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Old 8 Dec 2010
Wheelie's Avatar
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What you don't need!

There are in my opinion a great number of people that overemphasize the need for a great number of things when planning an adventure. Many people are worried that they lack the necessary funds, the experience, the spare time, or the right equipment or vehicle to carry out their dreams. For many, their predispositions prevents them from making dreams come true, or at best delay them far into the future. I would very much like to bring attention to this.

A few years back, I sought to contribute to those that want to underscore that anyone, with any means, with any level of experience, and with any vehicle, can head out and see the world and have a great time doing it. My wife and I decided to Travel from Cape Town to Nairobi, more than 6.000 kms in about three weeks... on two classic Vespas, averaging some 300 kms pluss a day. To this I can add that my wife is the most horrible rider out there, and her first ride after getting her motorcycle license was in Cape Town. We brought one change of clothing and no personal effects but a book to read. Besides this, it was half a scooter in spare parts, a complete field hospital (or so it seemed), and enough tools to build a scooter from sticks and stones (or so it seemed), and a bunch of camping equipment just in case we needed it. We enjoyed every bit of the trip - it was easy, and fantastic and proved to be no feat at all. Only thing, I shouldn't have brought all that crap.

The last time was a cozy trip in the sub-Saharan Africa. Now I plan to really push the envelope to show what is feasable, now in the Saharan Africa. In 2012 I will take two inexperienced friends along on the Budapest to Bamako rally, a 9.000 km race in just over two weeks. We will of course be riding classic Vespa scooters, unsupported - probably one of the least suitable vehicles for this type of trip. We will average 500-600 kms/day, at slow Vespa speeds, translating into long and exhausting days. This time around though, we will travel much lighter than the last time, relying mostly on make shift solutions for the conceivable problems that might occur along the way, and not a specialized solution/tool/part for every thinkable problem.

What we hope to achieve is to show that anyone can cover the distance with just about any type of vehicle, equipment and experience level... and cover more distance in far shorter time than most overlanders, with both far more experience and with the best of the best money can buy, ever would attempt.

We want to inspire people that feel limited by available funds, equipment, vehicle, time, etc, to take whatever they have at hand and make their dreams come true, even if it means that it has to be done bit by bit when funds and time allow.

There is of course an ideal trip for everyone, which for most people will be anything but what we are setting out to do (the ideal trip for us would include more suitable gear, a better vehicle, and lots of more time - but then we wouldn't be able to prove anything, would we?). But a compromise is often better than no trip at all. By pushing the boundaries as of what seams feasible, maybe someone will be inspired to find a optimal compromise of all possibilities available to them and to leave the sofa and enter the world of motorcycle adventuring? Maybe doing shorter and sporadic satellite trips around the world, starting right now, is better than waiting years and years until everything is perfectly lined up to do the long great unbroken adventure? Maybe that perfect time will never come along in this life time?

So what does one really need in terms of equipment, funds, vehicle etc? In my opinion this is governed mostly by time restraints. The greater the hurry, the more self reliant one needs to be in terms of funds, experience, tools, equipment, spare parts, etc. If there is little or no leeway in terms of time, one needs to bring along more equipment, more tools, more spare parts, and more knowledge to use them, than if one can wait for the odd missing spare part to be delivered to the edge of the world, or being able to wait for a competent mechanic to come ones way... or wait for good weather for that matter.

With all the time in the world, all you really need is any semi-working vehicle, some gas, and the clothes you are walking in right now - the rest will sort itself out along the way, even money and paperwork. Emilio Scotto, traveled more than 800.000 kms in ten years, covering close to 280 countries and territories, riding some terrain which is barely passable by foot. He did this on a great Honda Goldwing. On one of his first days of travel he was robbed of everything he had but the shirt on his back and his bike, he still managed to carry on and fulfill every conceivable dream he had... Every adventurer should read his book "The Longest Ride"... it really puts everything in Chris Scott's "Advenure Motorcycling Handbook" in perspective (the second book every overlander should read).

I think a great philosophy to bring to the planning of what to bring or not to bring is: The more things you bring and the more expensive they are, the more the things will end up owning you. Less is really more. Things that are meant to make life easier quickly takes away many of the pleasures of the adventure. Things which you thought you could benefit from, end up as annoying clutter or valuables that occupy your mind. First I would ask myself, how likely is it that I will use the item often, and how could I make do without it. If in doubt, I would ask myself if I could pick up a similar item along the way if I found I would really need it, and if so really consider to leave it behind. And, if I along the way found that there was something that cluttered my trip or occupied my mind, I would quickly make up my mind whether to get rid of it or not (give it away, toss it, sell it, ship it home... whatever). On adventures, less and cheap usually is both more and exquisite.

