My 2014: Year In Review

Wow, my 2013 finished with a bang while getting engaged in Guatemala on top of a volcano on Christmas Eve. And 2014 has been incredible as well. As another years passes, it’s fun to reflect on what went down and recalibrate for the future. Here’s a summary of my adventures in 2014. January After leaving Guatemala, it was back to California to spend more time with Amber before her spring semester started. Towards the end of the month, I flew home to celebrate our engagement with our families. February February kicked off my first trip to China for the year. Shanghai Bund March With spring in full swing in California, it was off to Death Valley for some moto riding at the annual ADVrider rally. This was my first trip to the valley and I was blown away with it’s beauty, remoteness and rugged terrain. The riding was challenging and exciting with lots of soft sand, steep rocky ascents and crashes every now and then. Highlights included Goler Wash, Mengel Pass, the Race Track, Tea Kettle Junction and Lippincott Pass. March - Death Valley Pass April This was a crazy month with 2 trips to China. The best part though was a long weekend in Seoul, South Korea on the way home. I met up with a friend of a friend and had a wonderful time exploring the city with my local guide, Claire! It’s amazing how different South Korea is from China and I really enjoyed exploring a new place. The food was delicious, the language was unique and the culture was interesting. I’d love to get back some day and travel more around the country! Korea Gangnum Style May Amber and I set off for our annual visit to the the Overland Expo in Arizona where I gave several presentations about riding around the globe on a motorbike. And it was back to New Hampshire for the wedding of my friend, Chip. Wedding Group Additionally, I had been working with a developer for the past few months to build an iPad App. Born from Amber’s creativity, SnapType empowers students to keep up with thier peers, despite their difficulty with handwriting. By allowing them to take pictures of their school worksheets and then fill in the answers using the iPad keyboard they can now complete their work and feel successful. May - SnapType 2 As a final accomplishment for the month, I made my final payment to one of my two groups of student loans. Financial independence seems like a never ending battle, but this was a solid step forward and I’m really excited and proud to be paying off my debt. There’s still a lot more to pay, however with my other group of loans at only a 1.75% interest rate, there’s no big rush to pay them off quickly. June Once again, I hopped on plane and headed west for China trip #4. In order to spice things up a bit, my colleagues took me out to dinner at a unique restaurant where we feasted on giant silk worm grubs, dog meet and french fries covered in liquid sugar… June - Bugs Later in the month I spent a weekend in San Francisco to compete in the Startup Weekend challenge. Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups. I joined a group of incredibly talented programmers to develop CrowdSync, a meeting management application to automate note taking. We didn’t win the competition, but it was a fascinating and empowering learning experience. June - Startup Weekend July Halfway through the year, China came calling again. Like April, this was a two-trip month across the Pacific Ocean. With all that air time, my body was tired and so a cupping session was in order. Yes, it was painful. The marks were said to last only 5-10 days but even several weeks later, they could still be seen. I’m not sure if it helped at all but it was a fun new experience! China Cupping In between China trips I headed to Yosemite with some friends for some camping and hiking while being unplugged. It was just what I needed to recharge! Here’s a picture overlooking Half Dome; We hiked 15 miles that day. July - Yosemite Amber also made another trip out to California and we spent time tubing with friends down the Russian River and cycling along the coast. We also took engagement photos along Baker Beach in San Francisco. Ben and Amber Engagement August In August I officially relaunched the Motorcycle Mexico website. One of my passions/goals is passive income and this was another step towards location independence. Rather than simply pitch the DVDs, I’ve structured a free eBook landing page and an automated email marketing campaign to build rapport with readers before making the sales pitch. Time will tell how well it works. But it’s already proving well with a growing email list and a (small) increase in sales. Of course, it’s a sale I’m proud to make since these DVDs are a gold mine of information where any traveler can reap lots of value. Motorcycle Mexico eBook As summer rolled on, Stephen stopped by during his visit back to the USA. He and I rode Baja together in 2010 while he was en route to South America. He made it only as far as Guatemala before falling in love with the country and deciding to live on Lago Atitlan. He’s been there ever since. While in California, we went for a hike in Pinnacles National Park. Pinnacles And no month would be complete without some bicycle riding with my friends – The J’s. August - Bike Rides September Another annual event, the Horizons Unlimited meet up, had me back on the bike and riding towards Yosemite. I gave several informative and entertaining presentations about motorcycle travel and I watched several other inspirational speakers present on riding in intriguing places like Central Asia, Africa and Cuba. It wasn’t long before China trip #7 came knocking. Here we go again. With fall coming to New England, I flew home to go on a motorcycle ride with my Dad. He’s been a motorcyclists since his college days but hasn’t owned a bike since I was born. Now equipped with a Harley, I too borrowed an HD and we spent the day riding back roads throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. Spending time together doing something we both love was really special and I look forward to more miles in the future! Moto Ride With Dad October October was a hell of a month. Action packed and a bit of a blur, I found myself on a new adventure every weekend. The month kicked off with a visit to Colorado to re-unite with friends from college, ride bicycles and drink beer… October - Colorado Biking The next weekend I flew to Utah to catch up with David and Haley. After arriving in Salt Lake City, we headed south for Capitol Reef National Park to go canyoneering through Cassidy Arch and river hiking through some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. Look closely in the photo below… I’m on rappel! Utah Canyoneering The weekend after that I hosted Montanans, Mike and Katie, on a weekend trip to explore sunny California. The trips north to San Francisco and south to Big Sur were a blast and the company was perfect. Big Sur Overlook Other notable October happenings included a visit from my buddy John, hosting my first MotoStays traveler and welcoming my college comrade, Cachaulo to join our company. November With a month full of adventures behind me, there was no stopping the excitement. Reid, Joel, Charlie and I drove 6 hours north for a 3-day 25-mile backpacking trip along the rugged Lost Coast. This was the only stretch of coast in California where it was too rough to build a road. The hike was both challenging and rewarding. Getting caught in the tide with wet feet coupled with walking through soft sand yielded many blisters. Nevertheless, the grandeur of this remote wilderness was well worth the effort. Loast Coast Hiking A weekend hiking in Tahoe and a well deserved long Thanksgiving trip home to the east coast made the month of November fly by. December The last page of the calendar also marked my final trip to China. Trip #8 was a success! And of course, to close out the year in style, Amber and I flew down to the Dominican Republic to relax in an all-incluve resort go on a bicycle tour around the north coast of Hispanolia! Dominican Republic Bicycle Touring El Choco What went well in 2014?

