"I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” -Robert Frost
Imagine leaving everything behind – career, home, family, friends – to travel the world by motorbike. Solo. No ties. No schedule. Just freedom. A fantasy for most people.
Sinje Gottwald, EMEA Sales Executive at Workato, left a career at Microsoft and everything else in her life to pursue a lifelong dream of traveling the world on her own terms – on a 1994 BMW R100GS motorcycle through 6 continents and 47 countries.
The experience radically altered her approach to work and life. Sinje sits down with Christian Kletzel to share the three principles that guided her three-year odyssey and some important tips to inspire your wanderlust.
When Sinje told family and friends she was hitting the open road, she confronted a wall of skepticism. Everyone thought she was nuts to leave a great career and a stable life. They warned her the solo trip was too dangerous for a woman. No question, the cons outweigh the pros.
In retrospect, she says it was the best decision of her life. It “led to many good things,” including a new perspective. Sure, there were many challenges, “but the negative situations always turned positive,” says Sinje. “If you think of the negative possibilities, you can get easily stressed, but most negative scenarios will never happen.”
Sinje didn’t want to look back on her life and regret the chances she didn’t take. “Conscious decision-making is one of the most important things in life," she says.
“Go for your dreams. No one is going to push you to realize your dreams.”
In Sinje’s case, “Any decision that came after a bold move turned out extremely positive.” Now, back home in Germany, she says she is still the same person but is more fully aware of her strengths, capabilities, and stays focused on the present.
Sinje’s lack of mechanical knowledge or skills didn’t stop her from embarking on her global journey. She says, “If you prepare 100% for a trip like this, you’re never going to leave.” Sinje discovered that “Once you take the first steps and are passionate, people will support you, and great things will happen.”
As someone who walks the talk, she reminds us that “Most of us are just using this tiny little part of us. We should become more creative with what we can do in our lives.” Sinje’s journey inspires us to understand our options beyond going to school, getting a job – and the standard roadmap that can hold us back. Everyone has his or her dream, and Sinje affirms, “the best feeling is achieving it.”
“Most of the time, there’s never a point where you know the right way 100%.”
You Can’t Control Everything
When Sinje ran her motorbike into a car on the border of Iran and Azerbaijan, the situation quickly got tense. Women weren’t allowed to ride motorcycles in Iran, and her bike needed repair. From this experience, Sinje realized that she wouldn’t be able to control every situation and learned to relax and remain flexible, a quality she brings to her work today.
“We tend to think too far ahead.” When she started her road trip, Sinje says she treated it like a job. She got on the road by an exact time every day, drove 400 km, had a list of sites to see, and planned every stay. It took time to transition out of work mode. But by the end of the trip, she had no set time to get on the road. She learned to relax and enjoy every ride with no preset agenda.
As a female traveling solo, Sinje confronted unique challenges. She offers cautious advice for women considering a similar road trip:
- Never ride at night, never walk alone at night
- Always camp around other people,
- Make sure to stop driving an hour before dark, and
- Always have a place to stay the night.
Riding alone, she says, “The plus side is that everyone wants to help you.” It wasn’t unusual for people to hand her water through windows of cars she passed on the open road. The kindness of strangers was the most eye-opening and rewarding part of her journey and the one that impacted her most on a deep, emotional level.
For more great information, check out the full interview with Sinje Gottwald on The First 100 Days podcast.