Lightening the Load

I write to you from the appropriately named town of Seaside, CA.

A shot of the bay from a distance
Check out Monterey Bay in the distance.

I arrived here yesterday for a house sit. I was here a day early to meet the homeowner and get introduced to her cat and her house. It was another arrival filled with joy and comfort. I was welcomed into a lovely home by both the owner and her pet. I felt a deep sense of belonging and, along with it, a deep sense of gratitude.

I also arrived with a ton of work. In fact, no more than 30 minutes after our introductions, the homeowner and I parted ways so that we could get back to our respective workdays. I set about preparing for several months of upcoming research related to a project that has been more than challenging. Along with its challenges, it also has been taking up the majority of my waking hours. To drive this point home, the night before my arrival I could hardly sleep thinking about how I would balance the project with the travel. Turns out, I won’t have to.

As I lamented to the universe my inability to get out and explore due to the commitment I made to the project, I also decided to give up trying to control the next few months of my time. It simply seemed out of my hands, so why worry about it right? With this thought I finally fell asleep and awoke to the day and arrival I described above.

Here’s the crazy part. I arrived at the house yesterday around 10:45am. Around 2:45pm I got the text. “Project cancelled. Cease all work immediately. Your Statement of Work will be honored”.

Hallelujah!

It was clear to me that I had broken a worry cycle by giving up the false control I thought I had. In return I cleared my path for a few weeks and can return to a normal-ish life. Yes, no project = less money, but no rent = less need for money. See the magic?

When I woke up today I could feel the anxiety draining from me. I had nowhere to be. No one to meet with.

I could breathe again.

I noticed myself trying to fill up my time throughout the day, and was diligent about not giving in to this anxiety. Afternoon came, and I had zero “things to do” so I decided to take a walk to the local coffee roasters. Along the way, I was able to see that Seaside is quite a cute town. There are flowers everywhere! Plus, Monterey Bay beams in the background. Here allow me to share some more of today’s sights with you.

Flowers
Flowers everywhere!
The front of Acme Coffee Roasters
Acme Coffee Roasters
Plants in the backyard
A view from the backyard.
backyard
Backyard sitting in Seaside.

So, for the foreseeable future, I look forward to more days of exploring, wandering, and wondering…. or maybe even more time to write. Who knows?!

Whatever I decide to do, I recognize now I’m being helped and guided along this path (as I think we all are). I also see that when I keep my load really heavy, I become too weighed down to see and trust in this fact. Knowing this now, I have to tell you, I’m oh so grateful the load has lessened.

A Slow Day in Bakersfield

I arrived in Bakersfield, CA last night after a 4 hour drive up from Orange County, CA. The drive was supposed to be about 2.5 hours, but Los Angeles traffic is real. There’s no doubt about that!

I didn’t know what to expect from Bakersfield, really. Not only have I never been here, but I’ve never even really heard about it. I did get some not so great reactions this week as I was telling people I was stopping here for a few days, and it’s safe to say those reactions were confirmed when I entered town. The area, though it contains some cute homes and some pretty scenery, is pretty depressed. I’ll admit I didn’t feel all that safe when I arrived. Though I told myself to keep an open mind because 4 hours in a car will strain anyone’s judgement.

I got to the AirBnB I rented (One that I HIGHLY recommend if you’re ever in town. The space is quiet, clean, and relaxing. The homeowners are lovely to boot!), and was pretty frazzled from the drive. I did muster up the energy to head to the grocery store to get some food and wine, and it was on this trip where my suspicions of Bakersfield were confirmed.

When I woke up this morning I decided I would not make any sort of schedule for the day. I was tired of living by a schedule. I did some yoga, then got myself cleaned up and dressed. I then decided I would take some of the things I had set aside to donate to a local donation center. I got in the car and drove towards the donation center noticing the town along the way. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a bad place, just very different from Orange County.

