25 Things I’m Thankful For

by Liz Jansen

thankfulThis is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada and a time to reflect on our bounty. As I do this, I’m very conscious of a powerful and damaging hurricane that’s wreaking massive havoc and destruction. My thoughts and prayers are with the people and families affected.

It makes me all the more grateful for the abundance I enjoy—like (in no particular order):

  1. Peace. I’ve always lived in a land of peace. Most of the world has not.
  2. Freedom. I can vote. I can openly practice the spirituality of my choice. I have many opportunities.
  3. Men and women who serve our country in peacekeeping and combat. May I never take my freedom and liberties for granted, or those who have served and sacrificed to maintain it.
  4. Mobility. Knocking my shoulder out of commission didn’t keep me from moving around but when I followed that with a broken ankle, I learned what it was like to depend on a wheelchair. I was so grateful when that cast came off and I could take my first faltering steps across the room. I no longer take walking for granted, being mindful and grateful every time I use stairs, walk on a slope, get on my motorcycle or put my foot down at stops, and even walking across a room.
  5. Health. Mine’s pretty good health and I try to keep it that way. I honor my physical body by nurturing it with nutritious food and exercise by walking whenever I can. Of course, I could always do more.
  6. Accessible health care. For those times I need medical consultation or urgent care, it’s been there.
  7. Motorcycle. Not only is Trudy one of my greatest teachers but she leads me to the most amazing experiences and people.
  8. Ability and skill to get on my motorcycle and ride. Whenever I want, wherever I want.
  9. Heritage. I’ve always known I come from ancestors who strongly value—and live—peace, kindness, compassion, integrity, respect, courage, and charity. I’m only beginning to realize with humility how their experiences live in me.
  10. Teachers—formal and informal. I have excellent spiritual teachers who help me learn by creating the space and asking the questions for me to unearth what I already know. Then there are the people I interact with daily who mirror back my projections and show me my strengths and shadows.
  11. Belonging—in motorcycle, cultural, social, and spiritual communities. There are no strangers here. Although you think you’ll never need to ask for help, I’ve had to do so many times in the past two years. When I do, it’s these communities I turn to and they invariably respond, sometimes before I ask.
  12. Clients and readers. Of course, my business depends on these but more importantly, I work with people who share my values and perspective. They’re also my teachers. Whether I’m providing services to corporate clients, groups, or individuals, I feel like the greater beneficiary.
  13. Home. It’s spacious, welcoming, quiet, cozy, has a walkout to surrounding trees and a stream, lovely neighbors, and a garage for my motorcycle.
  14. Parents. They’re both 90 and this is the most difficult time of their life. Dad’s living on his own, with assistance, and mom’s in long term care. I’m grateful they’re still here to share their stories and wisdom. As devastating as mom’s dementia is, there are gifts. With the filter gone, she reveals thoughts and feelings that have been stowed away for years.
  15. Medicine and health care for parents. They live two hours away from me and while there is family close by, it’s reassuring to know there are resources to care for them 24/7 so dad especially, can live as independently as possible.
  16. Family and friends. From immediate to extended kin, this summer’s Ancestor Trail ride has brought home the heart-connection and wonderful bond of blood relations. It’s been a tremendous gift of unexpected magnitude. I’m also blessed with wonderful friends, some closer than family. Even if we can’t get together in person as often as we’d like, the heart connection remains and continues to strengthen.
  17. Diversity. It’s enriching to regularly interact with people of all races and religions.
  18. Water and fresh air. Even in this country, there are places where water has to be brought in or boiled.
  19. Healthy food. A weekly farmers’ market offers seasonal local produce and the butcher shop has antibiotic and hormone free meat from animals that are humanely raised and butchered. Numerous grocery stores and a health food store are within easy walking distance.
  20. Measha. This precious little feline fur ball brings me much joy and unconditional love. She also helps me stay grounded and makes me laugh.
  21. Inclusion. I live in a country that accepts and respects diversity of all kinds.
  22. Compassion. I live in a country that welcomes refugees.
  23. Meaningful employment. I can engage in work I love. In fact, I even hesitate to call it work.
  24. Four seasons. Each one has distinct beauty and gifts. And changing seasons are a reminder of the consistent cycles and power of nature that we’re all part of.
  25. Modern technology that allows me to connect with people all over the world, anytime. That I have friends in many countries.

