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  • Writer's pictureThe Traveling Tortoises

Why a normal life was never for us...

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

the traveling tortoises around camp fire in Africa

We think a nice start to these blogs would be to answer one of the most frequently asked questions "what made you decide to do this?". It is not a very straight forward answer as you might imagine, it is a combination of a lot of life experiences, both together and as individuals. Some of those are personal and we won't put those out there for everyone to read, but we will tell you the basic story, which is long enough already.

We met each other about 11 years ago, we were on a completely different path in our lives. Cissy still studying and Werner already several different careers under his belt. But somehow it worked. Since we started dating ( and later married ) we lived in 4 different countries, had several hardships and never stayed in one place for longer than a year. It gave us the experience and the drive to live the life we do now. But there was one specific night that made us start this next step.

We both worked together in the same job, and this required us to be away from home for months at the time. Sometimes even up to a year. Often we did not even had a permanent home, just moving from project to project. At the time we made the big decision, we were on one of those projects. Sitting by ourselves in the middle of nature, beside a campfire, we were wondering why we had a house (we rented at the time). We were hardly ever at home, only in-between projects, and when we were home we were looking for things to entertain ourselves. You want to do something fun, enjoy your life, but these come with a cost. So that night, around the campfire, we did some maths. What did our lives cost now? Car insurance, rent, gas/water/light, internet, food, entertainment etc etc. After putting all those costs together, we started doing the maths how much it would cost to just travel instead. It didn't made much difference if we adjusted some major expenses like accommodation and camped instead.

We already owned a fully kitted out Land Cruiser 76, it had a fridge in the back, a rooftop tent, space for kitchen equipment... you name it, it was there. So, why don't we just go travel the world in our Land Cruiser? Well... there was one small problem. In a car, there is only one person driving and the other just sits. Werner being a real Afrikaans man, did not like the thought of Cissy driving a fully loaded Land Cruiser off road. So this idea lived for about 30 seconds and then got scraped, neither of us could be a permanent passenger!

It just happened that a year before this all important evening, Werner had bought his first Adventure Motorcycle, a KTM 640 Adventure. He slowly introduced the idea of maybe taking motorcycles instead of the Land Cruiser. By that time Cissy had never ridden a motorcycle in her life and never had the desire either. But traveling on motorcycles had the potential to be an individual adventure and challenge whilst still experiencing all these things together. So that night, after extensive discussion, research and a lot of money calculations, we decided that we are going to give this a shot (Yes, the decision was indeed made that same night we started talking about it for the first time).

Of course it started with finding out if Cissy actually liked to ride a motorcycle, so we planned for her to do a one day motorcycle course about the basics. A couple of months later, the project ended and we were going home with a whole new exciting plan about the future.

The day arrived where Cissy did her Introduction to Motorcycle Riding course, well that is what the plan was. But Morag Campbell from OpenRider had long discussions with Werner over the phone and she was amazing at being flexible and adapting as Cissy did the course. It was a one day course but at the end of the day she was riding Offroad and doing emergency breaks and all the good stuff. But the biggest and most important thing was that she was smiling all the time and really enjoyed riding a motorcycle.

So we set off back to Hoedspruit where we still lived. We got online and started a search for a bike for Cissy. Just a few days later, Werner found a DRZ 400 and bought the bike. At this stage the idea was to travel 90% Offroad, so the DRZ400 should be a great fit. When the bike arrived, there was some work to be done on it and the most important thing is that Cissy needed time in the saddle. But as life would have it, we were running OUT of time. We set our departure date on the day our rental contract ended. Great idea initially, but this meant we needed to buy all the equipment we needed (camping gear, panniers etc). We also still had our company we had to run and there needed to be extensive changes made for everything to work.

the traveling tortoises cissy drz400 motorcycle adventure dual sport

Cissy with her DRZ 400

So fast forward two months before we leave, Cissy had now roughly 6 hours of riding under the belt and we realised that the DRZ 400 might not be the best choice.. Adjusted to be a racing bike, there were problems starting if left for a few days and comfort was nowhere to be found. We also started to be realistic and acknowledged that we might still do a lot of tar roads, especially in the beginning. As soon as we started being honest with ourselves, the DRZ 400 was put up for sale. Within a day, it was sold to a new home where it was going to be used the way it was designed to be. But this left Cissy without a bike.. and it would take another month before we stumbled across a second hand KTM 390 Adventure online. Only 12 km on the clock (No typing mistake! The previous owner decided motorcycles wasn't the right hobby and left it standing in a garage for 2 years), but for an extremely good price. Without ever seeing the bike (it was standing over 2000 km away) and without ever having sat on a 390 Adventure, we bought it. It was a risk, but luckily worked out perfectly. From the first moment, the 390 Adventure and Cissy clicked and she has never looked back since.

