The World Changes. Plans Change.

November 9, 2022

When I first started getting serious about riding a motorcycle around the world in 2014, I began by laying out a general route and doing some research, beginning with weather patterns. I wanted to try to stay in what was typically late Spring or early Fall weather — not too hot and not too cold — but also avoid the “monsoon season” or other periods of heavy precipitation.

Based on this, I made a plan to leave home and ride south to the bottom of South America, then ship the bike to South Africa and ride north to Europe. From there I would head east into Asia, crossing Mongolia. At that point I had a couple of options: the first was to continue to Vladivostok, on the eastern seaboard of Russia, where I could take a ferry to Japan and spend a few weeks there before shipping on to South Korea and eventually Thailand.

The second, and at least in my opinion, more interesting option was to hire a guide and ride through China to Thailand. This can be expensive, but overland motorcyclists had figured out that they could coordinate and meet up at the border, sharing a guide and splitting the costs.

From Thailand, my plan was to continue south through Malaysia and Indonesia, working my way down to Australia.

In 2015 and 2016 I completed the first part of my plan, including South America, Africa, and Europe. After twelve months I took a hiatus from the ride and returned to work, intending to pick up again where I left off — at the Russian border — at a later date.

That was Round-The-World 1.0, a different world than today. Much has changed since 2016, some of it obvious to everyone and other parts only obvious to the motorcycle traveler.

Covid changed everything of course. It closed borders, shut down non-necessary shipping (including recreational motorcycles), and impacted the world economy. When we could finally resume the trip, shipping the bike by air from the US to Europe had gone from around $2400 to $10,000. Shipping containers for sea freight had become scarce, and so had shippers willing to deal with an individual that wanted to ship one motorcycle.

Then came the Russia-Ukraine war. This obviously had a detrimental effect on a US couple with a US motorcycle entering Ukraine and Russia. It can still be done, but the headaches and concerns had me questioning the sensibility of it. Some things I would have done as a solo rider I won’t do with my wife on the bike with me. In addition, there’s not only the logistics but the ethical or moral issues I have with spending my money in Russia right now.

Then there’s Thailand. About the time I stopped my ride in 2016, Thailand was introducing new rules, making it incredibly difficult if not impossible to bring your own motorcycle into the country. If I couldn’t enter Thailand from China or pass through Thailand to Malaysia and continue south, then my whole route would have to change.

So while we consider the options for riding across Asia from Europe on the bike that is currently stored in Spain, we’re going to approach Asia from the other side. We’ve rented a smaller bike in Thailand and another in Vietnam, and we plan to spend the next couple of months doing some exploring. We’ve already accepted that this isn’t nearly enough time to experience these incredible countries, and we want to see Laos and Cambodia as well if possible, so we already know we’ll have to return. But for now we plan to take in as much of the local culture, people, food, and scenery as we can.

We’re on the plane to Narita airport in Tokyo as I write this. We’ll then change planes and head to Bangkok for a few days to play tourist before picking the bike up in Chiang Mai. We’ve packed very light for this trip: basically sharing one backpack and a small tail bag on the bike. One thing we did pack was rain gear. It may not be the height of the rainy season, but it still rains in SE Asia regardless.

One thought on “The World Changes. Plans Change.

  1. I definitely think you will want to return to Thailand and also visit Laos at some point. Just watch out for the big trucks on tiny roads with a few elephants thrown in for good measure!!

    Keep us posted – I have eagerly anticipated this portion of your RTW.


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