Montreal

Montreal woman leaves her job, hits the road for solo motorcycle trip across Canada

At 55 years old, Wendy McGean left a stable job to fulfill her dream of driving across Canada on her motorcycle.

Wendy McGean fulfilled her dream — of driving cross-country on a motorcycle — at 55 years old

Wendy McGean started to chase her dream of riding a motorcycle at 51 years old. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Suddenly, in her late forties, Wendy McGean started having an unexpected reaction every time she'd spot a motorcycle on the road.

"My head would just pivot and I'd think: 'I really want to do that!" she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

At the time, she thought it was an odd feeling for a married mother of two teenage daughters with a white collar job.

"It was a very traditional kind of life," she said.

Before she knew it, McGean was leaving all that behind — her home, her job, even her marriage.

"Some people thought I'd absolutely lost my mind," McGean said. "I just completely turned my life upside down."

Just one kick at the can

McGean started to chase her dream of riding a motorcycle at 51 years old, signing herself up for circuit training. She realized that she didn't feel comfortable on only two wheels and bumped up to a three-wheeled bike.

She said it was "love at first sight," and suddenly McGean was buying a bike of her own.

"I think it's the first thing in my life I found that I thought, 'this is mine,'" she said. "It represents complete and utter freedom."

Not long after McGean got a taste of that freedom, she suffered a major loss. Her father died.

"[It] made me realize that if there's something that I want to do in my life, then I better get at it," she said. "So I made the decision to leave my marriage."

A stranger took this picture of Wendy McGean for her, just outside of Castlegar, B.C., after she let the woman's cousin sit on her bike. (Submitted by Wendy McGean)

After 23 years of married life, McGean said she started to feel like a square peg and her life was a round hole. Something just didn't fit anymore.

"I was lucky enough to have somebody that understood that I needed to explore that," she said.

After living on her own for a while, McGean saw that her workplace was offering an early retirement package that she qualified for. She took it, moved out of her apartment and put everything she owned in storage, except for a one-person tent.

"I got on my bike and headed north without any reservations or anything," she said.

Forging connections, old and new

With no plans and no commitments, McGean spent the next five weeks riding west to Tofino, B.C. and back, stopping in different towns and meeting new people.

One man she met at a gas station was intrigued by her motorcycle and struck up a conversation about his own cross-country ride on a bike. Before pulling out of the station, he gave her a hug.

"Stopping and having conversations with people I met along the way was probably the best part of the whole trip," she said.

McGean also took the opportunity to reconnect with people she hadn't seen in years — she spent a night with a friend in Ontario she hadn't seen since high school, and also stopped to visit some cousins in Manitoba.

McGean's cross-country treks are over, for now, but she said she's grateful for the experience.

"At some point along the way, I finally realized that I had to live my life for me," she said. "I had to do things that made me happy."

She's not sure what lies ahead for her, but McGean is now looking for a job doing something she loves in the Montreal area because she wants to be near her daughters, who are now in their 20s.

Looking back, she said her adventures really helped her come into her own.

"I'm comfortable in my own skin now. Probably for the first time in my life."

Based on a report by CBC's Shari Okeke

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