Motorbike Overlanding – 5 years on 2 wheels – What Now?

As it turns out, I’m getting bored of travelling by motorbike. There, I’ve said it. Am I allowed to say that?! It seems not. Most times I dare say that to fellow travelling bikers we meet on the road, they’re like ‘oh noooooo…you couldn’t be, never!’ and then I feel like I need to backtrack so as not to offend the whole flamin’ brotherhood. I’m like ‘oh right, sorry, no, my mistake then, must be something else. Never mind…’ and so the subject is dropped. Or rather, left to hang there in a really awkward silence because now I, and fellow motorbike traveller, don’t seem to have anything else in common…

A couple of months ago, I made the mistake of absentmindedly blurting out to Chris ‘I’m tired of travelling’. The man just about dropped dead of a coronary right in front of me. Alarmed by his slightly OTT reaction, I quickly rephrased my feelings, amusingly aware that he was now hanging off every single syllable I uttered.

‘NOT tired, as in sick and tired of traveling in general, more like physically, emotionally and intellectually in need of a change. A shift and refocus in travel-style and lifestyle, if you will. A more comfortable mode of transport and a different way of travellife.

Colour returned to his face. It was then I realised he’d been holding his breath this entire time.

DAY 1, 16TH September 2012, Leaving Chris’ family home in Tutzing, Germany

Back in 2012, when Chris first suggested we ride motorbikes to Australia from Germany, I was a great many things. Anxious, exhilarated, curious, scared shitless and totally nervous. On the day we left his parent’s home, I had 5 toilet runs before 9am. Every hair on my body was standing on edge as I sat on the bike. I sweated profusely and started cursing under my breath. I wondered how on earth I was EVER going to make it to the other side of the planet on two wheels.

And then I did. And it has been the single most incredible challenge I have ever accomplished.

DAY 618, 26th May 2014, crossing the mighty Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan. At 4,655m in altitude, Pixie had to be towed to the peak.

I’ve always been a ‘throw me in the deep end’ kinda person. I don’t like half measures and baby-steps. I’ve never been indecisive or overly-cautious and, because I am an inherently optimistic and curious person, have never been held back by fear. The motorbike journey was a natural progression, for me, in a travel life which had already spanned 8 years. It was just the right time to add a new challenge, especially when we contemplated spending the first year crossing Europe, a part of the world which would have made our beloved slow pace a little tedious. Maybe even a little boring.

DAY 248, 21st May, 2013, taking the long way to Igoumenitsa, Greece

Yet after 5 years and 50,000km it is now the motorbike that presents fewer challenges, however unimaginable it seems to me now. Curiously aware of this new state of being, I actually had the inkling feeling that I could have happily given up the two-wheels upon landing in Australia.

There, I did it. I rode a motorbike from Europe to Australia….what next?

DAY 390, 10th October 2013, Taking a break on the Zagari Pass route, northern Caucasus, Svaneti, Georgia


Motorbike Overlanding – each mode of transport comes with its fair share of sacrifices

I have subconsciously already ridden the next stint in Australia. My mind has a way of constantly running at double-speed compared to my body. Chris is convinced this is the reason I am forever tripping, banging my head and overall causing a great deal of pain to myself. So although I was almost ready to hang up the helmet and take on the next challenge once we set foot in Australia, I kinda forgot that we had this deal whereby we were supposed to be riding through the country for 2 years first. Bugger.

DAY 740, 25th September 2014, ride to Tiger Leaping Gorge, China

Riding the last year through Australia has highlighted what I already knew: your mode of transport, when overlanding the globe, affects every aspect of your life and should never be considered a separate entity. Just because you love riding a bike it doesn’t mean that you’d love travelling long-term on two wheels.

Motorbike overlanding fiercely dictates your life’s luggage, and I don’t mean the kind of panniers you can attach to your steed. It means having to live in a tent if you can’t always afford accommodation and, most importantly for me, it means being highly restricted on how much time you can spend ‘in the bush’, as the Aussies call it. This, for me, has been the biggest sacrifice of all.

