Inspired by his incurable travel fever, a very particular taste and a super accurate built-in gps system, PJ discovers places on our globe that are left unexplored by most people we know. His aversity to airplanes and interest in what’s between here and there, (local) history, food and a fascination for nature led to Motorcycle Diaries, an ode to the true sense of travel by road. And, of course, preferably on two wheels!
Meet PJ!Motorcycle Diaries
The instigator of these pages? Peter-Jan Willems, but most people call him PJ.
Who is PJ? Tell us a bit about yourself.
‘I’m a producer at Ant-productions, an event and media production agency that focuses on the automotive industry. We are an international team of ants operating all around Europe and wherever in the world our clients wants us to go; we take care of international press launches for new motorcycles and tyres and produce photo and video content for these and other automotive clients. We have been doing so for more than 22 years now.
Before that, I was a motorcycle journalist for MotorWereld, a Belgian magazine I’ve helped create.
And, before that, I was completing my degree on Architecture, knowing that throughout those 5 years of study I understood that there was much more in this world than wanting only to go on building houses.
What do you love the most about travelling on your motorbike?
When travelling on a motorbike most of the time you’re free to go where you want. It also allows you impromptu choices – mainly between going left or right – whereas other means of transport, or organised transport, follow a planned itinerary. When I’m travelling by air I always wonder how it would be to actually ride the road underneath. Apart of that It’s a more physical way of travelling: you feel the landscapes, the weather, the environment and there are much more opportunities to stop by the side of the road, if only to take in the scenery. You cannot do that on an airplane, and even much less when travelling by car.
Riding a motorcycle is all about feeling the flow. The sensation of experiencing curved roads, twisty parts, challenges … The road reflects the landscape, especially when you stay off the big roads, because the latter don’t take you through the small places and lack a sense of ‘feeling’.
When travelling off the beaten track, it’s much easier to get in contact with the locals, because most of the time they do not expect a bike. With a bike you often end up in places where not a lot of people pass. And, although it seems that travelling by bike can be a bit lonely, you cannot underestimate the social aspect: you’re free to socialise whenever
Europe and beyond
I have travelled quite a lot. Most of Europe, a big part of Chile, Australia and South-Africa. Europe will always be my first travel-love. I think Europe still has a lot of undiscovered and fantastic places. And most of the time less crowded than you think.
Europe can be as beautiful as any paradisiac place. I have lost count of the times I’ve made pictures and people commented “Oh this must South-Africa”, or another exotic place … but no. It’s all Europe.
Motorcycle-Diaries mainly focuses on European roads ... What was your goal?
When I started to organise photo and video productions for our clients’ new bikes we were always in need for beautiful places and roads as a backdrop. One of the first briefings I received asked for some beautiful mountain passes as a setting. And I went to have a look.
It was early summer and the first thing I noticed was that there were so many bikers that we would have a hard time keeping the ‘under embargo’ bike out of view…
I had a chat with some friends and someone advised me to go have a look to the Sierra Nevada: there are mountains and less people he said…
I drove there and on the way I found deserts, forests, plains, beaches… and everywhere it felt deserted. So I decided to keep on looking for great places far away from the famous Alpine passes. And a whole new world opened for me.
And I said to myself It’s strange that everyone is driving those Alpine roads, but when going to other areas in Europe there’s much less or even no bikes. And I realised that maybe it was because people didn’t know about these places and roads. Hence the idea for Motorcycle-Diaries was born.
And as to convince clients to go to some area’s we presented locations with pictures, so I realised that with great pictures you can inspire. And, even now, after all these years it is still the fuel that keeps MD going ... make beautiful pictures that inspire and allow people to discover new area’s and roads.
Does the MD-community share the same vision or has the website been adapting itself to what motorcyclists look for nowadays?
Basically, the thing about MD is that it asks a bit of curiosity and an adventurous state of mind … if you already decided to go to the Alps and you only look for the roads in the Alps that we have, then you limit yourself a little bit. So we have organised the website a bit differently. On MD you look for mountain roads and there’s the alps but also many other mountainous areas. When someone starts looking at those images of other mountains maybe he gets inspired and will change his mind about destination.
And there’s another particularity about the website. The main goal of MD is to show you roads, not pre-mashed roadbooks. This as by providing roads you can create your own roadbooks. To go from here to there maybe I want to go south first, and then turn and go west, and you want to go west first and then south. The idea was to offer people roads and, with that, the freedom to let everyone decide how they want to go from A to B and to create their own roadbook.
Of course we also provide ‘ready made’ roadbooks, as can be found in the trip section.
What we see is that 65% of our community has a preference to use the trips that are available. And about 35% makes their own trips. And that is great as it shows that our community likes the idea of being able to choose how to get from A to B.
We are currently developing our App, which we believe will change a bit how people are travelling nowadays. It will inspire people to look, search and create their roads instead of using prepared trips. But it asks a bit more input from the user than just downloading a prepared roadbook.
Talking about suggestions, what are the places that everybody should see?
There are so many! But I would say Meteora, in Greece, Montenegro (but be careful, because the authorities love to write out fines), the coast of Croatia, Sardinia, the Grossglockner in Austria, the Vercors in France, and the whole Norway, Spain and Portugal.
Do you want to leave a message to MD community?
I wish for everybody that things get better in 2022 and we can all pick up to travel again around the globe. Even if it is just to explore the places where they live
With Motorcycle-Diaries we can be an inspiration for that.
And I hope that riders all around also feel inspired to take pictures of the roads they find and upload them on the website…so they can inspire others as well!