  • Like in 2013, I flew a bunch. I racked up more than 200,000 frequent flyer miles.
  • I visited two new countries (South Korea and the Dominican Republic) to bring the total country count to 27.
  • My career is going well and I’m providing value to my company and my clients. The work is challenging at times but also rewarding with many benefits and I enjoy the people I work with.
  • Amber and I created the SnapType iPad app to help students with dysgraphia (and the feedback we’ve received from teachers, therapists and parents has been overwhelmingly positive). We’re also working on upgrades for version 2.0 to make it even better!

What did not go well in 2014?

  • Even though I had many wonderful small adventures, I didn’t undertake a large journey. When I rode to Argentina a few years ago, people told me it was a “once in lifetime experience” and ever since I’ve hoped it would mark only the start of a life full of adventures. It’s tough to undertake large quests when burdened by the responsibilities of daily life. Nevertheless, I look forward to putting myself in the position to take advantage of more opportunities in the future.
  • Year after year I continue to struggle with back pain. As an engineer, it’s most frustrating to be unable to find a root cause of the pain and a solution to resolve it. The challenge is beyond physical and I struggle emotionally with not being able to live an energetic life filled with freedom and motion.
  • Even though it was a fun year, I didn’t take the time to write anything on the blog. I had to make a commitment to myself to write this year in review (albeit a little late). I find it important to reflect on and celebrate the past to help prepare me for the future.
  • Even though I went home to New England a few times, I still wish I spent more time with my friends and family on the east coast.

Looking Ahead There is a lot in store for 2015 and it’s already shaping up to be a busy year with my first trip to China scheduled later this January. But most of the year will be focused on this fall, when Amber and I get married. Even though we’re keeping things simple, there is so much to do. We want to put on a great event and look forward to celebrating with all of our friends and family. Chris Guillebeau writes about The Happiness of Pursuit in his new book. He talks about how taking on a quest can improve your life. I’ve had this sensation many times in my life. When I was riding to Argentina, and producing the Motorcycle Mexico DVDs, and cycling a century, and working out a new climbing route, and building a mobile app – All of these quests were not relaxing. I was engaged, in flow, and working my mind and body. That’s happiness – Not in reaching the goal, but in the challenge to reach the goal. I want to bring more of this into my life. It makes me feel alive and excited! I have a few small quests in the works for 2015 and I look forward to larger quests sometime down the road. What about you? How was your 2014? Are you happier now than you were the same time last year? Have you made progress on your personal goals? What went well for you this year? What could have gone better?

Categories: China, Dominican Republic, Korea, United States | Leave a comment

My 2013: Year In Review

I really enjoyed writing My 2012 Year In Review so I thought I’d give it another go with 2013. This is my chance to look back on the year to see what went right, what could have gone better and what I might like to do in the year to come. It’s been a busy year…

January

After spending New  Years Eve in a 70’s style British pub in California, 2013 began. Thankfully my good friends David and Haley put together an artistically shameless 2013 wall calendar. It really set the tone for the coming year. At the onset, their goal was to find 12 awkward photos of me. As it turns out, they had to whittle it down from more than 60! Ya, we’ve had some fun over the years…

Ben Calendar

It didn’t take long for our first moto guests of the year to stop by. Bernd and Heidi from Germany stopped in during their two year around the world journey. Opening up our home to overland travelers is incredibly rewarding. Their stories help keep the travel spirit alive.

Bernd and Heidi

By the end of the month, I was off to China for trip # 1 of the year.

February

I work daily with my colleagues in China and each morning I wake up to an inbox filled with technical emails. But during my new favorite holiday of Chinese New Year, my inbox was nearly empty each morning! It  gave me time to spend a long weekend with friends up at a gigantic cabin in Lake Tahoe thanks to my buddy Charlie.

Tahoe

Amber and I also headed east for a visit to Yosemite. It was perfect timing with a little snowfall and only a handful of other tourists.

