6 Motorcycle Books for Winter Reading

by Liz Jansen

What is winter for motorcycle riders if not a time for catching up on motorcycle books?

Here’s a selection of moto reading to entertain and inspire us for the not-so-far-away riding season. If you’re looking for more, check out my link at the bottom.

motorcycle books dylan wickramaWhen the Road Ends – The Tale of an Incredible Journey

by Dylan Wickrama

I heard Dylan speak at the Horizons Unlimited event in Virginia last April and his story is awesome in every sense of the word.

This story may be the most unusual and incredible motorcycle journey you will ever get to read about! It is inspirational, funny and moving, and has the quality to take you on an adventure.

As a young child, Dylan often daydreams of adventure and yearned to travel the world. However, growing up in Sri Lanka, facing extreme poverty and many hardships, his dream seemd as impossible to reach as the stars in the night sky. Yet, despite all the odds, and many years later, Dylan literally rides around the world on a motorcycle which he affectionaltely calls Bruce. After 130’000 miles, four continents and three years later, he finds himself in Panama where all roads suddenly end. Undaunted, Dylan builts a raft atop ten oli barrels, powered by his motorcycle and a tiny sail and ventures out across the Pacific Ocean to reach Columbia. And as you would expect, things do go wrong. But luckily for Dylan there are Dolphins … One of the most authentic and incredible adventures ever. “A true story told in an outstanding quality.” – Swiss National Radio and Television. Originally published in German as “Am Ende der Strasse”.

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran

by Lois Pryce

Lois’s latest book has just been released in the U.K. and the Amazon.com page says it will be available February 21, 2017. Her first two books were highly engaging and lively, written with her distinctive perspective and style.

“Revolutionary Ride is my third book, about my travels in Iran.

In 2013 relations between Iran and the UK were at an all-time low but a mysterious note left on my motorcycle from a stranger named Habib inspired me to venture into the Islamic Republic. It was a bid to find out the truth about a country that had been cut off from the world for most of my lifetime. My journey was a mind-opening, sometimes shocking, often entertaining, and endlessly surprising experience that forced me to change my outlook about Iran, the Islamic world and to ultimately confront my own preconceptions.”

Motorcycle Messengers: Tales from the Road by Writers Who Ride

Jeremy Kroeker, (Ed)

“Motorcycle Messengers is a collection of travel stories from some of the leading writers in the genre . . . plus a few people you’ve never heard of. Consider it a sample pack of authors. Read a story by the fire and discover your new favourite motorcycle travel writer.

  • Lois Pryce exploits her dead grandmother and an imaginary husband to access the Congo.
  • Neil Peart finds his rhythm through the curves of North Carolina.
  • Paddy Tyson numbs his fear of crocodiles with a few drinks in Australia.
  • Carla King rides with a screaming, doped-up trucker in China.
  • Sam Manicom is forced out of country by the military in Sudan.
  • Geoff Hill breaks a Royal Enfield, falls in love, and becomes a hookah hooligan in Iran.
  • Jeremy Kroeker yearns to slap a rain gear designer in Slovenia.
  • Ted Bishop tricks himself into one final ride through the United States.
  • Mark Richardson puts his foot up and makes connections in Rwanda.
  • Jordan Hasselmann stares down the barrel of a wooden gun and possibly a real one, too in Guatemala.
  • Christopher P. Baker nearly crashes as he crushes crustaceans in Cuba.
  • Ted Simon ponders humanity while observing a rescue at sea off the coast of Malaysia.”

Grace and Grit: Motorcycle Dispatches from Early Twentieth Century Women Adventurers

by Bill Murphy

I discovered this book while researching an article I was writing about Adeline and Augusta Van Buren, who grace the cover. Last summer I was honored to participate in the Sisters Centennial Ride, celebrating 100 years since the gutsy sisters became the first women to ride their own motorcycle across the continental U.S.

These women were pioneers in many ways and paved the roads, metaphorically speaking, we enjoy today.

Here’s the Amazon description:

“Author Bill Murphy’s driving ambition and tireless research turns up the stories of five women from 1910 to 1916 who set out to pave the way for women adventurers. They packed their motorcycles with tents, tools and tenacity and charged ahead on cross country routes to make a point: that women were strong, capable and fearless. The roads were dirty and dusty, some merely cowpaths, and fuel was hard to find. Flat tires and broken chains were left to their own ingenuity and know-how to repair. And the weather ranged from rain for days to unrelenting desert sun. They endured. Here is the incredible story of daring young women in the Victorian era who chose the adventure of the ultimate road trip on two wheels.”

