We all find ourselves lost at one point or another. Where should I go next? What am I looking for? Which continent should I ride in next? But can you imagine being all alone in a continent where you have landed a couple of days before, buying a bike without having any idea how to ride one and a whole load of possibilities in front of you?
This is how it all started for Egle. Riding a 150cc Chinese bike, with barely any plans and any clue where this might lead, and Tales from South America is about exactly that: the journey of a solo traveller who met incredible people with stories to be told. Stories that make experiences on the road worth living. I spoke to Egle to discover more about her forthcoming book, and to find out about her past experiences.
Deborah: How did you feel travelling on a bike for the first time so far from home?
Egle: Like I was going on some awesome expedition! At the same time, though, I was already used to seeing motorcycles out in the streets all the time. In Peru, everybody rides – men, women, entire families with chickens aboard, teenagers… Literally everyone is running around on small motorcycles. So it just didn’t feel like learning to ride and buying a motorcycle was a big deal. In the West, it is, but in Peru it’s just an everyday thing that barely gets noticed. And sure, locals mostly ride small, 150-250cc bikes, not the humongous 1200s or bigger ones. But maybe that’s not a bad idea – especially when you’re just starting out!
Riding the bike on the open road for the first time was absolutely exhilarating. It only went 60mph at top speed but, to me, it felt incredible. I’d never felt so free before.
To this day, riding a bike, I just feel like I become bigger than myself. Like there are no limits to anything.
D: Do you recall riding in places where you would have never got close to if you were travelling differently?
E: Sure. On a bike, you see a road, a mountain path, or a track through a forest and you can follow it wherever it leads. Sometimes, it leads to a dead end but sometimes, it leads to a cliff edge overlooking the most stunning valley or crater lake on Earth. Sometimes, you get lost, but the perfect solitude and the breathtaking nature around you is worth it.
In South America, the infrastructure for tourism is developing very quickly and you can really get around by buses. But by motorcycle, you can still discover places and people. Remote little villages in the Andes, indigenous people that have very little contact with the outside world, nameless little fishermen’s settlements along the Pacific coast… This is more than travel; it’s discovery, and I think that’s why it’s so exciting.
D:What is your advice to people who are hesitant on travelling on a long-term motorcycle trip, due to lack of experience?
E: Experience isn’t just going to suddenly grow out of nowhere. You get experience by doing things, so go out there and do it!
I’m not even sure travel experience is relevant if you’re setting out on a long motorcycle journey. It’s not something you’re going to do in a week or two; it’s a long and slow process, and savouring every single day, your experience, confidence and freedom to move in the world grows.
You don’t go to the gym for one day and then complain your abs aren’t showing yet. You don’t develop a deep, long lasting friendship over a weekend. You might fall in love instantly but a real partnership takes time, patience and energy. It’s the same with world travel. You might look at your round-the-world route and think, ‘oh my gosh, how will I ever do this?’ But you will, day by day. One day, you’ll ride from your home to the next town. Do it again the next day, and the next… Before you know it, you’re back home, but coming from the opposite direction.
I think openness, curiosity and empathy are far more important to travel the world by motorcycle than experience.
D: What inspired you to write this book?
E: Stories that need to be told. So many people perceive South America as this mysterious, exotic continent. And partly, it is. But for the most part, it’s not the ‘far away land’ aura that defines South America. It’s the local people that matter the most, so I wanted to tell their stories. Everyday stories of indigenous grandmothers and llama herders, artists and policemen, shamans and schoolgirls, horsemen and human rights activists. These are the stories that make up South America, and I wanted to tell them.
D: What should people expect from Tales from South America? How is it different from other books?
E: You know how sometimes, when you’ve just finished reading a good book, you close it and you feel this strange yearning inside. And it’s a little melancholic maybe, this yearning, but of the good kind, the kind that makes you look out the window for a moment, look towards the horizon, and wonder. And then you look around you; the wallpaper is the same, the bed in your room is the same, the pictures on the wall, the table and the chair, everything is the same. But you aren’t. Even if just for a moment, you aren’t.
This is the feeling I hope to inspire in my readers. If they’ll close the book and just think, ‘oh, but what if?’ If only for a brief moment, then my mission is accomplished.
And if not, then at the very least I hope to invite people to come along and discover a different South America. Very everyday and mundane, very extraordinary and awesome all at the same time.
Tales from South America will be available from March 2019, and you can pre-order the book here.