Tag Archives: Suzuki

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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Adventures In Andalucía

Well after a whirlwind exit from Melbourne and with everything I own either sold, in storage or in the suitcase I’m now travelling with, I find myself in gorgeous Granada. It’s been a few weeks of good living here as my great friend Paula and I have made the most of everything that’s so wonderful about Spain – tapas, vino tinto, picture-postcard scenery, fascinating history, and the quintessentially Iberian laid-back approach to life.

Cadiz, city of intrigue

Cadiz, city of intrigue

I’m missing my motorbike, of course – but happily we’ve got a car for a bit and have been doing some great road-trips to some of Andalucía’s most beautiful areas. We drove via Gibraltar and Tarifa to Cádiz in the west of the province – a magical city where the cobbled lamp-lit alleyways and fading centuries-old buildings reek of sailor’s stories and shenanigans from times gone by.

Following a tip-off from a friend, we then headed north to El Puerto de Santa Maria to seek out the Bodegas Obregón and sample their extraordinary sherries – fino, amontillado, and my favourite, the “Oloroso.

Mmmm, sherry....

Mmmm, sherry….

Warmed by a few tipples – and with a case in the boot! – we then drove the incredible Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) route, along precarious twisty roads climbing up through steep mountain passes leading to gorgeous whitewashed villages like Grazalema and Ronda.

The road to Grazalema

The road to Grazalema

After getting hopelessly lost as darkness descended, we arrived late to friends with a villa in La Viñuela, a tiny village somewhere north-east of Málaga and shared sherry, cheese and stories from the road with them until the small hours. Next morning, we woke to the sound of birds and the sight of more green rolling hills generously dotted with little white cottages. Bliss.

So as you can probably tell, it’s all good here in Spain! It’s still winter here, with chilly temperatures and a lot of rain, so I’ve already made a conscious decision to hold off getting a bike until the weather improves a bit. I also need to do more research into whether I’ll hire or buy and the places I want to explore, both here in Spain and further afield. I’ve seen a few Suzuki Van Vans but, having had a preview of the kinds of roads that are out there, I’m already starting to wonder if one would be cut out for Europe, North Africa and beyond.

Still, plenty of time to figure all that out. First, another fino and a generous helping of tapas, I think… 🙂

A Fork In The Road

Hey, hey. Well a week since my last post, it’s been all systems go as I start packing up my Melbourne apartment, ready to move on. Life’s become a whirlwind of op shop runs, Cash Converters dashes, and other cross-city errands to sell, trade or otherwise offload the vast majority of my material possessions. Furniture, car, household goods…all are gradually being “re-located” to new owners. And all I can think is: How the hell did I end up with so much stuff?!

Which way next?

Which way next?

Happily, Volty’s been keeping me sane – regular daily rides down the coast are my “Happy Pill”, as I feel the sea breeze through my helmet and riding jacket, and enjoy the sensation of freedom on the road all over again.

I’m making the most of these rides. I’m still undecided about whether to do a cross-Oz trip on the bike or head to Spain to cook up a whole new two-wheeled adventure exploring Europe and Africa. But right now, it has to be said, Europe’s looking like the more viable – and cost-effective – option. And that being the case… it means I’ll have to sell my beloved Suzuki in a couple of weeks. This is of course gutting – regular readers will know how much I love my TU250X – but having looked into shipping/freighting options, I just don’t think I can afford to take the bike with me. 😦

On the up-side, once I’m in Andalucía I’ll hopefully be able to buy the new bike I’ve already got my eye on – the sturdy, characterful Suzuki Van Van – which hopefully will be the start of lots of new moto adventures! 🙂

At this fork in the road, I’m excited about what’s to come but also rather trepidatious about which road to take. It’ll be another week or so before I finally make up my mind – I’m going to enjoy the Adventure Travel Film Festival next weekend and then see how I feel after mingling with the great and good of the adventure world!

Whichever path I choose, I can’t wait to be out in the world again, exploring new places, meeting new people, and soaking up lots of fresh life experiences. Bring it on! 

New Year, New Adventures…

So here’s the thing. Christmas Day, I’m sitting at home staring down the barrel of yet another year spent thinking about lots of adventures I desperately want to do but can’t afford. Maybe it’s the rather nice Spanish jerez I’m sculling, but from somewhere very deep within something suddenly clicks: Fuck it, life’s too short. If you keep waiting till you have enough money, you’ll be sitting here till Doomsday! Within the week, I’ve handed in notice on my TV job (much to the chagrin of my employer!), on my rented Bayshore apartment…in short, on four years of life in Melbourne. That’s it – I’m off!