I arrived at the donation center and a local woman greeted me as I got my bags out of the car. “Excuse me, miss” she said to me. “Can you help a girl out? Do you have shoes in those bags?” I felt myself cringe, saw myself going to ignore or deny her, then caught myself and said, “I’m sorry, but no. I do have clothes though. Do you need some of those?” I handed my bags over to the woman than said something I rarely say to her, “Bless you”. “God bless you too, miss.” Despite my atheist ways, the exchange warmed my heart.

Back in the car, I made my way over to a local coffee roaster I was excited to try. Blue Oak Coffee did NOT disappoint (I did note how the name was the same name of the cafe I worked at in college. Coincidence?). Quite the opposite, actually.

sign in blue oak coffee roasters
One of the signs inside Blue Oak Coffee Roasters

When I walked in the owner and another shop worker greeted me kindly. When I asked what they had brewed I was offered tastes of several in-house roasted coffees. I settled on one of them (they were all awesome), then also ordered what sounded like an amazing Chilaquiles breakfast plate. The women confirmed that their town was a bit rough, but I also noted how both seemed content living here.

As my breakfast was being made, the three of us talked further. I told them of my journey and they told me about opening the cafe. One of the women was originally from New York. She grew up in a town not too far from where I grew up. In fact, one of her dear friends went to the same school as an ex-boyfriend of mine. Coincidence?

When my breakfast came out, I was greeted with this sight:

Breakfast at Blue Oak
Breakfast at Blue Oak.

The cook came out behind it asking if I wanted lime to add to the dish. “I do what the chef recommends,” I responded. Several minutes into my enjoying the plate immensely, the cook came back out to check on me. I told her how her creation was perfectly spiced. Hot, but not so much so my mouth was on fire. How did she do it? Smoked cayenne and chili flakes. Brilliant!

I made my way back to the house and as I was parking my car saw the best sight. My AirBnB hosts and their daughter were setting up a lemonade stand just like people used to do back in the day. Again, my heart warmed.

I came inside and worked for a few hours. Then, I decided to walk over to the Metaphysical Store I had read about. (NOTE: The woman at the Blue Oak confirmed this was a great spot.)

The enchanted cottage sign out front.
The Meta-physical Store.

When I got inside I inquired about getting a reading. Sure enough, one of their readers was available! For the next hour, Marcia (whom I also highly recommend!) guided me through answers to some of my questions. Namely, “I have no idea what I’m doing traveling around to random towns alone. Can you give me a hint?”

Our discussion left me in a reflective mode. One of her main points was how I need to write about and share my experiences on the road more. And so, dear reader, here we are.

The rest of the day I worked and hung out at the AirBnB. I learned the lemonade stand was a success and Bakersfield really does get super hot in the afternoons. Tonight I’ll be continuing to follow Marcia’s advice (which included: meditate, read more, trust you’re being led, and have fun), and tomorrow I’ll be back on the road again.

My next stop? Seaside, CA. But, for tonight I’m here soaking up the Bakersfield love and remembering that what’s on the surface isn’t always what lies beneath.

Letting Go of an Old Story

I spent yesterday afternoon catching up with a dear friend who drove all the way up to Dana Point from San Diego (dear friend and podcast co-host) just to see me. How special I felt!

As we were talking about our respective lives my friend made the comment, “It’s hard to be creative on the road”. Her statement stopped me because I realized how right she was. I was hoping that along this journey I’d make the time to sit and write beautiful pieces about a life well considered. Instead I find myself barely able to scrape together an hour or two to write random ramblings which, when I’m finished with them, I feel unable to share to a wider audience for fear of my terrible writing ability being exposed.

*Sigh.*

I suppose this means my dreams of being a wandering writer are not to be… or maybe they are just on hold. Whatever the case, fear not! I ramble on… which is exactly what I wanted to do today.

Today I write to you from a house sit I’m doing in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. Or for you “visual people” out there, this place:

Morning view
My coffee ladened view this morning.

I arrived here last Sunday (I’m writing to you on the following Sunday), and the homeowners left for Alaska on Wednesday. This meant I had about 2 and a half days where our time in the house overlapped. (By the way, for those of you considering house or pet sitting I highly recommend having time where you overlap with the homeowners. It really helps everyone get more comfortable with each other.)

