Ride of their lives

Heike and Filippo Fania are living the dream of a round-the-world trip on motorbikes

Heike and Filippo Fania's lifelong desire to travel the world on motorcycles brought them together as a couple. They hooked up at the most obvious hotspot for bike enthusiasts _ a motorcycle travellers' forum in Germany.

The couple, pictured here in Bagan, found travel within Myanmar to be especially memorable.

On discovering they shared a passion to travel the world, they decided to stop procrastinating and make it a reality. Their website is appropriately titled www.2livethedream.com _ "We are two and we live the dream," said Heike, who spoke for both of them.

Both had well-established careers before deciding to give them up and go globe-trotting. Filippo was self-employed, an electronic engineer who specialised in computers and network installations, while Heike worked in the medical field as a communication specialist.

She said Filippo simply shut his business, while she resigned. While quitting their jobs was a piece of cake, preparing for the once-in-a-lifetime journey was a different ball game altogether.

Heike explains: "Financially, both of us were well prepared because we had saved for a while for such a trip. After setting a deadline, we began to prepare.

"We collected travel information and mapped the routes we were to take. Then we quit our jobs and terminated other commitments. We applied for visas, got the necessary vaccinations, went for a last medical check-up, and then we simply sold or gave away everything we had. We prepared the motorcycles, together with the luggage and the paperwork we would need.

"After putting our remaining personal belongings into storage, we left."

What was the most time-consuming stage of preparing for the trip?

German couple Heike and Filippo Fania on their world motorcycle tour.

The most difficult part was actually preparing to leave. It took us longer than we had expected to sort everything out, so our deadline to leave was pushed back by a month.

And of course, it was hard to say goodbye to our loved ones, families and friends included. It was a very sad moment when we waved goodbye to them because we knew that we wouldn't be seeing them for a very long time.

Once we hit the trail, everything went pretty smoothly, and we soon adapted to our new lives on the road.

Which countries have you already visited, and which do you hope to visit this year?

We started at home [Germany] and from there we went through Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece. During this stage of our journey we travelled pretty fast, _ it took us only two weeks to cross these countries.

We already knew Europe very well from past shorter trips, so we didn't stay long in these countries. It was in Turkey that we began to slow the pace of our journey so we would have more time to explore the surroundings.

After Turkey, we travelled through Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

From Thailand we are now planning to go to Malaysia, then to Indonesia, where we will hop from one island to the next, until we reach East Timor. The next countries on our list are then Australia and New Zealand.

And after that we are planning to send the motorbikes to South America and to travel all the way up to Alaska, but we don't know exactly through which countries, we simply haven't planned that far ahead. And then there is still Africa left, and many more countries that we haven't seen.

If you were to pick just three of your most memorable travel experiences to date, which would they be?

That's very difficult _ we've had so many fantastic experiences. One very special incident was the hospitality in Iran, where a family that we met on the street invited us to their home. They insisted that we spend a couple of nights with them. Not only did they prepare home-cooked meals for us, but they also took us around town. Despite doing so much for us, they didn't ask for anything in return.

During the same trip, we had somebody pay for our petrol. He left before we could even say thank you!

Another very unforgettable encounter was when we were camping in the Himalayas in northern India, at an altitude of 4,800m. It was in the middle of one of the most stunning landscapes _ an arid plain, with no people around for hundreds of kilometres. It was absolutely awesome.

And a third very notable experience was when we visited Myanmar. We were part of a group of bikers who were officially allowed to travel the country on our big motorbikes.

The moment we crossed the border, we received a warm and friendly welcome which was truly unbelievable. We loved this country from the first moment because of its friendly people.

Share few of the low points of your journey so far.

Of the few that come to mind there was a time when we had to spend a lot of money repairing the brakes of one of our bikes _ that was frustrating.

When we happen to be travelling in a country such as Pakistan, parts of which can be rather dangerous, the mood of the journey can often become solemn as we have to take extra precautions.

It was in India that we came across such bad traffic that we had to struggle to survive on the road. This can take a lot of fun out of the travel experience. Sometimes it is simply too hot, or too cold, you are hungry and tired, but there is no place to stay for the night.

All you can do is keep going. It is during these trying times that we often ask ourselves, 'What are we doing here?'. But I have to add that we seem to easily forget the low moments, because 95% of our experiences are simply great.

Tell us about the blog you're keeping.

We set up a website and blog [www.2 livethedream.com] and a Facebook page [2 Live the Dream _ Heike & Filippo].

This we did for several reasons. One, because it is a very good way to keep in touch with family and friends back home, not to mention update people who are following our journey.

Two, I suppose because we simply like to share our experiences with others. And we do this through sharing our photos and details that go along with it.

As we meet people from all walks of life on the road who are genuinely interested to know more about us, we direct them to our website because we don' t have enough time to speak with each of them.

Lastly, the blog drives us to sort through and file the myriad photos that we take along the way.

It also helps us to think, evaluate and summarise our experiences. We collect so many memories, photos and video films that it is easy to lose track otherwise. This is like a little diary for us.

What's the best way to prepare for a world tour such yours?

From our experience, the most important step is to actually set a date to do such a trip. Stop just talking and dreaming about it.

Of course, you have to collect information about the countries you want to visit, everything from the climate to the paperwork necessary for travelling. You have to do your homework well as some countries don't allow big motorcycles in.

You might need special permission and paperwork done prior to the visit. We suggest you look at the Horizons Unlimited website [www.horizon sunlimited.com], which will tell you all about overland travel by motorcycle.

However, be warned: it is also easy to over-prepare. You cannot prepare for everything. Some things just can't be planned, and you will have to learn a lot the hard way on the road whilst travelling, but it is worth every minute of it.

In the Himalayas, the Fanias camped at an altitude of 4,800m, with no other humans in sight.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert
Position: Reporter