A Seasoned Adventurer: Steph Jeavons Comes Full Circle

 Image: Steph Jeavons

Image: Steph Jeavons

Steph Jeavons left the Ace Cafe in London, UK in March 2014 on her Honda CRF 250L. And 4 years later, on a cold and snow-patched day in March 2018, she completed her trip when she arrived back at the Ace Cafe. When we last spoke to her, she expected to be on the road for another year, but what was supposed to be a three year journey ended up being four, as she dealt with health issues and more. Steph talks about what it’s like to travel on a small bike, and about how to deal with catching the travel bug. With an apprehensive start at the beginning of her adventure, she has come back an even more confident person, learning much about herself, people and travel along the way.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Interviewer: Jim Martin | Guest: Steph Jeavons | Photos: Steph Jeavons

This transcript has been created from the original audio episode released April 19, 2018. This transcript may have been modified to make reading easier. As Adventure Rider Radio shows are meant to be listened to and not read, the following script may contain some grammatical and other errors. You can also listen to this interview by downloading the episode.

INTRO

Jim (Narrate): Well, before we get going on this weeks episode, I wanted to mention that Elizabeth and I have just launched a new project. I know we’ve had many people ask about Elizabeth, and why she isn’t on this show. Well, this new project is driven mainly by Elizabeth. It’s a new podcast called Beyond A Shadow. Beyond A Shadow is true stories about crime, mysteries, and social injustice. Now we’ve got a link on the Adventure Rider Radio website, down in the right-hand side, but the website is www.beyondashoadow.org. If you like it, please give us hand in getting the word out, but sharing it, rating it (go on iTunes and rate it, or on Facebook, wherever you want), but just generally telling others. We’d really appreciate it if you’d help us get the word out for this new project that we’re working on. 

Jim (Narrate): Now on today’s episode of Adventure Rider Radio, we have Steph Jeavons. She’s returned from her four year ‘round the world trip on a Honda 250 (that at one point she rode not he beaches of Antarctica- seriously, she did that). Just weeks ago, she returned to her starting point- the Ace Cafe in London. Now, we’re going to talk about Steph’s trip and a whole bunch of things to do with it, but it’s really good if you’ve ever considered doing a long trip, it’s interesting to get the mind set that Steph has, and what she learned. She was very nervous leaving the Ace Cafe, and then when she’s returned, she’s sort of returned [as] this seasoned adventurer. We’ve got a lot we’re going to talk about, including a small adventure bike, and shoes probably not going to give the answer that you’re expecting. My name’s Jim Martin, this is Adventure Rider Radio. Stay with us- we’ve got a good one for you. 

INTERVIEW

Jim: It was 2014 when Steph Jeavons rode away form the Ace Cafe in London, England, feeling nervous and sort of uncertain about the journey that she had committed to publicly. The realization that she was on her trip at the point was overwhelming that day as onlookers stood, watching her back and her motorcycle, get smaller as she disappeared down the road to…who know’s what. And now, just weeks ago, Steph rode back into to the parking lot of the Ace Cafe, effectively completely her 3 year ‘round the world trip in just 4 years. That little Honda that she rode to all points around the globe was barely cooled down before Steph was thinking about her next adventure. No doubt, somewhere on the road, she picked up the bug. The bug is that infection that riders get when the dust stains their jackets, and their passports get filled with stamps from exotic lands. When motorcycle travel morphs from an indenture into a way of life. 

Steph: Okay, my name’s Steph Jeavons. I’m from North Wales. I have just finished a 4 year around the world solo adventure ride through 7 continents [and] through 53 countries.

Jim: Steph, welcome back to Adventure Rider Radio.

Steph: Thank you very much. Nice to talk to you again.

Jim: Well, last time we talked it was April 2016. I went back and looked to be sure. 

Steph: Is that when it was?

Jim: It was yeah- April. You were- at that point now, looking back- you were sort of in the middle of things, because you were in British Columbia, I believe, and you were getting ready to do that last leg to Africa. For those who don’t know the story, what got you on the road to begin with?

Steph: Well, I’d always wanted to do a big trip, I suppose. I was into motorbikes when I Was younger, I had my very young, so I had to grow up very quickly, and so I always had this thing of wanting to one day escape and have my freedom, I guess. So it was something that I couldn’t do straight away, I had to wait until my son was grown up. When he was 20, it was like, alright okay, see you later son, I’m off. He kind gave me a hug and said, good on you mum, why not? Off you go. It was meant to be a much shorter trip than it was, but these things kind of roll on, and you just kind of go for it. And, a 2 year trip became a 4 year trip, before I knew it, so. 

Jim: Is that a cultural thing, where you’re from? The motorcycle, and taking off on adventure on a motorcycle? Or is it just the idea of getting away, and bike happened to be your choice? 

Steph: Well, doesn’t everybody have a dream, at some point, of just escaping, and running away?

Jim: Well, I think so, but not by motorcycle necessarily. 

Steph: Yeah, no, maybe not by motorcycle. But for me, I’d always been into bikes, I love bikes. I passed my test when I was 21, but when I was a young rebel teenager, I was the one who was not eh back of the lads [bikes], as well. So, I’ve always been around bikes. My parents were into bikes, and still are actually. So it just seemed like the obvious choice to me. I started working in the motorbike industry back in 2008, and that became even more reason to do it. And, I worked with some very inspirational people, I guess. So I thought, well hey, if they’re doing what they’re doing, and they’re chasing their dreams, they’re just going for it, so why shouldn’t I? So I did. I just set a date, and went for it. I had no idea how I was going to do it, or if I was the sort of person that could do it. But I wanted to find that out. So off I went. Turns out I am.

Jim: Did you leave on a grand adventure? Was it this grand adventure that you planned, or was it just getting out? 

