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Adventure Interview: Expedition Motorcyclist Allan Karl

All of us at Overland International love a good travel epic and Allan Karl may have provided us with one of our favorite stories of the year. Crushed by the challenges of the daily grind, Allan loaded up his motorcycle and embarked on a three year, 62,000 mile expedition around the globe. His adventure is chronicled in his first book, Forks, taking readers on his journey with a stunning collecting of photographs, travel anecdotes, and recipes from the road. Part travel journal, part cookbook, Forks was funded by an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign in only nine days. You can still contribute to his book effort if you act quckly. I recently had a chance to chat with Allan to find out more about his trip and walked away from the exchange feeling inspired to take my own life-changing quest.

What was the inspiration for this trip?

What made this something you had to do? I found that working for the company I had co-founded was no longer fulfilling or challenging, and my marriage was failing. As an entrepreneur, I immediately started another company, but soon realized that there was more for me to do. My dream had always been to travel the world and my passions were always photography, writing, and motorcycling. I realized that these life changes were simply opportunities that allowed me to follow my dream and pursue my passions.

Someone gave me Neil Peart’s book, Ghost Rider, and after reading it I thought wow, I can ride my motorcycle from Alaska to Central America. I’d always traveled to Mexico, but beyond––it hadn’t occurred to me. So my original plan was to travel to Panama. I soon kept expanding that until I realized that there was no reason not to shoot for the world.

 

Before embarking on this journey did you have any reservations which you had to overcome, and how did you work past those hesitations?

To be honest, I had no reservations at all. I think that after reading Peart’s book, then Ted Simon’s book, and looking back on the times that I’d taken trips to faraway places where I had actually rented motorbikes or off-road vehicles, I had this awakening that with a little more time, I could just bring my own motorcycle.

The only hesitation I had initially was traveling through Colombia. I planned to ship my bike from Panama to Ecuador as to avoid the danger. When I got to Panama and looked to Colombia, I realized that I didn’t sell nearly everything I owned to simply choose the safe route. No, I knew I had to confront my fears, face danger, and take chances. That’s the only way to realize all the possibilities. So in Panama I changed my plan, and decided to go to Colombia. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during my journey.

 

Is there a place you’d like to return to?

I must go back to Ethiopia, Syria and Lebanon. These were some of my favorite places with the history, the people, and the culture. I wasn’t able to get into Iran due to visa issues, so I’m determined to get a visa and ride my motorcycle through Iran. British nationals can do this, Aussies and Germans can do this, most anyone else. But as Americans, only authorized tour operators can bring American’s into Iran. I can’t do that. I want to go alone.

 

You clearly have a deep appreciation for food. Can you remember your favorite meal from your trip?

So many. I think one really sticks out. I was in Uganda staying in a tent camp of sorts on the high banks of the Nile River. They cooked me a goat curry with bananas and other vegetables that was so flavorful and with the warmed flatbread, like Chapati, it was just right after a long day’s ride.

In Kenya, near the Somali border, in a town without electricity and not even on any map or GPS, I had another goat dish, boiled in spices and herbs with tiny potatoes and again, Chapati bread. Maybe I was just famished, but it was in a thatched-roof house, sitting on the dirt floor, and eating only with my hands. I’ll never forget that meal.

The dish that inspired my book is the Moqueca fish stew brewed in coconut milk and spiced with a unique Dende palm oil. I had this dish several times in Bahia, and if it were not for me insisting on getting that recipe, my book FORKS might have never been made.

 

As a solo traveler you had to find a way to quickly relate to strangers.

What was your best icebreaker? I’m amazed at how easy it is to connect with people – humanity. Two things that are fail free: First, smile and look into the strangers eyes with warmth and openness. Also important, learn at least one sentence in the local tongue. The language can be tough. Cause if you spurt out a few words, be prepared for the stranger to unleash a barrage of fast talking and in such a dialect you’ll never understand. But the fact you try to communicate proves your eager to learn and embrace their culture and their language. Learn. 

 

 

To learn more about Allan’s journey and to order your own copy of Forks, visit his Kickstarter page.

Forks-Kickstarter

Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.