May 8, 2016
I always knew from childhood that I must have been blessed with the soul of a gypsy. Handed down to me surely by my father. First recognized as a child listening to him as he shared his dreams of one day riding a Honda Goldwing around the Americas, with my mother in tow. I can see him now, softly strumming his guitar by the open window, while singing broken versus of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Always philosophizing as only my father could. Explaining to my brother and I how growing up in Vietnam and then being shipped off to a military base in Texas to wage war against his own country, brought him big dreams of what life would be like one day on two wheels through the Americas. A great man with a great plan.
These nomadic influences played out in me through wildly wandering daydreams that seemed to ease the pain of any stale classrooms. I quickly sprouted a passion for art, music and anything creative. My only true remedy at the time for a restless young girl.
Through junior high into high school I quickly learned that I was the visual type. Since no book, no matter how whimsical or magical it was, could ever keep my minds eye from wandering about. With the occasional memoire or autobiography as an exception to the rule. I wanted to see things with my own two eyes, hear, taste and touch them. I began searching for inspiration and magic all around me in the real world. Gravitating to only those opportunities that made me feel of this world rather than just simply on it.
Feeling a sense of belonging always seemed like an easy thing for me. Surely the gypsy girl is responsible for that too. Looking back now, I believe it was because from a young age, the thought of conforming to any one idea, group or process seemed just silly to me. I made friends with any type, any race and went almost any place that I was told I didn’t belong. Always with a sense of confidence and faith as some would say, that it was just something I had to do. I was just trying to build my own belief systems. I believed that as long as you loved openly and lived openly, then all that you were searching for would be revealed to you in its true form. You would see clearly and live honestly through any situation. And this idea alone provided me with a sense of safety and security in the world.
I was 17 by the time I had my very first passport and stamp. Or as I like to think of it, my AESA, authorized exploration seal of approval. It would see me off on a plane to Asia for two months as well as on a Greyhound bus for four days to New York City, before the age of 19. I absolutely reveled in the idea that doing whatever it took to get from A to B would be my quest. My romantic notions of leaving the classroom for the world class were now on the horizon. I was scared but knew whole-heartedly that it was the right thing for me. My parents were amazing. Looking back on it now. I’m sure it was difficult to understand. They were two of the hardest working Vietnamese immigrants, full of dreams for their children’s education. I’m sure it was extremely hard to let go of those dreams so that I could fulfill my own. But they did. Always keeping their eye on me from a distance. Always providing me the safety of knowing I had a home to return to whenever needed.
I was 23 and living in New York the first time I got on the back of a motorcycle. I had become through and through the anti-motorcycling type. Ever since experiencing first hand at a young age the tragedies they can dish out. The “motorcycles kill” theory was drilled into my mind. Although terrified I still craved the experience. I wanted so much to believe that all experiences in life had the ability to be positive or negative and not any one thing could be entirely one or the other. This was the balance I was always seeking in my life. I didn’t like being afraid. I wanted to fight the fear and find out once and for all what all of this hype was about. After all, these wonderful people that I had met while living in NY were smart, well put together, soulful and kind people. They were young, old, male and female. And they loved to ride. They talked about things I only dreamed about back in school. I had to dig deep to look past the dark clouded misconceptions. I knew it was time to open up.
New York is a tremendous place to live. Filled with hard lessons and big rewards. I had been at my highest highs and lowest lows there. I grew up very fast and the magic I was seeking at a young age was quickly balanced out with surviving and thriving. But this was imperative to my growth. Finding a balance in both extremes of life creates wondrous opportunities and experiences in between, as well as endless avenues for self-preservation in the process. You have to be open to it all, positive and negative. I believe that it’s up to all of us to do the work to uncover the magic in our everyday routines. So I did just that, I did the work. I opened myself up to the possibility that this idea of riding could be great and of course, it was.
