Meet Mowgli – Michaela Partin
I grew up in Florida with my my mom, dad and three brothers. To me my upbringing was fairly normal, but looking back I know we were pretty different to most families. From a young age my parents had us all in the water- sailing to the Bahamas or around the Florida coast. My brothers taught me how to surf and I grew up jumping from surfboards to boats to skateboards with a big pack of boys that all became brothers to me. If you wanted to find young Michaela, I was either getting into mischief with my bros or off being a recluse, probably reading some sort of adventurous tale and dreaming about what lay beyond the horizon. After getting into competitive surfing in my high school years and ditching school to travel around the States, I knew our little Destin, Florida pond was too small for my wandering feet.
It was around this time that my brothers started calling me Mowgli, after Disney’s loincloth clad jungle kid. My mom had taken me to the salon where I was quickly turned away after my hairdresser found seaweed in my hair. But they all must have seen something wild in me then, because like prophecy, a decade and 22 countries later, the name has stayed with me.
At age 18 I moved to Indonesia and spent 7 formative years there. I became fluent in Indonesian, ate rice with my hands and took the adventures as they came. From managing the biggest competitive surfing tour in Asia and winning events like the Rip Curl Pro Mentawais, to teaching English in tiny back Bali villages, I made that island nation my home. I slept on cargo ships in Sumatra and was threatened for my life in the Telo Islands. But it’s Indonesia’s bright and beautiful people and it’s never ending coastlines of pumping surf that had sparked the fire of adventure in me.
After my years in Indonesia I moved on to Sydney, Australia where I worked as a surf instructor and fitness trainer. It was there that I got into motorcycling, and found a close-knit family in groups like the Sydney Cafe Racers and the Foxy Fuelers where I always joined in on local rides and events. I started building up my confidence by taking solo surf trips on my bike, each trip longer and farther out of the city than the last.
But after years away, that spark for Indonesia was still ablaze. I started being bombarded with dreams of myself riding down palm tree lined paths somewhere in Sumatra, with just a bag of necessities and a surf board in tow. Stopping at roadside stands to eat with families and learning something new every day from the beautiful people on the way. And the SURF! I mean, could you imagine the waves you’d find from the seat of your motorcycle?! But as I searched for more information it became apparent that no female had really done a trip of this scale, hunting for waves through the archipelago solo by motorbike, before. “Will I be the first?”, “Can I do this?” I wondered. But as sleepless nights turned into days of endless google maps searches, it became so apparent that this was what I was made to do. And as if there was no other choice, I put pen to paper and started planning.
Mowgli in the Wild is the story of my return to Indonesia, a country and culture that shaped and inspired me from a young age. It’s about how I fell in love with motorcycling, and my ongoing love affair with the Indian ocean. It’s the story of a normal girl with an abnormal taste for adventure by land and sea, and I hope you’ll come along with me for the journey.