9 Motorcycle Rites of Spring

by Liz Jansen

rites of springWhile Trudy, my motorcycle, is still in hibernation, the calendar has transitioned to spring. While many of you are already riding, it’s still a little early in some areas.

I’m in no rush. Rather, I’m savoring this time of anticipation, preparing, planning, and dreaming of where the road may lead this year. I’d be selling myself short to pin too much on the future rather than immersing myself in the present.

Nonetheless, the immovable and unstoppable cycles of nature are in motion. These rites of spring either alert us to prepare for riding or guide us into a safe and enjoyable season.

9 Motorcycle Rites of Spring

  1. Instructor Recertification. One of the first sure signs of spring is preparing for this season’s students. Every March we get put through the paces to make sure our teaching, coaching, and riding skills are sharp.
  2. First Teaching Weekend. Close on the heels of recertification is being out on the range on this Saturday and Sunday with the first eager group at Humber College. I’ll also get my first ride of the season, albeit on the course bikes!
  3. Motorcycle Inspection. Even if you were meticulous in winterizing it, corrosion, condensation, and critters may have caused damage during storage. A thorough and methodical check can alert you to areas that need attention and reassure you that it’s safe to ride. 10 Steps for a Spring Motorcycle Checkup
  4. Gear Inspection. If you’re like me, I squeeze as much season as possible out of autumn. By the time I’m stopped, daylight is short and the temperatures quite chilly. I’m pretty good at winterizing my motorcycle; less so at cleaning my gear before it’s put away. When spring arrives, we want to get out there riding. It’s important to give our gear a good examination before we do. We only intend to look good in it, never to test it, but you want it to protect you if the need arises. 8 Steps to Get your Motorcycle Gear Ready for Spring
  5. Personal Assessment. More than half the riders killed on Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) patrolled roads in 2015 died through no fault of their own. It’s a staggering number and one we can change. We can’t control the actions of others with whom we share the road. However, we can do everything in our power to make sure we’re alert, skilled, visible, and in control of our motorcycles. 7 Checks to Make Sure You’re Ready to Ride
  6. Skills Refresher. The longer the hiatus from riding, the greater the rust buildup on our skills. An annual refresher course is the ideal way to sharpen them, whether it’s a professional off-road course (ideal for road riders to learn how to deal with the unexpected), like SMART AdventuresRawhyde Adventure Motorcycle Training or a road based course like Total Control Advanced Rider Training,  Streetmasters,  or Riding in the Zone, which offers both. This list is by no means exhaustive or exclusive, but a good starting point and a great benchmark to calibrate other courses against. If you can’t get to a course, at a minimum, visit an empty parking lot with a buddy and practice skills like slow speed maneuvers and quick stops, increasingly challenging yourself.
  7. Ride Dreaming. Since my priority is completing my next book, long distance riding is taking a back seat this season. I’d expected more progress but these things always take longer than you think, even when there’s a buffer added in. Books have a life of their own and the words and message come in their time. Having said that, I’m still dreaming of attending the Horizons Unlimited event in California in September.
  8. Local Event Planning. Even if you can’t ride far, there are many local gatherings which make a great destination. A few new innovative events around me include Motorcycle Film Fest in the County,  Toronto Motorcycle Film FestivalLobo Loco Rallies – a series of four long-distance scavenger hunts, and Poker Run for Ovarian Cancer, in support of my cousin Bonnie Caruso, Event Coordinator.
  9. Offering Gratitude. My pre-ride preparation includes a quick prayer to ask for protection, mental clarity, and to offer gratitude for a safe and fun ride. That first spring ride though gets its own special offering of gratitude, like laying down tobacco or even placing a special talisman on your bike. It’s a real gift to have the physical, mental, and financial wherewithal to ride a motorcycle, be part of an incredible community, and ride in lands of peace and freedom.

What other rites of passage do you recognize in spring?

photo credit: R. Drozda Mt. Rainier via photopin (license)

Posted in Adventure Tagged with: , ,

How to Maneuver Around the What If Obstacles

by Liz Jansen 

What ifRecently I wrote an article about ‘meeting’ my paternal grandfather for the first time during last year’s motorcycle trip to northern Alberta. “Isn’t that the trip you crashed on,” asked my editor? “You didn’t mention it.”

He was remembering back to when I’d initially set out to explore the lives of my ancestors and how their experiences lived in me. That crash had changed my plans and injected a two-year hiatus into my journey. His question, however, raised the question. What if that hadn’t happened? Would I have met my grandfather?