Yosemite

But by the end of the month it was time to jump on a westward plan bound for China. China Trip #2. Hungry? Eat some chicken feet…

Chicken Feet

March

With spring in full effect, it was time again for more exploration. Lots of day hikes around the Bay Area with friends, discovery of a local motorcycle stunt park, a trip to wine country in Napa Valley and a visit from my sister made March a fun month.

Golden Gate Bridge

Vilen

Hollister

I spent some more time in front of the computer screen as I learned some basic programming skills with the help of Codecademy. I find programming both straightforward and extremely complex, but intriguingly powerful. I still can’t do anything useful, but it’s been fun to learn the foundation.

April

I hit the big 30 this year. I don’t feel 30… In my mind, I feel like I’m 18. My body however feels more like 65… I continue to struggle with back pain and it’s very frustrating not doing the activities that I love. On the other hand, my amazing girlfriend rounded up 30 letters from 30 of my friends. This was an incredible gift as so many of the wonderful people in my life shared stories from our past. Wow, 30 years have gone by in the blink of an eye…

30

Even though life moves  fast, there is still so much time for adventure and good times with friends. At the start of the month we travelled south to San Diego for the wedding of our friends Danny and McKinsey.

Chair Dance

From there I boarded a plane on another business trip. This time headed east en route to Germany. Even though my feet were only in Germany for about 48 hours, it was exciting see the city of Munich. Better yet, I stayed in a working class neighborhood and devoured several delicious Turkish Kebabs. mmmmmmm.

May

Over the past month, I worked with a software development team in the Ukraine to build a resource for overland travelers. The site is Border Helper. Until now, it had been very difficult to find information about border crossings. This site makes it easy to read and write reviews.

BorderHelper

Furthermore, I went to Arizona for my 3rd consecutive Overland Expo. I gave lots of presentations with advice and stories from traveling the world on a motorcycle. And as always, it’s so fun to be in a place without cell phone service and be surrounded by people who share the passion for overland travel.

SideCar

June

Ryan and Rachel’s wedding took us back to New Hampshire for the first time since Christmas.

Moto Proposal

Meanwhile we hosted more moto travelers. Ken and Carol Duval previously stayed with us in New Hampshire and now this time in California. This amiable couple has been on the road for years, exploring all around the world.

Duval

By the month’s end I was back on a 737 and flying over the pacific ocean. China trip #3.

July

For years I’ve been reading Chris Guillebeau’s blog (The Art of Non-Conformity) and I’ve wanted to attend his World Domination Summit. But Portland, Oregon was always so far from New Hampshire. However, it’s close to California! It was well worth the trip and so inspiring to be around ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

Half way through 2013. Amber packed up all she had, and along with her 11 year old nephew, drove across the country so she could start grad school and work on her masters degree in occupational therapy. While we were both sad for her departure, we agreed that it was the right move for the future. So for now we’ll have 3,000 miles between us.

On the bright side, my back started feeling a little better and I hopped back on the road bike for the first time in nearly a year. It felt great to pedal through the Californian hills!
Biking
My Dad also came out for a visit. We toured all around the Bay Area including Alcatraz and the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
Dad Beach

August

Through smoke and ash from the Sierra Nevada forest fires, I rode up and over beautiful passes and settled in Nevada just south of Lake Tahoe for an Adventure Moto Rally. I gave a presentation and really enjoyed other presentations from renowned racer Jimmy Lewis and track legend Walt Fulton along with some fantastic dirt riding.

Carla

Over the past two months I had been working on another software project. This time I was building it all myself. And finally in September I launched www.RiderMix.com, an exclusive, members only club, for borrowing a motorcycle anywhere in the world.

RiderMix

Asia? Why not… China trip #4.

September

More exploration around the Bay Area. Hiking at Castle Rock State Park.

Charlie

I racked up frequent flyer miles with another flight. China trip #5. At least I had some time for a hike along the Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Hike

October

Another New Hampshire wedding had me back home. This time it was my sister’s. As always, it was great to see the family. Life flies by and it’s easy to get into routine. Even though I can’t make time for a big adventure these days, I find it crucial to celebrate life’s small adventures. With the help of the One Second Everyday app, I created this compilation of my daily mini-adventures over the course of a few months.

Motorcycle Travel nuts, like me, wait impatiently all year for the Horizons Unlimited meeting. I was back for another round in Cambria. I gave a few fun presentations, met up with old friends and made new ones like Jeffrey Polnaja from Indonesia who has been riding around the world for 6 years on a Ride For Peace.

Ride For Peace

November

China trip #6. But the really exciting thing about this trip was a long weekend stop over in Japan. It was my first time to Japan and I loved it! I stayed in old Tokyo at a quaint airbnb place and for a few days I walked all over the city, took a train to the south to see a giant Buddha, and even went to a Japanese Onsen (public bath). The weather was great and the food was delicious. Hey Japan… I’ll be back!

Buddha

Then I left the California sunshine for a taste of the bitter New England winter weather! But it was a perfect visit with friends and family (and way too much turkey).

December

I easily surpassed 100,000 miles in the sky this year with the help of China trip #7.

I returned from China and two days later boarded a plan for my final trip of the year. This time for a vacation with Amber in Guatemala! I’ll do a separate post about our time spent in Guatemala, but I’ll share one piece of exciting news – On the top of Volcano Acatenango, in the freezing cold, howling wind and pouring rain, we got engaged!

