A day in the life of Moto Gypsy aka Janelle Kaz
The only excuse you have for not following the journey of Janelle Kaz aka @motogypsy is that you have been living under the ocean with no wifi and a computer made of crab meat.... so get ready for your life to be turned upside down.
The only thing more badass then a female biker traveling the world solo is a female biker traveling the world for a good cause! We we're honored that Janelle took some time out of her crazy riding schedule to chat with us about her life and journey. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not following her journey!!
Check it out!
Alright, who are you and were do you come from?
My name is Janelle, otherwise known as @motogypsy. I’m an Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Motorcycle Journalist. My background is in biology and I’ve been riding motorcycles for nearly 15 years. I was born in northern Utah and have spent the last 5.5 years going to and from Asia, Laos mostly, working against the illegal wildlife trade.
So back to the beginning, what got you started in the world of motorcycles?
I didn’t come from a family of motorcycle riders; I fell in love with motorcycles and speed as a teenager. I wanted to ride on the back of anyone’s bike and I wanted them to go as fast as they possibly could. Eventually I got to a point where I didn’t want to need someone else for that experience, so when I was 19, I took out a loan to buy a bike and didn’t tell my parents.
Ha I bought my first bike without telling my folks either! What was your first ever bike then?
I purchased a Kawasaki 250 ninja from a local dealership and practiced in next door in the parking lot for a few hours, as I didn’t really know how to ride a motorcycle.
I actually ended up wrecking the bike later that day - me and the bike were relatively fine (thankfully we slid into tall grass and soft dirt in the median). However, I had to call my dad and tell him that not only did I buy a motorcycle that day, but I just wrecked it. “Can you bring the truck and come pick me up?”
I’m the only daughter, by the way. I have three brothers and my dad always referred to me as “the princess.”
Now you are so much more than a badass biker. You're a badass biker with a cause. Tell us how you got started in your current journey?
My purpose in life is to honor the wild on earth and within us all, and I seek to do this by helping to end the illegal wildlife trade.
While studying Evolutionary Biology and Ecology at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, I learned about wildlife trafficking. I learned about how they kidnapped animals from the jungle, how most of them wastefully die in transport if they weren’t murdered already, and how wanton greed drives this dark market. It infuriated me. I felt this flame ignite inside my chest that still burns today.
After my degree, I moved to Thailand, knowing that Asia was the heartbeat of the illegal wildlife trade. That was six years ago.
I was always still riding, but I started living on a motorcycle more than three years ago now. I’d live on a cruiser in the states, crossing the country, raising awareness and funds of the wildlife in Asia and beyond - and the challenges they are facing. Then I’d sell that bike on the west coast and use the money to buy an enduro in Vietnam or Thailand, and ride it into Laos where I partnered with a conservation organization, working as their Education Outreach Coordinator.
I find that to stay optimistic in this line of work, I must focus on the positive. I must seek to help the helpers and to encourage a connection with the life on this planet for children and adults. There is a lot of hope wrapped up in children and they are naturally empathetic - a quality that, when it comes down to it, I believe is what will truly save the forest.
That's a huge journey, and a great cause too. Where in the world are you riding now and where are you headed?
I landed in Bogota, Colombia, this past February to purchase a motorcycle and began a mission to document the positive things being done to protect ecosystems and fight against the illegal wildlife trade. I didn’t know what kind of bike I’d find; I’d never been to Colombia before. Through contacts in North America, I got in touch with Royal Enfield and they gave me good deal on a very lightly used Himalayan.
Colombia is emerging from 53 years of violent conflict, fueled largely by the cocaine trade. The presence of armed guerilla in the jungles has protected large areas of biologically rich land from being developed, and now scientists are rushing in to discover what species exist there - before it is too late.
Colombia has the most diverse landscapes and the most species of birds of any country on the planet.
I’m currently riding my Himalayan, which I’ve affectionately named Oso, after the spectacled bear, the only South American bear, to a province in the north of Colombia to visit the building site of a new wildlife rescue center. This area in particular has a ver violent past, and this new habitat preserve and wildlife rescue center will help the community in this transformation towards peace. This organization, the Aiunau Foundation, is particularly great to help because they release back into the wild all of the animals they have an opportunity to rehabilitate - the majority of which are sloths.
I'm sure you have met so many fantastic people. Tell us about one of your most meaningful encounters.
I’m writing from the wildlife sanctuary of a fantastic couple, who told me about how once, they saw a pair of endangered monkeys for sale on the side of the road. They pretended like they were tourists interested in buying them, but then jumped in their truck, stealing these animals. This is brilliant, as a shocking amount of the wildlife trade here in Colombia is perpetuated by people who feel pity for these animals being sold in cages, as they wish to offer them a better existence. This made me thing about encouraging people to be Wildlife Pirates - where if they feel compelled to rescue an animal, then they must steal it, rather than perpetuating the trade with their money. If they don’t have the guts to steal it, then at least they know that paying for it is only making th problem worse and they should just report the situation to the police or a wildlife rescue organization.
Ok so we are a moto brand, so I've gotta ask about your bike. What are you riding on this journey and why was it your choice?
My Himalayan has been a super reliable bike, which is probably the most important quality I could ask for while crossing the Andes and Amazonian regions alone. It is perfect height for me, unlike the KLX I last had back in Laos which was a bit too tall (I’m 5’6”), and made some situations more sketchy - like putting my bike onto a super narrow canoe as a child paddled me across the river.
This bike has been perfect for rough roads and looks really good.
As I’m currently riding a Yamaha XVS 1100 back home, I wish for a bigger engine on straight pavement, but I haven’t been on too many of these roads so the agility of having less weight has been preferable. I’ve really enjoyed this bike and am thankful for the confidence its instilled in me as I travel solo through the tropical mountains of Colombia and Ecuador.
We ask everyone this but who do you go to for your moto / lifestyle inspiration.
I’m really inspired by Ellespeth Beard, the first woman to ride around the world on her BMW. She worked on her own bike and believed in the good in people.
I like to fuse this inspiration with the likes of Jane Goodall, a women whose grace, wisdom, and compassion knows no boundaries.
Lately I’ve been really inspired by the great explorer and scientist, Alexander von Humboldt, who continually risked his life to experience the wonders of this planet, like sliding his body out on thin ledges of an active volcano in Ecuador just so he could see the blue flames deep within, simply because he believed in the connectedness of all things and wanted other people to know it, too.
Lastly how can we assist you in your journey and cause?
Yes! I am heading to Cordoba to visit the building site of a new wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, and I need help sharing the campaign I created for the Aiunau Foundation, an amazing non-profit organization doing incredible work. They need funds to finalize their building. You can join this mission and follow along by going here:
Thanks so much for your time Janelle!! Stay safe out there!
(Boss Bikes Founder / Creative Director)