Adventurer, Biker, Kitesurfer, Cumbuco, Brazil
Lucie is rare, she is interesting, private and elusive. She is a friend who can map out for you an exact biking route between Poland and France if you're a beginner (in Europe she calls it biking 101). She knows which roads to avoid on Corsica in the summer and where in New Zealand the winds are too strong to even attempt on a bicycle. She is also especially good listener, when she asks you something, there are true follow up questions and a sense of study. She seems to nurture the conversation and you feel important as a result. She is also remarkably self-aware, frank and able to understand body language clues to a tee, pointing to a highly evolved ability of reading social cues and possessing sensitivity to other cultures. This is all very much resulting from her unique and inspiriting sense of wonder about the world and her over-expressed gene for exploration and adventure. Lucie is inspiring, she is a wow woman for many reasons, but for me - I found myself changing my routine for an early morning cold swim. I just thought, if Lucie can do it...
2. Where is your hometown?
These days hometown is pretty much wherever there is a comfortable bed/room/apartment for a couple months.
But originally I’m from Prague and came to United States when I was 18 and lived most of my adult life in San Francisco Bay area.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
I guess right now I would say I’m early-retired. I worked, when I was working, for HP in project management positions, but also heavily dabbled in real estate and invested in single family houses. This allowed me to retire early and I live off the rental income. This in turn allows me to travel and explore.
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (career wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of? How are you managing as a solo traveller?
To be honest, every job in the past was primarily there to help me be free. Be free financially and otherwise. I looked at every job with a goal of being entertained for next 6 months to a year but mainly as a means to get outside and out and about. It all started with early job out of school where I tried to have afternoons off to go wind surfing.
Accomplishments I’m most proud of – nothing truly career wise, but when I was leaving HP the people who worked with me and for me, wrote an incredible evaluation. This really felt good. It wasn’t really what I did or any specific projects, what was important for me was helping others to grow and learn at work. I was part of a hard-working team and that made me feel good and I felt proud of myself.
Some of my biggest accomplishments came when I started travelling on my own. My first trip as a solo woman traveller was when I was 22, to Rome. My girlfriend hurt her knee and couldn't join. I wanted to cancel the trip, but decided to travel anyway, by myself. I was scared shitless, but realized that travelling as a solo woman was actually great. People trust you, they invite you into their homes and you are welcomed quickly (and not only by men). Locals come up to you, women children, elderly - they want to hear your story and they are truly interested in your adventures.
Another accomplishment I am proud of is picking up solo cycling when I was 20 and still keeping up with it now. One day I decided to go to New Zealand with a bike. I love being free, having freedom on my bicycle, having my two little bags with my bike, learning a lesson of just how few possessions one needs in life. One of the frequently asked questions is about accommodations on the road, as a single female. On long solo rides, I don't usually overnight camp, I bike through little towns and if there is a hotel/homestay I stay there. Otherwise if there is no booked room, at some point I go to a local bar and walk up to an older woman at a bar and ask her if there is anyone who can rent a room to me. I've never been disappointed, it's worked for me and I've never been stranded without a roof over my head.
For those looking to get into a long distance biking I recommend Italy/France as a starting point. I call it biking 101. It's safe, it's clean and there are espresso machines every ten kilometers. That would be a great start for beginners. After I got more adventurous, I started cycling in Africa, and South America - Peru, Columbia. When I worked in California, every vacation and time I had off (I usually did negotiate for longer vacations), I would take my bike, and off I went. Since retiring I've travelled a lot on my bike in Latin America. I don't travel for distance, I travel to explore from place to place, and my threshold is 3-4 weeks. My absolute favourite is to find a town where I feel comfortable, rent an apartment, settle-in and learn about the culture, people and the environment. I use bicycle to explore, but also to meet people. In almost every country there are cycling enthusiasts, and you can find friends immediately, because there is something instantly shared. This is true with other sports, and all sorts of activities, dancing for example.
As a general rule and advice for all travellers, especially solo women travellers, in order to meet quality people in new towns/countries/continents I recommend "learning with others", it's the easiest way to meet friends. I don't prefer meeting people in bars, and instead take classes - as I am doing now in Latin America - whichever town I happen to pass through I take a salsa or a tango class.
I just want to say, that throughout my years of adventures, I never felt threatened - especially riding a bike. I travelled in Columbia, in remote places and those are some of my best routes. I find it better to be in places outside the tourist areas. Of course following instincts is always important, and if you feel like getting the hell out of some place, then quickly do it. But overall, the above has worked for me throughout my life.
5. What did you study in school?
I did a double major in international business and French.
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
At 20 I didn’t picture much of anything. I did at the time think I would do the usual - children, house, husband and all that comes with that. When I was about 34/35, and was biking through South Africa, at the time madly in love with an adventure photographer (I was in a total bliss), I had an epiphany -I realized that the kids would not fit into my lifestyle. It was then I thought that I would have to choose between kids and my lifestyle. And guess what, I chose my lifestyle. So far I have no regrets. I’m thinking I may get involved with a children organization, to fill in that motherly instinct, should the feelings arise. But that’s where I am now. Living a life of adventure that I’ve always lived and decided that I don’t want to stop that.