Volcan Acatenango Proposal

What went well in 2013?

  • I racked up frequent flyer miles with 7 business trips to China and made it to 1 new country (Japan).
  • I gave several presentations about adventure motorcycle travel at exciting venues like the Overland Expo, Tahoe Adventure Moto and Horizons Unlimited.
  • I launched 2 new resources for motorcycle travelers www.BorderHelper.com and www.RiderMix.com.
  • I increased my income and reduced my spending which helped me save a significant chunk of money.
  • I got engaged to the woman I love!

What did not go well in 2013?

Like last year, 2013 was a good year. But as always, there’s room for Kaizen.

  • Although I reached out to many of my old friends, I feel there’s still an opportunity to stay better connected and strengthen our relationships. On the same note, my family lives on the other side of the country and I didn’t spend as much time with them as I’d like.
  • While my back improved, it’s still very far from normal. I started running and cycling again but I’m still not strong enough to do other activities I really love, like basketball and freestyle mountain biking.
  • I didn’t devote any energy to languages. Sure, I learned a few phrases in Chinese to make people laugh, but I’d really like to become more proficient in Spanish and resume my previous studies in Russian.
  • I enjoy writing on the blog but it’s takes dedication and I rarely posted updates over the past year.

Looking Ahead

Though I didn’t set goals for 2013 (even though I said I would), I do have a few plans for the year to come. For one, I have a wedding to plan! There are also business opportunities that I’d like to explore. Of course, I wish I had more exotic travel, but I’ll probably stick to business trips in China while I rack up the frequent flyer miles. It’s been a good year and a good 3 decades. I’m looking forward to another good year and hopefully many more healthy and happy decades to come!

What about you? How was your 2013? Are you happier now than you were the same time last year? Have you made progress on your personal goals? What went well for you this year? What could have gone better?

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Overland Expo 2013

Last weekend I attended the 5th (my 3rd) Overland Expo outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. As expected, it was an amazing weekend filled with inspiring and empowering presentations from travelers all over the globe. Trucks, bicycles, motorcycles – they have it all. I sold lots of Motorcycle Mexico DVDs to aspiring travelers and had the opportunity to give several presentations to more than a hundred people. If you missed all the fun, you can have a look at my slides (unfortunately, you won’t get all the sarcastic commentary). If you’re reading this by email, click through to the www.AFewMoreMiles.com website to flip through the presentations. 

And now a few pictures of the Overland Expo:

Strategic marketing placement… (No fumar español)
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Now that’s a NEMO tent!
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Ted Simon giving a sneak peak of his new book.
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Morning in the tent.
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Toasting to old friends and new friends.
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Ya, that’s 45 year old bourbon that we drank – DELICIOUS!!
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Incredible presentation by Simon and Lisa Thomas (2 Ride The World). They have been riding the world for the past 10 years!
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World premiere of Austin Vince’s new film Mondo Sahara (Click the link to watch the movie trailer).
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Amber and I riding dirty in the Ural.
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Ya, that woman has a pet pig…
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Playing Left, Right, Center with the group at Snow Peak.
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Celebrating 20 years of marriage with Sandy and Terry of Adventure Trio.
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Amber’s new commuter. It’s good on gas.
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Amber’s new buffalo friends.
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30 Years

My wonderful girlfriend collected 30 letters from 30 of my friends and family for my 30th birthday. Here is a compilation of the memories that made me laugh, cry, cringe and smile! (click the image to see the full infographic)

click on the picture to see the full story!

click on the picture to see the full story!

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The Americas According To Motorcycle Travelers

I put together this info graphic. It’s a fair representation of the Americas through the eyes of a motorcycle traveler.

The Americas According To Motorcycle Travelers

The Americas According To Motorcycle Travelers

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My 2012: Year In Review

I’ve looked back over 2012 to see what went right, what could have gone better, and what I might like to do in the year to come. It’s been fun to reflect on the past twelve months. Here’s a brief summary of the path my life has taken:

January

The new year started with lots of preparation and excitement as I set forth to film a motorcycle documentary down in South America. I also built and launched Darien Gap Info A peer review website dedicated to crossing the Darien Gap.

Late in the month, I travelled down to Colombia to meet again with my partner Mike Thomsen of Motolombia. Together with 8 riders, we rode through the heart of Colombia. Filmmaker Andreas Munksgaard and I documented the entire journey. Capturing each days events was hard work but also a great learning experience.

The New World Ride Still Shot

Filming in Colombia for The New World Ride

February

Upon returning to the cold New Hampshire winter, it was time to make sense of the nearly 100 hours of film. I began the pain staking process of cataloging all the footage. This was slow and arduous but laid the necessary foundation for developing the documentary. To keep sane, I played volleyball one night a week with friends.

March

More computer work… During the week I spent 8am – 5pm at my day job (mostly on the computer) and then came home, cooked dinner and spent 6pm – 10pm working on the film (also in front of the computer). I enjoy editing but it was tough to spend all night on the computer after spending my of my day there as well. However, I pushed on, and each day I saw progress.

