Just north of Akumal, Mexico and south of Playa del Carmen, my husband and I met an Australian couple on motorcycles. We parked next to them at the supermarket and as I waited for my husband to go find some guayabas, the country stickers on their motorcycles caught my eye. Could they be traveling the world on their motorcycles? Sure enough, they left Australia for Indonesia six years ago and have since been to 100 countries around the world and have “100 to go,” foregoing only Iraq, Afghanistan and Burundi as they were told to avoid those by people in the border regions out of security concerns. In Niger they got caught in a coup and couldn’t leave the country. They were told not to pass through Eastern Mali due to Al Qaeda and chose a different route into Mali instead.
They camped everywhere they went. Had they ever had any problems camping anywhere, I asked? Never, not once had they experienced crime in any country. They had minor complications, but never things that made them want to go home, Trisha told me, like a drunk border guard in Gabon that didn’t want to let them pass and asked for their bikes, appendicitis in Lao. When my husband asked if they had any favorite countries or ones that stuck out, Billy responded, “The Islamic world. The kindness of the people was unparalleled of anywhere we went. We were in Iran over two months and we could tell you such amazing stories. People bringing us food and water to our tent. The kindness was like that all over the Arab world.”
Trisha continued, “People live their religion, they’re not just about ‘go to church on Sunday,’ and you see it in how they treat people, with such kindness and honesty.”
She was a former teacher in indigenous regions of Australia and they were lovers for almost 20 years, before breaking up a few years ago while on the road. They obviously remained close friends, “because how would I ever find someone like him that wants to do this sort of thing with me?”
But how did they make it work to travel for that long? Did they just save up for a long time, I wondered. Not so much. They survived on savings of $10,000 per year as they camped and only ate out of supermarkets, not restaurants. In countries that were cheap, they got a hotel. In Bolivia they paid $10/night for a room. In Southern Morocco they shared a story of a hotel owner who decided that after they stayed one month, he would give them the second month half price and refunded half their payment from the first month too. They were stunned at his generosity and willingness to refund them the first month.
As we drove away, my husband was silent and told me that Billy had said something that really affected him.
My husband shared what he said: “When I am old, no one will want to know how much money I have. They will want to know stories from the places I have traveled.”