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Originally published August 24, 2014 at 6:31 AM | Page modified September 1, 2014 at 2:26 PM

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Taking off on round-the-world trips (with teens, with dog)

A couple and a family are poised to leave the Seattle area and roam around the world on separate, but equally adventurous, trips.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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Imagine packing up your life, getting on a motorcycle and traveling around the world.

It sounds crazy and impossible, especially for adults saddled by a mortgage, a job and family obligations.

But Seattle natives Mike and Shannon Mills — and their dog, Ducati, a Chihuahua — are taking off in September for a three-year trip. They’ll traverse North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.

After years of fitting motorcycle adventures into two busy work schedules (she’s a project manager at PATH, a Seattle-based global-health organization, and he’s the chief engineer at the Puget Sound Blood Center), the Millses came back from a monthlong overland trip to the Arctic Circle in 2009 and realized that all they wanted was a hot meal, more gas and their dog.

With a far-off fantasy in mind, the Millses began saving money, skimping on new clothes and fancy-coffee drinks. A close friend’s death two years ago became the catalyst for their ambition: saving enough money to travel the world by motorcycle. The Millses began saving half of their income and set their departure date: Sept. 6, 2014.

They’ve rented out their house and quit their jobs and are poised to take off on their Suzuki DR650 motorcycles.

“If you really have things you want to do, you have to make them happen; you can’t wait for something when you don’t know what that something is,” said Shannon Mills.

But why circumnavigate the globe on motorcycles?

“You just fire up the engine and drive to the next town,” said Mike Mills. “There’s no minivans and tourists. There are no tour operators and buses, it’s just this freedom. And on the motorcycle you’re more exposed, people can talk to you. You get dirty, you get wet, you get sunburned.”

The couple, who met in high school and have been best friends ever since, call their philosophy of prioritizing adventure within the context of a normal life “sustainable unaccountability.” It means that they “don’t have to be accountable to anyone else’s expectations of what a middle-aged, married couple in the United States should do with their lives.”

That philosophy has led to their motorcycle trips through Laos, Vietnam and most recently to Mexico’s Baja California, which was their dog Ducati’s first trip. The Millses have discovered that long-distance, overland travel with a dog isn’t as hard as one might think. At military checkpoints in Mexico, military guys with what Shannon Mills called “the mirrored sunglasses and the tough look and the weapons” would go gaga at the sight of the 10-pound dog.

“Mike would unzip the bag, out pops Ducati’s head and immediately these huge guys with guns say, ‘Oh, it’s a Chihuahua!’ ” said Shannon. “And they look at us and say, ‘Go go go, you’re fine.’ It changes their whole demeanor. All of sudden we aren’t threatening people because we have this really cute lap dog.”

It’s a good thing Ducati has many miles under his belt, because the route his owners have planned is long — more than 70,000 miles and 3½ years — and intense. The Millses will leave Seattle on Sept. 6 and go south, all the way to southernmost South America. From there, they’ll bike back to Buenos Aires and fly to Africa, where their route will be determined by the political situation. After Africa, they’ll travel through Europe, Central Asia and end the trip in Southeast Asia, their favorite part of the world.

Equipped with GoPro cameras, a satellite tracker and a MacBook, the Millses will be documenting the entire trip on their website, smboilerworks.com . (Ducati even has his own blog.) They’ll travel 125 to 250 miles per day (with a few days off per week) on a budget of $75 a day.

Family’s world trip

Some other Washington residents also are heading out on an ambitious worldwide trip in September. The Lally family, originally from Ireland but living in Washington state for the past two years, is taking off Sept. 1 on a yearlong trip that eventually will land them back in Ireland.

The family — two parents and three teenagers — will drive 30,000 miles in their 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser, visiting U.S. parks, the Brazilian Amazon, the tip of South America, parts of Africa and various European countries before arriving home in Galway, Ireland.

Brendan and Gillian Lally, who have been running a small IT company in Sedro-Woolley, will travel with their three children (ages 19, 15 and 13). With their oldest daughter, Kate, going to college in Ireland in fall 2015, the trip is the last opportunity for the family to be together for an extended period of time.

“We’ll probably drive each other mad, but that’s the idea, that we go and experience this together,” said Gillian Lally. She and her husband will be home- schooling their two youngest, Tess and Zak, along the way, using the family’s travels as the jumping-off point for lessons about history and culture.

“Mom and Dad have always had wanderlust. It wasn’t that big a shock, but it’s completely insane,” said Tess Lally. “It’s gonna be awesome.”

The family has been saving for two years in order to have a budget of about $100 a day for the yearlong journey.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, we’re looking to be camping and cooking ... ,” said Brendan Lally. “But we might motel-it or hotel-it for a treat. Or a wash.”

Their trip, which they are calling The Long Way Home on their blog (theLongWayHome.us)will be documented online and by an Irish TV show.

For both the Mills and Lally families, their monumental adventures are possible because they had a dream and decided to make it happen.

“People are always talking but they don’t do it,” said Shannon Mills. “We’re not any different from anyone else except that we made a choice to save and plan.”



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