You ever just want to chuck it all and go surfing? That’s precisely what Nora Nijkamp is doing. Except Nijkamp is in no particular rush to reach the waves.
The Dutch citizen was living in The Hague three and a half months ago when she gave up her apartment, stocked up on camping stuff, and loaded her gear onto a 2005 Suzuki V-Strom DL650 motorcycle. For the past three months, she’s been riding her way across Eastern Europe and Russia in a no-rush, non-linear route to Bali, Indonesia.
Along the way, she’s hitting up backroads, dirt roads, places with no roads, and as she recently experienced in Khorog, Tajikistan, a few “paved” roads that deserve air quotes. But that’s part of the adventure when you’re traveling alone by motorcycle. How do you say, “Do you sell Suzuki steering column parts” in Tajik?
How did you choose your ride?
I am riding a Suzuki V-Strom DL650 from 2005. I didn’t do a lot of research on motorcycles. I bought this one because I found it comfortable to ride and it was one I could afford. Although I wouldn’t buy it again if I would go on another trip.
How firm is your itinerary?
When I left, I only had my Russian visa sorted, so the plan is pretty loose. I know I want to go to Indonesia because I want to improve my surfing there. Starting from Holland doesn’t leave you with many routing options because China is a no-go. Central Asia was to tempting to skip, so that’s why I am doing a little detour here [Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, with a newly acquired visa for Turkmenistan]. And it has been absolutely worth it.
What was your pre-planning like?
I roughly know the countries I want to visit, but I have no idea about the roads or the places I want to visit. I find that out on the road. For me that is the only way to do it. I don’t like to research and plan trips more than one month in advance. It ruins my sense of adventure. For some people doing a trip like this is already risky/adventurous enough, but I like the surprise of not knowing where I will be next week. By not having too many expectations of places I go, they will amaze me more when I finally get there. The idea that anything can happen is the most freeing feeling for me and that is exactly why I left my desk job–[for] freedom and adventure.
In one of your first videos (“I quit my job“) you say, “If you think this is original, think again.” Why did you say that?
I was inspired by the trips of Charlie Boorman’s and Ewan McGregor’s, Long Way Round and Long Way Down. It just looked like so much fun. If I told people at home about my plans, they looked at me like I was crazy, like nobody has ever done this before. But as soon as you go on the internet you find thousands of blogs from people who have done a similar trip, in all the shapes and sizes you can think of, on all continents of this planet. People walking, cycling, motorbiking, riding cars, trucks, or paragliding. There is a whole overland community out there of which most people don’t know of. I think I am the only one vlogging the experience, but otherwise there are so many people who have written a book or a blog or made a documentary about their trip. I always have an urge to be original, so when I found out I how many people had already done this I was surprised. In the end that made it so much easier to plan and to know what to do.
So, you’re about three months in. What has been the biggest surprise of the trip so far?
The biggest surprise was probably the supportive biker community of Russia and Kazakhstan; they were absolutely amazing! They would wait for me outside cities, go on city tours with me, share their apartments, and take me out to dinner. I was never attracted to the biker club culture, but they have shown their sense of brotherhood, and it was heartwarming.
Any tips for someone else planning a solo, overland motorcycle trip?
Deciding to go is the best thing you can do. Also, you don’t need so much stuff. Less is more!
Photos by Nora Nijkamp.
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