All or Nothing

As much as I wanted to relax, I could feel my body tensing up and filling with fear as I approached the sandy hill. “Maintain your speed. Maintain your speed,” I told myself. But, right as I hit the first patch, I panicked, let my hand off the gas and started skidding. I was losing my control and confidence fast. I rolled on the throttle a little to accelerate, but I could feel my bike sinking deeper into the sand until finally giving out and shutting off. I put the bike in neutral and stood there for a few seconds in defeat. “What was I thinking? Why did I take on this sand hill? I’m not nearly experienced enough for this kind of terrain. I can’t do this. I can’t.”
Just as I was about to give in and call over to my riding partner to come rescue me from my pit of sandy despair, I had a flashback to my first time ever riding a motorcycle(on my own). I remember the feeling I had standing in the Miller Park parking lot with my dad and my beautiful new bike. It took me at least a few minutes to work up the courage to get on and start it up. At that moment I had all my own insecurities along with the comments of skeptics and stories of fallen motorcyclists rushing through my head. But in the end my desire to ride overcame all my doubts and fears. I knew that if I didn’t take those first steps, I would never be able to experience that feeling of freedom and adventure that I had dreamt about since I was a little kid. As hard as it was for me to trust myself and my bike, I knew I had to take those first steps in order to reach my ultimate goal. So I got on the bike and slowly made my way to the other side of the parking lot. It was one small step for mankind, but one big step for Helen kind.
Flash forward to me stuck on the sandy slope in the middle of Peru. My internal dialogue continued: “You say you want to ride this thing to Brazil? How do you think you are going to do that if you can’t even make it through this little patch of sand? You need to perfect as many different kinds of terrain as possible before the trip and if not now, when? You CAN do this.”
Galim(my riding partner/mentor) had just explained to me a few minutes before how to get through sand on my bike. Accelerate slowly to get some traction under the tires. Rock the steering wheel back and forth a little so as not to stick in one place. I turned the engine on, started accelerating and slowly but surely made my way over the sand to where Galim was waiting for me. I looked back in shock of what I had just accomplished. Although we took the same route, the trip back seemed significantly easier. Today I am one step closer to fulfilling my dreams than I was yesterday.

Asi Empieza 2017

This year was about facing my fears and embracing change. The reasons I decided to move abroad are very different from those of most people. This time six months ago I was VERY HAPPY. I loved my job and where I was living. I had a great support system that I could turn to whenever I needed anything. On top of that, I had just bought a beautiful 1985 Honda Rebel motorcycle! What more could I want?? Once you start feeling comfortable somewhere, it is easy to stay there and to keep doing what you are doing. But I was carrying around this dream of living in Peru. It’s hard for me to even explain why, but I have always been drawn to this part of the world and this country in particular. As I began to get more and more comfortable with my lob and my life back in the U.S., I realized that I had to take the leap now or I might never get(or want to take) another chance to live abroad. I am now coming up on my two month anniversary in Peru and what I have learned over the past few months is that challenges are key to self development and when a good opportunity comes along, sometimes you just have to take the leap, even if you do not feel like you are 100% ready at the time. It’s not always easy living in a different country and with people who are so different from me, but the benefits are well worth it. The places I have been to, the experiences I have had and the relationships I have made here are priceless. As I continue to learn and grow this year, I am also challenging myself to work on maintaining relationships with my dearest friends and family all around the world. These are the people who have been there for me through the good and the bad, despite the long distances, occasional mental breakdowns and my constant need to pursue crazy adventures. They have not only put up with me, but supported me in all that I am and all that I do. People like this are hard to come by and I want to continue to nurture these relationships and hopefully provide the same kind of love and support that they have provided me. So that’s what’s been on my mind this week, between painting boats, sewing sun nets, and selling a couple hundred raspadillas(Peruvian ice cream). Thank you for reading and for following me on my adventures!

