Celebrating International Women’s Day

“…as woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” -Virginia Woolf

Six months ago I became the “woman behind the phone” managing the Women Overlanding the World Instagram account. On that site, I share tales and photographs sent from women adventuring all over the globe. It is a privilege to read about their experiences, how long-term travel has changed them, and what they feel the greatest challenges are for women overlanding today. Reading about their travels is also a gift to me, enabling me to live vicariously through their stories while I anxiously await my own next great adventure.

Today is International Women’s Day. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this special day than by sharing the stories of several incredible women currently traveling the world.

These stories are just a few from the thousands of us out there. Maybe the next one will be yours.

Wamuyu Kariuki of Throttle Adventures

Wamuyu Kariuki, from Kenya, is in the midst of a world tour on a BMW F700GS with her husband Dos. The couple (Throttle Adventures) have conquered three continents and 12 countries thus far (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Antarctica, Argentina, and Chile), with five continents remaining.

Wamuyu first learned to ride when she was a young girl on a bicycle named Black Mamba, owned by a friend’s father. She lined up with the local village kids for a chance to ride Black Mamba, the girls ensuring they had on a pair of shorts or trousers under their dresses to avoid showing “the forbidden” to the public. She started riding seriously in 2015 and now holds the record for the top female long-distance rider in Kenya. She and her husband are the first Kenyans to tour the world on motorcycles.

The purpose of Wamuyu and Dos’s trip is to represent Kenyans and tell the story of Kenya around the world, straight from the source.

“For the longest [time], the story of Kenya has been told by foreigners. We want to take the story of Kenya to the world. Ridden and delivered on Kenyan motorbikes. We want as many as possible to visit Kenya because we will tell them unlike the news, Kenya is safe, beautiful and the ultimate destination for your holiday. We also want to explore the world beyond the Kenyan borders, beyond prejudices, and beyond the usual comfort zone. We want to see the world with our own eyes, make our own experiences and enjoy foreign countries, cultures, and traditions. We want to unite Kenyan relationships with many countries in the world. We will be the ambassadors of peace, tourism, diplomatic relationships, and more for our country Kenya.”

Who or what inspired you to choose independent vehicle travel as your mode of transportation?

When I started riding, it was not about long-distance travel. I met my current husband four months into my riding. When we met, he had just returned from a three-month riding tour from Kenya to South Africa and back on motorcycle. As much as I love to travel, he was and still is my biggest inspiration for independent vehicle travel.

Overlanding sucks sometimes because…

Aaaagggrrr—the sweat, stinking, and same T-shirt for five days. 

Everyone always asks a traveler what their favorite country is. Do you have a favorite country? If not, what is a place that is special to you?

To be honest, all the countries I have traveled to have been great and all have a unique beauty and it’s hard to pick one. So far, Lesotho and Antarctica have taken more space in my heart.

I’m a badass woman because…

I mother, love, and care while on the bike and on the road.

To read Wamuyu’s full interview, click here. For all things woman-related check out Wamuyu’s blog, where she covers everything from riding posture to living fashionably from a motorcycle wardrobe.

  

Stephanie of GrizzlynBear Overland

Stephanie, originally from France, was working in a high-end department store in Paris when she decided to take a trip to Thailand. She traded her make-up bag, high heels, and pretty clothes for a giant backpack. In Thailand, she met her husband-to-be, Leigh, and shortly thereafter moved to Australia where she started camping, rock-climbing, hiking, and off-roading.

In 2012 the couple (GrizzlyNBear Overland) travelled around Australia in a Land Cruiser with a rooftop tent. In 2014 and 2016 they drove around Europe in a Defender, making rock-climbing the focus of their trip. In 2017 they set off on their “overlanding the world” trip in a 2010 Land Rover Defender 130 with a pop-top camper. They are currently working their way through Central Asia.

Who inspires you?

Louisa from A2A, and Karin-Marijke from Landcruising Adventure are two very inspiring women to me—they are long-term overlanders. It shows that it is possible to live out of a car for a decade. That is what we plan to do.

I’m a badass woman because…

Am I? Okay, so maybe because I’m not only a woman overlanding the world but I’m also a rock climber. I’ve slept on the side of a mountain cliff face 200 meters off the ground.

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge for women overlanders?

Perhaps feeling feminine and pretty when you constantly wear practical clothes, hiking boots, and no jewelry, or when it’s too cold to wash your hair or shave your legs.

Tell us some activities you enjoy while on the road (other than driving).

I’m a busy lady and often find that there aren’t enough hours in a day. I love photography and filming. And also editing the videos for our YouTube channel. So that takes a very big part of the journey. We love to stay active: rock-climbing, hiking, running, training, stretching, etcetera. And I enjoy house duties such as hand-washing the clothes, tidying the camper, going to the market, and cooking—I really do.

Traveling has taught me…

So much! Being a better version of myself, being more open to people, learning so much from the incredible generosity and hospitality of people across the world. The ones who have the least are giving the most. And also being more and more minimalist, which is an incredible feeling. Being simple is the key to happiness.

To read Stephanie’s full interview, click here. Stephanie and Leigh have a fantastic YouTube Channel giving an insider’s look at what life on the road is really like. Check it out here. 

 

Candida Louis of India on a Motorcycle

Candida Louis, originally from India, is riding her Bajaj Dominar motorcycle from Bangalore, India, to Sydney, Australia. She is currently on the tail-end of her trip, having driven through India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, before shipping her bike to Australia.

Four years ago, Candida quit her well-paying finance job, embarking on a 37,000-kilometer solo tour of India. Three months later, she returned home and knew she could never go back to a desk job. She explored India for another four months before starting up a motorcycle touring business. To date, Candida has led more than 34 customized biking group tours both in India and abroad.