For some this situation can be a very uncomfortable one. I’ll admit it is still somewhat uncomfortable for me. There were many times I caught myself thinking things like “These people must think I’m a weirdo. What kind of person just comes to a stranger’s house and lives there for a few days when they haven’t even left on vacation yet? What kind of adult does this?!” I also felt a heavy burden of shame for doing something so “weird”.

It wasn’t until yesterday when I had a discussion with another dear friend (who is also a wanderer) where I realized all those feelings and thoughts were part of an old story I’ve been holding on to. A story I no longer need. (NOTE: This realization would not have been possible without my sharing this shame. A lesson I learned from this book.)

In reality, getting to know these homeowners better was an amazing experience! They showed me kindness. They showed me a healthy relationship between each other. We talked about life, love, family, and everything! We had happy hour and dinner together. We were human together.

Had I defaulted only to my old story line, I would have missed all of this.

In fact, there are so many wonderful things I would missed out on had I chosen to stay with the old story and not started this adventure. One specific example is the amazing amount of kindness which gets extended to me when I bring big bags on trains. I’m always concerned about how I’ll get on and off the train in time when I have heavy luggage with me, but without fail someone offers to help me. I have never once had to ask for help!

On my last train trip a few weeks ago, a man asked if I needed help when getting off the train. I said I did to which he responded, “I’ve been through it when traveling with my 4 year old daughter. I’m happy to help!”. From there he went on to share with me his tales of travel with children. It was another moment where I was able to just be human with someone.

It’s these moments I’ve come to treasure. I want more of them, and I want to be fully present in them without the shame and doubt. To get there, I’m sharing the shame further with you here. From this, I hope to let the old story go even more.

Although my travel has slowed from road tripping, it will still involve running into new people and seeing random beauty which is something I’ve realized I thrive on AND something I’m incredibly excited about. I love not knowing who I’ll meet in the upcoming months, but I also love being sure I will meet someone who will treat me with kindness. It helps me remember we are all the same, which helps me extend kindness back out into the world as well.

Weird or not, I just can’t see that as a bad thing.

Another Coast, Another Summer Road Trip

I write this post from a friend’s apartment in Hoboken, NJ. Here I sit looking at their “Home Sweet Apartment” sign ready to share more about the additional 24 days I spent road-tripping the East Coast this Summer. But, instead of wanting to write, all I can do is stare at that sign.

Home.

I’m not sad nor regretful as I stare, more bewildered or perplexed. Maybe I’m just considering the meaning of the word. I say this because even though I haven’t been in a home of my own for the past 2.5 months, I’ve felt at home for much of my journey. I believe this latest trip, and the people I spent time with along the way, have greatly contributed to this state.

Before I get into all that, allow me to share with you where my friend and I were staying this July.

Google map image showing our route
Our route from New York to Tennessee and back again.

Unfortunately, Google Maps wouldn’t allow me to add a line from Philadelphia back up to my hometown of Fremont Center, NY, but hopefully you get the point regardless. During the trip, we stayed at the homes of 4 different friends and also spent nights at 5 hotels (well, really 4 hotels plus an AirBnB in DC which was not only conveniently located, but included a pinball machine and jukebox!)

Me playing pinball.
Look at me getting my pinball on!

It was quite the journey, and of course I learned a lot along the way. I can’t begin to pretend I’ll be able to share all I’ve learned in one post, so I’d like to use this post to bring up the top lessons learned which come to mind. Here we go!

Stay Open to Random Acts of Kindness

I realize I’m a pretty extroverted person and so to others it may seem that I’m adventurous and open to anything, but that isn’t always the case. Much of the time I close myself off to new things as a form of protection. This was something I was actively working on along this trip, and this work paid off.

For example, instead of closing myself off due to fear of rejection, I opened myself and reached out to friends whom I haven’t talked to in a long time to see if they’d be open to having a couple of visitors. Not one said no. Instead everyone we stayed with was overjoyed with our visit! If I hadn’t stayed open, I wouldn’t have come close to having the experiences I’m so very grateful for.

