The mad nomad is quite interesting. He’s been a waiter, a cook’s assistant, computer programmer, writer, and a sailboat captain during the summers. Elias Vrohidis is a jack-of-all-trades with a passion for learning and travelling.
Let’s start with an introduction of yourself.
I am Elias Vrohidis, born in 1984 in Greece. Adventure traveling was a dream of mine since I was a kid, before even knowing anything about motorcycles.
So, after graduating from a computer science university, I worked to save some money and I hit the road on a second-hand motorbike when I was 23 years old.
Tell us a little about your trusty Honda XR 250S. What do you like most about the bike?
My first motorcycle was a Honda Africa Twin 750. I was planning to travel on that bike but I soon realized that hard off-roading is not so enjoyable on such a heavy machine. After a lot of research, I ended up buying an old, small enduro; a Honda XR 250S. The one that I used around Africa and is still my only vehicle, is 23 years old now and probably got about 200,000 km (124,000 miles) on the clock!
The reason I chose this specific bike is first of all its reliability. That is the single most important characteristic a bike must have when you go traveling around the remotest parts of the world for years in a row, without access to proper repair shops.
Another important feature is the simplicity of the mechanic parts. You do not want to be stuck in the middle of the desert with a clogged fuel injector or failed pump or a hole in the radiator after a silly little crash. My engine is air-cooled (with an extra robust oil radiator and a little fan that I installed), fueled by a CV carburetor and equipped with both an electric starter and a kick-starter, which I consider really important!
What does an average day in the mad nomad’s life look like?
When I wake up and I get out of my tent, usually in the wild, it is time for a hearty breakfast that can keep me going the whole day. Bread, honey, and dry nuts are one of the most nutritious combinations with a lot of energy, I have found. I pack everything on my motorcycle and I hit the road.
Ideally, I spend most of the day off-roading in remote, untouched wilderness! I have to cross streams, ride rocky, sandy or muddy sections, having always in my mind that safety is my number one priority. Travel enduro is different to motocross. I do not care how fast I will pass an obstacle. I just want to pass it making sure that I will not break a bone or my motorbike. I do not want to be injured in the middle of nowhere during a solo trip. In addition, I have to keep in mind that my bike should last not just a few-day race but several years in a row on rough conditions.
I am very interested in the people and their culture wherever I travel. Therefore, I take time off the saddle visiting little villages or towns or interesting sights. I talk to people, sometimes I am kindly hosted by them, I get to know them and I learn a lot about their way of life.
During the day, I have to take care of my food and water provisions too. I buy vegetables, rice or whatever else I need. I always drink tap or stream water, after asking the locals if that water is safe enough. If they drink it, I drink it and I never had a health problem so far! I guess my immunization system developed and adapted in those conditions after so many years on the road.
I always have a rough itinerary but I never have a strict schedule. When I wake up, I rarely know where I will end up sleeping the next night. So, when I am in the wilderness, which is what I love most, I start looking for an ideal place to wild camp about an hour before sunset. That is the time when I can sit on the ground and relax watching the sunset after a demanding day. Then I have to unpack my motorcycle, pitch my tent and start cooking on my little petrol stove while listening to some music.
I write a diary every night when I am on the road, so there are a lot of things to do and I rarely sleep before midnight. Well, you know what? I LOVE this way of life! This is an ideal day for mad nomad!
How did you finance the trip and did you work while traveling?
The way it works for me is not that I have a lot of money but that I achieve to spend very little. I try to keep my expenses down to fuel and food. My budget in Asia was 354 euros per month and 408 in Africa. During my second long journey, the one I did around Africa and the Middle East, I had several sponsors but those offered me their products or services, never funds.
So, I have to work before traveling and save money. In addition, I work during the trip too. When I was in Asia, I was writing travel journals in the most popular Greek motorcycling magazine, called Moto. When I was in Africa, I just took a break in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and I worked in a restaurant for two and a half months.
Your greece2india trip started as a 10-month plan that grew into a 26.5-month trip. What made you prolong the journey and how did you stretch out your budget?