Candida wants to help women feel empowered at the idea of solo travel. “My objective is to bring about change in the mindset of women and look at travel as a route to empowerment. I want especially to reach out to those in semi-urban and rural areas.”

Who or what inspired you to choose independent vehicle travel as your mode of transportation?

As far [back] as I can remember, I started off real young, going on rides with my dad. I’ve been riding for 11 years now. I started as a pillion rider but I always knew I wanted to be on the front seat. He gifted me a bike on one of my birthdays and from then onwards, it’s been great.

What was it like being a solo female rider in India?

When I started riding a bike 11 years ago, the only support I had was from my parents and a few close friends. The others would always tease and tell me that women should not ride a motorcycle, or it’s not safe for women to ride in India.

Through my India solo ride, I was able to meet so many lady bikers who inspired me and kept me going, because I gave them hope that our beautiful country India is, in fact, safe for women to explore by themselves. There are so many inspirational women bikers from India who are breaking barriers and teaching more women to ride and help get more girls on the road. It’s becoming easier for women to ride motorbikes, men are being very supportive and encouraging their girlfriends and wives to buy motorcycles and join them on rides.

Since it’s uncommon for men in the rural areas of India to see a woman riding a motorcycle, I found a lot of them would stare and were really curious. Once you talked to them, there is a sense of relief, and in no time they start telling you stories and adventures of their own.

What advice would you give to an aspiring overlander or female solo traveler?

The people, their smiles, the challenges, the culture, the laughs and the magic of having the freedom to explore is what makes me travel. So go ahead and don’t be afraid of the unknown. You just gotta take the first step and everything will follow. Travel will activate your mind and change you in extraordinary ways.

Candida was selected for the “Change Your World” travel fund project. She chose Australia as a tribute to Alistair Farland and his family.

To follow along on Candida’s adventure, make sure to follow her Instagram account.

 

Julie Edwards of Venturesome Overland

Julie is a freelance writer, photographer, and librarian from Missoula, Montana, currently living in Botswana and exploring southern Africa with her husband.

During their initial travels through Africa in 2015, Julie and her husband Steve noticed that all of their fellow overlanders were European. The couple (Venturesome Overland) made it their mission to inspire North Americans to overland Africa by offering workshops at Overland Expo East and Overland Expo West. In December 2018 they purchased a 1992 Land Rover Defender 110 (sight unseen) and drove “Toto” from Ethiopia through East Africa to Botswana.

Julie is a Fullbright Scholar who currently teaches at the University of Botswana’s Department of Library and Information Studies in Gaborone.

What is the biggest challenge for women overlanders?

I think that a lot of the challenges women face in everyday life apply to overlanding: sexism, toxic masculinity, safety issues, mansplaining, and on and on (and on and on and on). Also—the company of other women. I relate a LOT better to women than to men, so I miss that on the road, and I love that there is this international online community for women overlanders!

I’m a badass woman because…

Hmmm—I generally don’t feel like a badass. I think I would say—in radical honesty—that if I do feel like a badass it’s because I travel and overland with depression and anxiety. I’ve written a feature for She Explores about being a woman in the world with anxiety and depression, and how sometimes every step can feel like an act of will. It’s really hard when your internal voice magnifies all of those external voices that tell women to be afraid of everything. So I guess I’m a badass because I try to refuse to let fear rule me, even when I’m afraid. I love the world too much for that.

Overlanding sucks sometimes because…

Honestly, there’s not much about overlanding that sucks. I am a better version of myself on the road than I am in “real life.” I think that what sucks for me is the psychological aspect of overlanding. I have this crazy privilege to travel freely and choose to live for long stretches in a truck, and when I think about people who are migrants, or refugees, or forced to live in a vehicle, it can be hard to square my choices with the fact that so many people lack any choices at all and do everything they can to avoid this kind of life.

Simple life hack for the road?

Bring your own bedding! I hate synthetic camping fabrics and I really hate sleeping bags (free the feet!), so we travel with our big down blanket. It takes up room, but it is so nice to climb into what feels like a real “bed” after a day on the road. That, and a tube of lipstick. I love overlanding, but I’m definitely a girly-girl, and some lipstick—especially for border crossings—makes me feel a bit more like myself!

To read Julie’s full interview, click here. Be sure to check out Venturesome Overland’s fantastic website. It contains a ton of information about overlanding Africa.

 So you want to go overlanding?

If you are a woman interested in overlanding (or a man who would like to share these resources), please join the Women Overlanding the World Facebook Group, follow our Instagram account, or hop over to the ‘Inspiration’ page of the Women Overlanding the World website.

More resources are becoming available to women in this community. Check out the following links to start your own adventure; whether it be signing up for an all-women navigational rally, watching a girls’ trip episode on Expedition Overland, learning more about changing your car battery, participating in a women’s only trail run in Moab, or hopping on a plane for a ladies’ only overland retreat in Costa Rica.

To learn more about these resources and their events click the photo links below!

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Ashley Giordano recently completed a 48,800km overland journey from Vancouver, Canada to Buenos Aires, Argentina with her husband Richard in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota Pickup. On the zig-zag route south they hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled their tummies with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, pouring over maps, and writing text for the blog, while Richard is often behind the camera, behind the wheel, or behind his iPhone updating Instagram. Next up, you’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring their own country from the Eastern seaboard to the West coast and sharing their trip every step of the way.Instagram: @desktoglory Facebook: www.facebook.com/desktoglory Blog: www.desktoglory.com