At the end of the month I took a break from the film and headed to India on another business trip for my day job. I worked with my team of programmers and business analysts to develop custom web and mobile applications to better serve our customers. The work was fun and of course I enjoyed experiencing India. Best of all was renting a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 on the weekend and getting lost in Southern India!

GoPro Motorcycle Photo in India

Riding the crazy streets of Southern India

On the way home, I spent a few days in London where I met up with Andreas. We went over some of the story I had been putting together and he also showed me all around the city. The famous Ace Cafe was high on the list amongst all the numerous historical landmarks. It may be hard to believe, but the English weather was beautiful, sunny and warm!

Ace Cafe in London

Ace Cafe in London, England

April

Back in States once again it was time to finish building the story for the The New World Ride (the name of the soon to be released Colombian Motorcycle documentary). More countless hours spent staring at the computer screen. I also turned 29 years old…

Final Cut Pro Sequence from The New World Ride

Final Cut Pro Sequence from The New World Ride

May

As spring rolled into New Hampshire, I continued building the documentary day by day. By the middle of the month, I was ready for another quick getaway. Setting my compass southwest I headed to the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona. This was my second expo and I was amazed at how much it had grown. If you want to travel the world on 2 wheels or 4, this is the place for you. With hundreds of vendors and thousands of travelers, there is no shortage of gear and stories. Motorcycle Mexico, my how-to guide for motorcycling south of the border, was on sale and I spoke at several roundtable discussions including “Borders, Bribes and Checkpoints.” It was great to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Ben Slavin and Carla King at Overland Expo in a Ural Side Car

Riding Monkey for Carla King

June

June was a big month… I gave my 23rd and 24th presentations about my 6 month, 23,000 mile motorcycle ride from New Hampshire to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuia, Argentina. Moreover, I was recruited for and accepted an exciting new job opportunity on the west coast. It was a tough decision to leave my day job that I really enjoyed and to put so much distance between my family. But ultimately it would be a great experience in an exciting and growing industry with many new places to explore during weekend adventures. So, in three weeks, I gave my notice, Amber and I packed up everything we owned and with excitement and exhaustion we jumped on a plane headed for Europe.

Thanks to our friends Bob and Sue at Micatech, we rode all around Western Europe on their 1995 BMW K75 motorcycle. In three short weeks we cruised through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Ya… I’m still working on that blog post :). It was an incredible trip. We camped each night and lived off of fresh bread, cheeses and sausages.

Crossing the Alps from France to Italy

Crossing the Alps from France to Italy

July

And finally after more than 10 years of dreaming, I finally saw the Tour de France! We followed the first few stages of the tour in Belgium and France – wow, what an experience!

Tour de France - Peleton Climb

Tour de France – Peleton Climb

From Europe we scooted back to South America for Amber’s sister’s wedding in Quito, Ecuador. The ceremony was in a tranquil mountain setting just outside the busy city. After the wedding we rented a Suzuki V-Strom from Freedom Bike Rental. Mountain twisties and serene beaches were on the agenda for the quick 5-day ride at the equator. (Yup, still working on that blog post too!)

Lunch on the beach in Ecuador

Lunch on the beach in Ecuador

With Ecuador behind us we were off to California to find a place to live in Silicon Valley. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find a cute little duplex right in Cupertino (a 7 minute walk from the Apple campus) with a palm tree and lemon tree in the front yard!

Our House in Cupertino

Our House in Cupertino

August

I began work at AAC Technologies were we develop custom micro-speaker, microphone and vibrator solutions that integrate inside today’s smartphones, tablets and mp3 players. By the middle of the month our friend John arrived with all of our belongings. We are so thankful that he drove a 26′ moving truck 3,000 miles across the country just to help us out! For the past 2 weeks we had been “camping” in our new home waiting for all of our furniture to arrive.

House Camping

House Camping

Our motorcycles came in the same truck and we were excited to hit the ground and explore California. At the end of the month we rode through the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Rendezvous. Amber went on road rides with a bunch of new friends and I set out for desert dirt riding with people much more capable than me. After pushing my limits and almost dumping the bike several times we headed over Ebbets Pass on our way back to the bay area. We also hosted our first motorcycle travelers in our new place – a young couple from France.

Amber Motorcycling in Ebbets Pass in California

Amber Motorcycling over Ebbets Pass in California

September

Finally settled into our new life on the west coast, we continued exploring with weekend surfing trips in Santa Cruz, city excursions around San Francisco, road tripping to Fresno to see the Colorado football game and hiking in the Redwood Forests. I also have a bunch of friends from college in the area and it’s been great to reconnect with them too. Additionally, my sister came to live us with. She’s a certified elementary education teacher but there are no jobs to be had in New Hampshire. The hopes of gainful employment lead her to California instead.

September also brought my first trip to China since 2009. I got a custom fit suit in Shanghai before going west and then finally south to Shenzhen. In Changzhou, I climbed to the top of the world’s tallest pagoda. I was amazed at how much Chinese I remembered (still only a few phrases) and was able to pick up a little more along the way. The locals always get a kick out of it when I say something in their language.

Worlds Tallest Pagoda

Worlds Tallest Pagoda

Unfortunately however, a night out at every kids dream (a warehouse filled with trampolines), was the straw the broke the camels back and I was in debilitating back and neck pain.

