At around this time last year, Lukas Robert King had an idea to ride a motorcycle from his hometown of Bradford all the way to Panama City in South America.
“I have a dream of riding around the world,” he said.
But his friends and family were not enthused about his idea. They feared for his safety while travelling alone on such a risky adventure, especially considering that he didn't even have a motorcycle or a licence to ride one.
Up for the challenge, he signed up for a motorcycle riding course and obtained his M2 license in April 2019, then bought himself a 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle shortly after.
He departed for his journey from his home in Bradford on Dec. 16, 2019, and made it safe and sound to Panama City this past weekend.
He said he wanted the trip to be as economical and environmentally friendly as possible.
“I spend about $50 a day," he said.
And that covers his food, gas, insurance, phone plan, lodging, and parts for the motorcycle.
He has panniers on his bike, full of camping and motorcycle gear. He also has two bags that sit on top of the bike filled with clothing, and his personal important items kept in a tank bag.
“I was really afraid leaving,” he admitted.
But so far, he says, “It’s been an amazing experience, seeing the changing landscapes and weather and people (and) cultures, which are so different just because they are separated by a border."
He says some of his favourite places have been the space in between tourist attractions.
"The road itself is the attraction," he said. "Riding through deserts or mountain ranges and camping on the side of the road when I got too tired to continue, those were my favorite parts (of the trip)."
He camped and stayed in hostels along the way, stopping anywhere from one to three days at a time, with “no real plan on where I’m staying day to day."
“I was scared when I first did it (camped),” he said.
He travelled through the Midwest United States, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, then along the coast of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, then “zig-zagged" his way across Mexico and Central America.”
He said the entire experience has made him appreciate the world so much more.
“(It) makes you realize the world can also feel so small and interconnected. When you fly on a plane to a destination, you don't appreciate or experience the space in between,” he said.
He said Mexico has been his favourite part of the trip so far, with its beaches, deserts, forests, volcanoes and snow capped mountains. He also loves the mountainous roads and roadside taco stands.
He noted the Mexican people have been very kind and hospitable, with many of the locals welcoming him to camp on their lawns. He said there are also many informal campgrounds that he sometimes stays at, that cost anywhere from $5-10 a night.
When asked if he had encountered any dangerous situations, he said nothing "crazy."
"I got held up by Zapatistas (a political group) in Chiapas (a Mexican state). Nothing major. But I felt the pressure to buy a $2 cacao (plant) so they would let me pass. Cops never really bothered me, either. Locals never really took advantage, either," he explained.
King is currently in Panama City enjoying the 2020 Carnival. He plans to make the trek back north to Bradford in a few days and predicts he will be home sometime at the end of April.
"I am making my way north again with a different route, and new roads and towns that I missed on my way down," he said.
The 28-year-old runs Splashy’s, an indoor swimming lessons business in Bond Head. He is also a beekeeper. He decided to cancel his winter swimming sessions this year in order to take his trip.
His plan is to make it back in time for his spring swimming sessions and the beekeeping season.
Depending on finances, King hopes to do another big trip next year.
“I will cross either South America tip to tip or do a middle east/Iran tour.”
You can follow King on his journey on his Instagram @lukas.robert.