Resolve to Make Your Motorcycling Dreams Come True in the New Year

Advice from the "Eat, Pray, Love" of motorcycling

Story and photos by Alisa Clickenger

In November 2009, I left my cozy, predictable New England life and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. I pulled out of my garage, pointed my motorcycle south and headed for South America. I traveled alone for seven months through 13 countries and across two continents, hardly ever speaking English and riding roads that don’t even appear on a map.

Surveying the precipice on what’s been coined the “Bolivian Road of Death,” the North Yungas Road, a treacherous 43-mile gravel road that leads from La Paz to Coroico in Bolivia.
Here’s my former version of “adventure travel” —a cruise I took in 2005.

I did my trip on a 2003 Suzuki DR650 SE dual-sport motorcycle outfitted by Twisted Throttle. The company also sponsored me. I had some mechanical issues with the motorcycle, some border issues, even an accident in Peru. But believe it or not, the hardest part of the journey was getting mentally organized. The actual traveling was easy compared to the negative self-talk and fears I had to overcome.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

One of the mechanical issues I encountered was a broken chain in the middle of the Peruvian jungle, but there’s always a solution. I was extremely blessed by the kindness of strangers.
I’d already been at this motorcycle shop in Panama City for nine hours for what should have been a two-hour job to change my chain and sprockets. I decided to take matters into my own hands and change my tires myself.

There were several steps I took to get myself on the road tofulfilling my dream. These concepts will work for you whether your trip is over the course of a weekend or over the course of a year. If I could overcome all my mental obstacles, organize my life and follow my dream, so can you. Here’s how.

Speak Your Goal

The first step in achieving your dream is to say it aloud. When you verbalize your goal, the abstract idea gives way to a concrete objective. “I am leaving November 1, 2009, for South America” became my mantra for the three years I was planning my trip. I am sure I annoyed everyone—certainly my friends who heard about my plans all the time, but also probably legions of strangers. I stated my intentions to everyone I met.

Speaking your goal helps you stay on course. This is the road that led me to the Inca Trail in Bolivia.

Set a Date
How many times have you thought that someday you might like to ride up the California coast? Or ride the mountain passes of Colorado? Or how about riding historic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles? Your trip will forever remain a wish until you set a date. Setting a date makes you accountable. Setting a date makes your trip tangible. The more tangible and real you make your goal, the greater the likelihood of making your dream a reality.

Entering the Darien Gap area south of Panama City, Panama, on my ride to the end of the Pan-American Highway.
In the cargo hanger in Bogota, Colombia, inspecting my motorcycle after shipping it from Panama.

Be as specific as possible in your thoughts and in yourwords. Which of the following sentences belongs to the woman who will make hertrip happen? “I’d like to ride my motorcycle there someday,” or “I am leavingfor an around-the-world motorcycle trip on June 11, 2016.” Be bold with yourwords, even if you don’t yet feel quite so bold.

Little surprises along the way included making friends with incredible people. In Popayán, Colombia, Catalina befriended me and spent the better part of the week acting as my personal tour guide. My Spanish is limited, so it was nice to have a local guide.
Reigning over the city of Quito, Ecuador, atop the El Panecillo lookout with motorcyclist Luis Felipe, who became my personal tour guide for part of the trip.

Act in Spite of the Fear
Don’t feel up to it yet? Don’t worry. Fear is natural, andeven healthy. Fear keeps us from doing all sorts of stupid things in our lives. The point is to act in spite of your fear. Do you think I didn’t have some doubts crossing into Mexico with everything that’s been presented recently through the media?

Crossing the Tropic of Cancer in Mexico, an exciting moment when traveling overland heading south.
A valve stem failure could have stranded me on my way to Copper Canyon in Creel, Mexico, if I didn’t have a mini foot pump along.

If you are still reading this article, chances are that deep down there is something you want to do, some ride not yet taken. You want to believe you can do it, even while that fearful side of you tells you all sorts of reasons why it’s not a good idea.

Those fears, unfortunately, very often have loud voices. I would counteract those negative voices by posing two questions to myself: Am I the type of person who lets my fears stop me before getting started? Or am I the type of person who continues forward in spite of my fears? I always wanted the answer to be the latter, so I just kept moving forward. Eventually, I became that person that rolled forward in spite of my fear.

I had the great fortune of being invited to a Mayan New Year ceremony in Antigua, Guatemala.

How did I keep moving forward? I used several techniques as different obstacles and levels of fear surfaced. One thing I did consistently was look to inspirational people. I read books written by women who seemed to have accomplished the impossible. I looked to positive role models and read their stories over and over again.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’ve been reminded of this quote lately, as it is great advice. Think of overcoming your fears like building a muscle—if you work at it every day, your ability to expand your boundaries also grows stronger each and every day.

