life lately // 5 countries and 9 thousand miles and falling in love

We need the tonic of wilderness - to wade sometimes in the marshes where the bittern and the meadow hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wild and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.

At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us, because they are unfathomable. 

 - Thoreau

this entire year has found me in a constant series of accidental explorations. since the last time i really updated, i have been through costa rica, ohio, florida, the virgin islands, las vegas, big sur, san francisco, yosemite, denver, france, belgium, mexico, and the entire length of the united states (from north carolina to california) in a big hippie van filled with six creative beauties...

since the last time i wrote, i have hiked mountains and pyramids and city buildings and islands. i have slept in tents and cars and airports and bookstores and on strangers' floors all across america. I have flown on about 40 flights in 5 countries, and have driven/ridden upwards of 9,000 miles. i have cried over broken relationships, bonded with beautiful friends, and have fallen blissfully in love with the man of my dreams, in the most unlikely of places. i have been content and excited and filled with regret. i've been drunk and strong and helpless and incandescently happy and i don't even know where to begin. 

friends have been asking me lately where in the world i am, and, "why haven't you been posting?" and, "when will you start writing again?"

well friends, i love you, and i am so thrilled that you want to hear my stories. but i have been mostly homeless and nomadic for about 5 months now...

after 3 months of living out of the van during our big road trip, my love and i escaped to vegas to decompress with family and retrieve my car. we then started our own road trip from vegas, up the pacific coast highway, to volunteer with a small off-the-grid community in southern oregon. we recently left the farm to attend His aunt's wedding in wine country, and now we are pet-sitting and playing house in san jose while the lovely newly-wed aunt is off on her honeymoon.

it's the strangest thing... to have lived out of a van all summer with 6 people, in a situation where we had very little money, and then none at all---where we had to play music on the streets for gas money, and sometimes dumpster dive for food, and always rely on the love of friends and strangers to put us up.

then to a secluded cabin in the mountains, where we walked through quiet woods, worked with our hands in the sun, swam naked in a freezing creek, and ate food straight from the garden.

and now to be drinking a local pinot noir in a well-lit living room in silicone valley. my love is sitting near, writing a song on the guitar. the pets are lounging, happy in the sun. and we are reveling in the calm before the inevitable unrest of next week's homelessness.

where will this wild ride take us next?

at the end of this week, we will start making our way north again, through san francisco and portland, to finally settle in seattle. 

because, to be totally honest, i am fucking exhausted. ever since this year began, i have been looking to stay put for a while and start building foundations in a new place. but costa rica was already planned. and creative work took me to the caribbean again. and serendipitous opportunities took me to california multiple times. and when a friend invites you to stay at their studio in montmarte or visit their mansion in ghent, how can you say no, right? and what if a friend insists you join in on the beatnik-style hippie-van-road-trip-across-america you've always been dreaming of? you sure as hell say YES. 

so i said yes. and i fell in love. i learned to whistle and play the ukulele. i saw this country in a whole new light. and i wouldn't trade it for all the sleep in the world.

but now i'm ready. and he's ready. and we're headed to a home we've both been dreaming of since before we knew each other, even though it's not quite there yet. 

because really, we have nothing... nothin' but the same clothes we've been living in all along, a few plants, a couple bags of food, a heap of books, and our instruments. we have one small car, and soon, it seems we'll be getting the van back. 

it's going to be one of the most intense challenges so far, but i've got a handsome best friend and we are determined. in the end, it'll all have been worth it.

because, "life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all."

airport musings // on ripped suitcases and belongings and overpacked minds

Written in my journal on 4/10/2014:

i’m sitting on the floor of the charlotte douglas international airport all by myself at 1am. there is sand in my dready hair and bruises on my traveled limbs and a growing hole at the bottom of the old duffel bag i’ve been living out of for the past two months.

the bag is literally bursting at the seams from the marry-poppins amount of content i’ve been keeping in it. a hammock, a tent, a yoga mat, two towels, three pairs of shoes and a truly modest amount of clothing are all in fantastic danger of being strewn across america tomorrow morning, when i fly back to the heathen lands of las vegas.

i’d mourn the hammock and the tent for their growing usefulness in my life, but not the clothes so much. they smell of caribbean sand and florida sweat and ohio snow and that cold costa rican river water i last washed them in. 

i’ve worn each article of clothing so many times on my travels over the past couple years that they just don’t mean anything to me anymore. kind of like when you say a word over and over and over, until it doesn’t make any sense and sounds like gibberish. it doesn't make the word any less of a real word, but you question, "wait, what does this mean again?"