What are you most thankful for?  Answer in comments.


photo credit: Anne Worner Fall Foliage via photopin (license)

Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with:

The Return to Home Base

by Liz Jansen

returnSunday evening marked my return from seven glorious weeks on the road mostly through Western Canada with Trudy, my trusty Triumph Tiger, stopping just shy of the Pacific Ocean.

Six of those weeks were on the Ancestor Trail, following the migration of my grandparents after they arrived in Canada in the mid-1920’s. Last week I completed the final course in the Four Winds Energy Medicine program at Menla Mountain Retreat, a magical place in the Catskills of New York—the perfect place to begin assimilating what I heard, saw, learned, felt, and understood.

I’m not ready to convey my experiences yet—my thoughts simply aren’t that organized. Stories will filter out over the coming months. I can tell you the Ancestor Trail was an extraordinary journey through time and space that took me to physical and spiritual places I hadn’t imagined. Walking the land my grandparents lived on, trying to put myself in their shoes as best I could, and imagining what life was like for them was a singular experience.

There’s no question in my mind they were with me in spirit the whole way. I visualized the four of them sitting behind me on the bike, laughing, chatting, sometimes somber, pointing out things for me to see. They were as excited to be on this journey as I was and eager for me to remember and honor their lives. Roads and rail lines run side by side across the prairies—the same rails that carried the trains that took them from where they disembarked from their respective steamers in Halifax and Quebec City, into the unknown. As I rode for endless miles along those tracks, stories my grandfather told me came to life. The same thing happened in places they’d lived.

Strangers whose families had shared their path, grandchildren of the families who’d given them refuge, bonded like instant family; like we’d known each other forever. Even those outside the cultural core I was exploring—archivists, small town residents, farmers, wait staff, friends I met through social networking—anyone I approached to ask questions or pursue a potential connection—went out of their way to help.

Meeting with kin resonated as never before. I hadn’t appreciated the strength of blood until visiting cousins from my parents’ generation. It didn’t matter that they were in their 90’s and we hadn’t been together for decades. Age, time, and space were arbitrary with these heart connections. The power of reconnecting with roots through cultural delicacies like borscht, zweibach (buns), and werenike (dumplings), and sausage caught me off guard.

I can’t say I learned any new physical facts about my ancestors, but I got to appreciate them more deeply and know them at a whole new soul level. And that’s what this trip was all about—understanding their thoughts, experiences, and beliefs so I can recognize how they live through me. Processing that is going to take some time.

Even before I crashed in 2014 on my first attempt at this quest, I was quickly coming to the realization I wasn’t ready spiritually to take it on. It was apparent in my planning, lack of cultural research, and casual approach to the trip. This summer, there was no question it was time.

Here in the northern hemisphere, we’ve just crossed the autumn equinox, into six months with more darkness than light. If summer was the time to travel, autumn and winter are the time to hibernate, explore the dark corners, and write. I have no idea where my heart will lead my pen. But only by allowing it full expression will I understand the wisdom of my ancestors and how it’s embodied in me.

Posted in Adventure, Liz's Stories Tagged with: , ,

Getting to the Starting Point

by Liz Jansen

getting to the starting pointThe day prior to departure, especially getting out of the driveway, is one of the most difficult parts of every motorcycle journey I take. This one was different in that the unease lasted longer and reached a crisis point. In fact, as I headed towards the ferry that would take me to Manitoulin Island on my way north and then west, I almost turned back.

Since the unexpected turn of events two years ago when I initially set out on this mission, I’ve worked on the art of surrender and being open to possibilities I may not have considered. I’ve tried to relinquish my inclination to control the outcome, especially when my intuition is trying to send another message. I had no idea of the residual fear imprint residing in my subconscious, not from the crash itself but from the lessons and insights that came out of the recovery time.

It was a crisis of confidence such as I’ve not experienced, but in my defense, it was not entirely without merit. I was afraid a nagging health condition had resurfaced and as it turned out, it was fear that was trying to get the upper hand.

