When Allie’s life turned upside down with the worst news imaginable, they found solace in movement. First it was walking then it was cycling. Riding a bike around Australia helped Allie discover who they really are, away from the glare of society.


‘Hey there, bike girl! You need some water?’

I’ve just pulled over at a rest stop somewhere before the border of Western Australia, my tyres scrape across the gravel as I brake, churning up red dust as I pause to swat a few persistent flies. I turn to see an older bearded man leaning heavily on a walking stick waving a gallon container in my direction.

At this point, I’ve been diluting bore water with the remnants of the fresh reservoirs I packed from Ceduna to disguise the slightly salty taste, and the offer of freshwater is irresistible.

I turn my bike in his direction and he introduces himself as Lou. As he refills my hydrapaks he tells me he passed me on the Eyre Highway yesterday and rang his daughter in Queensland to tell her about this ‘cool cycling girl’ and how stoked he is to have run into me.



As the sun begins to fade, he spins stories of his long life in the bush whilst his dog patters around us, leaving paw prints pressed into the hot sand in intertwining patterns.

Then the inevitable question arises: ‘So what made you do this? Pack your life onto a push bike and cycle around Australia?’



There’s a long and a short explanation. I’m losing daylight and my rear light is faulty, so Lou gets an amalgamation of the two. He doesn’t ask me if I’m scared or if I’m crazy. He’s one of the only people I meet who doesn’t.

After meeting Lou, I begin to wonder; why do some people feel the urge to wander?

A great many choices we make in life tilt the balance between freedom and security, sometimes infinitesimally, sometimes irrevocably. Some people naturally prioritise security, others freedom.

But sometimes the balance tips in response to trauma, or when the ability to choose is removed, and it’s during a period of both that I begin to consider which I lean towards.

Welcome to The Kingdom of the Sick

I originally plan to arrive in Australia in 2018, but just weeks before I’d booked to depart from the UK, I find myself unexpectedly sitting in a hospital waiting room during a summer heatwave.

The TV mounted on a bracket at an angle in the corner of the room plays Antiques Roadshow continuously; the soundtrack of uncertainty.

The backs of my legs stick sweatily to the plastic upholstery covering the chairs and I feign nonchalance as I peel them repeatedly away one after the other. A friendly surgeon with a rehearsed expression, perfected by those used to imparting bad news, sits me down and begins the consultation with ‘I’m so sorry…’

I’m diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 years old; my flight leaves without me, my visa expires. I become a trapeze artist walking a tightrope of uncertainty, juggling everyone’s expectations of how I should feel with convincing myself that I’m fine.

I’m repeatedly told I’m coping well and the perfectionist overachiever in me gleefully congratulates my ability to be a good cancer patient. In reality I’m just a good actor, trained in suppressing emotion, and the expectations of healing come to affect me more than the disease.

I read somewhere that cancer is ‘suicide without permission’; the body’s ultimate rebellion. In Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag describes how every human being has dual citizenship to two kingdoms: the Kingdom of the Well and the Kingdom of the Sick.



There’s an understanding that each of us will inevitably spend some time in the realm of illness. Most return fairly unscathed, but there are some of us who can never fully heal.

We live in the in-between spaces of the not-sick and the fully healed. A disenfranchised citizen living in a purgatory of semi-recovery; an unwanted, inescapable duality.

The expectation of healing after illness is a linear narrative: you’re diagnosed, you’re treated, you’re healed. But after you’ve been ill, your world shifts, and it takes a while to realise that no-one else has shifted with you.

It creates a sense of isolation that’s difficult to manage: nothing makes sense and simultaneously everything is blindingly clear. You’ve seen a side of life that’s chaotic, traumatic, and clarifying.

You feel betrayed by a body that you’re now suspicious of, and commit to proving that it can still function.

Slowly, I discover that the exhaustion of managing societies perceptions of healing can be managed by momentum. Momentum promises an untrodden path, a lack of motion invites stagnation and unnecessary nostalgia.

The Journey Towards Bikewandering

And so, with this unrecognised trauma sitting somewhere deep within my body, I begin a journey.

As soon as my physical scars are healed, I fly to Europe and hitchhike semi-successfully to Southern France to begin walking the Camino de Santiago. Traditionally it’s a religious pilgrimage but I’m in search of something else, although I don’t yet know what. I feel I need to reclaim my body somehow.



Within days I realise I’ve taken the only road; it leads both into unknown lands and back to myself. I earn the nickname ‘power woman’ from a French woman called Vivian and with it, I feel some of my power returning.

For the first time in my life I have brothers, and although we walk alone with our thoughts, we share each sunrise and sunset along the path as one.



