Adventure Before Dementia:
One Man's Journey of Self-Discovery & Perseverance

Summary of the interview with Chris Donaldson.

Chris didn’t look like an Aboriginal adolescent as he set off from Belfast on his café racing Moto Guzzi. But it was the same motivation that drove him to set off on a journey of self-discovery. But when the Iranian revolution stopped the planned 10,000-mile motorcycle road trip to Australia, he ends high in the Andes, 50-odd thousand miles later, before returning to Belfast. Going the Wrong Way. A ‘coming of age’ road trip like no other. Chris is now riding to Australia, on the same Moto Guzzi Le Mans, 42 years after his first attempt.

Embracing the Unknown and Finding Oneself on the Open Road

In a world where we often feel the pressure to follow a predetermined path, Chris Donaldson’s story serves as a powerful reminder that sometimes the most rewarding journeys are the ones that take us off the beaten track. At the age of 21, Chris left his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, with a simple plan: ride his Moto Guzzi motorcycle to Australia. Little did he know that this would be the start of an extraordinary adventure that would span over 40 years and take him to the far reaches of the globe.

From Belfast to the Andes: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Growing up in Belfast during the turbulent 1970s, Chris was no stranger to the challenges of living in a city torn apart by conflict. “Belfast is a pretty dodgy place in the 70s and 60s,” he recalls. “The troubles, as we called them, were going on, and people were getting shot and blown up very regularly.” Despite the difficulties, Chris was determined to see the world beyond the confines of his hometown.

With just £3,000 in his pocket, Chris set off on his journey, fully prepared with maps, guidebooks, and a clear plan to reach Australia. However, fate had other plans. When the Iranian revolution erupted, Chris found himself forced to change course, heading south instead of east. This unexpected detour would ultimately shape the trajectory of his journey, leading him on a meandering path through Africa, South America, and beyond.

As Chris navigated the unfamiliar landscapes and cultures, he found himself shedding the constraints of his original plan. “I realized that part of the beauty of the trip was the fact that I didn’t really know where I was going,” he explains. “My destination wasn’t important anymore. I was just traveling for the sake of traveling, living for the day and letting things unfold as they would.”

The Joys and Challenges of Traveling Solo

Traveling alone presented both joys and challenges for Chris. On one hand, he found that being on his own forced him to step outside his comfort zone and engage with the people and places he encountered. “You’re forced to talk to people, so you’re forced to discover more,” he says. “You step outside the box, put yourself in a scary position, and you learn a lot about yourself in the process.”

However, the lack of a fixed abode and the need to constantly fend for himself took a toll. “When you’re traveling on your own, especially, you’ve only yourself,” Chris reflects. “If you get into trouble, you’ve got to get yourself out of it. It’s not an easy way to live, but it’s a much more exciting lifestyle.”

Returning to the Road: Completing the Journey 42 Years Later

After nearly a year and a half of traveling, Chris found himself in Argentina, his funds and health depleted. It was there that he began writing about his experiences, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become his book, “Going the Wrong Way.”

For the next four decades, Chris’s life took various turns, but the pull of the open road never left him. In 2021, at the age of 64, he decided to finally complete the journey he had started all those years ago. Reunited with his trusty Moto Guzzi, Chris set off once again, this time determined to reach Australia.

The second attempt was not without its challenges, as Chris’s traveling companion, Liam, decided to turn back after reaching Israel. Undeterred, Chris continued on his own, navigating through Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan before finally reaching his destination in Nepal and completing the journey to Australia.

Embracing Adventure and Staying Young at Heart

Chris’s story is a testament to the power of embracing adventure and staying true to one’s passions, even in the face of adversity. “Adventure before dementia” has become one of his mottos, a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue our dreams and challenge ourselves.

As he reflects on his life’s journey, Chris emphasizes the importance of keeping the mind and body active, even in retirement. “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” he says. “Dementia is only one of the things that sets in as you get older. You’ve got to keep your mind active, keep your body active, and keep your social skills active as well to be able to enjoy your life as you get older.”

Lessons Learned: Embracing the Unexpected and Staying Open-Minded

Through his extraordinary experiences, Chris has learned valuable lessons that he hopes to impart to others. One of the most important is the importance of keeping an open mind and not taking things at face value.

“Don’t take what you’re told for granted,” he advises. “When you go somewhere, take people as you meet them rather than what you’ve been told about them.” This approach has allowed Chris to discover the warmth and hospitality of people in places that may have been portrayed in a negative light, such as his experience in Iran.

Chris also emphasizes the value of embracing the unexpected and being willing to make mistakes. “If you’re going to enjoy yourself, you just can’t do the same thing that everybody else does,” he says. “You’ve got to make mistakes. That’s where the fun is.”

Inspiring Others to Embrace Their Own Adventures

Chris Donaldson’s story is a powerful reminder that the most meaningful journeys are often the ones that take us off the beaten path. By sharing his experiences, he hopes to inspire others to embrace their own sense of adventure, whether it’s a grand, cross-continental motorcycle ride or a simple exploration of their local community.

As he says, “Whatever you’re thinking of doing, don’t stop thinking about it. Just get off your ass and do it. Don’t come back and say, ‘Oh, it all went wrong.’ There’s always another route, there’s always another way.”

Through his book, “Going the Wrong Way,” and his continued adventures, Chris Donaldson has left an indelible mark on the world, reminding us all that the true path to self-discovery and fulfillment often lies in the unexpected.