Tortillas to Totems: Motorcycling Mexico, the USA and Canada. Sidetracked by the Unexpected

by Sam Manicom

Sam Manicom’s fourth book is a gripping rollercoaster of a two-wheeled journey which takes you riding across the dramatic landscapes of Mexico, the United States and Canada.
This enticing tale has more twists and turns than a Rocky Mountain pass and more surprises than anyone would expect in a lifetime.

There are canyons, cowboys, idyllic beaches, bears, mountains, Californian vineyards, gun-toting policemen with grudges, glaciers, exploding volcanoes, dodgy border crossings and some of the most stunning open roads that a traveller could ever wish to see.



Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment: Fifty Inspirational Stories of Adventure and Self-Discovery

Because I had to include this one too! I’ll let this Amazon reader review speak for itself.

By Amazon Customer on December 14, 2016

“This book expressed a lot of how I feel being a motorcycle rider. Liz does a great job of weaving her story in with the story of many women and their ride to confidence and strength. I’d highly recommend this book to all my friends even non-riders who are looking for some inspiration in their lives.”

Looking for more moto books?  Read my earlier post 10 Moto Book Gift Ideas.

Posted in Adventure Tagged with:

The Gift of Motorcycling: Letting Our Lights Shine

by Liz Jansen

gift of motorcyclingFor tens of thousands of years, people have been celebrating the December Solstice with feasts, festivals, and holidays. Whether the light in your part of the world is returning or waning, the celebrations usually involve gift giving and receiving. The most valuable gifts we have to offer, however, are the traits, talents, and passions we brought into the world with us. For some of us, that includes the gift of motorcycling.

These gifts that live within us are there to help us fulfill our purpose. Using them brings us joy and makes our light burn brighter. Sharing them delivers joy to those whose lives we touch, usually unknowingly.

One of us life’s greatest quests is finding and then honoring our gifts. Sometimes we’re afraid that speaking and acting from our heart makes us look silly or different than everyone else. I know I think about it. It feels like I’m the only one with a given perspective and sharing it will alienate me from others. It can be a lonely place if we lose our focus.

The truth is, we are different than anyone else. Consequently, the gifts we’ve been given for our role are different, customized for our unique purpose in whatever role we’ve been called to fill. Trying to conform to what we think others expect of us shortchanges us and makes us restless. It also shortchanges others because we’ve withheld our gifts from them.

The gift of motorcycling is a prime example of a distinctive tool we use to spread goodness and joy. It’s a calling and not intended for everyone. But if it’s something your heart is urging you to follow, then you know it. By responding, it’s a way you can make a difference.

It takes courage to learn to ride or to get back on when we’ve dropped our motorcycle, especially if it’s in front of others. But when we push through that comfort zone, we discover deep strengths we weren’t aware of; traits and tools that are transferable to other parts of our life’s journey. We open ourselves to new possibilities.

Like our roles in life, gifts come in all configurations, sizes, and combinations. We can’t compare their value to someone else’s because they’re given to us for this specific journey. We need concern ourselves only with using our gifts, whatever they are, to their greatest potential. That includes the gift of motorcycling.

When we do, not only does our light shine brighter, but it also offers light where it’s needed.




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

Out on the Open Road

by Liz Jansen

open roadImagine yourself riding a motorcycle out on the open road. It could be a day trip or you might be in the middle of a cross-country adventure. You envision your destination, set out, and are surrounded by spectacular scenery. You’re riding down the road, completely immersed in the sensory experience. The feeling is pure bliss.

At some point you realize you don’t know where you are, but that doesn’t really matter. You’re on an adventure and your motorcycle has taken you on an extraordinary side trip where you experience sights that take your breath away, or inspire you with new confidence—experiences you would have missed had you stayed on the main road.

You can’t see where the road is leading but you know it’s in the general direction of your destination. Suddenly, a big Road Construction sign appears, partially blocking the road and breaking you out of your reverie. Suddenly fear is riding pillion, chattering incessantly about what awaits if you continue.

It can become an impasse or you can take a detour into unknown territory, which takes you on a road you’ve never been on.

You’d never have chosen this path because it looks too uncertain and too difficult. Calling on your skills, taking some deep breaths, and focusing your eyes on where you’re going, you gingerly move forward, and to your surprise, make it through the rough stuff. You gain new insights into the depth of your strength. It awakens confidence you wouldn’t have discovered on the main road. That joyful feeling returns.

