Her Story. A series of blog posts telling the stories of 'women who ride' from all corners of the globe. We hope that by sharing these stories we can help encourage other women to build their confidence, learn from others and inspire others.
This month we have a story from Erin Walsh from the East Coast, USA. Erin shares her travel journeys via MotoBackpacker.com and tells us here about some of her experiences.
We hope you enjoy her story.
- - - - -
Erin is 25 years old from the East Coast, USA
"The wind of the truck rushing past made my wheel wobble dangerously as I swerved from hitting an old woman wheeling a vegetable cart across the road. My heart thumped as I tried to stay upright while entire families piled together on scooters whizzed by and mangy dogs weaved in between. I rolled back the throttle and heard a chuchunk chuchunk and stalled right as I accidentally plunged my foot in a gutter full of garbage. I started singing to myself in the helmet to stay calm while chugging along in the maddening traffic.
This, was my first experience riding a motorcycle, in the streets of Hanoi.
Originally, I’m from a small town in Connecticut, USA, where I was brought up with a passion for the outdoors and adventure. After earning “Most Likely to Travel” in my high school yearbook, I’ve embraced exploring the world ever since.
My journey with motorcycling began in 2014 while preparing for a trip to Vietnam. I read numerous blogs of backpackers traveling the country by motorbike and while still in America, enrolled in a three-day safety course to get my license. The foundation was important, but truthfully, no amount of preparation can prepare you for the hectic roads of Vietnam.
In Hanoi, I bought a rickety old 110 cc “Honda Win” (more likely a Chinese counterfeit) from a Canadian backpacker for $270. It was held together by duct tape and bungee cords. Somehow the bike took me through the lawless roads of Vietnam all the way down the the country to Saigon, a place where traffic lights are nonexistent. On the bright side, petrol was only $5 a tank.
The chaotic big cities were merely bookends to the beautiful mountains, rice paddies, and tropical beaches that made the journey magical. The warmth of the locals was also incredible, including being rescued on the side of the road every time the bike broke down.
I saw plenty of backpacker bikers on the Ho Chi Minh Highway but sadly none of them were female. As much of a badass as I felt every time people stared when I took off my helmet, it made me feel somewhat isolated and out of place. I dreamed of leading an all-girls riding group the length of the country, hoping for ladies on bikes to become a normal sight.
Despite all the challenges of the road, including dropping the bike and dealing with crooked cops, the trip was incredible and inspiring. It was the first time I could appreciate the freedom and adventure that comes with backpacking on a motorcycle. I loved how I made the rules on where I wanted to go that day, when I wanted to stop, and what detours I could take. Each day was like an adventure to get to the next destination and see what challenges the road would throw my way.
After the trip, I moved to San Francisco in 2016 to discover West Coast living in the foggy hills and quirky neighborhoods of the Bay. I was inspired after my Vietnam adventure to continue riding, and got a bright red Kawasaki Ninja 250. It was a dream having a bike that didn’t break down every other day.
The San Francisco Bay area has hundreds of twisty roads, making it a playground for motorcycles. Just outside the city, there were roads curving up Mount Tamalpais, or along the Pacific Coast highway to the Redwood forests. Every weekend was a new destination, gaining confidence and taking in the California scenery.
At this point, the feeling of being the only woman rider was starting to get to me. I got overly excited every time I saw a ponytail sticking out of a helmet, but they were few and far between. Since I wasn’t seeing many women on the road, I looked online and was thrilled to find thousands of women posting about their rides. I started following as many pages as possible for inspiration and felt that I had found this smart, sexy, badass secret club that I wanted to join. Even if I wasn’t riding with these women, I still felt like I was a part of something bigger, and something that seemed to be growing every day.
After quitting my job in San Francisco, I decided to come to Australia for a working holiday. As soon as I moved to Sydney, I bought a 650cc Kawasaki ER6-f and was excited to be back in the saddle, especially after upgrading to a bigger bike. I spent six months working in Sydney, commuting through the city traffic, saving up for a motorcycle trip up to Cairns with my boyfriend. This trip would cover three times the distance of my journey through Vietnam, but now that I’d been riding for several years, I was ready for the challenge.
At the start of the trip, New South Wales tried every ounce of my courage with weeks of relentless rain, muddy farm roads, and twisty mountain passes. Every time I reached the next backpacker hostel it felt like a small victory. Later on in the trip, the rain lifted and the warmth of Queensland rewarded us for the earlier struggle. We passed along the peaks of the Glass House Mountains, the beaches of Fraser Island, and the rainforests of Mission Beach, all the way up to Cairns. I grinned every time we whizzed by a Greyhound bus full of backpackers, grateful to have our own set of wheels.
Just like in Vietnam, I was amazed at how often the locals came to our rescue. For example, when our bike wouldn’t start, we parked in front of the Coffs Harbour SuperCheap Auto hopelessly trying to diagnose the problem. Four different motorcyclists came over and lent a hand until we had solved the issue and were on our way. It felt like we were all part of some unspoken pact to help fellow riders out. I only hope that I’ll learn enough about motorcycles to be able to help others during their struggles.
However, none of the motorcyclists we came in contact with were women. On the road, I didn’t see more than three women motorcyclists over the whole two months. It was clear that women riding was a pretty novel idea, as most people would assume I was riding on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle. It didn’t even occur to them that I also rode, which got frustrating. Each time, I made it a point to inform them that we were each traveling on our own bikes.
Now that my time down under is over, I’m excited for my next chapter of riding back in California. Up until now, my experiences motorcycling have been linked to my passion for travel. In the future I want to settle into one place in order to get fully involved in a local community of women motorcyclists. I read about girls that ride every weekend with their friends and I’d love to have that, but it requires me to stay in one place long enough to make lasting friends! That being said, I still dream of motorbiking around the world--maybe with other women.
For the ladies out there thinking about riding—my advice is to go for it! Not only will you feel like the baddest gal around, but the confidence you gain from riding a motorcycle will translate into all the other things you do. When I doubt myself, I remember how challenging that first ride in Vietnam felt and it encourages me to overcome whatever obstacles in life come my way.
Wishing you all safe and adventurous rides,
To follow along on my motorcycle travel blog, visit MotoBackpacker.com"
- - - - -Thank you to Erin for sharing her story and if you would like to share your story with us simply go to the GET IN TOUCH page of the website and fill in the form and we will gladly be in touch.
Comments will be approved before showing up.