"I'm not trying to send you out "on the road" in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that -- no one HAS to do something he doesn't want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that's what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You'll have lots of company." --Hunter S. Thompson
for the past couple days, for reasons that have nothing to do with mother's day, we've all been watching home videos from when ryan and i were wee little toddlers. we've been laughing hysterically at all of the funny things our mini selves did...
like when i tried to get into the toy stroller that was meant for my baby dolls. and when ryan tried 7 different ways to sit in a chair before finally getting it right and resting with the widest triumphant smile. and when i ran to throw my mom a floatie because she was swimming in the deep end and i was worried. and when ryan started calling me "feffy" because he couldn't pronounce "stefanie"... *yes, that nickname has become something of a fixture in my life--friends love to latch onto it.*
but more importantly, those home videos showed proof of what a flawless momma my dear mother was. not that i needed reminding--i'm witness to her wonderful spirit everyday. but there's something about seeing her interact with us from an outside perspective that makes me extra appreciative of all that she's done.
and what a BEAUTY, amiright?
so yesterday i had the unique opportunity to spoil my mom ON mother's day because we were in the same town for once! i surprised her in the morning with a huge bouquet of flowers and a card. i treated her to breakfast and a dinner. and we spent the entire day in front of the fireplace talking about motherhood and growing up and why people are the way they are. always enlightening, that mother of mine.
mom, you're great. i love you.
+my brother and father have forever jaded me by being the greatest gentleman ever and opening every damn door i've ever walked through. i consequently expect it of all men and am continually disappointed.
+i was a stylish toddler. thanks mom, you rock.
+boys like waiting to confess their love for you until AFTER you've flown away and it's all too late. how rude, right?
+chubby baby hands waving "hiii" is just about the cutest thing ever. along with this.
+i want to be sophia coppola when i grow up.
+i cannot in fact eat kit-kats everyday without consequence. major bummer (i pretend to not know this all the time, ha).
+when a good friend calls me just to compliment my writing, it makes my whole damn day.
+it's people that matter most. i'll elaborate in an upcoming post.
here's a picture preview of a little st thomas video i put together--it's made up of the few pieces of footage i took with my canon while living in the caribbean. the video (coming tomorrow) and these pictures make me wanna go for a nice, long turtle cove swim REAL BAD.
+of still not having unpacked my suitcases from st thomas... i wonder if it's an act of denial... or rebellion? or laziness? bingo!
+of refusing to trim my sun-damaged hair and trying every conditioning mask i can find instead. i like my natural highlights too much to cut!
+of missing my st thomas family A WHOLE LOT. i wish i could carry them all around in my pocket.
+of owning way too many things for my simple lifestyle, yet not really wanting to let them go. anyone want some of my stuff? take it, please!
+of not knowing where in the world to start my travels. i'm being tugged so many different directions and i'm a little too overwhelmed to pinpoint my ambition. i have faith that it'll come to me soon enough. :)
i just found pictures from a winter here in ohio--captured on my canon t50 film camera. i'm kind of smitten with the quality of them and will definitely be taking more film this week, because ohio just looks real good in it. check out fall in film (there are bits of NYC and chicago in there, too).
my big brother flew in this morning! he'll be staying the week with us, which is nice because we tend to laugh incessantly when we're all together. and this home is such a cozy place for family to gather. it reminds me of christmas.
happy first monday of may! i hope flowers are blooming wherever you are. here in OHIO, i've been helping my mom redecorate her backyard and garden. it's still a little too chilly for my liking, but the neighborhoods have erupted with the prettiest colors, so i can't complain. i've also been busy designing this new website of mine, reading some hemingway, and making exciting travel plans with friends.
i think this is a hilarious, spot on depiction of hemingway.
speaking of hemingway and fitzgerald, the great gatsby comes out this weekend and I AM SO STOKED.
if you haven't seen lars and the real girl, get your hands on it immediately. ryan gosling like you'd never ever imagine him.
also, pirate radio--an incredibly hilarious true story about keeping rock and roll alive.
