COLBY ELLIS: @VANCOLBY_
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orca’s – 6/25/18
For the eighty first installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orca’s, we are very pleased to share the story of Colby Ellis. He is riding the world to raise awareness about mental health issues and for @HeadsUpGuys. You may know him as @vancolby_
Anytime, I get the opportunity to share the story of a person riding the world on an adventure motorcycle and doing it for a good cause, I get pretty excited.
Colby is riding and raise awareness for mental health and is working with HeadsUpGuys.org, a Vancouver based mental health organization. If you feel so inclined, please take a minute to check out their site and make a donation to a worthy cause.
I first discovered @vancolby_ and his Instagram account because he appeared to begin his world tour in New Zealand. Obviously starting a global trip on an island isn’t the most conventional place to start a trip on a motorcycle. So off the bat I was intrigued. It didn’t take long to be drawn in by the landscapes and the content either.
You can also follow Colby’s journey on his web page, milesforminds.org
Colby is now in Australia, continuing to explore the world and raise awareness for his cause. Australia is a place that hardly ever lacks adventure or terrific photographic landscapes. He is a great reminder that even the most personal endeavors can have a very positive impact on those around us.
Check out the interview and @vancolby_ photo’s from his journey below.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Previously of the white collar career I worked for BC Hydro, the electric utility company in British Columbia – Canada, but currently I consider myself “funemployed”. As I develop my writing skills I would hope to pick up some freelance work writing and sharing pictures for travel and motorcycle magazines and blogs which would make my place of work wherever I hang my hat for the night, currently have articles to be published in Australia’s traverse magazine. I’m also working with a men’s mental health charity – Heads UP Guys – as I travel trying to raise awareness, and hopefully some funds, for their wonderful resources… check them out at www.headsupguys.org
Tell me about your bike. What do you call it?
I’m currently on a 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XCx named Robin. When I got it the bright blue immediately reminded me of the Genie from Aladdin, and as I’m riding in support of men’s mental health Robin Williams seemed like an appropriate namesake.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
I have a 2012 Triumph Tiger XC at home, but it has some decent mileage on it so I decided for an around the world ride I should get something a little less used. I looked through and test rode a pile of the (modern) supposed mid-sized adventure oriented bikes: KTM 1090, KLR 650, VStrom, Honda Africa Twin, BMW 800. I’m not entirely sure why, but I didn’t feel comfortable on the KTM and thought that it was too big in size and had more power than I would ever need. With all the highway riding I was planning around Australia and New Zealand I had no desire what so ever to sit 20,000km + of road riding on a KLR 650. The Vstrom could have worked, but didn’t excite me. I found the motor of the BMW a little boring… consistent and reliable but like the VStrom, not exciting. So I got down to the Africa Twin (which realistically was my first choice despite the shorter fuel range) and another Tiger 800. Shopping around both new and used the price difference between the two bikes was monumental, and the Honda generally came needing to be fully outfitted where the Tigers came with skid plates, crash bars, panniers, handlebar protection… and I was familiar with it thanks to 25,000km in the saddle of Meg (my 2012). In the since I didn’t have a monumental desire for a Africa Twin, cost won out and I stuck with the Tiger and found a great deal on a gently used one (under 4000km on the clock) and here we are!
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
To this point just added fuel/bottle holders to the panniers and a Touratech foldable clutch lever. While I’m in Australia I would like to add upper crash bars, and potentially some additional lighting and heated grips.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your motorcycle?
It may sound stereotypical… but I love the freedom of it.
What is your least favorite part about it?
The two downsides to Motorcycle travel that immediately come to mind
1- Exposure to the weather (and I’ve seen all of it – Snow, Rain, Hail, Monsoon, Wind… 0C and 40C… it’s all out there)
2- The nearly complete inability to add passengers. Traveling with a standard vehicle it is easy to meet people as you go along and have people join in with your travels and have company as you move place to place which enhances the experience of travel… traveling by motorbike by myself I have yet to meet anyone with whom I could do the same…. and it would be great.
How many miles have you put on your bike?
Around 13,000 km
What is the best place you have taken it?
I did somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 km around New Zealand, but for best riding I have to say the South Island. The scenery, the roads, the trails… there is just so much to experience in such a small area. You could spend years exploring and still find new places to venture!
Is there just one?
Everywhere is different, everywhere is amazing, and I’m sure my list will grow as I make my way across to Europe. For now though, I can’t think of anywhere that can compare to New Zealand’s south island.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Is this really a question people are able to honestly answer? At the moment for On-tarmac… either the Glenorchy-Queenstown (near Queenstown NZ) road or the Croisilles-French Pass road (Between Picton and Nelson NZ). For off-road adventures there are two “roads” that really stands out to me – The Nevis road near Queenstown NZ and Rainbow Road from Hanmer to St Arnaud NZ. Almost 30 stream crossings.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
as in experience life. Try new things. Do new things. Don’t say no to opportunities to experience my existence.
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a motorcycle, what would you tell them?
Make sure to have good gear that will keep you comfortable in all conditions. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a months salary on a Touratech outfit, but make sure that you’ll be at ease in bad weather (hot and cold) so you can concentrate on the ride not the weather…. especially your boots. Oh, and always keep a pair of dry socks handy haha.
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 that kind of person?
Despite always having a passion for travel, and while I was younger was well aware that the journey is what is important, I found myself unknowingly stuck in completing the standard checklist for life – find a good career, buy a house, find a relationship… so on so forth. And I wasn’t happy… my enjoyment in life was coming from short moments not from having a contentment with my life. A couple years ago while I was recovering from depression I realized that I had gotten caught in this cycle and wasn’t doing what I wanted to do; I was doing what society thought I should do. This was when I started to evaluate what I wanted in life, and realized I had been ignoring the journey and going straight for life ‘destinations’, and got back on track! Since then I’ve tried to say yes to opportunity to any offer for experience, be it a ride in a jet boat, a hike across a pass, a ride in the backcountry… as long as I think it’s safe I’m in!
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
The biggest value that has been preached to me is to always show respect and give thanks whenever due which is crucial when traveling. Outside of that, my entire extended family have been travelers (working all over the world from Asia and Africa to South America), so they also have always shared their belief of the value of travel and the benefits to trying and experiencing new and different things and test your limits in order to develop as a person.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourself as someone who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
I do see myself as the type of person who will one day have a conventional home somewhere, but will not be constrained by it and will continue to explore the world. Where I am now happened naturally, it was something that had to develop in order for me to grow and develop as a person, in order for me to find what it is that I want to be chasing in the big picture of life.
Where do you want to go next?
Geographically I will be moving around Australia, up Southeast Asia, across China and Tibet to central Asia, and up to Europe… since that is planned I won’t really include it in ‘want’ and will say Africa. I’d love to ride Morocco and then Nairobi to Cape Town.
Career wise… I’m at a crossroads. In the short term I would love to find a career where I can work remotely and fund continued travels. In the long term I want to find a career I can have passion for, as I think that was one of the biggest things missing in my previous career in Construction Management/Engineering.