What’s it like to motorbike around the world for seven years? Jacqui Furneaux has stories of street food, broken legs, pirates and other amazing experiences to share from this very experience. After backpacking for a year at age 48, Jacqui accepted an invitation to get a motorbike and travel the world with a Dutchman.
For Jacqui, this was a fantastically unique experience. “I'd never been on my own before,” Jacqui relates. “I'd always been somebody’s daughter, sister, wife, mother. I’d never been just me.”
Travelling around the world was Jacqui’s chance to discover who she really was without the societal expectations that came with being a nurse, mother and wife. For much of her life, Jacqui had supported her husband in his job and put her life on hold. When their marriage ended and her children had gone off to University, Jacqui was left to discover who she was without them.
Gradually, Jacqui learned who she was and loved who she was. “After seven years on a motorbike, I do know who I am and I actually quite like myself,” Jacqui says. “I do ridiculous, silly things and make tough decisions and go wrong a lot, but I allow myself to go wrong and I don't beat myself up about it.”
Jacqui’s journey around the world instilled her with the illuminating knowledge of what it meant to be her and the confidence to love everything about herself.
Read on to learn more about the experiences that led to Jacqui’s powerful inner-transformation and the realities of motorbiking around the world!
Living at an absolutely minimal level
With an adventurous motorbike partner, Jacqui discovered tiny villages around the world that had never seen two Europeans on motorbikes come through their town. As a orange-haired Dutchman and a short English woman, the pair explored the countryside, avoiding big cities. They ate what everyone else ate, drank what everyone drank, and of course enjoyed street food.
Because Jacqui didn’t know how long her savings would last, she lived extremely minimal. The pair stayed at the cheapest possible hotels spending around 50 pence a night. “One of the hotels we stayed in had a river running through the room every time it rained,” Jacqui remembers. “All we needed was a bed and we’d be happy.”
Over years travelling on her motorbike, Jacqui got so used to eating out that she doesn’t like to cook anymore. With fruits, vegetables, and street food, she had no need to cook on the road and has actually come to dislike cooking.
Dealing with injuries and finding shelter
On Jacqui’s adventure, she spent a lot of time in Pakistan. This was in part due to a broken leg. While she was on a mountain road, a four-wheel vehicle crunched against her motorbike and broke her leg.
“The people of Pakistan were absolutely amazing,” Jacqui says. “They looked after the bikes while they took me to the hospital. And when it came time to be discharged, a family we’d met at a silk festival took us in. They were so kind they even converted their squat toilet into a European one and wouldn’t take a penny in payment.”
When they went back to get their bikes, the people looking after them had done a bit of a repair job on Jacqui’s bike. Getting to know the locals can show you just how kind people truly are.
Surviving stormy seas minute by minute
“Usually, when you have an experience when you're travelling, you can look back on it and think, ‘Oh, that was funny.’ But I have voyages that I look back on with horror,” Jacqui relates. When Jacqui split with her motorbiking partner, she carried on with her bike and met a skipper who would take her from Malaysia to Australia through Indonesia. After spending months helping him prepare the catamaran, the sailing took a stormy turn.
Besides dealing with difficult tides, Jacqui and the skipper also picked up five Indonesian castaways that had been dumped in the middle of the Straits of Malacca. Although Jacqui and the skipper intended to turn in the castaways to the authorities, they grew fond of them and let them go right under the noses of the police.
After that escapade, the pair set off again until a fishing boat zoomed up to their catamaran. The skipper instructed Jacqui to get out of sight and the pirates robbed the ship without getting on board. Coincidentally, the catamaran had already lost many items to robbers in Indonesia.
How did Jacqui get through these difficult circumstances all the while fending off the skipper’s amorous advances? “At that time, I had read a lot about Buddhism and just taking what comes and bending like a blade of grass,” Jacqui says. “I had learned to just cope with things as they happen and not worry about the future or the past. So I just concentrated on surviving minute by minute.”
Finding purpose after the return home
Travelling place after place sometimes became boring and aimless for the intrepid motorbiker. “It was fascinating looking at all the places that I was looking at, but I did wonder what on earth I was doing it all for,” Jacqui shares.
Still, there wasn’t much reason for Jacqui to return home. Her mother was being taken care of and her children had grown up. Jacqui says returning home is one of the bravest things she’s done.
Finally, after years of being home, Jacqui was inspired to put pen to paper and record her journey and the many experiences she had in Hit the Road, Jac!: Seven years, twenty countries, no plan.