“It really made all the difference to have that practice and that achievement, that feeling of actually getting there and doing a thing that you set out to do, it was really spectacular for me. ” ~ Jess Stone
In this episode, Christine hosts a soulful conversation with activist, entrepreneur, and world traveler Jess Stone. Jess is the founder of Ruffly premier outdoor dog gear, and she’s eight months into a global adventure by motorcycle with her dog, Moxie, and husband, Greg, to raise $100,000 for the global nonprofit Girl Up.
Christine and Jess discuss:
Join Christine now for this soulful conversation with Jess Stone.
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To learn more about Ruffly ethical dog gear, to follow Jess’s Go Ruffly journey on motorcycle with her dog Moxie, or to purchase your own motorcycle dog carrier, visit the website at https://www.goruffly.com/.
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Follow Jess’s journey on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/goruffly/.
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Christine: Jess Stone is the founder of Roughly Ethical Outdoor Dog Gear, which is based in Los Angeles and Lake Audit La Guatemala. She and partner Greg designed the roughly canine mo cockpit, a custom-built motorcycle dog carrier. On March 5th, 2022, Jess Moxie and Greg began an around the world adventure in partnership with the global nonprofit girl up to raise a hundred thousand for girls programs. The trip is documented through their go roughly around the World Video series, which is available on their website and on YouTube. In our conversation, Jess shares how her work as an aid worker in Africa, eventually led her to Guatemala to support a women's microfinance nonprofit, and to adopting her German Shepherd moxie and the foundation of roughly. She takes us along on her around the world journey so far, and shares why it is so important to her to support Girl Up love these soulful conversations. We rely on listener support to produce our podcast. You can support me in amplifying the voices of women by making a donation via PayPal. The link is in the show notes. Join me now for my soulful conversation with Jess Stone.
Christine: Welcome to Soul of Travel podcast. I am so excited today to be sitting down with Jess Stone. Uh, Jess is the founder of Roughly where she works with women artisans to make ethical outdoor dog gear. And beginning in, uh, March of this year, she set off on a trip for 18 months, uh, around the world to promote, uh, fundraising for Girl Up. Um, and she's doing this with her 75 pound German Shepherd named Moxie. Um, so I'm so excited because we have so many things that we have shared interests in, and you're doing it in such a unique way. So I cannot wait, Jess, to share your journey with our listeners.
Jess: Christine, thank you so much for having me on. This is exciting.
Christine: Thank you. Well, to get started, I'd love for you to just take a moment to introduce yourself, and then we'll move from there.
Jess: Great. So I think you did a great job of introducing me, <laugh>. I am Jess Stone. I am the founder of Ruffly, like you mentioned, and we make ethical outdoor dog gear, based in Guatemala. We work with indigenous Guatemalan artisans throughout the highlands of Guatemala primarily. They work in small home workshops. And so the goal here is to get the women to use their traditional techniques, the traditional, natural dying techniques that they use, their weaving techniques, but we pair that with modern and durable materials, so that we can make dog gear collars, leashes, beds, bandanas that not only look amazing and have the colors and vibrancy that Guatemala shows, but also be durable enough for say my 75-pound German Shepherd.
Christine: <laugh>. Thank you for that. I think I, that's one of the things that really drew me to your story when I started learning more was seeing that you were working with artisans in Guatemala. We were just talking before we hopped on, but that's a place that's really special to me, and particularly the artisans. And so as you're describing women working in their in-home workshops, uh, this is something I'm really familiar with. I've been able to visit some weavers and see what they're doing, um, and also to experience the innovation that they have of taking their traditional skills and modernizing it much like you were sh sharing with your product. So I think it's such an amazing thing to see the entrepreneurial spirit and the tenacity of those women in those communities. It's like something I've never experienced before, so I can't wait to learn a little bit more about that part of your journey. Um, but as we get started, I'd just love to hear from you about the role that travel has played in your life and really when you did start traveling, and then we can see how that rolled into your own entrepreneurial journey.
Jess: Great. So my career previously was an international aid worker. Um, I lived around the world, mainly in Africa, is where I sort of started working with international development organizations, really being on the ground there for years at a time. I started my first independent trip I would say was in 2005 to Ghana, and I picked the most rural place that I could find. I picked a place that didn't have running water. I didn't have electricity. I wanted to have an authentic experience, and I really wanted to test myself. I grew up in Toronto and Canada, and my parents are Swiss, so we would often travel to Europe in the summers, but nothing that was very sort of out there in the developing world. And so I took it upon myself to really test myself and go out there. And I had such a fantastic time in Ghana, and that just opened up everything from there. And then working in Uganda in South Africa, my husband and I, we met in South Sudan. We've done a lot of traveling together and all in places that might not be the typical tourism places, but they just have so much to offer and it's, it really sort of brought everything home for me, when I, when my husband taught me how to ride my motorcycle when we were living in Liberia together.
Christine: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing all of that. I think it's so amazing that that was the first place that you decided to travel to. I think most of our listeners are probably not setting out to Ghana, although, I would say so many people that listen to this show are really adventurous travelers, curious travelers, much like you, like really want to deeply connect to a destination. And so they're not going somewhere as a traveler to try to see anything that, you know, they've seen in a magazine, but they're really wanting to connect to community and nature, and also, like you said, to test themselves and understand who they are through the journey of travel, which I'm sure both you and I would, would relate that it is a place where you can really get to understand who you are and your strengths and the things that make you uncomfortable, and the also to discover the things you're really passionate about and curious about, and how you can bring those into your life moving forward.
