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On Putting on Meditation Mileage and Learning to ‘Just Be’, with Kim Okabe of The Litas

Badlands National Park @jessicahaggett

Kim Okabe is the Global Community Director of The Litas, a community of motorcycle-riding womxn, including a Vancouver branch that currently numbers in the hundreds…

Okabe, who grew up in Northern BC, was born-and-raised into the moto-lifestyle by her mother, who was also interested in motorcycles and eventually convinced her daughter to get her own licence. Just weeks after Okabe had completed her riders course and bought her first bike, she found herself hitting the road in an effort “to escape and numb the pain” of her mother’s unexpected death, clocking in a whopping 56,000km over her first year of riding. “Initially, I never had any interest in riding with anyone else,” says Okabe, “It became a very selfish thing for me as it was the only time I was able to escape and just go through all the emotions I was feeling. A couple years into my motorcycle journey, I rode down to Joshua Tree for a women’s only campout and met a handful of people that would redirect my entire life.” Read on to learn more about Okabe’s personal experiences and The Litas community…

What’s your personal The Litas story?

Years ago I met Utah-based founder Jessica Wise at one of the campouts and we’ve jumped on the road to ride together every chance we’ve had since then. Often we would message local Litas branches before arriving in town and within hours would be sitting at a bar grabbing a bite with 20-40 awesome women riders.

It was incredible to see and be a part of it, but the movement was growing fast and you could see it taking its toll on Jess. She was volunteering countless hours to manage (at that time) a community of almost 13,000 members, aside from trying to grow a clothing line, HellBabes, and picking up part-time sponsorship jobs to create some sort of income.

Initially I jumped in wanting to bring the HellBabes brand into wholesale but quickly ended up taking over as the Community Director for The Litas, which allowed Jess to focus on growing HellBabes and get back to her passion for creative design. Freeing up her time would allow us to generate enough income to help both sustain The Litas and also afford a small team to make things scalable.

In 2019 I decided to come home and activate The Litas Vancouver and we’ve since grown to over 400 members in our branch. After taking over as The Litas Vancouver founder I realized how many others had a similar story to mine and used motorcycles as a source of meditation. To say we’ve created strong bonds doesn’t even begin to do it justice. These women have not only changed my life but have become absolute rocks for everyone around them.

Tell me one of your most memorable stories from your time on the road with The Litas Vancouver.

God, there are so many. This year, 11 of us decided to travel down to Portland for The1MotoShow. It had been a while since all of us had been together for a road trip – the pandemic and Vancouver’s winter weather were mostly to blame for that. We had this moment, leaving The1MotoShow, where we found ourselves laugh-crying or sobbing, being stared at by all these burly biker dudes. As we passed them we were blasting “Higher Love” by Kygo & Whitney Houston, releasing all these pent up emotions, telling each other how much we love each other and couldn’t imagine not having found each other – we couldn’t imagine not having each other in our lives. This happens on almost all of our road trips – the absolute amazement of the fact that motorcycles bring us together, but the bonds we create are life-long.

To be honest, each and every time we host a ride or event and over 40 women show up, or 10+ brand new riders, it just leaves me speechless. I know how hard it can be to put yourself out there, especially in a massive community of women bikers, and it’s so empowering to see them just keep showing up time after time.

I’ve noticed that a lot of your locally organized meet-ups and rides are food-related…and also that you tend to support lots of local small businesses (like the Drive Canteen, and La Casa Gelato) which of course we love! Tell me more about your motivation and how/why you choose certain spots?

I think if anyone has the reach and opportunity to be able to support small/locally-owned businesses, especially after the last two years, it’s so important to do so. We also can’t just show up and overwhelm a business or take away from their regular clientele, so we try and find a slower day with self-seating/counter service and work with the small businesses to make sure our visits are beneficial and ‘easy’. Easy parking spots for motorcycles is also a bonus. We try to make sure we support women owned/run businesses and have spent time at Old Crow Coffee in New West and Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge. We are always on the lookout for other small businesses to support!

“There are days where you feel like you are going way too fast when you are barely moving, and vice versa. Speed has nothing to do with your ability and everything to do with where your head is at in that very moment. You can scream, laugh, cry and sing all you want, but just be.”

Tell me something big that you’ve learnt or realized since joining The Litas, that even non-motorcycle-riders can take away from.

Because your mind can’t drift much while riding, it inevitably forces you to be in the moment. You can only see so far ahead and momentarily look in your rearview, so otherwise it’s all about what’s here and now. There isn’t the space to worry and overthink. One of the reasons we all get on our bikes is to work through our emotions, whatever they might be that day. You get this moment to not only appreciate the friends you’re riding with, ultimately, you get to appreciate yourself – where you are, right in that place. You get to just be.

I believe that how you literally move through the world has a big influence on how you experience and view it, as well as on your overall world view. How do you think that motorcycling has uniquely affected or inspired your personal take on life?

I think riding on my own was a very personal mission in the beginning. I wanted to ride hard, leave certain things behind and push my body to the max. When I first started riding with others, I would get frustrated at how many times we stopped or the length of time it took to get back on the road. Letting go of what I though I wanted, realizing I had nothing to prove and opening up my journey to others, allowed me to not only hear their stories but truly enjoy the small moments experienced while stopped on the side of the road.

What’s your motto when you’re on the road?

Just be. There are days where you feel like you are going way too fast when you are barely moving, and vice versa. Speed has nothing to do with your ability and everything to do with where your head is at in that very moment. You can scream, laugh, cry and sing all you want, but just be.

Do you have a road anthem? And, if so, what is it?

I actually don’t listen to any music or have headphones in, ever. I’ll happily ride 16-hour days just listening to my own thoughts and singing whatever song comes to mind. Although I can say that our group has been psycho-listening to “Big Energy” by Latto for the last couple months. It’s our 2022 anthem, for sure.

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Which places in BC are you most looking forward to riding to this summer, and why?

Our local campgrounds have become a little hectic, so I’m excited to explore places like Gladstone campground on Christina Lake, the Sunshine Coast to Island loop, and hopefully riding up to Prince Rupert.

What’s your ultimate dream destination? How come?

Oh, so many. I’m planning Vietnam and Belize next year, but The Litas now has over 24,000 riders in 34 countries so I would absolutely love to meet our branches in Dubai, Lebanon and Jakarta also.

What’s the one thing (eg: a place, food, sight, or sign) that you’d absolutely insist on pulling over for during a ride?

Anything that looks mom and pop style – places that have been around forever and might be a little run down, but that you can tell are still around because they are run with pure love and passion. (Eg: Northern Cafe!)

When you see signs for windy roads or “sharp turns next 10 miles” it always brings the biggest smile to your face, but I am always persuaded to stop by a good-looking water hole, hot spring or cliff jumping spot.

Tell me about an unexpected stop or encounter during a ride that stands out in your mind.

It’s always wild when you have to stop for a heard of animals crossing the the road, whether in the wild or on an open range. Cows, buffalo, elephants (Thailand), you name it! A moose is something I am terrified of, though, and will always pin it by – those beauties are massive but very unpredictable.

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