But my mind was busy creating lots of noise. Was my body trying to tell me to stay home? Was I ignoring higher guidance and bulldozing ahead on my own agenda? I wasn’t ready the last time I set out. Was I ready now? What’s the right thing to do? My angst increased with each mile until finally, I stopped.

After deviating to a walk-in clinic, receiving treatment and reassurance from the doctor, and spending the night with friends, I was on my way again the next morning, feeling much better.

My intent is to lead with my heart  with input from my head, rather than the other way around. Of course, one can never be certain, just make the best choice at the time based on the best inputs, and move forward from there.

That’s what I’ve resolved to do, and stop second-guessing myself.

After riding across much of the country in the past four days, later today I officially start the ‘ancestral trail in Dalmeny, Saskatchewan. Here’s where my grandparents first landed in Canada and where my mother was born.

As I follow in their footsteps, it will be interesting to see what ‘ancestral imprints’ surface. By tracing their steps, I hope to discover how their behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts influenced me without me even being aware they were there.

My role is to stay in a state of surrender and curiosity, open to possibilities, and watch as the story unfolds.

Here’s the roadmap to date:

Posted in Adventure

9 Minute Moto Film Festival aka 9MMFF

by Liz Jansen

moto film festivalWe’ve all sat through tedious photo and video presentations, capturing what was undoubtedly a grand adventure. To the person having it. To the viewers, it was an hour of dust or trail, an hour that wasn’t very interesting.

“There’s very little that’s interesting unless you’re a top class racer or you’re doing something incredibly heroic,” says Nevil Stow, Round-The-World traveler and Co-creator of the 9MMFF (9 Minute Moto Film Festival). “Everything is usually shot from the top of someone’s head or the side of the bike. There’s no video of anyone talking, just tons of boring video.”

Three years ago heading into the winter of 2013, friends invited Nevil and his co-creator wife Michelle over and told them they had 15 minutes to give a presentation on what they did on their motorcycles the past season.

Michelle and Nevil had just been to the Yukon, and had done plenty of other riding around their home in Canmore, in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. They edited their raw material, prepared  five and six-minute films, and added captions and music.

“Then I laid the glove down to our close friends,” recalls Nevil. “Go away, buy an editing program, and learn how to use it. You can put music to it, dub it, add subtitles and learn lots of tricks. It’s something we can do together.” Thus, the 9MMFF was born.

The next challenge was coming up with a title. Michelle came up with the Moto Film Festival but there was the question of film length. Daughter Jessica pointed out that Nevil fell asleep at the 10-minute mark of movies so they chose 9 minutes—his attention span.

The Festival has come up with a set of rules, compiled from film festivals around the world. Nevil is very clear they don’t want music or images pirated from other artists.

People are putting a lot into this and word is getting out. Although organizers reserve the right to decide which films get shown, last year, all the films submitted—about 17— were shown at the main event. Three to five official volunteer judges reviewed them for cinematography, sound, composition, and adherence to the guidelines.

“Now we’re going into our third year and people are getting quite serious,” says Nevil. “We’re making movies about what we do and our great grandchildren are going to watch them. We need to be able to give them a story.”

9MMFF has partnered with Horizons Unlimited (HU) to show selected films at specific HU events. Viewers vote on a People’s Choice for that event. The main event is always at Dead Man’s Flats in Canmore. They’ve also partnered with We Love Motogeo for web design.

Think you’ve got a great story to tell? 9MMFF would love to hear from you. Check out their website for details. And watch for a showing coming to an HU event near you!


Posted in Adventure Tagged with: ,

Motorcycle Riding in Hot Weather

Great hot-weather riding info here posted with permission from FIX.com.  For more detail, click on any of the infographics.

Source: Fix.com Blog

Posted in Motorcycle Tips Tagged with: ,

On the Road Again

by Liz Jansen

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.15.08 PMThis weekend I’ll resume the motorcycle part of the journey that took an unexpected turn two years ago. At that time I was three weeks into a road trip I thought would last 12-18 months minimum, traveling through the Americas seeking the answer to who we are before we’re shaped by our culture.