Steph: No, I kind of turned it into a grand adventure in my head. So. I’m not a wallflower, and I do like to…you know, if you’re going to do it, why not go the whole hog? Originally it was…the dream originally wasn’t a grand adventure, it was just to ride around and have fun. But then I started building it up, and as I always say, I had couple of tequilas too many, and I decided I was going to ride to all 7 continents. And once you start telling people you’re going to do something, you’ve got to kind of do it, right, so. So yeah, and like I said, I started telling people. Not only my friends, but the motorbike manufacturers, and people in the industry…so it started becoming a bit of a thing. So I had to just go for it. And I’m so glad I did. There was so many reasons why I shouldn’t have been able to get to 7 continents. Financially, logistically…but, because…I couldn’t turn back, because I had told everyone. And what a ride it was. It was brilliant.

Jim: Well, I remember talking to you about that before. We talked about public declarations. And  often, there’s no better way to force yourself to do something, than tell everybody- hey look, I’m going to do this. Because you look like an idiot if you don’t. 

Steph: If you don’t, exactly.

Jim: Yeah.

Steph: And I can remember, and I think I told you/talked to you about it last time, I can remember leaving the Ace Cafe thinking, I’m a fraud. These people think I know wha tI’m doing, I haven’t got a clue. I’m wobbling out of the car park, and I don’t know if I’m going to make it past Germany. You know? Even in Germany, I dropped my bike, and my dad said to me the other day, he says- I remember you calling me from Germany when you’d dropped the bike, and the throttle had got stuck. It had landed hard, and the throttle had got stuck. And he said0 I just heard the panic in your voice. And he thought, uh oh. And I was, I was in total panic. I thought, well I can’t do this. I cannot…I was lying in a {?} in Germany going- this was a silly idea. But we kept going. And that’s all you’ve got to do really, isn’t it? Is you’ve just got to keep going.

Jim: So now are you sort of a seasoned adventurer? Now do you find things just roll off you that wouldn’t have before? 

Steph: Seasoned adventurer. Well, I do like the sound of that. Yeah, things do roll off me a lot more. But I think when you get home, your mindset changes again. You’ve got to remind yourself of the mindset you had on the road. It seems easier to deal with thing on the road. I think you just get into this…you get on a roll, and you think- it’s all good, it’s part of the adventure. And the amount of times I’ve said that to myself…You know, it’s all part of the adventure…And when I’m at home, i get easily more irritated by things. Or, somebody pulls out on me in a car of a junction, and I’m like, roar! And I have to kind of stop, and tell myself, well, you were riding through Carro a couple of months ago, where that’s the norm. Take it in stride, and you have to sort of get yourself back into that mindset. But, yeah, I mean, not much phases me on the road. That’s for sure. Because, anything can happen, and invariably does. 

Jim: It’s interesting you mention that, about coming back and having to deal with sort of falling back into your normal routine. We’ve often talked about that with…different people have travel, like yourself, gone for a long time, and then come back…and I know everybody struggles with that. Bringing what you learned on the road, that personality you developed (I mean, a slight change in your personality [that] you’ve developed), back home. Do you see any way…I mean, you’ve been there, you’ve been home for two weeks now, haven’t you? 

Steph: Yeah, well, three weeks now, I guess. Yeah, three weeks tomorrow.

Jim: Okay, so, three weeks you’ve been home. Are you seeing it fade that quickly? I mean, do you see any way that you can hold onto that adventure attitude that you had?

Steph: Well, I think just being aware of it helps you. And then reminding yourself, and being adamant with yourself that that’s the person you want to be. Then you really have to make an effort, I think, to keep hold of it. And you know, I definitely…I see a change. I do see a change in myself. I’ve come back, and I am more relaxed, and a happier person. Maybe more tolerant. Little things. But we’ll see as time goes on. We’ll see how I cope with it, and whether I’m going to revert back on it. I hope not. You know, I spent a lot of money and time to make these changes. So yeah, I think you just have to be aware of it. You know? Yeah.

Jim: So, are you- now being home three weeks- are you looking at the next adventure? Are you already pulling out the map, and thinking, hmm, what can I do? 

Steph: I’m already looking at the next adventure, yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m seriously looking at it or not. Actually, no, I think I am. But I’d like to…I’d like mohave a bit of time at home. Three weeks isn’t very long. But, I don’t know…It’s just…it’s an addictive thing. You know- to keep on moving. And much as I’m very happy being back in my caravan in Wales, and really enjoying the fact that I don’t have to have to pack and un-pack. Actually, since I’ve got home, I haven’t looked at my motorbike. I’ve put it in the garage, and I’ve not looked at it since. I’m not interested in my camera,  I’m not interested in Facebooking, or blogging…all the stuff I’ve been doing the last four years, and enjoyed doing, suddenly I’m just like- no, I don’t want to look at it right now. But, I have already started thinking about what I’m doing next. What adventure I’m doing next. So. Which I’m not going to tell you about yet.

Jim: So you knew where I was going to go with that. 

Steph: Yeah, I knew it was coming. Yeah. 

Jim: Let’s go back a little bit. Because we said last time we talked you were in British Columbia…I think you were heading to Africa after that, were you? Or no. You were going to cross the country first, and then go to Africa. 

Steph: I was in BC, yes. So I crossed the Prairies, and got to Toronto, and then I shipped from Toronto to South Africa. And then I spent about 8 months in Africa all together. Up the East coast. And I’m so glad. Because originally my plan was to ship to Morocco, and just touch the- cheat really- just touch the corner of Africa, and then ride home. But I couldn’t leave it. I love Africa anyways, and I couldn’t leave it unridden. So last minute, I decided…well, when I was in Canada I decided, I was going to go to Cape Town, and ride across. And what a wonderful ride it was, I absolutely loved it. 

Jim: I always have to chuckle when I hear people like you, travellers, say stuff like that.

Steph: People like me? How is that?

Jim: I knew you were going to go for that. People like you- travellers- you mentioned, oh well, I figured I just may as well ride the length of Africa while Iw as there. Like, give me a break. That’s a huge continent. That’s not just a day ride. I say that when I’m going to go- oh maybe I’ll head into town for the day, or something like that. Or maybe I’ll head over to the next town, you know? That’s how I talk about distance. But you have a different perspective altogether.  

