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Travel Lightly: How Our Stories Influence Our Journey

Travel Lightly

By Liz Jansen

Managing and balancing our load is key to a successful moto adventure. Largely overlooked, however, the most unwieldy baggage comes from the stories we carry. While it seems that they’d create no incremental weight, these can be the heaviest burden of all.

Proficient technical skills, fundamental for any successful moto adventure, take time to embody. With time, proper instruction, and lots of practice (and patience), we get better. Learning how to pack lightly, taking only the stuff we’ll need, takes even longer, especially on big bikes that barely notice a load.  Mastering the expertise needed for an inner adventure takes an even higher degree of focus and commitment.

Stories handed down through generations about who we are and what we can do, live within us, inform our perspectives, and shape our values and beliefs. They surface when we’re stressed and vulnerable. Most times we’re unaware of this internal operating system running in the background.

Because experiences on our motorcycles are the best way to get through to us, it’s a favorite time for old stories to surface.  It’s easy to get caught up taking a mishap or breakdown at face value and treat the superficial symptoms without addressing the root cause.

Riding on gravel brings up old stories, and fear, for me. Every time.

One could say that fear is justified. In 2013 I failed to navigate a curve on a gravel mountain driveway and slid over the edge. Fortunately, my bike and I were only shaken, not hurt. Once the farmer next door arrived with his tractor and towed me back onto the driveway, I was off for a day of riding Lolo Pass with my friends.

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A crash in loose, deep gravel in 2014 demolished my bike and injured me.  That incident in remote Alberta farmland, at the beginning of what I expected to be eighteen months on the road, kept me stationary for almost a year and turned my world inside out. Building my confidence on smooth surfaces took time and persistence. I’m still working on maintaining balance on the loose stuff.

I grew up on gravel. My parents operated a fruit farm and I learned to ride on dirt and rough roads. As an adult I regularly navigated a gravel road and driveway on street bikes for fourteen years without giving it a second thought. Over the years I’ve taken courses and know how to ride on gravel.

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Liz on her Tiger

Yet this pervasive fear intrudes on my enjoyment and strangles my confidence. I get in my own way and make it harder to continue down the road. The mental chatter crescendos and tells me I can’t do it, I’m going to lose my balance, I don’t have the skills, or the pièce de ré·sis·tance—I’m going to get hurt. Badly. When conditions ease up and I can almost relax, my mind races ahead to send me images of how conditions could become looser or deeper further on.

It sounds ridiculous but it’s real. While instinctual fear keeps us alive, this other fear tries to protect us from harm during times of voluntary or involuntary change.  Our small self, content to stay “safe” and maintain the status quo prompts those voices to come screaming back. There’s no end to their creativity and while they may contain a seed of truth and logic, they’re dysfunctional.  These stories have little to do with gravel, or whatever your soft spot that mirrors fear.

Fear arises from the stories we carry about our self-worth, cultural expectations, and life perspectives. These stories about who we are and what we’re capable of weigh us down, just like excess baggage. They may have served our parents or grandparents at one time but have distorted with time and lost their relevance for us.  They know they’ll catch our attention while we’re riding and even constrain how and where we ride. They’re baggage best left behind.

In preparation for my upcoming three-month cross-country Long Road Home moto-book tour, I’ve signed up for a private gravel course with a world-class trainer. While I need to go deeper than gravel to sort out this fear, confidence without the skills to back it up is a recipe for disaster.

Mostly, I’ll practice unpacking deep-rooted stories that would like to see me safe and secure. Rusting away. Through much inner work, I’ve learned to recognize and manage them before they take hold.

Preparing for travel, whether it’s on a motorcycle, car, or walking our personal path presents an opportune time for reflection and choosing what we continue to carry. Let the excess baggage go, with gratitude, and create space for the wonderful opportunities waiting to appear.

The faces and voices of fear don’t ever go away but they can be managed when you know how.

Just like gravel.

Check out Liz Jansen’s Long Road Home Moto-Book tour beginning August 8th. Watch for a stop near you!

While in Portland, OR, Liz has teamed up with the awesome Jalene Case to create a Travel Lightly workshop on August 13th. Join Liz and Jalene for a ride through the landscape of your stories (especially the ones that are holding you back) so you can create a new roadmap for moving forward.

Travel Lightly

Jalene Case helps people lead themselves first so they can go all-in on what matters most. Her strategies are influenced by thirty-five years of business leadership experience, a Masters in Education, and (the secret sauce!) a two-year motorcycle trip in which she and her husband rode 42,000 miles from Oregon to the southern tip of South America. Explore more at

Travel Lightly

Liz Jansen helps others change their life by changing the stories they carry about who they are and what they can do. Her work draws from her background in nursing, human resources, shamanic energy medicine, and hundreds of thousands of miles of mostly solo riding across North America. She’s the author of Crash Landing, Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment, and Life Lessons from Motorcycles

Travel Lightly

Looking for other great motorcycle reads?  It’s not Christmas, but check this out!



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