For the latest instalment of our Inspirational Women Travellers series, we re-visit Nora, who’s on a mission to show just how adventurous girls can be (clue: very), and that travelling by yourself as a girl is not at all scary.
If you know your geography, or just take a look at the map, you'll notice I made a huge detour through Central Asia. I could have shortened the trip by 5 months if I would have taken the straight route through Turkey, but life ain't fun without detours. You'll also notice that I visited all the countries that end with ‘stan’ except Afghanistan. Even though you can go there from Tajikistan I did not have the flexibility to do so, but I know women who did.
Why did you decide to travel by motorbike?
I decided on a motorcycle as my mode of transport because of the freedom of movement. If you get the right bike it will take you anywhere. I just knew this feeling of freedom from riding on the back with my dad and I would always enjoy it. So when I started planning in 2014 I realised that if I was ever going to do this trip, I really needed to get my motorcycle licence. So when I left, I was riding for 1 year. I had never left the country on my motorcycle before. I had never ridden offroad before. But during the trip I steadily grew in my abilities and my comfort levels. I am a totally different rider now, although it also depends on where I ride. Half of my riding career I spent in Asia so I'm more used to Asian traffic and traffic rules then European traffic. Now that I'm back its fascinating to rediscover the traffic over here.
Did you ever feel vulnerable as a woman travelling alone on a motorbike?
99.9% no, I felt very powerful on the motorcycle. Also it is so big, so I am physically taller than other people. I know it is faster than all the other traffic around me so I can make a quick getaway if I need too. But most of the time people are just incredibly friendly and curious.
Which places affected you the most?
Iran did, because I felt so restricted as a woman. Before I thought the hijab and clothing restrictions would not affect me at all, but over there I realised how grateful I am for the hard work all the women in the Netherlands have done. Compared to other countries we are so free and equal that sometimes you forget that in other places it’s a different story. And knowing this is one thing, but experiencing it is a whole new level of understanding and appreciation.
How did the people you met along the way respond to you?
Everybody was always positive, thumbs up, big smiles and people waving was the main experience.
Tell us about some of the highlights of your trip…
This is impossible to answer. I really enjoyed riding in Kyrgyzstan with its mountains, lakes and horses. I loved exploring some offroad trails in Thailand with 2 other riders and learning how to ride offroad properly. I loved surfing in Java – totally relaxing after such a long trip.
…And any lowlights?
A crash in Iran and a crash in Nepal. Let me just say, crashing and police stations are never fun.
How did you feel when you finally arrived in Bali?
Finally arriving in Bali was not the explosion of excitement you might have expected. All along it was about the journey, not the destination. But none the less I was proud that I had persevered through all the ups and downs and executed the plan that I dreamed of for so long.
You arrived in Bali in time to meet your Mum and celebrate her 60th birthday with her. How important was it to you to celebrate that milestone with your Mum?
I would have flown home for her birthday if she wouldn't have come to Bali. So she is super important to me. She has always been there for me and supported me in all the crazy travel plans I ever came up with. I can always call her to talk and she is the kindest and most patient person I know. Because of her I know that even if I screw up, I can always rely on my parents and therefore take bigger risks.
How did you like travelling by yourself? And did you travel with any other people along the way?
I love travelling by myself, because I have strong ideas about how I want to do certain things and I am perfectly happy by myself, I love this way of traveling. But the misconception about traveling alone is that actually most of the time you are never alone, there are so many moments where you interact with other people. I actually also met quite a lot of other people travelling on the motorcycle so with a few of them I travelled for a little while. Some 5 days, some 2 months. Some changed from annoying stranger into loving boyfriend.
Is there an overwhelming lesson from your trip that you will carry with you for the rest of your life?
That in the end, everything will always work out the way it is supposed to. So even though there were times I did not know how I was going to solve a problem, or which road to take. If I let it be for a while and not stress about it, an opportunity would present itself to solve the problem. So even though now that I am home, I am homeless and unemployed, I know that it will work itself out. So no stress for me.
“Let me tell you something, fear is the worst emotion to base decisions on.”
What’s next for you?
Good question, if only I knew. But there is definitely a new adventure on the horizon. I just don't know how, where and when.
What advice do you have for other women who want to embark on an incredible adventure?
Just do it, don't let anybody hold you back with their stories of fear. They are scared and are projecting that onto you. Let me tell you something, fear is the worst emotion to base decisions on. I'm not saying you can't be scared, but let it be a guard keeper to stay safe. Not to stay home.