In the high lonely hills between Veracruz and Oaxaca city, on one of the best motorcycle roads yet, I park the bike on a pull out and walk to the edge to take a photo. The ground is covered in garbage and smells like human waste. A man carrying a machete comes out of the bushes and walks to my bike, his machete nonchalantly swinging in his hand. I quickly take my shot and walk back to the bike. He says something akin to asking me for money, and motions for food. Thankfully I have some Dulces in my tank bag and hand him a bag of homemade sweets. We talk a little, but slightly on edge I am steadily working towards packing up my bike to take off. He tries to assist zipping up my tank bag, then the zipper vents on my thighs….. I brush his hand back and say in broken Spanish. ‘No, its too hot. I need the wind’ and thankfully at that point my key is in the ignition and I drive off. Innocent or no, it’s a reminder of my vulnerability.
The debate in Australia around the events of Jill Meagher’s rape and murder, and the roles women ’need to take for their safety’ play in my head. My friends hold strong varying views on this and the social media in Australia raged for weeks. While there was alot of information circulating to assist women make themselves feel safer
, there was also an outrage
from women fighting against the fear mongering. Like many of the women commenting on the news, have said exactly the same. "It is my right to walk the streets and travel where I like. Tell men not to rape and murder!' I can be a woman like Jill Meagher who told her friends 'No don’t be silly. You don’t need to walk me home.' My refusal not to be scared, to be independent at times causing my occasional downfall. I have noticed possibly the Australian in me, used to refuse help from a man. And in that, I think maybe many Australian women have trained our men not to offer. Living in the UK and Canada my views and attitudes have softened. I can now accept a door being opened for me, a bag being carried, a walk to my car. I can even enjoy it. I can thank and love the men that offer, and not send a curt reply. Content that it doesn’t mean that I am not capable, but more an acceptance of a gift of another.
But still I refuse to live my life in fear, and not do the things I wish to do, even if this means solo. I assess the risks and then take them. And yes my risk tolerance is greater than most, for I often find thankfully for me the benefits have outweighed the danger. This risk tolerance has lead me to experiences that make my life feel more than full, and as I often tell my poor mother ‘If I die doing something that I love, know that I have lived’. I hope that by doing these things I advocate and show others that it can be done, and not to stop doing something that you dream because of fear, whether it be small like putting your hand up to complete a presentation, or bigger such as travelling the world solo. Women like Tiffany Coates, Sherri Jo Wilkins, Lois Pryce and Danielle Murdoch just to name a few are out there on bikes riding through all sort of countries including Iran and the Middle East, Africa and around the world.
I talk to other women on the internet that have been inspired by my ride and look to solo motorbike travel. Yes, there are times of extreme challenge, where your head gets the worst of you, and you struggle with feelings of being totally overwhelmed. Yes, there are times of loneliness. There are some times of fear, but each day I feel like I am learning more about so many things. Small interactions stay with me. Moments of pure joy as I celebrate my freedom, my adaptability, and my luck to grow up in a country that gives me access to a passport visas, and the right as a woman to even ride a motorbike, or travel alone. I am thankful for the people at home, encouraging me, listening to me, talking to me in a language I understand. Offering advice and assistance when I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of even the little things like managing the bike maintenance, or dealing with the technology that I rely on. Yes, it is worth it. Yes, I tell myself I can do this.