It was time for a big change in life, and I was dying for another adventure. The big problem: I was $30,000 in debt for my master's degree, had a $1,650/month mortgage and very little savings... And a middle school teacher's salary... How could I possibly
quit my job and go motorcycle around the world for a year?!
But something drastic had to change, and I was a girl on a mission: in one year, I learned to be frugal,
paid off my $30,000 in student loans, saved some money, quit my job, rented my house and said goodbye to my lovely PNW mountains and home: and maybe you can, too!
UPDATE: This Ride Report started in Australia on my 250cc Super Sherpa, but strong winds blew me to Patagonia where I bought a tiny motorbike (125cc Honda CGL, for frugality's sake), with the intention of riding north to Seattle. The CGL adventures start on page 7. Lots more info on my blog, TravelBugBlues.com
It was a tough decision to quit my job at a private school in Seattle, but it just felt right. The only real problem: my big loans and mortgage. I had a bad coffee and a mild shopping habit, and not much savings. But enough was enough, so I spent the entire next year saving every penny I could
and working extra, in order to pay off my loan and save enough money to comfortably quit my job. I refinanced my house at the all-time low of 3.75%, which meant if I managed it wisely and carefully and rented it out fully furnished to short-term visitors, I'd actually make just over $1,000USD/month on top of the mortgage (of which $100 extra went to the principal loan amount in order to pay off my house more quickly). I budgeted $30/day so a little remained, just in case. Could I really do it?!
I arrived in Australia from Seattle, Washington a few months ago. Being a not very large person at 5'6 and 135lbs, it took a while to find the bike I felt really comfortable on, but could still handle the Ozzie terrain and sometimes extreme winds. One that wasn't way too big like my Seattle KLR, but was able to get me around this great country. I decided it was time to get a smaller bike, probably a 250cc. A lot of naysayers said things like "it'll get you to the shops, but that's about it".
To the fellas who said a 250cc bike would only "get me to the shops": You pack way too much stuff (or) you haven't actually tried it (or) you don't know what you're talking about :)
I started in Canberra, Australia, heading over to the South Coast of NSW, then heading south towards Melbourne along the coast towards Victoria. It was too damn cold though, so I backtracked and spent a few days in Sydney before heading back to Canberra to await a rack and windscreen from the States.
Once the bike was ready to roll again, I headed for Cavendish, south of the Grampians National Park about 1,000km from Canberra, to the Horizons Unlimited adventure motorcycle event.
I took the long way there though, enjoying the scenery and trying not to hit the local wildlife...
After testing the bike on dirt and being thoroughly satisfied, I met up with some guys touring on postie bikes and zigzagged our way down to the coastal town of Portland, and along the Great Ocean Road. We again took the long way, making loops through the muddy, slushy hills above. Rain, hail, wind storm or sunshine, we were out there.
Yes, the fellas did have to teach this American girl a bit more about off-roading... Once or twice...
But it was definitely worth it! We all have to start somewhere, right? And besides, it wasn't all muddy fun. I've seen amazing wildlife along the way, even hand feeding wild parrots and cockatoos, getting up close to koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, and seeing zillions of dolphins jumping and playing.
I did nearly hit a brown snake (one of the deadliest snakes in the world), and felt a little silly screaming "SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!!!" in the amphitheatre of my own helmet while lifting my right knee up as high as I could. Turns out, they have actually been known to bite riders- at least that's what a doctor I spoke to said.
After saying goodbye to the "Postie Corse" fellas, I made my way down the rest of the Great Ocean Road, taking the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento and enjoying a few days on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne with a girl I met at the Horizons Unlimited event. The trade: She hosts me, I teach her to ride.
I've now gone 4,000km and am not nearly done! In Melbourne where I am now, I met up with one of the Postie Corse guys and his partner Sandra, who taught me a thing or ten about motorcycle mechanics. Australia is the 11th country I've ridden a motorcycle around, and I have to say, I didn't know anything about maintenance... Getting their help with that has made me feel a lot better about riding around foreign countries on my own.
The Sherpa is tons of fun, and way better than the other bikes I've owned. It's just as comfortable as my KLR650 or Honda Shadow 750, and still holds 65mph without a problem, even loaded up. And I'm getting around 75mpg.
One old jerk told me I needed $1,000/week or a minimum of $100/day and that I just needed to take my bike to a mechanic and "not bother" learning to do things myself. Trust me when I say he would never
have said this to a man. To all the ladies out there: let's learn to take care of our own bikes, shall we? And to the men with partners who ride: make sure your ladies know the basics, for their own safety as well as confidence.
: This trip isn't costing me much. My bike was $2,000 AUD, plus $750 for a windscreen, rack, cheap panniers and new gloves. Topbox? Too expensive. I bought a $25 dollar bicycle rack instead and ziptied it on. Works great. Yes, I did have to pay for some extremely easy mechanical stuff because I didn't know how to do it back then, but now I've learned enough to do my own maintenance.
While on the road, I spend about $30 a day on average. EVEN IN EUROPE. A lot of people I've talked to have said you need to budget $100/day, which is just way too much for a lot of people. If you have it, great, but if you don't, don't let that stop you from travelling. The more you have, the more you spend. If you have a lot less, you'll still have just as much fun!
Few people talk about the financial side of a trip. I think this conversation needs to take place more often so that more people feel they can go on big adventures, too. You DON'T need to have tons of money to go on a major trip! Just buy a cheap(er) bike, camp out or use Couchsurfing.org, grocery shop instead of going to restaurants, and travel at a slower pace. Don't spend tons of money on beer 'n booze, which is a major money-vortex for a lot of people. If you can, pick cheaper countries like in Latin America or Asia, where your dollar travels a lot farther. You don't need all the best hi-tech stuff, just work with what you have and be flexible.
If you have ideas of how to budget for trips and keep costs low, please post 'em here!
Thanks for reading-