Steph: Well, it is funny, and it is all about perspective. Because…you know, it’s funny, because when I got to Cape Town…sorry, I actually shipped to Durban, not Cape Town…but when I got to Durban, I thought, well, I’m nearly home now. But for most people, travelling across Africa is a trip of a lifetime, you know. But for me it’s just like, ah, it’s just this last continent, and I’m home. Yeah, it’s just all about perspective, I suppose. When I’m at home I’m thinking, if I’ve got to drive to London, I think- ah, such a long drive. But that’s less than I’d do in a day normally. So, your perspective changes again.

Jim: What was it like riding across Canada? What did you think of the prairies? 

Steph: I loved it. Everybody said to me- oh, why are you riding across Canada? Why aren’t you riding across the states? Well, I’ve been across the states four or five times. Four times, sorry. I was born in Canada, and I wanted to see what the prairies were like. And I absolutely loved it. I got invited, by a 13 year old lad who lived on a ranch there, and still does with his parents, and he said- ah, I’ve got a CRF 250 like you as well, and I’d love it if you could come and visit, and my mum doesn’t mind. Me and my friends will take you around on our so-many-thousand hector property. So I couldn’t resist, and I went to visit him. We rode horses, we rode motorbikes. We had a real giggle. It was absolutely brilliant. I broke…I run out of (I didn’t break down)…I run out of fuel somewhere int he prairies, and some old boy comes along and refills my…you know, everyone was so friendly and lovely. It was very windy. Because it was still spring, very early spring, I’d set my tent up in the warm evening, and wake up with snow on my tent, and that kind of thing. In fact, I looked so rough one morning…I just got out of my tent, and there was a bit of snow on the ground, and I was like- ugh. And, I must’ve looked so bad, because this old couple stopped the car, came over, and gave me twenty dollars and said, go and get yourself some breakfast. I was like- oh, do I look that bad?

Jim: Wow.

Steph: And they were like- yeah, there’s a Tim Horton’s over there, you know, go-

Jim: That’s a real slap in the face. 

Steph: …get yourself a coffee, yeah.

Jim: They didn’t see your motorcycle sitting there?

Steph: They did, yeah. They saw the motorbike. I think they just thought, oh, poor thing. She probably can’t afford a camper van, is probably what they thought.

Jim: Why so early in the spring? Why would you cross then?

Steph: Because I was impatient. That’s what I do. People were saying, well it’s too early to cross Canada yet. But I was fit- and I’d had some injuries- fit and healthy again. And a bit of sunshine had come, and I was like- no, I’m going for it. So…it didn’t turn out too badly. It was quite a nice ride. Bit of a chill in the air, and like I said, the odd bit of snow. But the snow melted very quickly, so it was all good. It was all good.

Jim: You said you had some injuries- you went through quite a number of health issues.

Steph: Yeah, well, I had a couple really- I had a frozen shoulder, and my spine became quite {?}…I had to have 77 injections in my spine, and several in my shoulder. I couldn’t move my arm more than a few inches either way, really. And, it took a long time, a lot of recovery. I also ended up quite anxious. They said I had pain anxiety. Because I kept getting these sharp pains shooting down my legs and through my arms, and all that kind of thing. It was a constant pain, as well. I was very jumpy, and I didn’t think I was going to finish. A friend of mine at one point said, gave me a whiskey and said- you know, it’s time to finish. You’ve done enough. And I was just like- [crying], I can’t finish. And so I rested for a while, I had a lot of treatment, a lot of physio, lots of swimming. I went to the gym everyday. Eventually I got strong enough to go again. I’m so glad I did. I was nearly ready to, my body was…by the time I finished Africa, my body was hurting again a lot, I must admit. But, I’m I’m so glad I did it. Now I’ve just got to recover again. 

Jim: Well, yeah.

Steph: I don’t know how many times I can break myself, but.

Jim: And often, [with] that sort of thing, when you’re not feeling well, you want to go home. That’s one of those things where most people would want to go- okay, that’s it. I’m done. 

Steph: Yeah, yeah. Well, I got to that point where I was pretty close, but…I also knew that I’d regret it if I didn’t finish. I’ms o glad I carried on. It would have been quite depressing if I didn’t finish what I had set out to do. And I did say, at one point in Africa, because my other shoulder started getting very bad, and I said- if it gets as bad as the last time, I’m not putting myself through that again. I’m stopping, and shipping home, and I have done enough. It’s fine. And I told myself that. But it didn’t really get any worse until the last leg through Europe. So, by then it was- okay, you’re nearly home now. Just keep going. You’re good.

Jim: Even if you had quit at that point, you’d had your bike to Antarctica. I mean, has anyone else ridden a motorcycle in Antarctica? Do you know that?

Steph: They have. They’ve ridden…people have…there’s a couple of people that have got a bike to Antarctica, but haven’t done the 7 continents. So I think there’s probably four people in the world that have got a motorbike to Antarctica. But to lap the globe, and do all 7 continents, there’s…okay, there’s a lady called Benka…is it Benka Pulko? She did it a few years ago. She didn’t actually ride the bike in Antarctica, but she did get the ride there. And to be fair- the hardest bit is getting  the bike there. So we’ll let her have that. And it had to be a woman, too, didn’t it? Because I kind of blew it for me being the first woman in the world. No, but what I mean is, that’s great- girl power. Really happy about that. But no guy has ever done it. So, in all seriousness, no guy has ever done it. So that’s still there for the taking, if anybody’s/if any guy’s listening-

Jim: Somebody’s looking for a first. 

Steph: Somebody’s looking for a first- it’s there. yeah. 

Jim: I remember you mentioning that people had asked if you had ridden to the pole. And of course, your riding was I guess restricted to a beach. 

Steph: Yeah. To a beach, and a Ukrainian Science Base. Yeah, yeah. And the rest of it was all about drinking lots of alcohol and having fun, yeah. We didn’t do any serious…I mean, it would have taken an amazing amount of effort, and back up, and helicopters, and fuel dumps to get to the pole. But hey, you never know. Maybe next time, right?

Jim: That’s- well, yeah. That could be your next adventure, definitely. 

BREAK

Jim (Narrate): Stay with us, we have a lot more. Steph’s going to talk about an incident she had in Africa, where a guy tried to pull her off her bike. Which, I think was probably the worst thing that she had to deal with…but anyway, stay with us…a lot more.