In fact, this detour turns out to be quite scenic. As you round the corner, you see the exact spot you’d like to stop at for a while. You’ve reached your destination – even if it wasn’t the one you planned.

The same thing happens on our soul’s journey through life. We’re constantly faced with choices, often arising from events that are beyond our control. But we have to respond. Whether we get bogged down in the mire or listen to our heart and open ourselves to new experiences is up to us.

The open road awaits.

Posted in Adventure

Seeing Red Cars

by Liz Jansen

seeing red carsHave you ever noticed the phenomenon when for example, you buy a red car (or motorcycle)  and all of a sudden, you start seeing red cars everywhere? The same is true of seemingly innocuous events that convey profound messages. Once you start noticing them, they begin to appear more often.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, especially in the past several years, is how to balance following my heart and earning a living. There’s not a bottomless bank account to draw from, no company pension, and no one else helping to pay the bills.

It’s meant being clear on life priorities and a great deal of trust that I’m doing the right thing. I intentionally keep my life simple, which means the upkeep costs aren’t exorbitant.

For various reasons, not the least of which was body and spirit rehabilitation, I’ve kept income-generating work intentionally low since my crash. I’m certain that researching and writing my next book has been, and continues to be a priority. Unless you’re a best-selling author with a rare lucrative contract, you don’t get paid until you’ve got a book to sell.

I don’t look for deeper meaning in every life detail, but I’m reassured and grateful for messages I’m being cared for and on the right track. While all four stories seemed like a dream, only one occurred while I was sleeping.

The Man in the Bank

It’s not often I go into the bank, but this particular winter day in 2015, I went inside for business I couldn’t deal with at the ATM. An elderly gentleman bundled up in a puffy navy jacket and plaid wool scarf motioned me to move ahead of him in line. We bantered back and forth a bit, and then to my surprise, he offered me money. “How much would you like? $500? $1000?”

He went on to tell me how he had more money than he could ever use, that he cared for his invalid wife, and the money didn’t mean anything to him. I sensed his loneliness.

Even as I’d completed my business and he was still at the counter, he again appealed for me to accept money from him. I graciously declined and continued on my way, but not before giving him the hug he’d asked for. Others stood by in silence as this transaction took place, aware that they’d witnessed something extraordinary.

The Man on the Train

This was the only message that came during dream time.

I was traveling somewhere on a passenger train, heading east. Seated by the window across the aisle from me, was a nondescript man who was with me on the journey—a stranger, balding with thin wisps of light brown hair, and gold wire-rimmed glasses. As it turned out, he owned the train and was fabulously wealthy.

The scene switched and I was on the second floor of his open concept house, on an interior balcony, looking down into space. Wooden beams supported the peaked ceiling and the entire facing wall, from peak to ground was glass, allowing the light to stream in. Somehow I had to get down to the main floor.

The man encouraged me to take the step; that all would be well. As terrified as I was of stepping out into thin air, I falteringly moved my right foot forward. It was as if I was atop gymnasium bleachers tucked under each other. As if by magic, a step appeared below me, but only the next one. Each step was just as hard, required the same trust the stair would appear when needed. But I had to make the first move.

Not only was I being guided towards a deeper exploration of my past, I was being reminded to trust the process.

The Man at the Health Food Store

Last summer I walked over to pick up a few items. I was met by a sign saying the credit/debit machine was down and they were accepting cash only.

Dismayed because I’d only bought plastic for payment, I turned away just as a young man, a stranger, was approaching. He’d seen my reaction and had already pulled out his wallet, offering me whatever I needed to get what I’d come for. I was as surprised as I was grateful and profoundly touched by his kindness and generosity.

It was another reminder of gifts that appears when we’re least expecting them.

The Woman at the Pow Wow

While speaking with the Grandmother this summer at the Blackfoot Siksika Pow Wow, already having been told to “Go back to your roots,” another woman came around with a wad of five-dollar bills, handing them out randomly. The Grandmother sensed my hesitation when the money was offered to me and directed me to take it. I accepted it, and it now sits on my altar. I may not have come away with the answer I was looking for but I came away with more reassurance that I’m supported from sources I wouldn’t have imagined.

Often we go about our day so hurried, that we miss the not-so-subtle messages coming our way. They’re usually accompanied with an intuitive knowing that something out of the ordinary has just happened. Spirit is trying to get your attention. Usually, the messages are multi-faceted and always, they evoke gratitude.

