To celebrate International Women’s Day, TLE caught up with inspirational writer and adventurer Lois Pryce, who quit her job at the BBC in 2003 to ride her motorbike from Alaska to the tip of South America.
Tell us a little bit about you?
Lois Pryce – author, travel writer, banjo picker.
Where was the first place you visited outside of your native country?
Like so many British kids in the 80s, my first taste of the great unknown was a school trip to France. They drank hot chocolate out of bowls, had strange toilets, and you could buy flick knives in the markets. I was smitten instantly.
What do you like most about travelling?
Just like my first trip across the channel, I still love the thrill of the unknown, especially on a road trip – waking up in a different place each morning and having no idea where I will sleep that night, or what could happen that day. The feeling that literally, anything could happen! But most of all, for me, places are about people. Although I often travel solo, it’s not about getting away into the wilderness alone, it’s about encountering and engaging with people that I would never normally meet in my normal life, and trying to make sense the world through their stories.
How many countries have you visited?
I haven’t counted lately but I would say it’s around 60+.
Where is your favourite country and why?
Iran. It is an endlessly fascinating, beguiling and confusing country. I’ve been three times and it’s the subject of my latest book Revolutionary Ride. The Iranians are the most erudite, sophisticated and downright fun people I have had the pleasure to encounter, and the finest conversationalists – it’s impossible to have a boring conversation in Iran. The country itself is also very beautiful, both the natural beauty of its deserts and mountains but also the Islamic architecture, ceramics and tilework, and the gorgeous Persian gardens.
Where’s the worst place you’ve ever been?
I don’t really have a ‘worst place’ offender – you can find something of note or interest anywhere. But I’ve been to Australia a couple of times and I don’t really have any urge to go back – nothing horrible about it but it just didn’t excite me at all. Sorry, don’t hate me.
Is there a city you consider your second home?
I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles and have a great fondness for that crazy city. It gets a bad rap but there’s something about its shamelessness that I love.
If you could visit anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
It’s January in London. I’m not fussy – somewhere hot and sunny, please.
Tell us about your best experience on the road?
So many… but the common theme is that they all involved the kindness of strangers – from Alaska to Angola to Iran and everywhere in between, whether it was a bed, food, tea or motorcycle maintenance. Travelling alone on a bike is a vulnerable way to travel but this actually turns out to be a benefit. It means that you are stripped of all feelings of security so you become open to everything – and people sense this and their instinct is to look out for you. They want to make sure you are OK in their country.
Tell us about your worst travel experience?
Having my chocolate biscuits seized at gunpoint by a troop of drunken Congolese soldiers was a little unsettling.
Have you had any near death experiences on the road?
Riding a motorcycle among Iranian drivers is like a near death experience every day! Seriously, I am fortunate that I have never had a big crash or a serious traffic accident but I did almost get squashed by a truck in Sao Paolo, Brazil which was pretty terrifying. But then again, that also happened to me on the A48 near Cardiff once.
What has travelling taught you about yourself?
That we are all more resilient and resourceful than we realise, and that most problems are surmountable with a bit of ingenuity (or hard cash). Also that although people in faraway foreign countries may appear to be very different from us, we all have essentially the same needs and desires from life – food, shelter, love – and free wifi.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about quitting their job to travel the world?
Why the heck not?
Lois Pryce’s Revolutionary Ride was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2018.