"Get up and ride off."
Elspeth Beard, who today is a renowned and prize-winning architect, explored the world on two wheels for three years at the beginning of the eighties. It was a journey that would take her over 55,000 kilometres. In this exclusive interview, she talks about her love for BMW boxer motorcycles, particularly the R 60/6, which accompanied her on her journey around the world.
What did the world of adventures look like in the eighties?
The world somehow seemed much bigger back then. Because it wasn't as easy to find out something about the countries you were hoping to travel to. It felt as if you were moving towards the edge of the world. I only had a vague map of most countries, and in some countries there weren't even maps yet.
Did your peers understand what you were doing back then?
Most people around me couldn't understand it. All my friends thought I was mad and most thought that I would be back within three months. My mother tried everything to stop me going on the journey. She just couldn't understand it. Her last ploy was to threaten to disinherit me if I went.
Did you have to perform maintenance work regularly on the R 60/6?
I was a really good mechanic. I changed the oil every 3,000 kilometres wherever I was, and took extraordinary care of the R 60/6. Because I knew it had to bring me home again. I spent more time looking after my motorcycle than I did looking after myself. When looking for accommodation, it was more important to me that I could park my motorcycle securely away from the road than finding a comfortable bed or a room with a shower.
And it's still running after 30 years?
Yes, I was out and about with it last year again. It stood laid up for 18 years. I wheeled it out of the garage, did a complete oil change, fitted a new battery, cleaned the carburettor, turned the key and on the third attempt it started. You can't expect this from many motorcycles.
Over 30 years after your return, you wrote a book about your journey.
One and a half years ago, an agent from Hollywood contacted me. He wanted to buy the rights to my story in order to make a film out of it. So I thought this was a good time to write a book. As I am not an author, I turned to Robert Uhlig, who also wrote the book "Long Way Round" with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. It was a fantastic book and will hopefully be released soon.
What did you learn about yourself on this journey?
On my journey, I learnt that there is no problem which cannot be solved, and that it is sometimes necessary to pursue other approaches to solve some problems. When I arrive at a border and the border guard doesn't let me past, I simply pitch up my tent and wait until his shift ends. Then I can cross the border when he isn't there anymore.