Once you start acknowledging them, you’ll notice them more often, just like seeing red cars.
photo credit: Michel Curi 1965 Volkswagen Beetle via photopin (license)

Update December 15, 2016

I rented a car for this weekend and oddly enough, my rental was a red Yaris. I drove out of town to my destination, parked it, and when I came back to it, red cars were parked in three of the next four parking spots. Coincidence?

Posted in Adventure

Go Back to Your Roots

by Liz Jansen

Have you ever sought an answer for what you thought was a complex question, been given the answer many times and in many ways, but still didn’t get it? And when you did, it was so simple, you wonder how you missed it? Go back to your roots.

To be clear, I’m not sure that everything that happens to us is for a reason, at least not one we’re meant to understand at the time. Sometimes things just happen. But when the message is overwhelming, it’s time to take notice.

img_4173-siksika-pw go back to your rootsWhen I set out in 2014 for 12-18 months on the road, my intention was to study my non-Native roots and Indigenous wisdom, exploring roads in the Americas while also exploring who we are before we’re shaped by our culture. As a teenager, I’d disassociated with the particulars of the Protestant beliefs I was raised with, but never my family. One of the things I thought was not consistently addressed or practiced, was our interrelationship with all other life, something I thought I could learn from cultures that were way older than the one I’d grown up in.

Thinking I could get personal information from family stories and research, I allocated only a short period of time to visit the Alberta farm where my father had grown up, not even considering the other places where my ancestors had lived. I’d planned to spend much more time learning about various Native American cultures.
Discovering dad’s parents’ farm had abutted the Blackfoot Siksika reservation, and growing up he’d had regular interactions with them, seemed like more than a coincidence and a good place to start. Oddly enough, I was headed to Blackfoot Crossing, an interpretive center, and just about to cross onto Siksika land when I crashed. Although it was the most graphic, it was not the first time that week my plans to get there had changed.

Two weeks later while still in my initial recovery, a friend offered to drive me to Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump near Fort Macleod, two hours south of Calgary. It’s a Blackfoot Museum and one of the world’s largest and best-preserved buffalo jumps. For nearly 6,000 years, Native people used Jumps to hunt buffalo. Aside from being interested in the site, I thought there be someone there who could either answer my questions or direct me to someone who could

They were very helpful and understanding of my quest. Since I was headed back to Ontario, I was instructed to contact an Elder from any First Nation, offer a gift of tobacco, and present my question. In January, I contacted an Elder from Six Nations and after an extended and cordial conversation, I was told I’d need to get the answer from my own roots. Who we are is carried through our blood and I’m not going to find answers in another culture. I tried explaining I felt it wasn’t addressed and was merely trying to understand my connection to the earth, nature. But I’d had my answer. I was told to do my research and come back in a year. Dismayed but not defeated, I continued delving into my ancestry.

A year later, I understood a lot more and had my focus was clearer. Everything on the planet has energy, including the earth itself. If we carry the experiences of our ancestors energetically, as I believe we do, then it stands to reason we also carry the energy of the land our ancestors lived on. Collectively, these experiences play a great role in shaping who we become. Stories of the land are carried by the Indigenous peoples. I thought I’d found the connection I was looking for.

Again, I contacted the Six Nations Elder I’d spoken with, thinking she’d provide me with more insights, particularly since Six Nations is close to the land I grew up on. She was unimpressed and again sent me back to my roots. To be fair, I hadn’t had the time or the opportunity that is required to develop a relationship where these conversations can be explored, but I probably would have received the same answer anyways. It was what I was meant to hear.

I did feel my contact in Alberta understood my quest better and was more supportive so in January of 2016 when it looked like I was getting ready to resume my trip, I contacted him to let him know I’d be in the area. I also advised him of my theory. He was most understanding and supportive. He told me of a big annual Pow Wow at Siksika in August and advised me to go there, offer a gift of tobacco, and ask to speak with an Elder.

And that’s how I planned the dates for last summer’s Ancestral Trail motorcycle journey. Everything revolved around me being at Siksika from August 11-14. It meant riding 5,000 kilometers in just over a week, but it was doable. And arriving on the 12th would still give me enough time to seek out an Elder.