Whether things happen for a reason is not up for debate. They happen. I crashed. I can never know for certain whether I would have met my grandfather had that event not happened. I only know how life has gone since then and not the infinite number of outcomes that could have materialized if I’d made other choices, either before or after.

To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking when I started out in 2014. I’d planned to visit the area in southern Alberta where my dad lived between ages 4 and 11, but only for a day, and then I was moving on. I figured I’d fill in the stories by speaking to relatives and going through old photos.

I had no intentions of making the trek up to Beaverlodge in Peace River country where dad’s parents, my grandparents Johann and Liese Klassen, first tried to settle and where dad spent his first two years. He has no memory of his father who died there in 1928 just before his 29th birthday, leaving a widow with an infant.

For a few months, Liese took in laundry from the railway workers to make ends meet, hauling water from a well and heating it in a cauldron over a wood fire. Then she and dad moved south, where she met and married Peter Jansen, whose name I carry. Stories from that time are much more prevalent. It was here that I crashed.

Bypassing Beaverlodge, I would have missed a very formative time for my ancestors, and me. I would have missed walking the land they lived on, getting to know their early life in Canada, and visiting the overgrown, derelict rural cemetery where the man whose blood runs through me is buried. On land he tried to tame. The man who, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, got his family to a land of freedom.

I would have missed gaining a glimpse into the strength, courage, resilience, and gratitude that propelled my grandparents’ start in a new life. My visit gave me an opportunity to honor Johann and express my gratitude for the sacrifices he made so I could live the life I have today.

Had things gone differently on August 27, 2014, I may have eventually realized my omission and circled back, maybe after my trip to South America. I’ll never know.

What I do know is that my life is forever and deeply enriched for choosing to make that trip last year.

Every day we make many decisions. Even the small ones can have far reaching consequences beyond our imagination and knowledge. For better or worse, once they’re made, there’s no point in second guessing them. It doesn’t mean that in the light of new information, we can’t change our mind.

Rather than brooding on potential missed opportunities, it’s more important to maneuver around the “what-if” obstacles. They’re traps that can prevent us from moving forward.

Instead, recognize they may have served a purpose at one time and let them go with gratitude. Then make the best decision on how to move forward from where you are.

Posted in Liz's Stories Tagged with: , ,

Finding Happiness in the Dark

by Liz Jansen

finding happinessFinding happiness and peace of mind is easy when things are going well. Or when we’re riding our motorcycles. We feel joy, freedom, and even euphoria. A spiritual connection. Riding makes you feel better physically. Paul Pelland, a.k.a. Long Haul Paul, an advocate for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), who’s riding one million miles with MS for MS, once told me when he rides, he doesn’t have MS.

When life takes a turn, as it invariably does, it’s not so straightforward. Two weeks ago, I voiced my role as a healer in the post I’ve Been Keeping a Secret. Healing work is something I’ve been doing for most of my life but am now just giving it a name.

It was as if I sent out a signal saying I was stepping up for a new set of lessons. For at least a decade, I’ve dealt with a chronic condition that has been managed with medication, lifestyle changes, and holistic care. Early and prompt intervention addresses flare-ups. Somehow I missed the early signs and by the time I sought medical care last week, it had progressed to the point where I needed more aggressive intravenous treatment.

When you’re in pain and there’s a battle for control raging in your body, happiness fades into the shadows. That leaves fertile ground for fear to muscle in and gain the upper hand. Fear tries to distract you by creating anxiety and incessant chatter in your mind about all the things that can go wrong. For me, this struck right at my heart, wondering amongst other things, if this might temporarily curtail long-distance and out of country motorcycle travel.

Everything looks dark. I question whether I’m on the right path, yet intuitively I know for certain I am. My life looks so different than it did less than three years ago when I was hurtling across the prairies on a big dual-sport bike, headed (or so I thought) for South America. Although it’s a very different journey than I anticipated, it’s still my journey.

The dark thoughts recede once you begin to feel better, as I do now. Recognizing they’re only giving you one distorted side of the story helps put things in perspective. Preventing them from gaining the upper hand is an essential step in the healing process.

The only way for me to do that is by staying in the present, reminding myself life has its rough spots, and remaining consciously connected to my Higher Power. It creates the space for my body, with medical and spiritual intervention, to do its job. Expressing gratitude, silently or aloud, for gifts like the support of loved ones, readily available diagnostic tools, and outstanding medical care also helps heal. Not necessarily cure.

