Interview solo female cyclist

Genevieve Fortin

Jul 13, 2015

French Canadian Genevieve made her first experiences with her ex partner and cycled more than 26 000 km as a couple, before setting off on her own.

She has now spent 10 months and 11000 km solo in her saddle and cycled across 16 countries.

Feeling sometimes lost at home, feeling home on unknown paths. The unknown path is dicting my way. Feeling lost without it. Feeling strange in a bar but feeling natural in the woods. Nature is home. Watching at the horizon few tears dropping on my cheek. I’m not a tourist but a traveler and adventurer. Leave no trace is my motto. The happiness is at the end of my handle bar. The road will never be too far. Hope one day, I will say: this is us…

— After struggling with severe high altitude sickness I finally reached the highest point on the Pamir Hwy, Tajikistan  — 

1. You were an experienced world biker before setting off on your own. But your previous trip was with your ex partner so now being solo on the road could have been more difficult for you. What was a lot harder and what was a lot easier than you expected ?

Surprisingly, I find it easier to bike alone. When I was biking with my ex, I could not understand how solo cyclists were enjoying it so much. Once, a friend of mine told me: for me, it seems more challenging to bike with a partner. Now, I get it!

Riding solo is so much freedom! You can do and go anywhere you want at your own rhythm. I find it much more rewarding! It is so rare in a life time to have such freedom. I thought also before riding with a partner would help me when it is more difficult.

No, for me, it is the opposite. If I’m tired, I stop. I don’t try to copy the other pace. However, when you are alone, social contact can be more demanding. When you are two, your partner can take over when you are tired with social interaction.


 — Getting ready for the night – Northern Laos —

 2. Have you have a really scary spooky night?

No, I never had any scary spooky night! I’m very cautious when it’s time to pitch my tent. However, you should know that I have not always been this confident person. This can be step by step work. You don’t have to do it straight away in Cambodia. We must leave ourselves some time.

—  Indonesia – Police hospitality —

3. Do you have a story to share that involves officials? 

I drank Vodka with a police officer at a check point in Tajikistan when he was on duty. When he took my passport for registration and looked at it, he said: Hapypy !! Hapypy !!! Hapypy ! With a very basic English lolol. He then offered me a shot of vodka. We went together to the nearest store. I filmed everything on my camera. He did not seem to care. This is why I love traveling…this would never happen at home !

 — Tibetan Plateau, Sichuan, China —-

4. Is there a moment when you have been really proud of yourself? 

Being a confident solo cyclist on the road, after having faced some challenges with men in Turkey a couple of times, in a short period of time. Don’t get me wrong! I love Turkey and I have met wonderful people. Unfortunately, after some discussion with others, it seems that I’m not the only woman that has had to face those kinds of problems. When it happened, I told myself I was not strong enough to go further east and I wondered If I had to head back west. It took me about a month to regain my confidence. Now, I feel much stronger on the road and I believe people feel it too.

—  Indonesia – Celebrating the Idul Adha with locals—

5. You spent 2 months in Indonesia. Where have you been and what did you like about the country? 

I traveled to Java, Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa’s island. So far Indonesia has been my favorite country. Yes, Indonesia can be crowded (main islands), can be full of rubbish, cycling can be very challenging because it is so hilly (steep), can be very warm and humid, can be hard to reach some remote islands.

Indonesia is a vibrant country ! Indonesia is shaped by so many volcanoes, the landscape changes from one island to the next, there are so many beautiful crystal blue reefs, a surfer paradise, the food is SO tasty and cheap and Indonesian people are such colourful and social people. I want to go back and explore more. There are hundred of islands, all different from one another one. I just loved it and was really sad when I left !

—  Steep, steep, steep – Bromo National Park –  Indonesia  — 

6. What is your favourite story you would like to share? 

My favorite story from all of them…..I have so many favorite one !

Each of them has shaped this trip and I’m thankful for each one ! All those nights I spend in the local villages, my first night in a yurt on the Pamir highway, the week I have spent in Bali with my friends, the king and the queen of the Mahapati kingdom, the incredible hospitality of Tajik people in Tajikistan, to be back on the Tibetan plateau on my own in winter, the vodka shot I took with a police man at a check point in Tajikistan…

I have endless of beautiful stories !

I love traveling on the bicycle because I never know what to expect and it’s always a surprise. The world is my amusement park and allowed me to live thousands of lives in one. I could keep pedaling for years…However, I’m also lucky enough to have a job that I love, that allowes me to go and come back frequently. There will be so many more other stories! I’m back on the road around September 2018 for another year !!!! This is my addiction and my balance in life !

— I was so cold on the road ! Some children light a fire to keep me warm ! — 

7. Have you encountered a cultural experience that you liked so much you’d like to include it in your daily life at home? 

 Eating with my hands, eating on the floor, taking more time for myself (alone), reading more about anthropology topic, meditating. Most of the time I stay with locals at night. People around the world have helped me SO much. When we are traveling, we are receiving so much. I want to give back in another way. When I’m back home, I want to do some voluntary to help to people who are immigrating in my home town.

   — Only a few more kilometers to the highest pass on the Pamir Hwy – 4600m —

8. You cycled from Dushanbe/Tajikistan to Bishkek in Kyrgystan along the Pamir Hwy. How was it? 

I found cycling in Kyrgystan more challenging then the Pamir highway. Once you are on the Pamir plateau, there are not too many big climbs. You are already at a high elevation. Most of the time at 3900 – 4000 meters. It was a nice surprise.

When I am thinking about Tajikistan, I’m thinking about all those incredible people I met down the valley because once you are on the plateau, you are pretty much on your own. It’s terrible to be exhausted from people’s hospitality. They love having guests.

I have also enjoyed riding along the Afghanistan border so much. Contrary to what I thought, It felt very safe. The landscape along the Panj river was dramatic (riding in a big, very narrow gorge) and it was nice to be able to observe from close those beautiful villages and say hello to local Afghans that I thought, I would never see in my life, in a country at war.

 — Great hospitality in Tajikistan — 

9. If you could create a „biker’s paradise country“ how would it be? 

To me, Hawaii and Indonesia are biker’s paradise countries. I love tropical fruits, mountains, pretty beaches, vibrant people. However, I would dream about a place that has never been touched or changed by the tourist industry. An authentic place and culture far away from modernity and commodity.

—  Selfies with the locals  —

10. Food is an important part of a cyclists daily life. What pops up in your mind when you think about it? 

I’m a food lover! Food experiences in a country are very important for me and it’s a big motivation when I’m struggling on the road. In Indonesia, it was my motivation while I was pushing my bike along those very very steep hills. Enjoying a nice Satay or fresh fruit juice after having sweat under this tropical climate. It can influence my decision to go or not to go to this country. This is why I love Asia so much.

   —  Tajikistan – Too hot ! – Close to Dushanbe —

11. In which country would you love to go bike touring, but you are scared to go by yourself?

I would love to go to Central America and Africa. However, I know that on those continents (some countries) can be a little bit more challenging than Central and South-East Asia. However, I understand the power of media and people’s fears and it should not keep me away from those beautiful places and people.

 –—  Tajikistan – family close to the Afghan border – Wakhan Valley —

Read more about Genevieve and her life on the road on her website 

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