During the intervening time, I’ve had much time to explore my cultural background, both in Canada and pre-Canada. It’s quite incredible to look back and think I was going to spend a couple of days in the area of southern Alberta where my dad spent much of his childhood and come up with the insights I was looking for.

You can see from the approximate route outlined on the map I’ve expanded my scope. I’ll be following the trail of my grandparents who came to Canada as impoverished refugees in the 1920’s, survivors of civil war, anarchy, famine, destitute, not able to understand English, and trying to start anew in this country. Young, full of hope, and resilient, they didn’t foresee the hardships and drought that would eventually drive them east to Ontario.

My goal is to place myself in their shoes as best I can, and understand how their experiences have shaped me.

My tentative route is based on significant milestones and landmarks:

  • Dalmeny, SK where my mother was born and her family lived for a few years.
  • Beaverlodge, AB where my father spent the first two years of life; his parents homesteaded here until his father died, likely from TB.
  • Namaka, AB, east of Calgary where my father lived from age 4-11 when his mother remarried. They lived on a section of land abutting the Siksika Reservation and interacted frequently with the Blackfoot people.
  • Siksika Festival near Namaka Aug. 11-14 where I hope to learn more of the history of the land.
  • Michichi, AB – where my mother’s parents farmed for three futile years in the 30’s.
  • Calgary, AB to get my Triumph serviced at the same dealership that laid my Ténéré to rest.
  • Canmore, AB to the Stowasis to visit friends.
  • Nakusp, BC and the Horizons Unlimited Travelers meeting Aug 25-28.
  • Coaldale, AB to visit relatives of my grandfather (mom’s father).
  • Kingsville, ON, where my mother’s family lived for a few years before moving to Niagara.
  • Returning to home base by early September.

We all know how plans can change, but that’s the plan I’m working from. Naturally, I’ll keep you posted as time permits. My goal is to remain in a state of surrender and curiosity, open to what the road delivers. Follow along and let’s see what that is!


Posted in Adventure, Culture, Expedition Tagged with: ,

5 Things I Learned from Solo Motorcycle Travel

by Liz Jansen

solo motorcycleSolo motorcycle journeys are magical. It may take a few days to settle in, but the longer you’re out there, the greater the magic.

Not only do you experience that spiritual connection with nature and your higher power, but it brings out the best in others—and yourself.

I’m reminded of these five lessons every time I travel alone. And they stay with long after the trip is over.

  1. Most people are good people. This is especially important to realize in today’s fear-mongering world, blown out of proportion and sensationalized by the media.Talk to anyone who has traveled solo extensively, man or woman, and he or she will tell you the same thing. Around the world, people are friendly and curious! They want to know what you’re doing and engage you in conversation.Of course, you need to use your street smarts and follow your intuition. But it’s surprising what you’ll learn about others, the world around you, and yourself when you expect the best.

    I do however need to add a disclaimer. As a white woman, I’ve not been subject to racial, gender, or any other discrimination, other than the odd time because I’m on a motorcycle. But that’s rare. I do know that this is a real concern for others.

  2. Patterns don’t change just because the setting changes. Three years ago I decided to use a 6-week road trip to the Pacific Northwest to experiment with living and working from the road. My tendency before that had been to overcommit to work, and I was constantly frustrated with my seeming inability to create a better balance in my life. Nothing like a 6-week road-trip to recalibrate I thought.I started with a one-week energy medicine course in Utah. To create some work while I was away, I pitched a few travel stories about areas I’d be traveling through. And I registered for a motorcycle event in Carson Valley near Lake Tahoe in the middle of all that.Before I knew it I’d overbooked my time, leaving very little of the downtime I’d envisioned. Of course I got everything done because once a commitment is made, it must be honored. Any semblance of personal balance was elusive.

    That’s because I hadn’t addressed the underlying cause of why I was doing it. That required deeper spirit work. I’d known these patterns applied to relationships, careers, and finances and could see them in others. It took that trip to vividly demonstrate the need for changes in my life.