DAY 1807, 27th August 2017, bushcamping along the Gibb River Road, Australia

In 2009, we spent a month crossing the Somali desert and then three weeks again crossing the Sudanese desert. On Matilda, our less-than-trusty-Landy, a month was our stock-up pile timeline. The luxury of long-term self-sufficiency gifts the most remarkable experiences but you need some room to afford yourself that luxury. A motorbike side-box just doesn’t cut it. When you disconnect from the world, from phone reception, from everything, it has a soothing effect on the soul that few can even imagine. The one aspect of overlanding I love, more than anything else, is heading out into nature for weeks at a time. In Australia specifically, this would have to be the most priceless experience of all. And the bikes are stopping us dead in our tracks from doing that. Even if you must re-emerge for only a short refuelling and restocking stop, it is a break in the solitude nonetheless. It breaks the spell.

On the bikes, we can’t go past a whole week without having to make some kind of contact and, more importantly, it won’t be a relaxing week either. Water must be rationed and fuel too, especially if wanting to move around a bit. Sure, you can stretch it to 2 weeks if you don’t ride much and are happy with 2-minute noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner to have the privilege of solitude. But those days, at least for me, are long gone. Yep. I want my cake and eat it too.

I simply crave more freedom and comforts than the bike can offer me.

Camping somewhere in the Sudanese desert, near the pyramids of Meroe, November 2009

And don’t even get me started on tent life. That ain’t no way for a princess to live, damn it!!

I love camping, I always have, but after 5 years I am just a teeny tiny bit over having to live in a tent. Pull it up, take it down, scorching heat, bone-numbing cold, soul-dampening rain and acrobatics to get changed. Every day, in and out. Meh. And while it’s somewhat true that a bike (and its corresponding tent) can get you places even a 4WD can’t reach, it can’t keep you there for very long in the kind of comfort and luxury I wish to now become accustomed…and that’s my primary gripe.

DAY 677, 24th July, 2014, battling high winds and freezing temps in Kyrgyzstan

Chris isn’t bored or tired of the bike but he agrees that tent-life is getting a little monotonous. He also would love more leeway when it comes to going bush and would be more than happy to add a little more comfort to life, in general. I am surprised to hear this last titbit of info. When I upgraded to a heavenly air-mattress last month and asked if he’d also like one, he protested. ‘I can still sleep on the hard ground!’ he proclaimed. And then I threatened to audio-tape him one morning, just so he could hear the orchestra of noises he makes getting off the ground of a morning. Oooohhh, aarrrrghhh, eeeeech. So his mouth tells me one thing but his back and bones sing a different tune…

I do love the passing of time, in many ways, and find that my brain and my body happily keep up with one another. It now seems that my body is getting more than ready for a little lifestyle change and my brain is wondering what on earth took so long. There’s no doubt that camping keeps you fit and nimble but I’d just rather start running again and spending an hour doing pilates of a morning to keep fit rather than having to undergo a bootcamp routine to have a pee at 5am. That is all. Fine for a few weeks, even months. But after 5 years I am, in the words of Kath and Kim, O.V.A.H. it.

DAY 1293, 31st March 2016, riding a torturous mountain track in northern Sumatra, Indonesia

So what next?

What is it I envisage for the next few years after Australia? Probably everything we haven’t been able to do for the last 5. Live in Spain for 6 months, take that long Tuscan castle housesitting stint. Build a camper. Run. Spend a summer with my nephews in Sweden and stay somewhere for a while so I can volunteer at an animal shelter. Indulge in more writing work, my other great passion. And keep moving as WE so love doing. Only slower and with more purpose. I want to see the Northern Lights and drive to Mongolia, I want to sit in a comfy camping chair and watch bears fish for salmon in Alaska. I want to spend time with friends and family. Chris has much more modest dreams, like building a wooden cabin in the Canadian wilderness with our own hands and spending a whole winter stuck in snow, living off our hunting skills. Or building a sailboat out of an old Land Rover and camping tarp and sailing to Antarctica.

You know, mundane stuff like that…

DAY 1399, 15th July 2016, My Komodo (Indonesia) birthday boat trip with great friends, a definite Southeast Asia highlight for me.

So a happy 5 year travelaversary to us then, and primarily to Puck and Pixie. Our valiant companions have put up with a lot of crap and I guess we have too. Our stories will surely amuse someone’s grandchildren one day and if Alzheimer’s ever sets in then feel free to send me this post by email, should I ever contemplate a long-term motorbike adventure again.

