Tuesday, 5 August 2008

She Says - The HUUK and the Idea

We went to the Horizons Unlimited UK national meet from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th July 2008. This gathering of 500 mostly motorbike travellers is an incredibly informative, and I have to say, intimidating event. For an entire weekend, I essentially attended a conference of people talking about their amazing ventures in world travel by motorbike. Everywhere I walked, I heard people talking about trips they’d made. Not being a particularly social creature, I found it daunting to approach people about their travels, how they’d done things, but what I also feel is rather too personal to ask – how much did it cost?! I’d being feeling really proud of us after our three-week trip in May across Europe to Romania and back, feeling that we’d really tested our mettle as motorbike travellers. However, being amongst all these people, I had doubts about our worth!!

To be honest, while the idea of world motorbike travel had been mentioned in passing (a number of times by someone in particular!), I really thought it was a flight of fancy that we had no option of following. We’re both trying to establish careers, we want to move back to Australia and get our life settled there, and we’re still somewhat trying to decide what we want out of life. While Xander had joked, over email one day as we neared the start of the Romania trip, about the next trip being, “Next year…Australia…via the WORLD!”, it really was just a joke to me.

So somewhere within the first day and a half of listening to other people’s fascinating journeys, I started thinking about some of the things they said – total costs of trips of various lengths, costs of shipping/flying bikes to other countries, etc. One lady I spoke to noted their 5-year trip cost about £7000 per year, with a budget of £20 per day. I quickly realised that Xander’s contract was going to end in exactly 12 months’ time and my UK visa would run out shortly afterwards. Hmmmm, 12 months is a nice long period of time in which to save and plan for a big trip…During the talks, I started some quick calculations about how much we were saving, how our savings would need to change to get anywhere near £7000, what we could sell, etc. But how good a trip could we really have on that? And then what about all of the things we had to buy – GPS, laptop, bigger tank, tank panniers, etc – and that didn’t include transporting us over oceans. How on earth could we afford to even try this?

We had already started talking that our next trip could be Morocco for Xmas. It crossed my mind that would be a nice celebration of a decade together. It later occurred to me that July 2009 would be exactly 10 years since we last took a big trip – 5.5 months travel round the world as backpackers in 1999. Now there’s a nice anniversary present – doing it again but by motorbike and trying some new ground!

Xander and I didn’t get to much time together that weekend, as he was helping with the talks, but we met for most meals and late evenings, and grabbed enough time to start toying with the idea. We talked about using the trip to work as volunteers on conservation projects, something we’ve talked about before, but not in terms of long-term travel, just individual trips. We realised this would be particularly valuable to help Xander get his practical conservation career boosted. For me, well, definitely a boost, but if I just got the chance to work on really cool animals like jaguars or leopards, my life would be made!

We had touched on but pretty much avoided the ‘where’ side of things. We both knew each other’s desires – Xander’s dead keen on going to Africa, and I really want to see Central & South America. At £20 per day, the costs of flights/shipping and our expected savings, it looked like we could only go for 6 months. Would 6 months be enough time to do justice to either continent?