Tag Archives: biking Australia

No Fixed Abode: 18 Months Living Out Of A Suitcase

Soaking up the sun in Andalucia

Soaking up the sun in Andalucia, southern Spain

As many of you know, in March 2013 I left Melbourne – quit my job and my rented apartment, sold all my stuff including my car and beloved Suzuki motorbike – and, with no “Grand Plan” or itinerary in mind, threw myself, for better or worse, into the big wide world. Armed with a suitcase and some savings, my self-appointed remit was simply “to live a little”. Eighteen months on, I’m sitting here in a little cafe on the sunny Andalucian coast, sipping an Americano and looking back on what a year and a half it’s been.

Gorgeous Granada

Gorgeous Granada

I kicked things off last year with a couple of months in beautiful Granada, soaking up its gorgeous Moorish architecture and ambience, indulging in tapas and southern Spanish wines, and generally living la vida loca for a bit. All very nice – but soon I was itching to DO something and, after heading to London in the hope of scoring some casual work with a charity such as UNICEF, I found just the challenge I’d been looking for…

Getting to grips with a Ugandan boda boda!

Getting to grips with a Ugandan boda boda!

Bring on 4 months in the farthest reaches of Uganda and Rwanda, near the border with the Congo, working with a small British NGO to set up a community film initiative for local people, teaching them video skills to enable them to tell their own stories about their lives, culture and key issues like health and education. I was plunged into a surreal and challenging life in a remote town with no running water or electricity. I filmed with a local pygmy tribe, had a heap of adventures involving 125cc Chinese motorbikes and some of the roughest terrain I’ve ever been on, and helped pioneer “pedal power cinema” (screening films in remote areas where, in the absence of electricity, you use a common or garden pushbike attached to a dynamo to generate power to run a DVD player!). Not to mention spending time with gorillas…

With the Comic Relief crew in Ghana

With the Comic Relief crew in Ghana

Coming back into “civilisation” after all that made me all the more appreciative of the simple things in life (light switches, showers, internet, Suzuki motorbikes…) and Christmas back in Granada saw me making the most of all these things and more! Early in the New Year, I landed some freelance work at Comic Relief‘s London HQ – and barely a week into the job, they posted me out to Ghana to oversee some vloggers making YouTube films about some of the charities Comic Relief funds in the capital, Accra, and in remote Tamale, near the Guinea border. I was the proverbial “pig in shit”, loving being back in Africa so soon and enjoying, once again, being able to act as a mentor, this time to two young film-makers.

Standing simultaneously in 4 states - Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona!

Standing simultaneously in 4 states – Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona!

After some work on the Sport Relief 2014 campaign and a few months overseeing, amongst other things, a documentary about the Street Child World Cup, shot in Brazil, India and Tanzania, it was time to hit the road again – this time in the good old US of A, yeeha! I’d been invited to be a presenter at the Overland Expo in Arizona, speaking about my Uganda/Rwanda Film Adventure, and decided to combine this with a road trip through some of the surrounding states for a few weeks. After a great time catching up with fellow travellers at the Expo, I spent some time hiking through the mighty Grand Canyon before hitting the road to travel through Utah, Colorado and New Mexico and some of the most memorable and challenging scenery I’ve ever encountered.

On location with the Zambian TV crew

On location with the Zambian TV crew

All too soon, my money was starting to run out again and it was time to look for some more work. Back in London, though, work was proving pretty tough to find – until yet again, the travel gods smiled, and a contact at the BBC emailed me about an opportunity to consultant produce on a series of documentaries being made in Zambia. Again, this was an offer too good to miss –  I found myself winging my way to Lusaka for a few weeks to work with a local Zambian documentary team on a UK Aid/DFID-funded film. It was very challenging work but after delivering a first film that “exceeded expectations”, they asked me back to oversee a second documentary – so back I went to Zambia!