Children were a fascinating part of the trip. Here I am with my friend Roberto Ascoli’s darlings and their neighbor in Tebicuary, Paraguay.
Children were most curious in Peru. This little fellow asked me for a “tip” after he stepped into my photo.
Mystical, magical Machu Picchu.

Surround Yourself with Positive People
I also created a support group for myself—friends who would encourage me no matter what. I picked friends who did not let their own fears get in the way of being supportive of me, however crazy my dream seemed to them. I made lists and researched so I would feel prepared. I used positive visualization to imagine myself leaving on my trip and coming home safely so I knew in my bones what both would feel like.

To reassure myself, I also attended a Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting.What better way to get excited about your trip than to meet up and talk with other travelers? I started reading ride reports and blogs from other travelers already on trips similar to mine. I stopped listening to the naysayers. I even stopped listening to the news media.

Overloaded motorcycle plus soft sand equals an opportunity to meet some locals. Here I am in Acajutla, El Salvador.
In El Boquerón National Park just outside of San Salvador, El Salvador.

Move at Your Own Pace
The final piece of advice I offer is to be gentle with yourself. I quit my corporate job as a director of operations for a computer company in 2006. It took me three years to shape my dream, to physically and emotionally prepare for it. I took many short and long-distance motorcycle trips before riding to South America.

Here I am in my corporate life days at a Chamber of Commerce event.

I took some trips alone and a few with others. I attended motorcycle rider training courses. I took a lot of baby steps, rather than big leaps, to get myself to the point where I was confident enough to make my big trip happen.

Monkeying around at the monkey sanctuary in Puyo, Ecuador. I spent the entire afternoon entertaining them for the equivalent of $2. Yes, that is monkey pee on my T-shirt.
I couldn’t resist this photo op in Medellin, Colombia—the poodle has the same hairstyle as I do!

Following my inner voice is the only thing in my life thathas made me truly happy so far. I encourage you to follow your own. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? You might just achieve your dreams.

One of the “must sees” for me on my trip, the Panama Canal.
What a way to finish the trip! I love animals, and visiting the tigers at the Lujan Zoo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was the experience of a lifetime!

Top five ways my life has changed as a result of making my dreamcome true

  1. My self-esteem has improved dramatically.
  2. I am much clearer about what is important in my life and what is not important.(Things are no longer important; people and relationships are most important.)
  3. I worry less about the future and focus more on the now.
  4. I find I am following my heart more, and I am much happier.
  5. I no longer wonderif something ispossible. Now I see it in my mind’s eye and just go for it.

Motorcycle Travel-Related Resources

Female Travelers
Carla King, author of American Borders
Lois Pryce, author of Lois on the Loose
Colette Coleman, author of Planet Earth’s Greatest Motorcycle Adventure Tours

Achievable Dream: Ladies on the Loose (Read the WRN reviewhere. Buy it here.)

Internet Resources

Motivational Reading
Manifest Your Destiny, Dr. Wayne Dyer
Creative Visualization, Shakti Gawain
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Dr. Susan Jeffers
Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck

Trip Planning
Live Your Road Trip Dream, by Phil and Carol White
Road Trip USA, by Jamie Jenson
Related Articles 
The Ultimate Motorcycle Vacation
Traveling the World by Motorcycle
Two Girls. Two Bikes. Two Weeks.

34 thoughts on Resolve to Make Your Motorcycling Dreams Come True in the New Year

  1. Alisa,Thank you so much for writing your amazing story. How inspiring. The links and all suggestions/recommendations are great. For all of us replying to your story and those that didn’t reply but read it — we need to hear these stories so that we can see it’s possible. I wish you all the best in your adventures! Thanks again!

  2. What a blast! I live in Florida and want to do some long trips. Anyone want to join me? Open to suggestions for trips. Just want to get out there and see our country. I’m a 53-year -old woman. I ride a Harley Sportster 1200. Will probably go a bit bigger soon.

    1. Cindy,The best place to reach out to other riders is on the WRN Forum, created just for this kind of thing. You can find it at this link. You can also check out our list of Women’s Motorcycle Riding Clubs to see if there is one in your area.

  3. Thank you so much for your honest, insightful words! I have held the dream of a long distance ride for years and have been slowly creeping towards it. Bought a DR last year, attended Horizons this year, lots of shorter local trips. As the trip starts to become more real and pressing in my mind, my fears have multiplied.. like gremlins in water! In fact, today I have an appointment with my financial planner to talk over that aspect of the trip and was going to cancel (fear). After your supportive article, I am going to keep the appointment and keep taking ‘Jen’ sized steps toward my goal!