October

I began physical therapy but still encountered relapses of my injured back. Not fun! I had to give up cycling, running, hiking and any other form of physical fitness. Even simple tasks like putting on my socks or sitting up in bed in the mornings were painful and demotivating.

I slowly progressed as the month went on and with the support of a kidney belt, Amber and I rode 200 miles south along the coastline on Highway 1 to attend the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle travelers meetup in Cambria. New friends like Cliff Danger reminded us of a simpler life with stories of riding Lucy, a small Minsk motorcycle, throughout Cambodia and Vietnam.

Big Sur coastline along California's Highway 1

Big Sur coastline along California’s Highway 1

Putting on my marketing hat, I revamped the Motorcycle Mexico landing page and saw a huge boost in sales conversations. It’s a gold mine of information for aspiring travelers and I get joy out of helping them ride their dreams. We also hosted more motorcycle travelers, this time a couple from Guatemala on their way back from Alaska.

Motorcycle Mexico Landing Page

Motorcycle Mexico Landing Page

And with 48 hours notice, I headed back to China for a quick business trip. At least I got to sleep in a round bed…

Round Bed in Shanghai, China

Round Bed in Shanghai, China

November

Remember that motorcycle documentary? In the summer I handed my work off to Andreas who put on the final touches. Over the following months we released mini-episodes from each day of the trip. The penultimate release was a feature length film – The New World Ride. It was a wild journey and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone involved – To all of you… ¡MUCHAS GRACIAS!

Two hours a day of back stretching and strengthening exercises finally started to pay off and I slowly began seeing improvements. Amber and I had hoped to ride to Baja, Mexico during the Thanksgiving break but her work schedule and my health had us put it on hold. Nevertheless, we found some fun in hiking and camping in Marin County just north of San Francisco. Aside from an evening spent convinced that we were being stalked by a mountain lion, we had a great time.

Point Bonita Marin County Hiking

Point Bonita Marin County Hiking

December

My work schedule isn’t the typical 8-5. Some days are slow and others are action packed with customer meetings during the day. I’m up most nights until midnight working with my team in China. With the end of the year in sight, we headed east for a much needed vacation, exchanging our computers for the families we hadn’t seen in 6 months. It was the perfect Christmas gift.

What went well in 2012?

The past 12 months have been action packed.

  • I traveled to 12 countries (8 of them for the first time) and spoke 7 languages (granted some of them were only a few words).
  • I gave 6 speeches about my motorcycle travels around the world.
  • I did all sorts of new things like paragliding over Medellin, Colombia, motorcycling around Lake Tahoe, eating congealed pigs blood at a Chinese restaurant and shooting trap with a shotgun in California.
  • I built and released a feature length motorcycle travel documentary.

What did not go well in 2012?

Though 2012 was a good year, not everything was perfect.

For one, my Russian language learning got de-railed. A new job with a shorter commute meant no time for audio CD’s. I got through 45 lessons (the same amount of Spanish before I left on my first big trip) but it quickly faded with lack of use. I still hope to explore the now disolved Soviet Union and it will be great to use the Russian language to connect with people from many countries. I need more practice.

Also, I didn’t do a great job maintaining friendships. I spent a lot of time in front of the computer with interesting but isolating projects, and I didn’t see my family for the entire second half of the year. As I grow older, I realize how important friends and family are. I’m disappointed that I lost my way in strengthening those relationships.

Finally, I’m not happy with how things finished with my physical fitness. I reached a peak level of fitness in early May when I was playing basketball every day at lunch and running on the weekends. But then a combination of injuries, travel, and a new job with many business lunches made me a little soft. I’m carrying an extra five or ten pounds now, and my fitness levels are lower than I want them to be.

Looking Ahead

Though I didn’t set goals for 2012, I do have a few plans for the year to come. Soon, I’ll share some of my goals for the future. I have a lot in mind including travel, technology projects, friends & family, happiness, 2 wheels (without a motor), business, health and more.

What about you? How was your 2012? Are you happier now than you were the same time last year? Have you made progress on your personal goals? What went well for you this year? What could have gone better?

Categories: United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

[VIDEO] The New World Ride – Episode 1 & 2

Wow, I’m not doing very well with updating the blog these days! Fear not, for life has still been an incredible adventure and I have lots to share to get caught up to date. For starters, I was back in India on another business trip and had an opportunity to rent a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 for a weekend of touring southern India (photos still to come).

Also, this past January I partnered with Motolombia and took 8 riders down to Colombia for an 8 day motorcycle tour through the heart of the country. Along with me was filmmaker Andreas Munksgaard and together he and I filmed the entire journey. It was one hell of a ride complete with smooth and twisty mountain roads, bumpy and dusty trails, cows covering the road, military checkpoints, coffee plantations, private mansions, exotic fruits, colonial villages, crazy chicken buses and best of all… delicious deep fried arepas!

We set out have an incredible ride through a very controversial country. With this film we hope to show the world how wonderful of a place  Colombia really is. The past decade has brought many changes and the people of Colombia are once again proud of their beautiful country. It’s important to remind ourselves not to get caught up in the fear that is portrayed in mass media…

After the ride it was time to fly back to the US (to get back to my day job) and spend countless hours in front of the computer editing the footage into a documentary. The film is cut into 8 episodes (one for each day of the ride). After months of hard work I’m excited to announce that the first 2 episodes are now live!