22 of the dreamiest looking places in the world.
meg fee has some poignant things to say about avoiding sugar.
bradley cooper dressed as jennifer anniston... enough said.
a fantastic quote by hemingway.
and here's a little pep talk to get you through the week ;) have a good one!
if i were to someday write a book about my time in st thomas, i'd write of beach bonfire parties beneath a multitude of stars, sliding around rusty truck beds with a gang of friends, swimming daily with vibrant sea creatures i saw more frequently than people, and sailing into the sunset with a boat full of sunburnt strangers from all over the world.
i'd write of skinny palm trees rustling right outside my condo balcony and views of overlapping islands on the horizon and water that has the same salinity as our tears--of water so clear and so blue that it looks about 5 feet deep when it's actually 30--of water so salty and dense that our bodies could just float at the surface without even moving our limbs.
and i'd write in depth about things i can't quite publish right now.
...i'd write about boatie drama--all of the interwoven relationships and the rampant substance abuse and the wildest nights i've ever experienced. i'd write about falling a little bit in love with a boy i hardly knew, and then got to know so well that i loved him in an entirely different way. about walking along the waterfront just for the sake of walking, and because there was nowhere else to go on that tiny island. i'd write about the death that shook me for weeks--about the name that's engrained in my mind for eternity. i'd write about the everlasting bond that's created when something so intense is experienced together. about friends you could never forget.
i'd write of underwater glances and secret embraces and all sorts of new strengths.
i'd write about the incredible friendships, the heartache, the total loss of self-control, and the sort of happiness that
because you're just so damn vulnerable and there's just so far to fall.
st thomas was a place that was all-consuming. i lived it and breathed it, and had no time for anything but those island antics. i met new people everyday, both foreign and local. i lived incredible stories that felt part of a novel. and i felt as content as any single girl could feel working on a sailboat in the caribbean.
but more importantly than
, i'd write something that would ignite a spark in readers, and encourage them to step out of their comfy routines--to be brave and take a gamble with failure for the chance that it could bring extreme happiness--not the mundane happiness from watching a favorite television show or doing what you're told, but the sort of happiness that terrifies you because it's so great that you're afraid it's somehow not real or that it'll disappear too easily. the kind of happiness that makes you dizzy because you're so high and vulnerable that you know it'll hurt real bad if you fall down.
my experience in the virgin islands left such an imprint on my soul that couldn't possibly be smudged out any time soon. i've become a calmer, less judgmental and all around happier person because of it. i know the meaning of patience and the importance of compassion more than ever before. and i certainly have a better concept of time... island time.
and in terms of time, i know that now is my chance to roam about as much as possible. though i thoroughly enjoyed st thomas, there's so much more to explore. now's my time to fly free and seek an even greater variety of character. to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."
the islands were only the beginning.
we packed up a cooler of tasty refreshments and headed east in sophie's jeep. we savored fruity rum cocktails on the windy ride from redhook to the prettiest of the US virgin islands (it's legal in the VI, i promise).
we drove around the entirety of the protected island with the windows down, music blaring. and we got a little lost--but on days like those, it's nice getting lost.
when we began craving saltwater, we decided on a beach and started in its direction. but on the way we found this overlook and just couldn't pass it by.
we went down to the beach eventually, but not until after a good bit of dancing and twirling and picture taking. beach pictures coming soon!
in the meantime, here are some other fun times had at st john. i'm sure gonna miss the indescribable feeling of freedom that comes from island hopping.
i've been back in the states for a week now! it's been a bit surreal, to say the least. gotta love how you can get a nice dose of culture shock without even technically leaving the country (although st thomas sometimes felt a world away).
i flew straight into middle-of-nowhere ohio to see my mom last wednesday. i was not at all prepared for how painfully COLD it would be here. i had my mom bring me a big down feather jacket when she picked me up from the airport, aaaaand i haven't taken it off since... okay i took it off to shower. but ive showered less than i'd like to admit because this cold makes me cringe. #dontjudge
and what's worse, my dear mother didn't want to refill the oil for her heater since the winter should be over soon... so there's NO heat in the house! YAYYY! in other words, i've been perched in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine to keep warm.
