Jacqui Furneaux had led a pretty conventional life, trained as a nurse, became a health visitor, married and had two lovely daughters.
Then it all changed. Her daughters grew up. Her husband, who had long worked from home and was her “best friend”, got offered a dream job where he was away for long periods. Jacqui found a new best friend and her marriage and life fell apart.
With her new partner having to fill all the space formerly taken up by immediate and extended family and friends, the relationship inevitably crashed and burned and Jacqui was left bereft.
“That’s when it happened to me. Travelling. I hadn’t planned it. I just had to get away. I was wretched when I left to go backpacking in Thailand aged 48.”
Twelve years later and Jacqui has become the 60-year-old grandmother with an Enfield 500cc motorbike and a life well travelled. France, Spain, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, South America, Australia…..the list goes on.
“I had always conformed, since childhood. I’d never been to university or struck out on my own then, when I was at my lowest, I discovered that there’s more to life than the 9 to 5, the daily grind.”
She met Hendrikus, a handsome Dutchman many years her junior. “There he was, an ex lifeguard looking like Robert Redford, saying let’s tour the world on my motorbike and from my conventional, predictable life I was suddenly riding on a motorbike through the desert in Rajistaan.”
Jacqui bought her own Enfield and four years later the pair pitched up in Australia. “He stayed and I travelled on by myself. It ended but I’ll always be grateful that he changed my life.
“When I first went I know my daughters worried but I survived a broken leg in Pakistan and I felt I was doing what I was born to do, travelling the world. So many of us say ‘I’d like to go there one day,’ and never do. I felt I had to go. My mother was in her mid 80s, she’s now 102. She said ‘You go, Jacqui. Go and do my travelling for me.’ I would come back, climb into her bed and she’d say ‘tell me about that time in Pakistan’.”
Jacqui’s daughters Claire, aged 36 and mother of 2, and Abby, aged 34 and living and working in London, have, she thinks, got used to mum’s wanderlust. Recently she rode her motorbike across France and through Spain to Morocco. When she’s not on the road she writes articles and gives talks.
“If I can inspire just a few people to follow their dreams, to give it a go, that’s great,” says Jacqui. “I did have a lovely happy family and I’m grateful for that but travelling just happened to me when I needed it most in my life.
“I have really changed because of it, my attitude, my confidence. I have met the most wonderful, generous people on the road. They will ask where I’m staying and then say I must stay with them. They are the ones who have been influential, they have enriched my life and made me realise the world is a wonderful place.”
If you would like to find out more about Jacqui and her amazing story then visit her website at www.jacquifurneaux.com