Finding happiness and peace of mind is harder when it’s dark. The reality doesn’t change but the stories you tell yourself about it, and thus the outcome, can.

What stories are you telling yourself?


photo credit: IamNotUnique Moonlight via photopin (license)

Posted in Freedom Friday, Liz's Stories Tagged with: ,

I’ve Been Keeping a Secret

by Liz Jansen

For years I’ve been keeping a secret from myself. Only now do I have the courage to bring it into the open.

I started my professional life as a Registered Nurse, working in hospitals for five years before moving into Occupational Health. From there, I migrated into Corporate Human Resources and Training and Development. I enjoyed it and worked for a great company.

Somewhere I realized I’d followed a fork in the road that although scenic, wasn’t getting me to my destination. My work was no longer meaningful and my spirit needed to be doing something that was.

You can’t go backwards in life, not that I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure how to get back to the path I wanted. The first thing is to stop going in the wrong direction so I left my job. Since I didn’t have anything else to do, like work, I went on a two-month motorcycle trip around Canada and the United States, always a good option when a motorcyclist needs to think.

While on that trip, I began the second step—coming up with the things I really enjoy doing. The things that make my heart soar. Topping the list, of course, was riding a motorcycle. But how do you turn that into meaningful work that pays the bills?

Having experienced and seen in others how transformative riding can be, I realized what I really wanted to do was create the opportunity for others to share that experience. So in 2004 I started a company that offered tours, organized events, and held workshops and retreats.

You can’t experience the Zen if you don’t have the skills to operate a motorcycle proficiently so I became a certified motorcycle instructor, teaching others to ride through Humber College in Toronto.

A budding interest in writing led to freelance work and authoring books about motorcycles and empowerment. Most of my inspiration came from motorcycle experiences and the inner and outer journeys they take you on.

In 2013, a six-week trip took me through Utah to where, coincidently, a course on shamanic energy medicine was being offered. I’d been exploring this for years but expected to take just the one medicine wheel course, for interest. Once I got there, I knew I would complete the full practitioner program. I received my certificate last month.

So here’s the secret. I’m a healer. It’s at the root of everything I do. I’ve come full circle from my start in nursing. The gifts, or medicines I use for healing, are my motorcycle (which precedes the nursing), words—in books, articles, stories, blogs, and presentations, and my training, wisdom, and experience in counseling others. Now I’m integrating energy medicine practices into that medicine bag.

I’ve hesitated to use the term ‘healer’ because the voices in my head tell me it sounds too gimmicky. Or, “Who do you think you are to call yourself a healer?” Or, “People will think you’re a flake.”

So be it. I make a difference through my medicines. What’s that called, if not a healer? That’s what has heart and meaning for me and always has. My gifts are too valuable and too needed to keep them to myself. They are for sharing.

The truth is, as soon as you try and define yourself by a role or title, it’s confining, so I hesitate to list anything. But I have to put something on my LinkedIn profile and business cards. Now I’ll add “Healer” to the roster.

It may seem like a small thing, but hiding something, especially from yourself, blocks creativity and overall energy. Letting it out is liberating.

My secret’s out. We’ve all got secrets that are holding us back. Are you up to sharing yours? Write them in the comments below.

photo credit: JeremyOK eagles via photopin (license)

Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with: ,

Crash Recovery a.k.a. Change Management 101

by Liz Jansen

Recently I was interviewed by Adventure Rider Radio about Crash Recovery. It’s not something I’d expected to be known for. We were talking motorcycles but what impressed me yet again as I listened to my conversation with Jim Martin, is that crash recovery is really about change management. Have a listen. My segment begins around 1:24 minutes.

crash recoveryWhether we’ve had a tip over or a get-off, losing control of our motorcycle and greeting the road are not activities any rider aspires to. Both can rattle our confidence and make us question ourselves. No one expects either one to happen to them.

When we can prepare for change, it’s easier to manage than when we don’t see it coming. But once the event happens, it’s done. You can’t change it.

What we can control, however, is how we move forward. Depending on the severity, our plans can change dramatically in seconds, and they change the lives of those around us as well.

The process by which we respond is no different to other life crashes—serious illness, illness of a friend or family member, job loss, divorce, family conflict, financial changes, or death of a loved one.

Whatever the crash, we’re now at a new baseline. We can choose to stay there and wallow in self-pity, or we can decide how we’re going to rebuild our life.

