This is your second such motorbike excursion – the second with Sii’s support in the Passion Sponsorship Program. How did it all start?
Łukasz Jastrząb, Business Analyst: My passion for motorbikes began relatively late. I’m not one of those who started with little scooters or motor-powered bicycles. I only got into motorbikes after getting my first pay check after graduation. This is a moment in a guy’s life when the rebel emerges along with a craving for freedom, with the wind in your hair and flies between your teeth. I rode racing bikes for a few years until one day I came across the “Long Way Round” documentary series. It’s a story about a motorcycle trip around the world undertaken by the famous actor Evan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman. I remember watching all the episodes with Maciek, whom I took with me on my first trip, and that’s how it all started. We wanted to do the same. We wondered what our version would look like and after a few weekends of talking it through, the Volta ao Mundo plan was born. We traveled from Warsaw to Salvador in the Brazilian state of Bahia, straight to the carnival, with 42,000 km under our belts.
After completing that trip, Marta (my girlfriend at the time, and now my wife) came over to Brazil. For some time she accompanied me as a passenger on the back seat. At that time I always used to tell her that the world looks amazing from the perspective of a motorbike. So, she started to get the motorbike bug and our plans for an expedition started to take shape. We both dreamed about visiting New Zealand, so our goal began to crystallize. During our short honeymoon we conceived our Dream Catchers’ Journey project, to fulfil our biggest dream.
What is the most interesting thing about journeys like that? Looking at some photos from the trip, often it doesn’t seem the easiest or the most pleasant. So why take a motorbike?
Ł.J.: I have always believed that a motorbike is the perfect tool to explore the world because it gives you a sense of incredible freedom and flexibility. You can drive an adventure motorcycle virtually anywhere, without being a limited by flight or train schedules. Motorbike journeys today are not as demanding as, for example, a winter expedition to K2, but to paraphrase the old chestnut: it’s all about blood, sweat and tears. The obvious advantage here is that you get to see the world with all its wealth of cultures, flavours and landscapes, but that’s not all. During such long distance trips it is also fascinating to get to know yourself, forge your character and fight your own weaknesses. This may sound strange, but it’s also a journey inside your own head, which isn’t possible in ordinary everyday life – at least, not to such an extent. Everyday life is dogged down by routine. We do lots of our activities on auto pilot in a continuous grind between work and home, often thinking about too much at once. Nevertheless, we are still in our own favourite comfort zone, where we’ve learned how to manoeuvre. The moment when we decide to give this life up and take a long break from it, everything changes. Fresh problems crop up, technical ones or maybe organisational, which must be solved in a totally different culture, in circumstances of elevated stress. Demanding sections of road come your way, which have to be overcome despite pain, fatigue or cold, because the trail leads in only one direction. These kinds of motorbike journeys also give you a lot of time to reflect, so you can look back, analyse one stage in your life or plan another.
You’ve been a business analyst with Sii for over 9 years. Does your profession help you to pull off such ventures?
Ł.J.: Definitely yes. When it comes to working in the IT industry, the issue of earnings certainly helps here. Fortunately for us, we’re able to accumulate savings that make such trips possible. Another important thing is a sense of self-confidence resulting from the high market demand for the skills we have. This, in turn, allows you to take a longer break from professional duties, while remaining confident that a job awaits us upon our return. I’m in a comfortable spot in that I’ve found a company where I have been working for years, and there is the Passion Sponsorship Program, which in my case is a saviour. Sii is our sponsor, guaranteeing financial support, which is extremely important in such ventures. Personally, I identify with the values that the company projects, and the example of the Passion Sponsorship Program shows that these are not just empty words that look cool on posters hanging in the Warsaw subway. These are real activities that allow the many of the amazing people at Sii to follow through on interesting projects.
What is the most difficult aspect of preparing and actually doing this kind of journey? How much of this is planning, and how much involves improvisation?
Ł.J.: There are people who set out on such trips without much preparation, but usually they end up not being able to cross this or that border, because they haven’t got all the documents required. Unfortunately, the world today doesn’t just simply allow you to pop down to your garage, get your motor running and head out on the highway. You need to know where you’re going and what formalities each country requires. I am also the type of person who likes to plan. I don’t have to have a detailed plan every day, but I like to have a general outline of what we intend to do and what stages lie ahead of us. This keeps you motivated. Besides, I really like reading maps, so my journey begins before I get on a bike.
Technical and physical preparation is very important. You need to know your bike and your body and be confident in both. I know a few cases where plans for a great trip have stumbled at the very beginning. Luck is also a factor, of course, but in my opinion it is necessary to minimise such risks.
However, you can’t plan everything, so of course there’s loads of room for improvisation and basically you have to be ready for this. So, if someone has a problem with stuff that occurs unexpectedly, this might end up being a stressful experience. Often, we come across other travellers or make friends with the local community who can educate us about some interesting places, so plans are subject to minor or major modifications. The situation in the world is also changeable – it may turn out that we’re just not allowed in somewhere. For example, during the year of our trip, the rules for bringing a motorbike into Iran changed twice, blocking the entry of many bikers. Often you need to react on the fly.
Dream Catchers is a project that you do along with your wife, but with Volta and Mundo you went with a mate. Do you see any differences between these trips?
Ł.J.: These were two completely different trips. When you’re traveling with your wife, you feel a lot more responsibility on your shoulders, and so there’s more psychological fatigue. It’s also a lot easier to get into an argument (laughs). Of course, in both cases it’s a team game where you can always count on your partner. Obviously, you need to choose your wife and mate well (laughs).
If you were to encourage anyone now sitting in their armchair or behind a desk, fascinated by your travel reports, what do they need to do in order to get going?
Ł.J.: When we get back, we’ll be broke, so anyone willing should start by inviting me for a cold beer, and I’ll tell them everything (laughs). But seriously, I believe that each of us has some dreams. Unfortunately, not everyone transforms them into real goals. You should start with this. You have to set a goal in your life and do everything you can to achieve it. Such a trip is a nice thing, not least because it changes your approach to life. I assure you that you come back from the trip with a completely different head. You can reflect on so many things, re-evaluate and expand your mental horizons. In my opinion, this is the greatest value of such trips.
Dream Catchers’ Journey is one of the projects implemented within the previous edition of the Passion Sponsorship Program. Currently, around 10 sports, technological and cultural projects have been completed. Soon, about 20 more will be launched for the 5th edition of the program.