Christine: And also as you were talking about learning to ride your motorcycle, it reminded me of backpacking in, uh, Thailand. And my girlfriend and I decided that we were kind of sick of taking the buses everywhere and hiking everywhere. And so we're like, we are gonna figure out how to ride a motorcycle. And this lady we met in a rental shop threw us on the back of a little motorcycle, all three of us. And, um, I'm almost six feet tall, so just me on that bike with her would've been awkward enough. And then she took us to a, like a, I don't know if it was an active or inactive runway, but she scared all the cattle off of it. And then she gave us a riding lesson and then sent us on our way. And it was so fun, and such a disaster. My friend immediately rode hers off the road and then got onto my bike and we finished heading to this waterfall and then got her bike out. Anyway, I could just, I know like that moment of learning how to ride a motorcycle, especially in a place like that where everything is already foreign and then you throw yourself on the back of a bike. What was that like for you?
Jess: <laugh> So, so let me back up for a second. So for me, riding was never really something that I thought about. Um, yeah, I had been on the back numerous times in Africa because a lot of motor taxis, you could be on the back and they ride you around. Um, and I was perfectly fine with that, but I came to Africa without really having a driver's license, never driven a standard vehicle before. And when we got to Liberia, my now husband, at the time, my boyfriend, he was planning to do a large motorcycle trip he had done, he's from Los Angeles. He did Los Angeles to Panama, ran out of money and couldn't continue all the way south. So his dream was to continue the trip. And when we met, he said he was going to live and work in Liberia for a year, save up and do the trip.
Jess: And he said, uh, you're invited to come along, but you can't ride on the back. You have to learn how to ride your own bike. So he taught me how to ride at a time where it wasn't something that I went into thinking, oh, yeah, I wanna be a motorcyclist. This is an identity thing for me. It's exactly what I want. No, I didn't really care about that at the time. It was more, I'm really into this guy and I'd really like to continue this and see how it goes, and I'm willing to give it a try. Like why not? Like I could do this. And so he taught me how to ride. We bought two little, uh, 160 cc like sport bike, uh, bikes that we could ride with. And he taught me how to ride on the side streets in Monrovia and Liberia, the capital.
Jess: And it was challenging, to say the least. We had a lot of onlookers people who were very curious to see a woman riding a motorcycle, and were out there and sort of gauging what's going on and, and if they should be concerned. And for me it was pothole roads, it was crazy traffic. It was just completely not what I was sort of expecting. And the whole time I was really anxious. I suffer from anxiety, which I know many people do. And it's something that has held me back in the past. And for this, it was something that I knew I needed to get done in order to be able to do this bigger trip, as we went forward. So he taught me how to ride. It took, we did about maybe a thousand miles worth of practice while we were there. And then we went back to Los Angeles, and then we bought our bigger bikes, or I have a 650, and that's the bike that I rode with him, from Los Angeles up to Canada and then down to Chile over eight months.
Christine: Wow. Um, that eight months on a motorcycle, just, I'm like, no, <laugh>. I know that's so hard and I know so many people do it, and it would be so amazing, but I cannot imagine. And then also just, and we'll get into this as we talk about this journey too, like what it takes to, um, plan for that and figure out what you need and you know, how to be strategic about what you have when you have such a limited space. Um, I'm really curious about that. But, um, before we go there, I would love to understand a little bit more about Ruffly, so you mentioned that you, that's founded in Guatemala, that's where you're based for that company. How did you end up in Guatemala and then, um, how did all of these pieces kind of begin to be woven together to create Ruffly?
Jess: After we did our eight-month motorcycle trip, we ended up moving to New Orleans and we were living in New Orleans for about two years. I had gotten my green card, Greg and I had gotten married. Um, and so we were there for two years. After two years, I was ready to sort of move on. I was ready to get out of the states and go international again. And thankfully, so was he. And he was the, when we were both looking for positions, and he actually got a job, working for a women's microfinance nonprofit in Guatemala, in Lake Atitlan, in Panajachel. And so we said, okay, let's do it after two years in New Orleans, let's take our bikes, let's ride south and let's start there again. And that's what we did. So we moved there. Uh, Greg was working for that nonprofit for about a year.
Jess: I was working in marketing remotely at that time. And it was soon after we had arrived that I realized that we were gonna be there for a while. Normally we, every year or two years we would move. And I was thinking this is a place where we could, we could hang out for a bit. I really enjoyed the community in Panajachel. It's a small community, probably about 15,000 people now. A lot of foreigners are there, so there's a lot of influx of imported goods and things that make you feel like home. But there's also a lot of culture. Uh, there's a bunch of towns around this lake that we live at with the, surrounded by three volcanoes. It's just pictures and absolutely beautiful. So I said we were gonna stay for a bit, and obviously my mind goes to, well, we need to get a dog, <laugh>.