It may take time, it can be arduous, and we may need help to get back on our feet, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But no one else can do it for us.

We can’t control many events that affect us and initiate change in our lives. What we can do is choose how we respond. All it takes to get going is that first wobbly step. And then the next. And the next.

Although there may be setbacks in our crash recovery, each step makes us stronger, in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

photo credit: Theo Crazzolara Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area via photopin (license)

Posted in Life Lessons from Motorcycles Tagged with: , ,

Celebrate One Family Day

by Liz Jansen

one family dayThis weekend, Family Day is celebrated in three Canadian provinces. (British Columbia celebrated last weekend.) Introduced in Ontario, where I live, in 2008, it still catches me by surprise. The government in power at the time decided the three-month stretch from Christmas to Easter was too long to go without a long weekend, so they created one midway, and with no better excuse, called it Family Day.

As someone who’s self employed, it’s of little significance as a designated holiday. As a matter of fact, I’m meeting with a client on Monday, and I don’t get premium pay for working. I see my family on a regular basis so it’s not necessary for an obligatory visit.

However, that doesn’t take away from the value of setting aside time to honor not just our families but our communities and our connection to each other. More than ever, it matters that we’re mindful of being part of one family. One humanity.

Even the day pays homage to diverse interests depending on where you live– from families (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario), to Louis Riel (Manitoba), Islanders (Prince Edward Island), and George Washington (U.S.). And that’s just in two countries.

We can think differently, have different feelings, and different beliefs. But this earth is home for all of us.

Embodying a life where family is not limited to the people we look like or who believe like us honors the truth that we’re connected. And it begins with honoring our self.

It just so happens that I’ll be immersed with DNA family, friends, and the Toronto Motorcycle Show— favorite communities with lots of overlap!

We don’t need a statutory holiday for an excuse to be with family whoever they are. This weekend, take the time, even in some small way, to offer gratitude to our eclectic family. Thank you for the beauty and strength you add to my mine!

All my relations.

photo credit: thor_mark  The Road to Zion… via photopin (license)

Posted in Leadership

5 Moto Secrets Revealed

by Liz Jansen

Recently I was interviewed by Adventure Rider Radio for a story on Crash Recovery. During the course of the conversation I found myself admitting one of the shadows that had crossed my mind, albeit briefly, was that people would fault me for riding a bike that was too big for me. That’s a topic for another article, but reflection brought to mind a few other memorable events over 47 years of riding,

There’s enough serious stuff making the rounds these days so I thought I’d lighten things up a bit. Here are 5 moto secrets revealed, events you might not have known about my riding history.

  1. At 17, I dropped a motorcycle with my 5-year old sister Mary on it. She was one of my first passengers and you can imagine that we had great fun flying around the family farm on my brothers’ Honda Cub. She received an exhaust burn when we fell over coming up the treed ravine at the back of the farm. The little angel wore knee socks and never said a word. Mom and dad would never have known had she not told inadvertently them about the story as she related it at a Dale Carnegie course fifteen years later. Undeterred, she went on to get her own bike.
  2. At 24, I dropped my friend Debra off the back of my 650 Yamaha. She remembers it better than I but apparently we pulled into the parking lot at a local convenience store and I lost my balance, couldn’t hold us up and over we went. She’s still not over it and hasn’t been a passenger since. We are still best friends however.
  3. Newly separated in 2003 and eager to demonstrate my independence, I pulled into an Esso station to fuel up my then-new FZ1 before meeting friends for a ride. For some reason, I decided that was also a good time to check the oil level. Never having done it before, I heaved it up on the center stand, then filled the tank. The oil level was fine, but I couldn’t get it off the stand. My feet dangled inches above the ground when I sat on the seat. Finally, standing beside it, I put the side stand down, and gave it a mighty heave, intending to pull it towards me. Unfortunately I pushed it too hard away from me and it fell on its right side. Two burly guys stood staring but not for long. I composed myself and took charge, commanding them, “Don’t just stand there. Come over here and pick it up!” And that’s exactly what happened.
  4. Sometime around age 50, I took my niece Andrea, age 10, for a ride on the back of my FZ1. The curb cut at the end of their driveway was very high and I had precious cargo so I was cautious. Too cautious and made an amateur mistake, using the front brake as I turned out of the driveway. Over we went. She too was a real sport and not fazed. Her dad, my brother, who’d been watching, helped me pick it up. She got back on, put on her gloves, and we continued our ride.
  5. Finishing up a day of photo shoots in 2013, I stopped at the nearby Morningstar Mill at Decew Falls in St. Catharines to unwind a bit before heading home. My Super Ténéré was still new and unblemished. Riding in the loose gravel driveway I
    suspected I might have trouble getting it out. I’d parked on a grade with the front wheel lower than the rear, and a slight drop to the right. I’d have to pull it back up against gravity, on gravel. I managed to move it about a foot and then decided to find help. Thinking I had the side stand down, I began walking away, turning around with horror when I heard the crash. There was no one around to help and I couldn’t lift it uphill on gravel. I went out the road and waited for the right vehicle to flag down. The taller of the two guys who jumped out of the white utility van picked it up as if it was a toy.

