Inspiration: Profiles

Hannah Johansson Triumph motorcycle touring

20-nation trip of a lifetime

"I screamed into my helmet with utter joy"

“The hardest part about following your dream is taking the first step and it’s never as hard as it seems. People worry ‘am I skilled enough, do I have the right bike, can I do that?’… but you can, you always can.”

Hanna Johansson was eking out a living in marketing when she had an epiphany: “I realised I didn’t want to go to the same place at the same time every day anymore. So I now work online. I don’t get paid as much as I did, but I’m a lot happier.”

She knew she’d made the right decision five kilometres into a trip from her native Sweden through Eastern Europe: “I hadn’t travelled far but I’d done it and screamed into my helmet with utter joy.”

Here’s Hanna’s account of her breakthrough first 20-nation, 9,000km trip that broke the humdrum…

The spark

I was 17 when I started riding and I’d always wanted to since I was seven or eight. I asked my parents for a drag bike but they thought it was a phase. The phase never ended, so when I was a teenager my mum – who also rides a Triumph – bought me my first bike.

The Ukrainian open roads

I started practising and loved it. Everything fell into place and it was me and the bike – we were one. I took my test at 25 and now I’m 28. I haven’t had a licence for long but wanted to get out there and do exciting stuff on my new bike, a Bonneville SE 2009, rather than just cruising the cafes around Stockholm.

My highlights

Black Sea, Ukraine – This was the first time the scale of somewhere made me realise I was a very long way from home and it was a special moment.

Montenegro – The greenery is almost overwhelming and the roads are amazing. Kotor Bay is a destination in itself, surrounded by mountains, simply beautiful. Despite being an incredible place to go, tourists haven’t found it yet.

Albania – Still unexplored, this is widely regarded as one of the best places in the world to ride, especially if you’re on a classic bike like the Bonnie, as the roads are so good and the people are amazed by Triumphs. They’re not used to seeing tourists, so when they do they are keen to share their pride in their country and its history.

Bulgaria – Some of the most stunning ancient cities I’ve ever seen. Cobbled streets and my Bonnie look good together.

Slovenia – This was the biggest surprise because I had no expectations at all. It’s a real ‘easy rider’ country full of small, light, twisty roads and castles alongside more lakes than you’ll ever see in a day.

Sweden – I don’t want to offend anyone but if you want to taste Scandinavia, then Sweden has everything. Great roads, frozen lanes, good scrambling tracks and the Abba museum in Stockholm!

What’s next?

“When FTR readers see this, I’ll be a good way through my trip to the land of the midnight sun. I’d planned to go on my Bonnie but after thinking about the terrain, I decided on the modified Street Scrambler,” she adds.

“I normally ride a Bonneville SE 2009 solo but this time I’ve teamed up with Tim Burke, an American adventure rider and photographer, who has joined me on the Norwegian part of the trip on a Tiger 800. It’s going to be a typical case of adventure rider meets classic motorcycle girl.”

Hanna’s experiences in Eastern Europe and the round-the-world adventure of Bonneville rider Kane Avellano were the sparks for her latest trip in her own backyard.

“After doing that trip I knew Nordkapp would be a challenge, but that’s what I wanted. Everyone I spoke to in Eastern Europe felt Scandinavia was an exotic destination to them, so I thought I should investigate my own neighbourhood. I’d never paid any attention to exploring it properly before then, but now it just feels right.

The Bonnie is the perfect companion for remote Eastern Europe

“It’s summer right now, so as I get close to Nordkapp I’m looking forward to seeing the midnight sun. Scandinavia is my home so it will be good to explore it further and so far I have managed to overcome any obstacles in my way.”