Jess: I have loved dogs forever, but always traveled and never really felt like I was in the right position to get a dog. And so, uh, there was somebody on the other side of the lake who had brought his two German shepherds from the US and brought them with him. And this was their first litter. And I, and I told Greg, we gotta go over and just, let's just take a look like we don't have to commit. Soon after we got there, we were playing with the puppies. And of course, you know, like, they're all wonderful. And, uh, long story short, we ended up picking Moxie, uh, and Moxie ended up becoming everything for us. And she was the motivation for Ruffly, when we were in Guatemala, I loved the beautiful colors, but I'm not somebody who wears that personally. Like there are a lot of scarves.
Jess: I'll wear a scarf that's very colorful, but there are things out there like full pant suits and things like that, that have the textiles or the huipil which is their hand-woven clothing that they wear in each town. Each town has their own traditional style and look and, and design to it. And I didn't want it for myself, but I said, why can't my dog have that? Like, she needs to look fantastic. And so I started looking on the market, see what was available, and a lot of the stuff was, um, either sort of really like fufu and wasn't gonna be able to last for my shepherd, or it was, uh, a lot of it was leather. And I am, I'm a vegetarian, I'm an animal lover. And so the whole leather part of it didn't really jazz me. And I, I thought there's gotta be a better way to do this.
Jess: And so the, the microfinance nonprofit that Greg was working with my husband, they had an artisan program and they gave loans to women to do small businesses like their artisan work. And we connected with one of them and had a really, like, fantastic conversation. She showed us what she could do, and then we started thinking we could create a line of dog gear that would work for dogs like Moxie, big dogs, and even small dogs. But something for that, you know, that even though it's gonna be handmade, that it's gonna be durable and it's gonna last. So we spoke with her, we had a nice conversation. We sort of talked through what our thoughts were in terms of design. She talked about her traditional techniques. We did a bunch of testing, and from there it just grew. We started with collars and leashes, and then expanded to doing more of the textiles of the beds.
Jess: We have a bed roll that you can roll up and take with you. Uh, and then, and then from there, after we did all of this range of dog gear, it came to the point of, wait, now I've got this dog. She's beautiful and I wanna take her everywhere, but I don't have a car. I only have two motorcycles. So what are we gonna do about that? So then we had to go into figuring out how we're gonna take moxie along on our motorcycles. So we designed a motorcycle dog carrier that fits Moxie, and we had a connection with a welding shop in Panajachel where we were living and went about sort of designing, um, a carrier that would support 75 pounds. Uh, we had looked on the market and I didn't want a sidecar. I didn't want a trailer. Those are two sort of beefy things that I didn't sort, I didn't wanna change my, my style of riding on two wheels.
Jess: I had finally gotten comfortable with riding. I was feeling like it was what I wanted to be doing, the type of riding that I wanted to do. And in Guatemala, there's a lot of dirt roads, there's a lot of windy mountainous roads. And having a sidecar or trailer like that makes it really tough to get around. And I didn't wanna sacrifice that, but I did wanna take my dog along. So we worked with the guys in the welding shop, and we came up with this frame, and then we connected with our artisans to do the upholstery, and they were able to hand stitch upholstery around it so that it was padded and comfortable for her. Um, and from there we started exploring together. Uh, it was an adventure, learning how to ride with moxie on the back for somebody who never took a passenger.
Jess: I never needed to take a passenger. Greg had his own bike and I didn't really ride with anybody else, so I wasn't really used to that. I was used to having luggage on the back, but not a dog. So within a weekend, Moxie was ready to go. She leaped up there, she laid down, she was just so ready. Me, I was like pussy footing on my bike just to feel comfortable with having the weight on the back. And, you know, I wanted to be the one to take her. I sort of felt like she was my dog and I wanted to be responsible for her, so I wanted to be the one that had her on the back. But with that comes a whole host of other anxieties as well, of being responsible for somebody, um, somebody that you love. And so it, it was a bit anxiety-provoking, but soon enough we were cruising down the road.
Jess: We were doing off-road together, you know, it was, it was like a match made in heaven because now I was able to take her, we could ride for two hours around the lake and she could go and play in the lake on the other side, you know, or we could go somewhere, uh, to see … was, uh, that had coffee and we could do a tour together. There was a lot that we were able to do now that I was able to take her with me. Um, and so now Ruffly has not only the dog gear component of the collars, leashes, beds, and bandanas, but we also now sell the motorcycle dog carrier, the canine Moto Cockpit.
Christine: Yeah. Oh my goodness. I can't imagine, like, I feel like, so many dogs would love that experience because they get to be like basically on top of you and they're riding and their fur’s blowing in the wind. And for people listening, I really encourage you to check out their Instagram and we'll talk about your video series later as well. But that dog, she is the happiest dog I think I have ever seen a picture of. Um, I love seeing those pictures. And, um, I think also like for me, the idea of being on a motorcycle, there's a lot of freedom, but also you're alone by yourself. So to be able to actually have your companion, your dog with you and just kind of like, not really feel like you're alone, I think that would be a really comforting and kind of fun experience as well.
Jess: Yeah, a hundred percent. She just makes everything that much better. And we talk about with our other riders as well, that it changes your ride because now you're not just gonna stop at a gas station to fill up, when you're on a trip, you're gonna wanna stop at a nice green place so that she can go and run free and you can play fetch cuz she's gonna have all of this energy and you're gonna wanna play with her. You're gonna wanna go and, and have a picnic instead of going to a restaurant. You know? So it really changes your outlook. You get to be more with the nature, with culture, uh, in a way that you don't get to do when you're by yourself or you don't think to do when you're by yourself, cuz nothing's pushing you to have to do it.