So what’s the plan, I hear you cry?! Well…Let’s just say it’s evolving by the day. No, really. First task is to drastically “downsize”. That means clearing out the contents of my flat, putting personal items into storage, selling the car, the furniture, getting rid of the cat… (oh hang on a minute, scrub that last one – I don’t have a cat!).

Plan #1: Head off across Oz on Volty?

Plan #1: Head off across Australia on Volty?

Then, somewhere swirling in the back of my brain – as yet not fully formed – is “The Plan”. Well, it’s two plans, actually. First is to take off with minimal luggage on my beloved Volty – yes, the Suzuki TU250X that has been my absolute joy and salvation since I purchased it a few months ago. I’ve put nearly 5,000kms on it from new so it’s well and truly run in, and I’ve got this idea of a kind of “last gasp Australia”, in which I’ll head across the country for an indeterminate amount of time and actually experience some of this vast continent I’ve been living in for the last few years.

Plan #2: Head across Europe on a Suzuki Van Van?

Plan #2: Explore Europe and beyond on a Suzuki Van Van              Photo ⓒ Suzuki (promotional)

Then again… After such a long time in Oz, I’ve a real hankering to head east for a while, to Europe. I’m craving history, culture, old buildings, speaking foreign languages, joie de vivre! After a couple of trips to Andalucía last year, I’m thinking of going back to hatch a plan that – surprise, surprise – also involves una moto! I’ve been looking at a particular motorbike there – the Suzuki Van Van – and reading about people crossing the Alps, Mongolia and other far-flung places on just such a bike. It looks like a kind of “off-road” version of Volty, with chunkier wheels and a more rugged set-up, and I’m thinking what an adventure it would be to buy one and ride through Europe, North Africa and beyond…

So there it is. I’d love to tell you the plan is more formed than it actually is, but there’s something rather delicious (if bloody scary!) about making it up as I go. Which plan I’ll plump for (or maybe I’ll do both!), I have no idea just now. All I know is, 26th Feb I have to vacate my apartment and hand back the keys once and for all – so I guess I’d better make my mind up by then, eh?! Maybe you guys can help me decide…

PS For anyone who’s wondering, yes I will still be at the Adventure Travel Film Festival 15-17 Feb! I’ve been working hard on the press and PR for it and wouldn’t miss it for the world! Come join us for a weekend of adventure and cold beer! 🙂

http://www.adventuretravelfilmfestival.com/australian-festival/

Aussie Motorcycle Expo 2012

Volty at the front of the pack! (front, left) at the Australian Motorcycle Expo 2012

Well here I am at the Australian Motorcycle Expo in Melbourne. I’ve just rolled up on Volty to find an array of KTMs, BMWs, Harley Davidsons and other generally very large flash motorbikes parked outside. It’s ok – a couple of Harley blokes give me an appreciative nod as I park up my modest 250cc retro-style Suzuki, throw the side stand down, and try not to notice that the bike next to me (a BMW GS 1200 laden with Touratech luggage) utterly dwarfs my own ride!

Love the Bonnie – but purple paintwork?

Inside, the place is absolutely heaving. I make a beeline for my favourite marques – Triumph, Royal Enfield and Moto Guzzi. There’s a Bonneville T100, gleaming and beautiful –  though I can’t decide if the metallic purple paintwork is stylish or just a bit tacky. There’s a sturdy old Enfield C5, army green, beautiful design – and I have a pang of wishing our UNICEF India trip hadn’t been cancelled earlier this year: how I would love to ride one of those Enfields.

Moto Guzzi V7 – the object of my affection (till I saw the price tag!)

But all bets are off when I hit the Moto Guzzi stand – there’s a gorgeous red and white V7 Special, shiny and new, right there on display. I can’t resist and throw a leg over: aw, the seat’s so incredibly comfortable, the handlebars and footpegs just the right height…

I hop off before an over-eager salesperson swoops to get me talking about putting down a deposit (I wish!). That’s the trouble with these expos – too many temptations!

