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Motorcycle travel as meditation, featuring Meridian Child
Photo: Courtesy of Jessie Jobst
In Transit

Is motorcycle riding the next frontier of wellness travel?

Think of it as moving meditation.

by Rebecca Willa Davis | 07.16.2019

They’re loud. They’re dangerous. And they just might be the most meditative way to travel. Welcome to the burgeoning world of wellness riding, where motorcycles are more than just symbols of virility; they’re a tool for spirituality.

“It’s seen as washed over with this rebel mentality, but there’s this really sensitive and emotional part of riding that isn’t really talked about,” explains Jessie Jobst, a British wellness obsessee and avid motorcyclist. After moving to New York City and getting a bike three years ago, she sought out a crew she could hit the road with that matched her low-key vibe; instead, all she found were clubs focused on machismo and partying.

Riding a motorcycle is akin to a moving meditation.

“My experience riding in the US has been: Where are my people?” she explains. “I’m not finding them in the motorcycle community, but in the wellness and spiritual communities that are like, oh, I really want to ride!” That might be because, as Jobst puts it, riding a motorcycle is akin to a moving meditation; you have no choice but to be fully in the now, focused on the road in front of you and nothing else. “Any thoughts going through your head? You crush them, because you’re in the present moment, riding,” she notes.

And when she couldn’t find a group with a similar ethos, Jobst decided to start her own: Meridian Child Motorcycle Club, which is all about finding the spiritual side of riding.

Here, she talks to The Glassy about valuing the journey, pushing through fear, and finding your flow state on two wheels.

Motorcycle travel as meditation, featuring Meridian Child

What inspired you to start riding in the first place?

I travel quite a bit. I went to Patagonia and the roads there were unreal, and I thought to myself, I don’t want to be in a cars. After that experience I bought my first bike in London, and pretty soon after that I moved to the States. I bought a motorcycle within six months of moving here, and it’s transformed my life.

I’ve sat on the back of a motorcycle, but I’ve never rode one myself. Describe what it feels like to be driving one.

Riding a motorcycle is the most freeing activity, sport, or way of moving. I work in Dumbo and when I ride the 15 minutes to work, my whole experience of not going on the subway to work means I’ll have a completely different day. It’s a form of meditation because you have to be in full awareness of what’s going on around you. And when you’re not in the city, it’s connection to earth, to nature, to source. It’s not about an adrenaline rush, it’s really about clarity.

That sounds amazing…but it’s not the way that riding’s traditionally been portrayed.

Surfing and skateboarding have this rich youth culture around them, and that doesn’t exist for motorcycles. It’s all this masculine, aggressive energy. And a lot of women riders are stereotyped as really, really masculine, and I don’t really feel like I fit into that either.

Also, a lot of things on offer are based around riding out and having a big party. Drinking loads and doing karaoke. The motorcycle industry’s been sponsored by alcohol and cigarette companies since the beginning of time, but riding a motorcycle is so dangerous and your life is so dependent on this machine, so it doesn’t make any sense.

If you look after your mind, body, and soul, you become a better rider. You can ride for longer and you can go on these trips, nurture yourself, and not wake up with a hangover and then have to go on a motorcycle. So that was when I was like, wait a minute….

What’s your goal with Meridian Child?

It’s opening the door to people who wouldn’t necessarily think of motorcycling as something that they’d want to do, and approaching it from this soft, feminine, nurturing way.

Riding a motorcycle is freedom of the mind, it’s like a form of meditation, and it doesn’t have to be this aggressive, adrenaline-fueled sport. Riding is like water: It’s about fluidity, being in a flow state where you’re in control and know what you’re doing, so that you aren’t blocked by fear.

Fear is a really good word to bring up, because I think for a lot of non-riders, the thought of riding a motorcycle doesn’t sound relaxing; it sounds scary.

There’s a lot of fear that blocks you in the beginning before you can get into the flow state where your body is just doing its thing. Motorcycling is seen as this very dangerous thing, which it is—you’re flying down a road on a piece of hot metal.

But there are all these things you can do to reduce the dangers of riding a bike: you wear the right gear, you learn properly, you practice safe riding, you don’t ride really far, and you just go slowly. Anyone who’s a new rider, just go small distances until you have the skill and confidence to go a bit further. Once you know how to ride and step through the fear, you’re literally doing the thing.

How do you plan to bring this more spiritual ethos to life with Meridian Child?

My main goal is to do retreats. I’m planning one for next summer, where there will be an organized ride up to a retreat space, and then we’ll base the retreats around female empowerment, the difference between yin and yang, yoga based around the muscles you use when you ride, meditation based around flow state and how you’d be riding.

It’ll probably be focused around women to begin with, but I don’t want Meridian Child to be seen as a single-gender entity. Before that, we’ll be doing small trips around New York—camping trips, or going surfing, or doing things that are based around wellness.

Usually we treat the “in transit” part of a trip as the stressor—getting to an airport, being stuck in traffic, dealing with delays—and we can’t really relax until we get to wherever we’re going. But it seems like with motorcycles, the focus is on the experience of traveling itself.

It’s not about going from A to B; you can be riding anywhere. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey—which sounds cheesy, but it really is about the action of getting on a bike and moving. And unlike a car, it’s solitary; it’s a very personal experience, with just you and the road. The interesting thing is I could sit and talk to any other motorcyclist about this experience with them, and even if it’s some Harley Davidson driver, we all ride for the same reasons.

For someone who wants to start combining motorcycle riding with their travels, what’s your advice?

It was traveling to these other places that really pushed me to buy a motorcycle. And that’s the beauty of Eagle Rider: It’s a motorcycle rental company where you basically pay a monthly fee and you can rent a motorbike in any state, for a minimal cost, which is amazing. So you can go anywhere and just hop on a bike.

What’s on your ride bucket list?

There’s a Pan-American trail, and I’d love to do the whole of South America on a motorcycle and just surf and do yoga and find the spiritual culture of each country as I go down. That would really be a dream. And to go back to Patagonia and do the roads that I did in a car? That was really the catalyst for me to start riding.

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