Motorcycle Travel According to Covid by Sam Manicom

Welcome to Thoughts from the Road. Here’s Sam Manicom’s take on how Covid will affect motorcycle travel and what to expect…  

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Will Covid spell the end of motorcycle travel as we know it?
Picture of By Sam Manicom

By Sam Manicom

Round the World Motorcycle Traveller

Sam Manicom rode for 8 years around the world, exploring 6 continents. He is the author of 4 motorcycle travel books. All are available in Paperback direct from him, with free worldwide shipping from The Book Depository, and from Amazon. His books are also available as e-books and his first four books Into Africa, Under Asian Skies, Distant Suns and Tortillas to Totems are available for download as Audio Books.

Sam is also a contributor to and editor of a new book. ‘The Moment Collectors’ is a 5* rated celebration of long distance motorcycle travel, with chapters from 20 overlanding authors around the world.

How Covid will change motorcycle travel

There’s a stack of doom and gloom about the effects of Covid on the future of travel, but I’m very optimistic. As the Thais say, ‘Same-same, but different.’ This is the mind-set we need to have, not wallow negatively in a pit of things we can’t do, the same.

Before writing more, with much respect in heart I must make a comment of sincere sympathy for all who have either lost family or friends during the last two years. I must also make a respectful note regarding all those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic. It’s been incredibly tough for so many.

The world hasn’t closed its doors permanently to travel though. For sure there are things we can no longer do, so easily, and there are challenges that didn’t exist previously. But that’s the way of the road anyway. Some call it adventure. Stuff changes in front of you all the time and travellers very quickly become used to it. I was talking to my partner Birgit just yesterday about how fortunate we are to have travelled in more carefree times.

Here are some thoughts about the future:

Exploring by motorcycle is going to be an even better way to travel. Sit crammed in a local bus or train?

I’ll be looking to travel in countries with wide open spaces and scant need to travel in high density sections. Iceland? Namibia?

Travellers will have to be far more aware of the situation in the countries they are heading towards. The chance to head out and be ignorant will be less of a ‘thing’. We will all need to allocate more time for procedures and planning. Knowledge is a huge part of the fun of travel, so the joy factor just got bigger.

Anyone planning a trip will need to learn much more about countries neighbouring their planned route. They might have to change direction when a country in front of them closes its border.

We will now take on far more knowledge of ports and airports; if borders close…

We will also want to make a good connection with an international shipping company with a proven track record.

Vaccination rates are way up, and are working. Caution, optimism and respect are the keys. Fear is not. If we want to explore developing world countries where vaccination isn’t so widespread then we’ll have a greater respect angle. We might well be protected the more dire effects of Covid by being vaccinated, but that doesn’t stop us carrying the bug and spreading it. Should we all stay at home? No way. The world would suffer for too many reasons to list here if we did that. Economics is one difference. Many regions rely on the passage of people and the money they spend.  

So much more is known about the bug now that the medics say that they are in a much better position to react to future strains.

I cringe every time I see or hear people muttering negativity towards the thought of carrying a vaccination ‘passport’. Overlanders for as long as I have been travelling have had to carry such a thing in a great number of the parts of the world. Yellow fever is the classic. It was to protect the people of the country you were travelling to. A respect and sanity thing – not an insult or withdrawal of freedom. Having one actually gave us freedom. Simple. You got vaccinated, you got your document, or certificate or pass, whatever you want to call it, showed it at the border and in you went. Just no big deal.

Airfreight costs will stay quite high for the foreseeable future. Inevitable when there are less flights and dramatic fuel increases. So…

People will consider more fly and ride trips. No bike purchase cost, no shipping and easy insurance. We can country hop from one rental agency to the next, so last minute border closures are a chore but not a pain. You could do such a trip the length of South America for example.

More and more people will be travelling on smaller bikes. Why? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Cheaper to buy = more fuel money.
  • We might need to be freighting more often. Smaller = less costs; a size and weight thing.
  • Cheaper is also good because we might be forced to leave them behind.
  • Conversely, smaller bikes are available to buy in many countries.
  • Less cost on a carnet if it’s smaller. That means more readies available for freighting.

All we need is: Reliability, range and the ability to carry some gear. Mostly going fast isn’t a requirement of overlanding.

Will people be as quick to offer help or be willing to accept moto travellers into their homes? If people travel with respect, they will be welcomed.

I for one will be using my tent more than ever and will carry on looking for wild camping spots rather than hotels and pay camp sites. iOverlander and the like will be used even more.

I usually carry at least 3 days food and that probably won’t change.

Travel insurance will be more complicated; perhaps even more expensive.

The future for motorcycle travel is bright, and it’s going to be even more fascinating than ever. No one is going to have travelled the way this new generation of travellers will have. ‘All been done before’? Nope! Fresh and exciting times are ahead; dreams, plus awareness, plus flexibility; the new carefree.