Christine: Yeah. That's such a good idea or a good thought. I mean, even traveling with my children and then we now travel with our dog too. That is like you said, such a different way cuz you're thinking about, okay, I remember this Rest Stop has this huge green area and it actually also has a dinosaur museum inside, which is like a total lottery win. Yes. When you're in that situation and then, you know, then you find another spot and another spot and, um, yeah, really you are, instead of just like hurrying to get from one place to another, you are actually enjoying your journey, which I think is, should be the whole point. But sometimes when we are thinking about getting somewhere, we forget about the space between the places that you're traveling between mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well as we move through your journey, I would love to hear about Girl Up, which is a movement to advance girls skills, rights, and opportunities to be leaders. And, know that it's really important to you as is empowering young girls and helping to instill confidence in them. Obviously it's important because you're spending 18 months raising money for them. Um, how did that become a part of this journey?
Jess: So Go Ruffly Around the World is our around the World Adventure. We said 18 months initially, it's probably gonna be longer, but initially it was 18 months. Uh, and the purpose of Go Ruffly Around the World is to raise a hundred thousand dollars for the nonprofit Girl Up. Like you said, they were founded by the United Nations Foundation and their goal is to have gender equality. Um, and that's what really what these girls are fighting for. And it was an important, uh, partnership for me. Um, because when I, when I had the idea to do this around the world trip with Moxie, which originally started because I wanted basically to be my own brand ambassador, it was a great opportunity to show off my, my business, the products that we're making with Ruffly, um, and to really just get out there and I thought, who better to do it than me?
Jess: You know, like I, I'm the one riding with the dog. Uh, so when I, when we thought about it, it was, okay, this is great for Ruffly, but I wanted it to also mean something. I wanted there to be a larger goal and obviously, we've been supporting a lot of women and artisans in Guatemala through Ruffly, but I wanted to have a bigger impact. So being in, uh, international development, like I've always sort of had my eye on different nonprofits that I've wanted to support throughout the years. And Girl Up has been one that I always wanted to do something with but couldn't really figure out exactly how it would connect. But when I came up with Go Ruffly Around the World it just made sense. They are a global nonprofit, so they're in 130 countries, they've supported 90,000 girls, I believe is the number, and they have projects in all different places.
Jess: So I thought, wouldn't it make an amazing sense that while I'm going and doing this around the world trip, I'm getting a chance to meet the girls, um, that are in these Girl Up clubs and hear about their stories and hear about the issues that they are fighting for. And so it just seemed like a win-win in that sense. And the reason why I had my Eye On Girl Up was because they provide leadership and development training for these girls. And it's something that I always wished that I had. I am, I'm somebody who suffers from imposter syndrome. I never real, I always doubt myself. I have a lot of those anxieties. Um, and it's, to be honest, it's really held me back throughout my life. And it's only now in the past few years where I feel like I'm, I'm, I'm continuing to grow and I feel like I'm getting into a better place.
Jess: But I think back and think if, if I had had a Girl Up Club where I had other girls who were going through similar things that I was at that time and having, um, having a role model or somebody who will help, uh, sort of instill those skills and that confidence, I could have been a lot further than where I was now. And I, I think about that, about the girls. If the girls that are there, they are, they're gunslingers. When you hear them talk, they, they're just these change makers. They've got this, this confidence. And even the girls that are new to the club, like they soon get, get, um, I guess they get into this group and they just, they start to blossom and it's, it's fantastic. And so I just really jive with that idea, and especially as a woman motorcyclist somebody who's in a male-dominated field, um, it's, and doing a lot of things in my life that, that it's more manly, I guess, or male-dominated than it is typical for a female to do it.
Jess: Um, I want the girls to have a chance to do whatever they wanna do, and I want them to feel comfortable doing it. And I feel like Girl Up has the right mission, um, and I've seen it in action, so I, I just really support it. And so that's why we, I went to them. We had a conversation, we decided to partner. So, uh, it's a hundred thousand dollars fundraiser, 10% of our Ruffly products and, and sales go towards the fundraiser as well. Um, and people can donate directly, uh, to Girl Up and it's tax deductible in the States.
Christine: Yeah. Um, I think that it's so amazing that you were, how you kind of were able to bring that passion together. I think a lot of us when we're entrepreneurs and, um, travelers and people that are really curious, we have all of these things that we are really excited about. And so, like you said to to know that you had your eye on how you could support Girl Up and you were waiting for the opportunity, and then the way that you could bridge that together, I think that's really amazing. And then to even add more value personally to the ride around the world, for you to be able to connect with these groups, like you said, and, and really hear their stories and move through the world in a different way. Again, much, you know, like you were saying before, just you're slowing down. You know, that the intention is each of these points along the way as well.
Christine: Um, I think that's really a powerful awareness to think about how you can create travel. Um, I'm getting ready to travel with my daughters. I have three daughters, so that's also why Grow Up is something that I have been drawn to. And we're gonna travel for a year around the world. And so we have also been talking about like, what, what else can we do with our trip to make it more impactful for us and for others? And so I love that you were able to bring these pieces together. Um, well, how did you, when you then started to plan your trip, was it based on where these programs were? Um, is that how you chose the countries that you wanted to travel to? Um, you've obviously traveled quite a lot already by motorcycles, so it probably wasn't as much about places you wanted to be, but what did that process look like for you?