Except there was a snag. I’d camped in Hinton, AB on the 11th and when I tried to leave the next morning, Trudy (my bike) wouldn’t start. I couldn’t believe it! At that point, I had no idea what was wrong. The only motorcycle mechanic in town was away at Sturgis. Between guys at the campsite, and calls to Echo Cycle, the closest Triumph dealer, 300 kilometers east, and Blackfoot Motorsports in Calgary, 600 kilometers south, we tried to figure it out. I had to get to that Pow Wow! Echo couldn’t guarantee they’d be able to fit me in that day, and even if they did, if they had to order parts, I’d be there at least an extra day. Things were looking glum, but in the end, it seemed like transporting Trudy to Echo was the best choice. With help from the fantastic folks at Griffiths Ford, I rented a transit van, we shoehorned Trudy into it, and I was off to Edmonton.

The guys in the Service Department at Echo were fantastic and stayed late to help me out. By that time I’d figured out I may have filled the tank with diesel fuel the evening before. I explained my suspicion, which turned out to be right. They drained the tank, filled it with gasoline, and she started right up. I could be on my way the next morning, with two days of festival remaining. There’s a lesson about what happens when you feed yourself the wrong fuel, but we’ll save that for another time.

The irony of the moment didn’t escape me. I was trying to get to Blackfoot country and my bike was stopping me. It wasn’t a big leap to remember I’d crashed the last time I tried. I hesitated about whether I should really attend the Pow Wow, going so far as to consult with my teacher. Convinced I was meant to be there I decided to proceed cautiously, paying particular attention to my intuition and noting anything out of the ordinary i wouldn’t have experienced had I not had this delay. I rode 350 kilometers south and found a lovely, quiet campsite right on the shore of Eagle Lake, close to the reservation and close to the land my father grew up on.

The next morning I set out on my mission. It was an incredible festival, taking me back in time and place. Vivid costumes, dancing, singing, drum beats, people of all ages, the whole arena was pulsating. I waited and watched for a few hours, then sought out an Elder. I was directed to a Grandmother, sitting in the front row watching the festivities. She listened as I told her why I was there, that my ancestors had lived nearby and I was interested in how the energy of place had shaped me. “You need to find that in your family records,” was her response.

I couldn’t believe my ears! I thought I must have worded my question wrong, so I rephrased it and presented my question again. Same answer. It was as if she hadn’t heard me. She asked someone to call over another Grandmother and had me repeat my question. The second Grandmother gave me the same answer. Unbelievable!

Deeply discouraged and disappointed, I left the building. I’d planned for months, traveled all this way, only to come away empty. Outside I met the woman who’d kindly arranged the meeting. “Did you get what you wanted,” she asked?

“No. I didn’t. But I got what I was meant to hear. Thank you for your help.”

It took a few days for the light to go on, but when it did, it shone brightly. The answer was so simple. I’d distanced myself from my heritage at a young age, and lost sight of who I was. Whether I agreed with the religion or not, it is the blood of my ancestors and flows through my veins and their DNA that makes me who I am. It’s their experiences and how they responded to them, that I carry.

Nowhere is the evidence of what happens when people are separated from their culture clearer than with First Nations or Native Americans. We’ve seen what happens when anyone is disconnected from their roots—the same thing that happens when a tree’s root system is interrupted. You lose sight of who you are.

Inherently, there is much more to learn from Indigenous cultures about our relationship with nature, and how we treat the earth. But I had my answer for the time. It only took me two years and repeated explicit messages from different sources to get it. I didn’t need any more. To understand who you are, first go back to your roots.

As it was, I was already immersed in my ancestral trail, with plans to explore it further during the rest of my trip. I didn’t learn many new facts about my grandparents, but I did get to know them at a whole new soul level. I’m only beginning to understand the richness of my heritage and understanding the stories I’ve been told about who I am. Creating my story for the rest of my life is still a blank page, written one word, one day at a time.





Posted in Liz's Stories, Personal Growth Tagged with: ,

Motorcycles Don’t Have Doors

by Liz Jansen

motorcycles don't have doors“When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, this quote has appeared often in memes in recent weeks. It refers to things not going the way we’d planned, or expected, or wanted, usually resulting in feelings of disappointment, loss, or even anger. It consoles us that something didn’t happen because something better is in store for us. It sparks resilience and helps us deal with change.

Motorcycles don’t have doors. The past is behind us and there’s no need to wait for a door to open. As we’re riding, we’re wide open to infinite possibilities with no room for regrets to weigh us down. Engaging all our senses, feeling the wind, sun, heat, cold, and even rain makes us feel so alive.

Riding brings out who we are. It opens our hearts and frees our spirits to soar. It provides room for creativity to take root.

We’re absolutely in the moment, not looking back at closed doors but living life for all its worth in the here and now.

