At just 23-years-old, Kane Avellano became the youngest person to travel solo around the world via motorcycle, when he rode 32,000 miles over eight months.
He's recently had his trip officially recognised by Guinness World Records, so we called him up for a chat.
Hi Kane, how are you doing?
"Yeah, I’m doing good."
How’s life back in the real world?
"It’s, err, it’s pretty stressful I have to admit!"
"Yeah. I was running my own business prior to this and now I’m consulting for another business and I’ve started two other businesses so it’s pretty hectic and I’m trying to get into university for a masters in business so busy, busy."
You came back in January, is that right?
"That’s right, yeah."
And you were straight back into the nine to five?
"Pretty much. Well, more like nine to nine!"
So what was the reason for the trip in the first place?
"So the story goes I didn’t have a birth certificate and passport until I was 20. It was down to a few different reasons but just lots of things happened when I was born and it was very difficult. I was born in Spain and I’m half Gibraltan so when I moved back to England when I was two it did’t get processed in time or something messed up. So that caused me quite a lot of problems, even right up until university when I couldn’t get student finance. I didn’t have any ID until I was 20. I just managed to sort it at the end of my first year and at that point I vowed never to be in that situation again. I managed to fix it all, got my student finance, then I started my business and was making money so I was like ‘You know what, I’ve always wanted a motorbike’, and a Bonneville was the bike I always wanted.
"I went for the test straight away and I was terrible because I couldn’t drive a car or anything. Normally a CBT is a one day course, isn’t it?"
"I think it took me about three or four days to do. I was terrible. Most of it was not knowing the rules of the road I just wasn’t very good. But I persevered. I was disheartened after the first try and I gave up for a couple of weeks before I decided, ‘no, I want to do this’, so I went to a different school, passed it and then didn’t see the point in getting a 125 when you can get a Bonneville for three times the price. On my way to the exam my instructor said ‘I’m going to come with you on the test because you’re going to fail straight away and then I can take you home quicker’. She actually said that to me."
That must have been good for your confidence!
"Yeah! I passed my theory and the Mod 1 and true t her word she came with me for Mod 2 and I passed, which was a good job as I already had the Bonneville waiting for me at home. I was just using it to bomb back and forth to university and I decided I really wanted to do some travelling since I had the passport. One day after university I just decided I was going to go on a little adventure. I hadn’t really planned anywhere I was going to go but it turned into five weeks and 7000 miles and I had a pretty good time.
"During that trip I thought it would be great if I could see the whole world and that’s what happened really. I kept the same method, not planning where I was going to go and just taking it one day at a time, I picked the countries but I didn’t have a route or anything like that. I got the visas and just winged it everywhere I went. I didn’t really know much but I learnt and I found the right people and it all worked out. So that’s why I did it; because I couldn’t travel when I was young and I always wanted to. So I had some catching up to do really."
So your first foreign trip was five weeks on the Bonnie on our own?
"I went away with my girlfriend that same summer to Barcelona or somewhere, but I decided I wanted an adventure."
Did you use the same Bonneville for the bigger trip?
"No, the first trip was a different Bonneville because when I got home someone stole it within a week. It was pretty sh*t. I’d bought a brand new exhaust for it and kitted it out and I was about to go for Sunday dinner, opened the door and it was gone. On the second day of the trip in the Pyrenees I went straight down a hill. I thought the bike would be broken and that was the end of the trip, the tank was dented, but luckily I found a French family who helped pull the bike out of the ditch. After it was stolen I saw the tank for sale in my local area on eBay. The Police went over there and found he also had the seat, but they couldn’t prove he had the whole bike. He said he’d bought it off his mate for £400. Who buys a dented tank for £400?"
So it was two years until you set off on your big trip?
"It was the following year, the next summer."
Was that just because you wanted to do more?
"Yeah, I had the travel bug and I wanted to see India, Iran, Pakistan, My girlfriend’s Aremian so I really wanted to go there. I really wanted to see South East Asia as well but I didn’t get to do Vietnam."
"They changed loads of rules. I lucked out on the whole trip to be honest, every time I was about to have a bad time it sorted of fixed itself. If you go to Myanmar you need an escort, so I was in Delhi trying to sort an escort out and at that time the Myanmar border was closed so I was stuck in Delhi for four weeks or something and everyone was waiting for the new visas or requirements. It was announced you need a tour guide, which consisted of a tour guide, a guide from the ministry of tourism, a driver, a truck and you need everything like itinerary, and you can imagine all that’s pretty expensive. Normally you do it with a large group and it would cost £800."
"Yes, £800 each – it’s pretty expensive. But there was no chance of me joining any of those as they’d been booked out for months so I had to get a private tour on my own. It got pretty expensive. They did it cheap for me but it wasn’t that cheap!"
And that stopped you getting to Vietnam?
"When I was in Myanmar Thailand decided to change their rules and I’d need a guided tour if I wanted to ride there on my own bike so Thailand’s not really a free country to drive through anymore – I was one of the first people to drive through who needed the new permit. The permit apparently takes 40 days, it costs quite a bit of money and if you leave Thailand at any point and re-enter you need to get a new one. So if I went to Vietnam, the only place I could go after was Thailand I would need two permits, which would take 40 days each. So I just decided straight through and this Thai woman did me a solid and managed to get my permit for me in two days!"