This much said, I don't not condone anyone who has the means to invest heavily in the possessions they take along. In fact, I really think that one should go out of ones way to make one's trip as good as it can possibly get. And, a part of the adventure for many lies in all the preparations. Also I will also spend considerable time and effort in preparations, and I will be picky about some of the things I end up bringing along (or not bringing for that matter), and I will sink lots of money into this trip. So, please don't arrest me later when I post countless questions about various gear and gadgets. Although I set out to prove a point, I will make some compromises towards this feat. I will for instance likely invest in new riding gear to keep me safe and comfortable. As I have to operate within som serious time restraints, I will also bring just about every spare part there is, simply because there are a lot of probable malfunctions with a Vespa, and no time to wait for parts or assistance. I also dream of sometime being able to do a RTW on a great gleamy beefy bimmer with all the Touratech upgrades. I still hope though, that there will be some contribution to the community in the way I plan to go about my trip. Maybe I won't make it, but I sure will try. And I want to take the opportunity to applaud all of those which has a nonconforming approach to overlanding.

Please follow our adventure on Bamako by Vespa
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Old 8 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheelie View Post
What we hope to achieve is to show that anyone can cover the distance with just about any type of vehicle, equipment and experience level... and cover more distance in far shorter time than most overlanders, with both far more experience and with the best of the best money can buy, ever would attempt.
Quite a few people think that short time is bad... Sure you want to prove that you can do it worse then "the rest"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheelie View Post
There is of course an ideal trip for everyone, which for most people will be anything but what we are setting out to do (the ideal trip for us would include more suitable gear, a better vehicle, and lots of more time - but then we wouldn't be able to prove anything, would we?).
Why do you need to prove anything? Relax, why compromise? Most people in the western world can do any trip if they really want and are ready for the commitment.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheelie View Post
The greater the hurry, the more self reliant one needs to be in terms of funds, experience, tools, equipment, spare parts, etc.
That's true but there are also other situation where you have to be able to take care of yourself, like in the middle of Sahara. Unless you travel with other people your life depends on a working vehicle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheelie View Post
With all the time in the world, all you really need is any semi-working vehicle, some gas, and the clothes you are walking in right now - the rest will sort itself out along the way, even money and paperwork.
Stranded in the middle of Sahara you don't have all time in the world, maybe three days.

I think to many people focus to much on their equipment and vehicles when they are traveling.
For me the main reason to travel is to experience other cultures and go remote places. To achieve this I avoid groups and I use vehicles that are capable for the job. I would rather spend time with the locals then working on my vehicle - but luckily people are different.

Good luck
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Old 8 Dec 2010
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Well, I don't really need to prove anything. But I do want to make a contribution by making an example of what is feasible. On the other hand, there is a part of me that want to test my physical and mental boundaries, as well as my planning and preparation skills - all within the very restricted confinements of traveling on a Vespa. I also must say that I do have a special fascination towards Vespas and all sorts of other crappy vehicles. In some instances I might even prefer to push my own Vespa than to be riding a twist and go scooter. My scooters and I have been through hell and back... it's like being married I guess - you just don't trade up. There is much adventure to be had in the struggles.

As for time, I don't have much spare time at the present. And, for me there are two types of trips. One like this one which is more about the sporting aspect and getting a quick glimpse of the world from the saddle than it is about interacting with the world I pass through. There will not be that much time to interact and reflect on this trip, but there will be other trips somewhere down the line where this will be prioritized. But my experience is that coming along on a Vespa causes a lot of commotion and interest - which will at least give me a tiny sample of the people. As for the rest of the rally competitors, we won't see much of them as we will be waaaaaay in the back.

As for reliability, I will equip myself in such a way that I should be able to handle just about anything that comes my way. And from experience, I will need to... I will have many breakdowns and punctures. I will also be traveling with two pals... I will be as safe as I can be. Luckily for me, I enjoy the challenge in having to turn a wrench and fixing things (even though i suck at it).

Some day though, I hope to be able to take a long sloooow trip on something more "suitable" than a beaten old Vespa (like a new Vespa.... or a bimmer or Ural). But, as my current life is tied down with too many responsibilities which I am reluctant to give the finger to (a one year old daughter, a three year old son, a wife, a dog, employees, a career, a serious mortgage, a garage full of scooters that need some TLC, and a home brewery that needs to put out some more ), I can't do long trips at the moment. My only other opportunity is to do short satelite trips every now and then - save up some money, fly in, ride around, fly out... and quick enough not too not have caused too much havoc at home. I hope that others in my situation see that there is an option to dropping everything and be gone for a very long period - with all the implications that may have in the life after the great trip. I argue that you can have your cake and eat it too.

Somewhere down the line, my kids will be old enough to come along, my career and my wife's will survive a year off, and I can handle my debt without having to sell possessions that are dear to me or that would imply a great financial loss if I had to buy them back upon my return.

There was a couple from New Zealand that had two children aged 6 and 8 that went on an RTW on two inexpensive motorcycles - with no prior experience, and loved it. In other words, I am hoping that in 5-10 years, this dream will come true. In the mean time though, I am not willing to sit on the fence and wait for something that might be, not when I can get a small taste already now. I opt to spend the little time I have, the savings I have at hand, using the ride in my garage, and go go go.

There is another great benefit of doing the world bit by bit in small pieces at a time, there is little risk of becoming homesick or suffering from cultural fatigue and boredom
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