Cristina, Lis, Karen and Joe
Our dear friends Karen and Joe (the two to my left) who hosted us in Richmond, VA.

Also, when we were up in New England I was explaining to a friend what I was doing and why. This friend isn’t the wealthiest person (He’s married with two wonderful, young children and is, like many of us, just trying to make ends meet), but he so wanted to show his love for our adventure that he handed over a gift card for us to use along the way. When I tried to deny it, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. This small act made a big impact on me, and this energy carried me through the trip.

Don’t Shy Away From the Hard Times

Most of my friends and family reside on the East Coast of the United States, which meant I spent a lot of time visiting and traveling with friends I’ve known for years. Some of these interactions were successful and some of them were not. I was faced with some real relationship trials this go-round. I found myself mourning old relationships and feeling distraught in thinking what would come next.

Thing is this time around I leaned into these hard times. I sat in the hard feelings and I reflected on what they were. Through all of this I grew leaps and bounds, and shed old energy and regrets. Had I turned away from the despair I wouldn’t have seen the other side of it, which is where I now get to dwell.

A bridge we saw in WV.
You need to cross the bridge to get to the other side.

See the Love

It doesn’t seem like it given the current state of our media, but there is a whole lot of love out there in the world. For the 24 days I was on the road I was cloaked in it. I reconnected and deepened connections with friends in ways I never even considered. There were times when the love from both friends AND strangers lifted and carried me through.

Besides the overwhelming love from friends, one example which comes to mind is from our stay in Winchester, VA. We stayed over 1 night at the local Motel 6. In the morning the hotel Wi-Fi wasn’t working in our room, though it was in the lobby. As I sat in the lobby working, I saw the front desk employee (who had been on duty overnight since 10pm and wasn’t leaving until 4pm due to a sick co-worker) exhibit so much kindness to all who came in. There was a couple who came in who couldn’t afford full price for a night so she made an exception. There was a family who came in who couldn’t speak English and she went out of her way to calmly and caringly get them a comfortable room. It was better to watch than any TV show out there.

I Should Write a Book

I write this somewhat sarcastically, but I won’t deny that it came up several times along the trip. I’m sure sharing my story will happen in some way, but with several different people around me saying this I feel like I should get cracking on it!

The World is Beautiful

There’s not much else to say here. Take a look around! There’s so much beauty and wonder waiting to inspire you. Take 30 seconds and really SEE it.

Quote from the State Park
A quote from a WV state park.

As I mentioned, these are just a few of the lessons and reflections which came to me. There was also the idea of working hard and following your passions which I learned from touring Dollywood,

Lis at Dollywood
Yes, that Dollywood.

and the newest Sierra Nevada Brewing property.

The Sierra Nevada Brewery outside Asheville
The Sierra Nevada Brewery outside Asheville, NC.

But, those are for another time.

For now, I’m a bit in need of a rest. I’ll be heading back to the West Coast in a few days and when I get there I’m not sure what kind of life I’ll find, so I want to be ready for it. One thing I am sure of is I’ll take these and many more lessons and beautiful (and not so beautiful) moments with me from which to be inspired, learn, grow, and adventure even more.

Wish me luck!

Lessons Learned from My West Coast Road Trip

Prologue

Earlier this year I decided to put aside a life tethered to a physical address and head out to parts “kind of” known. I didn’t, and still don’t, have any concrete plans on what this means. But, given that I can work from anywhere, I figured why not try to see as much of the world as I can? The West Coast Road trip I talk about below was my first official adventure where I didn’t have an address to return to.

The Story

One month ago, I sat in a cottage in White Salmon, WA preparing myself for what was next. OK… that statement is only partly true. I was in part preparing; but, as usually occurs before any of my major life changes, one of my best friends was visiting and we were spending an awful lot of time enjoying Memorial Day weekend in the Columbia River Gorge instead. Not only was I enjoying friend time, but I was soaking up as much of the Gorge as I could before hitting the road. Come June 2, my best friend and I would start our road trip to Los Angeles. It was there where I’d be storing my car for the Summer as I headed back East for a few months.

