QUESTION: How do you deal with chronic loneliness on the road, especially for long periods of time?
It is very rare to meet other female riders traveling solo – most riders out there are either men or couples. In addition, it can get tiring to be constantly on guard, fighting off sleazy come – ons and seeing flabbergasted faces when you take your helmet off, especially in more traditional societies.
It sucks to have to deal with loneliness on the road, and adding jerks into the mix makes it even worse. Most of us are willing to live with a certain degree of loneliness, especially if choosing to travel solo, but it helps to have strategies in place for the idiots who intrude on an otherwise good time.
Often the first instinct is to want to set someone straight, to remind them that you are competent and capable; at least until you realize you are imagining a conversation with a person who actually wants to engage in one. But what you are describing is a debate with someone who only wants to prove they are right. So, ask yourself what the person in front of you actually wants and make a quick choice: get into an endless spiral of frustration or simply smile and let your bike do the talking. Everyone has their own idea of what is safe, legal, or limit-pushing whether talking to another man or a woman riding alone, so why bother explaining your reasons for why you do what you do?When confronted with unwanted advances, having rehearsed responses, and the conviction that you mean what you say, will send a message that should keep most jerks at bay. Explaining anything in such cases is engaging and merely gives them the opportunity to persist.
Many westernized women feel a sense of outrage when confronted by the limitations placed on females in other cultures that can lead to an urge to flaunt your equality. The reality is you are an oddity, and you will invite stares and comments. Hopefully, for most people the stares will lead to interesting conversations, but not always. Sometimes simply blending in while making a statement with your riding is more powerful. Wearing a head scarf, choosing modest clothing, and observing local customs may be annoying, but it may also be a way to remain safe and to get your message out to others that it’s okay for a woman to be out on her own, to be competent and comfortable without a man.
Riding solo, whether for a few weeks or a few years means spending time away from the familiarity of those who know you best and the ease of not having to constantly be re-introducing yourself to strangers. It brings enormous satisfaction in navigating unfamiliar situations successfully but an intense loneliness that new acquaintances can’t fill. Connecting through online communities with other women facing similar circumstances may be the best way to mitigate the sense of isolation and to share both your positives and your concerns; attempting to connect in person whenever possible with others who share your passion across the globe may turn strangers into lifelong friends. Taking a break now and then to get together with others may renew your spirits, even if it means leaving your bike in storage and flying home for a visit. But it may also mean embracing the loneliness, accepting it as part and parcel of the choice to make the journey without another; finding room for it alongside the exhilaration of the freedom to go where you please, as you please, without having to answer to anyone. It’s never an either/or: it’s both.