Lois Pryce is an adventurer, travel writer, TEDx talker, and author of three books: Lois on The Loose, Red Tape and White Knuckles, and her third, Revolutionary Ride, which is available now. Simon Cocking caught up with Lois between trips to find out what her plans are and how technology has transformed how she records her travels.
What is your background briefly?
I worked in the music industry until 2003 when I left a job at the BBC aged 30, to ride my motorcycle from Alaska to Argentina. This kicked off a whole new career as a travel writer…
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
Not really! But I’ve always loved music, have played music all my life, and have been an avid record collector since my teens. But I’ve always had a hankering for adventure and I moved on to a boat when I was 22. But I never did the usual backpacker gap year thing, so I always knew I would have to answer to my itchy feet at some point.
Give us a one-minute pitch for what you are doing now.
My latest book has recently been published, Revolutionary Ride, which is about my solo motorcycle journey around Iran. That’s been keeping me busy with promotion etc but I am now starting to think about what happens next… watch this space.
How much, if at all, has travelling changed since you did your first book/trip (Lois on the Loose right)
It has changed enormously. On my first trip there was no social media or blogging, and even personal websites were in their infancy. My brother is a software engineer and offered to make me a website for my first trip (Alaska – Argentina in 2003) as an exercise for him to learn HTML. I would send my stories to him by email from the road, and he would post them on the site. I was still using a film camera on that trip and would get my prints developed along the way and post them back to the UK, so there was a ‘real-time’ delay of several weeks sometimes! But the web was already working its magic and my site picked up a large following within a few weeks -and that’s what kicked off my whole travel writing career.
You used a much lighter bike than some of the traditional epic touring bikes (the BMWs, Harleys, Honda Goldwings) in many ways this seems like a great decision, what are the pros and cons of your approach?
I’m quite short (5′ 4″) and would be travelling alone most of the time so I knew I needed a small, light bike, should I ever need to pick it up (which is inevitable!). Also, I wanted to feel I could explore any track or trail without being intimidated by a huge heavy machine. Once you leave the developed world the roads aren’t really conducive to riding at fast speeds anyway, so a powerful fast bike is wasted on a trip like this. And I’m quite happy to potter along slowly – you see more that way.
How much does recent tech improve/help your trips or does it not make that much of a difference?
I actually like to use these trips as a way to get away from tech and screens, so although I have upgraded to a digital camera (!) I still use paper maps rather than a satnav and I never take a laptop with me. I like to keep things simple, and if I get lost I like to ask people for directions – it’s more fun than following a dot on a screen.
Is there anything, not yet available, that you wish is or will be available to help you on future trips?
Err… peace in the Middle East?
For all the young women out there inspired by your trips to date, what tips would you give if they are thinking of doing one too?
The world is a lot more friendly and safe than we are led to believe. The natural human inclination is to help a lone woman, not hurt her – I have found this to be the case all over the world. Although there are obviously a few bad apples, your instinct will tell you who/what to avoid so listen to your gut, and don’t let the naysayers put you off.
We also like Dervla Murphy who sometimes uses bikes and mules in her travels, have you considered using other forms of transport other than motorbikes, if so, what?
I love Dervla – she is a great heroine of mine. A motorcycle makes for great transport as they give you autonomy and are great for meeting people and exposing you to the world around you – but I am in no way wedded to them. I love boats and kayaking so would like to do more watery journeys, plus I used to ride horses when I was younger so a long-distance horse-ride also appeals. I recently did a week-long walk in the Sinai desert with camels, and would like to do more walking trips. I just like getting out there and talking to people.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently planning another book…
How can people find out more about you?