Few people have the courage to live the Thelma & Louise open-road dream. But one couple did exactly that, gambling the security of a comfortable life to pursue an epic road trip and motorbike adventure
At the beginning of 2014, Lisa Morris and Jason Spafford had secure jobs and an ordinary life. She was a civil servant, he was an electrician and they lived together in a cottage in Nottingham.
But just one month later, they had packed the whole thing in. Together, the couple decided to trade their steady day-to-day existence for an epic 80,000-mile trip from Argentina to Alaska by motorbike.
They sold their house, quit their jobs and and packed a few clothes in their saddlebags for the bucket-list escape.
A search for something more
“Playing house and working 9-5 wasn’t unbearable, it just wasn’t enough,” explains 38-year-old Lisa on the couple’s blog, Two Wheeled Nomad.
“With no kids in tow, a change was overdue, so we decided on a big one […] we pared down the possessions to a few boxes and packed everything we’d need on the back of our steeds.”
Lisa and 49-year-old Jason had intended their trip to last 18 months. But instead, it morphed into “a life-changing, mind-bending adventure” that spanned over four and a half years, taking the pair from the southern tip of Argentina to the Alaskan Arctic north.
Along the way, they cruised across the dusty plains of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, feasted on “meat, Malbec and motorcycling” in Argentina, and skirted waterfalls on Bolivia’s infamous Death Road.
Saving up money
Most people assume you have to be rich to afford a life-changing adventure. But that wasn’t the case for Lisa and Jason.
“Neither of us earned silly money in our former lives,” says Lisa. “Start saving early. At least a year, or longer if you’re not a savvy saver. It took us well over two years.”
In saving money for travel, the duo cut every cost but essential bills, sold their belongings – including their £135,000 house – and set themselves a strict travel budget of £40 per day for food and accommodation (their habit of sleeping under the stars helped).
As the Mail reports, the trip cost them £65,000 in total: working out as around £36,000 a year for both. The couple developed writing and photography skills, too, to give them other sources of income while on the road.
“Fortunately, we bought rental property with the proceeds of selling our house, which, coupled with being a travel writer and photographer couple, helps us to keep gas in the tank and foremost, the story unfolding,” says Lisa.
Say yes, learn later
Jason and Lisa did save up for their biking adventure, but they weren’t fully prepared in other ways.
“Unlike Jason, I had virtually no riding experience, but we left anyway,” Lisa explains. “Ignorance is biking bliss when you’re unknowingly thrown in the deep end.”
After a few setbacks and dicey near-misses, Lisa got the measure of her “extremely forgiving” 2001 F650GS bike, nicknamed Pearl.
“I’m living proof that you don’t need to fulfil the burly bloke astride his R1200GSA stereotype to set off on a bike trip,” she says.
Making big life choices
It’s easy to get stuck into a mudslide of indecision in life. You know you want to change, or move forwards, but you can’t grasp how to do that.
Lisa and Jason found that by hitting the open road over a series of months and years, big decisions came naturally to them. Away from the distractions of their “real” lives, they could think more clearly – without the pressure to conform, or be a certain way.
For instance, while they were watching grey whales off the coast of Mexico, Lisa suddenly decided to propose to Jason: her partner since 2001, and comrade in many gruelling bike trails (happily, he accepted).
Then came the conversation about children.
“Riding through the Americas has changed us,” says Lisa. “During the trip, I decided against having a kid, which surprised the heck out of Jason. We want to see where an unscripted future takes us.”
All in the small things
By shedding the anchors of an ordinary life, including their home and multiple possessions, Lisa and Jason re-tapped the joy of simple things. They developed a way of life focused on camping, the wild outdoors and getting from A to B.
“Every time I reflect on the trip, I feel a pleasing, bone-deep certainty that happiness can be as simple as being warmed by the winter sun, dining al fresco on something locally sourced and delicious, then washing it down with a cold beer,” says Lisa.
“Filled to the brim with that happy fatigue after a big hike in the backcountry. Or, making a connection with another human being – by merely dissolving into giggles with them.”
This new awareness means they’re not ready to quit the dream quite yet. In fact, with a cheery indifference to what they “should” do in life, the couple are continuing to embrace horizons unknown.
Their next euphoric trip begins in April 2019, and sees them journey from South Africa to the Norwegian Cape in a Toyota Hilux jeep.
“Overlanding allows us to rediscover the rhythms of the day and enjoy the seasons,” says Lisa. “Whether on a trail, hill or mountain, wandering the earth is an unscripted way to connect to your surroundings, engage with people and stay mindful. It gives us unalloyed joy every mile of the way.”
Unshackle from life with these brilliant adventures
Live a life less ordinary with three game-changing trips
Jeep across the salt plains of Bolivia
The world’s largest salt flats are your playground in this soul-fuelling South America adventure to Bolivia and Peru. Jump abroad a fleet of jeeps to cruise the shimmering plains of Salar de Uyuni, in search of cacti islands and an ethereal steam train cemetery. Also on the agenda, a serene few days’ stay on Sun Island overlooking Lake Titicaca and a bike ride through Inca ruins in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Not to mention Machu Picchu.
Take a sensory journey to Japan
Japan’s enchanting landscapes take centre stage in this spectacular getaway to the Land of the Rising Sun. Sea kayak around an ancient shrine, and come hiking in the Hakone mountains, with hot spring bathing to boot. Then, learn to meditate with monks, have lunch with a sumo wrestler and become a real-life ninja at a Kyoto warrior school. Oh, and you’ll make sushi and feast on Japan’s best street food, too.
Marvel at the wildlife of Zimbabwe
The Great Outdoors will have you yearning for more, on the open Savannah of Zimbabwe. Start in style with a helicopter ride over the thundering Victoria Falls, one of the Natural Wonders of the World, before stowing away for a bucket-list safari amid Africa’s mightiest animals. Have your binoculars handy for a dawn bush walk and jaw-dropping game drives in both Zim and neighbouring Botswana.