Episode 1 is available here.

Episode 2 is available here.

Stay up to date with the latest happenings of The New World Ride episodes by following along on our Facebook page. I must give a BIG thanks to everyone that’s been involved in the project!!! To all the riders (Mike, James, Dave, Brandon, Walt, Al, Sacha), Ken Freund (our rider-journalist from RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring and Travel magazine), Mike Thomsen (owner of Motolombia, Colombia’s premier motorcycle tour and rental company), filmmaker Andreas Munksgaard (who is a wizard of final cut pro), GiantLoop motorcycle saddle bags, Kawasaki of Colombia, Mashtech motorcycle accessories, Luis Puerto (support truck driver), and all the friendly people we met along the way.

THANK YOU!

Stay tuned as the final 6 episodes will be released over the next few months. Until then, here are a few photos from the trip. Enjoy.

Most of the video gear laid on on the kitchen table the day before the flight to Colombia.

Jay and Mike in the Colombian Backcountry.

The tallest palm trees in the world (oddly enough, in the high mountains of Colombia).

Riders at the top of the 4000 meter Cerro Guali mountain pass (we started the day at 100 meters).

Jay and Walt (hidden) posing for a photo at a Colombian military checkpoint.

Mike at a fruit stand in the central square of a small Colombian town.

Me and Juan Valdez. Haha…

Jay LOVES arepas!

Back in Medellin after completing the trip. Having a drink at Al’s real imitation Irish pub.

Lastly, as a brief update of all the other goodness that has been going on over the past few months… In June I said goodbye to everyone at my day job in NH. Amber and I packed up all of our belongings, threw them into storage and hopped on a plane headed for Europe (maybe you’ve heard of it). We spent 3 weeks motorcycling all around Western Europe before jumping on another plane destined for South America. We attended her sister’s wedding in Ecuador, grabbed a motorcycle from Freedom Bike Rental and set off exploring the Andes mountains and the beautiful beaches along the equator. After 2 weeks in the southern hemisphere we jumped on another plane set for California. I’ve been recruited for an exciting opportunity in the tech industry and so we’ve moved out to the Bay Area (Cupertino – an hour south of San Francisco). I’m really excited to begin exploring all that sunny California has to offer. In the coming weeks, I’ll put together a recap of this past summer’s adventure. Until then… Ride and Explore!

Categories: Colombia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join me in Colombia!

Back in August I shared with you the first two pilot episodes for the upcoming New World Ride – a Colombian motorcycle documentary. Mike and I filmed these episodes back in June as we were preparing for the future film tour. If you haven’t checked out the final two episodes already, do so now. There is a lot of adventure in these two – Avalanches, grave tunnels, Colombian kids, riding single track down the edge of a mountain, nearly crashing while passing trucks, Bike Week with a local biker club, delicious fresh fruit, and a tour of a working colombian coffee finca.

Episode 3 of 4:

Episode 4 of 4:

Mike and I are getting really excited for this journey. We received lots of interest and spots have been filling up fast. We have only two more spots available. Contact me if you’d like to ditch the snow this winter and ride through paradise! Our tour begins on January 15th and runs for 8 days. Spots on the tour are going for $3,500 which covers nearly everything except plane tickets.

I’ll be posting lots more photos and video clips from our tour in January so stay tuned for more adventure!

Oh ya, I found myself in India on a business trip just last week too and decided that I need a 3-wheel tuk tuk taxi! It would be great to ride around Manchester…

Categories: Colombia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The New World Ride – Colombia Motorcycle Documentary

2 months ago I started a new full time job. The new gig has no shortage of engaging challenges and I’m really excited to make a solid dent my student loans debt. After I accepted the offer, the count down to “normal life” began and so with 3 days notice, I hopped on a plane and flew to South America. I visited with my friend Mike from Motolombia. I met Mike in early 2010 when I was passing through Colombia. He also owns the superb Casa Blanca Hostel in Cali where he’s housed more than 1,000 motorcyclists over the past three years! Originally from Denmark, Mike’s been traveling the world on two wheels and four since he was a child. Several years ago he settled in Colombia, married, and started a family and business.

Mike and I kept in touch since I passed through and he was really excited about the Motorcycle Mexico film I put together to get riders educated and inspired to ride in Latin America. Now, we have teamed up to create The New World Ride – A Colombian Motorcycle Travel Documentary. In January 2012 I’ll be headed to back to Colombia to film the ride.

We’re looking to give 6 lucky riders the adventure of a lifetime. To learn more and to join us on tour, check out www.TheNewWorldRide.com. In addition to riding on tour, we also have non-riding spots available in Mike’s SUV as well as opportunities to pre-order the DVD and T-shirts.

A few months ago, Mike and I toured Colombia to research routes. In doing so, we filmed 4 pilot episodes to show you just a little of what to expect in Colombia. Two episodes are now live and the remaining two will be posted in a few weeks.

Episode 1 link: http://youtu.be/XL_eN21pTDA

Episode 2 link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_uMHs7B6rk

Here are a few photos from the recent Colombia ride when we filmed the pilot episodes:

Tour Guide, Mike, ripping it up at a local’s motocross track in southern, Colombia.