Jeanie at Grand Canyon 2013

There’s adventure out there somewhere…

All of which brings things pretty much up to date and finds me here in Spain, sitting by the Mediterranean Sea, contemplating what’s going to happen next. Looking back on the last year and a half, it’s been a roller-coaster of unforeseen opportunities and adventures that I could not have imagined before leaving Australia last March. I won’t lie, though – as a wise man (or woman?!) once said, “you can’t have the ups without the downs”: there have been more than a few hairy moments when I’ve had to stretch my money to the max and tighten the old belt considerably to make ends meet. Plus, living out of a suitcase as I have been – staying with friends, in cheap B&Bs, remote African village with no amenities (!), calling home “wherever I lay my hat” – is not always as glamorous and fancy-free as it sounds: sometimes you just want to be “home” somewhere, surrounded by all your own “stuff” again. But as all you long-term travellers out there well know, once you get a taste for “life on the road” – the freedom, the feeling of being truly “alive”, the chance that there’ll be another adventure just round the next corner – it’s pretty addictive.

So what next? Well, like I said at the beginning, there’s no itinerary and no “Grand Plan.” The next chapter is, quite literally, waiting to be written. What I can say is that it will take just one phone call, one chance email, or one random encounter, to set me on the road to the next adventure. Can’t wait to see how it’s gonna turn out…! 🙂

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Miss-Adventures On A Motorcycle

Ready for the road!

So this Easter weekend, having postponed a bigger adventure trip overseas until I can save a bit more cash, I decided to make the best of things down home and venture out on a few local mini-adventures on the bike. On a whim, I got up on an overcast Easter morning and headed off down the coast towards the beautiful Otway Forest…

Trouble is, being spontaneous can have its downsides. First up, I didn’t check the weather forecast – which under normal circumstances isn’t so bad, but on this particular day I was barely an hour into the trip when exceptionally gusty winds and hailstones forced me to stop by the side of the road. Sitting in the saddle with no shelter, while the elements gave me a solid drenching, I looked to the heavens cursing my lack of foresight.

As the rain eased, I started off once more but it was turning into the mini-adventure from hell when, rounding a hairpin bend dead slow, unable to see properly through my visor for the rain, I felt the back wheel slip and yup…down I went. It wasn’t a big off but already deflated by the weather, I struggled to get the bike upright, skidding and sliding in some surface mud that seemed to have appeared from nowhere underneath my wheels.

Back on the road, I battled the elements for another couple of hours, following the windy coast road through bend after bend, until – joy of joys – I saw a coffee place at the side of the road and parked up for a vat of hot java and a cake. Warmed and with renewed gusto for my journey, I jumped on the bike, pressed the starter button and – nothing. Really, nothing. Oh shit. Bugger. They say things come in threes – this was the third thing.

But as always on the road, someone appeared out of nowhere to save the day. A guy on a gleaming Ducati spotted my problem (or more accurately, heard me swearing at the bike!) and came over to assist. I’ve no idea what the problem was – I was too sodden with rain to care at that point – but he got me going again and in a flourish of shiny red metal was gone!

Hours later, after a day battling the elements on two wheels, I arrived back home just as the sun started to shine brilliantly over the bay. Of course. Rain-saturated, muddy and over it, I settled on my sofa with a large glass of wine. An episode of Long Way Round (the one with all the mud and shit in Mongolia) was enough to get my day back in perspective. You win some, you lose some, eh?!

Riding The Great Ocean Road

Jeanie and cruiser on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

The Great Ocean Road, about an hour out of Melbourne, is just perfect for motorcycling. Today, my Suzuki Marauder cruiser was positively humming as we snaked along the coastal road, ocean on one side, dense forest on the other, soaking up the sunshine, at one with the elements.

I’ve done the route loads of times by car, but you really can’t beat doing it on a bike. The route winds through pretty villages like Lorne and Apollo Bay – great stop-offs to pull over, grab some hot coffee, and contemplate the gorgeous views out to sea. It really is biker’s heaven, with seemingly endless kilometres of road hugging the cliffs, then plunging down to the seashore, twisting and turning with satisfying curves that can only truly be appreciated on a motorcycle.

I’m very lucky: the route is only about 90 minutes’ ride from where I live, so I get to do it every few weekends if I want to (and believe me, I do!). But if you’re a biker visiting Oz and looking for a beautiful ride, put The Great Ocean Road on your list: I promise, it won’t disappoint.

Got a favourite motorcycling route? Share it by posting a comment below.

Or click on the Motorcycling tab above to read more about Jeanie’s motorcycling exploits.