INTERVIEW (Con’t)

Jim: When you went to Africa…when you left North America and went to Africa…was it your first time to Africa?

Steph: No, it wasn’t. I’d been a couple of times. I used to ride motorbike till I was in Morocco.

Jim: Oh, right. I’d forgot. So Morocco though- that’s one thing. But riding up through Africa…was that as big of a deal as a lot of people would say it is? And I’m not saying it isn’t. But, was it it as big of a deal for you, after riding all the distance that you did, all the countries that you have? 

Steph: Depends what you mean by a big deal, really.

Jim: Well, did it make you…was it apprehensive for you?

Steph: Oh, apprehensive? Not really. South Africa is…when I got to South Africa, people were saying to me- you’re going to die. You’re crazy to ride across. A lot of people outside of South Africa were worried about me riding across because people imagine Africa to be this terrifying place where…a couple of people said to me- you know, if South Africa, you’re going to get raped, and murdered, and pulled from your bike. Not necessarily in that order, but. And I would say- well, you know, I just choose to believe it’ll be all okay. But by then I was used to people saying stuff to me. You know- we’re okay, but watch out for them, they’ll kill you. Being a woman on my own, people assume that I’m going to be vulnerable, and that people are going to take advantage of me. What I found is that’s not generally the case. So I wasn’t too worried. Maybe a little bit apprehensive, a little bit excited…and I should feel like that, for every country, every continent, has it’s own challenges. As far as the actual execution, the actual ride, it was wonderful. I didn’t have any trouble from people. Well, apart from one very minor incident.

Jim: Well, are you referring to the guy in Africa that sort of tried to drag you off your bike? Why don’t you just tell us that?

Steph: Yeah. So, I was in Botswana, and I had pulled up at the garage. I had bought a local sim card, and I sat on a log trying to sort it out, and this guy comes along and starts talking to me. And he sits on the log next to me. But he sits so close the he’s touching my arm. Our arms are touching. So I moved a little bit, and he said…he starts talking to me, and then he says- I like white women. I was like- that’s nice. He says- no, no, I love white women. I’m like- okay, that’s very nice. And I thought, okay, I’m going to leave. He says- you must stay with me, or I come with you (or something). And I thought, well, okay, I’m just going to…time to leave, maybe. So I start walking away, and I put my helmet on, and he says- no, you must come with me. He grabbed me, and went to pull me away, and I pushed him so hard that he fell over. I thought, uh oh. So I jumped on my bike, and he jumped up and tried to drag me off my bike, and then a load of guys came running over. I thought, are these guys with him, or with me? Heck, I’m not sure. That split second. And of course, they were. They came and dragged him away. As I went to pull away, I went good luck with those white women, and start riding off. They let him go, but he runs after me. And he’s chasing me down the road as I’m trying to navigate the traffic by now. I’m just watching him getting smaller and smaller in my mirror. But it wasn’t a scary thing, in fact the only thing I thought when he tried to drag me off the bike was, if you make me drop this bike, I’m going to be very angry. Because it was so hot. I wasn’t thinking, oh no, or anything. It was…he was just a slightly crazy guy. He might have been drunk, I don’t know. That was it. And if you can get across Africa, and that is your only major event then, as far as people are concerned, it’s a very safe place. I know things happen. Somebody got mugged in Ethiopia not long after I…some bikers got mugged in Ethiopia not longer after I went through there. But I found it was…you can get mugged anywhere, of course. It was just unlucky. But I found Ethiopia to be such a wonderful place. One of my favourite counties, in fact. 

Jim: When this guy’s trying to drag you off your bike, and you kicking and screaming and yelling at him? Or?

Steph: You know, I’d just got…I’d managed to get the stand up, so I was holding the bike in position. Holding the balance. As he grabbed me, I was just wrestling trying to hold the bike, I couldn’t really even do much. Apart from trying to hold the bike up. And that’s all I was thinking was- don’t make me drop this bike! It’s too hard. And before he had a chance to do anything, or drag me off, like I said, these guys were here, and dragging him away. So it really was no big deal.

Jim: So at the time though, you weren’t really scared? The hearts not pumping? 

Steph: No, not really. The only times I’ve had issues with guys, or anything like that really…it’s never put me in a point where I’m frightened. I’m just dealing with it. It’s only after you think, oh, than could have been nasty. But you just deal with it as it happens. I hear a lot of people…a lot of women ask me, a lot of people ask me…what’s it like as a woman? And- didn’t you get hassled? And- oh, when I Went here, I got this hassle, or that hassle. I think again, it’s about…it’s not all about perspective, don’t get me wrong…but I think that, if you think of yourself as a vulnerable victim, then you’re going to panic. But I think it’s something you can get used to…hey, I get up in Wales. We’re used to sort of telling them off, and, I think…I mean, in all seriousness, it’s hard to know how to say this without it sounding like other people are being dramatic…I just think at the time you deal with it, and then it’s over before it’s really even started. But it’s very rare that you get hassle like that. I think the motorbike helps, and all your gear. People don’t see a vulnerable woman. They see somebody who’s getting on with life. And they’re interested. They’re not going- oh, what can I get out of her? That’s not generally how people think as a rule. 95% are there getting on with their life. They’re not looking for those opportunities. 

Jim: Are there things you do different than a male traveler would do? I mean, you ride a long with somebody. You must have met up with other people, and ridden for some time with them. Do you find you handle things differently? Or maybe you approach things differently?

Steph: No. I think that anybody’s who’s travelled for a while, male or female, has a very similar approach. It’s a lot about smiling a lot. In fact, I was talking to an old guy up in the mountains today who was nearly 80 years old, and he said that he had gone to France (not on a motorbike, he’d just gone to France)…that he now smiled more, and tried to make people laugh more, because the response…he was telling me a story about how he got a baguette off somebody in France when the place was closed…but his point was that when you smile, and you make people laugh, then people are more willing to help you, or stop and chat to you, or make you a baguette when they’re really closed. I think that the attitude…it’s all about attitude. And, if you keep smiling…often in a crowd of people who were staring at me, it may initially appear hostile. But they’re all staring because they’re interested. And people kind of forget what they’re doing with their face, because they’re just in awe, or in amaze at this sight of this crazy woman on a motorbike. And I’m looking at them going, wow this is scary, look at all these people just staring at me…and if one person smiles, then everybody starts smiling. And we all sort of go-oh, this is cool. And everybody relaxes. Whether you’re a boarder, of you’re surrounding my people in a little village in Ethiopia, or whatever, a smile is contagious. It might sound a bit corny, but it’s very, very true. 