A Very Special Motorcycle Named After A Very Special Person

Shirley loves to travel, to see new places and meet new people. She’s not afraid of or intimidated by new things. On the contrary, she is drawn to new and different experiences. She is eager to learn and embraces all the newest trends and technology. Shirley is healthy, both mentally and physically. She makes it a point to take good care of herself as well as the people who are around her. She has a special way of making friends with people wherever she goes, no matter how different they are from her. The only kind of people that Shirley doesn’t get along with are the people who wish harm on others. She does not put up with hate and bigotry. Shirley likes food. She recognizes that good food is key to a happy and healthy life. Food also brings people together and Shirley likes to be surrounded by happy and healthy people. Probably the best quality that Shirley has is her perpetual optimism and positive attitude. It could be a dark and gloomy day outside, but Shirley will look out the window and say, “What a beautiful day!” We may have just eaten the most simple meal, made simply with simple ingredients and Shirley will exclaim, “That was the best lunch I’ve ever had!” Shirley is strong and despite all the adversities that she has dealt with in her life, she maintains her positive attitude, seeks the good in people, and appreciates even the simple things in life. For these reasons and many more, I have decided to name my motorcycle after my grandmother Shirley. I am not sure if my grandmother would necessarily approve of me naming my motorcycle after her, but hey, at least I’m not getting her name tattooed on my arm! Looking forward to spending the next several months traveling with Shirley! ❤️

In Search of a Motorcycle

Day 1 of a 5 day journey in search of a motorcycle. Cindy and I hitched a ride with Juancho’s cousin, Pedro who happened to be passing through Casma in his semi-truck carrying several tons of plantains to Lima. The trip was a lot longer than it was the last time I made the commute between Lima and Casma. Despite only stopping once to get the truck washed at 11pm, we got there about 3 hours later than we would have on a bus. Why? Well, it turns out that semi trucks carrying several tons of plantains drive very VERY slowly. It went so slowly that there were a few times going uphill when I felt like we would have been better off getting out and pushing the thing. However, after a long 10 hours, we arrived with chilled bodies(Pedro likes keeping the windows open while he drives) and empty tummies(I guess we didn’t actually believe him when he said we wouldn’t be stopping for food along the way). At about 2am we rolled up to an unidentifiable corner somewhere in Lima where several other semi trucks were parked. Despite being such a large truck, the passenger section is rather cramped and as a result, I didn’t get much sleep along the way. However, since it is not advisable to be walking around Lima at 2am, we opted to wait a couple more hours in Pedro’s truck until the sun came out. A few hours later we thanked Pedro and hit the streets.

5 days in Lima and Cindy and I were more than ready to return to small town life. What we thought would be a quick and easy process turned out to be 5 days of complications and pure stress. Aside from changing over the title and actually paying for the motorcycle, it turns out there is a lot more paperwork required if there foreigners or elderly people involved in the buying/selling of a vehicle. In my case, there were both. During my 5 days in Lima I paid visits to a notary office, immigration services, several bike mechanics, internet cafés(to print/make copies of documents), a handful of banks, doctors, insurance companies, and much more! I felt like I was really starting to learn my way around the city! By the time everything was done and paid for, I had myself a brand new(well used, but new for me!) 2010 Honda XR250. Cindy and the baby bike and I got a ride to the outskirts of Lima where we spent the night at a hostel. I didn’t feel comfortable riding in the city, which is a lot like an ant hill around this time of year. The next morning we got on the bike and rode 7 hours back to home sweet Casma. Yes, I rode my new bike 7 hours the first day I owned it. If the circumstances had been better, I probably would have done a few shorter trips first, but we were crunched for time and I was about due for a good adventure and a long motorcycle ride anyway. We only had a few minor complications along the way such as patches of severe fog, getting stopped by the police, falling over on the bike(while stopped and in neutral when Cindy was trying to get on) and having the bike die on us 20 minutes from home(eventually we got it started again and made our way home). Despite all the stress and complications along the way, I was SO HAPPY to be riding MY motorcycle through PERU. I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure it was real. I am very grateful for my new bike, but mostly I am grateful for my wonderful and incredibly patient host family here in Peru and all my friends and family back home who have encouraged me to follow my dreams, no matter how far fetched they may seem. I really am living the dream!

Female Motorcycle Rider