Were there any other stumbling blocks like that along the way?
"Yeah, it’s pretty hard to get around the world, logistics-wise. In Iran you technically need a tour guide but you don’t because there’s ways around it. Pakistan’s the same. You have to apply for a visa and say you’re flying into Islamabad or Lahore, but you just turn up at the Iran-Pakistan border with the visa, and it doesn’t say where you’re coming from. Then the Police have to escort you for three days across the desert which is close to the border with Afghanistan where ISIS and Al-Queda cross over. Flying the bike between Malaysia and Australia is a hassle."
It must be expensive as well?
"They add up. I think that one was about £1000 and then Australia to Canada was a couple of thousand. But then there are ones that nobody really knows about, like the Darién Gap."
"So you’d presume that North America is connected to Central America, right?"
"You’d presume there’s a road there?"
"There’s not. I only found out half way through my trip. So you go down through Panama and then there’s the densest rainforest in the whole world run by the mafia and drug cartels and there’s no way to cross it. You have to fly your bike across or there’s a guy that runs a yacht that’s booked out months in advance because he only does it a few times a year and he only has space for four bikes. Most people don’t know about that but it’s £1000 just to fly the bike 80 or 100km. Argentina to Madrid is a couple of thousand as well. That and fuel are the biggest costs."
The riding sounds like the easiest bit!
"Yeah, it was. I was waiting around in Delhi for a month trying to sort everything out, not knowing if I was ever going to be allowed into Myanmar or if I was going to make it in time. I wanted a private tour because I wanted to be quick, I couldn’t wait a month to cross or there’d be no chance of the record.
"Flying from Panama to Colombia was £800 for a ticket that’s normally £30 or something. It was the worst time to be flying, like New Year time. My girlfriend sent me a link across with tickets for £100 and I bought the ticket straight away and thought I wouldn’t have to pay £800, but it got to the next day and I hadn’t received the reservation or anything by email, so I called the company and they just started making all these excuses. It turns out they didn’t even have the tickets and 24 hours after I made the booking they cancelled it. I got scammed pretty much. There were lots of things like that where I had to just get stuff because it was last minute but it all worked out.
"If you go to Iran and certain Muslim countries that don’t really have good relationships with the U.S you have to get a visa, which normal British people don’t normally need. I had to pay £300 or something for the visa. I only found that out when I was in Australia and the waiting time in Melbourne was three weeks so I had to fly back to Perth, apply for the visa, and get it sent to Sydney."
I guess if you were going to give anybody advice, you’d say to research things like this?
"Yeah. There’s lots of fun in not being prepared, but it comes at a massive cost."
Did you know about the record before you set off?
"I did, yeah. I knew about Rhys Lawrey, but there’s another kid who was 18 when he did it, but there’s lots of rules you need to follow for it. I’m the only person that’s ever had the Guinness World Record for this. He did circumnavigate the world, but he didn’t follow the rules. He took three years, left when he was 15 with his parents. They sold the house, and everything was funded by that and they just travelled without collecting any evidence."
So what were the rules for your record?
"Guinness give you a big book of rules. You have to log locations of everywhere you’ve been, so you have a GPS tracker. You have to go to two opposite sides of the world, antipodal points – which nobody usually does because it’s quite difficult. People tend to go for New Zealand and Spain, but there’s a much easier way to do it. You have to have a log book of every location where you stop and start, a receipt from every hotel, people of character have to sign off when you leave certain places, you have to do 28,000 miles and you can’t go back on yourself. You also have to have pictures at landmarks and things like that."
You must have had a pannier full of hotel receipts by the time you got back then?
"Yeah, I just stuffed them in a bag. I didn’t think I would get the record, I was just having fun recording as much as I could and riding with the GPS tracker on. I tried my best to do it without spending too much time on it. You apply for the record before you actually do it and Guinness didn’t accept until I was on my trip. Guinness called me in March once I was back and said they really wanted a record like that in the book.
"I knew it would take two to three months organising all the stuff, and they called me a month later and really wanted me to do it. I gave it one last push and I sorted everything – 100s of hours. It’s a log book that’s 40,000 words, 40,000 images, 1000 videos, 100,000 GPS points, everything logged with a date, time, location and place. Every receipt for every hotel – it’s pretty colossal, 2TBs of date."
That sounds like a big enough task in itself.
"Nobody thinks they can get the record because it’s really hard. I think Guinness helped me a bit because they really wanted me in the book, but I don’t even know if I’m going to be in because they neither confirm or deny it."
Are there any countries you missed you’d like to tick off?
"Of course. I’d like to spend more time just going round the world in general. I had such an amazing time in India – it was the country I spent the most time in so I felt a connection there, but I wish I got to see more of the south. I’d also liked to have seen China, Vietnam, maybe more of South America."
Were there ever any hairy moments in places like Afghanistan or Iran?
"It’s really the opposite of what you think."
That’s what I’ve read. Travellers always find, Iran especially, to be really friendly.
