Sunday, March 6, 2016

The youngest person to have circumnavigated the world by motorcycle!

Our trip around the world: 120,000+ km and 53 countries in almost 4 years 
Here's how it all started, end 2012...
... and back again in 2016 having done a full circumnavigation
One Aussie, one dream: to travel the world! I have travelled the world on my motorbike since I was 16 and I'm officially the youngest person in the world to have done so. On March 6th, 2016, I've set a world record as the youngest person to have circumnavigated the world on a motorcycle. I haven't raced around the world but travelled slowly, to experience and understand the countries I travel through. I found myself in, for me, new cultures. Cultures that I wanted to learn about and respect. I am, after all, a guest and hope to have been a welcome one. Everyone can travel with me via this site, which has photos and videos on where we have been and what we found. 

So why do this? I've seen so many young people wasting their youth on all kinds of stuff that I don't even want to think about. I hope to show them that there is a beautiful world out there. A wonderful world with wonderful people. That is why I want to do this and that is why I want to upkeep my blog, so that others can see and experience a small part of what I'm  experiencing and hopefully get them to go out there as well. When I started this trip there were some scary prospects. Dangerous border crossings and countries where I was told I would die for sure. If you believe half of the rumours about foreign countries then you can't go anywhere. Once you're in those countries the reality is often very different. People are basically the same wherever you go. I've met wonderful people in every country I visited."

What is a true circumnavigation?
In theory the rules for a true circumnavigation are pretty simple, just look up the meaning of the word in Webster’s 9th Edition, which defines a circumnavigation as: 'To go around instead of through.'  According to the Oxford dictionary it's: 'The action or process of sailing or otherwise travelling all the way around something, especially the world'. When it becomes a land based circumnavigation though there seems to be no agreement between the various organisations involved in these records as to how to interpret that to land based circumnavigation. As there are oceans to cross it is technically not possible to have a land based-only circumnavigation. According to Marco Frigatti of Guinness World Records, Guinness no longer accepted youngest or fastest records set on public roads as speeding might be involved. We thought that would be a police matter... As Guinness had 'abandoned' the category one could argue that the Guinness guidelines also no longer applied for such a category. Having said that we still liked to follow all the known guidelines for a true circumnavigation. Noris McWhirter, founding editor of Guinness simply stated that a true circumnavigation of the world must pass through two points antipodean to each other. Technically speaking this is incomplete as one could do that by circumnavigating only half of the world. Later Guinness therefore came with a set of proper rules, these are: "The journey involves starting and finishing at the same place. The total distance travelled must exceed the length of the Tropic of Capricorn, namely 36,787.559 km. The Equator must be crossed at least once (ie for a land based record this means that the journey must involve riding in both the northern and southern hemisphere). All lines of longitude must be crossed. The journey must proceed in one direction only, i.e. either East to West or West to East. A true circumnavigation requires passing through at least one pair of points antipodal to each other." The journey must also be done on your own and the same motorcycle from beginning to end.

In 2012 at the start...
To be honest we found this is a strange set of rules. For starters the circumference of the earth is 40,075 km, not 36,787.559 km, therefore logic would have it that when the circumference of the earth should involve more km on land than Guinness states. Secondly in theory there is no need to cross the equator to make a journey a full circumnavigation as one could cover the distance and visit antipodal points without actually crossing it. And finally the rules are also incomplete as it doesn't state anywhere how much of this should be done over land. After all it is simply technically not possible to cross all the lines of longitude via land as there are oceans to consider. Looking at various interpretations other organisations had adopted, we found Colin Angus, of Angus Adventures, guidelines the most logical as they cover all the basics but at the same time I didn't want to commit to one set of rules only. In the end we looked at all the rules, added them all together and decided to comply with each and everyone of them! Which is a lot more than Guinness Records or Colin Angus required. We also covered more lines of longitude, more lines of latitude and covered more kilometres over land than any previous motorcycle record, which I improved upon by over 4 years.

and back at the Great Ocean Road, on March 6 2016... where it all started in 2012! (see above) The record has been set!

There are no requirements for the number of continents visited although we can't see how you could do a full circumnavigation without covering at least 4 continents. There also shouldn't be any requirements regarding the time it takes to do a circumnavigation, it doesn't matter after all if you take 2 years or 12 to do it: it will still be a circumnavigation as described in the Oxford dictionary. My trip took almost 4 years to complete, which meansI was 19 when I finished. I know there are people who went around the world a lot faster, but to me that is not travelling but zooming past. I tried to avoid main highways and looked for the real adventure. I travelled with my dad, we traveled slowly and we took the time to see and experience it. We left in November 2012, 3 days after my last day at school with a simple and basic plan. That plan has changed, sometimes because of tips given by people we met on places to see, sometimes because political unrest meant we couldn't go there.