7. What was biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?
Biggest disappointment was my father. Plan to overcome it – never really got married. Become extremely independent.
Don't get me wrong, I love men. I think they are great. But I hate to be dependent on any man in particular. And it is sometimes hard to find a man who fits my lifestyle and can handle me. I can be a difficult girlfriend. 😊
8. Advice for other women?
I just want to say that men are not the enemy. Even though my father was a disappointment. I feel that sometimes women can be their own biggest fans but also their own biggest enemies. I encourage sisters (women) to stick together. I notice that it’s not the man that sometimes puts us down, its each other in many instances. Lets stick together and lift each other up!
9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it for "feminist values"?
I don’t consider myself a “typical” feminist. I live my life and be the best person I can be.
Live your life, do what you want to do, and don’t put labels on it.
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?
Well ha-ha. I’m 5’9”, I’m pretty tall and throughout most of the world I feel at my “tallest”. When I’m in Latin America (Columbia for instance), taking dancing lessons (salsa and tango) I’m usually the tallest, and I have to be comfortable dancing with shorter guys. 😊
In general, you feel tallest where you feel most comfortable and confident. This may not be very easy when you get into new environments as I do all the time. For me the challenge is putting myself into uncomfortable situations and start feeling comfortable being uncomfortable, if that makes sense. And every time I get through it, I feel a little bit taller at the end.
11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?
I generally love challenging sports like long distance biking, skiing, kiteboarding and constantly aim to learn new things. Also lately loving learning dancing (salsa, tango, etc). Why? Sometimes you need a challenge, something new to overcome. When you start, you feel like an idiot. But you keep going and this feeling of learning reminds you of being a little kid.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
I have not figured that one out yet. I believe that I will never grow up and forever enjoy the process of growing up. As for future goals and challenges - actually I achieved my biggest goal – financial independence, freedom, health and being with my good friends and of course exploring and travelling. The main challenge now is how to keep growing, what to do next, how to fill my days and finding that “meaning of life”. I have been retired for three years and I’m hoping to find a project that I like without necessarily having to make money. I will let you know when I find it – always looking for inspiration as I go.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
Oh boy… well, the fear of getting old. I hate getting old! It sucks but you can’t postpone it. Trying to keep positive, healthy. I know its inevitable, and it will be some adjustment. If I cannot be physically active that will be difficult and hard to overcome for sure.
14. Anything you'd do differently (if you had another go at life)?
Not really, but one thing I would do earlier in life would be starting using sunblock. So put it on, girlfriends!
15. What inspires you?
Anybody who is truly passionate about … anything. Whether it’s collecting stamps or helping kids in Africa. I meet a lot of people like that on the road, and generally that quality is really inspiring and attractive in people.
16. What are you hopeful about?
Well, I’m actually hopeful about the next generation of young people. I see their outlook on life – positive and full of interesting ideas. We shouldn’t push our archaic thoughts on them. The world would be better if the old farts just stepped off the reins and let young people take charge.
17. What are some ingredients to a good life?
First ingredient – good health. You have to take care of it. If you don’t have that, you have nothing. Second – friends. You don’t need too many, depth is the most important over quantity. Third, being free – having choices (not find yourself in a situation where you feel stuck).
18. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
Probably none, because I wouldn’t listen to it anyway. And I think that may be the best advice. Because really, you’re smart enough to know yourself and what you need in life. And in fact in the past listening to others' advice usually have gotten me into trouble instead of listening to my own feelings and instincts.
19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
I have to admit that I haven’t been a big reader, no matter how that sounds, it's the truth. Of course I go by recommendations of my friends and pick up books. But mainly I listen. There are so many stories out there, and as I travel I talk to anybody – from street people to the richest people in the world – they all have interesting stories if you are just willing to listen. Also through my travels in any specific country, if folks mention their politics or history I look it all up and read about it. I love watching documentaries on different subjects and if I do read, its usually biographies. In conclusion, talking to people and listening to their life stories are what I consider my favourite “reads”.
20. Who is a “WOW Woman” in your life who inspires you (and why)?
The big cliché I know, my mother. She left the communist country (Czechoslovakia) when she was 45 with me and my brother (18 and 20 years old respectfully), and two back packs to our name. That was very inspiring. No wonder I’m a world traveler and an adventurer.
Otherwise, as I travel, women I admire the most are the ones who I’m meeting along my journey. They are single moms with two children, in country where women are still looked down upon, and they are making a living, they still manage to laugh, or at least lend a smile, don’t seem to complain and are still finding it within themselves to be giving. Women like that I admire, I don’t know if I could ever do what they do. I’ve never felt oppressed, having good fortune of growing up in United States, so I feel like these women are my heroes.
21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?
You can’t find me anywhere online. I’m very private. I don’t do blogs or facebook. I just live. Anything I write online takes me away from living. Even this interview, it takes me out of my comfort zone, but I hope that reading this would inspire someone and that’s why I did this. That’s it