Or maybe just suggest I pack with an air-mattress from day 1 and let me go…




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14 Responses to Motorbike Overlanding – 5 years on 2 wheels – What Now?

  1. Peggy Bright says:

    There, you said it. Well done. Look forward to hearing about the next adventures and remembering that we first met in 2009 in The Sudan.

    • laurapattara says:

      Oh, we shall never forget that!! Peculiar though, isn’t it? To have met in a country that no longer exists… Thank you, Peggy, you and Poor John are our travel inspiration, sprinkling life with copious amounts of travel makes life quite interesting indeed. Much love x

  2. Matthias says:

    Dear Laura (and Chris?)!

    Oh I (as a German engineer) just love your style of telling your feelings (which I can at least to a very small part feel myself after 100.000kms on 2 wheels in two years).

    What about finding a tiny comfy chair and starting travelling in mind-soul-affairs in this physical-matter-reality? Check for Thomas Campbell’s amazing trilogy My big TOE (theory of everything)! As riding your bike for long this might change your perception of the world as well!

    What ever you do: please let us addicted readers know!

    Good luck and all the best,

    • laurapattara says:

      Humbled and honoured Matthias, to have such avid readers. Shall definitely look for the big TOE, sounds right up my alley :)) Keep well and all the best to you!

  3. Arjan says:

    Wise Words !

    Looking forward seeing where they lead you…

  4. Nick Hese says:

    Laura, wow, amazing
    My wife and I are bikers but chose to cross Russia and Mongolia with our Landcruiser
    , even after 18 months we changed to a Motorhome as being close to Sixty you need your comforts
    Well I am off in 2 weeks, solo to Sth America on my bike ( BMW R80 g/s) , 32 yrs old and still going strong
    Shame you will have left OZ by the time I return but if you are still here please drop into Stanthorpe SE QLD
    Safe travels, however you do it

    • laurapattara says:

      Thank you, Nick. WOW to you too, solo in SA on 2-wheels will be an amazing experience. And variety really is the spice of life. keep safe and enjoy, hope to see you on the road somewhere..

  5. It also took me a long time to realise that overlanding is not about the motorbike or the hardships of camping. It’s about changing your mindset, it’s about the journey – the slower the better – and meeting people. Whether you do that on a bike or a bicycle or a 4WD doesn’t really matter. Heck, why not by bus and train?
    I set off from Europe, going east, hoping to circumnavigate the globe in a few years. Twenty years later, I’m not even half way, and have essentially given up to go much further. I even sold the bike. Which does not mean I won’t travel again. Perhaps I buy another (small) bike, or go by bus or train.
    Whatever the fun part, to keep traveling is ultimately a bit one-sided. It feels good to have a home again, and some degree of comfort. I try to keep a balance between working with my mind for money (freelancing as a translator) and working with my body for pleasure (woodworking), between reading and writing, between being on the road and settling for a family life. Balance is the key word here.

    • laurapattara says:

      You speak to my heart, Alfons. I am craving balance and variety, more now than ever. I thought my incessant need for change would abate somewhat as time passed, but it’s actually getting stronger. As you say, work the mind (for money, even better) and work the body, but in all sorts of different things. Motorbiking is wonderful but also all-consuming when it’s so full on. I’d love a scooter on the back of our camper next. bets of both worlds :)) keep well, balanced and happy, wherever you may be

  6. Axel Cordes says:

    Once on a track, it’s hard to see the own needs sometimes, but being honest to yourself is so important and not easy, especially when the ‘others’ do expect ….
    Curious to see where you (both) will be going to – regardless where and how I wish you (both) all the best !

    Cheers Axel

    • laurapattara says:

      Thank you, Axel! I have this habit of always waiting until I am completely saturated with something, before moving on.It has helped avoid regrets actually.Thanks for coming along on this crazy ride, one which in many ways, is not yet over. Thanks for the good wishes and I return in kind 🙂

  7. Heike says:

    Awesome Laura…….your writing style is simply great !!!
    Getting tired….welcome to the club 😉
    HUGS Heike

    • laurapattara says:

      Thank you for the lovely compliment, Heike…and indeed, time for a CHANGE!! wooohoooo ^_^
      oh, hang on, few more months of riding left ahah

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