these clothes, though useful and once beautiful to me, have become redundant. these things i once spent money on because i thought they'd make me momentarily happy, or would somehow define ME and my style, have been stripped of that imaginary value and reduced to their practicality. will this be comfortable on an airplane? can i hike a mountain in these? would this be weird to hitchhike in? could i dance until sunrise and then fall asleep in these? 

you're bound to reevaluate the value of your possessions when you have to carry them on your back everywhere you go. and material things simply aren't worth so much when you're getting richer-than-a-king off of invaluable, mind-blowing experiences. 

so after carrying the weight of these things for so long, you get to a point where you're like, "yeah, whatever. i can let that awesome shirt go. i've had my way with it."

like this long, flowy tribal skirt i was given at a bar the other night in the virgin islands...

i complimented a passing girl on the skirt she was wearing, had a quick conversation with her about traveling, and five minutes later, she appeared next to me again wearing shorts, with the pretty skirt in her outstretched hand.

a random, selfless gesture, which i am wearing as i type because it's my new favorite thing/story/present-ever-received-from-a-stranger-in-a-bar. ;)

it's not everyday you compliment somebody on their clothes and then they almost immediately strip them off just to give to you... that sort of radical detachment from ego is the sort of thing i want to stand up and applaud. 

but this girl was a traveler too. and we nomads have come to know the real worth of these material possessions---skirts and shirts and boots and things---the things you don't even remember you own until you go home and find them hiding in the corner of your closet. they are only worth what you do in them. and what i really mean is, they’re meant to be worn in fantastical places on a weekly basis for months or years on end, until your perception of their worth transcends their monetary value.

because then, their value exists in the photographs of you twirling on that faraway beach with your best friends. their value exists in the memories of the things you conquered while in them. the way they made you FEEL in them, in those moments that changed the way you look at the world forever. 

once you appreciate your experiences in those physical things more than the things themselves, it’s easy to let them go. to recycle them. to give them away. to pass them on to the next wide-eyed, adoring girl, who will wear that skirt like it's brand new and give it a whole new life of badass experiences.

so for the sake of posterity, once i’ve had my fun with this skirt---once it's exhausted its worth with me---i’ll pass it on to the next appreciative girl along my journey.

just like i did with the sunglasses i found on the beach in st thomas, and then accidentally (drunkenly) lost on the beach in barcelona (and secretly hope somebody finds, cherishes, and then drunkenly loses on another beach in another awesome part of the world!).

because that’s the best thing you can do with something really useful---SHARE IT. ...discover it, try it on for size, learn from it, grow in it, and then pass it on! 

you see, it’s been two entire months on the road(/mountain/island/sea), and my brain feels just about as jam-packed as my luggage. as much as i CAN'T WAIT to unpack my dirty travel gear, wash it and put it in its place or give it away, i also CANNOT WAIIITTTT to empty the contents of my very full and scattered brain. to unpack all these lessons and revelations and manifestations. to line them up, clean them off and maybe even polish them. so that i can share. so that they can have a whole new life with someone who's never worn them before. 

as i sit here in the loud silence of this massive airport, the core of my very being feels like it could spontaneously combust from all of the loving and learning and hilarity that I've reveled in lately. i want to hug every human i know and collapse into a coma at the same time. 

it's the same way i felt when i returned from europe last summer. because traveling, and really living deliberately, doesn't afford much time to step back and look at everything i'm experiencing from an outside perspective. to put the chaos of my thoughts into an orderly peace. and to share with people who could relate to/laugh at/learn from them.

this is all to say, i am so excited to go home (or to the semblance of it anyway), and to just BE there. to once again rest my tired mind in a real bed (hallelujah!) near a real fridge (not a tent or a backpack or a friend's fridge!) where i can keep real veggies to heal my tired cells. to do yoga and meditate on a regular basis. to read and learn and digest, until i feel revived enough to share. 

ohhhh, i believe in the good things comin', comin', comin', comin'!

and, as always, i love YOU for being present in this journey, and your own! light it up!

a belated review of 2013, part deux

a very belated review of my 2013, because i was on a boat out at sea. also! it's the chinese new year, so that counts! year of the horse, woop woop! :) see part one here!

AUGUST: we house-sat for a wonderful dutch couple for over two weeks in MALTA. we explored surrounding islands, silent cities, and countless sunsets in the most magnificent settings. and on that windy balcony, i learned about sound frequencies and energy vibrations and quantum mechanics. i flew back to paris, reunited with a friend from the islands, travelled to a beach town called deauville, explored the cliffs of normandy, said goodbye to europe, and finally flew back to the states.