The local kids put us to shame when they jumped their Chinese 125s!

A spectacular afternoon of riding at the local “backyard style” motocross track.

Popayan – The White City

Wire bridge with wooden planks…

Drunk locals in Silvia, an indigenous village in the mountains, offered us lots of free whiskey at 10 in the morning.

Muddy road far off the beaten path in Colombia.

Friendly construction worker.

Local kids at the top of a natural pyramid in Tierradentro.

Mike crossing a river in Colombia’s coffee region.

Colombia is a beautiful country with a tainted reputation. Did you know, in Colombia the locals said I was crazy for going to Mexico. Yet, in Mexico the locals told me I was crazy for going to Colombia… However, in New Hampshire they tell me I am crazy for going to Massachusetts – I don’t know what to believe anymore… The truth is, Colombia has spectacular on and off road riding, friendly and interesting people, delicious food and amazing scenery.

I’m really excited about this project. If you or someone you know would like to join us on tour, sign up at www.TheNewWorldRide.com. Even if you can’t get away, you can still join the adventure and support the project by pre-ordering the DVD and T-shirts. Go ahead and share the videos with your Facebook friends, Google+ circles, and Twitter followers. Mike and I really appreciate your support!

Hasta la proxima!

Categories: Colombia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Weekend of Freedom World Tour

Some Most days I daydream about riding the world. While it’s not always possible to get away, there’s still room for adventure. In order to celebrate our freedom on the Fourth of July. Amber and I packed up the bikes and headed north. Some might think of this trip as a relaxing ride through New England’s back roads. Instead, I like to think of it as a mini world tour…

First stop, the Wright Museum which exhibits artifacts illustrating the heroic efforts of ordinary people living during extraordinary times and is dedicated to celebrating Americans’ sacrifices and achievements during WWII.

Next stop, Whitehorse gear in North Conway so amber can pick up a kidney belt for back support.

The friendly folks at Whitehorse gave us a great road recommendation that took us up through Evan’s Notch in the White Mountain National Forest. Once in Maine we said hi to our buddy Paul Bunyan who was hanging out in Rumford.

The riding was mellow and fun.

Soon afterwards we crossed into Mexico. Wait, what? I’m so confused…

The plaque threw me off a bit. Shouldn’t it be in Spanish?

Sadly, there wasn’t even a Mexican restaurant in Mexico, Maine! Maybe that’s a business opportunity…  After Mexico it was off to Peru. There is no downtown – just lots rural land. Does anyone know what an ATV bottle is???

So, are we on Peruvian soil or American soil?

Having had enough of Latin America we jumped across the pond and stopped by Rome for lunch. Rome was burning so we notified the volunteer fire department.

After our civic duties were done we went east, really far east, like to the far east. Welcome to China!

Unlike mexican restaurants in Mexico, we did see plenty of chinese restaurants in China. Oddly, China looked a lot like Rome, Peru, Mexico, and Maine… Oh well. We looped back around for a quick stop in our hometown of Manchester. Well not Manchester, NH but Manchester, ME. This one goes out to our buddy Pete from Manchester, England. Last month he rode his motorcycle to every Manchester in the USA (there’s more than 30 of them). We had dinner and beers with him as he rolled through our Manchester.

With 300 miles logged we called it quits for the day and headed to Amber’s aunt’s place for some delicious homemade apple pie. mmmmmmmmm.

Awake and reenergized we set out the next morning to continue the adventure. We headed south to Lisbon, Portugal Maine. Unfortunately we were a week early for the Moxie Festival!

Lisbon was fun so we decided to see more of Europe. Next stop, Poland. I had to pee and just as I was about to take a leak by the building I caught myself. Fearing that if a local kid saw me peeing by an elementary school I would be charged as a sex offender, I decided to postpone my whiz until I could find a proper rest room facility.

We continued with the European theme and headed north to Norway.

Only a stones throw away from Norway, we found Paris. Imagine what a mini Eiffel Tower replica would do for tourism… Unfortunately, there wasn’t  much going on in Paris, Maine.

A few more miles (pun intended) down the road was Sweden. Judging by the few people we talked to, I’m willing to bet that most folks here do not know there’s a country called Sweden. The fire department had the only sign in town.

After Sweden we popped back down into mainland Europe for a quick stop in Denmark.

By that time we really started to enjoy Europe, so we shot over to see Amber’s other aunt who lives in Naples, Italy Maine. Together we celebrated our journey with a traditional Italian pizza served in an Irish pub…

The next morning I realized I had a freeloader trying to hitch a ride around the world. He wasn’t talking much…

We wrapped up our Weekend of Freedom World Tour with a brief stop in Limerick, Ireland Maine where they conveniently have a US Post Office.

Maine has several other worldly towns that were a bit out of our reach. We’ll leave Madrid, Moscow, Columbia (ya, they got the spelling wrong), Athens, Stockholm, Verona, Belfast, Lebanon, Vienna and Belgrade for another trip.

Editors note: We skipped all the English town names because just about every other town in New England is named after… Well… England…

As my friends at NEMO would say – Adventure Anywhere. Because memorable and meaningful adventures can happen anywhere from the backyard to Mt. Everest.

Categories: Uncategorized, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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