paris, mon amour

i flew to paris by myself last june, on a total whim. 

a dear friend of mine invited me to visit her home in belgium, so that was reason enough for my last transatlanticism... but then another sweet girl from my hometown (who's been writing me for some time about her impending romp through europe) urged me to meet up with her somewhere along her route.

so time and space came together just right, and then there i was sitting cross-legged on a west-bound metro train into the city---my two travel bags propped up on the seat next to me like a lumpy companion, dewy sunshine glowing on the blurry terraces speeding by my window, and the somber early-morning chaos of chatelet / les halles straight ahead. 

it was a sunday morning, and the station was filled with all the young parisians who were just finishing their saturday night, stilled covered in glitter and paint, sleepy-eyed and soft-spoken and even more beautiful than i remembered. 

i was invited to stay with my french friend chloe, in her studio just down the steps from sacre coeur. but my plane arrived too early for a weekend and i didn't want to wake my sweet host. so i waited at one of my favorite cafes for a few hours---on the busiest street in montmarte, with the most beautiful view of the church above.

i never mind sitting at a parisian cafe alone, but this morning was particularly extraordinary. the sky was gorgeous and the tourists shuffled by quietly and my waiter began an innocent flirtation by bringing me a single, free pink macaroon. 

but soon the innocence of a tiny pastry turned into passing smiles and winks. and then, before my caffeine even set in, my waiter began whispering to every customer in the cafe, "hey, do you see that girl over there? ::pointing at me:: we are engaged to be married! go and tell her congratulations."

so one by one, visitors of every nationality (french, english, german, spanish, australian...) approached me with a unique accent and an outreached hand and said, "hello, stefanie? congratulations on your engagement!"

i blushed so long and so hard that by the end of the hour, i felt absolutely dizzy. but hey---i got free coffee and a pretty little macaroon and made some of the sweetest early-morning friends. aside from giggling bashfully by myself, i talked for about an hour with an artistic new yorker with french ancestry, who was in paris studying for the summer. by the end of our conversation we were already great friends, making plans to see each other again soon. 

she snapped this funny shot of my waiter drawing a heart with his name in it on my hand...

later on, i reunited with my chloe and met up with megan and her travel buddies.

^^^megan and i :) it was a fantastic visit, filled with long afternoon walks, wine picnics beneath the eiffel, and (as always) one too many crepes. 

more pictures of beautiful paris coming up next!

and click here for earlier posts on paris :)

wild wild west, ya'll

when a good friend of yours is on a road trip across the states and invites you to hop on in vegas and ride through the desert to yosemite, you probably shouldn't say no (unless you have a real job, in which case... i don't know. evaluate how much you like your job?). 

because the blue of the sky in the desert is an extraordinary thing. 

this road trip was so much fun. spencer and his sister were doing a little tour-de-states on the way to her new job in nevada. lucky me got to tag along for adventures down wiiiide open roads, old ruins, wild horses, alien gift shops, and some drone-flying around the air force base...

we also explored an abandoned gold-mining ghost town, called bode state park.

there was some seriously spooky vibes around that old town. but mostly i mean the freezing cold draft of air that we felt while peeking in the old jail cell... normal in the desert in may?! i think not...

thanks spencer and jenna for inviting me along! more pictures of yosemite coming soon :)

give me big sur // give me bixby

"all the way from san francisco // as i chased the end of your road // and i've still got miles to go."

maybe it was death cab for cutie, or maybe it was hunter s thompson's letters, or any other number of writers who have idealized big sur and the bixby canyon bridge for me... 

it was every bit as good as i imagined it would be. this first time in big sur made me unbearably giddy at the sight of those giant rocky cliffs and windy roads and bluuue blue seas that just carry on into infinity. 

we camped for just one night at a campground with a few redwoods on the other end, (staring up a redwood tree is nothing quite like i've ever seen before.) and it was just enough to leave me craving another, longer visit. 

my favorite memory from this little trip was an adventure that didn't even involve any of these ^^^ breathtaking views. but it was breathtaking in a different kinda way. it was at night, after we set up our tent. noelle and delaney and i went on a late night hike with nothing but ourselves and a single flashlight. i hadn't been in the wilderness in california since that one time i was 11 in yosemite and that bear growled by our tent and scared me stiff. so this time, even though we didn't stray too far, i couldn't help but thinking about all of the creatures i couldn't see who were probably watching us or smelling us or curious about what we might taste like. but i didn't voice my fears to the other girls, because i didn't want to sound silly or like a city girl, or like a person-who-fears-things-with-teeth-and-claws-on-every-dark-walk-through-a-wood. so i stayed silent and focused on my steps as we traversed a pitch black dirt trail, and then over logs, and then boulders, until we found ourselves at the edge of a rushing creek. the water brought a break in the trees and a narrow path of sky that was littered with some of the brightest stars i've ever seen. delaney led us to a big round rock right in the middle of this little river---the perfect spot to stop and sit and look up for a while. so we sat there, for what felt like half an hour, completely silent and transfixed on every element around us. cold rock beneath us, flowing water on either side of us, multiple-hundred-year-old trees hovering over us, and billions of balls of fire lightyears away from us. 

i'm so thankful for moments like these in the grandeur of nature, to stop and let the power of wonder overpower all of our buzzing irrational fears. 

jungle trek

aside from all of the rainy day yoga and cold river bathing and hammock writing, my favorite part of our experience at buenaventura was the day the clouds receded and the sun shone on us for a full-fledged jungle hike. 