SEPTEMBER: i went back to ohio and again replenished my tired, traveled bones. i did my first real juice cleanse, caught up on writing, read a few books, and saw the avett brothers perform in cleveland. i reached out to the couchsurfing community and brought together ten of the coolest people i've ever met. and at the end of the month, on my way back to vegas, i visited a dear friend in jacksonville

OCTOBER: i lived in vegas with family for a month. I got addicted to hot yoga, played in the mountains, went to my first vegas club, worked at anthropologie, quit materialism, discovered the downtown vegas arts community, christine visited, annnd i volunteered for the Life is Beautiful festival

NOVEMBER: i went back to ohio to surprise my mom for her birthday. we road-tripped to kentucky and i got to finally see where her side of the family came from. in the process, i saved, trained, fell in love with, and said goodbye to a sweet beagle puppy named shiloh. i spent invaluable time with some really special people, and got to see snow fall before leaving again. i spent thanksgiving in central florida with my cousin (favorite person ever) and his family. i recharged my mind at christine's beach house. and i may or may not have gotten my first tattoo with her ;)

DECEMBER: i traveled from daytona to ohio to vegas and then returned to the virgin islands! i reunited with a community of people that i truly love. i learned how to sail a monohull, and then filled in on my old catamaran and the new monohull. i spent christmas with my best friends and some awesome strangers. and i rang in the new year at a bonfire on beach with free champagne and some of the brightest stars i've ever seen.

 

2013 was the wildest ride of my life, thus far.

skimming over this summary reminds me of just how much i accomplished, what adversities i overcame, and all of the incredible friends i made along the way. but more than anything, it reminds me that i lived as deliberately and as freely as was physically possible for me. 

we humans have the toxic tendency to doubt ourselves on a daily basis. we sometimes hesitate toward the unsure future, and look back on past actions with regret. but to regret something in the past is to wish away a valuable lesson which would invariably detract from who we are.

there were times this past year, where i wished i had taken more advantage of the moment. times where i wished i had gone somewhere else.  times i wished i'd spent my money differently. there were nights i drank a bit too much. and some moments where i wished i could've simply kept my mouth shut.

but those times--those moments--were merely brief, mental traffic-jams of self-doubt... doubt in myself and in the perfection that is this creation we are all weaving. looking back, i now know that every little thing happened just the way it was meant to.

because i wasn't made to keep my mouth shut when my heart is loud. and every place i went to provided puzzle pieces for some epic realizations that i wouldn't trade for anything. and those drunken nights? well they taught me my limits, and made for some hilarious stories that i will never get tired of telling.

so i do not regret. i write. and in truth, i write about my life for ME---to force myself to reflect, to learn, and to acknowledge the purpose of this path i've chosen. and if in the process there is the slightest chance that the events of my life, the things i learn, or the wild situations i find myself in can somehow inspire someone reading along to live their life deliberately---to live with purpose and to consciously move toward fulfilling their dreams---well, that alone makes it worth it to me. 

i love you all. really, i do. and i wish you all a wild and fulfilling 2014! xoxo

the root of all happiness*

i'd like to officially shout out a loud and resounding THANK YOU to everyone who did so much as put a smile on my face during my 3 month journey abroad.

thank you to every host who provided shelter, to every family that took me in, to every friend who shared food, to every bastard (kidding) who bought me alcohol, to every gypsy king who provided warmth, to every tree that held me, to every driver who had sympathy for tired hitchhikers, to every cop who didn't get angry, to every creep who illuminated a circle of angels, and especially to every stranger who took a chance and became a dear friend---for every talk, every touch, every bout of laughter, every sweet exchange. THANK YOU. an infinite, ever-lasting thank you.

this 'thank you' is a little late, and a little vague, but something about expressing it is significant nonetheless. something in the verbalization of gratefulness brings about immediate satisfaction---happiness multiplied. 

one night in paris, a handsome french man and i walked hand-in-hand and shouted out our thanks along the seine. we were on our way to meet with friends for a picnic as the sun set, and in that moment, everything felt so lively and wonderful. the feeling bubbled up inside us and spilled out in exclamations that echoed around the riverbank. "thank you universe! thank you paris! thank you sunshine! thank you friends! thank you red wine! thank you music! thanks for cheese and laughter and functional cars and midnight kisses!" and on and on and on until all the things we were thankful for blended into one big mass of happy energy.

