Where it Started
I very much doubt we would be living this lifestyle if it hadn't been for that first big motorbike trip around Australia. I had been living in New Zealand for about 6 years, had just gone through a divorce and was in a job that I hated. It was time for a change. As soon as my children finished university I decided to take a sabbatical - I would take my bike to Australia and spend about 6 months traveling around Australia and deciding what I wanted to do with my future.
I knew it was a huge risk. What if I couldn't find a job after the sabbatical? I decided to take the risk. As it turned out I wasn’t able to find another job and it wasn’t for a lack of trying but it didn’t end badly. I bumped into a London based company who specialise in market research and I now do some part time work for them.
During my time in New Zealand I had owned two motorbikes. After not being on a bike for 20 years I made the common mistake of buying too big a bike the first time. The Honda 900 Hornet was a rocket but was much too big for me. I took the Honda on a tour with the NZ Honda Rider's Club and after that tour decided that I would never again participate in a group tour. I traded the Honda for a Suzuki 650DR. What a fantastic bike! I loved it. I toured both the North and South Islands of New Zealand on that bike on my own.
When the time came for the sabbatical I shipped the bike from New Zealand to Australia. I started in Brisbane, went up the east coast and then headed inland to Ayers Rock. The trip was fantastic and I was having the time of my life. It really is amazing how little I needed and how self-sufficient I was. Everything I needed was on the bike. I could stop in the middle of nowhere at the end of the day, pitch my tent, cook dinner, get a good night’s sleep, make breakfast and be on my way again. On those occasions where I couldn’t use the tent I would find a backpackers hostel and spend the night there. I really didn’t want to stay in sterile hotels. You can see my blog from this trip here.
I was having a beer with fellow travellers at Ayers Rock when I got a call from South Africa. My Dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I needed to get back to South Africa really quickly. It was a long 4 day ride from Ayers Rock through the desert to Adelaide but I did get to spend a night in an underground mine that had been converted to a backpacker lodge in Coober Pedy. I flew the bike back to New Zealand, put it in storage and headed off to South Africa. I was fortunate enough to spend 6 weeks with my Dad before he died.
It was during this time that I thought I might settle back in South Africa. I bought a house and settled down again thinking that I would use the house as a base and still keep traveling. I had only owned the house for a few years when I realised that I really missed the nomadic traveling lifestyle and that it was time to take off again. I had bought another bike - a BMW 650 Dakar - and toured South Africa and Swaziland on the bike but I wanted more. Fortunately I met Margaret before taking off.
The sabbatical changed the way I think about life. Suddenly the things that where important – a big job, big salary and material possessions – where no longer important. I wanted to be free, to live life on my terms and get off the treadmill. There had to be more to life.
I am really grateful that I took the sabbatical. It hasn’t all been plain sailing but I certainly wouldn’t change it for all the tea in china.