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NEVER TOO LATE ... to explore the world on a motorbike
How Kerstin Krause has rearranged her life around two wheels
This is the second installment of my new column NEVER TOO LATE, which features stories of people who went on unusual learning quests or embarked on new pursuits later in life. As in the first post about Alec Wilkinson, I relate this week's story in a formalized structure to provide as much value for you as possible.
Today’s column features Kerstin Krause, whom I met last year on the now-defunct online platform Revel for women 40+. She co-hosted a seminar called “Expat Life Uncovered,” in which she reported on her recent relocation to New Zealand.
In her introduction, she also mentioned her passion for motorbiking she discovered at age 52. It motivated her to upend her life completely. I could not get this detail out of my head. So, I recently met with Kerstin on Zoom to chat about her fascinating story.
WHO: Originally from Germany, Kerstin Krause is a writer and about to set up her motorbike business in New Zealand. Until 2016, she worked for a large international development agency, spending ten years in Nepal and three years in Afghanistan.
WHAT: After a massive burnout, Kerstin took a sabbatical from her job and embarked on a backpacking trip. She needed to recover, but other than that, she had no idea where this break would lead her and what was coming, she told me, “I just let things run their course.
One of her stops was New Zealand. On the ferry to the South Island, she met a Kiwi, Bryan, a seasoned biker who offered to show her the island's beauty on his motorbike.
On one of these trips, Kerstin had something of an epiphany, as she recounted:
One evening, Bryan took us to a nearby town on his bike. It was a pearler day along a stunning coastal road. When we returned to his place, it was dark. And as I leaned back I saw the most incredible night sky above us. And suddenly, I heard this voice: “What are you doing on the back of the bike behind a guy? Why don't you ride yourself?” That night I decided: “When I'm back in Germany, I'll get my license and start riding.”
She not only got her license. But she quit her job and completely rearranged her life. Since 2018, Kerstin has gone on several solo motorbike trips through New Zealand, Nepal, India, and Tanzania. She also founded Bike’N Soul, a “place where women and motorcycling meet,” as she describes it.
WHY: What motivated her to turn her life around at age 52 in such a drastic way? It is not like her previous life had been boring; quite the contrary. Here is how Kerstin explained it to me:
I really enjoyed my work in the international development arena, which I did for almost 20 years. It fueled my urge to travel the world and work abroad. But the three-year term in Afghanistan, which was exciting and challenging, left me restless. Something was missing.
Kerstin sensed she no longer wanted to be employed, she said: “I felt stuck in this over-protected organizational environment with its inflated hierarchies and being wrapped into a well-paid yet secure job until the end of my working life.”
What she longed for, she realized, was to tap into her creativity:
I wanted to do something from my heart and that I had control over. Also, something that might inspire other people, particularly women. The burnout motivated me to sit down and ponder where I would see myself in the future. Definitely no longer on these overseas’ assignments which began to feel like more and more of the same. When Bryan and I finished a motorcycle trip in the Indian Himalayas, I knew I could not go back to this job, so I finally had the guts to quit. By no means a spontaneous or light-hearted decision but a gradual and slow process that eventually made me jump into the unknown.
HOW: After getting her driver’s license in Germany, as planned, Kerstin returned to New Zealand and went on her first solo tour. Why solo and not with Bryan or in a group, I wanted to know. Kerstin explained that traveling alone has been a constant factor throughout her life: “It has appealed to me since my childhood.”
Also, a solo trip would give her the space to explore biking on her own terms, she added: “I knew, in case of any emergency, I could ask Bryan. But I needed to check out how far I could push myself.
The first few days were a bit shaky, she said. She wasn’t familiar with the motorbike she had just bought, and road conditions were different. But she quickly developed her own rhythm. “I enjoyed going as fast or slow as I wanted, stopping when I felt like it, connecting with people I met. That motivated me to keep going.”
Ultimately, she was on the road for five weeks and covered almost 5,000 kilometers.
It was only the start.
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PROGRESSION: On her first tour, Kerstin stayed on tarmac roads. Later, she discovered off-road riding, something she could never have imagined. A passion she now shares with Bryan. It requires an entirely different mindset, she explained to me: “In New Zealand, you can ride across huge livestock stations on gravel roads. From farmgate to farmgate. The roads can be tricky. So you need to know what you’re doing.
Water crossings are unavoidable, she said. In off-road terrain, you may not find a bridge, some makeshift planks at best. So you have to take your bike right through a river or stream. "In the beginning, I was terrified. But, looking back, I can confirm: it’s learning by doing. The more you practice and face your fears, the easier it becomes.”
In 2021, Kerstin began touring Nepal, also alone and off-road. Compared to New Zealand, it's even more compelling, she said: "It's wilder and less predictable. Road conditions change all the time. There were several occasions when my heart was hammering my throat, moments when I was shit scared.”
But it's not just the risks; the rewards are also greater, Kerstin pointed out: "When going off-road, you get to remoter and more difficult-to-access areas. Yes, it can get lonely. But it’s out there where I feel the closest to my heart when I get closest to myself and feel the most alive.”
OUTCOME: What started as a subtle voice in her head that night about six years ago, a hunch that this could be something important, has turned out to be a life changer. Exploring the world on a motorbike - and inspiring other women to follow - is Kerstin’s current focal point in her life.
Last year, Kerstin and another tour organizer took a small group of women on a motorcycle trip to Nepal. Over two weeks, Kerstin observed how they gained confidence and self-esteem.
Our start in Kathmandu was bumpy, with chaotic traffic, riding on the left side, and unfamiliar motorcycles. Some of the participants said had they known what was coming, they would not have signed up. But after the tour, everyone was so thrilled to be a part of the event. The confidence gain in their abilities was enormous. From initially hesitant women to bold riders braving those scary slopes together.
Kerstin has just announced a second tour in Nepal for this year so that more women can enjoy a similar experience.
For her, motorcycling is a vehicle for broader transformation, she said, and other women she's spoken to feel the same way.
Motorcycling has to do with finding yourself. It’s a gateway to monumental freedom and self-determination. Because beyond the fears and limiting beliefs many of us women have, lies a dwell of confidence. That’s what you tap into when you get yourself out there and ride. I've always had a straight back, but since I spend so much riding, my back has gotten even straighter.
You don't expect women to motorcycling through foreign countries, especially not in the second half of their lives? Why not? If you take a bold step, you can discover a new zest for life and the matching energy, just like I did.
I love Kerstin’s story! She doesn’t hide the fact that embarking on a new path takes time, encompasses doubts, and requires courage. But her example also shows what the rewards might be: discovering a new zest for life and matching energy. Who wouldn’t want that?
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