Sam Manicom

Has Covid affected your motorcycle travels? What do you think it means for the future of overlanding and what will be the biggest change?

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8 thoughts on “Motorcycle Travel According to Covid by Sam Manicom”

  1. Very interesting Sam. You seem rather positive about the whole thing, which is of course a good thing. But I wonder if riding around the world like you have has given you a positive insight into adapting to worldly circumstances that those who haven’t aren’t privy too?
    Regards, Mal

    • That’s a good point. I think if you have been around the world and have experienced the changing dynamic of travel first hand then you’re able to look at these obstacles in a brighter light where we might just see doom and gloom. Still it’s good to know that it’s not all over!

      • Hi James, good to hear from you and you are so right about doom and gloom. We are blasted with it by the media all the time eh. Sometimes very rightly so, methinks, but other times I wonder about the constant flow of negativity. So much of it appears to be opinion with scant fact or perspective.

        And you are so right. Travel ‘it’s not all over’. I have friends, for example, who are travelling in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana at the moment. They had to cancel twice in the last two years and found other places to explore, until they could make it happen. They are having a ball. If you are on Facebook, do look them up. Greg and Melanie Turp.

        All the best to you,

  2. Hi Mal,
    Thanks for getting in touch on this. It’s such a serious life changing subject in so many ways isn’t it. Not just travelling. But you made me smile with your use of the word ‘positive’. Over the last 2 years that word has become rather tarnished hasn’t it.
    You are right that travel has given me a mind-set that that looks for the good and for the opportunities rather than the negatives.
    An example comes actually from a story a mate told me. On his pre-GPS and pre-Internet trip through Africa, a river ferry that he’d aimed for and ridden a lot of dirt to get to was no longer running by the time he got there. Broken engine. Of course he was teed off initially. It mucked up a lot of plans. But it was the situation he was in. He had to take stock. Did he have enough fuel to go another way? The river reputedly had no fords for a very long way. He might need to cadge a bit from a local. He told me that he wasn’t brave enough to put his bike in a dig out. Food. No worries. Where there are people, there’s usually food of some sort. No problems with his bike, no worries. Right, maps out, which way could he go? Going back on himself? No worries. He was just going to see the world from a different angle (I loved that thought. I too think this way). And so the thoughts flowed… And then it clicked that he was incredibly lucky to be able to have all these thoughts. What about the poor locals who relied on the ferry to keep their daily life of survival happening…

    Travel hammered it home to me, several times extremely painfully, that ‘stuff’ happens but it’s what you do when it does that matters. It also taught me that ‘There’s always someone worse off’ is way more than a clichéd saying. Another truth garnered is that where a barrier pops up in front there almost always is another way. It’s when being an opportunist is a good thing. What opportunities are there? How can I make at least one of them happen?

    I think I’m quite a happy person because I’m also lazy. It takes so much effort to sweat over situations that don’t work out, or go wrong. I’d rather be looking for the silver linings, which are usually there though sometimes can take an age to show themselves. I’d also rather be looking for something I can do, rather than spend my time and energy bothering about what I can’t.

    But I think that everyday life teaches us that too. Many who have found themselves in really hard times, have battled and come out the other side, do so with a new perspective. Some of the happiest and most, yes, positive people I know have had things very rough.
    A shining example is a South African chap called Chris Venter. He’s also known now as ‘The Blind Scooter Guy’. Chris was a top ranking chef but wanted to travel a bit for fun and set up a trip with some mates to ride the length of Africa and on across Europe to Dublin (there’s a point behind the destination) on scooters. I won’t spoil his story but as a result of a treatable but undiagnosed disease he picked up along the way, he ended up completely blind. Chef and new adventurer one moment, blind the next. Chris hit rock bottom for a while and has bounced back as an incredibly inspirational, positive thinking person. Check him out if you get time.

    But I guess with my rather rambling response (sorry) I’m trying to say that there is usually another way to do things and that can be an adventure in itself. These are the times we find ourselves in. We just have to concentrate on doing the things we can do. Find the alternative opportunities and take advantage of them with open minds, curiosity and an eye open for all the fun moments that are usually there.

    • I was most certainly not expecting such a thoughtful reply and am a little taken aback!

      I read your story of the friend in Africa with a smile too. That’s a very clever way of putting it. It must take a lot of practice, time and experience before you can start to look at other options with optimism and that’s something i’ll hope to achieve one day.

      I will certainly take a look and do some Googling on Chris. Thank you.

      Truly fantastic. What an inspirational reply.
      Regards, Mal

      • Hi Mal, I’m chuffed my response made sense. I’m glad you are going to look Chris up. What a determined man.
        All the best to you for future travels wherever you can make them happen!


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