  3. Asking for help is okay. In fact, it’s advised! Invariably, you’ll receive it. As solo riders we pride ourselves in being independent, but part of being successful alone involves being resourceful, resilient, and flexible. We don’t have to do it all ourselves.I used to be able to put my bike on the center stand and adjust the chain, change my oil, and complete other minor maintenance—unassisted. Since my shoulder injury, I haven’t regained full strength and need help with those things. I know how to do them, I just don’t have the horsepower. A little help makes a huge difference.If I didn’t ask, I’d seldom travel. Certainly, I wouldn’t travel far.

    Most people enjoy lending a hand. It’s usually a gift whether you’re the giver or the receiver.

  4. You can get by with very little. Packing up a motorcycle for extended travel makes you evaluate and prioritize everything you pack. It gets frustrating when you’re looking for something in your pack and that same thing that you don’t really need keeps getting in your way! Besides, carrying excess weight adds to rider fatigue.This gets extended to ‘things’ in general. When I was preparing to be away for 12-18 months, I got rid of a lot of stuff, including a car. Having to store things for a couple of years, knowing you won’t be using them, makes you question whether you need them in the first place.Not having to expend time, money, and energy to maintain things frees up a huge amount of energy to notice and appreciate the world around you and the people in it. You don’t need to work so hard to get things you don’t need in the first place.
  5. You meet the nicest people on a motorcycle. I know it’s a Honda slogan from the 60’s but there was a reason it was so popular. It’s true! Whether it’s other motorcyclists or non-riders, it’s such a fantastic way to connect with other people—and yourself.Although this happens even when you’re riding with others, but nowhere near the depth of heart that happens when you ride alone.

It doesn’t mean you have to ride alone all the time, but you owe it to yourself to try it for a few days. The next time will be longer!

Posted in Adventure, Life Lessons from Motorcycles, Personal Growth Tagged with: ,

The Folly of Carrying Excess Weight

by Liz Jansen

carrying excess weightIn my dream, I was riding my black Yamaha FZ1 (two bikes ago) with a group of friends. ‘Joe’s’ bike broke down and somehow he assumed he could ride mine and take me as a passenger. In reality, Joe is a good friend and excellent on- and off-road rider who would not be so presumptive.

While testing my bike, he kept dropping it in the parking lot. I was annoyed that I was expected to be a passenger and further annoyed that he was getting my bike all scratched up. There was no way I was riding pillion, but offered him the position.

With me in the driver’s seat, we set off down a four-lane divided highway on rather rough pavement. I didn’t even feel him on the back. I was one of a few stragglers going the speed limit and occasionally someone from the group would come back to check on us—and ask what was taking us so long.

At one point, we all had to dismount and walk down a flight of very old, steep steps, with me piggybacking Joe. It took a few tries to stabilize us but we finally managed and I proceeded down the steps. Whitewashed at some point, the paint was peeling, and the steps were gravelly and narrow, uneven in tread and rise.

I struggled but made it down the first flight safely, only to see the second flight was even narrower and steeper. There was no way I could carry Joe any further and set him down.

That was the end of the dream but not of my lesson.

There’s no need to get into deep psychoanalysis to catch the meaning. Ironically, the dream came just before I published my packing list for solo motorcycle travel.

This dream was not about how much weight I carry on my motorcycle. It was a reminder of how much responsibility I accept, what I expect of myself, how insidiously the psychic weight creeps up and sucks the available energy, and how easy it is to get thrown off balance, even when my activities are well intended and aligned with my values. There’s only so much one person can do. Inevitably health issues crop up and it’s so much better to listen before they do.

The first message is to stay in control (to the extent we are in control) of your own choices. Do what’s right for you, rather than assuaging the expectations of others. Joe is a great rider and in waking time, he’d be one of a rare handful I’d let ride my bike. But this was my ride, not his, that’s why he couldn’t manage. And I was happy to help him out when he needed it.

The dream also illustrates how some choices have a limited shelf life. It was right to extend a hand to a friend and virtually no additional effort. There was absolutely no sustained need, nor was it in my best interests to continue carrying that weight once the need was over, yet I did it without even thinking.