Jim: You had sort of an experience with that in Luxor, didn’t you (in Egypt)?

Steph: Did I?

Jim: You did. You had said that you had found that…I think a waiter tried to rip you off, and you had some different experiences there, where people just seemed to be trying to take advantage of you…and what you had said was, that you found that if you sort of chuckled at them, laughed, as they approached you…can you tell that story?

Steph: Yeah, well, Egypt was…you’ve been reading the blog, haven’t you…

Jim: It’s all part of the research stuff.

Steph: Yeah, thanks for that. I appreciate that.

Jim: To remind you of your story.

Steph: Where did I go again? Who am I? Sorry? So yeah, so when I crossed the border from Sudan into Egypt, it was a very different story. Sedan was…I got so used to being relaxed with people, and people generally not trying to rip you off. But, coming into Egypt and Luxor, it was…a different mindset. So I left my hotel room, and went back for something, and there’s a couple of guys in there. And same for the waiter who tried to charged me for my breakfast when it was actually included. Then I Went off to the valley of the kings, and there was all sorts of stuff going on. I really got quite annoyed with it, and quite irritated about it initially, because I’d forgotten that that could happen when I’ve bene all the way around and saying and writing about peoples positive, and friendliness, and helpfulness…and then this sort of hit me, and it was like a slap in the face, really. But then I had to sort of sleep on it, and start the day again fresh. And, you can turn people around who are trying to rip you off if you kind of laugh at them, or with them, and kind of go- hey, come on. It does make all the difference. People can turn around quickly. They often smile knowingly and say- alright then, reset.

Jim: You’re onto me.

Steph: Yeah. You’re onto me, we’re on a level now, let’s move. And it changes things. I think it’s all about attitude, and perspective.

Jim: Do you do that still at home now? You’re probably less forgiving at home. 

Steph: You’re right. I’m probably less forgiving at home. Yeah, you’re quite right. Although, again, this is something that I’m determined to keep hold of. So, let’s see how I do.

Jim: You rode into the Ace Cafe, and for those who listen to this show, we just did a piece on Ace Cafe some weeks back, a few weeks back, and I think people have an idea of how incredible that place is. It’s actually my favourite cafe I’ve never been to. But, you rode into the Ace Cafe…because you left the Ace Cafe, as you said before, and you rode away feeling like you were a bit of a fraud, leaving on this big adventure, and all these people…and actually, I remember you saying now, as I said that, I remember you saying about, the feeling of, you locked eyes with a friend, I think it was. And you were almost pleading with them, as if, find me an excuse not to go.

Steph: That’s right.

Jim: So what was it like to come back to Ace Cafe?

Steph: Well, I had kind of imagined coming back to the Ace Cafe as being this big deal. Like- wow, look at me, I’ve made it, I’m going to cry. What an awesome feeling that’s going to be. In fact, I was talking to a friend the other day, and I said- I felt like I should have rehearsed what I was going to say. Because I rode in, and it was so cold that day. It was freezing cold, I mean, I’m not exaggerating. There was snow on the ground, and it was a pretty cold day. And, I rode in, and the Overland magazine editor, Patty, Patty {?}, he came over and greeted me. A lot of people gathered around, and they started filming, and they all had their cameras up…and I sort of just got off the bike and went- hey, Patty, how’s it going. Oh, that was a cold ride. And that was about it. I was thinking, where’s my cup of tea, and my bacon {?}. There was no tears, there was no jumping for joy. It was just a relief that I had got off the bike after a two hour ride from the port, form New Haven. To be honest, that was it, really. Although later on, we all gathered around for some photographs and stuff. This guy started playing, he was somebody who had been following me for a while on the blog, and he got the bagpipes out, and started playing the bagpipes. It was something he’d promised, and I’d forgotten. But he promised he would going to do- turn up at the Ace, and play the bagpipes when I arrived home. 

Jim: Very cool.

Steph: And he did, and everyone was cheering, and the bagpipes went…and then I felt very emotional. I felt like I wanted to cry at that point. Because I could see on my friends faces, people who had come to France in the freezing cold to ride with me. Even though I told them not to, because it was ridiculously cold. My parents who’d come all that way to support me had ridden in. That was pretty emotional. It was like, yay, check me out- I did it. But, if I’m honest, actually when I got to Carro, I had more of that feeling. Getting to the end of the 7th continent. I remember riding in and going, oh, wow. Actually, I’ve done it, haven’t I? This is it. You know? So that, I think maybe I’d been through all that already. And coming home…I expected to be kind of quite depressed about that. Because I know a lot of people are after a big adventure. I think everyday’s changing, and when you get home, everything the same. Everyday’s the same. It’s not so exciting. And what becomes the norm on the road, you suddenly realize, isn’t the norm for most people. But, no, I don’t feel depressed right now. I feel quite happy. My body was ready to stop. I think it was just a really good time for it all to finish. This particular trip. It’s just a chapter that’s closing, and a new ones just beginning. That is quite exciting for me. Although I have no clue what’s in the next chapter, it’s kind of exciting. i’ve never been worried about the unknown. It’s never worried me too much.

Jim: What do you feel you accomplished on the trip? Coming back, when you’re all done, what do you sit back and say- I did it- [to]? I mean, the 7 continents, yes. But what else?

Steph: Well, I feel like I’ve proved something to myself. I wanted to know about- like I said at the beginning- I wanted to know if I was the sort of person who could do this. It was just a challenge that I set myself. It could have been anything, I suppose. But I wanted to be a person who stuck to her word. I wanted to know that I Was the sort of person that didn’t hide behind other people, the could make her owns decisions, and that wasn’t frightened to go with them. And, like I said, I’d ridden tours in Morocco before. I was in charge of those tours. But, I always had a team around me, a good team around me. So, if things started going wrong, or things got a little bit dodgy, or decisions had to be made, I always had people around me. And, that changes…that can change things. You never really know; could I have dealt with that differently, had I been on my own? I’m quite proud of the way I’ve dealt with things. So, I guess that’s what I’ve accomplished. I’ve proved something to myself, and I’m quite happy with the results, really. 