On a day of thunderstorms, I find myself at the crest of a hill, I feel something build within me and I automatically fling my arms wide and scream into the wind until my throat is hoarse.

I stand so long, the rain dilutes the rivulets of tears until I can barely taste the salinity as they trickle near my mouth.

I feel strangely empty; I released something to the air that the wind took away, and I’m ready to be refilled with something like hope again.

Inspired by the simplicity of a life on the road, I begin to formulate the idea of walking around the world. When I finally reach Australia in 2019, the vast expanse of the country has me reconsidering. Inspired by a post I stumble across online, I decide to attempt travelling on a bicycle instead.



I’ve previously been the owner of a number of second hand bicycles in various states of disrepair; the most recent of which earned the nickname ‘Frankenstein’ due to its fusion of spare parts and its miraculous ability to function despite them.

In January 2020 I purchase my first, first-hand bicycle and eagerly set off to ride around North Melbourne, before realising I don’t know how to shift on a bike with drop bars.

A swift learning curve follows and in February 2020 I load my bike, Virginia, with bags and plan a two week cycle tour down the East Coast of Tasmania.



Almost immediately, I realise I’ve found the only way I want to move through the world; sustainably, self sufficient, and independent. I return to the mainland filled with ideas for the next route.

Then the pandemic hits. My plans are paused until The Ring of Steel eventually lifts nine months later. State borders remain closed so I embark on a solo bike tour of regional Victoria.

It isn’t until I’m away from cities, away from mirrors, away from standards of beauty and societal norms that I begin to entertain notions of self that I haven’t had the time to explore before.

The Journey Towards Authenticity

I come to focus on the fact that there’s automatically a limitation on the extent of my existence because I was assigned female at birth. And I begin to wonder who I would be if society never got its hands on me. I’ve been so caught up in achieving what I’ve been told I need to accomplish to be happy and successful, that I never considered the root cause of the unhappiness.

I’ve quietly known for a long time that I don’t fully identify as a cisgender woman. It takes me a long time to figure this out, and an even longer time to begin trying to explain to the people I love, and who love me.



It’s a painful realisation that the excitement I feel at finally feeling like my authentic self is not reflected in the response from the people around me. I feel I’m gaining something by identifying as non-binary, whereas others can only focus on the perceived loss of the person they knew.

The social construct of the gender binary is harmful to everyone, regardless of how you identify. Its damage can be found in unrealistic beauty standards and generalised fatphobia, in the systematic and systemic oppression of black and minority ethnic people, in phrases like ‘boys don’t cry’ and the vilification of ‘bossy’ women.



It impairs our ability to allow characteristics to be gender neutral, rather than assigned to a specific gender, and this allocation of traits spirals out of control into a hierarchy of human quality.

Despite feminist, educated, open minded parents, I still fall prey to the understanding that the best thing a woman can be is pretty, thin, and quiet.

This unspoken social contract haunts my solo footsteps around the globe in many guises until one day I realise I’ve reached my limit of calmly responding to the question, ‘Don’t you get scared?’.

Yes, I am scared.

This world is inherently more dangerous if you’re not a cis-gender heterosexual white man.

Whilst framing my understanding of repression through the lens of gender and sexuality, I recognise the privilege I have as a white, neurotypical, conventionally sized, able bodied human which automatically places me higher up on the social scale of ‘acceptable’ human beings.

It would therefore be natural to travel around this world and treat each human you encounter with caution. By travelling on two wheels you’re exposed and vulnerable, but this vulnerability often leads to the most authentic encounters, if you let it.

Welcoming Acceptance

When I finally undertake the journey from Melbourne to Perth in 2021, I lay myself at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. In the mostly barren stretch of land between Ceduna and Norseman (commonly known as The Nullarbor) there’s a shared experience of some form of hardship, regardless of the vehicle you choose to cross it.



I’m an anomaly in a land of four wheels and the people of the Nullarbor, as I come to think of them, become almost pilgrims along the Camino again; we’re alone, but collectively experiencing the same path.

I slip into anonymity upon leaving the Eyre Highway, but the goodwill of the strangers I meet stays with me.



The only constant in this vagabond life is change, which I slowly learn to navigate within the binary of fragility and resilience that I now inhabit, and I seek ways to show how I encompass this dichotomy without inspiring pity or demonstrating great bravery.

It’s important to recognise that reaction to illness is an individual undertaking and there’s no one way to thrive successfully; illness is not to be validated by the actions of survivors.


I’m an unwilling citizen of the Kingdom of the Sick, who turns the loss of something into a realisation that authenticity is self determined.

I become exhausted by conversations about fear and solo travel and begin to undertake quiet acts of rebellion against the expectations placed on me by society.

I’ve often felt too much or not enough, but I’ve finally found where I can just be; in the wild, on two wheels.