How long does it take to prepare for a big ride?

For me it takes years! – And I wouldn’t want it any different!

Happiness isn’t a destination; it’s a journey.
Austin Carlile

I really enjoy the planning process even if it is a huge task and so much more than drawing lines on a map.

The planning of my next trip includes everything from the obvious: saving money (selling stuff), to learning a new language, practicing new riding skills, learning first aid, creating a network of people along the route, selecting, buying and testing camping gear, learning how to use a drone to mention just a few. But maybe most important part – figuring out which motorcycle to bring – buying it and modifying it for a long distance adventure.

It’s a long and slow process and the checklist is enormous. For me it becomes a hobby, my go-to happy place. I dive into one little subject at the time and stick with that until I can check it off the list.

The art of listening to the right people!

Meeting other travelers and persons of expertise of different subjects in the planning process is one of the best parts. But also a fine balance as I need to make sure I listen to the right people with updated and correct information.

Good willed people with absolutely no experience of traveling on a motorcycle or traveling to Africa are lining up to tell me, that it can not be done. And for some reason, the fact that I am a woman comes up as one of the main reasons it is impossible. – It is simply too dangerous.

These people seems incapable of understanding that I am willing to die on an African road – and prefer that anytime over dying in my sofa.

So part of the preparation is becoming an expert in shutting off my ears to people without any real knowledge or experience of the destination or way of traveling. Others will just advice me of the obvious – like, “You really need to plan this” or ” You need to be cautious” or “You should bring extra tubes”. I might feel like saying “duh!” but mostly just smile and thank them for their good advice.

But in between the obvious tips and warnings some really clever advice appears – and I am grateful for any insider tips that will make my journey less of a disaster. I will be out of comfort zone just plenty, and a few insights to make the day on an African dirt road a tiny bit easier, are very welcome!

Over vs under planning!

I try to find that difficult balance between over and under planning. It is simply impossible to plan every detail for a long adventure ride; wars can break out, a global pandemic can suddenly spread – as is happening right now, borders can close, weather and climate will change roads etc. But I still prefer to have some kind of a base plan – even if I know that I will not be following that 100%.

Cost control

Budgeting is one of the things that I need to have 100% under control. There is no limit to how much fancy stuff you suddenly need to bring with you, when you have too much time to plan. The Facebook algorithm has definitely picked up my preferences and I am bombarded with amazing light weight camping gear, carbon motorcycle accessories and amazing camera equipment that would easily kill my entire travel budget if I let it – so having control with expenses and having the time to wait for the right deal is crucial for me!
In 2018 I started selling stuff that I don’t need anymore. Quite a liberating “Marie Kondo” style process that I have come to enjoy quite a lot. If a thing doesn’t spark any joy, I am letting it go!

Study like your life depends on it

I track down every motorcycle travel book I can get a hold of. Old and new – everything is valid. My latest acquisitions include the newly published “Woman Alone Around Africa” by Jo Rusts from South Africa, “into Africa with a smile” by Linda Bootherstone and “Three Wandering Poms” by Linda Bootherstone, Angela Griffin and Jacqueline Griffin. See my complete travel bibliography

I study maps – and mark POI and routes that I would like to take. I mainly use Google maps to register POI and then, when I have a clear idea about a route I will transfer the POI’s to paper maps. I prefer to use paper maps and use the GPS in a combination.

I use paper maps from German Reise Know-How. They are rip and waterproof in a really good quality. I also use the National Geographic maps, they are rip and waterproof as well, but I don’t find them quite as strong as those from Reise Know-How. Both maps cost about 11 Euro a piece.


I read travel blogs and follow riders who are currently riding through Africa:

Obviously I am also following Noraly’s amazing solo ride Youtube even if she is not riding Africa – at least for the moment. Noraly’s courage to ride solo in extremely remote areas and her positive and flexible outlook on even the biggest challenges is an inspiration to all of us!

Get down with the locals

I’ll be honest: my french is only slightly better than my Swahili. And that fact might become a problem in many of the French speaking countries in Africa. Hence studying French has been on the table for some time now. I don’t have any ambition to be fluent in French by the time I reach Africa – but I would like to be able to exchange basic polite phrases and everyday normal situations.

Riding

An major part of preparing for a big trip is riding as much as possible. Simply getting some miles in my legs, riding in all kinds of conditions and weather to try to build up some stamina and the right mindset for the road. I did 2 offroad riding courses with Massimo at Enduro Tours Barcelona in Spain and another offoad course with amazing Ida Hansen at MCSafari.dk

Paperwork

Preparing paperwork is a tedious and very important part of the planning. being Danish traveling through Europe is a walk the part, but Africa is a whole different ballgame and includes:

  • A carnet du passage (Passport for the motorcycle)
  • Motorcycle insurance: Brown insurance (Ecowas) to Western Africa and Yellow Card (Comesa) in Eastern Africa
  • Insurance for me
  • New passport and an additional passport
  • International drivers license
  • Multiple visas
  • Extra copies of all documents

Break it down

The planning process is long and the amount of decision to make – and new knowledge to acquire is so long, that it can become overwhelming. So breaking things up into minor tasks works for me. That way I can focus on one specific thing at a time. Like figuring out which tent I want to bring: that process took me 3 weeks of focused internet browsing figuring out what my demands were. When i finally found the right tent, I will wait and buy it when the price is right.

It is equally important to put it aside for periods of time. Simply take a vacation from the planning of your vacation! Otherwise it will become a stressful and not a joyful task.

Personally I would hate to skip the planning process and I will probably end up spending more than 3 years planning my next big trip. Your planning process might look different – but I love mine!


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