    1. That’s the way to do it, Jen! Will send prayers and good wishes your way!

  4. Alisa, wow! What an awesome story and experience you had. My plan is 5 years out to ride across the country and I am reading everything about long distance traveling that I can get my hands on. One question I keep wondering about is how do you make sure there will be enough gas stations along the way so you don’t run out. I have Sportster and can only ride about 120 miles per tank. Thanks.

    1. Congratulations on your trip decision! Fuel is always a consideration, but a good one because it means we’re traveling. The key is in the planning, because the gas stations get much further apart in the middle of the country. Be sure to have good, local, current maps along with you. Or if traveling with a GPS, make sure you have the most current map data uploaded so you can decipher the distances between gas stations. I believe there are gas apps available these days as well. Personally, I’ve added two fuel cells (Rotopax) to my luggage set-up because I am not always such a good planner. I doubt this solution will work on your Sportster, but you could consider carrying a couple of those red MSR fuel bottles in your luggage to give you a little extra range. I carry two of these in addition to the Rotopax: one contains fresh engine oil, and the other has fuel for my camp stove or for those true fuel emergencies. I’m not saying that you have to plan the entire trip before you leave home, but definitely take a look at your maps each morning. Asking locals helps as well. Also, don’t make my East-coaster mistake of assuming that just because there is a big intersection on a map that there will actually be a town-—and services-—in that location. It’s often not the case. Let me know if you need other ideas. Have a great trip.

  5. This sounds totally cool. I am signed up for an MSF course in May. My husband works crazy hours, so rather than staying home, my daughter and I go on camping trips alone. I remember the first time we went on a “chicks trip,” how many friends couldn’t believe that I would do such a thing, just me and a 5-year-old (or even worse, those who said “I can’t believe your husband ‘let’ you”). My daughter is now 14 and fearless. I hope to join you all on the road soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. After a fall in which my father died, plus the loss of a family friend from 1959, my daughters pushed me to ride my Harley to Yellowstone. So, my lease is up May 31, and I’ll leave for YNP on June 1! Your story helped with the inspiration, as did Lois on the Loose and Breaking Limits, two books about women riding solo on awesome adventures.Thank you for your article, and I hope you have many more!

  7. Chris & Joyce, Thanks for the kind words.Justine, there is a lot of support out there for women just getting into riding. I’d highly recommend taking a basic MSF course to get started. Then join a club, where you’ll find help and companionship. Then read every inch of WRN…there’s a wealth of information on here for all levels, varieties and styles of riding. Remember, don’t listen to the nay-sayers…you have to follow your heart!Marty, feel free to email me to answer any questions you may have. I help a lot of fellow travelers. I can tell you about some fantastic roads in Panama.

  8. Loved this article….and the confidence you instill. I am leaving on June 10th for Oregon (back roads) to visit my daughter and her family for several days (week?) and tour around there and Washington state and then head down to the Women on Wheels rally in San Jose, for the July 4th week, traveling down the Pacific Coast highway and others….to get there. Then back home the southern route taking in many sites…Grand Canyon, Oatman, and other fun spots and of course making it over to Deals Gap again and riding Skyline Drive, which I missed last time! Looking forward to it so much. My riding buddy has backed out so I am doing it alone. Thanks for the confidence building!

  9. I am researching a trip down to the Panama Canal this summer and ran into this article. Thanks. I enjoyed it a lot.

  10. This really spoke to me. My single item on my bucket list is to get a motorcycle license and ride. One step at a time…but I will be coming back to this article as inspiration. Thank you for sharing your experience and the motivational advice. Keep riding and taking those life risks that fullfill that awesome spirit you have.

  11. Wow. Can’t exclaim loudly enough! The bravery, the self-pursuit, the sheer breathe of an adventure like no other. Your story has so much in it for women, riders, girls, wives, mothers, bosses, sisters, etc. I had a dear friend who told me once, “women are teachers” to our spouses, kids, coworkers, etc. You’ve “taught” us a tremendous amount in just a short story. Thank you and God bless.

  12. Loved, loved, LOVED the article! My favorite kind of stories are about overcoming challenges and obstacles and just making it happen…so very inspiring! I can relate to the “mental” roadblocks in taking that first trip…mine was only from NY to the Women Rider’s Celebration in Milwaukee in May of 2010—hardly your adventure—but had I let the naysayers or my fears get the better of me I wouldn’t be able to tell you what an amazing journey it was! My biggest challenge really was ME… You’re so right about the confidence level afterward…now I feel like I can do anything! Thanks for your story…

  13. Loved the article. Alisa is living proof that all it takes to realize our dreams is a bit of a plan, and the courage to take one step, and the next one. She is truly inspirational. Thank you.

  14. Thank you for sharing your adventures and for being in inspiration. As a new rider the thought of tackling such an adventure is frightening but exhilarating. I dream of traveling through Africa one day, but will be starting out with a tour through the Southwest USA this summer! Thank you for living it and telling us all about it!