Jim: Do you feel that it takes a special person to do this sort of adventure? Or do you think it’s something that you…it’s sort of like going through school?

Steph: Yeah, I think it is almost like going through school I don’t think it’s takes a special person to do it. I think…well, I’ve always said, anyone can do it. Although, I know people who have started and not finished. But that also is a strong thing to do, is to make the decision- okay, maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe they could have continued, but it has to be very important for you int he first place to do it. It’s not always an easy ride. There are going to be challenges. You can get homesick, you can get sick, you can get injured. The motivation fades away sometimes; you know-why is it again that I’m doing it? It takes some endurance to keep going sometimes. Because it’s not all exciting fun and games. Sometimes it’s just boring. Sometimes you just want to change. Go do something else, and go home. Sometimes you want to wake up and know that your toothbrush is in the same place, and not have to pack your bag again. Or not have to get on that motorbike. You know? And face new things again, wether it’s new faces, new terrain, whatever. But I think if it’s something you really want to do, then yeah, anybody can do it. It’s not limited to a particular type of person, or a special type of person. I think it just takes a bit of brute force and ignorance, and that determination.

Jim: Yeah, I get that with living in a tent for a couple of months. It’s not like you don’t want to anymore, it’s just, when you get back, you really appreciate that running water. And the amenities that you have at home. 

Steph: Yeah. And I think everyone should do- I don’t mean everyone should ride around the world for four years, but- I think everyone should put themselves in a position occasionally, where they’re away from their securities, and their safety, and their comforts. Like running water, and a bed for the night. Just so they can go home and appreciate their pillow again. And a dressing gown. I so missed my dressing gown.

Jim: That’s pyjamas for us.

Steph: PJ’s, and dressing gown.

Jim: Right. But some of the stuff you’ve done is just so huge. I mean, some of the things we’ve talked about- going into Antarctica, and landing with your bike, and riding your bike. Just the logistics of doing that, of arranging it, of being bold enough…if I remember correctly, I think you had to actually transfer from one boat to another before it even got to the shore, I think you got onto a Russia icebreaker. How do you manage to do that? Like what gives you the gumption, the backbone to do it?

Steph: To even just start thinking that you can do it?

Jim: Yeah. I mean, even start doing it. It just seems like such a huge deal. You’re one person, your’e by yourself with your bike…

Steph: But you’re not though, and that’s the thing. I think that the thing [is], you’re not by yourself. So the getting it on the boat is, as you said an example, getting it to Antarctica…I mean, okay, it was a crazy idea. But as long as you start rolling with the idea, then people will come along. And people love a trier. If I say, hey, I’m going to try and get my motorbike to Antarctica. You just take one step at a time, and then before you know it, it’s rolling, and then somebody comes  along and says- hey, I know how you can do that, I know how you can get to this bit. And so on, and so forth. And then as soon as you get so far, that little bit further, that little bit further, more people will join in saying- wow, look what she’s trying to do, that’s cool. Hey, I know how I can help, here’s whatever. Here’s an extra pair of hands, or here’s a tequila- that’ll help.

Jim: Those little extras.

Steph: So it’s not just me doing it on my own. But I started the ball rolling, and then people come along and join in, and help out, and make things possible. That’s the beauty of these ideas. The only difference between me and the person who didn’t do it is, they thought it wasn’t possible because they couldn’t see all the answers before they started moving. And they decided to walk away. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, you don’t always get where you’re trying to go. But, if you don’t try, you never know.

Jim: So that’s part of it. You decide you want to do something first, regardless of how difficult or convoluted the route may seem to be, and then wait for things to come into line. 

Steph: Exactly. Well, don’t quite wait for them to come into line, but just keep moving until they do. And, yeah.

And you’ve said, a lot of people have helped you along the way. Was that something you had to learn? To accept help from other people? Because, I think for a lot of us, it’s difficult to say- okay, I can’t do this particularly on my own. Or, having someone help me would be a huge bonus. 

Steph: No, I’ve never had a problem accepting help.

Jim: Well that’s good. 

Steph: I always call myself a guilty feminist, because I’m rubbish at mechanics, and I don’t mind someone holding a door open for me, for example. I love it, in fact. And, I like to be in control, I like to sort of get out there, and do my own thing. But I’m not out there to prove anything, apart from to myself. I know I’m quite aware of my limitations, and therefore, if someone’s willing to help me do something I’m pretty sure I can’t do, then great. Then I just say, yes please, thank you very much, that would be wonderful. Although, having said that, I do have/I do realize I do have moments where I go- okay, I can do it. I know what I’m doing. But, no. We can’t go around…we’re not islands, right. We can’t go around just having…you can’t do everything yourself. Some people have got better skills and whatever, it’s give and take, and trade for trade.

Jim: Any story you hear of anyone who’s ridden around the world, if you really look at it, it’s been sort of a collaboration of others that have got them around the world.

Steph: Absolutely. Yeah, without a doubt. You can’t do it on your own.

Jim: And that’s part of it, isn’t it? I mean, interacting with those people. That’s really what the adventure is. Otherwise your’e just riding a motorcycle down roads.

Steph: Yeah. And you’re giving back as well. One thing I realized was that you…if you stay in a house with someone who’s offered you a free place, and often the hospitality all around the world has been amazing…But your’e giving back in a sense that…maybe they can’t get to Wales for example, and stay in a caravan, and check out our beautiful mountains (that you called hills earlier). They can’t get [there], so they’ll never know what it’s like to live in Wales. They’ll never know what the Welsh people are like. But, as they are sharing and teaching me about…I don’t know..Iranian people…whenever they are…you’re giving back to them in the sense that your’e a window to another part of the world, and another culture. So you share your stories, and you share your experiences, and that’s a great way to give back. 