I’m writing to you from the other side of our journey to share some points of reflection and lessons learned in hopes they can be helpful to someone else… or at least be somewhat entertaining. Here goes:

The Trip

Let me start by laying out our route for you geography fans out there:

  • Bend, Oregon – June 2
  • Klamath Falls, Oregon – June 3
  • Redding, California – June 4
  • Kelseyville, California – June 5 & 6
  • Alameda, California – June 7 thru 14
  • Monterey, California – June 15
  • Templeton, California – June 16
  • Santa Barbara, California – June 17
  • Los Angeles, California – June 18 & 19
  • Flight to Newark, NJ – June 20
A map of our route down the west coast.
Here’s more or less our route from White Salmon, WA to Playa Vista, CA.

Back To the Story

Traveling just for the sake of exploration was wonderful. I got to see much of the West Coast states which I hadn’t seen before, and I got to try some delicious food and drink along the way. In fact, one of the main reasons we drove through Kelseyville was so we could be in position to stop at Russian River Brewing to pick up a couple of bottles of a “hard to find on the East Coast” beer for my friend’s brother. We even bought a cooler to store said beer in for the remainder of our trip! So yeah, food and drink were a priority.

Two bottles of Pliny the Elder on a park bench.
The “hard to find on the East Coast” beer.

On the down side, much of my adventure time was spent hunched over a computer working. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for the work. But, I do wish I had more time to explore. Despite the work focus, however, I was still able to gather some lessons learned.

1. Stop Working and Adventure a Bit

Perhaps one lesson learned that stays top of mind is my desire to better integrate my work and my life. Living alone in a new town with few friends for the past couple of years (or on a tropical island with few friends), I forgot and ignored my tendency to focus solely on work and not one bit on myself and my life. Thus, having a friend along to remind me to stop and enjoy was essential to breaking me out of my work flow. Along the road trip I had several opportunities to practice relaxing instead of working. The Universe even shut off the Wifi a time or two to force me to chill out.

Lesson Learned: Work will get done. Making work my sole focus holds me back and means me missing out on life happening around me.

Lis playing pinball.
I would have missed out on the Pinball Museum in Alameda, had I not taken my head out of my work.

2. It Will All Be Fine

Usually when traveling I’ll prepare at least where I’ll be staying somewhat in advance of the trip, but for this trip we often didn’t know where we were going or staying until a week or even a few days beforehand. In fact, our original route took us through Big Sur, but a few days before we were to venture there we decided to take another route. This was somewhat anxiety provoking, but also VERY liberating! In the end, even with last minute planning, it was all just fine. Take that, anxiety!

Another example of things being fine even when you worry they won’t be happened as we pulled up to our motel near Kelseyville. Let’s just say the location and clientele out front didn’t make us feel as secure as we were used to (after traveling through “Be Nice, Oregon”). In the end, the place clean, the people nice, and the price was right. We were fine. Everything was just fine.

Sticker that says Be nice... you're in Oregon.
A sticker we saw reminding us of where we were.

Not surprisingly, and quite purposefully, we also met a lot of strangers along our way. On the surface meeting new people while in new surroundings can be scary. In reality, there was not one person we met who was dangerous or even unkind.

Lesson Learned: Give new people, places, and circumstances the chance you’d want to be given. Learning about them and learning to be with them is a huge part of the journey.

3. A Need to Travel More Intentionally

Between having so much work and needing to reach Los Angeles by a certain date, I really didn’t get to see and do as much as I wanted. In the future, I aim to get more intentional about my adventures and to travel more slowly. I believe doing so will help me to be more present and find more enjoyment in my travels.

Lesson Learned: Remain observant and aware. Listen to what you’re trying to tell yourself then apply the lesson.

Morro Rock
Reflections at Morro Rock.

Now, I have a couple of weeks of “stay in one place” time before kicking off a month of road tripping the East Coast with the same friend… yay! I plan on taking the lessons I’ve shared here with me as I go. I do all of this in an effort to architect and live my best life. With that, let’s see how this next step of the adventure pans out. Wish me luck!

Toasting two margaritas
To what lays behind us AND ahead of us!