Andrea Chen’s global outlook comes from an international childhood, her time at Northwestern and a career that has taken her across the world. A Hong Kong–based corporate strategist for Royal Philips, a global health technology company, Chen reflects on how her cross-cultural upbringing shaped her identity and desire to give back to the University.
Molly Beucher ’08 and her friend Georgia Maguire pulled into one of the last stops of their 500-mile motorbike trip across Morocco feeling like small-town heroes. They had just traversed a mountain pass in a snowstorm, and locals were waving and shouting.
“It was a real Rudy moment,” Beucher says. “Then some guy yelled ‘Fire! Fire!’ and I looked down to see that, sure enough, my bike was probably 30 seconds from erupting in flames.”
Beucher and her bike were both OK — someone rushed over to pour water on the growing flame. The incident was emblematic of the duo’s seven-day journey: Exhilarating, dangerous and helped tremendously by the kindness of strangers.
When Beucher, a screen actor in Los Angeles, pitched the idea of the trek to Maguire, the #MeToo movement was sweeping across Hollywood. Beucher was eager to feel a sense of empowerment and autonomy, and while she had never ridden a motorcycle, she had always been drawn to the independence of two-wheeled travel. People’s surprise at her desire to embark on such a trip without a man added fuel to her fire.
In partnership with Education for All Morocco (EFA), an organization focused on educating girls in remote areas, Beucher and Maguire set off on their 2018 adventure through the desert, mountains and gorges of the North African country.
And they did it all on monkey bikes, which are, essentially, miniature motorcycles. “They just look ridiculous,” Beucher says. “The seat is just over 2 feet off the ground. They are not cross-country bikes. They're take-me-to-the-grocery-store bikes.”
The distance Beucher and Maguire traveled each day depended on their bikes — nicknamed “Black Beauty” and “Steven” — which broke down more often than either of them had anticipated. Their plans were derailed daily, but with a little help, they always got back in their seats.
“We found ourselves in these small towns that aren't even on a map, asking for a mechanic, which often ended up being the cousin of the guy who just happened to see us do an accidental wheelie off our bikes,” Beucher says. “We were overwhelmed by the generosity of everybody we met.”
Beucher and McGuire — the so-called “Monkey Bike Mafia” — filmed their seven-day journey and released it in seven installments that are equal parts comedy and travel diary. Narrated by Beucher and Maguire, the episodes include breathtaking terrain, interactions with local residents, hilarious status updates and, of course, many monkey bike breakdowns.
“It was so transformative just to be with my friend in a foreign country and figure it all out,” Beucher says. “It was such an empowering bonding experience.”
Beucher and Maguire raised more than $5,000 for EFA and visited one of the organization’s boarding houses as part of their trip. “It was amazing to meet the girls and hear what they wanted to do with their lives,” Beucher recalls.
While Beucher would love to do a Monkey Bike Mafia 2.0 — “It was too much fun not to explore again” — for now, she’s focused on a different adventure: motherhood. Beucher gave birth to her first child, William, in September 2020.