Anita Yusof is a 55-years-old retiree who has been travelling the world alone on a motorbike. This is her second world tour where she has travelled from Cape Town, South Africa to Berlin, Germany, to Trondheim, Norway. Anita has been an avid traveller all her life and had previously preferred backpacking until she learned to ride a motorcycle. We caught up with Anita who shared some tips and tricks for solo female travellers as well as her experience getting stuck in Tanzania during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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What makes you want to travel the world on a motorbike?
I started travelling as a backpacker and have travelled extensively around the world. In 2012, I had a bad relationship conflict and thought my world was turning upside down. Then, I thought “Before I go crazy, let’s do something crazy first!”. At the same time, I read a blog from a motorcyclist who travelled in Kyrgyzstan. The country looks so beautiful and I really wanted to go. But it wasn’t possible to explore the country without having your own transportation and one of the cheapest ways is to ride a motorcycle. So that’s how I learned to ride a motorcycle at the age of 45 years old.
I started riding around Malaysia, then Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. After three years of learning how to ride a motorbike, I decided to travel around the world on the motorbike because it gives me the freedom to travel whenever and wherever I like. I don’t need to follow the public transport schedule and I can camp whenever it’s possible.
What is your most memorable or challenging experience?
I was planning to ride to 16 African countries and I was in my 14th country when Covid hits. I was in Ethiopia and they decided to close their borders. I was stuck. I couldn’t fly out of the country without my motorbike. So, I decided to leave my motorbike in Ethiopia with a trusted friend and go to Tanzania. I chose to go to Tanzania to wait for the borders to open. Days turned into weeks and suddenly I was there for 13 months. Then, at the same time, Ethiopia started having a Civil War in November 2020.
When I realised the borders will not open any time soon, I decided to go back to Malaysia and wait. One day, my friend called me saying the situation in Ethiopia is getting worse and advised to me bring back the bike before it was too late. Upon hearing that, I was so worried and panicked that I decided to fly out to Ethiopia early this year. It was a very long and challenging process to bring the motorbike out of Ethiopia. It took me three weeks to fly the motorbike to Jeddah.
Is it easy to find halal food in the countries you’ve travelled to?
Of course, it’s hard to find halal food in foreign, non-Muslim countries. What I’d normally do is cook myself. I hold on to the 3H principle - Halal, Healthy and Hygiene so there are no food poisoning issues. If I’m in a Muslim country, I will take away or dine in. Some supermarkets also sell halal-certified meat.
How safe is it to travel alone as a woman especially one who wears a hijab, on a motorbike?
Rule number one: When I’m on the motorbike, I will not make myself look like a woman. I will wear men’s riding jacket, nothing fancy, nothing pink. I don’t want to show that I’m a woman and when I’m wearing the helmet people won’t see my hijab. Another challenge as a Muslim woman is when I stayed at hostels. Sharing the dorm with others makes it’s quite a challenging experience to pray. Usually, I’d wait until the dorm is empty and pray quickly before my roommates come in. But now I’ve found a solution: I would bring a blanket and wrap it around the bunk bed, making a curtain. I’d choose a lower bunk bed so I can pray while sitting.
What would you say your travel style is like? Are you more leisure-type or plan down to the detail type?
I’m a free and easy traveller but I do make sure to plan as being a solo female traveller on a motorbike, I need to have peace of mind so that I can be safe. But at the same time, I don’t really stick to my plan — the plan is just a guideline. Sometimes when I stay with locals, they’d suggest places to go which are not in the guidebooks or online. As I’m retired, I can go anywhere and stay however long I like. The only thing that stops me is the visa. If the visa stated I can only stay for a month, a month it is. I can extend the visa, of course, but it needs money and takes time to process.
Where did you start this trip and where/when it’ll end?
I started in Cape Town, South Africa in April 2022 and will ride until I go back home to Malaysia. When? I’m not sure. But I’m lucky as I was a government servant so I have a pension fund. The fund is able to cover some expenses on the road.
P.S. We love hearing stories of women from our community breaking barriers to becoming the cool, amazing person they are today! We have loads of them, so read them and get inspired to break your record ?
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All photos are credited to @gdranitayusof on Instagram