Can he do it?
There have been many who openly questioned if I could do it. I was deemed too young and too inexperienced. The trip certainly wasn't without its hazards. I was nearly killed by a car driver on the wrong side of the road in Kyrgyzstan, by 4 trucks on the wrong side of the road in Honduras, got severe salmonella poisoning in India, was bitten by a venomous spider in India which nearly killed me as the venom was close to my brain, lost all feeling in my arms and legs again due to food poisoning in Myanmar and was put severely through the test when the riding conditions became unimaginable in Kazakhstan and India. In Alaska I rode the Denali, the Dalton and the Top of the World highways, all while being 17, before coming down south again to Jasper and Banff. In the USA we visited as many National Parks as we could and rode down the canyon on the White Rim road, the Potash road and Monument Valley, before heading into Mexico.

Antipodal point in Spain, the exact opposite of...
Travelling in Alaska and Canada, I had long and lonely rides, freezing temp-eratures, bears and moose. In Mexico I experienced driving like I had never seen before, still at the age of 17. Belize, Guatemala and Honduras threw everything they could at me from bad roads with potholes like we hadn't seen before to insane driving like seeing 5 vehicles side-by side on a two-lane road coming towards me! Driving there is literally the survival of the fittest. Dad: He kept his nerve though and has proven to be serious and safety conscious, not only to himself but also to others. He's aware of what's going on around him at all times, adapts to the conditions and rides defensively. The conditions he has been through are impossible to describe, yet he did it all. Arriving at the Great Ocean Road today and witnessing him achieve this milestone was a very proud moment for me as a dad. Well done Mike! It was an absolute honour to be part of it...

... Arthur's Pass in New Zealand, the 2nd antipodal point...
Of course we celebrated the achievement just as we like it... free camping in the bush with nothing but the Kangaroos around us and under a cover of millions of stars!

The most northern point of the journey
Finances: We sold the house to do this and funded everything ourselves. Of course we have been looking for support, but at the same time I want to show the next generation that it is possible for everyone to do this, not just the few that know the right people to get huge financial support, factory supplied bikes and for whom everything will be arranged. We have no financial sponsors. Of course we have been very lucky to get support from companies like Avon Tyres, Rukka, Icon, Wolfman, Alt-Berg, Nomada cases, YSS and JT Sprockets to name just a few. These people were so enthusiastic about me trying this that they donated their best gear to enable me to ride as safely as I could. We truly hope that supporting us will boost their sales as well, as we believe in their products, not because they support us but because they have proven to be great companies making great gear! 

The event is documented on video and photographed, most of which are shown via these pages. See the places we have been to in left hand column. Unlike others, I actually hopes my record will be broken as that means I have achieved my goal: to show others that there is a beautiful world out there with beautiful people, ready to explore. Just don't try to do it all in a year (or even worse: a couple of months). That would be pointless as you'd miss too much. We never let the world record influence the trip. The trip, seeing the world and meeting it's people and cultures has always been number one for me. Although at the time of writing the record has been set, this blog hasn't finished. First of all the trip hasn't finished yet as we want to do more than just a record. But as most travellers have found, keeping a blog while on the road and camping in remote areas, it is all but impossible to keep it up to date. Especially so when working with photos and video like we do. It doesn't matter though, it has been written and will be posted.

Others who have claimed to be the youngest...
Since I've set my record a couple of people have claimed in the media that they are the youngest, knowing very well that they aren't. They think if they scream it hard enough that people will believe it. One claims his record is valid as he rode solo, but as he went through countries which require a guide that is simply not true. If solo means with no outside assistance then shipping the bike alone would invalidate the claim, as would having the bike repaired at a bike shop, have new tyres fitted and/or accepting any form of sponsoring. It also wouldn't allow for our Mexican friend Carina to have shown us the real Mexico, the places where you see no gringos, or to ride with Vince and Karen through Asia, which made our time there so much better. To be honest if that's what's required for a solo trip then I wouldn't even want to do it that way as meeting all the people along the way is what made this journey so much better.
If however solo simply means riding by yourself then I've done it solo too...
Anyway, I'm very happy I did it with my dad! Each riding our own bike and wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way. It's so much better to share a beautiful journey like this.

Is the record important to me?
No. I never wanted to travel the world to set a new record. That simply came up when we started planning the trip and found that my age was problematic in some countries, which is why we had to change our original route. We never even thought about any record until we started asking embassies if I could ride in their country at my age and some replied that they didn't know as no-one had ever asked them that. It was only then that we started wondering if I was perhaps the youngest. Travelling around the world and experiencing it, giving myself time to fully grasp where I was has always been number one. Had the record been important then I would have done it in one year instead of almost four.

Can it be broken?
Yes it can, and I hope it will be by someone who is travelling around the world rather than just racing past it and who's only objective is to be the joungest. I know a father and son duo from Colombia have done a similar trip, the son being the same age as me. I have more respect for them than someone who just goes around the world to set a record and has no time to experience the journey and the countries they travel through. Someone, who finished a motorcycle trip around the world in 1956, wrote that we should all take the time to travel the world and experience the countries and cultures we have, as it would make us all more tolerant to our fellow human beings and nature.