In May this year Mickey Bergin and Katie Jennings will set off on an overland motorcycle adventure from the UK to New Zealand. Passing through around 20 countries they hope to explore a different pace of life and forge a closer connection to the world they live in.
Mickey and Katie admit that it’s going to be a big change for them. Whilst both are bikers and well-travelled, this will be the first time they’ve lived on the road long-term. “It’ll be a totally different way of life, but I love being on the road” says Mickey, a photographer “I really get a kick out of not knowing what’s around the corner”. For Mickey, the trip represents a perfect opportunity to combine work and pleasure and he’ll be documenting the trip in pictures, with a particular focus on abandoned and forgotten places that are being reclaimed by nature.
For Katie, the shift in pace is perhaps more significant. “It was a big decision to step away from my scientific career” says Katie “it’s a big part of who I am. We have a great life but I just can’t shake the feeling that something’s missing, as if I’m on autopilot and shooting for the wrong goals. There’s so much more I want to see and know about the world and my faith in the system I live and work in is low right now, so I need some perspective. It would be very easy to stay where I am but I know if I do that I’ll become cynical so it’s the right time to get out.”
She’s hoping to communicate her decisions, thoughts and travels through her writing, “I don’t think I’m alone in feeling the way I do. I see lots of people trying to make sense of the world around them and figure out how to balance the demands of life with being happy. Sometimes that means letting go of things you think you need, things you’ve often worked hard for but which aren’t serving you anymore. Those are tough decisions. People often tell us that they’d love to travel too but that they just can’t because of a long list of reasons. Sometimes all you need is to open your mind a little and the solution finds you.
“The idea of uprooting myself seemed like insanity at first. I think I’d bought into accumulated advice and the societal ideal of how I ought to live my life and what I should value, rather than appraising what worked best for me and doing that. In the unthinking, habitual hustle and bustle of busy life I stopped being mindful of what made me happy. But the feeling that something wasn’t right kept making itself known, it was often pretty hard to deal with. In the end though these challenges, as painful as they were, were the wake-up call I needed. I learnt that life is short and I discovered what I really valued. I also realised I was strong enough to pick myself up and dust myself off from anything. We tend to be very risk averse as a society, but avoiding risk is not necessarily a good thing. I don’t know yet if I’m up to the challenges ahead of me but I’m not afraid to find out anymore.”
When Mickey and Katie met at an off-road school in 2014, both were considering travel. It was never in question that the travel would be on bikes and they knew they wanted small off-road bikes. “Lots of people have asked us why we chose 240’s” says Mickey, I was working as an off-road photographer when we met so I was surrounded by enduro bikes and it seemed fitting to travel on them when we met riding them. But also, I always remember something a guy from Oz told me many years ago. He said the postie bike he was travelling on was “fast enough to get there but slow enough to see everything”. This sums up what we both want from our travels so choosing a smaller bike was an easy decision to make.”
The couple will travel on AJP PR4’s, Portuguese bikes that are light, low and very manoeuvrable, with simple, durable engines making them the perfect fit for both the pair and the countries they’ll be travelling through. Their route will take them through Northern and Eastern Europe, crossing into Turkey, Iran and Pakistan and then on to India, Nepal and South East Asia. On the last leg of the trip they’ll ship onwards to Australia and finally New Zealand. Their route is flexible though, and their approach minimalist. This keeps them free to explore places and spend time with people as the opportunity to do so arises and allows them to experience as much as possible on a budget. Ultimately, they say, it’ll be the people they meet that make the journey what it is and they don’t want to compromise that. “We view the whole process more as a different phase of life than as a trip with a fixed beginning and end” says Mickey. “We want to strip our lives down to the essentials, live a bit more in the moment and get back to what matters to us”.
“Part of what matters is using our skills to give something back to the places we travel through” says Katie who is affiliated with the Muskoka Foundation, the hub that aims to connect skilled independent travellers with projects to “do good as you go”. “There are so many great projects out there working to improve education and lives and I’m looking forward to learning more about them and helping out where possible to give something back”. She’s also a Jupiter’s Traveller affiliated to the Ted Simon Foundation, which means she hopes to bring a measure of understanding and tolerance of different cultures and people through her writing. “We are all just people, irrespective of our many differences. We are made of the same stuff, facing similar challenges and working towards the same goal of a healthy, happy and safe life. I hope I can add my voice to those already working to communicate that message.”
Although idealistic in their outlook and motivations for travelling, the couple are pragmatic and realistic about the challenges of life on the road. “We know there’ll be tough days” says Mickey, “we’re not kidding ourselves that it’s going to be wonderful every minute of every day, it’ll be life as usual in that respect. But the way we look at it, you need the rough to appreciate the smooth so we’ll take everything in our stride. We communicate well and support each other, we’re a strong team so we’re both confident that we can handle it.” Katie adds, laughingly “If not, and we’re seriously unhappy we’ll have no problem turning round, coming home and admitting we made a mistake. But we don’t think it will come to that”.
Mickey and Katie will be setting off on 15th May 2016 to begin their journey to New Zealand on their two AJP PR4 bikes. You can find out more about their bikes, plans and journey on their website www.trailstotheforgotten.co.uk and social media pages www.facebook.com/trailstotheforgotten, @trails2dforgot.