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TEN COUNTRIES, TEN CAUSES, 20,000 KILOMETRES…

25/02/2011

Supporting good causes through charity balls and generous cheques was an important part of life for Hong Kong-based Australian businessman Morgan Parker. But despite admitting he gifted a “significant amount” of his healthy income to charity, for Morgan it simply wasn’t enough. Driven by a desire to make a difference which went beyond donations, the novice motorcycle rider has spent the past five years establishing non-profit organisation Wheel2Wheel and planning an epic 20,000 km, 10 country motorcycle tour which will take him from China to Brisbane, Australia.

The high-profile trip, which is slated to be the subject of a 10-part television series on the National Geographic channel, is designed to thrust philanthropy into the spotlight by highlighting 10 largely unknown charities. On 1st March Morgan and his BMW F 800 GS will leave Hong Kong behind and set off on the life-changing journey.

Morgan was initially inspired to embark on a motorbike endurance trip by the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman documentary Long Way Round. When he began to seriously think about how he could put more into helping charity, the personal dream of seeing the world on two wheels and a passionate desire to be more philanthropic collided. Wheel2Wheel was born and Morgan and his team of volunteers began searching out small charities tackling critical issues and in urgent need of more money and public awareness.

“I didn’t want to be a guy who just wrote cheques any more – there’s nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to go further,” says Morgan. “My charity work had always been very reactionary, haphazard – I wanted to take a strategic approach.” This approach included extensive research to select the 10 charities. “We want people to look at the list and say: ‘they picked great organisations’,” Morgan says. The chosen 10 are battling against a huge variety of problems, including animal cruelty, air pollution, sanitation, women’s rights and children affected by conflict. Each one is based in a different country, all of which Morgan will visit on his adventure.

In order to make the project possible, Morgan gave up his lucrative job as a leading retail developer in Asia and has been working up to 18 hours a day on Wheel2Wheel. What makes his devotion even more remarkable is that he only learned to ride a motorcycle three years ago and has never attempted an endurance challenge before. “When I first thought of doing the ride, I didn’t even have a licence,” he says.

One he had obtained the all-important licence, Morgan turned his attention to what motorcycle he would use for the gruelling journey. “The Long Way Round (where McGregor rode a BMW R 1150 GS) had a profound effect on me, they are beautiful looking bikes and BMW is a reliable company. I’ve had a number of BMW cars over the years and every interaction I’ve had with BMW has been positive. This is the first bike I’ve had, but there was no other choice for me. I contacted many other adventurers who spoke highly of BMWs – they really are unrivalled.”

The ride will truly test Morgan’s riding skills, as he will have to battle a series of tough terrains in countries including China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, East Timor and the Australian Outback. But having adopted the same approach to preparing himself as he took to planning the project, Morgan is ready for anything. “I’ve been training for two hours every day, I’ve taken counter terrorism courses, combat training, mechanical training and first aid,” he says.

Initially, there were no plans to televise the Wheel2Wheel expedition: “I thought it would be beyond reach,” says Morgan. But after repeated prompting, he contacted a friend in the industry who helped him get the backing for the Nat Geo series. “The focus isn’t on Wheel2Wheel, it’s on the charities we are supporting. The people at the core of the organisations tell their story with such passion it will leave the audience breathless. I want people to watch and feel the urge to help, to contribute,” he says.

A total of 10 episodes will be shown, one for each charity and country. And at the end of each there will be an opportunity to donate, either directly or through Wheel2Wheel. “I want to promote philanthropy and encourage people to think about how they can be active in their communities. Everybody out there has the capacity to be more philanthropic and I hope we can inspire even one person to get involved.”

For more information, blogs and updates, visit www.wheel2wheel.tv