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Born into a family of motorcyclists, Bridget McCutchen was able to witness firsthand the thrill that riding a motorbike could bring from a very early age.
The 22-year-old, who grew up in Northern Wisconsin, got her first bike when she was around 19 and soon began heading off on trips to the likes of Baltimore and New York.
But the notion of riding around the world hadn’t ever occurred to her until her older brother pointed out that she was still young enough to beat the record for the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe on a motorcycle.
McCutchen, whose longest road trip had been from Wisconsin to Washington, says she dismissed the idea at first, but it kept coming back into her mind.
“After a while, I was like, ‘why not?’ The only reason I didn’t think I was going to do it was because I was scared of it,” she tells CNN Travel. “I was telling myself, ‘no.’ And then I decided to tell myself, ‘Yes.’ So here we are.”
McCutchen spent around a year planning her route, seeking advice from Henry Crew, who was 23 when he completed a circumnavigation of the world by motorcycle in 2019, and others who’d previously attempted the challenge. Kane Avellano, who achieved this feat a day before his 24th birthday in 2017, is currently listed as the record holder on the Guinness World Records website.
In order to become the new record holder, McCutchen is required to adhere to a list of specifications, including using the same motorcycle for the entire journey and avoiding staying in one location for over two weeks.
McCutchen will also need to ride overland across the Equator at least once, while the journey must be a minimum of 24,900 miles (40,075 kilometers) in order to qualify.
After saving as much money as she could, McCutchen set off in August, spending her first few weeks “bouncing around the States,” before heading over to Baja and crossing over to mainland Mexico by ferry.
She’s traveling with a riding partner, Kiva, who she met a few months ago, during this section of the trip, and says they often cause a stir when they arrive in a new place and pull off their helmets.
“A lot of the time people are very surprised,” she says. “Like they expect men to be riding these motorcycles.”
Through attempting to beat this particular record, McCutchen, who has been chronicling her travels on her Instagram account, bike.will.travel, hopes to “represent the new generation of riders,” stressing that there’s a huge difference between seeing the world while traveling by car versus on a motorcycle.
“In a car, you’re in a bubble moving through the world,” she says. “But on a motorcycle, you are subjected to everything, for better or worse. Sights, smells, sounds. Everything matters to you more.
“You are exposed to everything, and it’s so much more engaging. It’s more intimate.”
McCutchen, who has just left Mexico City, plans to slowly make her way to South America, traveling through Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay before flying to Europe.
“This is where there’s less of a plan,” she explains. “Because I have to find somewhere to ship my motorcycle to via boat, which is going to take around two months.”
Once both McCutchen and her bike have reached Europe, ideally via Spain, McCutchen hopes to travel through the UK, Ireland, and over to Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia, and “coming up next to the Caspian Sea.”
At this stage, she has a limited number of route options for going further into Asia, each of which come with pretty major challenges.
McCutchen had originally planned to enter Russia, but this may not be possible due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The prospect of traveling through China or Iran is perhaps even less feasible due to the border restrictions in place in the former, and political unrest in the latter [the US government advises travelers not to visit Iran].
“The situation is very complicated,” she says. “I still believe Russia to be my best option.”
Once, or if, she’s able to successfully complete the Asia leg of her trip, McCutchen aims to have her bike shipped back to Mexico, where she’ll ride back to the US.
For the time being, she’s focused on making it through the first leg, and was thrilled to be in Mexico for Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead, which extends over the first two days of November.
Of course, traveling by motorcycle on unfamiliar roads, comes with its hazards, and McCutchen has found it tough to navigate some off road sections of the country at times.
She’s fallen from her bike onto the sand on a few occasions and has had some “close calls with trucks around blind corners.”
“The most difficult thing so far has been mountain passes,” she says. “Because we’ve been avoiding the toll roads.”
McCutchen says she’s had to learn to slow down and enjoy her surroundings rather than rushing from place to place.
“Typically, when I was on a motorcycle trip, I was going somewhere and didn’t have a lot of time,” she explains. “And now I have a ton of time.”
McCutchen has opted to offload some of her gear along the way in order to keep things as manageable as possible, and is currently carrying two pairs of trousers, two shirts, a tiny air compressor, an extra fuel bottle, a camping stove, a tent, a sleeping bag, camera equipment and a laptop.
“Some of it can be heavy, but it’s really just super basic stuff,” she says.
Although she had saved some money before beginning the trip, she quickly realized that it would not be nearly enough to cover all of her expenses.
She’s been able to raise funds by selling stickers she designed herself, and has a GoFundMe, which her followers can donate towards.
“At first I was like, ‘how am I going to pay for it?’” she admits. “Because not being able to stay anywhere for more than two weeks kind of limits my ability to work on the road.”
McCutchen is hugely grateful to those who’ve offered their support and/or donated to her fund, acknowledging that the generosity of others has been “pretty much the main reason I’ve been able to do this.”
She’s been particularly enjoying interacting with locals while on the road, explaining that the motorcycle, a Kawasaki Versys X 300, has proved to be a great conversation starter.
“People think motorcycles are cool, and they come up to talk to you,” she says. “It’s like a bridge to more people. You become more accessible.”
While she was wary of the dangers she could potentially face while riding a motorbike in unfamiliar countries before beginning the trip, McCutchen says her experiences so far have helped to put her mind at ease.
“You hear a lot of stuff about how the world is very dangerous, and you should stay where you’re safe,” she says.
“Part of that is true. There’s no getting around that I’m putting my life at risk by doing this. But there’s also so much of the world that is very kind and amazing. And I think that far outweighs the very scary bits.”
Although the trip has gone relatively smoothly so far, McCutchen isn’t taking anything for granted, and says she’s well aware that her challenge attempt could be thwarted for reasons beyond her control.
“I’m definitely a bit apprehensive about not being able to continue because of something happening,” she admits. “Like the bike breaking, or things in the world getting worse.”
Of course, if she is successful in breaking this particular record, the likelihood is that someone even younger will come along and set a new record one day.
However, McCutchen isn’t worried about this at all. In fact, she says she’ll gladly help anyone who’s keen to do so, even if it means that they beat her to it.
“I want to get other people to do things like this,” she says. “Maybe not necessarily to this skill, because not everybody has the time.
“But if someone came to me now and was like, ‘I want to break this record,’ and they broke it before me. That would be fine.”