Motorcycle safety is always serious business and I don’t take it lightly. However, with these barely moving incidents, there’s usually a lighter side, as well as lessons.

What secrets do you have about your motorcycle experiences?

Posted in Adventure

What Riding a Motorcycle Says About You

by Liz Jansen

What riding a motorcycle says about youHave you ever considered what riding a motorcycle says about you? Not to others, but to yourself. We know they can empower, build confidence, and create unbelievable exhilaration. But there’s more to their teachings.

Ask yourself these five questions to learn about yourself from your ride.

Why do you ride?

As an instructor, it’s normal to see students nervous about learning to ride, unless they’re still in their teens. No one, however, is more anxious than the person that doesn’t want to be there and is doing it only to please someone else. Invariably, they don’t pass the course, they crash, or they pass and their motorcycle sits in the garage.

Healthy relationships depend on considering the needs, wants, and interests of others and often that means mutual compromises. Learning to ride a motorcycle isn’t negotiable. There’s too much at stake.

As much as your partner is totally passionate about riding, it doesn’t mean you are, and acquiescing puts you at risk. Have that conversation before you sign up for the course or, as an experienced rider, when you decide you’re no longer interested.

But if you do want to ride, then pull out all the stops to make it happen.

What do you do when your intuition and opinions of others differ?

What input did you have in the selection of your motorcycle?

It’s just like any other personal or professional relationship—you’re the only one that can decide who, or which motorcycle, is right for you. Arranged partnerships don’t work well in our culture.

It’s still wise to seek advice so you can make an informed choice. When I was first married, I purchased a motorcycle for my husband while he was away on the one we shared. We were both experienced riders and I knew what he was interested in. Besides it was time to each have our own bike again. When you’re just starting to ride, it’s hard to know what you’re going to like, and even harder for someone else to predict. Your first motorcycle may only be suitable for your learning period as you get comfortable with your skills and know what kind of riding you enjoy.

How do you make important life choices?

Do you trade safety for group approval?

Motorcycling is both solitary and social. Not everyone enjoys solo riding and most people ride in groups, i.e. with at least one other person, some times. The safest groups have a protocol they communicate and adhere to. Even then, you may feel pressured to ride faster than you’re comfortable with, for longer intervals than you want, or through conditions you’re not ready for.

In the end, you’re at the controls and making your riding decisions. While you can get lucky, riding mistakes, either your own or someone else’s, can have devastating consequences.

What are you potentially forfeiting to gain peer approval? And why do you feel it’s necessary?

How do you care for your motorcycle?

Aside from your riding skills, the condition of your motorcycle plays an essential role in keeping you safe on the road. Improperly inflated or worn tires, slack drive chains, burned out bulbs, loose parts, worn brakes, and inadequate levels of engine oil can put your bike, and you, in peril.

While I like to do my own checks, you don’t have to. Just make sure somebody does them on a regular basis. It’s no different from taking control of your health.

How well do you care for the body you depend on to take you through life?

Do you push your comfort zone while riding?

Different than bowing to peer pressure, this speaks to learning new skills from qualified instructors, riding somewhere you’ve never been before, meeting new riding friends, or perhaps taking your first solo overnight ride. If we don’t push our comfort zones, we don’t grow as riders or individuals.

As the saying goes, literally and symbolically, there are so many roads, so little time.

What are you waiting for?

It doesn’t matter what you ride, how far you ride, where you ride, or how long you’ve ridden. Motorcycles are our teachers.

