a different woman. She finishes setting the table, then calls het daughter, who appears instantly from inside. The lady pulls me over to my bike and orders her daughter to take a picture of her and me together. ‘You are an interesting person’ she says, ‘very strong’. A moment of silence – a serious look. ‘I want to take your picture, so I can show to my friends what life is about’. Her look of amazement shows me: I made her day. She however, has no idea what she did to me; she can’t see the goosebumps that her reaction had caused to me…
The entire village comes and goes, stares at me and Harry. In the meantime the table is filled with much more food than ‘only some fried eggs’. Even a portion of noodles is collected from a house down the road … it’s too much … I can’t finish it all (which is rare… I’m a good eater). The Easter gathering seems to be ending: everyone is leaving back to the city or surrounding villages. When I too want to move on, and ask for the bill, I receive a firm shake of the head. I’m not supposed to pay – the food was a gift. For Easter, she says, and to wish me good travels. The only thing I can say: ‘efgaristo (thank you) and happy Easter’!
After hearing not-so-positive stories about Greece from several fellow travellers, I was a bit hesitant to pass through it. Greece isn’t even on the most direct way to Vladivostok, but the endless coastline thus constant proximity to the sea pulled on me like magnet on a piece of iron. During a phone call a while back, a friend from Holland (Kitty) suggested rather spontaneously to fly to Athens, rent a motorbike and join me traveling for 2 weeks. And so I had another reason to go to Greece. What a good decision that was! Read more →