Jim: Is that a conscious thing you do? You get there, and you figure, I’m going to have to give them some entertainment for this. Or do you feel the implicit exchange? 

Steph: I wouldn’t quite put it like that- oh, I’m going to have to give them some entertainment for this. But I do actually consciously try and do that in the sense that I’ve got to be grateful for what I have, and my opportunities, and I should give back. I don’t have much to give back, apart from sharing what I can, and my stories. That kind of thing. So, yeah, I think I do. And sometimes…I mean, that’s what couch surfing is about, right? That’s the ethos behind couch surfing. That’s why it started up was that, people offer a free bed, or a spare room, or a couch/sofa for free in return for tales from wherever. And you share information, and it’s a bit like the old fashioned internet, I suppose. It’s really nice, it’s a lovely way to do it and get to know people, and you make friends that way. And I guess I’m just doing it without couch surfing, although I do use that sometimes as well. But, I do think it’s a lovely way to…even when you don’t speak the language, you manage to find a way. And sharing…again, at risk of sounding cheesy or corny, sharing smile with someone…it’s amazing how you can communicate without even knowing each others language sometimes. 

Jim: So, do you have a different outlook on people? After meeting all different people, and all the ups and downs you had on the trip. Do you see people in general as different?

Steph: Yeah, I guess I do. Although, I think I was pretty open minded and fairly positive. Although sometimes I still can be quite grumpy and go off. Just like I do when I do with my dog. But that’s okay, too. I do think that most people are good, and giving. And given the opportunity, they will help you. It’s very easy to forget that, I think most people do forget that a lot of the time. It’s very easy to be negative. From what I’ve found, from all 53 countries, it’s not changed, that most people…particularly, maybe because you’re on your own, I don’t know, whatever…but, whenever there’s been a problem- before there’s a problem- people are coming up and wanting to help. Even in places where people have told me to stay away from- stay away from those people, stay away from those people, they’re dodgy, don’t go near them, they’ll rip you off, they’ll do this and that…I always find it a challenge…set myself a challenge to go and find the nice side of people. Because it’s always there. Well, I’d say 98% of the time it’s there.

Jim: You rode a 250 Honda. Were there times you wished you had a 650 or 1000?

Steph: Yeah, absolutely. But, majority of the times, I’ve been grateful for a small bike. I think it’s on the long straight rides that you can’t avoid. Like through the prairies (what we were talking about earlier). That was definitely somewhere I thought, do you now what, I’d love to have 1000 CC.

Jim: Well, because the speed limit is 130 kilometres I think, at some points  as you’re crossing the prairies, too. 

Steph: Yeah. Argentina as well. There were a couple of straights in Argentina I just wanted to get through as well. {?}- most boring road in the world. I just wanted a big bike. But many times it wasn’t about speed, it wasn’t about flying through, it was about puttering around. And that’s what I did. The bike goes fast enough most of the time, but it’s been so good to have a small bike on the dirt roads, and a small bike to get into a dingy, and a small bike to get into the hotel. I have to put up occasionally with the odd macho man asking me when I’m going to get a proper bike. And I’m like- I’m going to get a proper bike when you get off your ass and start riding around the world.

Jim: Ends the conversation rather quickly, I’m sure.

Steph: Yeah, it’s does, but as I said, i wasn’t really out to prove anything to anyone. And a lot of people now do see a small bike as being the best way to go. I’m not saying it’s the best way, I’m not saying it’s a perfect way. I’m not sure there is a perfect adventure bike out there still. Because there’s a compromise, whatever you choose. If you choose a big bike, you’re going to have to think much more carefully than I ever had to when you take that dirt track on your own. You’re not going to take that really sandy roach necessarily, and whatever. But, on the long straight roads…I actually road in Nimibia (from Cape Town up to Namibia) with Charley Boorman and his crew. He was taking a tour up to Vic Falls. So I left him in Case Town, I raced up to the border because my visa was running out, and then I met them again in Nimibia. We rode together for four or five days. There were some long, sandy stretches. There was some slightly technical bits. A bit of mud here and there, and that kind of thing. There were some road sections. And they were all on the {?} Tigers, or GS’s, and I rode with them and there was no…speed wise, there was no issue. Because, on the technical stuff, I was flying ahead, and on the roads, they were flying ahead. We’d end up in the same place, at basically the same time. A lot of the time, we’d get to the end of the day, and they’d say- ah Steph, I really wish I had your bike on that bit. 

Jim: Because they’re wrestling some great big bike through technical stuff-

Steph: Exactly.

Jim: …and that’s when you don’t want the weight.

Steph: Exactly. It’s all good. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as you’re happy with it. Either way, you’re going to have a love/hate relationship with it. 

Jim: What about disability? Did you have any trouble with it?

Steph: You know, she broke down…well, I say broke down, [but] I hate using that term. Because, didn’t really. Engine wise, no problem at all. In Dar es Salaam and in Tanzania, the starter really went. I ended up getting towed through the Dar es Salaam traffic, which was pretty scary, by another motorbike who was still filtering through the chaos of the traffic. I’m like, do you remember that I’m here, that you’re towing me? That lack of control thing was terrifying, and I never want to do that again. But that was it. We changed the relay. And then, my parents and a couple of friends came to meet me in France, and we had a party at a places called Motobreaks, which is like a bikers B&B. We had party there, and then the next day we rode off to ride back to London, and we were 200 years out of that place, and my engine just died. Well, it wasn’t my engine. The bike just cut out completely. I was like- oh. I said to my mum, who was riding behind me, if I put my arm up, I need to stop because I’ve got a dodgy shoulder. I said- I need to stop, because it’s quite painful. And I stopped 200 yards out, and she was just thinking- oh, for crying out loud. 200 yards. But actually, turned out the ignition switch and gone. Thankfully I had my dad, who was a mechanic, and my other friend who’s a bike mechanic as well. So we just sat on the side and waited for them to fix it. Which they did with some cable ties and duct tape. It got us home, and that was it. So, otherwise, no other problems with atet bike. It’s been amazing.

Jim: Well, that’s all stuff that could go at anytime. But you’re saying the engine- no problem at all?

Steph: Never opened the engine up yet. There was never any problems at all.

