Benka Pulko's Biography
A born dreamer from a small Slovenian town with the unpronounceable name of Ptuj, Benka has always carried a sparkle in her eye. At age 30 she set out to see the world, and now she is ready to change it for the better. "Believe in Yourself and Kickstart the World" is her motto.
As a world traveler, Benka distinguished herself on four counts. She holds the record for the longest solo motorcycle ride ever undertaken by a woman-in both distance (111,856 miles/180,016 kilometers) and duration (2,000 days). She was the first person to motorcycle to all seven continents while riding around the world. Benka was also the first woman to ride Saudi Arabia alone. Her achievements are documented in the Guinness Book of World Records.
When did it all start? How did this woman become a modern-day road warrior, accomplished photojournalist, and Slovene Woman of the Year?
A child of the Communist era, Benka grew up in Yugoslavia with aspirations to become a biologist or a nurse. By early adulthood, she had done both. She also worked as a masseuse for the top Slovenian men's basketball and handball teams. But her dreams would take her further and bring her certifications and citations for much more adventurous undertakings. Inspired by Paolo Coleho's "The Alchemist" and her impending 30th birthday, Benka conceived a round-the-world solo journey by motorcycle.
Once she realized the dream was going to become a reality, her focus shifted to journalism. Someone would have to document her travels and who better than the subject herself? Eventually, she would file stories with twenty-four newspapers, magazines and radio stations in her home country, as well as supplying dozens of international media outlets with copy and photos throughout her journey.
Although she acknowledges being in love with motorcycles for fifteen years before her round-the-world trip, she was no biker fanatic. She did not even own a motorcycle! Luckily she was a quick study, crafty, and determined.
While circumnavigating the globe, Benka rode a BMW F650 owned by her primary sponsor, BMW Slovenia. BMW believed if the bike could withstand the arduous world terrain, variable climates, and excessive mileage, the F650 would indeed be proven a reliable vehicle for international travel. Benka established that both the bike and the woman were ideal adventure models.
To raise the sponsorships and funding required for the trip, Benka canvassed small businesses and corporations, used her connections, and gained the support of relatives, friends, and strangers. Attired in a Dainese jacket, Aerostich's Darien pants, Sidi boots, and BMW System helmet, Benka was prepared for the hazards of everyday travel and the unpredictability of the elements, which would prove a constant challenge along the way. She planned the routes, wrote reports, handled maintenance, obtained visas, and became skilled at promoting her adventure.
The project was named Around the World, Circling the Sun
. It began, naturally enough, in Slovenia on June 19, 1997. Benka returned five and a half years later, on December 10, 2002, greeted by dignitaries and the media as a local hero. Her travels have brought her national attention and the honor of being named Slovene Woman of the Year for 2003.
Benka published a 220-page best-selling coffee table book of her travels. Po Zemlji okoli Sonca (
Around the World, Circling the Sun) won the country's top book award at the Annual Slovene Book Fair. The book sold out in its first printing, making it the fastest selling coffee table book in Slovene history.
Obrazi sveta/Faces of the World
was published by Benka in 2007. The dual-language catalog documents her award winning photo exposition by the same name.
Also in 2007, Benka wrote and published her most popular book to date. Pocestnica
(Streetwalker) is a living autobiography, detailing not only the journey, but how her early life influenced the trip, and how traveling effected life afterwards. The President of Slovenia joined Benka at the launch of Pocestnica
, reading excerpts of the text to the eager audience. As with her other works, this book has been awarded numerous prizes, received praise from literary critics, and perched itself at the top of library reading lists.
With Benka's interest in children and literature, it was only natural she would delve into the world of kids books. Dve ciklami ali Na svetu je dovolj prostora za vse
(Two Cyclamens or There is Enough Room for Everyone), published in 2009, has already won its first award and made it onto numerous elementary school reading lists.
That same year Benka narrated and featured in the short documentary Black & White Rainbow,
which debuted as an accompaniment to her similarly titled photo exhibition. The film and photos portrayed the lives of Tibetan children exiled in northern India, and were presented along with Buddhist mandalas hand-painted in Slovenia.
For 2011, Benka shifted into English and finally found time to complete the much-anticipated translation of her coffee table book Circling the Sun
, with the first printing being released as a numbered, limited edition. Copies have already found their way into 35 countries, as well as the libraries of Dolly Parton, Barack Obama, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and H.R.H Prince Harry of Wales. At the same time she transplanted Dve ciklami...
into Two Sour Flowers
The Germans, always an adventurous people, translated Benka's autobiography under the National Geographic banner for 2012 with the title Kickstart
. Her former countrymen and women, wanting to get in on the excitement, followed suit, but titled the Serbian version of her story 5.5.
Otroci sveta (
Children of the World) was also released in 2012. It is a collaborative creation combining the pen of Janja Vidmar, renowned writer of young adult literature, and the lens of Benka.
The arrival of 2013 brought the release of Others Before Self
, a full-length documentary detailing the cultural and educational ideals of the Tibetan Children's Village school system, with insight into a group of supporters from Slovenia.
Benka has also been recognized by BMW Motorrad as one of their travel experts. With this designation, she will be working closely with BMW to promote their brand through her experiences.
Benka's photographs are featured in news stories, calendars, and posters, and offered as signed prints. She is also a featured contributor to the Slovene media. Her extensive travel journal entries and photographs from the journey are featured here. This work attests to the depth of love Benka came to hold for people across the globe.
Children are the inspiration behind her ongoing humanitarian project "Believe in Yourself and Kickstart the World", an international effort to provide scholarships so children in developing countries can complete their educations. The primary beneficiaries are exiled Tibetan girls. For more information on the humanitarian foundation, click here
Benka divides time at home between Slovenia and the USA. But for the majority of her days, you can find her somewhere on the road.