Feature: Natalie by Bike
I have always enjoyed outdoor adventure ever since I was a young child, I was the kid who always had a bit of dirt on their face even when I tried hard to stay clean. It started with family camping trips and I kept taking it a bit further getting into rock climbing at a young age and moved into backpacking in the Rocky Mountains in high school.
Adventure cycling was a natural progression for me; my first trip was when I graduated university in 2012 and toured the western US and learned a lot and promised myself I would not repeat all the mistakes I made. Now I am 23000 km into cycling the Pan American Highway and loving it!
In University I studied meteorology and have never worked in the field as I am not cut out for “normal” life. But what that degree has given me is a greater appreciation for our planet and our natural environment; plus knowing weather patterns comes in very handy when engaging in outdoor activities.
I started transitioning from male to female in late 2012, and since then my life has taken some radical turns. No longer lying to myself or others about who I am opened up many new possibilities that I otherwise would not have experienced. While my bike is adorned with both the LGBT and trans flags that has not proven to be an issue throughout my travels.
Who or what inspired you to choose independent vehicle travel as your mode of transportation?
Ever since I was a child I loved bicycling. There is a freedom that you feel when you are on two wheels powered by your body. For me the bike is just an extension of my body; I don’t need to think about how to maneuver around obstacles I just react. When you are cycling you are out in the elements, experiencing the wind, rain, sun, or snow in their full force and that is very humbling. Another benefit is the lack of carbon footprint beyond the creation of the bike and the parts that go along with it.
Everyone always asks a traveller what their favourite country is. Do you have a favourite country? If not, what is a place that is special to you?
Probably Colombia for favourite country, many of my dearest friends are Colombian so visiting their homeland and meeting their friends and family made that an extremely wonderful place. As for my favourite region probably the Arctic and Sub-Arctic in Alaska, Yukon, and Northern B.C. Those places were so remote I felt so small and insignificant in the best way. The contrast between the lush green of the Taiga and the rocky and glaciated mountains made for awe inspiring sights daily.
Travelling has taught me…
The easy answer is Spanish jaja. But in all seriousness probably how to prioritize what’s important better in all aspects of life be it what belongings you need to relationships with others. Travelling via bicycle does not allow for excesses and what gear I carry has a specific purpose. One thing I will never take for granted again will be hugs from good friends. It’s been over a year since I have seen friends or family I knew before my trip and when I finish I think I am going to hug my bestie until her girlfriend has to separate us.
Overlanding sucks sometimes because…
The lack of deep emotional connections. The friends I make traveling are good friends but they only last a short while before being relegated to digital communication or just outright ended. While those friendships are nice they lack the depth of emotional knowledge that I have with my longtime friends.
I am a badass woman because…
I live my truth. For years I pretended to be someone I am not; and ever since coming out I strive every day to be true to who I am, not changing to please others. Since I began that journey the quality of relationships has increased because when you share who your really are the connection is not based on false information you are rewarded with deeper friendships. Plus I have found in my life that the true stories are way more entertaining than any lie I could think of!
What is your favourite quote?
I have two and both were said by dear friends of mine:
“Normal is overrated” - my friend Kat said this to me years ago probably when we were making our costumes for Cirque du so Gay or something equally as awesome and weird.
“Strap on your big girl vag” - said by my best friend Sara to me shortly after I had vagina installation. We were playing soccer, I was in goal and she’s my sweeper and I my head wasn’t in the match until she said those magical words to me. Then I started kicking ass again. I now have those words tattooed on my arm.
One of the most common questions we get is about finances. Do you have any tips, tricks or advice on this topic?
Ooh I am probably the worst to be answering this. Younger, stupider me joined the military because I was hypermasculinating trying to convince myself I wasn’t actually a woman. Then I got run over by a bus and discharged and I use my disability to fund my travels. Since I cannot recommend that everyone jump in front of buses because the mortality rate for human speed bumps is remarkably high I suggest saving up and finding free places to camp or park at night more often than not.
How has this experience changed you?
I have definitely become more introspective throughout my journey. How can one not when you’re alone on your bike for hours on end day in and day out. I get lost in thought pondering who I am, what I am doing and why I’m doing it. And going back to a previous question about what traveling has taught me I am better at knowing what both my body and my mind need and giving it that.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women overlanders? And the biggest advantage?
Men harassing us. I don’t think a day goes by when a man doesn’t yell something crude, makes a rude gesture, or whistles at me while passing by. Each of these aggressions takes away from the enjoyment of travel and makes me feel unsafe not knowing if he is going to follow me and attack me physically or sexually.
The support from other women for sure whether it’s looking out for another woman’s safety or just being a helping hand we tend to take care of each other. I can’t begin to count how many times a latina mom or abuela has come to my rescue, invited into their home for dinner and a bed for a night.
What are your favourite overland resources (blogs, books, FB pages, etc.)?
For books I really enjoyed Sarah Outen’s Dare to Do which chronicles her attempt to circumnavigate the northern hemisphere only by human power. I like the Bicycle Travelling Women Facebook page, it’s much more friendly and helpful than another mixed gender bike touring Facebook group which is male dominated. On the Bicycle Travelling Women page differing opinions are not shouted down and people tend to lift each other up there. I really like it.
I love following my friends Sophie and Jérémy on their journey. They are biking a wee bit faster than me, oh well we all have our own pace. https://www.alaska-patagonie.com/
What is a simple life hack you’ve discovered while on the road?
Pee rag! So instead of using toilet paper to wipe after peeing I use a bandanna and when I am done wiping I strap it to a pannier for it to dry off in the wind and sun. Much less wasteful. Shout out to the MasterBeta Ladies climbing podcast for that little tip.
What advice would you give to someone with a dream to travel overland?
Just do it! It’s not a scary as it first seems when planning or starting out. After a short while you get into a groove and cannot imagine life any other way. Also go at your own pace and do what you want to do not what others say you have to. There are plenty of places I was near but didn’t visit because I just wasn’t feeling it for whatever reason. You don’t have to do it all, just do you. E-readers are a life saver, I would have gone insane long ago without my Kindle to read every day.