Changing viewpoint

Brigus South I’m changing. Not into someone else. I’m changing into more of myself. It makes me happy. I’m not sure it will make anyone else happy, ha, but that’s okay. For now, less Manager Michelle and more Michelle. Until this June I worked 21 years as a hotel and business manager. It was fast paced, ever-changing, filled with new people and challenges….and over the years I learned to become a problem solver. I learned to work fast (frustratingly often at the expense of quality in order to get my assigned workload completed, for months I was working to cover two full-time jobs and part of a third), react on a moment’s notice to find solutions, make quick decisions, and when I had to, to make lemonade from the lemons that were occasionally served up by life to our team or myself. I’m resourceful, intelligent, a fixer. And in my job I was a critic (you have to be), a pessimist and skeptic (you have to be these too – especially if you need to shape results for someone else’s expectations), a budget master responsible for tens of millions of dollars and a few hundred employees, a devil’s advocate, a driver, a bearer of tough news, a middle man between the top and the team, the buck stopper, the person who bore ultimate responsibility for everything to the owners and so on, and so on. And for the most part I loved it, and miss it, especially all the incredible people I got to work with. But that job, even after 21 years, was never all of who I was… was what I did. And I’m starting to get more perspective about that.  I definitely made time for some fun things along the way, but devoted the majority of those 21 years to my work. Camera Cleaning 045 After leaving my job, I planned to take off on a long motorcycle ride and see as much as I could see, of the scenery and world, places and people. I planned to write a blog and take some photos and share the journey with whoever wanted to tag along virtually. I wanted to relax and recuperate before deciding on my next career move.  For the first month I was going to be riding under a time crunch. The trip had to move at a fairly fast pace in order for me to get from home to the eastern U.S., ride the Trans Labrador Highway, scoot down the East Coast of the U.S. and then head west to get into Mexico before a visa deadline passed. I packed up my belongings and put them in storage and sold my house. In less than a month, I went cold turkey from 20-year business operator and homeowner to unemployed and homeless (more on that in a bit) motorcycle traveler. My house sold in 11 days and that set the pace for the beginning of my adventure. I didn’t have time to think about anything. Just pack the house, finish work, take care of some details like passport and insurance, prep the bike, pack the bike, get some cash and vamoose. No time to think about the enormity of it, no time to adjust, no time to digest or process – just go. As fate (and apparently my riding) would have it, just two weeks into my trip I had an accident. Wasn’t much of a wreck really, and it happened at a slow speed, but my fall was awkward and my left leg was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. So…..instant plan change, plot twist, attitude adjustment, priority shift….whatever else you might call it. From 60 to zero in 4.6 seconds. Fast forward to today. I’m mending. I’m going nowhere and am good with that. I’m not anywhere near where I thought I would or should be at this date and time of the trip. I spend my days reading, sleeping, watching a spider build its web, weaving tiny grass bouquets on the deck and playing with flowers like I did as a little girl, listening to the breeze and gulls, or enjoying friends. I’ve always made time to “stop and smell the roses” but this summer I’ve shifted from stopping to do that occasionally to “smelling roses” nearly full-time (actually its been lupines here in Newfoundland).  And most of all, I’m happy.  Really happy. grass bouquet I’m changing my perspective on life, on hurrying, on agendas, and on my priorities. One of my early goals for the trip was to learn to live in the moment more….and as cliché as that is, I need it.  I’ve spent too many years hashing over the past (ie. reviewing past performance with a fine comb) and planning for the future – and I developed a poor balance between those and being able to live in the moment in its fullest way. There are lots of opinions and perspectives in life, and I’m usually very open to hearing them in case there’s a gem of wisdom in it that inspires me or helps me grow. Some things you learn from trial and error, some from others sharing their hard lessons with you, some with collective efforts, and any number of other ways.  While it’s still early on in this trip, I’ve been reminded of a few things that I think are worth sharing:

