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Beyond the Truck (Motorcycle): off-bike adventures for RTW riders

When you tell people you’re selling everything and ditching mainstream to travel around the world for two years on a motorcycle, you assume you’ll actually be travelling. Meaning: away from home. For two years. That’s the plan right? Not coming back for a while, folks. Get all the hugs in now because it’s going to be 24 months at least until we see each other again. Let’s be sure to say something nice to remember each other by. Take time to visit the older folks in the family who are knocking at death’s door; two years might not be kind to them.

Then you finally get on the road, after endless organization and planning. Your trip becomes your life. You eat, sleep and breathe The Trip. You field off concerns and fears, both from yourself and from others. Ignorance is bliss when it comes to your bank account. To paraphrase Sterling Hayden, which shall it be; bankruptcy of purse or of life?

After deciding none of it matters, just get out there, you pack up the last carefully selected item. It’s finally go time. Two whole years of no work and all play. It’s unheard of. Nobody can believe there isn’t a lottery winning involved. Many said it couldn’t be done, but you were sure it could and it would and you’d prove them wrong or at least prove it to yourself.

Then the unforeseen happens. Two weeks after your going-away party, where you hugged your friends and family hard enough to last 731 days, you’ve returned from your trip. A broken wrist has set you back three months. Get comfortable, it’s going to take a while for mentality to catch up to reality. Your two-year plan is on hold and it only took two weeks to kibosh.

This happened to Dave and I during our first year of motorcycle travel. And just when it felt like we’d deleted too much valuable trip time because of a three-month bone-healing, we encountered another extensive wait in the same year. Document kerfuffles.

d hiking in glacier nat park photo heather lea

Image credit: Heather Lea


We hadn’t planned well when it came to obtaining travel visas. Much of the process could have been in the works while we were traveling. I scoff now at the conversation I had with Dave after having completed the first year of our journey through the Americas, and facing the intense organization of the second year, which at the time included arranging travel visas for Russia, Sudan and Kazakhstan, two Carnet de Passages for our bikes and crating and shipping the bikes from Canada to Africa. I begged that we take only 4-6 weeks at home to plan so we could be back on the road as soon as possible. But somehow another four months was deleted off our 24-month adventure because of poor planning. All told, since the first official start date of our trip (Sept. 17, 2015) to time of writing (Jan. 14, 2017), seven out of 16 months has been spent not only off the bikes but also off what we would officially consider The Trip.

So what did we do with all this unplanned time not seeing the world? We went home. When I broke my wrist, we spent a few weeks on a road trip throughout British Columbia, hiking and staying with friends and family. Later, I went to visit my sister for almost a month in Nova Scotia while Dave and his dad drove down to Arizona with our motorcycles in a trailer. We needed to get the bikes south into warmer temperatures, as it was now November. Dave’s dad lives in Quartzite half the year and kindly kept our bikes and my boyfriend entertained until I could grip the throttle again, which wasn’t until mid-December.

When the unanticipated four-month wait came for our travel visas, which we’d now just limited to Russia, during the fall and winter of 2016, Dave went back to work as a contractor for a new house build in the Seattle area. I bounced around from friend to friend in Vancouver, B.C., sleeping on couches and offering to babysit in return or cook dinner or generally just stay out of the way. I felt it was best to be in a city center where I could easily access things like embassies and passport offices but also it made it easier for Dave and I to see each other.

My parents had offered me the use of their home. It was vacant for two months while they were away but they lived a seven hour drive from where Dave was staying at his dad’s summer place in Arlington, WA. Revelstoke, B.C. is also a small town with next to nothing in the way of convenience for renewing passports or dealing with gear warranties.

dave skiing near revelstoke Photo Ian Stotesbury

Image credit: Ian Stotesbury


Two weeks of living on couches in the city had worn me down. It was an unpleasant time for me. Some of my friends were ten years younger and I felt like a bum when they went off to work all day and I sat on the couch trying to expedite my return to travelling the world. At one point, I rented an Air BnB for a month just to have my own space and stay somewhere longer than a week. In the end, I should have just gone to my parent’s place in Revelstoke, B.C. from the start. Dave and I barely saw each other anyway as he could only come up to Canada every second weekend, balancing between his job, driving across the border and working on the bikes. The efficiency of the city and its facilities had long since accommodated. After a presentation in early December, 2016 at Vancouver BMW on our trip thus far, I moved back to Revelstoke, B.C. to wait out the duration of downtime until we could have everything in order to get on the road again.

d sledding in revelstoke photo heather lea

Image credit: Heather Lea

h ski touring in nelson photo dave sears

Image credit: David Sears


One huge positive during this time was living in a ski town during a great snowfall year. Dave had stopped working and we spent three weeks together over the holidays skiing and snowmobiling in Revelstoke and Nelson, B.C. Spending precious trip money, Dave and I replaced our old ski touring boots with brand new pairs so we could enjoy yet another sport that brought us together—backcountry skiing. If we couldn’t be on our bikes, we could at least be on our skis.

h skiing in nelson photo dave sears

Image credit: David Sears


Climbing up into the snowy mountains while dreaming about when the second half of our trip would start was perhaps our favourite unplanned downtime activity—an activity that, should you allow yourself to listen, will tell you that everything happens for a reason. We may have experienced many months during our first year where it felt like we weren’t actually “on The Trip” but we were still free to explore whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. We had very little responsibility. We now had a lot of time to really connect with friends and family. We were home for the holidays and got to play in the mountains.

We had kept our expectations low for our round-the-world travels but in reality I guess we still expected it would go a certain way. Regardless, it is still our Trip and maybe all of this is really part of the journey after all. – HL

h and d ski touring in nelson photo randy williams

Image credit: Randy Williams


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Heather Lea has traveled to over 60 countries, 40 of which were on a BMW F 800 GS during a 708-day round-the-world motorcycle adventure with now-husband, Dave Sears (Trip Blog: Riding Full Circle). Heather has been a freelance writer for over twenty-five years and a book and magazine editor for more than fifteen. Aside from Expedition Portal, her stories can be found in Overland Journal, Canadian Geographic, Kootenay Mountain Culture, and Canadian Alpine Journal. She loves doing anything in the backcountry, including backpacking, four-wheel-driving, ski touring, and climbing. Heather is a Canadian now living in Bellingham, WA. Find her on Instagram @writer_heather_lea or on Facebook @heatherleawriter.