Jim: Wow, that really says something because, the mindset could be that you ride a smaller bike, and you’re going to have to work it so much harder. Beat the thing to try and keep up with everything, and if that was the case, it certainly didn’t have any effect. 

Steph: No, absolutely. I think it’s things like oil changes. Change the oil regularly. Those Honda engines will put up with anything, to be honest.

Jim: So what do you plan for next? Where are you going tomorrow? And I mean, metaphorically speaking. 

Steph: Well, good question. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m determined to not make any decisions. I’ve been saying that, all around the world going- no, I’m not committing to anything. I’m not making any decisions. Now I’m home, and I’ms till doing the same thing. So I thin I have  option paralysis. Where, I think I do have a lot of options, and I can’t quite decide what I’m going to do. But I do have on project that I’ve set up. Which is next year in September, I’m going to be taking the first group of all women bikers to do {?} camp. So we’re going to start in Nepal, and ride from Kathmandu, which will be exciting, just getting gout of the city. Along the Friendship Highway (which has just re-opened), and  into Tibet, and then up to base camp from them. So it’s an all women group- I’ve had a lot of guys…before you ask…no, you can’t come if you wear a wig or an underskirt. 

Jim: Isn’t that discrimination?

Steph: I was waiting for that one, too.

Jim: You’re saying guys can’t-

Steph: No, not on this one. They’ll have to suck it up, I’m afraid. But there are some groups that you can join, as a guy. But this one…I’m very much against the whole…there’s a lot of neo-feminism going on these days where people are like; we’re not victims, we don’t need protecting. But I did learn, from running the off-road school, that women do learn differently, and that there is a lot of…they are intimidated sometimes by having the guys around them. Well, not necessarily intimidated…but, if you were riding with a group of guys as a woman, and you drop your bike in the mud…as I said, I don’t mind this, personally…but the guys will come over and pick the bike up for you. That’s great- lovely, thanks very much. But that stops me from learning the best way, with my abilities, to pick up that bike. And that’s just one example. So if you’re tackling something like {?} camp as a mixed group, personally one thing I did learn from the off-road school, is women are going to get more out of it. If they work as a group of women. So there are differences. Some things are stronger, and some things are weaker- and there’s nothing wrong with realizing that. In this case, I think it’s going to be an amazing experience. I”m really excited about leading it. 

Jim: Yeah, makes sense. Are other people riding…like, is that a regular thing to do for motorcycle tours?

Steph: What, women only?

Jim: No, no, I know that. No- riding to the base camp.

Steph: As far as I know, this is the only camp that’s doing it. I’m working with a company called Nomadic Nights, who do tours all over India, the Himalayas, and many other places as well. Somebody that I’ve known for many years. So we’re using their infrastructure, and then…yeah. Getting on with it, basically.

Jim: And what’s sort of challenges will you have to overcome for that trip?

Steph: Well, you know, most of it is actually tar. It’s something like 80% tar or something like that (which most people find hard to believe). The altitude is going to be the hardest thing. So, if you take a group of 15 people up that kind of altitude, there’s a high chance that somebody’s going to suffer from altitude sickness. But we’re ready for that. We’ve got paramedics with us. We’ve got the oxygen, we’ve got the tablets, and hopefully we’ll be okay. I think it’s all about preparation, and knowing the science, that kind of thing. But otherwise, it’s going to be an amazing ride. The heights as well, I guess. Some of the roads are going to be fairly open. And that’s going to take some getting used to.

Jim: Open, you mean like, drop-offs.

Steph: Big drop-offs, yeah. So that takes a bit of getting used to. It doesn’t matter how many times I do it, occasionally I still get a freeze. Especially on a downhill dirt road. Sometimes I’ll stop, and I’ll think- ah, what am I doing? This is crazy. So even if you do it a hundred times, I think that can be sort of a challenge mentally. You’ve got to overcome that, and that will be the great feeling at the end. That you have overcome it, of course. So, yeah. I think it’s going to be a great adventure. I’m really excited about Tibet as well.

Jim: Are there still openings on that trip?

Steph: There are, yes. Yeah.

Jim: Yeah. So we’re put a link on the website, if anyone’s interested in trying to join that trip. You also have a book out that I wanted to ask you about , before we finish up.

Steph: I do. I do have a book out. It’s called Embrace the Cow. It’s on iBooks. It’s a digital book, so it’s not in print, but it’s on iBook and Kindle. It’s how to ride the world on a budget, basically. Hints and tips, there’s stories in there as well, and photographs, and that kind of thing. But there’s a lot of tips about how to…because a lot of people ask me- how did you do it? You must be loaded, or you’ve got a rich dad or something. Sadly not, no. I haven’t even got a rich boyfriend. 

Jim: Embrace the Cow- is that reference to your motorcycle?

Steph: Embrace the Cow, no it’s…I was in Morocco, and I had some berber friends after doing the tours there, and the berber said to me, a nomadic berber said to me- Steph, life is like a cow. Some days you get milk, some days you just get shit. Embrace the cow. So ti’s a bit like adventure riding, really. Some days milk, some days shit. So you’ve just got to take it all on a {?} and go for it. 

Jim: Well, I’m going to have to follow and see which adventure you tackle next. I was going to push you more for the ideas you’re considering, but I think your’e going to be pretty tight lipped about it. 

Steph: If you’d had asked me again in a week, I probably could have told you. But, yeah. I’m {?} for that one.

OUTRO

Jim (Narrate): I’ve been speaking with Steph Jeavons. You can find out more about Steph, or one Steph beyond, by checking our show notes…we’ve got a link to her website in there, and some other information. Drop by and check that out.

~END~

Interviewer/Host: Jim Martin
Producer: Elizabeth Martin
Transcriptionist: Natasha Martin
*Special thanks to our guest: Steph Jeavons http://www.stephmoto-adventurebikeblog.com


Sponsors:

This episode of Adventure Rider Radio is made possible by listener support and the following SHOW SPONSORS. 

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Music:

Deadly Roulette: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/mp3-royaltyfree/Deadly%20Roulette.mp3, http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/most/recent.php

Macaroon5: http://audionautix.com/~audion/Music/Macaroon5.mp3