"It’s such a shame it has such a bad rap. There’s a Facebook page called See You In Iran, and it has 60,000 people that have either been to Iran or are in Iran and they post pictures of their experiences and post adverts for couch surfing and stuff. That just sums it up. It’s the friendliest country I’ve ever been to. The first hour I was there I got to a small town, went into a shop for snacks and drinks and the guy in the shop was interested the bike and stuff so he gave me everything for free.
"It was Ramadan at the time, and I didn’t know you aren’t supposed to eat in public, and some guys invited me into their office to eat with them. It turned out one of the guys’ wife owned an English school and they said they’d be honoured if I went along and taught the students. I went along to school and taught these guys for their second English lesson. I couch surfed in Tehran. Travellers are held in really high regard in Iran and if they take you into their house they take full responsibility for you and it’s really disrespectful if you try and pay for anything. I got three flat tyres in Iran in the middle of nowhere and villagers helped me out every time and never asked me for everything. They just wanted me to have a good time with them. Even the Police are like that as well."
I remember you posted a picture of a buckled wheel on Instagram. Where did that happen?
"That was India. I went into the Himalayas with my friends. We’d already been upto Khardung La, which is meant to be the highest road in the world – it’s not really but everyone claims it is. On the way back we decided to get it over and done with and it ended up being 20 hours of riding. We set off at 4pm and got to the last mountain pass where it had been pissing down with rain and a huge army convoy had destroyed the road with their huge trucks. It was the worst mud I’d ever seen. I was having a bad time on the Bonneville, fully loaded, having never ridden in conditions like that. Half way up I burnt the clutch out and wasn’t sure what had happened. Luckily a mechanic pulled up and sorted me out.
"I managed to get to the top of the pass and there was a beautiful, new road with a big puddle in the middle. I decided to ride through the puddle and there was the biggest smack ever and the back wheel went in the air, the luggage came off and I just about managed to wrestle the bike to stay on the road. I stopped, picked everything up and we had another six hours to go. We got to the bottom of the mountain, and after complaining that I couldn’t go over 30mph because I kept getting massive speed wobbles, we looked at the front wheel and realised why! We found a mechanic the next day who just beat away with it with a massive hammer and asked for £1 pretty much. And that’s kept me going."
You’ve not replaced it?
"No, it’s still holding up. I tried to get my MoT a couple of months back and they didn’t even fail me on that tyre."
Was that the biggest on-bike incident?
"There was a couple of things. There was one in Argentina when it was raining and a dog ran in the road, the rest is history for that matter. It was the first time I ever came off the bike. The bike went down the road, snapped the gear lever. But I managed to fix everything at the side of the road. I took the bar end mirror clamp off and fixed that to the gear lever which worked until I was riding back to London."
You’ve put the Bonnie through its paces then.
"Yeah. I still do 500 mile days regularly. The batteries not great anymore, but there’s not much I can do about that."
Do you think it’s better you had something basic like a Bonneville on your trip?
"I think so. That’s how Ted Simon did it. The simpler the better, anyone around the world can fix a Bonneville. I think that’s the main reason I succeeded. It’s the same as any other bike, if I’d had any sort of modern bike I don’t have the engineering skills to fix it, and I don’t think may other people do. All the times I dropped it and stuff happened to it, I think I would have been worse off with a bigger bike."
Are there any plans for another trip?
"I’m thinking about an adventure in Africa, but for that I’d need a proper touring bike, or a modified Bonneville. Non-motorbiking wise I really want to circumnavigate the world by plane. I need to get a pilot’s licence and a place and figure it out, but that’s the big one."
Would that be another record attempt?
"It’s probably going to be a record attempt. It depends, because I might be mixing it with a few different things like climbing mountains, but if I get a solo circumnavigation I’ll be the first person the circumnavigate the world by land and air."
That would be pretty cool.
"Yeah. I’ve always really wanted to fly, but getting the plane and a licence is a whole other thing compared to setting off on a Bonneville just willy nilly and trying to make it around the world."
If you could recommend one country to visit which would it be?
"India – it’s a beautiful place. You can build a Royal Enfield from parts for like £200 there and everyone can fix them. There’s so much to see and it’s absolutely dirt cheap."
What would be your advice for somebody looking to go on an adventure?
"Don’t be afraid to take some risks. Just go. I didn’t have a plan. Don’t over plan things, just make sure you know what it entails to some degree, know that you have the right visas and just have a good time."
Do you think over planning it creates more stress and makes it less fun?
"Definitely. I planned my trip for about two months. There’s no reason to plan the trip for years and year, just know what you need. When you leave you can always find somebody to help you. I think it’s a lot better when you’re under some sort of pressure. Whatever happens, happens. My thing wasn’t about getting the record, I was just having a good time and I knew I only had nine months anyway because I wanted to continue doing my business and things and that coincided with the record. If I had a longer time I would have done more things but I have no regrets. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you have, either. I bet there’s a lot more people exploring the world on 250s than on BMW GSs."
Perfect, thanks for your time, Kane.
"Awesome, hopefully I didn’t ramble on too much!"