What is yours trying to tell you?

photo credit: RaidersLight Easy Rider via photopin (license)

Posted in Personal Growth

Meet Claire Elsdon, CEO and Founder of Pikilily

by Liz Jansen

Claire Elsdon, is the CEO and Founder of Pikilily, a UK based organization that provides motorcycle maintenance education in Tanzania. Her vision evolved from a solo London to Cape Town motorcycle ride in 2012/13, during which she observed how educating riders about motorcycle maintenance could help communities, keep vital projects running, and potentially save lives. 

During that trip, she helped provide motorcycle education to microfinance workers in Mlawi. In 2015 she returned to southern Tanzania for a Midwives on Motorbikes project. Claire moved to Tanzania in April 2016 to establish a women’s motorcycle maintenance workshop and riding school, and is now working on an additional project to refurbish four motorcycle ambulances. 

Claire is living proof of the difference one person can make by following her heart, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

In this interview, Claire talks about how Pikilily came about and some of the projects they’re working on. Watch or listen, whichever works best for you.

Video Interview


Audio File

Summary Notes

From London Stockbroker to Solo Moto Traveler

In 2012, Claire Elsdon quit her job as a stockbroker, packed up her motorbike and spent the next year riding from London to Cape Town, South Africa.

As a stockbroker, she’d been able to afford to take some amazing trips in the short periods of time she got off so she’d travel to Mongolia or South Africa and do some incredible off-roading.

It wasn’t so much about being on the motorbike as what it gave her—interactions with fascinating people she’d not normally meet and understanding a bit about their lives and their culture. Riding made her feel really alive and she was curious to see more of that.

Advice from her Gran

Claire had been in her [stockbroker] job for 6-7 years, through a particularly intense economic time, and recognized she needed a break. She wasn’t sure if this is what she wanted to for the rest of her life.

At the same time, her gran had broken her arm in two places and was in hospital. When Claire went to visit, her gran told her, “I wish that when I was your age (29) I’d done the things I wanted to do and not the things other people expected me to do.“

That statement had a profound effect on Claire. “You hear these things from other people,” she says, “but when you hear it from someone that close, it really hits home. I thought, wow! I’ve got so much. I’ve got my health, I’ve got a bit of money tucked away. There’s no reason why I can’t do a trip like this. What would be worse than being afraid and not doing it, would be getting to Gran’s age and thinking I’ve missed my chance. I had to do it.”

Rather than take a leave, Claire quit completely to give herself space to think. About six months after returning, she went back to London, but found it a very hard adjustment. The fact that her cherished bike with which she’d shared so much was stolen didn’t help. She was heartbroken.

Keeping the spirit of the trip alive

She’d already pursued a motorbike maintenance project in Mlawi with a charity doing microfinance in rural communities. They couldn’t understand why the bikes were breaking down all the time and costing a fortune to maintain. When she got there, she found it was because there was no maintenance going on.

They spent six weeks devising a manual called Love Your Motorcycle, detailing daily, weekly, monthly, maintenance requirements and then went around teaching it to the loan officers.

From that, Claire was asked to help midwives in southern Tanzania. The work just evolved from a real need and interest in these [maintenance] skills. So she started learning more.

“If I can share these skills,” she reasoned, “it will keep people safe and provide an income too. Motorbikes have proliferated in Africa and the formal training hasn’t caught up.”

Reducing motorcycle crashes

Alcohol is a big factor in the number of crashes in Tanzania. Up to the last year, people generally didn’t wear helmets at all. Now they do but the quality is terrible. Ladies wear them on top of their elaborate hairstyles.

Maintenance isn’t the only issue but it’s a big factor. Addressing things like no brake fluid in the reservoir or slack chains that are about to jump off the sprocket are easy to address and can save crashes.

Why Mlawi

Claire knew in her first project she’d relying on a lot of help from strangers. She thought if she could share some knowledge, maybe she could share her finance background with these people and help.

She’d been able to reach out in advance of her London to Cape Town trip to see how she could help. The organization invited her to stop by for a couple of months as a volunteer and see what she could do.

Once she’d done the motorbike maintenance training and had a chat with the procurement guy about using quality spare parts, the running costs of these bikes were cut by 60%. That was very powerful for the sustainability of the organization.

After her trip, her path somehow took her back to Tanzania, probably because of the Midwives on Motorbikes project.

Getting over the voice that says “Who am I do be doing this?”

Claire hears that voice a lot! Her background isn’t in motorcycle maintenance, or logistics. She spoke to another woman who told her about her plans and she advised her she probably have more skills than she knew. And she didn’t need to know everything. I just need to be the person that cares, and looks for the answers. Click to Tweet.

