Planning & Preparations
End of April 2018, I’m on the way back from my 6500 miles trip to Greece and Italy. Where do I go next? I already visited most of the European countries by bike, I want to go further. China, Himalayas? Around the world? With less than one thousand pounds in my bank account, it will take me 3 or 5 years to save up if I want to ride around the world.
I can’t get this idea of riding further outside Europe out of my head (I never been outside Europe before).
I need to start saving up now, I will never do it if I keep putting it off.
June 2018, I still can’t get this idea out of my head.
Now or never.
With my current way of living I can save up maybe two or three hundred pounds a month if I really try. That’s not enough. What to do to save up more? What are my current monthly expenses that I could live without?
1: cancel any direct debits that I don’t need, gym membership that I don’t use.
2: find a job (IT software development) closer to home to reduce fuel expenses (and possibly get better paid job in the process).
3: one job is not enough, get a second job.
4: sell my old bikes and do a clear out in my room and shed.
First step done quickly and easily.
July 2018, I found a new job 1 mile away from home (and a bit better paid).
Step three… I hated the idea of having set hours in a second job if I was to get one and having to work these set hours in the evenings and/or weekends. Ideally I wanted something that I could do if and when I wanted.
October 2018, I start doing fast food deliveries on a push bike (I wanted to do it on a fireblade but commercial insurance would cost so much that would make it not worth it). I could do it if and when I wanted and starting from October I ended up doing it most evenings and weekends around my full time job. I tried to live off what I made through fast food deliveries and save all my full-time job wages.
At this point I also started thinking about obtaining British citizenship (I was born in Poland but been living in Scotland since 2011). It would be useful to have British passport on this trip (as well as the Polish one). The process is long and costs a lot, but I decide to go for it.
First I had to apply for permanent residence card and wait over a month to get one. Once I got the PRC I had to sit the knowledge about UK test. Then I had to prepare tons of documents from the past 5 years and apply for the citizenship. With my bank account £1500 lighter and after another 3 months wait, I received a letter that my application was successful. I then had to wait another 3 weeks and attend citizenship ceremony. The last step was to apply for the passport and finally get the passport. All together it took around half a year.
November 2018, I do some calculations to get a good idea of how much I can save per month. If I really wanted and keep saving like this and also sell my old bikes, I could set off on a round the world trip in about 6 months time.
I set myself a goal. I’m going to set off in half years time, in April 2019. Not in 3 or 5 years.
I started researching the countries, what route should I take, what countries should I go through, in which direction? What routes other world travellers have taken before, what are the difficulties in what countries? What visas and other paperwork do I need, what vaccinations to take, what do I need to buy?
When I heard that most people spend a year or two planning their trips, is half a year enough? I hate planning. I never planned any of my previous European trips. But this time I need to plan at least the basics. Visas, carnet de passage, vaccinations, surely I can sort this out quickly enough.
December 2018, I start buying new camping gear and riding gear. New tent, cooking stove, bike gloves and riding jacket.
I need to sell my old bikes, Suzuki GSX 650f (with high mileage, not worth much but always something) and Fireblade 1000rr worth £4000 pounds. It has some electrical issues however which I tried to get fixed, but after a lot of frustration and no luck I decided to sell it for a bit less with the issue only a month or so before my trip. The GSX was sold quickly and easily.
I need to start looking for a new bike for the trip. Max budget £1500 pounds. At some point in December I got sent a link to an advert: 1999 CBR 900rr (same model as my current daily bike that I’ve done my most recent European trips on), £1300, 23.000 miles on the clock, original fairings with no cracks, all it needs is fork seals done for the MOT. Located 300 miles away in Leicester. I decide to go and buy it.
January 2019, I start thinking about carnet de passage (customs document needed to enter some countries) and apply for one. All sorted easily, they will send the carnet few days before I start the trip.
It’s 3 months before I plan to set off and I make an appointment with my GP to find out about what vaccinations I should get (I was reading that it’s advised to get vaccinated around 3 months before setting off).
But few days later I decide to push my trip set off date by few months. Will my original budget be enough? Maybe, but if I push it by 3 months until July it will give me extra time to save up more and it’s not actually that much time, so I can wait. Doing this can be dangerous in a sense that I may end up pushing it till later and later and never do it. I knew that I could still set off in April as planned if I really wanted to, but it seemed like a wise idea to give myself extra 3 months to save up more. But I knew that that was it and I wasn’t going to push it any further.
I need to tell my work about my plans. I’ve only been at this job for 6 months, so I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. During my career review I mention my plans and they are happy for me to leave for 10 months and they will hold my job for me. Pretty awesome!
