Have you ever wanted to quit your job, buy a motorcycle and just ride it indefinitely?
Maybe you’ve had that thought.
How about doing it without GPS, avoiding major highways and depending exclusively on the goodwill of others for accommodation?
A little more intense, right?
Ivana Colakovska and Manu Torres passed through Whitehorse on their way to Deadhorse, Alaska on this exact journey this week. After a dip in the Takhini hot pools with their local hosts and a repair job thanks to the folks at Yukon Yamaha, they shared their stories – almost as weathered as their wind-burned faces.
What started out as a journey by motorcycle around the world has turned into an internationally recognized and sponsored project called Around Gaia. They’ve now clocked more than 1,100 days of travel and over 100,000 kilometres.
The young couple left Spain in 2013, admitting they nearly toppled over their motorcycle at first. Three years later they are still travelling with just the bare essentials strapped to their Yamaha XT660Z Tenere.
Colakovska is from Macedonia and Torres from Spain. They’d always been travellers, never fully satisfied with a salaried job that locks you down. The couple met in their early twenties selling handmade jewelry to tourists on the beaches of Mykonos, Greece, where they were initially competitors. They would save money from their trade, then travel during the off-season to collect stones.
The couple explains they don’t like to make plans. So, after 10 years, they just bought a bike, set points on a map and drove.
“We didn’t even have gloves or boots. Just a bike full of necklaces,” Colakovska says with a laugh.
Their only goal was to reach three points and everywhere in between: Uluru, Australia (farthest place from home) Ushuaia, Argentina (southernmost point) and Deadhorse, Alaska (northernmost point).
It didn’t take long before they realized their crazy stories and wild photos were getting attention.
Now, their Facebook page has almost 30,000 followers. Their posts garner hundreds of comments and likes, helped by the fact that they translate every post into Spanish, Macedonian and English.
“We hadn’t made photography before. We weren’t even writers. But now we are writing for big magazines for travel and life,” Colakovska says.
They’ve published adventure stories in France’s Road Trip and Spain’s Solo Moto, among others. Though their list of official sponsors include Sena, Givi, and Sony, they say they’re in it for the inspiration, not the money.
“We want people to see that you don’t need much to do what you really want to do. We show people that if we can do it, they can do also,” Torres explains.
So how do you travel without a map or a plan?
“We just take a road that goes up. With no planning we put ourselves in situations that we must overcome.”
There have been a few of those.
There was that time when the couple traversed a 5,000-metre mountain pass in Kazakhstan at the end of November in a white out.
“It was minus 20 degrees centigrade and we had very little equipment,” Colakovska explains. Torres had frostbite on his fingers and she had a bleeding nose and was crying. They were experiencing altitude sickness but had no oxygen. “There was so much ice we were falling over and had to walk the bike,” Colakovska says.
The 60-kilometre pass took them 10 hours.
And then they saw smoke.
“I just ran into the building and stormed in,” she says.
“They gave us warm, hot food, and let us sleep for a few days to acclimatize to the altitude.”
And that’s the point, the couple explain.
“When you pay money you are a customer and not a guest,” Torres pipes in. “Instead we were like a family member: they gave us everything.”
In return, the couple explain people get a window into another life. “A woman in a more traditional home can look at Ivana and see how free she is,” Torres explains.
“This has an impact. Because they don’t have access to this kind of information and news. I prefer to pay in this way.”
Then there was the time they crashed their bike, breaking Colakovska’s leg in the remote roads of Patagonia.
“This was the first time we thought we needed to quit,” Torres says, since they were stranded without a hospital nearby. That’s when friends and family suggested getting sponsors for their journey.
Nine screws and two months later they were back on the bike. A month and a half of this period was spent recovering in the small home of a Chilean family, learning Spanish.
“So many people are afraid to leave security. But when you do what you love, money is no problem.”
“Now we are selling photography. We never imagined we would do this,” Colakovska says.
They may have four or five more years to go. But of course, they don’t really know.
And then what?
“The end of this project will be the beginning of another.”
Contact Lauren Kaljur at