MotoAdventure Gal Alisa tells us about her travels
– Alisa, tell us just a little about yourself/ background?
I’m 44. I guess you could say I had my ‘mid-life crisis’ in 2006 when I turned 40, but it’s never really been a crisis, more of a deeper search for what makes me happy, rather than following all the “shoulds” in life. 2006 is when I quit the ‘corporate’ world, and through a series of events, got seriously back into motorcycles.
–How long have you been riding?
I began riding in 2005. I was getting divorced, and I was in need of a self esteem boost as well as a new hobby. Little did I know my hobby would become the passion of a lifetime.
– What bike do you ride, is there a particular reason for that choice?
I ride a Suzuki DR650. I choose that bike because I like the flexibility of being able to ride on both pavement AND dirt, and the DR650 is the perfect happy medium that also happens to fit my budget. Of all the 600’s on the market, the DR650 is the lightest, as well, and that is important the further off the beaten path I get. I need to be able to pick up a fully loaded bike if I am riding solo, which I often do. Additionally, the DR650 is über reliable and easy to work on. The last reason is that there is a LOT of touring equipment available for that bike.
– It seems like you have a rather “bare bones” approach to adventure touring, are you a” less” is more person?
Don’t I wish. Yes, I absolutely subscribe to the ‘bare bones’ approach to travel, but I don’t always follow my own good advice. Like a lot of people, I have “stuff” issues, and I am always adding things to my panniers that I think will bring me more comfort (debatable), I might not be able to get along the way (unlikely), or that I cannot live without (doubtful). But yes, in general I think the less you carry the better. It is less wear and tear on your bike, your tires, and YOU if you get onto difficult-to-ride surfaces.
– Tell us a little about your most recent trip
Ha! Which one? I left my house last summer and rode the Trans-America Trail, then the Continental Divide Trail with my boyfriend Edward, then circled back to New England to re-outfit the DR650. I’d worn out my little Suzi 350 riding 15,000+ dirt miles, so once I got the DR650 outfitted and rode solo rode back across the USA again and down through Mexico, Central and South America to Buenos Aires. I thought I was done there, and flew my motorbike back to Seattle, but then Edward found he had time to ride to Alaska, so then I rode to Alaska and back with him. So is that one trip or three?
– What motivated you to drop everything for a trip like that?
Ah, I think you are asking about my South America trip. I studied Spanish in high school in college, and have always had a fascination with Latin America. In 2007 I met a German couple on the road that was planning a year trip to South America, and I was hooked on the idea. I asked myself “why not” and decided to RIDE there. The clincher was when I started researching the trip and read about a grandmother that had ridden solo to Ushuaia a few years back, and, well, I figured I could do it if she could. Originally I had planned to travel with my cousin Ken, but ultimately he could not go and so I decided to just go for it myself.
I also want to add that I enjoy challenging myself. The idea of taking myself out of my regular routine, of living life in a completely different way, of getting outside my “norm” so I could take a deep look inside had great appeal to me. I’d done it on a smaller scale in 2006 after I quit my job and walked the Camino de Santiago (a 750 mile foot journey across Spain that is the path of an ancient–and modern–spiritual pilgrimage).
–What was the most unexpected part of your travels?
I know I’ll regret saying this, because I don’t like to talk about the negatives of the trip since most people will hold onto these words and forget all the magic I talk about experiencing on the trip, but looking back I was really surprised at how many times I got food-sick even though I thought I was being careful. But hindsight says getting sick really was the magic of the journey for me. Each time I got sick, I met extraordinary people that took care of me. Strangers that took me into their homes, cared for me, shared their lives, their families, their impressions of the world, and in turn let me share about my own community and culture.
– What did you enjoy most?
Well, the trip really was about the people. Local people that helped me to see myself and my world in a whole different way, the kindness of strangers along my journey. Even the robber people helped me see into a culture, a lifestyle, a need that I had never known about before in my sheltered myopic American life. Next on the list was of course the scenery, being able to ride some of the greatest motorcycle roads in that part of the world, and completely immersing myself into the Spanish language, as I’d longed to do since high school. I also want to add the sense of accomplishment to the list of enjoyment…
– What did you enjoy least?
That would have to be breaking my hand.
– What is up next for you?
Hmm, well for next year I am working on a Cross-Country tour (pavement) to empower women who think they cannot ride such a long ways, and a breast and ovarian cancer cure fundraiser with The Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation. I will also be traveling and giving slide slow presentations on my adventures, as well as some motivational speaking. I have a presentation called “Ride Your Dream”(tm) in which I am to inspire people to get off the sofa, out of their box, and follow their heart/passion. Slovenia-Croatia-Turkey is high on my list, as is Mongolia, Thailand and Australia/New Zealand. Some to think of it, a RTW trip on a motorbike sounds pretty good before I am fifty…