Name: David C. Parkinson
Specialty: Motorcycle Travel, Adventure Planning, Trip Planning, Backpacking
From June of 2011 to June of 2015 I traveled 42,000 miles on my 2005 Suzuki V-Strom (DL-650) from Seattle, Washington through 18 countries. I was a frequent poster on ADVRider and HorizonsUnlimited. I read several adventure motorcycle preparation books, and yet I still spent thousands of dollars and nearly three months of full-time effort towards the preparation of my trip.
The process of trip planning is unique to every adventurer, but I can help you to eliminate many frustrations that I had to go through. Let my realizations and regrets about what I would have done differently save you time, money, and frustration. And let me help you create the best trip possible! Read on below for free adventure travel tips.
This was my first full day of the trip. Notice how much stuff I have! Saddlebags as poor stand-ins for my crash bars show you how stupid an idea taking too many things is. The lighter your bike is the happier you will be!
Knowing where you’re going is important. I can help you chart your path. The above reflects my nearly one year I spent in Central America. It was only supposed to be a one year trip, but then I fell in love with Mexico. It happens. Making sure your budget is on track is critical. Using the right apps can help but it’s also about having enough before you leave!
Letting your family back home know you’re OK is important. Consider buying a SPOT device like I did for this purpose. But be smart, and hook it up to Spotwalla immediately so your route will be preserved. SPOT has a nasty habit of deleting your waypoints only months after you make a journey you’ll want to remember. The map above reflects most but not all of my trip. I got burned with SPOT deleting many of my waypoints.
Nearly everything you see here I took with me on my trip! I can help you be way more organized during your trip. When in doubt, take fewer things. Then take less. I can advise you on the spare parts and camping gear I consider essential for a trip.
Speaking of what to bring, let’s talk for a moment about personal safety. One of the reasons I completed this trip alive, was because I took my personal safety seriously. You’ll rarely see anyone outside of motocross with a neck brace, and yet without it you can end up a cripple. I can advise you on the ESSENTIAL safety gear and bike upgrades that can save your life.
Even with the right safety gear, your bike will sometimes want to take a nap. This is where having the right bike upgrades before you go is essential. Everyone throws on the crash-bars and a bash-plate, but suspension upgrades will be a tremendous help. I wish I hadn’t waited till Colombia for a suspension upgrade. Let my regrets help you in your upcoming trip.
Other times, your bike will break down in the worst of places. (We were 30 miles from the closest town with no cell phone service in this photo). We can talk about what to do, and what safety gear you should have for emergencies (think patch kit at the very least).
Replacing the broken clutch plates hundreds of miles away from where the bike broke down. Dealing with mechanics will be part of your experience. Learn from my mistakes so you don’t get overcharged or receive a “gringo discount”.
The best and most memorable camping you will do on your trip will be ‘wild camping’ (also called rough camping). It’s where you find places in the wild ideally near water that are hidden from the road. I can help you find these locations and advise you on things to look for to ensure your personal safety. This shot from the road in Peru. Not every country is a good candidate for wild camping. We can talk about that too.
This is where I was all set up to camp near Lake Arenal in Costa Rica before some kind fisherman came and told me I’d get robbed if I stayed there that night. Talking to locals is an essential, especially if you want to wild camp. The police, gas station attendants, and truck drivers are your best sources of local information.
The off-road portions of the trip were harder for me and the V-Strom but they were the most beautiful by far. Taking smaller roads/highways is almost always to your benefit. Route advice is something I can help you with. Photo above from the best route to Cuzco from Lima.
I tell you this now, you simply are not prepared for the beauty you will see on your journey. Make sure that you don’t make my mistake and bring a sub-par camera with you. You need a minimum of an entry level DSLR camera and a GoPro to remember the trip properly. Don’t skimp!
You will likely have the opportunity to do some outdoor excursions. You will not find a better price for professional mountaineering guides in your life. I paid $200 for a 2 day ascent of Cotapaxi (19,347′). We can talk about which trips interest you as well as resources for climbing.
The Huayhuash 10-day trek in Huaraz, Peru is highly recommended. Again the price is frankly ridiculous. I ended up paying $20-30 a day for a trip with a guide, food, and donkey luggage carting service. Peru has quite a few gems of trekking. Some like the trekking trip to Machu Picchu aren’t worth it and it’s better to park the bike and hike in yourself. Don’t forget to visit the Cocalmayo hot springs in Santa Teresa. If you’re nice, they’ll let you camp there!
Fun fact: The REAL Equator is NOT at the monument in Ecuador. It’s like an eighth of mile away! Having the right GPS and mapping systems will save you many hours of frustration. Get a better GPS than I did, I love the Garmin 60CSx but make a wrong-turn in Mexico City and you’ll be waiting 2-3 minutes for a recalculation! Get yourself a modern GPS.
Anytime you can cross the Andes mountain range, you should do it, do it, do it. Then do it some more. Take your time, the road is twisty! I know one avid rider who looked at map of Chile & Argentina and crossed every border that existed. I only did three myself, and regret not having more time.
Sometimes advancing meant traveling by boat. One of your biggest expenses will be crossing bodies of water where there are few options (such as bypassing the Darian Gap). Crossing the Darian Gap gets more expensive every year (now about $1200 per person). I didn’t pay full retail when I went and I can help you save money too.
When you speak Spanish (or local language of the land you visit) opportunities open up to you. I highly recommend that you take the time to learn before you go.
Kids will love to take a photo with your bike. The better Spanish (or local language) that you can speak, the better your trip will be. One of the best techniques is to get noise cancelling headphones, and the Pimsleur Spanish instruction series and listen to it on the road. You can also join Spanish language conversation groups before you leave on your journey.
Protip: Don’t tell your mom you’re going to ride the Bolivian “Death Road” until AFTER you complete it! In all seriousness, make sure you have the right types of insurance before you go. Not only do you need health insurance that works abroad, you also need evacuation insurance that will get you from a rural to a tier one trauma center if need be.
You’ll be this excited too at the end of a hard ride when you can buy chicken, rice, and potatoes for less than the price of a Big Mac. Enjoying the food is a great part of your trip. If you pass through Mexico, make sure you eat out as often as possible, you won’t have better food on your entire trip. Selecting the right restaurant is important. I recommend the ‘Trucker Test’ — the more truckers stopped and eating at a restaurant, the better option it is for you.
This is how much I love helping fellow adventurers take the trip of a lifetime. I want to make sure your upcoming trip is one you’ll never forget.
Where will you go? I can help you no matter where your journey takes you.