Interview with Eliza Massey: Solo Through the World

Aug 12, 2014 View Comments by

Interview with Eliza Massey: Solo Through the WorldEliza Massey set out to travel the world on her BMW G 650 GS on October 11, 2012. Her mission was to spread awareness and raise funds for African aid, and Women for Women, while seeing and interacting with people all over the planet. Since her departure, she has journeyed from her hometown of Hope, ME, through Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and India.

RR: Give us some background on your life.
Eliza: I’m 57 years old, mother to three children, and grandmother to one. I am a fine arts photographer and an avid traveler.

Local fishermen in a traditional wooden canoe off the coast of the San Blas Islands offered us fresh lobster and fish.What made you decide to take this trip?
I received an email from the Ted Simon Foundation that I had been selected as a “Jupiter’s Traveller” while I was taking a three-month solo trip on a 110cc Honda through Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. This gave me confidence in my photography as well as encouragement and a clearer purpose for my vision. It was the perfect time in my life. I was recently divorced, my kids were grown, and I had the opportunity—so I took it.

Why did you choose to go by motorcycle?
It’s freedom, adventure, and excitement all in one! Motorcycling is exhilarating. Being on the road, open to the elements and the beauty of nature, allows you to be approachable and more candid with the people you meet on the way.

The men of the village teaching me the Maasai jumping dance, which shows their strength and stamina as tribal warriors.How did loved ones react when you told them you were going?
They were supportive, if a bit skeptical. I believe most thought I would only make it to Mexico or Central America before I gave up or something went wrong. However, I had determination and excitement for the voyage and the unknown.

Describe the planning and preparation prior to your departure.
It only took me six months to prepare. I immediately traded my 2005 BMW F 650 GS that had 41,000 miles on it for a new 2011 G 650 GS. It was important to start out with new parts as my mechanical abilities are limited—more like nil. I had never changed a tire, but I practiced plugging one before I left. I bought maps and studied them. I also did online research regarding different routes, visa requirements, and the Carnet De Passages. One of the best resources for international motorcycle travel is Horizons

Stunning Machu Picchu, a 15th century Inca site in Peru, is one of the most breathtaking and famous archeological sites in the world.How did you plan your route?
Many factors like time restraints, weather, political unrest, and logistics had to be considered. My original plans changed drastically due to the war in Syria and conflicts in Egypt. I traveled across the U.S., through Mexico, and Central America. From Panama, I crossed the San Blas Islands to Colombia on a 120-foot steel sailboat. I rode from Colombia to Argentina, and I then flew to Cape Town, South Africa, to explore Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya. Continuing to India, I spent six months traveling there before stopping due to financial reasons.

How did you react to being on the road and far from home?
Health concerns due to a burst appendix put 
a damper on my first month’s ride. I was hope-
ful just to get out of the U.S. Later, in central Mexico and onward, there was not a morning that I didn’t have a huge smile on my face as I got on my bike for the next day’s quest.

What difficulties did you face?
Northern Mexico, surprisingly enough, was the scariest, most unpredictable, and unsafe place I went. Central and southern Mexico were wonderful, but the desert and the northern towns had barricades with fully armed military wielding AK-47s behind small fortresses of sand bags! Like Mexico, there were roadblocks and demonstrations that I went through in South Africa and Mozambique. Sometimes it’s about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which can happen anywhere.

What were some of your favorite moments?
Riding the most beautiful passageways in the world—like the hot coast of Peru into the Andes where I hit a huge thunder, hail, and snow storm. The most amazing ride was in Tanzania and Kenya where I went off the beaten paths that crisscrossed parks filled with elephants, giraffes, and zebras grazing in front of me. Some of my favorite moments were conversations with locals or watching a group of school children run out to greet me with a hello and a big smile. It’s stopping for water in a small rural village and getting swept up by the friendliness, kindness, and hospitality. Special memories include living in a Maasai village for a week, attending their church, a wedding, and wandering in the savanna under a sky full of stars with a Maasai warrior.

In the remote village of Maralal (Kenya), the Turkana, Samburu, Pokot, Maasai, and Rendile tribles gather for a cultural exchange of dance and sport to promote peace and understanding among the often fighting tribes.What challenges and rewards does solo world travel bring?
I love it, but it’s not for everyone. You won’t be lonely unless you want to be because traveling solo makes you very approachable. It makes you a bit more vulnerable to others, so they sometimes go out of their way to engage in conversation, help you, or invite you into their homes. It allows you to make decisions or change your mind, course, or itinerary at any minute without compromise. You do what you want, go where you want, with whomever you want. Traveling solo is important to me as I get caught up with my photography subjects and the moment.

Tell us about
I chose Women for Women International as I was familiar with the organization and had previously sponsored a woman from Rwanda in their program. WFW provides female survivors of war, civil strife, and other conflicts with tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. I was also privileged enough to implement and teach a photography course in South Africa to orphaned and disadvantaged teenagers. In addition, by supporting small local hotels and restaurants, as well as buying local hand-made items or crafts, I gave back to the communities that I visited. Go green and give back.

Where are you now, and what are your future plans?
I just returned to Maine last month. I am overjoyed to see my family and spend time with friends. I have a dream to start a Maasai primary school that is much needed in a small village in Tanzania, a home for street children and orphans in a remote area in Kenya, and a moto touring company through parts of Guatemala and Mexico. Finally, I am hoping to produce a book and a photographic exhibit of my work.

Interview with Eliza Massey: Solo Through the WorldWhat advice would you give to someone thinking about taking a trip like yours?
I encourage you all to explore this wonderful world we live in. It will make a profound difference in your life as well as in the lives of those you meet. You will have an adventure of a lifetime! Follow your heart and your dreams!


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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.