The planning process had a lot to do with weather <laugh> as a motorcyclist. Like you wanna make sure that you're riding in nice weather, that it's not snowing or ice, uh, which is dangerous <laugh>. Uh, so when we, we planned it, we were starting from Guatemala in March, um, which is a fantastic time. It's still the dry season and on when we were planning it, when we did our first trip for eight months when my husband and I did it without Moxie, uh, we didn't make it, uh, as far north as we wanted to. We only made it up to Whistler in British Columbian Canada. We didn't get all the way up to the, to the top, uh, to the Arctic, uh, ocean, which was our initial goal. Um, so obviously that was on the list. Like we wanted to have that as a, a, a, a mark for us to say that we have achieved it.
Jess: So when we planned it, um, we planned to come north first so that we would make the top of, of North America, uh, in the middle of the summer and then start heading down south to get to the, to the bottom of South America when the weather was still nice. And Girl Up has clubs all around, in Mexico. They have them Guatemala, Mexico, and in the US. So we were able to see them as we came up. And we actually brought one of the Girl Up Club, um, members from Mexico City on board with us at Ruffly. And so she also helps with the coordination with the different clubs and, and when we're coming through and, and some of, some of the social media support as well. So we were able to sort of tap into her and her network as well to get this going.
Jess: But we did plan from Guatemala to go up through the, through Mexico. We saw some of the girl clubs in Mexico City. Uh, and then we came up through the US, got into Canada, and then we made it to the Arctic Ocean, which was a huge achievement. <laugh>, uh, from a motorcycling standpoint. That stretch is, uh, the Dumpster Highway, which is on the Canadian side, basically, you come from the Yukon into the Northwest Territories, and then you get to the top where the Arctic Ocean is and it's 1600 kilometers, round trip of dirt and gravel and mud. And it's just, it's a difficult stretch. It's not paved at all. So it's a lot of skills building that you need in order to be able to ride that. And for me, that was always my boogeyman. And when we did the eight-month trip the first time and we didn't make it, I was sort of relieved.
Jess: Like I was a new rider at that time and I didn't feel like comfortable to do it this time. I was, I took courses while we came through the States. I took some off-roading courses, uh, I practiced as we went up and it was tough, but we made it. We got to the Arctic Ocean and Moxie put her paws in the ocean. I got to go and splash around as well with her. But it, it really made all the difference to have that practice and that achievement, that feeling of actually getting there and doing a thing that you set out to do, it was really spectacular for me.
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Christine: Yeah. Oh, I can't imagine that stretch of road. So I hadn't really thought about that until you said it, but you know, what it takes to prepare for that. And then you were talking about the mental, mental piece of it, which, you know, someone from the outside maybe hearing about your story would think, oh, well that's must be going to be really easy because they've already ridden motorcycles for eight months. But it is such a different technical aspect and, um, I think that that's where, when people really start to kind of be enraptured with travel is being able to watch yourself go through that journey mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and have that experience and internalize it. And now that you take that forward for the, you know, the rest of, of your, of your travel experiences, um, I think that also really ties in with the way that Girl Up is working to instill that in, in their, in the women and the girls that are in their communities. Um, so I think it's just such a powerful connection. For people that are listening that are curious about this kind of travel, what would you suggest to them to, to get started or to even to push themselves if they are already a motorcyclist that wants to take on this kind of adventure?
Jess: I think from, for motorcyclists, the key thing I will always say is to take a class and practice. I took a class with Rawhide Adventures when we were in California. Basically went through sort of an obstacle course to practice those skills at slow speed so that when you are out on the trail, you feel a lot more confident. And that's, that's really the key I think, when it comes to motorcycling, uh, of wanting to take on this type of adventure. Um, and then the other thing I'd say is see what other people have done and see what parts of the travel that you like, because you can have 10 motorcyclists and every single one of them does it slightly different. They do different things. Like, for example, when, when we're on the road, we ride for four days and then we stop and we work for three days.
Jess: So it's not consistent riding. Um, it gives us time to camp for four days, do all the fun stuff that we wanna do, explore and sightsee and do the riding that we wanna do. And then we've got the three days where we're working, we're working on our video series and social media and our business. Um, but by the time the three days of work are done, we're ready to get back on the road. And it's the same thing with the four days. When we're finished the fourth day of camping, four nights in a row, we're ready for a place that has a hot shower. So it's, it's sort of a nice mix. And so if you're thinking about doing this type of adventure travel, you gotta find what works best for you. Some people do weeks straight of riding and then they feel really burned out and they can't, can't sort of figure out why that they've gotten to this place where they're supposed to be enjoying it, but they're exhausted and then they start to feel guilty that they're not taking advantage of everything that they should be.
Jess: And then you get that feeling of being burned out. So learning yourself as you go along is, is key. And, and, and seeing what other examples are out there of what you think would work best for you. Um, and obviously starting with smaller trips and, and seeing, making sure that you like your gear. Like nobody wants to find out on their first day of their round the world that their sleeping bag is not warm enough, <laugh>. Like these are things that you wanna test. Uh, same thing with packing. So those are all things that motorcyclists need to think about when they're doing this type of trip. Um, and if you're not a motorcyclist and you're in a car and you're thinking about, for example, doing the Dumpster Highway or, or riding the Dalton up to PTO Bay in Alaska, um, there's a lot of people out there who have done it, um, and can have great advice on making sure you have the right tires and the right tools and the event that anything goes wrong with your vehicle. Um, but it's, it's really an adventure and, um, as much as I say, go and look and see what other people have done, it's really your own and you gotta make it your own so that you can feel like you've come out of it with something more than what you started with.
