Ever since there have been BMW bikes, there have been women riders keen to discover the whole world on two wheels. The names of these intrepid explorers roll off the tongue: Elspeth Beard, Tiffany Coates, Ramona Schwarz, Julia Sanders… and now Katarína Vrábelová, a 23-year-old BMW G 650 GS Sertão rider from Prešov, who aims to be the first Slovak female to travel around the world on a motorcycle.
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Her route will take her some 70,000 km around 40 countries in Europe, Africa, South and North America, and she’ll be on the road for nearly 400 days. Her aim is to show a woman’s view of travelling the world on a motorcycle. So far, she’s made it as far as Egypt, where BMW caught up with Katarína for this interview…
What or who inspired you to plan and then realise this ambitious trip?
To get the idea for his kind of trip didn’t happen in one night; I grew up with this adventure inside me. I used to love watching movies about travelling, and I enjoyed visiting places like castles with my family and seeing ancient things from all over the world. This inspired me to travel to faraway places and bring the most beautiful memories and experiences back home with me, but I had to wait for the right time and it took me more than a year to get myself ready for this trip.
Why did you choose the BMW G 650 GS?
BMW is a well known brand for us in Europe and I wanted to take that to the world in Asia, Africa and the Americas where they are used to other bikes. As for the G 650 GS, I was trying to find my ‘soul mate’ bike – it is lightweight, allows me to carry all my stuff and still handle well; it is perfect for my physique, and it is very fuel efficient.
Is it modified in any way for this journey?
For this trip I made a few modifications, such as adding Rental ‘bars, Hyperpro Front Sport suspension, smaller Chain gear and a Touratech kit for travelling, which gives me the comfort I need and space for everything!
What riding experience do you have and would you consider yourself a good rider now?
Riding for me is not about the perfect shift or the higher speed: it’s about heart – the ability to adapt and the flexibility to think in other ways. I’ve been riding bikes since I was 15-years-old and my ambitions is not to go racing, but to roll the world on a motorcycle.
Did you get any off-road training for this trip?
Yes I did. I took an off-road riding course, and I broke both arms in a Romanian forest during training. It didn’t’ stop me coming back to do what I love the most though – travelling!
Do you see yourself spending a life on the road rather than taking a ‘normal’ job?
For me, it’s about finding a way to happiness and this of course varies from one person to another. Some people are happy indoors and some like it more outdoors, so no matter how you spend your time here on earth, make sure you spend it doing something that makes you feel satisfied.
Are you missing friends and family?
Of course I miss my family like crazy and I miss spending time with all my friends, but since I have seen all the people behind me and all the fans who are supporting me, wishing me luck and helping me on this journey, then that makes things so much easier. I believe in them, I know they are there for me, and I'm grateful that I have such great people in my life. As a traveller, it’s important that you can always find an inner strength, so you can draw on this in times of loneliness, whether it be in the middle of a forest or desert. At these times when nobody is around and you may feel sad, it’s down to you to get back on your feet again and keep rolling.
How safe do you feel as a woman travelling alone?
Anything could happen to anybody at any time, so I just take my chances. You have to believe in the good in people and do your best. I even shaved the hair off half my head so now I can meet my problems with the ‘man’ side – the right side of my head!
What has surprised you most on this journey so far?
What has surprised me most is the difference between what you read about in the media and what you actually encounter in real life. For example, I was travelling in Libya where they have millions of weapons, but I felt safe because they are Muslims and they treated me so kindly, even if I was a woman travelling alone.
Is the African experience living up to your expectations so far?
Africa is amazing so far. I found the desert really beautiful and I'm so excited to make my way into the jungle now...
Do you usually camp out, or do home stays, or what kind of accommodation do you use?
As a traveller I should be ready to face any situations. I love nature and to stay outside but I always try to feel secure wherever I stay. I'm also on a tight budget, so I often ‘couch-surf’, stay in a tent or accept offers of accommodation. Being away really makes you appreciate all the things we take for granted back home, like a hot bath or even a washing machine.
Have you met many other travellers, and did any of them ride alongside you and share some of the journey?
It’s actually quite hard to find travellers on the road because everyone is following their own routes and even if you’re just a few kilometres away, you might not bump into them. That said, it’s always great to meet up with fellow travellers to share experiences.
Has everyone you met so far been helpful?
I met with a lot of bikers along my way in Libya and Egypt so far, and everyone is trying their best to help with my trip through their countries.
Is there anything you are still nervous about?
No, I’m actually feeling pretty good about myself and my bike too. I'm only concerned about time, because things don’t depend only on me, but a lot of other things I cannot control, like traffic or the weather. I also have a lot of work to do during my trip to keep my fans and followers up to speed about where I am and what I’m doing.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about planning an adventure like this one?
I tell everybody to believe in themselves. It’s well worth facing a few tough times to experience amazing discoveries and see beautiful things that give you so many memories and stories to tell. Money is not an important – I have very little cash but here I am, still surviving and enjoying life to the maximum.
What’s the best way for people to follow your trip online?
Everyone can find me on www.motogirltrip.com
To see some video of Katarína prior to her departure, please click here.