On November 1st 2019 I left New York City and my old life to ride around the world on my motorcycle. An adventure I had been dreaming of since I was in my early twenties when I nonchalantly stumbled upon Anne-France Dautheville, the first woman to ride around the world alone. I was a young creative working in London, and she was the muse of a project. Awe struck by her elegance and achievement, I vowed to myself that I would do the same in my lifetime. Her earnestness, courage and poetic adventures struck a chord within me and inspired a new direction in my life, and since then has become a dear friend and pen pal.
The World is my Home, a conversation with Anne-France Dautheville
Jessie Jobst: Leaving everything I had ever known was such a huge transition when you are suddenly empowered with freedom! It felt as if I had been released from a cage of societal expectations; and impetuously gifted the opportunity to wonder wherever I chose. An experience that can either cripple you or elevate you.
Anne France Dautheville: The first occasion to change my life was a motorcycle rally from Paris to Isfahan, in Iran. I was the only woman riding, and I learnt two things: I am built to travel alone, and I must be able to pick up my bike by myself: it was a huge 750 Guzzi, as heavy as an elephant.
Being an Aries, I do things, sometimes I understand why years after. I left on my journey because my life had no sense anymore, so what ? I loved riding a motorcycle, the world was open, I was like the cat when the door opens: rush first, see after!
Jessie Jobst: My experience of solo travel is a double edged sword. The plunge into the deep end of freedom and learning how to surrender to the present moment I found difficult to begin with. Having enough time on the road to practice this daily finally allowed me to relinquish control and attachment to hypothetical experiences.
When I crossed my first mountain range in Mexico I was warned not to ride the direct roads to Mexico City from there. When I asked why, it was because I was a woman traveling alone. I was urged to travel back the way I came—I gasped in disbelief and defiance, perhaps because taking the same road twice seemed futile on a journey like this or because the physical and emotional experience was too much to repeat. After much consideration, I ignored the advice and reached my destination with no problems. I learned that among the vast amount of people you encounter along your journey, many of them do not understand why you would ever choose to embark on such an adventure and, in this case, the projection of other peoples fears would not come between myself and my intuition to trust in my own decisions.
Anne-France Dautheville: In my time, people on the road never told me it was dangerous; they knew that a woman alone is courageous, then respected, protected, always helped if she behaves the proper way, of course. Maybe the TV or Internet in the world today, tells horrible stories that some people may take for reality.
Jessie Jobst: I think the connectivity of today is both a positive and negative; because on one hand you feel a sense of security knowing you can reach for help or call a loved one, but on the other hand you really never experience what it’s like to be truly alone, and there is definitely an additional layer of courage you undertook traveling before there was a mobile phones and GPS systems.
Anne-France Dautheville: I have a mobile phone now, it phones, nothing else. It sleeps locked in my handbag, used only to tell that I may be a little late, that’s all folks! I was born in the time of paper maps, still now, they are my favorite. My way has always been to ask somebody to help me, and if there is nobody, I wait till one comes. It means that I demanded to situate myself among other humans, different and always friendly, because I was a woman alone.
Jessie Jobst: One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I left for my trip was to not read the news; and as my journey progressed I began to find solace in being a woman alone, and contrary to what people may think my vulnerability became my greatest asset.
Jessie Jobst: The freedom and solitude of the road creates a greater connection to the world and opens you up to experiencing humanity and culture on a deeper level.
While in Mexico I climbed to the top of one of the Teotihuacan pyramids, built in honor of the feminine. I lay there motionless soaking up the energy of the sacred stone, a sense of triumph slowly emerged. I had just completed phase one of my journey unscathed; and in some inexplicable form it felt as if the ancient stone was relieving me, grounding me, almost as if I was plugged into a socket of a distant life.
Anne-France Dautheville: In 1981, I toured South America on a 250 Honda, I did not go to Central America or Mexico. What you felt on this pyramid, I lived it in the Peruvian Machu Picchu: melting into the peace of a sleeping magical place. Same as on the top of the great Buddha of Bamyan in Afghanistan, same as on Ayers Rock in Australia. Same as in the Vezelay Cathedral in France…
Jessie Jobst: I experienced a time in Guatemala when I got lost in the dark and despite the initial panic, it was surprisingly rewarding…I think in the realization that I had a deep sense of knowing that I was going to be OK, and in this particular instance it was a clear night and the light of the moon gently guided me to safety. I felt like my trip was full of moments of grace.
Anne-France Dautheville: I always traveled with paper maps, and used the sky and the stars to help me navigate, this is pure and beautiful poetry. When riding I was part of the earth, the wind, the entirety of nature; when I stopped, I came back to humanity, and humanity welcomed me, same as the rocks, the trees, the rivers had done during the day. Nobody was between me and the world, that was the magic of traveling by myself.
Jessie Jobst: Personally I believe that a greater sense of connection to the world can only be reached when you’re fully disconnected from the comforts of normal life. It’s in the discomfort and vulnerability that I began to have a deeper appreciation for humanity.
Anne-France Dautheville: All my truths have been shaken; I understand that each version of civilization has its own ways of living, even if I cannot make it mine; but I learned to respect this diversity and never judge. I learned to add instead of separate these truths. Eventually, they build humanity. Even in countries where the difference between my truth and theirs was huge, I discovered an extraordinary quality of the human exchange: educations did not fit, we exchanged through the roots of this humanity. Each time it was a miracle.
Jessie Jobst: The first part of the journey was tough because I was working through all the fears and anxiety of being alone – but through the process of this experience, I began to see that I was being innately guided into such beautiful scenarios — better than I could ever imagine.
Anne-France Dautheville: Before hitting the road, I was scared, the first minute on the wheels, I was in heaven. Coming back was meeting my cats, my friends, good wine, and great meals. Writing the book, another paradise. I always go forward: an Aries, I told you!
Jessie Jobst: The motorcycle has an exquisite way of propelling you into the future… And we shall follow the wind, you and I, in the seat of our motorcycles, moving forward with conviction into the present moment with the gentle embrace of the universe unfolding one moment at a time.