I was 25 and had spent a couple of years as a passenger exploring greater areas of New York State. I didn’t even have my driver’s license. Two, two-hour train rides and a lot of walking everyday would serve in getting me through a hectic working week. I was in the media district working for Business Week Magazine’s photo imaging and art departments at the time. 12 – 14 hour working days were balanced out by equally all consuming playtime on the back of a bike. It was the open air and the freedom of movement that were so truly captivating. It was the idea of going places with little to get you there and of course the feeling of letting go that seemed to ease my restless soul. I understood that finding it in me to uncage that fear of riding would reveal to me bigger lessons than it could have ever revealed, having been contained. I knew it through and through that this would be a big part of my life in many ways.
The next step was clear. I had to obtain a driver’s permit so that I could sign up for motorcycle school. A necessary stepping-stone to what I truly wanted, an “M” type on the back of it. Shortly after applying for driver’s education and realizing it would take about 6 weeks to get my license in hand, impatience had set in. With a fleeting summer I knew I needed to find a way to get this show on the road. Through a friend in the industry, I learned about dirt bike school. This would be a great way to get my hands and feet working together and with minimal risk of damage to the rest of my body. If I fall, I fall in the dirt. The bike is smaller, lighter and easier to handle. I would be able to concentrate on mastering the mechanics and not have to worry about much else. And this would help bridge the time gap and be an absolute blast. About 7 weeks later I had my New York State driver’s license, an official dirt bike school certificate and my “M” class status. Joy!
The Motorcycling lifestyle from this point on for me seemed to resemble what my dad would call “destiny”. Through new friends I had made to new business ventures. Everything motorcycles seemed to just surround me. In early 2003 my parents had decided to return to Vietnam. It would be the first time in 28 years my parents had been with their family. I knew it would be an amazing opportunity for me to expand my family tree, as well as to indulge in another countries two-wheel culture. Where they are almost completely reliant on bikes as a mode of transportation rather than recreation or sport. The idea of seeing the opposite end of the moto lifestyle – spectrum was fascinating to me.
I can’t quite describe what it felt like to be in it. In a nutshell, it is truly living. Witnessing first hand what it is like to be in an unstructured traffic flow made New York streets seem harmonious. To feel the heat of the asphalt rising up from toe to tip, while the smells in the air of a Country that had been through incredible destruction and resolve was soul changing. I saw a culture full of happiness and humor even with their hardships. Children sleeping in empty buildings with half torn down walls right next to families occupying one floor of a 6 story palatal complex, that their families had handed down. Either way they all seemed to share a sense of pride and that made me proud. In central Saigon as well as most parts of Vietnam and Asia, motorcycling is a way of life. This kind of riding takes on a whole new set of skills, where most of the time you don’t know if traffic is coming or going. One thing was for certain though, if you love motorcycles and travel, this is definitely a Moto-experience of a lifetime.
I remember having an overwhelming sense of duty to share this experience with others when I returned to New York. I started to write about it all. I knew I wanted to do more than just ride. I wanted to do something that would allow me the opportunity to be somewhat of an advocate for the industry. I thought, for someone to go from expelling this lifestyle to embracing it could maybe do some good. Later that year I launched an online motorcycling lifestyle magazine that offered me three solid years of airtime to voice my ideas and showcase my photographs. I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful industry folks and enjoy riding much of the East and West Coast areas of the United States in the process. My brother Michael and his wife Amy joined me on my quest back in 2005 are now avid riders, racers and entrepreneurial souls themselves. I came away with a handful of life long friendships and more fulfilled childhood dreams than I could have ever hoped for.
Today I am living back in Calgary, Canada, the home I had left many lifetimes ago. Motorcycling still surrounds me fully in my life today. Destiny has blessed me once again with an equally nomadic Moto-enthusiast husband, Issa. We do weekly rides out to the Canadian Rockies and other local rider destinations when ever possible, dabble in track and currently continue on the path together of touring great roads, writing about our experiences and sharing them with others who love exploration and adventure. We Love Motogeo will be our eyes and voices along the way
I realize now that the little gypsy girl in me was my guide and guardian while growing up away from home. She taught me that you must create a sense of home wherever you are. Fall madly in love with all of your experiences, your ups and downs, ins and outs and place your heart in them as you go. It’s then you will realize that wherever you are, is right where you belong.
Thanks mom and dad, for letting me grow. xo