Christine: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think it really translates to all long-term travel experiences as well, that, um, much like you were saying, if you have a really ambitious travel schedule, you'll find yourself getting to places and not really being able to engage because you've been so burnt out. And I've been thinking about that a lot with preparing to travel with my daughters of like, okay, I think we could probably do, you know, a couple weeks of some, you know, more aggressive touring at the beginning. And then we definitely need to find a spot to like pull up that has a swimming pool where they can relax and then, you know, think about now where we're gonna go and, and really, like, I've been watching my, my kids seeing how they move through their day and how they, what things they really enjoy and noticing, you know, what activities they like. So I know when you know they're gonna be outside of their comfort zone or what they're not enjoying and not to put a bunch of those things together because if one person wants to do this and the other doesn't do that, like it's just, um, those subtleties I think when you're thinking about this type of travel are the things that will hopefully help you to build towards success and having a, a more enjoyable long-term travel experience. Um, so you are about 10 months in, is that Right
Jess: Now we're eight months in. So we started March 5th in Guatemala, made it to the Arctic Ocean, uh, at the beginning of August. Now we have come south, we're in Baja Mexico right now, uh, and now we are going to continue south. So we're gonna go down to get to the tip of South America. From there, we will go over to South Africa, we'll come up the, the east side of Africa, um, and then we'll be in Europe and do a tour of Europe, and then we will go east, uh, we'll go through the stands, we'll go through, uh, we wanna go through India, we wanna go through Asia on that side. And then from Malaysia we will probably ship our bikes back to Guatemala and end in Guatemala.
Christine: Yeah. How do you, how will you go from South America to South Africa? Will that be by boat or will you ship the bikes and fly for that transition?
Jess: We will ship, we'll ship the bikes for that. Um, it's probably, I think it's about four to six weeks. I can't remember exactly, but we will ship it and then we will fly. And unfortunately my big beast over there, she, her 75 pounds needs to go in unaccompanied cargo because she is so big, she needs to be in a giant-sized crate. She couldn't just keep those ears down and let us be in a normal sized crate. But <laugh>, she's a, a giant-sized crate dog, so we have to find an, an airline that will take her, um, and she will fly.
Christine: Yeah. And that, that's also something too that's really interesting. I know a lot of people that have traveled with pets or adopted pets and that adds a whole another layer of complexity to international travel with dogs. I don't know if that's something you wanna share, but I don't think that's something we've talked about before on the podcast, but just thinking about that, that is something that is a very, can be a really difficult thing to do.
Jess: Oh, a hundred percent. When we started the trip, uh, when we were planning the trip in June last year, the CDC and the States had put out a ban on dogs coming from high-risk rabies countries and Guatemala was on that list. And so in order to bring a dog from Guatemala into the States, you needed to apply for a permit in advance. You had to get a rabies test done from an approved CDC lab. So you basically draw the blood in Guatemala, send it to the States, have them test it to make sure that she's got the antibodies, um, and then you had to pay and get a veterinarian certificate for it and then hopefully be approved. Um, and it was only meant for people who were coming back to the states for business for, for schooling, um, or for, um, for emergency purposes.
Jess: Uh, and we didn't necessarily, um, fill any of those reasons why. Um, but the other issue was that you would have to fly, they wouldn't allow you to go by land. You could only fly into three designated airports. So that would've been when we did the, the price of it all, it would've been about $6,000 to get her from Guatemala to the States. And, and then we said, mm, I'm not sure about that. So hypothetically, what we could have done is we could have taken a trip across the border from Guatemala to Mexico and say to a Mexican veterinarian and say, here's her rabies certificate in her pet passport. Do you think that you could maybe make her a Mexican dog? Because Mexico was not on the list of high-risk rabies countries. So potentially you could do that and get a, uh, certificate saying, oh yeah, Moxie is from Mexico, and so that when you cross into America by land, they, they won't say anything, which when we entered into the US uh, they didn't even ask for her vaccination card, they didn't ask for anything.
Jess: Uh, they saw Moxie in the back of my bike, and were all excited about it. And that sort of got them <laugh> to not ask too many questions. So there are rules like that. Um, there are certain other countries that won't allow you to enter if you've been in rabies countries in the past. Um, and there and some countries like, uh, Australia for example, has a quarantine on pets, uh, if you're coming from a high-risk rabies country. But in general, it just requires a lot of research figuring out what each country needs as you go. A lot of the times it's just to make sure that she has her up-to-date rabies vaccination. Um, sometimes it'll require a, a vet check, a vet, uh, like a certificate saying that she's in good health, that they have checked to see that her rabies certificate is valid, that she's had her, um, her flea treatment, all of those types of things.
