Experiencing Oneness

Being in New Mexico has brought a new thread to my reflections. After leaving the magic of the Gila National Forest, I drove North for El Morro.

I should mention that before I actually LEFT the forest, I took some time to explore the nearby Catwalk Trail. A friend came through this area not too long ago and told me it was worth a stop. After driving through several small brooks on the way up (NOTE: the heavy rains cause a lot of runoff apparently. I thought I was in the desert, but I was way wrong.) I pulled in to the area about mid-morning.

Gila National Forest Sign
Entering the Catwalk Trail.

I noticed three motorcycles parked in the lot, the only vehicles around. As I walked to the trailhead I saw their owners, 3 older gentlemen reading about the history of the area. I asked them, “What’s the word on the road?”

“Which road?” one of the men responded.

The three of us chuckled and I told them of my travel plans for the day. They were taking a similar route North, but were planning on splitting off back into Arizona instead of heading East like me. I bid them safe travels as I began walking the 2 mile trail.

Brook
I enjoyed walking along this brook a bit.
Gila National Forest Mountains
I couldn’t stop looking up at these mountains as I walked.

About .5 miles in a deep fear gripped me. What the hell was I doing walking this trail alone while leaving my car unattended in the parking lot and filled with all my important belongings? I practically ran back to find Liam safe and sound just as I had left him.

I got in the car, then continued the trip north, stopping for lunch at a cafe about 45 minutes away. (NOTE: this was the only “local” restaurant open.) When I walked in, who did I see but the motorcyclists. “Well, you made it this far”, one of them said to me. “And, so did you!” I replied.

This was my last interaction with them, but I still felt connected to them in a way I can’t yet describe. I left the cafe with this sensation.

Several hours later, after passing maybe a total of 10 other vehicles along the way, I arrived in the El Morro area. Here I would be staying at another amazing AirBnB rental. This time I would be in an RV parked on a property with some amazing views.

RV
Where I stayed during my time in El Morro.
View of mesa
View of the mesa from the RV.
Sunset over the mesa
Sunset view from the RV.

The owner, Jeff, met me and showed me the RV. He was concerned with me staying warm given that the temps were supposed to get down to 27 degrees Fahrenheit that night. I assured him I’d be fine. We talked for several moments there after, and the feeling I had earlier that day when I was around the bikers returned.

I had a sound night’s sleep, then woke up for a morning of meetings. When these were finished, I set out to hike the El Morro National Monument. I arrived at the site, and, since I hadn’t done much research beforehand, went up to the visitors’ center to figure out a game plan. The park ranger greeted me, gave me a map, AND provided me a guide to the inscriptions left on the famous Inscription Rock.

NOTE about the rock from Wikipedia: Travelers left signatures, names, dates, and stories of their treks. While some of the inscriptions are fading, there are still many that can be seen today, some dating to the 17th century. Among the Anglo-American emigrants who left their names there in 1858 were several members of the Rose-Baley Party, including Leonard Rose and John Udell.[3] Some petroglyphs and carvings were made by the Ancestral Puebloan centuries before Europeans started making their mark. In 1906, U.S. federal law prohibited further carving.

Front of the visitors center.
Approaching the visitors’ center.

I took a few moments to peruse the small museum attached, and upon entering saw this sign:

Pueblo prayer
This quote got me.

Immediately tears flooded my face. I have no idea where from or why they appeared, but I accepted them and kept walking.

I decided on the longer of the two hikes available at the park. I would see both the Inscription Rock trail, as well as hike up to the pueblo town dating back to 1275 A.D. It would be a longer hike than I anticipated, but I had time so why not? Here are some images from the day.

Inscription Rock
The side of inscription rock. I was in awe!
Top of the rocks
The top of the rocks I would eventually hike too.
Looking up at the monument. NOTE: the black bits are from water that runs down the sides.
High rock wall.
A view looking up from the side of the rocks.
petroglyphs
Check out the ancient petroglyphs!
inscriptions in rock.
See how there is an inscription from 1801. Pretty amazing.
petroglyphs
More petroglyphs and inscriptions.
cactus bushes
The fauna of the high desert.
Stone path
Notice the lines which mark the path. Apparently they brought a jack hammer up to create a trail. Crazy right?
Mesa in the distance.
More views of the surrounding area. Hell yeah I hiked up this high!
Canyon views
A view down into the canyon.
Brick ruins
This is only a fraction of the city they uncovered. People lived there from 1275 – 1400 AD.
Stone ruins
Looking at the ruins from another angle.
Circular stone ruins.
Another part of the city.
Stone ruins
I loved looking at the mesa in the background and imagining life here all those years ago.

As I arrived at the ruins of the town, I noted my isolation. I thought about how I had just climbed alone up the backside of this mountain, then somehow navigated my way across the rocks to this very spot where about 1500 people lived some 750 years ago.

The feeling from the interactions with the bikers and the AirBnB host appeared here again in this sacred feeling place. I took a look at the feeling more closely. I asked myself what it was. A whisper of an answer appeared in the back of my consciousness:

Oneness

At that moment I saw flashes of human life fly across mind. The people who lived here, the bikers on the road, my housing host, me; no matter how different our lives seem, we are all made from the same atomic elements, the same biological tissues, and the same sacred spirit. Our perceptions and beliefs may differ, but we all need to eat, drink, and sleep to stay alive. Those who lived hundreds of years before us needed the same things. How amazing. How humbling.

I stood alone with this clarity for several moments before hiking my way down, then heading back home. When back at the RV I witnessed one last sunset as I reflected on the day.

Sunset over the mesa.
One last sunset to amaze me.