Cissy The Traveling Tortoises KTM 390 Adventure motorcycle riding on road in Africa

Cissy riding "Mouse" her KTM 390 Adventure back to Hoedspruit after picking it up in Nelspruit.

Now a month before our departure date, Werner realised something about his 640 Adventure. While kitting it out and getting ready, he experienced difficulties with getting parts.... and this was something that might become a big issue on the road.

With our budget in mind, Werner put some feelers out with a few dealers and looked around online what his options would be. And not soon after, the same dealer where the 390 Adventure was bought came up with an almost new KTM 890 Adventure R. Low KM's and full house with a good price tag. Within a couple of days, it was standing at our house and the KTM 640 Adventure went to Werner's Father.

Werner The Traveling Tortoises KTM 890 Adventure R motorcycle travel

Werner with his new KTM 890 Adventure R a.k.a. "Buddy"

But with all these expenses comes a drawback, we need to get funds! Luckily we had two fully payed off vehicles standing at our house. Lucky for us, there was a shortage of Land Cruisers in South Africa and the second hand market was booming. With pain in our harts, we sold out Land Cruiser first within 1 hour of putting it online for an incredible high price. With one car left (Land Rover Defender 90), we decided to take another risk and brought the Land Rover to a garage to be completely redone. Resprayed, new seats, new trims, lights, anything to push up the price. It was going to look like a brand new luxury but nostalgic 4x4 vehicle.

We only received this vehicle back a couple of days before leaving... and selling it became a race. With the final day passing, there was a lot of interest, but nobody ready to buy right now. The key of our rental house had to be handed in the next morning at 9 and the Land Rover could not stay there. We had sold all our possession in the house in the last couple of days and the Land Rover was the only thing we had left besides our motorcycles and our equipment we were going to take with us. Stress came down hard on both of us, so we decided to take a walk and get a garage pie (we always seem to solve our problems by walking). Just 200 m into the walk, Cissy said she felt that she had to stay. Our Neighbours had always showed interest in the vehicle and they just came home from holiday that night. And sure thing, within 15 min they knocked on the door. Cissy told them it was for sale and handed over the keys for a test drive. By the time Werner came home, the vehicle was sold and moved up just one parking space, to the neighbours. It was about 9 or 10 o'clock and we both went to bed on our camping mattresses in our empty house, nervous, excited but relieved that at the last minute everything seemed to be ready.

The next morning it appeared we were actually far from ready.

The new renters were going to move in at the moment we handed in our keys, at 9 'clock in the morning. But around 8 o'clock that we realised that we actually never packed our bags and we never put everything on the motorbikes. At 9 o'Clock we were standing outside, with our unpacked bags and way too much stuff. We didn't had a house or a car, just the pile at our feet and 2 motorbikes. With a lot of effort and precise packing skills acquired over the years, we managed to somehow get everything on the motorbikes. But riding far was impossible.

The Traveling Tortoises motorcycles packed for long distance travel KTM 390 Adventure KTM 890 Adventure R Africa South Africa  Enduristan

Bikes packed for the first time the morning we moved out of our home.

Neither of us had ever ridden with luggage before (another mistake) and highly uncomfortable and nervous we called a friend. Slowly we rode towards his house and offloaded our overpacked and extremely heavy luggage and spent the next 2 days lightening the load.

So then D-day arrived and we sat off on our new life, a nomadic life of adventures on two wheels.

Werner and Cissy riding their bikes fully loaded for the first time, Cissy with only about 8 hours of riding under the belt. But adventure awaits and we will learn on the road.

Life is a funny thing, we should not try and control it too much. It's like a river. Let it flow, let it snake trough and find its own way. Everything works out in the end exactly how it should.

We were never meant for the normal life, settling down in one place. We were born with a spirit of adventure and an itch to explore, we just had to embrace it fully and completely. The itch has not gone away, but we feel alive every day we travel. We feel like we are living and not just existing. We all have a path to walk in this life and just remember, you are the author of your life story, make it a good one! This is our first blog but we will be writing many more. Some will be written by Werner, some by Cissy and a few (like this one) together.

We are excited to share our stories and our thoughts with you all, not just on Youtube, but also here.

So stay tuned as there are so much more to come!

Werner & Cissy - The Traveling Tortoises

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