“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” ~ Audrey Sutherland
Leah Manning left Orange, California on a bicycle May 2013 with Argentina as a destination, and has been on the road since. Following Leah’s journey has been nothing short of inspirational. In honor of Women’s History Month we asked her to share with us some of the women in history who’ve provided her with inspiration. Follow Leah at https://cyclesouthchica.wordpress.com/ and check out her plans for a book she is currently writing about her adventures at http://www.gofundme.com/gvc8y8.
It wasn’t spurred by an epiphany, but eventually I let go of the person I wanted to be and accepted who I am.
A great deal of guidance came from other women; whom I’ve never met. To abandon my car, health insurance, retirement fund, paycheck and routine to see the world by bicycle meant admitting that my dream was taking priority in my life. The challenge of persevering despite fears and doubt became empowered when I turned to those who made history and are making history. Not in the name of fame or fortune, but to feed their flame inside, one that we all have… our dream, our calling.
The people and stories that fed my flame were like my torch through time and space; traveling through a continent living on a bicycle. Loretta Henderson at the age of 36 rode her bicycle through 40+ countries and 6 continents solo for 5 years. She started Women on Wheels, a website for solo female touring cyclists with 140 riders and growing.
I often wonder how the roots of inspiration can be so strong and continue to grow even when we don’t know how they were planted. Is it something that finds us or do we seek it? In the Peruvian Andes when I was psyching myself up to ride my first 16,000 foot pass, it was mountaineer Annie Smith Peck that I channeled. After climbing the Matterhorn at the age of 45, in 1895 she made more headlines for wearing pants and boots in a time where women were arrested for doing such in public. I rode near Cumbre Ana Peck, the second highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, named so as she was the first to climb it.
Captain Liz Clark has been sailing and living on her 40 foot boat, Swell, for 9 years. I read a quote from her that struck me to the core when I decided to simplify my own life. “I use less, need less, want less and yet never felt more fulfilled.” After riding through 13 countries I realize some of the happiest people have very few material things, all of which they shared with me unquestioningly.
At age 60, Audrey Sutherland kayaked the Alaskan coast after raising 4 children. She learned to kayak while swimming and camping along remote cliffs and coves of Hawaii. “It’s about being alone in the wilderness,” she said at age 78. “A kayak is just a way to get there.” But it’s about even more than that. It’s about knowing what you want to do in life — and doing it.
By casting my net into the lives of other women who had boldly pursued their dreams with unprecedented adventure, I realized they are real and the theory of the “big bad world” is not. Following in the footsteps of those I admire gave me a momentum that has been an incredible gift, one that I hope to give as well.