  • You don’t need very much to be happy and almost none of it is material.  I have always loved nesting and homemaking.  I’ve loved having a nice wardrobe, a library of books, heirloom dishes, souvenirs from travel, and all the things that go with life and a house.  Having no clothing, no toothbrush, no toiletries, nothing of my own with me in the hospital for nearly a week, set my priorities straight in an instant (well, okay, a week).  Keep in mind I was already down to a small suitcase size container of clothes, shoes, outerwear and toiletries and planned on using just those things for all my needs for 6 months to a year.  TMI – but when I was laying in bed on day 5 in my hospital gown and nothing else, with no toothbrush, and combing my hair out with a borrowed pen cap, one strand at a time, because I didn’t have a comb – I realized that I didn’t need anything except the smile from my roommate and the care of a kind nurse that I had already received that morning.
  • Value quality over quantity.  This applies to everything in life – food, friends, relationships, how you travel, possessions, life in general, etc.  People, and unfortunately especially Americans, have a history of wanting more, bigger, better, and faster things.  Capitalism at its worst.  I am as guilty of it as anyone having had a big house, a new car every few years, etc.  But I started to see the light a few years ago and started downsizing on all my possessions in order to fit into a smaller house.  A smaller house means less cleaning, less expense, less environmental impact – and hopefully more quality of life because of the extra time you have, the less stress you place on yourself with a big mortgage payment, utilities, etc. and less waste.  My best friend, Heather, told me many years ago that she had decided not to give presents any more but would instead be giving “experiences” as gifts. (Brilliant girl and I love her!) I loved the idea and adopted it myself.  She’s given me a theater ticket and her company for a night as a gift, scuba lessons so we could scuba together, bought me a fancy dinner…..all things I treasure more than anything that sits on a  shelf or requires dusting.  I try to do the same, taking people out for special occasions when I can or giving them a gift that will generate experiences and memories instead of being more stuff.  I’d rather have a really incredible small dinner than be stuffed with mediocre food. I’d rather have a couple of friends who mean the world to me than dozens of superficial relationships.  I’d rather sit and soak up a place on vacation than do the 12 countries in 9 days whirlwind tour. And so on…..
  • Receiving is as important as giving.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive.  It flies in the face of what we’ve all been told – it’s better to give than to receive.  But I disagree.  I think they are equally important. This isn’t meant in any way to lessen the importance I place on giving, because I don’t think we do enough of it.  I’ve practiced giving and feel good about my efforts there.  I love giving, especially when I have taken the time to do it well – helping someone who needs and appreciates it, or choosing a gift/experience really well……But in the past I haven’t been a person who asks for help, or a person who needs much help.  I’ve been independent and self-contained in that way.  I’ve never wanted to need things from others or ever be a burden to others.  I’m not good at taking compliments, or help when offered, and am downright bad at asking for help from friends and family.  My accident forced me to admit to myself what I could and could not do.  It forced me to accept help and, moreover, it forced me to ask for it.  As much joy as I have experienced in giving (and its one of the most incredible and rewarding feelings in life), I have recently experienced as much joy in receiving.  I’m a girl who likes to be clean and while I don’t spend much time styling my hair, I always like it to be clean and to look decent. A motorcyclist woman learns to live with various versions of helmet hair and lowered expectations in the hairstyling department. After my accident I was alone in the hospital for several days.  Although the hospital that I was at had a policy that supports nurses assisting with bathing and hygiene, it didn’t support the staff in helping you wash your hair from bed.  If you’re bedridden or can’t get in the shower because of incisions, you have to bathe in a small basin or with disposable wipes. But for washing your hair, they simply don’t even have the tools to do it. So after a number of days I worked up enough desperation to ask a nurse if she could find a way to help me wash my hair. She explained that they didn’t have things to do it until I was able to get into a shower.  I understood.  But about an hour later, after she had finished her morning rounds, she came back.  She had rounded up baby shampoo from the nursery downstairs, a big bowl from the staff breakroom and a clean bed urinal to use to pour water.  She propped me up in bed gently and went to work on my tangled and dirty hair.  She poured a bit of warm water on my head over the bowl and added some shampoo.  And as she did so, I began to cry silently.  She massaged my scalp softly and slowly and thoroughly washed and rinsed it all, as best she could.  She didn’t say anything but continued to tenderly care for me. She made sure the water was warm but not too warm.  And when she was finished she wrapped me up with towel and patted my hair to dry it out as much as she could.  She apologized for not having any conditioner or combs.  And later loaned me a pen so I could use the cap to comb my hair out, one strand at a time. Her name was Amanda, the same as my sister who has been and is studying to be a nurse.  I think them having the same name is some sort of sign, because I believe in things like that.  Amanda, the nurse at St. Clare’s, gave me more than a shampoo.  She gave me her time and extra effort, and some of my dignity back, and most of all she gave me the gift of caring, and it means the world to me.  There have been so many generous people helping me the past several weeks, and it’s helped me to understand the balance needed between giving and receiving. Until you desperately need help and receive it and are truly grateful for and overwhelmed by it, I don’t think you completely understand the true weight and importance of the things you give.  They are intertwined – giving and receiving.
  • I don’t own a home right now but I will never be homeless.   My roots run deeper than 4 walls and a roof over my head.  I have a family, and dear friends and memories and a love for South Dakota.  And while my belongings may be in storage and I may be living out of a duffle bag, I couldn’t be further from homeless.  I don’t care how anyone else defines it, that’s what I know in my heart to be true.  And thank you Uncle Fred and Aunt Kathy for making that clear to me.  I love you both.
  •  Life is about people. – the ones we love, the ones we meet, the relationships we build, and how we all grow and learn from each other.  However small your interactions with someone, even a stranger passing you on a street, make them positive.  Smile, wish them well even if only silently to yourself, and help them whenever you can.  I’ve learned most things in my life through someone else –  my loving mother, my protective father, my caring stepmother and wonderful aunts and uncles, my beautiful sisters, my adorable nieces and nephews, my incredible friends, my loving relationship partners over the years, teachers, coworkers, employers, community leaders, business people, strangers, and even celebrities and random average people.  Good or bad – all interactions can teach us something about ourselves and what kind of life we want to lead.  We are all sharing this great big beautiful ride called life and, like it or not, we do it together.
  • I’m a work in progress. – I’m self-absorbed (this blog post is proof), but trying to be less so. I talk too much.  And often, too loudly.   I am too sensitive and need to be less so, to take things less personally.  I place too much importance on what others think, looking for their approval and sometimes adapt my behavior to get a desired response instead of doing what I know is right.  I’m too opinionated and a little judgmental. I expect a lot out of others and myself, and sometimes set myself up for disappointment because of it when its no one’s fault but my own.  But on the positive side, I can make a rockin’ batch of lemonade – literally and figuratively.  Quoting an unknown author – “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”