  15. Yay! I love reading stories of fearless women on motorcycles. I did much of the same back in 2007/2008, except without the funding and without Mexico and Central America (just a circumnavigation around South America). I never did see any other women traveling solo while I was there, but I met lots of shocked border agents, police, and male riders who couldn’t believe I was traveling alone and therefore I must be una gringa loca.

  16. Congratulations! Well done and well written. Good luck on your next adventure.

  17. WRN would do great for themselves by including more articles like this. It was such a pleasure to read about a real woman that the majority of us kind relate to following her dream — and showing us how she did it and how we can do it too. Rather than the way too typical “look how great I am” article this was an inspirational “I did it and you can too” article with great travel photos. You go Alisa! And we’ll all come along too.

  18. You are my inspiration and hero! I so admire you for what you did. My dream in life is to be able to take a year off a ride my BMW F650 GS to South America. As an RN for hospice my bike is my escape from a tough, emotional career (which I do love). I simply cannot imagine how freeing it is to be able to take such a trip! I love it that women are now taking the initiative to take these adventures. You do us proud! As many of my dying patient’s would tell you, Live your dreams, life is short.”

  19. Wow! I followed your every email last year and enjoyed it almost as much (but not quite) as much as if I had done it with you. You are the epitome of brave and adventurous! You are such an inspiration to all of ladies who enjoy riding. Thank you and best of luck in all of your endeavors.

  20. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. I’m in that very place right now where I want to take my first road trip and it looks like I will be doing it alone. That’s OK though. I won’t let that stop me. Your story has really encouraged me. Thanks again. Blessings and safety to all the riders out there. Hope to be meeting lots of you soon.

  21. Thanks for all the kind comments!Yesterday a woman emailed me from this article and she asked, “What about what all the other people think?” I told her that she cannot be concerned with their opinions. They’ll look at her life, her vision, through their own lenses of likes and dislikes and fears and worries. I told her she has to follow her heart no matter what everyone else thinks. That’s why the idea of the “support group” is so powerful. Those were the people in my life who held me up when I sagged, held me accountable to my own vision of my life, kept me on track following my heart and my vision for what I wanted to accomplish. The funny thing is that these supporters were not my best friends when I started planning this trip. But you know what? They sure are now! And I am there for them every chance I can be.Follow your dream, follow your heart. Ignore the box that others want to keep you in because it makes them feel safe. -Alisa (MotoAdventureGal)

  22. You are a fantastically brave person. Congratulations on your experience and sharing your inspirational story.

  23. The mind is awesomely powerful and is capable of turning our goals and dreams into our realities. Alisa has proven that it can be done. My hat off to you Alisa for “going for it.” You are very inspirational…now it’s my turn.

  24. What a great story and inspiration. I love hearing someone make a plan, figure it out, stick it and come back to tell tale.

  25. I just loved your story, a story of a life long dream come true. My helmet tips off to you. I could not stop reading your article. It was so exciting. I felt like I was there. Good luck in your future adventures.

  26. My husband and I traveled across the United States and Canada in 2007 on our motorcycles. It was a six year process of planning and selling and saving. We found that the same steps you mention — setting a goal, talking about it, etc. — is what worked for us also. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to others.

  27. What a great story! For a woman alone to conquer her fears and take a trip that could have been riddled with scary situations is so inspirational. My husband thrives on taking long distance trips by himself and he always comes home relaxed and inspired by all that he has seen. Kudos to all of the lone riders out there. May all your trips be full of sights, sounds and smells never encountered.

  28. What a great adventure! That is living life to the fullest.

  29. What a wonderful inspiration to all of us to step out there and make our dreams happen. Good for you Alisa! Thank you for your story.

  30. Excellent advice! Saying out-loud that you’re doing a trip is huge! It’s huge just to say it to yourself. Saying it to friends is just as important. Now you’re pride and reputation are on the line – no turning back now!Surrounding yourself with positive people is key too. Alisa, thanks for all the motivation you offer me!

  31. I had the good fortune last summer to get to talk at length with Alisa at the International Women’s Riding Congress and Festival in Ontario. She is truly inspirational and yet just a nice, normal gal to chat on the beach with. She presented a seminar at the conference in which she detailed how she overcame every single issue that any of us would have had before embarking on such an adventure, “What about my house? My animals? My bills?” She broke her dream down into manageable chunks and set out and did it. I admire her greatly. What I liked the most was her attitude that we don’t all have to travel to Machu Pichu. Whatever our individual dream is, as long as we go for it, we’re making the most of ourselves. I love that attitude. And I am so glad that you have introduced Alisa to more gals who may just need a teeny, tiny little push to get them started in that direction in their own lives.Thanks for the wonderful story.

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