Be who you are!  You don’t need to wait for the door to open.


photo credit: Βethan Mae Hong Son Loop via photopin (license)

Posted in Personal Power

Remembrance Day 2016—Remembering Isn’t Enough

by Liz Jansen

remembrance dayToday I will remember. I will pause from my writing and walk to the town cenotaph to honor and pay my respects to the men and women who have served in the military to protect the rights and freedoms I enjoy today.

Although the ceremony will focus on the Canadian Military, my gratitude extends beyond them to service people from all countries who have collaborated to defeat forces who would see those freedoms taken away.

My ancestors lived in a land of privilege, until they didn’t. They knew what it was like to have peace and freedom stripped away, replaced by tyranny, anarchy, and terror. They were fortunate to be accepted into a country where they could resume their lives in a land of opportunity and prosperity. The concept of privilege changed, to simply being free. No matter how poor they were, how insurmountable the hardships seemed, or how little they had materially, they were grateful. Every day my grandfather gave thanks for his freedom.

So I will remember and reflect. It begins with me, but I am not alone.

Freedom is fragile. Keeping it healthy requires nurturing, vigilance, and action. And courage. It takes far less effort to maintain our rights and freedoms than it awould to regain them if they’re lost. I can do my part by celebrating diversity, being tolerant, inclusive, kind, respectful of the opinions of others, even if they’re polar opposites to mine, standing up when the rights of others are threatened, reaching out to others in need, and staying grounded, centered, and focused in the maelstrom of chaos.

That’s the greatest honor I can show for those who have sacrificed so much.

I remember.

Thank you.



photo credit: Infomastern Poppy via photopin (license)

Posted in Leadership

What’s in a Motorcycle Mile?

by Liz Jansen

What you pay attention to grows.

Numbers make it easy to measure and compare. But to be significant, they need to be meaningful.

motorcycle-mileHaving just returned from an extended trip across western Canada, I’m often asked what it was like. It was an extraordinary experience and I love to share my stories and hear those of others. Invariably, I’m asked, “How many miles did you travel?” Then I have to think about it because other than for general planning and motorcycle maintenance, I don’t keep track of how far I’ve gone. It’s not a meaningful metric for me.

I often see people describe their travels by the number of miles covered or countries/states/provinces visited. That’s fine, but tell me about the people that touched your heart, the times your breath was taken away by the sheer splendor of nature, the kindness you received. That’s what I want to hear about.

For some people it is important to test their limits, prove to themselves what they can do, so they push themselves beyond what most of us could endure. Paul Pelland, aka Long Haul Paul, is such a person. He’s riding a million miles with MS, for MS. So far he’s traveled more than 200,000 miles, raised over $85,000 towards MS research in four years, and inspired thousands of people. He’s following his heart and making a difference.

For someone else, the mere accomplishment of learning to ride may be the impetus for doing other things in life they thought were out of reach.

Everyone rides for their own reasons and they can’t be measured in miles. They’re not measured by how many motorcycles are parked in your garage. Whether you ride solo or in groups, on-road, off-road, or race, doesn’t matter. Nor does the brand of motorcycle you have.

Earlier this week I bumped into a friend I haven’t seen in years. After our initial greeting, she asked, “Are you still riding?” “Sure am,” I responded. “That’s what keeps you so young,” she offered.

What wanted to come out was, “It’s because it’s what my heart wants to do, not because it’s a motorcycle.” Instead, I thanked her and nodded. I was grateful for the compliment.

Motorcycling’s not for everyone, but if it’s ‘for you’, it’s really for you. You know it, even if you’re fearful about learning to ride or getting out on the road. If you truly want to learn to ride, you’ll get past those obstacles and become a rider. And you’ll love it.

But if you’re riding for any other reason, like someone else wants you to do it, or all your friends are learning, it’s not going to work. You won’t enjoy it, it will be stressful, and you’re at greater risk of a mishap. There’s something else your heart wants to do, something you have a special gift for that will energize you when you share it.

Even if you ride, it doesn’t mean you have to stay with it permanently or ride a minimum number of miles per year. Interests and life circumstances change, and with that, sometimes the motorcycle is in your life to help through a transition or teach you something.

Then it’s time to part ways.

When you follow your own calling and do what you are here to do, good things happen. And that’s what counts.

That’s how we grow. And that’s how we make a difference.

photo credit: Sònia Pereda (Grandma’s) country road via photopin (license)

Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with: ,

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: , ,

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