ANA AND JON: INTO THE WORLD
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 11/6/17
For the fifty third installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are very pleased to be speaking with a pair of genuine adventurers, Ana and Jon from Into the World have been travelling the globe for nearly 7 years now. They sometimes travel together on one motorcycle, sometimes on their own motorcycles, and even individually by bicycle. One thing is constant though, they consistently take beautiful images of the places they visit.
Their choice in locations, combined with their excellent adventure photography, is what really makes me excited about sharing their story with you. Their website will give you a greater backstory about who they are and their many destinations.
Into the World is on of my favorite adventure follows. Their storytelling perfectly blends the sweetness of a couple travelling together, sharing this thing called life, with incredible adventures.
Many of us have our own dreams and ambitions for our lives, but Ana and Jon are like a lighthouse in the storm for those dreams. They have boiled down the truth of life and made an effort to embrace the simplicity of whats good about it; Spending time with people you care about and experiencing the world around you to become a better person.
Check out the interview below.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Even if we are both architects by trade, it’s been a few years since we decided to unplug from that career in order to travel to Africa, and subsequently we decided that we want to do other things. Nowadays we do some online work (freelance writing for some magazines and graphic design), we also work with a Romanian NGO focused on built environment education for kids and teenagers, and we have an industrial design start-up focused on adv motorcycling tuning. So as you see, we have places of work everywhere, either on the road or in our Bucharest crib.
Tell me about your bikes. What do you call them?
The KTM is a 690 Enduro R from 2009, and Ana’s a Suzuki DRZ 400 from 2006. We care for them, but we did not name them.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the ones you bought?
After backpacking and using mopeds to travel outside Europe, we knew that we needed a more reliable vehicle to take us around Africa. Initially we considered a 4×4, but the paperwork and costs looked daunting. Given Jon’s love for motorcycles, that proved to be the winning solution for us. However, a dirt-oriented journey required a very different type of motorcycle. We looked at various models, some legendary for taking their riders around the world many times over, and finally settled for a Yamaha XT660Z Tenere from 2009. After we returned from Africa we sold the Yamaha and bought the KTM and the Suzuki.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to them?
On each journey we made specific mods to the bikes. For Africa Jon even had to perform an engine swap between the first Yamaha (which was destroyed in an accident just before departure) and a second Yamaha (that we had to buy while waiting for the insurance resolution). These are some of the mods:
– Hyperpro suspension upgrade (front & rear progressive springs)
– front + rear steel braided brake hose
– high Givi windshield
– GPS mount + direct battery charger with backup system
– custom-made radiator protection
– G-IT aluminum engine shield + crashbar combo (from AdventureSpec)
– MK3 pivot pegs
– Unifilter foam air filter
– Kev mod (from xt660.com)
– Renthal Dakar fatbar with KTM plastic handguards, alu short brake and clutch lever and rallyride foam grips
– custom made dual Leo Vince SBK exhausts (with custom dB killer)
– 14 tooth JT front sprocket
– touring Scottoiler
– custom rack for aluTech 41l cases
– 150W inverter for gizmo charging
For our trip across Central Asia, from Romania to Mongolia and back via Siberia, we fitted both bikes with:
– Dirt Tricks Ironman sprocket
– Linx fairing by Britannia Composites
– wide seat by Seat Concepts
– Shorai Lithium Battery
Also the bikes had to reflect the riding experience, style and physical capabilities of each rider, so the KTM had:
– Aqualine Safari 14l fuel tank
– MK3 pivot pegs
– RalleMoto RM2 steering damper kit
– Renthal Dakar fatbar + KTM plastic hand guards + rally ride foam grips
While the DRZ was fitted with an IMS 4Gal fuel tank and was lowered with a set of homemade lowering links.
What is your favorite part about it living/working off of your bikes?
Riding a bike is great fun. We get to experience the world in 360 degrees, with the wind in our face and able to make fast eye contact with anybody we may encounter. The feeling of freedom is great, and even if sometimes it is an uncomfortable way to live/travel, we love it.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Actually we also traveled a bit by bicycle, trying to learn what could be the best of both worlds, in our view. Motorcycles are fantastic because there is almost no place that cannot be explored like that. The journey becomes limitless. But they also require expert and sometimes expensive maintenance (if you push them hard enough), and crossing borders demands time and further costs. If something bad occurs, like a major technical breakdown, a local political crisis, or say a visa being denied, you may find yourself stuck. Bicycles are still able to expand your horizon, even if a a smaller level. Meaning that not all terrain can be tackled by bicycle, and that being powered by your own human resources translates into more time on the road. At the same time cycling is very liberating and deeply personal. You learn to know and accept your own limits, rather than push them. We honestly love both types of travel, you know what they say: 4 wheels move the body, but 2 wheels move the spirit.
How many miles have you put on your bikes?
55,000 kms around Africa alone and about 25,000kms in Central Asia, if we are talking only about motorcycling.
What is the best place you have taken them?
As time passes we find it harder to reduce our favourites to a shortlist, but we’ll give it a try.
In Africa: Nigeria, Congo Kinshasa, Namibia, Sudan, Tanzania
In Central Asia and Europe: Tajikistan, Mongolia, East Siberia (region) and Tuva Republic in Russia, Georgia
In Middle East: Oman.
Is there just one?
Not really, and the list of places we long to return to also grows longer.
Favorite road you’ve ridden?
The Wakhan Corridor between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is incredible. Also the Eastern B.A.M. track in Russia is a once-in-a-lifetime ride.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
Becoming better humans (more aware of who we are and what exists out there, of the deep connection between all things, more respectful to other cultures, better equipped to serve when the time comes).
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living off of a bike, what would you tell them?
Well, we could not say that we are living off our bikes, but we do live in a sort of symbiosis with them when we are on the road. We could say: care for your vehicle as it is your friend, and trust them. It is your choice to invest emotionally in your vehicle or to treat them as a mean to a purpose, but try to take responsibility of that choice.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?
We do not consider ourselves very special, or enlightened in any way, we are still on a learning path not knowing where that may lead. Like many before us, we had to step outside the comfort zone to start that process of learning. Until we felt a little hungry, cold, lost and scared, nothing significant happened, we were just having fun. Things changed a lot for us first in Nigeria, where we had the chance to stay longer and volunteer, which taught us to appreciate time. Then a series of unfortunate events led to us crossing the Democratic Republic of Congo in the middle of a brutal rainy season while being very low on supplies, which taught us to appreciate people. The thing is that there may be a little lesson in the most mundane of things, you just need to keep yourself vulnerable, open.
You have found a strong place in the community of adventure riders. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
The brotherhood of riders, the willingness to offer help without expecting anything in return, and to believe that most people are essentially good.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
Thanks! For us it was a leap of faith, definitely.
Where do you want to go next?
We are planning to explore the continents we haven’t been to yet (the Americas, Australia), hopefully to return to Africa, our big love, and to continue to make a living from our design and writing.