In the fall of 2013, well on her way to a teaching degree, Alyssa Salemi got checked out for what seemed like a minor injury. Five months later, after a herculean battle with a systemic infection that nearly took her life, she would leave her last of multiple hospitals as a below the knee (BK) amputee, still very much fighting to save her remaining leg, with a life turned upside down.

Salemi’s life started right side up, in suburban Mesa, Arizona. She grew up like a lot of kids, and with parents who weren’t the outdoorsy type, she was heavily involved in team sports until an opportunity arose in her junior year of high school.

“My school was really small, so we got to do a lot more field trips and things. At some point, we convinced a teacher to take us camping near Tucson. We learned a lot about Arizona geology and history, we went spelunking, hiking and camped for two nights…That was my very first camping trip and it just felt right,” recalls Salemi.

She continued to get more into the outdoors at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, hiking and, more and more, heading out with friends in their 4x4’s. “We were out doing something [outdoors] almost every weekend. The off-roading was so much fun, I couldn’t wait until I could afford my own…I’d wanted a Tacoma since high school!”

It was in her final year of school that her life changed forever.

“I told them I wanted to keep my other leg. At that point I was just happy go home with a prosthetic and a salvaged leg”, she explained. “I fought really hard to keep it, but it didn’t last.”


A few years later, after working hard to rebuild some relative normalcy, Salemi says, “I felt like I was kind of back to life; a different life, but I had a schedule – I had a routine again.” She had somehow figured out how to nanny, tutor and more, while still dealing with ongoing complications with skin grafts and learning to adapt to life with a prosthetic and a compromised leg.

At some point though, things began changing for the worse. “I didn’t realize it then, but my boyfriend at the time and friends noticed that my stamina was like half of what it used to be when we first met and I thought, ‘Oh, you’re right, my leg really has been in more pain and my ankle really hasn’t been doing that well’”, said Salemi.

She’d been putting off any more doctor visits to avoid the likely inevitability of losing her other leg and she’d had a bad experience with adapting to her first prosthetic. However, the exam results were not good: Her bones were thinning and could break under her own weight. No more walking without a walker or…

After much research and contemplation, Salemi ended up traveling to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for her last procedure in September of 2019. With the luxury of a what was, in a way, a voluntary procedure, the second one went much better and the second prosthetic was “like night and day” compared to the first. Eight weeks of rehab later, she left Boston to return home in Arizona, and the Tacoma she’d gotten less than two years ago, but it was a very different truck by now.

While Alyssa was prepping for her life-altering trip to Boston, her friends back home had big plans too. She’d done some armoring and other basic mods to the truck as she was getting more and more into overlanding (or “off-roading and camping” as she sees it more simply) but like many of us, was doing what she could as she could afford it.

“After my amputation, my friends and boyfriend at the time took my truck and modded it out to make it, just more fun,” she recalled. “I knew they had my truck, but they were like, ‘We’re just going to add some new wheels and tires’ .”

Her friends began reaching out to the overlanding community for help. They explained who it was for and that they really just wanted to get their friend back on the trails. The response was overwhelming.

“It was so, so sweet and I am so incredibly grateful that there are people in the community like that. I could see it from my apartment when I got home, before I could drive, and I just thought it looked so good, it deserved an Instagram page.”

@holdmycoffee_az came about as a parody of the decidedly more Bro-ish “Hold my beer” and now, though still dialing in her prosthetics and learning the ins and outs of remote travel with them, Alyssa is back on the trails and her iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini is an asset she can’t be without.

“It used to take me a half hour to pack up a soft rooftop tent. I can’t get on my tippytoes to reach things and climbing up and down on my truck to get it packed was exhausting. I just posted videos of me opening and packing my iKamper and each was less than 2.5 minutes. It was a total gamechanger for me.”

Asked about why overlanding is her go-to activity, Salemi adds, “I just love being outdoors, but hiking just isn’t really an option for me right now. Arizona is just so hot, and hiking puts a lot of wear and tear on my legs. Overlanding gets me out. I get to go where my legs would definitely struggle. It gives me the freedom and mobility go and see things I just couldn’t get to otherwise. I also really like the teamwork involved with friends. Spotting each other and figuring out how to get through sections…even working together to set up tarps to stay dry…I love it all.”

Her bucket list trip is Australia and New Zealand, (“I want to see all the different landscapes of Australia…and see a kangaroo and hold a koala bear!”), but her favorite trips thus far have been the San Juan’s of Colorado.

“The Colorado trips I’ve done through Ouray, Telluride and Silverton have been the prettiest and my favorites thus far. The views, the trails–Black Bear and Imogene Pass were great–the friends…honestly, it was all amazing.”

Asked if she thought it was a bigger hurdle to be a female or a double amputee in the overlanding world, Salemi said, “Oooo…That’s a tough one. I’m going to have to go with being an amputee. In the last few years, I’ve found some really solid female groups out there that I can get out with…but I only know a few amputees that overland and two of them are single arm amputees and the other a single leg. But they are out there. That’s what I’d like to help people with on @holdmycoffee_az – letting people know that there’s always a path through or around whatever you think is blocking you. And that just starting somewhere, like getting out into the community and meeting people, is a great way to start whatever you want to do. Maybe you’ll met someone that’s nervous about the same thing you are, and together you can figure out the path around it.”

And finally, reflecting on giving yourself space and grace when trying something new, Salemi shared this: “It’s also important for people to remember that it takes a lot of energy to move around on prosthetics – maybe 2-3 times more. Sometimes I feel that I’m not putting in a full day’s worth of activities compared to other people, but my body will feel like I did and that’s a hard thing to get over mentally. I really, really want to be out there with my friends on hikes and things, but I can’t if I want to save energy for standing around making dinner and hanging out at camp. It’s really hard to adapt to that–and I don’t want pity or anything– but it’s important to advocate for yourself and whatever you need to be outdoors.”

I caught Alyssa with her beloved Tacoma on a lift, working out some issues with her suspension, but she’s already planning to escape the Arizona heat to her favorite alpine trails, making the most of the summer and beyond. Be sure to tune in and follow her adventures on Instagram @holdmycoffee_az as she continues to seek and find those paths around whatever’s standing in her way.