also helping me cope, i ordered myself a pretty pair of green packable hunter boots, while i was still in st thomas. i'm so thoughtful sometimes ;) i figured they'd be good for traveling and farming and life. i like them so much that i've been wearing them out on days with complete sunshine.
and every time we go out, i keep telling my mom she's driving on the wrong side of the road. i only drove ONCE when i lived on the island, but just riding passenger for 6 months got me used to the ways of the roads down there. "keep left" is engrained in my subconscious. and i've yet to drive on the right again yet. i'll let you all know if something interesting comes of it ;)
and truth be told, i feel like i've just ended a six month long, wild love affair with that small dreamlike place that made up my whole universe. the things i experienced there are unlike anything i can relate to anywhere else. in fact, it's a bit of a culture shock being back in the states.
i know i'm off to bigger, more foreign things, but it's all still very vague. it's been tough to focus or make room for excitement.
so while words are currently failing me, i'll turn to music. here are a few songs that, for whatever reason, feel to me the way i feel about leaving. so here you have some seemingly sappy tunes. i swear i'm not meaning to be emo--these songs really reassure my happiness. it's just a medley of bittersweet melodies, i think. happy goodbyes with a side of uncertainty, perhaps.
in the process of packing to leave st thomas, i realized just how badly i packed before moving. i normally pride myself in my pro packing abilities (since i move and travel so much), but this packjob is not one i'm proud of...
i moved down with only two suitcases and a backpack, so i tried really hard to pack smart. buuut i way overpacked. i overestimated the island's fashion scene (ha!), and i knew i'd be living there for a while so i wanted to have options. but that was pretty dumb of me.
last week i opened the cabinets i've had closed for months and found all the clothing i figured i'd somehow maybe need on an island--button down shirts, fancy pants, and way too many dressy dresses to count. oh and a heap of jewelry that i never touched.
it turns out, people living on islands don't give a shit what you wear. st thomas, in particular, is a tiny island with a huge boating community, a few dive bars, and one not-so-cool night club. folks in the islands practically live in bathing suits anyways, but when they DO wear clothes, they more or less wear whatever is practical.
no button down shirts, no high waisted shorts, hardly ever any dresses, and certainly NO heels. i only saw a handful of women wear heels on st thomas and i immediately knew they were a trying-too-hard tourist dressed for pictures.
i didn't bring heels to the caribbean, but i did bring a plethora of useless clothing. i want to learn from that experience and make sure to pack MUCH smarter when i travel abroad.
so for those of you traveling to an island in the near future, here are the basics--all you'll need to have a good time and not stick out like a sore thumb ;)
--a baseball cap to shade your face
--backpacks are a huge must. everyone wears one on the island, because it's not insanely easy to get around, so you want to have anything you might need on your back. and backpacks are much easier to carry than purses.
--a tiny wallet to fit in your tiny backpack. nothing too bulky that'll add to the weight. also, to always have cash on hand for cabs or safaris or splitting checks.
--a bathing suit, whether you work on the water or not. because you never know when you'll feel like jumping in!
--a waterproof watch. i needed one to time my snorkel tours, but i think they're pretty useful all around. and nixon watches are the prettiest.
--short shorts, because pants are dumb. even when we first moved to the island and the mosquitos thirsted for our new blood, pants were always just way too hot. plus, your legs have never been so tan. show them off ;)
--a good read, for the beach or the boat or the bar. and because "island time" is a real thing. you never know when you'll need to pass some time.
