Not only is this next inspirational person an award-winning architect who has won us over with her radical transformations of unusual spaces such as the Munstead Water Tower, which she calls home, she’s blown us away with her daring spirit and unwavering determination to boldly go where no British woman had gone before. This is the story of Elspeth Beard.
Destined for the road
Born on 28th April 1959, Elspeth Beard had a fairly regular childhood. At the age of 16, she rode her first motorcycle and developed a passion for riding, but it’s what she did at the age of 23 that put her on the world map. A third-year student of architecture, Elspeth had her heart broken before her finals, causing her to underperform. Left disillusioned and full of doubts, she packed her bags and much to the chagrin of her parents set off on a solo trip around the world in the autumn of 1982, attempting a feat that never been accomplished by a British woman.
Wanderlust for the soul
In a time where few women travelled alone, let alone on a motorcycle, Elspeth’s need to escape was so strong that she defied conformity to embark on a soul-searching journey across the planet. She shipped her secondhand 1974 BMW R 60/6 to New York and there began the journey of a lifetime. From the US to Canada, back down to Mexico and across to Australia.
Against all odds
Elspeth found herself broke at this point and had to spend seven months working in Sydney and living in a garage to replenish her funds before she could carry on. In Queensland, Elspeth had her first major accident, leaving her concussed and in hospital for two weeks, but that did not stop her from seeing her mission through. Soon after, she left for Singapore, not faring any better when her valuables and documents including her passport were stolen. Chalking it up to a six-week setback, she replaced her papers and went on to traverse Southeast Asia and India, always moving forward.
When fate steps in
What started as an endeavor to flee from a broken heart drove Elspeth towards a kindred spirit, the only overland motorcycle traveler she had seen since she left her home. Riding alone no more, the duo went on to Pakistan and through Iran while Elspeth battled hepatitis, only stopping in Turkey to rest and recuperate. From there they rode to Greece and through Europe, braving the ‘Highway of Death’ across former Yugoslavia and the bitter conditions of the Alps to return once more to England.
The lone rider
In a time before sat-nav, mobile phones and the Internet, a woman travelling all alone while challenging stereotypes in the predominantly male world of biking may have come naturally to Elspeth, but her journey has encouraged women around the world to break free from society’s constrains and trust in their intrinsic powers to pursue their calling. We hope that Elspeth’s story has also inspired you to get in the driver’s seat on your personal journey and follow your passion no matter what life throws at you.
To find out more about Elspeth Beard and look through photos of her amazing travels visit https://www.elspethbeard.com