An Interview with Emma Cases, owner of Alternate Adventures
In December of 1998, at the tender age of nineteen, I landed at eleven o’clock PM in the lackluster Guatemala City airport. It actually looked like some poor but strong soul behind the reception hall wall was cranking the conveyor belt by hand. Knowing only the name of my hotel and that it was supposed to cost $7 US to get there, I stepped out of the airport and was immediately put to the test. The taxi driver told me the fare was way higher. My jetlag faded as I was forced to stand my ground, and thirty minutes later and $7 lighter, I found myself in a windowless room with my head on a mildew scented pillow. Exhausted, on the other side of the world, so far from Europe, I spent a sleepless night, excitement and distress taking turns pushing sleep away. This was my first step into true adventure, a situation where I had left everything familiar behind while intentionally placing in front of me six months of complete unknown. Balancing on this exciting and sometimes scary fringe of ‘indefinite’ is not only where true adventure begins, but also where the margin of learning is the greatest. In six months, I embraced a lifestyle of adventure and traveling through three continents. For the next 20 years I have spent the majority of my life outside my home country, travelling, studying and working in various parts of the world, always trying to expose myself to alternate realities and perspectives. Perhaps the greatest realization in this time is that I have learnt to say ‘Yes’ to suggestions and invitations despite the initial difficulty to see where it would lead.
How long have you been riding, and what got you started?
About a decade after the above adventure, having quit my job and stepping out of my career I found myself living out of my backpack in Central America. I spent my days surfing, climbing mountains and drinking tons of rum with fellow travelers. I was going with the flow and found myself several countries away from where I initially had intended to be. I stumbled onto a small farm in the Belizean jungle and not long after, was asked if I could take care of the farm for a couple of months as the owner had to leave the country. Certainly this seemed like a great idea for somebody who’d never even owned a pet and who couldn’t keep a plant alive for her life, and I said “Yes”. I was sort of stuck there for almost a year and it was an immense challenge for me living off-grid with no electricity, no cell phone coverage and of course, no internet connection. I was about an hour drive and one river crossing away from civilization.
A series of opportunities later unfolded. One of them was a jungle camping trip, and getting there on the back of a motorcycle. For two days I rode pillion. While being positively amazed by the experience of this fabulous way of accessing nature, I was also disgusted by the widely unattractive driver´s sweat essentially raining on me as we were riding. A weird combination of adoring this first motorcycle experience and simultaneously feeling grossed out led me to this conclusion: Bikes should be in my life but I needed to be in the front well away from the sweaty rain. As a result, I took the front seat and taught myself how to ride.
Tell me about starting your business, Alternate Adventures. What started the idea, and what has the process been like?
Things unfolded rapidly. Clearly two wheels was the way to go so I started to research the combination of motorcycles and tourism in Belize only to find out that nobody was renting motorcycles within the whole country. I bought a second bike, registered a company, rented a shack and put out a “Motorbike Rentals” sign on the roadside.
Business started slowly and I had a million side jobs while getting things off the ground. Mind you, I was an extreme novice to this world, knowing virtually nothing about motorcycles, having no experience in mechanics and having very little insight into how to run a business in a foreign country. But by trusting the process and simply being out there exposing myself to the daily challenges, every day saying ‘Yes’ to myself and this endeavor, I slowly but surely started to acquire the needed knowledge—and my customers were my greatest teachers about anything bike related.
I’ve now been in business eight years! While there are now a few businesses that are trying to rent motorcycles, Alternate Adventures is the premiere place to go for motorcycle adventures in Belize. We have morphed ourselves from a simple rental business, working out of a shack in the sun and sand to 2,000 square feet of garages with nearly a decade of experience designing and developing motorcycle adventures in Belize, and custom-make itineraries depending on customer preferences.
What have been the highs and lows with getting Alternate Adventures to where it is today? In what way have you found Adventure is Attitude applicable?
Getting to the point where Alternate Adventures is today has been an accumulation of a ridiculous amount of work and challenges, or if you like, ‘adventure’ in its true sense. Sometimes I think if somebody would have told me how much blood, sweat and tears were lying ahead of me when I first undertook this, I would have chickened out. But this is not how adventure works. Adventure has an element of the unknown, and the inherent idea of adventure is that you don’t get to see what is ahead of you until you’re surrounded by it. There is nothing in adventure that suggests that things are going to be comfortable. I’m convinced that the opposite is true, that there is an inverse correlation between comfort and instructiveness. Things are seldom both comfortable and interesting at the same time. It’s within your power to decide how you’re going to approach adventure, and how you’ll get through the lows. In low times, are you trusting that you are going to get through it? Do you believe that there will be highs ahead of you? Are you considering that there is something instructive to gather from the lows?
Finding a way to get beyond difficulties is not a serendipitous happening but rather a decision. In this way, adventure is all about attitude. It is in your power to choose to say ‘Yes’ to finding a solution to each and every challenge presented on your path.
How has “Adventure Is Attitude” applied to your motorcycle journey?
In 2017 I managed to ride over 15,000 miles during 4 months of solo moto-camping around Central and North America. My most vivid moments, when I have felt most alive, were perhaps the more difficult ones. Like when my bike was in the ditch on a lonesome mountain road in Guatemala, or during an extremely gusty day through the desert in southern California or the tedious border crossing into Mexico. In all of those situations I was put to the test, the environment and the circumstances questioning my abilities. I was being confronted with the decision to keep going or to give up. Everything about adventure commences with committing to the attitude of being prepared to handle what it brings. The sweet remuneration of facing such adventures is that when you come out of it on the other side you’ll be stronger. Having dwarfed the challenge into something manageable, knowing that next time you can face it without hesitation, your self-confidence, your world, and your opportunities, grow.
What have you noticed about women and motorcycles over the years?
EMMA: I am delighted to witness the growing numbers of women who ride motorcycles. In the 8 years since I started Alternate Adventures there is certainly been a noticeable increase in female riders. When females contact us to reserve a motorcycle, I’m a little more excited. Having concluded that motorcycle travel is a way to grow your experience-base, self-confidence and your world, I don’t need to explain that I am passionate about seeing this growth in fellow women as they return from their Belize-by-bike adventures. I believe in empowering women, and I provide a setting for women to self-empower.
Belize is a fairly easy place to ride a motorcycle and a perfect spot for females that would like to try a motorcycle adventure abroad. We have a combination of on and off road riding and tons of stops on the way. Jungle, waterfalls, hikes, caves and Mayan ruins. Every hour or so you can get off the bike and experience nature. In Belize we can also ride 365 days of the year, which is a tremendous plus. If you contact us we will work through every question and concern you might have and help you set up a self-guided tour around Belize. We provide you not only with a bike, a helmet and a map full of ideas of where to go and what to do, but also with a cell phone to discuss ideas or to request support.
We have just paired up with Motobird Adventures, who are doing an all-female motorcycle tour of Belize in March. Join their tour and come and expand your world while touring Belize on two wheels.
Remember, all you have to do is to say ‘Yes’.