Jess: It's not like it's, it's this the hardest thing in the world, but it does require you to do research in advance. Because for example, when we went to Belize, Belize requires you to fill out something online a couple of days in advance, uh, to upload some documents and that needs to be approved before you enter. And we, we had that done cuz I had researched it, but we saw other people who were there with their pets and were like, wait, uh, I thought we could just come. And the officials were trying to say, no, we have this process. And unfortunately they hadn't checked beforehand and then they were denied entry. So it's that type of thing. And I've got obviously a whole list of countries and requirements of entries and exits for each of them, um, for her. Um, so that's something that I keep track of for her. And then obviously for the vehicle of importing and exporting the vehicle in all these different countries.
Christine: Yeah, it's such a daunting task when you really start thinking about all the moving pieces. And it's so interesting cuz you see somebody, you know, setting off on an adventure like you and you think, oh, this is so freeing. They're just on their motorcycle and here they go. And really, pretty quickly you realize, you know, you're navigating all these things. And then of course, during this time in, in our in our existence, you're thinking about things that have changed due to COVID and timing of that. And then also just being aware that at any moment things can switch because, you know, in the past you could have mapped this all out and been pretty sure that when you get to that destination six months later, it's gonna look like it did when you thought about it originally. And, um, so it's, it's kind of a little bit like disheartening that it isn't that free experience that you might think that it is when you set out to be kind of become a world traveler, especially like you said, if you add moving vehicles and dog transportation and all of these other things. But, um, for you though, what, what really what gives you the most joy out of this type of experience in this type of travel?
Jess: Having Moxie with me the whole time, you know, being able to ride with my best friend and my human best friend as well. Uh, it really just enhances the experience. I've taken solo trips myself, I've taken, taken solo trips with Moxie as well, and it's just that feeling of being on the road, uh, having her with me and, you know, the joy that it puts on other people's faces. It really, it really brings something to me as well. Like, you can't imagine how many people are leaning out of their cars taking videos of Moxie as we're passing by or at a gas station about, oh my God, she wears goggles. Uh, all of those types of things we get all the time, people wanting to take photos with her and it just, it puts a smile on everybody, young, old, like, it's, it's just amazing that she just has that impact on people. And I, I just, I like that because sometimes in this life, like you don't get a chance to smile that much or there aren't that many things out there when it's a crazy world like this that make you excited and to give somebody just a little piece of that when they see us riding by, you know, it, it brings me pleasure too. So I'm glad that we're able to do that.
Christine: Yeah, you're in your own way just spreading joy as you're traveling because you, and you get to be the center of that, you know, they have a fleeting moment, but you get to kind of have that over and over and over again. So I would imagine that that would be pretty rewarding. And like, again, I go back to, to checking out the, the Instagram and your video feed and really looking at it and, and speaking of that, people can follow along your journey. Um, so you decided to do this, but then also to document it in a a really encompassing way, which is also difficult when you're traveling. Um, what has that part of your journey been like? And then also where can people find, find that if they wanna follow along?
Jess: Sure. So we have a YouTube series Go Ruffly Around the World. Uh, we put out a new episode every Sunday. It is a labor of love. It sure is. Uh, we film the four days that we're riding, we're filming, um, that's four Go Pro cameras, two iPhones. Um, and so it's a lot of footage that we go through. So the days that we're working, we spend time really editing it down and really giving people the opportunity to see what it's like to travel around the world with a big dog. You know, to see the, the funny things about camping with her when the excitement that she gets when she sees a bear on the side of the road, you know, um, or when we're, we're out seeing something and something's a little bit fishy and we're filming it, you know, like it's, it's just fun stuff to be able to experience that journey with us and, and we enjoy sharing it.
Jess: So that's, that's what we have. So they're, they're uh, they're about 20 minutes long, 25 minutes long episodes, something that you can really sit there and watch with your coffee in hand, you know? Um, and so you can see that every Sunday, um, on YouTube, Go Ruffly Around the World. And we continue to put out more, more and more content, on our channels. So we're also, like you mentioned on Instagram, if you wanna see some great shots of Moxie and, and my captions are sort of like mini blogs if you go and see my Instagram. Um, I, I like to sort of give my view of what I'm going through, from a motorcycle's perspective, from a woman's perspective, from a human's perspective, just share some of my challenges that I go through it and what I'm thinking about. And I hope that it resonates with people, and that they get something out of it too, which is the purpose of why I'm sharing it, um, because it's taken me a long time to get here, like I mentioned before, and feel like I'm in this good place and, and I wanna share some of that cuz maybe it'll help somebody along the way as well.
Christine: Yeah, and I'm so glad that you did also mention that because that was another point of connection and resonance for me when I did find your story was that, you know, I was drawn to those images, but then I started to click in and actually read the content and I was like, oh wait, I didn't actually expect this. It's a lot more, uh, you know, vulnerable and authentic and deep that I wasn't expecting when I saw the pictures on the story and the narrative. And it, it's really beautiful. So I I I thank you for creating that because I, I think it again really helps us to see ourselves and other people's journeys and experiences and also to understand the power of travel and reflection and the ways that this can be such an important part of our life. And so I, I am one of the people that really does appreciate it. So thank you for, for creating and sharing the way that you have. Um, as we begin to end our conversation, I'll just remind people that they can, um, learn more about Girl Up on your website. I will also share the links with this podcast episode. Um, but before we end, I just have a few rapid fire questions, so we'll jump into those for people to get to know you as a traveler a little bit more. Um, what are you reading right now?
