Adventure Touring Trio

The family that ADVs together, stays together.


Adventure touring in South America
Bolivia, during the Borden family's 18-month Central and South American ADV tour,©Motorcyclist

To many, the idea of traveling on motorcycles as a family seems too far-fetched. And for most, it is. Why? Well, there really aren't any families out there on two wheels. That is, until we came along. My husband, Terry, and son, Jack, and I have been traveling as a family of three on two BMW GS motorcycles since Jack was 6-years-old and big enough to fit into proper motorcycle gear. Fast-forward to a now almost 15-year-old, and we have a pillion that's ready to become a pilot. With almost 10 years of experience under the helmet, we're here and want to answer any and all questions on "Why's", "What's" and "Are you kidding me" of family adventure motorcycle travel.

Riding young
An early start to a life-long adventure on two wheels.©Motorcyclist

It all started in 2005 when Terry got back into motorcycle riding, purchasing a used 2001 BMW 1150GS. Jack was next with a used Honda XR50. I followed close behind with a 2003 BMW F650GS. I had never ridden but was not to be outdone by the boys. We knew before each purchase that the dual-sport model was the right fit as the option of riding the dirt trails was something all of us desired. Next, Terry purchased a BMW Stoke Suit for Jack, a specially designed suit just for a growing pillion, along with a special riding harness to keep Jack in place. In spring of 2006, Terry took Jack for his first ride around the neighborhood. Jack came back sporting a huge grin and waving a thumbs-up. Jack had gotten a taste of adventure, and we knew our lives were about to change.

Father and son riding
Terry Borden and his growing pillion Jack.©Motorcyclist

Our first family outing was a ten-day journey up the California and Oregon coast, camping along the way and cooking on an open fire most nights. This was a close-to-home test keeping us within striking distance of our abode in case things went south. But, they didn’t. Instead, we started planning longer adventures. Ten days turned into two weeks, three weeks, and so on. By the time Jack was 12, we had ventured across the states, into Canada, and down the Baja coastline. We had logged many miles of pavement as well as dirt, choosing most often the road less traveled. But, we craved more than the usual summer trek. And in May of 2013, Terry, Jack and I shook on a deal that changed the trajectory of our lives. We were going to ride to South America.

Family riding
Father and son; the young pillion now preparing to be a pilot.©Motorcyclist

Okay, I make it sound trivial, but this decision came at a time when the 100-hour work weeks and suburban lifestyle had burned us out to the point of unhappiness. If we wanted to experience life beyond the usual, we were going to have to make some pretty big decisions about our lifestyle and what kind of future we wanted for Jack as well as our family. That meant selling our home of 15 years, downsizing everything in our lives, leaving a company of 20 years, and checking in with each other on a daily basis to make sure we were all still on board. We were, Jack being the most level headed of the three of us. Go figure. Within a span of 10 months, we had sold our home in the suburbs, moved three hours north, started Jack in a new school, and sold any belongings deemed unnecessary. Our savings account grew and so did our anxiety levels. A lot was happening in a very short amount of time.

Our chosen departure date was September 13th, 2015. The plan was to head south through mainland Mexico, Central and South America, eventually landing in Ushuaia before turning back north to head to the states. We had given ourselves 18 months with room for error in case any unforeseen issues arose. When that day came and we watched that garage door roll down on all we were leaving behind, all we could do was shrug our shoulders, roll on the throttle and not look back.

Family ADV adventures
Friendly encounters are always part of the adventure.©Motorcyclist

Our seven weeks in Mexico was so much more than we could’ve imagined with the food, the culture and the welcoming attitude of everyone we encountered. It was the perfect entrance into the unknown. We dodged chicken buses in Guatemala, released wild baby turtles in El Salvador, and found ourselves in the hospital in Costa Rica with a kiddo who had broken his wrist falling out of a bunk bed. It was in Panama that we tossed around the idea of not riding to Ushuaia instead allowing ourselves to slow our pace and enjoy the journey, not worrying about having to be somewhere by a certain date. Into South America we rode, a new relaxed attitude worn by Terry, Jack and I. A veil of fear of the unknown had been lifted and we were finally in the journey. No, we never did make it to Ushuaia, but we did change our course and headed east to Brazil then on down to Uruguay. With each country, friends were quickly becoming family, all insisting on sharing in a feast of traditional dishes and history of their culture. At the end of September 2015, it was time to make our way home. Because of the medical mishap in Costa Rica, we had to shorten our journey to 15 months, but that was okay. We made the decision to fly the bikes and ourselves to Miami, Florida, and ride across the southern states back to California. And on Saturday, December 5th, 2015, we made our way back up our snow-covered driveway with friends in tow ready to greet the weary travelers.

Motorcycling family
Jack, Sandy and Terry Borden, ready for the next family adventure.©Motorcyclist

We’ve been home now just over 4 months and taking each day as it comes. Terry and I are figuring out our next chapter as returning to our previous lifestyle is not an option. Jack made a smooth transition back into high school life yet is ready for the next adventure. Our 15 months through 15 countries has educated us about the world and her people beyond any newscast or headline story. The biggest gift? Our time spent as a family. The memories and experiences we share surpass what we could have imagined. The knowledge we now have about the world beyond our borders will help propel our family into new adventures with much less worry and trepidation. Who knows where we will end up next, but we do know we will do it soon. The lure of adventure travel is just too strong.

So that’s the overview. In the rest of this series, I’ll be sharing our stories of family travel as well as tips and tricks on everything from surviving as a couple on the road to getting across that first border to planning your trip abroad. Are there any burning questions that you’d like to ask? Please send them my way through the comments. My goal is to motivate others to travel while taking the fear out of life beyond our borders.