When most people visualize their dream vacation, Caribbean beaches and margaritas on a lounge chair come to mind. For British writer and cyclist Lois Pryce, however, her dream trip equated to something a little different — a solo motorcycle trip across Iran. Pryce spent this September on a three-week tour of the country, her curiosity fueled by the conflicting advice she’d heard about traveling there. “On the one hand I’d hear awful things about women being stoned for adultery, the highest rate of execution in the world, and nuclear enriching,” she told the UK’s Telegraph. “Then overland travelers would say Iran was wonderful and their favorite country, and that difference intrigued me.”
Despite the UK Foreign Office’s warning that “British nationals could be detained in Iran despite their complete innocence,” Pryce set out on her bike to draw her own conclusions about the nation. She’s traveled all over the world by motorcycle, so the physical aspect of the trip was no different than what she was used to. However, the cultural differences she experienced had a major impact. As a woman traveling on the road by herself, she stuck out like a sore thumb — in a much better way than she’d have thought.
“It was as though I were an alien beamed down,” she recalled to the Telegraph. “On the whole, regular people in the street were surprised but friendly. They don’t see many Westerners, and it’s rare to see a woman on her own…I was run off the road a lot of the time; at first I thought people were trying to mow me down, or Islamists; and it turned out they just wanted to give me bags of pomegranates.” She was the recipient of endless acts of kindness by Iranian hosts and new friends. “I had heard Iranian hospitality was legendary, and it really is,” she said.
In run-ins with uniformed Iranians, her solo status and British passport raised suspicion. However, in tense situations, Pryce’s network of acquaintances that she made through British-Iranian friends proved to be a great source of support. According to Pryce, people Iranians were also eager to discuss the West with her. Her bike was left in the care of friends in Tehran, and she is eagerly making plans to return and learn more about the beautiful terrain and kind locals she encountered.
“I was aware that there was an element of risk, as there is no British representation in Iran, but I believed that it was a risk worth taking — and I am so glad I did.” Sometimes people and places surprise us for the better, and as Pryce has learned, the best way to experience that is by embracing uncertainty with open arms.
[Image via Telegraph UK]