Jess: Yeah, I'm actually reading one of Lois Pryce’s books. Lois Pryce is this Motorcycle Traveler. Uh, she did a ride through Iran, it's called Revolutionary Ride. It's fantastic. She talks about what it's like to ride as a woman, uh, in this place where women generally are not that welcome and it is a fantastic read.
Christine: <laugh>. Oh my goodness. So I'm just putting together my reading list. I have a Women’s Book Sojourn and so we read all these books that kind of allow us to experience another culture, uh, a context for women and also a little bit of adventure. And I literally just published it today, but I might have to go and look at that book and see. It might have to be at least a recommended add-on, cuz that sounds amazing. Um, what is always in your suitcase or backpack – or actually it's probably gonna be <laugh> Bike pack.
Jess: Um, okay. Well, my things are really basic because you can't really take so much on a motorcycle. Um, something that I always have, oh, I know. Chapstick, that one's easy. Chapstick the wind is horrible when you're riding, especially, I like to ride with my visor up so I can feel the wind on my face, lips get chapped, always have Chapstick in the front of my tank bag, right in that little bag on top of my, my bike.
Christine: Yeah, I was thinking it was going to be Chapstick or sunscreen or lotion or some sort of moisturizer.
Jess: Moisturizer, yeah. Yeah. Oh, and Moxie also for Moxie, she has her own moisturizer. She has a spray moisturizer that I put on her so that her skin doesn't get too dry and she has a snout bomb that I put on her nose as well to keep her moisturized.
Christine: <laugh>. Yeah. Uh, and, and I'm sure those are things you wouldn't think of right initially. Sure. And then you learn and you're like, oh no, this is a must need for my dog as well. <laugh> Um, to Sojourn is to travel somewhere as if you live there, which is something I know you're very familiar with. Where is a place that you would like to sojourn?
Jess: For me, I think it would still be, um, Ecuador in Quito. Um, I had, we passed through there, obviously on our first trip, and I just fell in love. It's a place that I, I wanna go back. I would love to do five years in Quito and be there. Um, I loved the culture, I had loved the climate of being at altitude like that. Uh, and the activities that are available there, I think it's, it's just perfect for me. So that's, that's one place.
Christine: Yeah. What do you eat that immediately connects you to a place that you've been?
Jess: <laugh> Uh, Rolex. So in Uganda, and I think probably Kenya probably has them as well. Definitely in South Sudan. A Rolex is like a chapati with egg. They have, um, a cabbage inside, sometimes onions and tomatoes and it's rolled up. It's greasy, it's lovely. Uh, so anytime, uh, we're at a place that has chapati, which you don't get that often, but when we do, I will make a Rolex and it brings me right back to there.
Christine: Hmm. Um, who was the person that inspired or encouraged you to set out and explore the world?
Jess: My parents, but in a negative way, I guess. I'd say. Uh, my, so like I said, my parents are from Switzerland. They moved, uh, in their thirties. Uh, they couldn't have children. Uh, they thought they couldn't have children, so they left Switzerland in their thirties, went to Canada and settled, within a month, my mother was pregnant with my sister. Uh, so, and then I came along three years later, they settled in Canada and loved it and didn't ever wanna leave again. And so for me, I wanted to leave. I was the one who, it was my Switzerland, you know, I wanted to go out and do something different. And so they, they, they never, uh, prevented me from going. They weren't a hundred percent encouraging, but I think that they understood the independence that I had because it was the same thing that sort of drew them to Canada. So in that sense, I'd say my parents,
Christine: Yeah, if you could, could take an adventure with one person, fictional or real, alive or past, who would it be?
Jess: I'd say my husband. I know that sounds cheesy, but he is, he is just my everything, you know, like he, he is like I said, I met him in South Sudan. He was also an aid worker. Um, somebody who I feel like we're, we're equals. We really just get along. We are each other's person and being able to be on the road with him, he gets me, I get him. It just, it connects. So it's, it's, it's still work. I, I'm not saying that it's not work. Communication is always work <laugh>, but having it and being with somebody like that, it, it just is just a really special thing.
Christine: Yeah. That's so amazing. Um, what a blessing to be able to experience that. Uh, so the Soul of Travel is, uh, about highlighting and celebrating women who are doing impactful things in the world through travel. Is there someone who you admire that you would like to recognize in this space?
Jess: Well, now that I'm reading Lois Pryce, I would say Lois Pryce. Again, <laugh>, uh, and I recognize her. Uh, so she's British. Um, and she was sort of my inspiration, uh, when I was learning how to ride. We obviously, I said I started when we were in Liberia. I didn't really have any role models. Everything that I did was online. I didn't know what I was supposed to wear, how I was supposed to feel. Like I, as a woman writer, no idea. Lois Price was the one who came up when I started searching for women writers, and I just connected with her. She's like, like I mentioned, she's a fantastic writer. She's written all around the world solo, and it's just, she, she really inspired me to do a lot of, of what I, what I understand now to be a woman rider and what that means. So I say Lois Pryce. A hundred percent.
Christine: Yeah. Um, well that was it. But, uh, thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. Um, I loved hearing about your journey, but I also really appreciate how you are sharing the world with others and, um, supporting Girl Up along the way. I think it's such a beautiful story and I really hope that people will be curious and follow along and support you on your mission as well.
Jess: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me and letting me share some of my story.
Christine: Thank you.