*friends who have traveled abroad a lot or friends who live in europe!! what would you recommend packing or leaving behind? i'll be repacking soon for europe and could really use your advice! :)
this event was a beginning-of-the-season initiation of sorts. for everyone in the company to party hard and bond and go into the winter with a positive attitude. and it totally worked! i got to know everyone that day--we became a family. and boy did we party hard. can you tell?
i thought twice about posting these pictures on such a public forum (don't ask where i got that crazy hat), but since we're about to have an end-of-the-season castaway party this weekend, i thought WHY NOT. bringin' it full circle.
and hey! this blog is my promise to live deliberately. to cherish wild moments and to give a true account of my excursions. so here it is. nobody can say i didn't have any fun here ;)
a little over a week ago, there was a nice raging beach party on water island. seven DJs played on honeymoon beach, from noon til sunset. it was a sort of end-of-season/going-away-party for a lot of the yachties that left the island last week. but everyone was there.
i went with a couple of my friends around noon. the beach was pretty still when we got there. and then more and more friends trickled in. by mid-afternoon, the sand was quaking.
we walked up and down the short stretch of beach, greeting everyone we knew over and over again. even after 6 months of living here, it's pretty surreal to me that i can recognize the majority of people at a party on a random beach in the virgin islands. there were no tourists there that day. just a lot of happy friends enjoying a sunday in the sun.
i don't think i've ever posted pictures of my sapphire apartment. amber and i shared that little st vincent studio for 4 months. for the first month or so we even shared the bed... and then we realized the couch was a pull-out and every bit as comfortable as the damn bed ;) haha!
we grew to love that little space so much. because the inconveniences that came along with the apartment (zero privacy, high energy bill, lack of internet, uncomfy beds) were all forgotten when we took a peek at that incredible view. i didn't ever mind waking up at the crack of dawn to go to work when i opened my eyes to all those beautiful colors.
and it was safe and convenient. we were on the safari route, so we rarely had to hitchhike. we had a cute little gated community. redhook was right down the road. and the beach was a 5 minute walk away.
we would have friends come over on days off to hang out and play volleyball on the beach. we would go snorkeling on days off too, in case we didn't get enough of that while working ;) and i really loved being able to take long phone calls down by the water while the sun was setting.
if you ever get a chance to live by the water, take it. there's something so healing about the presence of water nearby. perhaps it's just the perspective of how small you are against the great mass of it, which makes anything troubling you seem pretty insignificant.
it does wonders for the soul.
i had every intention of leaving the house today, now that i'm feeling a bit better. but it's been pouring on and off all morning, and i'm definitely not up for hitchhiking in the rain. it's like mother nature is making sure i stay in and rest until i'm 100%. #yesmom
then it was my turn to dive! greg the instructor took me out one-on-one, which was oh so nice of him. he knows that i'm a good swimmer and free diver, so i got to skip the redundant first steps and get on with the diving. as soon as he knew i could equalize properly, we went straight to 45 feet.
and just like that i was hanging out at the shipwreck, able to touch it and analyze it and really take it in. it was unbelievably cool to finally see something up close that i had been looking at from a distance for 6 months. i got a fairly close look every time i'd free dive, but it's not easy to soak it all in when you're holding your breath.
at the shipwreck, i looked up and could see the snorkel tours at the surface. the divers call snorkelers "butt fish" because all you can see is their butts, although if they were snorkeling properly, you'd see them floating face down. i looked up and i knew the chaos that was happening at the surface--the people splashing, kids crying, parents trying to adjust gear. thinking of all that noise made me that much happier to be right where i was, 45 feet below it.
i was so happy in the serenity of our depth.
being that far underwater is like being in a different world. the life down there is quiet and calm, yet vibrant and exciting. it's an incredible new perspective. to not only swim down and point at fish for a moment, but to actually swim along with them and watch them. it felt like i was a part of their world--not just an ordinary observer.
for the afternoon trip, we went to two new spots. we went to a spot called "cow and calf" (two rocks sticking out of the water that pirates used to think were a whale and its calf), and a spot called "barges", which is basically a set of underwater navy barges covered in the most beautiful coral. diving those three beautiful spots all in one day? it sort of blew my mind.
i'm going to try and get my open water scuba certification before i leave! the diving guys said they could get me certified for cheap, so i figure i should take advantage of that, right? i think this is one of those things that i'd regret later on if i didn't do it. hey remember that time i lived in the caribbean and knew all the diving instructors and could've gotten certified for next to nothin? i should've done that! yyyeah, i don't like the word "should've", so i'm going to avoid that scenario and just do it ;)