Motorrad Abenteuer, the famous German overlanding magazine, has just published this interview with me on the books, and the journey. I met journalist and photographer Andreas Hulsmann when I was doing a presentation at the Touratech Adventure Travel weekend earlier in 2012. We sat to chat in a not so quiet corner on a sunny day. The translation from German is done by us so any mistakes are ours alone!
So what did he write? Well, he called the article/interview…
‘The Story teller’
Sam Manicom made motorcycle travel into his profession. He has published four books and his articles have been published in many magazines. Sam is not only one of the best known motorcycle travel writers in Great Britain, but is also a gifted storyteller.
He comes across as an unpretentious, calm man, but when Sam Manicom starts to tell his stories the room falls silent and the audience listens intently.
Sam is one of the best known motorcycle adventurers in Great Britain. He travelled with his motorcycle all over the world. ‘I only planned to travel for a few months through Africa, but it ended up to becoming an eight year around the world trip’, Sam remembers with a smile on his face.
He still owns the same motorcycle. ‘I’m still riding the Boxer’, he is happy to say. The BMW R80GS carried him 200,000 miles around the globe. He named it ‘Libby’, short for liberty, which she gives him.
The start of the eight year trip was 1992. Today he is 52 years old, but for him it is only a number. For him age is more about how it feels, and for him 52 years still feels very young. ‘Age isn’t a limiting factor regarding travelling. A friend just celebrated his 75th birthday and is in the process of circumnavigating the world.’
Sam gives talks, writes for magazines and has self-published four books. ‘I looked a long time for a publisher, but at that time nobody was interested to take the books on board and so I decided to take matters into my own hands’, explains Sam. Today he is happy that it didn’t work out with a publisher, he prefers that nobody can dictate or interfere. He also designed his books, he told me with a joking smile, ‘In a way that the pages can also be used as toilet paper or to start a fire.’
Sam Manicom has not always been a motorcycle traveller. Before he started, he managed a shoe and sports article shop on Jersey. People who ask him, ‘Why did you give up your job?’ receive a surprising answer: ‘I suddenly realised I didn’t like my job any more. I was tired of selling people things, which they didn’t really need.’
The budding adventurer made his driving licence and set off. ‘3 months to the day after I started learning to ride, I stood at the edge of the Sahara’, he remembers exactly.
His friends were sure that he’d turned around at this point. But he felt too embarrassed to just turn around and prove his friends right. ‘I just carried on, and from that moment onwards I never wasted another thought on turning around. There was just too much to see and to discover.’
Arriving in South Africa, the planned trip should have finished, but Sam didn’t think about stopping now. He shipped his bike to Australia. In New Zealand he met Birgit from Germany, who was travelling by bicycle at the other end of the world.
After that she travelled on the back of Sam’s bike through Nepal and India. Later they travelled together (Birgit on her own bike), through Afrika, North and South America. Birgit rides her own motorcycle but Sam thinks she is not 100 per cent convinced about the advantages of a ‘bicycle with engine’.
Sam is a traveller of the old school. He loves to travel with a simple motorcycle such as his BMW. On the road he still prefers a map. ‘Of course, I also use sometimes a Satnav, as it offers advantages in some situations’, Sam confesses. But a map is art. The lines on the map tell him stories and the names fascinate him. The motorcycle adventurer enjoys making spontaneous decisions; long term trip plans he finds in parts quite restricting. They can raise fears and might stop one from travelling.
But the Brit also knows that being on the road can have its downsides. On his trip around the world he was shot at twice, three times arrested and once he just barely avoided being raped in a prison cell. He had Malaria and broke 17 bones in the desert in Namibia. ‘I was rescued by a German couple who put me into their 4×4 and took me to hospital.’
But it is all part of a trip for Sam. Even with experiences like that he wouldn’t stop travelling, as it brings him together with interesting people, he would otherwise never meet in his life.
His experiences, good and bad, he included in his books, which are some of the most read motorcycle books in England. The things he loves the most is when one of his books encourages someone to get out on the road. A few months ago he received an email from a motorcycle traveller, sent to him from Namibia. It was a short email thanking Sam for the inspiration the books gave him. The email finished with: ‘The trip is the best thing I have done so far in my life.’