And how true it was. It was amazing how things fell into place when she put that energy out there—who stepped forward to say they could help. You don’t need all the answers, but she has to remind herself of that often.

She’s taking this one step at a time. Right now it’s registering as a charity in the UK, getting grant funding for this motorcycle ambulance, and then finding apprentices and tools. Everything needs to go in its order to realize her big picture view. And she can only handle one or two things at a time anyway.

Midwives on Motorbikes Project

Songea, in the south of Tanzania, is the poorest region with the poorest health care outcomes. To help have adequate medical solutions, you need to be ready for people. One of the reasons they [mothers and babies] don’t survive is they don’t know they need to go to the hospital (90% of Tanzanians live rurally). Other basic issues are getting transport from home to hospital and having enough staff at the hospital.

Claire was there in April 2015 training midwives and health care workers in motorcycle maintenance and getting the initial logistics sussed out. She noticed since she’d been in Tanzania three years earlier the number of motorbikes had exploded.

It’s a great source of income for young men as taxi drives. But what we’re not seeing is the crashes. Hospitals actually have motorcycle crash wards. These young men need help making sure the motorbike is safe and sustainable for their passengers and themselves, and the community.

That’s when she started thinking about what she could do about it.

Gaining local support

Claire flew down on her own, unsupported in April 2016 to see what she could do. That was pretty tough because she didn’t really speak the language or know anyone there. She was fortunate to meet Khalid Maagi, the man who’s now the co-director and partner of Pikililly. He runs a carpentry business and has been hiring young men from the streets as apprentices for about 10 years, so they share common values and intentions. His shop shares a wall with the Pikililly workshop and he’s been very helpful in getting things set up.

Claire admits she’s gone through a very steep learning curve—and there’s always more to learn.

How people can help

Fundraising. They’re currently raising $100,000 pounds/$125K USD to fund the refurbishment and the running of four motorbike ambulances. They’re dilapidated and just sitting there doing nothing. They’ve been approached by the Medical Officer of Health for Sengenrema to refurbish them. It’s a community of 700,000 people currently being served by one additional ambulance, which generally is out of service.

Contribute to the crowdfunding campaign for Pikilily’s moto ambulance project page.

Claire has witnessed a number of tragedies that could have had much better outcomes if those motorbikes had been functional. There is a fundraising page on the website and Claire would be thrilled to hear from you; also she’s interested in fundraising ideas you may have.

Become a Pikilily ambassador by becoming a fundraiser in your neighborhood or workplace, or school, joining other ambassadors from around the world. Pikilily can send supportive material.

Volunteer any unique knowledge or skills, like contacts at grant-giving bodies, or other certain skill sets Pikilily can benefit from.

Like Pikilily’s FB page and sign up for their newsletter.

For more information and to watch Claire’s videos on her work in Africa, go to www.PikiLily.com.



Posted in Leadership Tagged with: , , ,

Eyes Up! Look Where You Want to Go

by Liz Jansen

look where you want to goLesson One in the curriculum for learning to ride a motorcycle is learning to focus your eyes on where you want to go. That can be a very different place from where you’re headed.

We call it using your eyes to steer your bike.

After years of practice and self-discipline, it’s pretty much second nature. When I get into a tense situation, like entering a corner a little too fast or avoiding the driver ahead of me who abruptly slows down because he’s missed his exit and is about to cut over three lanes, or back up, that discipline has saved my skin. Likely my life.

It’s tempting to freeze and fixate on the guard rail rather than looking through the exit of the curve. Or focus on the tail lights rather than an escape route. Doing that dramatically affects the outcome in a negative way.

A friend of mine could hit the only tree a field because he used to fixate on it rather than all the open space around it.

Allowing fear to focus us on what we don’t want sends our energy there and we miss out on what we do want to bring into being. It can be tough with so many voices coming at us from so many directions, especially when it’s hard to know which one to believe.

I choose to look where I want to go and where my intuition and heart guide me, not at the myriad of distractions that jump out from every corner. They’re still there and it’s important to stay aware of our environment so we can realistically anticipate what to watch for.

But when it comes to choosing a destination, I’m looking at where I want to go and enjoying the journey. Besides, there’s less traffic on this road.

Where are your eyes looking?

photo credit: Neil. Moralee Stelvio. via photopin (license)

Posted in Adventure Tagged with: ,

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