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we crossed the river and hiked up a steep mountain behind harlow, machete in tow. he told us which plants not to touch and told us stories about jaguars, while hacking down heaps of bananas. we took pictures inside the arms of the tree of life. 

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so our goal in this trek, aside from fixing the almighty internet box at the top of the mountain (and you think unplugging your router is annoying), was to become avatar people.

apparently there are places in the jungles of costa rica where you can find natural blue clay. harlow took us to one of these spots, at a creek near two waterfalls, where we covered our bodies in this soft, moisturizing clay from head to toe. 

as our skin became blue like avatars of the mountain, i watched everyone around me become giddy with this primal energy, turning into raw little creatures of the earth, moving slow and concentrated. because, for just those moments, we were far from civilization, covered in the elements, acutely aware of our skin and our limbs and the lines on our faces---not the future or the past, or the "real" world waiting for us an hour downhill. we were there, just us. and we were all the same color, all exactly the same. 

after reveling in our oneness for a few moments, the sky opened up and rain sprinkled down on us, making beautiful, synchronized splashes in the creek. we gasped and giggled and carefully maneuvered our way down wet boulders to a freezing cold waterfall where we washed our skin clean and felt entirely new again.

it was maybe the most revitalizing experience of my life. the cold and powerful rush of water on my head, the open-mouthed smiles of everyone i was with, and the uncovering of blue mud, which revealed the softest, clearest, happiest skin.

we let gravity take us back down to earth, all soft and clear and new again. 

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always we begin again...

dominical

when the festival ended, callie and i weren't exactly sure where to go next. we had vague plans to stay at a farm in the mountains, but changed our minds and wound up on the side of the road with our packs and a world of possibilities all around us.

we ended up hitching a ride to the small beach town of dominical, just north of where the festival was held. 

as soon as we got into town, i recognized a sign for a local restaurant which was a vendor at the festival. we went to La Casita hoping one of the guys who worked envision would remember me from the night i checked their group in at the box office. 

to our surprise, he did remember me. he immediately sat us down and gave us free food. by the end of our meal and after hearing our story, andre also offered us a free place to stay and free surf lessons! callie and i said YES, and felt so blissfully grateful that everything turned out better than we could have imagined. 

we stayed in dominical for a few nights, alternating between staying with andre and the La Casita boys, and camping in our tent on the beautiful costa rican beach! 

and because dominical was the closest town to the festival, we ran into a ton of our new friends :) it was the perfect environment for winding down in between places. we got to spend time with some beautiful souls, learn to surf (i stood up on my FIRST wave!!!), wake up in our tent right on the beach, eat the freshest jungle fruit, and cheers the clear horizon at sunset. if that's not the epitome of a costa rican experience, i'm not sure what is.

ahhhhh, PURA VIDA!

envisonary

so wayyyy back at the end of february, a few friends and i ventured down to the jungles of central america to volunteer for a transformational festival called envision.

envision is intended as an event for individual transformation, via art, music, movement, and creative expression. so many beautiful, loving people trekked all the way to costa rica just to experience this powerful community.

imagine a ranch of tropical wet forrest, basically right on the beach and right down the road from a gorgeous waterfall. occupied for the weekend by a temporary sustainable village filled with 4,000 of the warmest people you've ever met. 

a tent city of all colors and sizes. flags and signs and colorful smiles that radiate love. no fear. no anger. no envy or no judgment. just love love love.

skilled hands built bamboo stages. bamboo climbing structures. bamboo plates and utensils and coconut cups. all the food is fresh and local and straight from the earth.

half-naked bodies getting painted by the rich-coast-sun. sandy handstands and naps on the beach, with a backdrop of surfers conquering tumbling sets. later, we let the salty waves scrub us clean--roll us like a washing machine. but on the hottest day, we sought the cold tingling of a jungle waterfall. some wade in shallow pools, while some take the leap.

stranger embraces and unbroken gazes and oxytocin at max capacity, seeping out of skin in sweat that drips and soaks into the earth. the richest of all soils to grow crops of humanly modified progress.

yoga, reiki, and movement workshops taught by world-class instructors beneath the shade of surrounding trees. we stretch and guide and breathe and lean into people from all over the world, eager to learn. hungry to be better. 

sun salutations and sunset parties on the beach, with music and dancing and cheering to mark the beginning of a wild night, like coyotes howling at the rising moon. happy bodies move erratically as if pulses of electrical energy jolt their limbs alive to the beat of the drums.

a sideways crescent moon smiles at everyone in all their native glory. fire spinning and artists painting and music vibrating the airwaves. everyone dances until sunrise, energized and inebriated on pure bliss and love. who needs a happy pill when we're manufacturing it inside ourselves? 

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."