IN A WORLD OF GEAR REVIEWS, and all-weather, survivalist, self-drying clothing for the price of your soul, it’s easy to lose perspective. The slightly-more-epic hiking boot or the extra lens can mean a handful of days, a week, or much more out on the road traveling, learning, doing.
Back in 1995, Austin and Gerald Vince traveled around the world on motorbikes with a bunch of good friends. They’d done nothing of the kind before — Vince, for example, taught design and technology at Mill Hill school until just before he left — and they took the longest possible way round. Starting in London, they went through Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Siberia, before heading to Alaska, Chile, and a final home run via Cape Town and Cairo. They set off with zero sponsorship, blog marketing deals, or grandiose amounts of high tech gear. If it fit on the bike and was strictly necessary, it came with.
Revisiting the story of their trip 17 years ago (christ, it’s been that long?) is a much-needed slap in the face for the modern traveler. In a world where you can plan and fantasise and buy toys for adventuring like never before, the honest truth of the enterprise hasn’t changed.
There’s no better time than now, and the fundamentals are the same as they’ve always been. Where’s your petrol coming from, how are you going to eat, and where are the beers going to be tonight. There’s space for everything else in life to shift, and the barrier to entry is much lower than the world may have told you it is.
I’ve been dreaming of exploring Eastern Europe for months now. But it’s really just an Easyjet flight and a couple of bus rides to Yerevan. It would take less time to see Ararat from Armenian ground than it would for the guidebook to be delivered by Amazon. Austin and Gerald remind us of just how close we really are to stepping out. And that we only grow from the experience.
Some of my favourite quotes from their account include:
- “When you come out of a long trip like that, you’re worth a thousand times more to any employer than the day you left. So anybody who wants to make you think you’re disadvantaged is an idiot.”
- “The simple fact of the matter is that you’ve got the rest of your life to work. That six months, you can just put it on the other end.”
- “You can leave pretty much in the clothes you’re standing up in, and some waterproofs from your local angling store.”
- “You need to be spending your money on the trip. Not on the gear to do the trip. Otherwise you’ll never get anywhere. You’d never leave.”