My initial plan was to visit four countries from Greece to India. However, when I finished with India, I did not want even to think that that was the end of my journey. I had already added Nepal on my itinerary and I had spent eight months just in India, travelling every corner of the seventh-largest country in the world!
My new cooperation with Moto, the most popular Greek motorcycling magazine, enabled me to fund another trip in Central Asia, on my way back to Greece. I finally visited 14 countries and it took me almost three times longer than I was initially planning! That is why I travel without the schedule, actually. I know I will not follow any schedule and that is freedom for me!
You mentioned the greece2india trip took two years of research and preparation. What went into the preparation process?
I may travel without a schedule but that does not mean I travel unprepared and uninformed. There are people travelling around the world without much preparation and it is still possible. However, I think that a very careful and detailed preparation saves you from trouble while on the road, which can cost your life, your health, your pleasure or a fortune.
Imagine that greece2india was not only my first, long, overland journey... It was also my first trip out of Europe and it was actually my first motorcycling trip out of my country! It was a huge step to take, that normally would entail many smaller steps in between. I did that one huge step straight away and I do not regret it but I knew I had to plan it very carefully.
I had to learn about mechanics. I worked for free in a repair shop and then I started repairing my bike by myself with the help of a service manual. I also had to learn about the tropical diseases, the vaccinations and the precautions I had to take. I even took a first-aid course. In addition, I had to research the bureaucratic matters about every country I would visit. I wanted to know what documents I will need at every border I will cross.
Since the people and their culture are very important to me, I also took the time to study the history, the religions and the culture of the regions I would visit.
On 2013, you went on a journey in Africa and the Middle East which covered 96,000km! Was this an easier trip after the lessons you learned from greece2india?
Africa seems to be a hard continent to travel, maybe the hardest, if it includes West and Central Africa. So, while it was definitely much harder than my trip to Asia, my previous experience made things easier, of course. The most precious was my acquired and very specific mechanical knowledge about the Honda XR 250S. I knew when the wheel bearings would fail, so I replaced them on time. I knew how many years the carburetor diaphragm lasts, so I planned accordingly. I learned how to keep the regulator/rectifier cool enough. I became much better on taking care of this bike during such a special and demanding journey and that definitely helped me a lot.
I also had more experience on medical and bureaucratic matters, on how to interact with people who do not share a common language with me and on everyday matters that keep you safe and happy while on the road.
What goes into planning your routes?
When you travel, especially on a motorbike, it is important to be at the right place the right time. So, while planning my route, I collect information about the weather pattern in the area I will visit. That is a bit complicated when it comes to a whole continent or several of them! I try to follow the dry season in the tropical areas and to avoid winter and snow in other areas.
I do not like just crossing countries through the shortest route, as most overlanders do. I want to visit plenty of places in each country and explore it under its skin. That means I need at least a month in an average-sized country. So, I have to take into account the time period I want to spend in each country, as well as the duration of visas.
When you have to combine all these factors with the weather pattern, the puzzle that you have to put together becomes quite complicated…
Then there are countries or areas that you have to avoid because of warfare. Unfortunately, in our times there are plenty of regions in warfare and those are, of course, out of limits.
There are also countries that are peaceful but they do not allow independent travellers, especially on their own vehicle (China, Myanmar, Algeria etc). So, it takes a lot of logistics to avoid dead ends and troubles but a careful planning definitely pays back.
What navigation tools did you use on both journeys?
During my first overland journey, in Asia, I was mostly using printed maps but they did not provide enough details for off-road riding in those countries. My GPS was an old one without proper maps, so it was pretty much useless.
My GPS was actually the locals. I was asking people for directions every day. That was very challenging, of course, because sometimes I was in areas where I could not find anyone during a whole day. Even if I could find somebody, they did not always know the backroads to a far-away destination.
During my three-year expedition around Africa and the Middle East, I had a great GPS with proper maps. That changed my whole kind of riding! Thanks to multiple amazing maps that indicate remote dirt roads and even trails sometimes, even in Africa, I could get much further away from the boring asphalt. That is why in Africa my off-road riding hit a whole new level! We are talking about more than 20,000 km (12,400 miles) of pure off-roading in the most untouched parts of the African continent!