Volty – my pride and joy

After a couple of hours’ ogling, I’m all motorbiked out. Volty‘s sitting in the sunshine outside, metallic bronze paintwork gleaming, chrome all glinting…reminding me that I already have a perfectly decent ride! A quick burst on the throttle and we’re off – skimming through the city streets of Melbourne, taking some well-practised shortcuts, dodging the traffic, beating the lights, then heading out along the coast road. It’s a beautiful day for a ride: the sun is warm and Volty’s humming.

Who needs a Guzzi when I’ve got my Suzuki?

Love my bike. 🙂

Solo But Never Alone

More fuel? Yes, please!

It’s been a little while since my last post – sorry, guys! After getting my new wheels at the beginning of August, I’ve been out riding every spare moment and revelling in my re-discovered freedom. Volty and I have clocked up over 1,000kms this past month, exploring coastal Victoria from the gorgeous wine valleys and beachside villages of the Mornington Peninsula to my favourite local ride, the scenic and wonderfully twisty Great Ocean Road.

The novelty of owning a brand new bike really hasn’t worn off. I know it sounds silly, but my Suzuki TU250X is the first thing I’ve owned since my beloved 1973 VW Beetle (back in London over 10 years ago!) that I’m really rather proud of. And just as happened when I owned the Vee-Dub, everywhere I go on Volty I seem to make friends.

Neighbours who previously never acknowledged me now give me a friendly nod or wave when they see me donning my helmet and gloves as Volty’s engine warms up in the communal garage. At roadside cafés or petrol stations, total strangers come over to chat, admiring the Suzuki’s classic retro-style look or telling me they wish they were on two wheels on “a lovely day like this”. At traffic lights, car drivers wind down their windows to chat to me as we wait for green – and yes, it turns out there are some bike-friendly motorists! (probably closet motorcycle riders…)

“Arty” shot of Volty’s front wheel in the sunshine

On the road, the “biker’s nod” from other motorcyclists still gives me a little boost every time it happens. By getting back on a motorbike, I’ve re-gained my automatic membership to a very special secret society: It doesn’t matter what you ride, it just matters that you ride. I like that. Today, about 20 balaclava-ed Harley riders on bikes five times the size of mine nodded and tooted and thumbs-upped to me, one after the other – quite a sight, I can tell you! As they roared off down the coast in the opposite direction, I gave Volty a quick burst on the throttle for good measure, buoyed up all over again.

By its very nature, motorcycling is a solitary activity – but it’s just about the most sociable thing I’ve ever done in my life.

This sunny Sunday morning, I stopped off at the Sandown Racecourse to say hi to my old Ridetek riding instructors, Mel and Al. Two years ago, they saw me through my heady days as a wobbly scooter rider right through to passing my test on a 250cc motorbike. As we stood talking in the warm sunshine, admiring Volty’s sparkling chrome and gleaming bronze paintwork, I thanked the guys yet again for putting me on a road that now gives me so much happiness and enjoyment.

Before I became a motorcycle rider, I didn’t know what I was missing – but now, I wouldn’t be without it for the world. 

Oh and to any non-riders reading this, wondering what on earth I’m talking about but thinking it sounds damn good – go get yourself a motorbike licence: it will change your life! 🙂

The Call Of The Open Road

My new pride and joy at a coffee stop on our first ride

As some of you already know, I received news at the weekend that UNICEF have had to cancel our India motorcycle adventure. This came out of the blue and for those of us on the team who were already getting excited about the trip, it’s been a huge blow. It was a hard decision for UNICEF, but ultimately they weren’t able to recruit enough team members to make the trip financially viable. Such a shame.

With uncanny timing, the news from UNICEF coincided with the day of delivery of my new Suzuki motorbike – a gorgeous new retro-style TU250X – and being back on two wheels again has compensated somewhat for the India trip being shelved.

A 100-km spin down the coast round Phillip Bay on a beautiful sunny Sunday was enough to get me out of my funk and remind me that the simple pleasures in life are really what count. A couple of hours on the bike and the world opened up to me again. It’s true what they say: motorcycling really is good for the soul. 

“Volty”‘s odometer on delivery – time to put some miles on that clock, eh?!

The Melbourne weather hasn’t exactly been conducive to riding this week – freezing temperatures, hailstones and gales: always favourites with the biker! But that hasn’t stopped me turning my thoughts already to longer trips on the motorbike. With India fading from my mind, new adventures are starting to fill my head, the maps are back out on the table, and my head is racing again with possibilities.

One adventure may have gone away, but rest assured another is already being warmed up. Watch this space… 🙂