there's nothing in the world more precious than thankfulness. it is the root of all happiness.

i felt it almost every day of my travels. because every experience was a new, unique lesson. but that newness isn't particular to travel, it's just more visible that way.  

it's so easy to forget to be grateful once things in our lives become routine. we begin appreciating what we have less, because we forget how fleeting everything is. i'm intent on bringing that same traveling gratitude home---of reminding myself on a daily basis that there is an intrinsic beauty in every moment. 

if we could simply maintain the childlike wonder that we apply when we're on an adventure---that lens of vibrant color, the kaleidoscope eyes that see the spectacular in the seemingly mundane---then we would have IT... the perspective, the sight, the grateful appreciation that is the key to absolute bliss.

try to have kaleidescope eyes, always.

In

a(nother) sliema sunset

  journal entry from 8/06/13

sunsets from this maltese balcony are some sort of masterpiece. watching them has become a ritual, which I take sacred steps to face this time of day.

i never know it’s starting until a golden spotlight shines through the open floor-to-ceiling windows of the living room, letting me know that molten globe is low enough in the sky to start spilling colors on the horizon. 

it shines directly inward, as if to call me out from the dimly lit space I’ve been inhabiting all day---the quiet place that's diligently hidden me from the stifling afternoon heat. when the sun summons me, I come out into the elements and greet it---totally entranced.

it starts the process of sinking into the limestone of the hillside directly across from me, on the other side of this deep harbor i face. the ripples on the surface of the water shine gold below bobbing sailboats, which look like mere toys from this 9th story railing. 

i relish in the sight of the softening hues and the tickle of a gradually cooling breeze. whisping grasses beside me cast shadows on the sunset-tinted wall. and the sun paints a stream of rosy haze over the buildings below it, like a pink filter over all the spots that will soon turn very dark.

lower, it goes, and saturates as it melts onto the horizon. i scoot my chair up to the railing, for a better view of all that is quickly changing. the people in the swimming area below are getting some last splashes in before darkness consumes the water and takes away its transparency, the waters soon becoming one never-ending mass of unknown.

lower, it goes, and tiny lights begin to gleam throughout st juliens. the sky is still the bluest of blues directly above, but gradually lightens into a gradient that turns pink. the pink blends with purple and lines the horizon as far as I can see. and the purple blends into the darkening blues of the ocean. a darkness by depth, that never ends.

lower, it goes, and sets all the houses on the hillside aflame. i can't tear my third eye away. once it touches the horizon, the sinking accelerates. and then, in a moment, it’s gone. and all that’s left is its residual half hemisphere of color, to let us know it's still somewhere. the hillside is hiding it, holding it, harnessing its incredible warmth.

and then all the lights of malta turn on, like the hillside that consumed the sun disbursed its energy all over this modest little country. and the lights, they'll gleam, until the sun shows up again, on the other side of the island.

a dutch date

i hadn't been on a date, a real date, in too long to remember. years, maybe? and when i say date, i mean the hey-i'll-pick-you-up-at-this-time-and-take-you-somewhere-beautiful-and-then-drop-you-off-at-home-because-i-like-you kind of date. maybe because i was in a long, too-comfortable relationship all throughout college. and then i moved to st thomas... and that sort of chivalry just doesn't happen on that tiny island. everyone already knows each other, and it's just... not that sort of place. 

so this was a long time coming. and i appreciated it so much -- more than i think he knows. 

he picked me up at "my place", and when i went downstairs to the entrance, all 6 and 1/2 feet of him was leaning against his parked bicycle in a collared shirt, looking so suave. he diligently translated dutch poetry scribbled on the sidewalk, just cause i was curious. something about trains and bridges and opening opportunities. i was too enamored in the romance of the moment to remember. i hung on his every word in a way that meant i forgot the ones before it. i hopped on the back of his bike and clung to the buttons on his chest. cobblestone blurred below my dangling feet as we gained speed. he drove us past a neighborhood of nautical murals on purpose, because he knows how much i miss the sea. we caught a ferry past a sunken submarine at sunset. we had drinks while sitting in old pieces of boat, overlooking the rippling water and the quickly igniting city lights. we talked about everything you'd ever want to talk about with someone you're just getting to know. there were blankets and a bon fire and a bright round moon. and there was respect and honesty and chivalry. and a restored sense of hope--hope because, although the night was fleeting, it was perfect. and that exists. and that's enough, for now.