Brian's wildflowers

Categories: SC philosophy, TransitionTags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Hi and thanks for sharing your thoughts.really enjoyed reading this post.

    Hope your on the mind soon.

    It sounds like your in a great place at the moment in many ways.

    Good luck with the journey.

    • Thanks so much for message. I’m looking forward to following along on your adventure…..PS. it’s not an anchor, my friends, but maybe a small speed bump or an anticipation builder?……the lows of the roller coaster of life give the highs the perspective – without either it would all be flat. Wishing you all the best.

  2. What a wonderful post. I look forward to reading more from you, Michelle. If you have some time and feel like wandering backwards through my blog from last years ride from California through Central America and around South America, then by all means, follow this link below. I’ll admit my posts were sparse, but the ride was more for me than for everyone else, and I think it helped me a lot.



  3. Loved your blog and your outlook on life . I so hope you will be back on 2 wheels soon.. 🙂 Suze

  4. “Life is about people”

    That’s some truth, there.

    Best wishes for your trip! I have a dream of doing something like that someday (without the accident of course)…

    • Thanks so much for your message. I wish you a wonderful accident-free vacation, when you go…..but just so you know, the accident was the good stuff, so please don’t let fear of that slow you down. Best wishes.

  5. One may get that much needed break when he/she least expects…and sometimes in a very unexpected way 🙂

    I’m just getting used to walk again after shedding the cast from my right foot following a similar event, and I can’t say how blessed I feel now that I had these few weeks when I just needed to slow down a bit…

    I had time to read more, sleep better, appreciate life from a different angle…I learned to be OK with leaveing the office at 5PM instead of 6PM… 🙂

    As some say: ‘The journey IS the destination’… – enjoy every bit of it 🙂

  6. Great Journey. 🙂 I, too, am learning to “swim in my own lane” rather than comparing my progress to that of others. Best wishes on integrating the other lessons, and thanks for sharing some insights I hadn’t begun to learn yet. Amazing twist of fate and life lessons. I think God has a plan.

  7. Glad you are on the mend! Unfortunately life seems to throw events like this at us to slow us down or change our perspective on what we thought was important, I am so glad that you had an abundance of kind people come into your life and wish you strong healing vibes.

    • So true… true…..thanks so much for your well wishes. Wishing you happy riding!

      • Hi Michelle. Bruce’s friend, Laurie here. I was shocked to hear about your accident but it looks like things are improving daily and I hope this setback has been a positive thing for you and Brian; allowing you guys to stay in a beautiful area that, as Bruce says, even most Canadians don’t ever get to see. However, you’d better get moving so you get out of Canada before the snow starts to fly and you end up locked in by 20 feet of snow. Coming from Sturgis, you might be used to some snow, but not what they experience in NFLD once winter hits. As an aside, I sold my 1700 Road Star and am looking for a somewhat smaller bike. My next road trip with Bruce and Mark may be with a tow-along. Those two guys are somewhat nutty, but I could probably say the same thing about your multi-thousand mile journey on such a small bike. It sure sounds like you are having an amazing time, though, so keep it up and ride safe and stay healthy. All the best. Laurie.

