Jessie is NOT currently traveling. Earlier this year, Jessie Jobst set out to ride her motorcycle around the world, but, like many other overlanders and travelers during this time, she had to return home in order to safely quarantine – and will continue her travels as soon as it is deemed safe by our authorities. Here, she shares memories and lessons learned on the road.
When I started writing this article it was January 2020. I was in Costa Rica, sitting on a sunny beach along the peninsula of Nosara. I was about a quarter of the way into my trip of a lifetime on my motorcycle; a big contrast to my current reality of being stuck in my apartment in Manhattan; quarantining from COVID-19.
I went from complete freedom to complete isolation within 24hrs; the autonomy of spontaneously deciding where I wanted to travel that day suddenly seemed very far away. After a very confusing week of not knowing how this pandemic was going to affect myself and other overlanders at this time, I narrowly escaped the travel ban of multiple countries as I tried to get myself and my motorcycle back to New York. Honestly, by a stroke of luck, I made it all the way to Santiago, Chile where I could safely ensure the bike could be flown home; but let's backtrack a little….
I have been around motorcycles for most of my life but spent more time on the back seat because of fear of driving. It took me a lot of falling off, giving up and getting back on to come to a point where I actually wanted to buy my own bike. The first bike that I actually owned was a 1979 Honda CB125 in London. Shortly after that, I moved to New York where I turned 30 and my love for motorcycling took off independently. I quickly bought my second bike, a 1976 Honda CB550, in Brooklyn and got really involved in the sport, the mechanics, and riding to escape the city.
I have worked in the fashion industry for a long time and first came across my idol of the biking world when I was working in London, when Claire Weight Keller, Creative Director of Chloe, chose the first woman to ride around the world as her muse for one of their collections; her name is Anne France Dautheville. She is a chic French writer who breathed an air of exquisite beauty and grace to the sport: characteristics that are generally missed amongst the stereotypical rider and usual biker crowds.
I was hooked. I was going to do what she did; I was going to ride around the world on my motorcycle. She was and is a true expander for me. I then learned about Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to do it in the ’80s; I was fortunate enough to meet her at a lecture in New York in 2018. I left on my trip within a year of meeting Elspeth. I hope to inspire more women to ride a motorcycle and travel alone in this light, as these ladies have done for me.
Here are some of my philosophies about motorcycling and lessons I’ve learned from the road – on energies & consciousness, gender roles, fear & intuition.
JESSIE WEARS THE PLUNGE IN LEOPARD
ENERGIES & CONSCIOUSNESS
Most people, when thinking about riding a motorcycle, don’t think about the quiet, passive energy that represents the feminine, the yin. The sensory receptive stillness you experience as the rider on the bike; because the act of riding is an incredibly solo reflective sport, and yes it is sensual. Riding really becomes like a meditation – it’s like self-development, a way of getting to know oneself. It’s almost as if the active part of your brain is occupied with the hyper-awareness needed in order to ride and the rest of your brain is in silent contemplation. One can begin to explore themselves and emotions seem to bubble up from - riding brings up layers of yourself you didn't realise were there. The hours and miles go by and the understanding of yourself becomes intrinsic to the act of riding.
There was a study conducted by UCLA in 2019 that proves that riding a motorcycle actually improves your well-being. It found that:
- Riding a motorcycle decreases hormonal biomarkers of stress by 28%
- Riding a motorcycle/ It changes your brain activity by increasing alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee
- On average, riding a motorcycle for 20 mins increases participants' heart rates by 11% and adrenaline levels by 27% - similar to light exercise.
- Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle versus driving a car. (*An effect also observed in meditators vs non meditators)
The motorcycle symbolizes yang energy and is the most obvious force when you think about the sport. It is the active, masculine energised portion of riding. The bike is hot, loud, and fast - it's aggressive, but when this active energy is paired with the passive energy of the rider something quite extraordinary happens. The pull of this is ‘active energy’ when it is cohered with the passive inward energy of the rider, creates an alternate space, almost like another layer of consciousness.
The two energies work together; they are complementary opposites and suddenly you aren’t two separate entities anymore, you become one entity and the synergy between the two separates collide: you, the rider, and the machine that is pushing you into the present moment over and over again, giving you very little room to experience anything other than the here and now, hence a meditation-like experience.
It's been pretty difficult for me to find my niche in such a masculine sport. I think we are conditioned to believe that we can only experience one thing at a time or identify as one thing at a time, and participating in a masculine sport as a woman brings up all sorts of feelings for both genders and breaking of traditional stereotypes.
From my experience, it seems like us, and in this I mean the collective ‘women,’ have forgotten about our innate femininity within this culture/sport, and, without judgement, from the outside perspective the majority of women that ride a motorcycle seems to be split into two categories:
- Appropriating masculine energy; that we are up against the men to prove that, ‘We can do this, too,’
- Or, we tend to lean into the more exploitative aspect of femininity, in a subconscious act to be validated by men by being overtly sexy in order to cling onto what men perceive we should look like on a bike, thinking that we are empowered but are in fact falling into our submissive role. This is where we need to begin to carve out a new perspective; to create a movement where we can progress.
Hence my keen obsession with Anne & Elspeth. But what is it about them that makes them so appealing? After all, they were champions in the sport almost half a century ago. What happened to that movement? Did it disappear into thin air, and, along with it, their unwavering grip on their indignant femininity? Perhaps the reason I am pulled toward them is because, even in this age, they feel so modern or current, as they are unashamedly feminine, do not seek to appropriate masculinity, and therefore are authentically themselves within the sport.
