‘My name is Tiffany Coates and I’m from nowhere.’
It’s rare indeed to meet someone who has so completely dedicated their time to adventure and to motorcycle travel and who continues to do so. It’s rarer still for that person to be female. Tiffany however is special, in the career she maintains when not on the road and in the resilience and self-determination she demonstrates when she is.
Chased by wolves, bitten by spiders, and knocked unconscious by accident, she nevertheless remains adamant that travel isn’t dangerous and that people the world over are kind, generous thoughtful and hospitable.
She began travelling at a very early age as a consequence of her father’s British military career, serving where he had to. But the loving nature of her parents further helped develop a taste for camping when on occasion there was no family housing available, so they’d camp in barrack grounds for months at a time!
Tiffany was always encouraged by her parents to see over the next horizon and expand her outlook, which led to a lot of back-packing and to work as a chef in both hemispheres when she was younger. Interestingly, she would never profess to being a biker and actually has very little interest in motorcycles, but acknowledges that they are the greatest way to enable independent travel.
Recently she has been spreading her vehicular sights, but since 1997 ‘Thelma’ – a black and yellow BMW R80GS – has been her main transport and her ticket to ride across five continents. It wasn’t necessarily a rash purchase, but she did buy it on recommendation and had only wobbled around a few carparks prior to actually seeing Thelma and realising how big she was (no-one could call Tiffany anything other than petite). It meant she actually learned to ride while going overland two-up with her friend Becky to India. There were many falls in the early days, but Thelma has now turned up 216,000 miles and just undergone a full rebuild by Tiffany’s friend Craig.
That ’97 trip to India was supposed to take nine months but it never really stopped as she carried on to SE Asia and then across Australia, managing to replenish funds while working there. Then she shipped to Cape Town and rode up Africa, before riding the Americas and then across northern Asia and Mongolia. And so it goes on… She lives for the peace and tranquillity offered by places like Labrador in Canada’s north east and is comfortable with her tent and Thelma as company.
The way she funds her travels are as unconventional as she is: It seems that if you don’t wash your hair for prolonged periods, it’s heavier and thus worth more when you shave it off and sell it! That of course is a limited income stream, but for 18 years Tiffany has been a self-defence instructor and also works with ‘troubled’ youth. She works intermittently as a long-distance tour guide with Globebusters and with H-C Travel and her wealth of experience and friendly nature makes her a real asset to both companies.
All of these are just interludes though and there’s a very good chance that wherever you might be in the world, you’ll come across Tiffany and Thelma. They’ll be travelling, as always, with an ‘open mind and a ready smile’.
It’s fitting that if she is now from anywhere at all, that place is Land’s End. Perhaps it’s ultimately what she seeks.
Words: Paddy Tyson
This article first appeared in Issue 8 of Overland Magazine.