This is not the first dream I’ve had about descending stairs. Going Down Stairs . They appear in dreams to reflect the inner work that’s happening—delving into my subconscious as I explore my ancestry and the strengths and challenges that have shaped me. Trying to do this while carrying excess weight is self-defeating. It takes focus—and courage.

Even in dreams, my motorcycle appears as my teacher. Some lessons, like the ones about carrying excess weight, take longer than others to embody. Thankfully, it’s patient and ready to carry me for the long haul.


photo credit: Fortly Textures via photopin (license)

Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with: ,

The Motorcycle Art of Surrender

by Liz Jansen

art of surrenderA motorcycle has been one of my greatest teachers throughout life. Most recently it’s become a primer for the Art of Surrender, demonstrated through riding on gravel. Even when we don’t intend to end up on the loose stuff, construction, a detour, or a wrong turn can take us there.

It’s easy to slip into the illusion that we’re in control. On the other hand, practicing the Art of Surrender and letting go is a hard lesson.  Ironically, it’s more effective in getting us to our destination.

To get the motorcycle parallel right, I sought the counsel of off-road guru Clinton Smout, world-class trainer and founder of SMART Adventures.

Here’s what he had to say. Pay particular attention to his second point as it pertains to surrender.

“The motorcycle is searching for traction in soft terrain, especially in deep sand. So our reaction as pavement riders is twofold:

Shut off the throttle because we’re scared. We don’t want more speed. That makes it worse because now all the weight goes forward onto that front tire. It tries to burrow. An analogy that I like to use is a boat in the water. When you give it throttle, the bow, the front of the water comes up out of the waves, fantastic for steering. You let off the throttle and the bow sinks in the waves, it’s horrible sluggish steering. That’s the same as our two-wheeled vehicles in loose terrain. If you can’t accelerate, at least down shift so you’re in a position with crisp throttle response. And if it’s a long expanse of sand and gravel where it isn’t prudent to keep accelerating, blips of throttle shift our weight back and keep our front end light.

The second instinct we must fight is not to white knuckle the bars. Because again, as humans, we’re scared. When our mom’s backs were a lot hairier and we were swinging through the trees, we hung on like crazy because we were scared. On a motorcycle when things go wrong, most of us instinctively white knuckle the handlebars. It’s the worst thing you can do because you’re not going to be able to make that thing go exactly where you want. The front wheel’s only moving 2 or 3 inches. It feels like it’s going to go in the ditch but it won’t. An analogy you use is put an imaginary egg in each glove and let it wobble.

Blip the throttle or downshift to a steady throttle at a lower gear, lower your speed, and relax the grip. And the bike will go a lot straighter because it’s finding its own way. As long as it’s going west and that was your choice, let it wobble a little. It’s disconcerting and that’s why we want to slow down with gear drops.

It’s better to keep momentum and the weight to the back. It’s counter-intuitive. Who would think of giving it gas or keeping the speed when things get crazy? That’s the secret.

Let it go.”

So too with learning the art of surrender in life. It’s not about rolling over or giving up. Surrender is about taking an active role but knowing that letting go is much more effective than trying to muscle through a situation, or believe you can control the outcome with sheer will.

Hanging on may work for a while, but ultimately, you’ll find yourself more effective and less stressed by surrendering. You’ll also find out a lot more about yourself and what you’re capable of. Sometimes we’re so anxious to be in control we lose sight of who we are and how our story figures into the big picture.

Let it go. Just like the front motorcycle wheel finds it’s way through the rough stuff when you allow it to, so too will you.

photo credit: Metal via photopin (license)

Posted in Life Lessons from Motorcycles Tagged with:

Dad and My Motorcycle

Originally written a few years ago, this memory is as alive today as it was then. Dad is now 90 and walking with canes as he recovers from a hip replacement following a fall. He’s moved into assisted living, mom is next door in long-term care, and his car is parked in the underground garage. He’ll still do whatever he can (and try to do more) to help me with my motorcycle.

Tribute to Dad on Father’s Day

Dad and me selfie

Dad and me in 2013. Picture of the farm as it was in 1956 when we moved there hangs prominently behind us, framed with original barn board.


Posted in Liz's Stories Tagged with: , ,

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