April 2019, I make an appointment in the travel clinic to get vaccinated. Decided to get vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, yellow fever, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and typhoid. First appointment, I get all 5 vaccinations (tetanus, diphtheria and polio in one) injected in one arm in a space of 5 seconds between each. For one of these vaccinations I need to get another two injections, second one in a weeks time and third one in three weeks time. I also bought malaria tablets. All together cost me nearly £500 pounds.
I send emails out asking about sponsorships, and managed to secure a sponsorship with RK for chains and sprockets for the whole trip and the chain tool, with Lomo for the luggage (panniers, tank bag, 40l duffel bag, 20l dry bag) and sleeping mat (which packs tiny), with Rocky Creek for the air compressor, puncture repair kits, phone holder and electrical bits and pieces and with Altberg – good discount on boots. I have also been sent sunglasses from WileyX.
May 2019, I start applying for visas.
At this point I didn’t know if I would receive British passport yet. With the British passport I wouldn’t need the visa to US (depends which countries I go through though, for example if I have Iranian stamp I would then need the visa to US either way. In the end I decided to not go through Iran this time due to other issues). With the Polish passport I would need the visa so I decided to get it just to be safe. I had to make an appointment either in Belfast or London for the visa. Ended up going to Belfast as there was North West 200 bike race the same weekend when my appointment would be so I decided to choose Belfast – go for my appointment and see the race at the same time.
Once I got US visa the next important one was Pakistani one (can’t get this one on the road, need to apply in the home country).
I only had about a month and half left and at this point I had to send my Polish passport away in order to get British passport during the process of obtaining British citizenship. I ended up loosing couple of weeks being with no passport when I should be applying for the visas.
Once I got my passport back (as well as new British one) I applied for the Indian visa and then Chinese one.
I was 90% sure my Chinese visa application would be declined with only 5 days before I set off. Apparently you need to have flight tickets and hotel bookings with your application, you’re not meant to say that you’re travelling by land and that you’re going to Xinjiang. I didn’t have flight tickets, hotel bookings (hotel bookings are organised by tour agency – more on this below), I said that I’m travelling by land on a motorbike and that I’m going to Xinjiang. The only document that I had to back this was the letter of invitation from the tour company. I was just about to set off on my trip and I didn’t even know if I would get the visa. A day before I was about to set off I went to collect my passport… With the visa!
More on the China subject… Since Xinjang is a sensitive region and that’s the region I’m planning to cross to get from Kyrgyzstan through Xinjiang to Pakistan, at this time it’s not possible to do it on your own with a bike or car (unless maybe if you speak, read and write chinese, but even then I’m not sure). The only way that I found to cross Xinjiang was to organise a guided crossing with a guide through the tour agency. Tour agency would also organise chinese number plate, chinese licence and other paperwork. The cost is huge – 1000 USD to cross Xinjiang in 5 days and that’s “cheap” – by spreading the cost in a big group of 13 people. If I was the only person in the group it would cost maybe twice more.
Now more on the bike subject.
In May 2019 the MOT for my old 900rr that I was using daily expired and I decided to not renew it (it would take loads of work to make it “roadworthy”) so I decided to sell this bike also and start using my new 900rr that I bought for the trip.
I decided to buy stunt crash bars for it (they are not very common – I had to get them shipped from Poland). When I fitted them I found that they were not very comfortable, they were on the way near my legs when trying to change gears or use the back brake. I ended up getting them modified so that they are not on the way.
The rear suspension in my old 900rr was much better than standard (Nitron) so I ended up taking it out before I sold this bike, got the suspension serviced by ERS racing and fitted it in my new 900rr.
I also wanted to possibly lower the bike. I bought the lowering kit but when I fitted it, my bike felt like a kids bike. It would actually be pretty good but it meant that I would have to sacrifice good amount of suspension travel and when I put my bike on the side stand, it was sitting a lot more upright instead of leaning to the side so eventually I decided to put standard kit back on.
I wanted to do more work on the bike myself to get to know the bike better. I could already do things like maintain the chain and adjust when needed, change wheel bearings (requiring taking off the wheel), change the oil and filter, change the chain and sprockets, take tank off, change air filter. This time I also wanted to change the spark plugs and clean the carbs just to be sure everything is 100% good so I ended up doing this by myself also.
Then I wanted to synchronise the carbs and I got the vacuum gauges for it, but I must have not plugged something quite right and there must have been some leak so that I ended up messing this up and took it to the garage (Ewen Haldane in Greenock) who sorted this out.
They also helped me out by checking the bike over to make sure all is 100% good to go, supplied me with tyres to set off with, changed the oil and filter, done the fork seals, put fresh MOT in my bike and supplied me with spare set of front brake pads.
Tuesday 2nd July 2019, last day of work!
Now just to get home, pack my bags, exchange money, print the documents and finish all last minute bits and pieces.
I didn’t know yet whether I would set off on Wednesday or Thursday.
Almost ready to go!