      • Thanks so much for the message. And so great to hear from you, Laurie. I really appreciate the good advice. Went for my first ride (as a passenger) yesterday and hope to go for a short ride this week if I’m up to it. We plan to get moving in the next 2-3 weeks and hope to ride the foliage tide south if our timing works out. Congratulations on the sale of your bike and I hope you find a new bike to love. Hope to see you guys all back in SD one of these days! Until then, best wishes, M

      • Good morning, Michelle. I’m happy to hear you have at least gotten “back on the horse” (albeit the “iron” one). That is a very positive sign. If you happen to be in the area of Cape Breton around the first week or so of October, which might work out given your noted schedule for returning to the saddle, you should take in what they call “Celtic Colours” which is a 6 or 7 day long music festival featuring performers from all over the world. They have an opening night concert in one larger town/city in Cape Breton and then every night they have a dozen or more performers holding concerts in a dozen or so towns throughout the Cape Breton area and then they hold a get-together after the concerts at a local town where they do a late night jam session with ALL the performers. It is quite an amazing event. I went there about 6-8 or so years ago and was blown away by the organization of it all. Google “Celtic Colours” and see if it is still held these days and, if so, the schedule. If you are in the neighbourhood, take advantage of it. And good luck getting going in the very near future. All the best. Ride safe. Laurie.

      • It sounds amazing! And I would have loved to take in some of the festivities, but when I checked it out online I saw it was on from the 10th through the 20th so unfortunately, I’m not sure I will be able to….but maybe?! Thanks so much for the tip and if you think of any other things please let me know, you have excellent taste!

      • Glad to hear you’ll be gone by then, but it is a music festival worth seeing for anyone else who is ever in that area around that time. I caught it the first week of October a few years ago, but I guess it depends on performers’ schedules, etc. I have no doubt, Michelle, that you will find many more great things to be doing as you get back on the road again and travel the continent. Have fun and ride safe. Laurie.

  8. Absolutely amazing post Michelle. Very thought provoking and so very TRUE.

  9. I love this post Michelle! We think alike!! All the best on your adventure. Looking forward to following it.

    • Hi Michelle. I loved your post that was contained in this email. I want to say, though, that the comment that you made, “Im going nowhere and am good with that” couldn’t be further from the truth as far as I am concerned. You may be staying in one town while you recuperate, but you are as opposite from “going nowhere” as anyone can ever be or has ever been; the remainder of your post makes that abundantly clear. (and maybe you were only referring to your going nowhere physically, not otherwise, but I thought I would comment anyway) You are growing in so many obvious ways: emotionally, sensually, psychologically, etc. that when you have completed your trip (or even as soon as you leave your current place) you won’t recognize yourself and nor will anyone else. As you say throughout your blog, that is definitely “going somewhere”; and it is to a much better place. I’m sure you and others have already taken notice of that fact. I got teary-eyed when I read the part about Amanda washing your hair; it was so moving, emotionally, that I could picture the actions going on just from your words. It was beautiful. I said this to you before and I reiterate it; you are good with words and maybe when you are done with this trip you will consider writing as your next career (or part of it, anyway). Be well and keep the rubber side down. Laurie.

      Laurie Etkin B. Comm. (Hons.), LL.B. Cell: (204) 291-6111 Email:

      Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2013 15:00:03 +0000 To:

  10. Hi …. I just discovered your blog through another motorcycle blogger who met you. Now I am busy catching up on it. I will be taking off on my own RTW trip in the next 1 to 4 years. What you said in this post really hit home and resonates so much with me. Thanks for writing it. I look forward to catching up on your journey. Thanks so much for sharing. Brian

  11. Just found your blog through a link on Jesse Luggage and what a find it was. Jumped straight to this page to read about you and found you very inspiring. The “I’m a work in progress” is exactly how I am, it’s a perfect description of the way I am, truly amazing. Showed it to my wife and she agreed 100%.
    Like you, I talk too much especially when it’s about motorcycles and adventure. I have been accused of being too loud (my wife) but it’s because I get excited when talking about things I love. “I am too sensitive and need to be less so, to take things less personally”, wow, I am exactly the same way but I have been trying to change. I plan on doing a trip to South America as soon as my daughter finishes college. So far have traveled across the USA and all the way to Prudhoe Bay. I too have a motorcycle blog but this past year have been terrible with posts, life just been too busy but I hope to change it soon.
    Stay safe, I’m a new follower of your adventures.

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