It seems quite baffling to me that these stereotypes are very much alive today, and that it still seems contradictory to be a woman that is feminine and likes to ride a motorcycle; but this community is growing, and challenging these stereotypes, informing and uniting girls to create a space that does not pass judgement on how/why you ride, but to experience riding as a way of getting closer to yourself. Riding gets you into your body and out of your mind therefore I encourage women to get in touch with their sensuality via riding; and explore the depths of their being.
JESSIE WEARS THE PLUNGE IN LEOPARD
This is the biggest hurdle when starting to ride a motorcycle. There is so much fear and you have to keep pushing past it. I remember when I first started practicing on my boyfriend’s Yamaha XT 125 on the back streets of Stoke Newington in London and I just couldn’t believe that people actually rode around on these machines on busy streets. It seemed so dangerous to me. The full body & absolute sensory attention required to ride a machine that couldn’t stand upright on its own seemed beyond comprehension to me.
But the fear is in your mind – most of the time we are simply scared because we do not know how, and when we are shown, the subconscious mind is expanded. Seeing is believing. Then, it’s a lot of practice. But I really was petrified for a long time. When I picked up my first bike I had to ride it across London to my house and I’ll never forget how scared I was. I stalled in the middle of a traffic jam and my brain froze, my body froze and the bike wouldn't move. The learning here is to always start on a small bike. I think this is also another important point to touch upon; that the size of your motorcycle’s engine does not equate to how good/experienced/gnarly of a rider you are; this is a common misconception, although many guys like to ask how big your engine is in order to classify you in some way.
On my trip around the world, I would get scared most days. I think a certain amount of fear is healthy – to be challenging yourself and to be in a state of constant growth; learning to decipher between healthy fear and irrational fear. After all, that’s what travelling alone is all about.
JESSIE WEARS THE PLUNGE IN LEOPARD
Intuition is defined as the ability to make a decision without conscious reasoning, and the ability to learn to trust my intuition is one of the most important skills that I was hoping to improve whilst undertaking such a trip. I see intuition as an amalgamation of all the years of conditioning in this life and your complete soul’s existence coming together and creating a feeling in your body that can be coded within a millisecond and turned into an action.
I personally feel that, in our society, we are consistently conditioned to disconnect from ourselves or numb ourselves from what our body is telling us. Yet the idea that I can make decisions instantaneously, without thinking about it, whilst riding a motorcycle makes so much sense to me. It seems to go hand in hand.
Fear and intuition are directly associated as fear is highly emotional and often focuses on the past or the future, and feels restrictive, whereas intuition is neutral and unemotional. It only responds within the present and feels expansive. Deciphering between the two should then be easy, but it’s often hard to peel back the layer of fear and see clearly - there have been multiple times that it has been incredibly hard to make decisions on my trip. I often have to remind myself that only one trip exists and it is the one I am on right now; it's not what might have happened if I had taken a different turn.
To me, riding is a very beautiful, conscious, present sport that can be used as a tool to experience depths of yourself whilst exploring the physical plane of existence. It’s a way to process emotion.
Teresa Wallach, a pioneer in mechanics and motorcycling and the first woman to ride through Africa said: “When I first saw a motorcycle, I got a message from it. It was a feeling – the kind of thing that makes a person burst into tears hearing a piece of music or standing awestruck in front of a fine work of art. Motorcycling is a tool with which you can accomplish something meaningful in your life. It is an art.”
So here I am sitting in my apartment in the Lower East Side wondering what happened to me. I am feeling very grateful to be home and that my bike is with me and not left stranded in South America somewhere; and I am still holding onto a glimmer of hope that I will be able to go back on the road again someday in the near future.
It’s been difficult adjusting to the confines of my home, unable to see anyone or experience any of the things I really love about New York. But the learning from this kind of trip is that you have to be fluid and flexible, to be nimble and able to change with the environment and circumstance.
As we have seen in the last few weeks, quite frankly, anything can happen. Who knew that the whole world would suddenly be in quarantine? The biggest challenge about living on the road (and ironically the current state of the world right now) is learning to be OK living in the unknown, which is perhaps why I have a certain sense of calm around me amid the chaos.
Whilst living on the road, detachment from plans is a daily practice. Not being attached to one particular route, idea, or outcome because it can all change in a moment. This detachment helps you to be really present, and right now, the reality is to stay put and tap into our yin.
The beauty of not going anywhere means I can practice my meditation skills at home and translate the consistent movement of the bike to stillness. There is an addiction to being constantly on the move and I think it's important to be able to do both to be able to pause and reflect on how far I travelled and process what I experienced.
Although nothing is changing much for me while I sit at home, the world is changing rapidly. The inward yin energy and sense of calm grounds me while nations mobilize to tackle this global pandemic. As humans this is an innate part of survival: how quickly can we adapt to our environment? And how nimble can we be, as we unite to conquer this virus?
Jessie Jobst is the founder of a Motorcycle Club called Meridian Child whose approach is inspired by feminine energy and primarily focuses on fusing wellness with the sport of motorcycling. Support Jessie: @a_spiritual_experience @meridianchildmc
Photographs by Rory Mulhere