As I thought about it I asked myself; If we’re all one, was I really standing up at that site all alone?

My answer? No, I don’t think I was.

What’s in a Moment?

On my last night in Tucson I was lucky enough to have dinner at the house of some new friends. (NOTE: These are also friends of my RVA friends.) My time with them was (too) short, but it was impactful. As we sat outside discussing just about everything, I felt the need to get my anxieties off my chest.

I described to the two of them the doubts I’ve been having. Most specifically, Are the short relationships I’m making while on the road a reflection of me only wanting to have “good” moments as opposed to hard ones with friends? Am I missing out on that other side of the person to person experience? Will I ever be happy somewhere and with someone?

You get the drift.

The one friend stopped me dead in my tracks. She described to me how she had a recent conversation with their daughter, the topic of which touched heavily on my current existential woes. Her response to both her daughter, and now me, was simple. And, as many simple responses are, it was quite profound.

She described a story in which her and a friend were discussing memories and moments in life. They determined that even though they may not remember every story of their life exactly as it happened, the moments still impacted them for the remainder of their days. She encouraged me to consider this simple wisdom for myself:

All we have is a moment. Enjoy it.

Of course I am paraphrasing this friend’s wisdom which I’m sure was much more eloquent and detailed, but this sentiment is what I carried with me. As soon as she said this all the Buddhist lessons I encountered over the years came flooding back. This was the fact I have been overlooking. I felt it stir me.

When I left town the next day, I left knowing I had the support of others to encourage me onward. The road took me into the mountains to the beautiful state of New Mexico. Being from the East Coast I had no idea what to expect from this state, but to say I’m stunned by all it has to offer would be an understatement.

This emotion was underscored by the AirbBnB rental I stayed in on my first night. Unfortunately, I only had one night here, but even that was enough to fill me with comfort and inspiration. And, most importantly, it granted me the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had.

I pulled up to the property to find the owner, Beth, working on one of her many art projects. Here, let me share it with you:

artwork
I was mesmerized by this piece.

She welcomed me and stated I would be the first AirBnB guest to walk across this new installation. Woohoo! We began chatting and I found myself quickly recapping my anxieties from the night before. You all know how she responded:

A moment is all we have. Live it up!

I guess that was all the universe had to tell me on the topic, and I figured I may as well start listening.

I started by taking a tour around this beautiful property; my jaw dropping at every turn. This woman had the ability to make anything and everything look beautiful. Her attention to detail was simply amazing, and the feeling her work gave me was greatly needed. Here let me share the pictures already:

Mountain view
A view of the property including the mountains in the distance.
Mountain views
More mountain views.
Tree view
Views of the trees surrounding the property.
horse
There were even horses onsite.
outdoor kitchen and living room
The outdoor kitchen and living space.
Tea set
I loved this tea set.
Metal peacock.
Some art marks the path.
Cabin door
The front door of the cabin.
Desk and chairs
The workspace in the cabin.
Spiral staircase
This is a staircase the owner and an artist friend built. Enchanting!
Front of small building
The front of one of the galleries on site.
Gallery
A gallery interior. Pretty amazing, right?
outdoor living space
The outdoor kitchen and living area at night.

As I sat outside enjoying the cool mountain air, I took in Beth’s life. In this small town of maybe 150 people, tucked away in the Gila National Forest, she had people stopping by to help her with art projects or help her fix something or other pretty much all afternoon. She had galleries onsite with incredible local art which people knew to come see. I noted the dream like quality of my experience there, and also noted how much I loved the quaintness of it all.

I reminded myself there are probably just as many downsides to her life than any other life, but since I’m living moment by moment at this point, I pushed those thoughts aside and simply enjoyed the good vibes.

The next day I woke up refreshed and ready to start a new day. It was the best I’ve ever felt waking up in the morning… I have to be honest. I packed up my gear and got on the road for another 4 hours of driving up to the El Morro area. Along the way, the sentiments of the past few days rang loudly for me, and I finally connected with what my friend was expressing on that Tucson night.

These moments I experienced over the past few days were short indeed. Further, I may never experience the people or places again, but the fabric of them has shifted my perspective. Since perspective is everything, they have shifted my life.

So, what’s in a moment? Seems like everything is, no?

Who Do I Want to Be?

I arrived here in Yuma, AZ Monday afternoon (I’m writing to you on a Wednesday), and was greeted by a lovely AirBnB experience. Here are some pictures to prove it:

Welcome Lis sign
I felt so welcomed by this sign!
Yuma like a local sign.
Instructions on how to do Yuma like a local.
Bed with pillows
After driving all day I couldn’t wait to get into this cozy looking bed.
Kitchen
Cooking in this kitchen reminded me of my time in NYC.

Let’s just say my choice in driving through the Santa Ana winds (and mountains) to make it here seemed a great one.

When I woke up on Tuesday, I decided to use the mid-morning hours as adventure time. I went to the post office to send a book to a dear friend, then I began driving around Yuma to see some of the historic sites. I was followed by the most uneasy energy I’ve felt on any trip thus far. (Except maybe when Cris and I stayed at a Hotel 6 in East Philadelphia on the East Coast Road Trip, but at least then I wasn’t alone.)

Little felt safe. I should say, little felt safe outdoors. When I interacted with people like the woman at the Post Office or the man at the coffee shop or my AirBnB hosts, they were all quite lovely. However, when I stopped at the city park or went downtown I felt nothing short of uneasy. Actually I was really scared.

I grappled with this fear. I shared it with others, and I also sat with it on my own. I questioned what is was I was actually scared of. Afterall, it’s not like these scenes are particularly scary:

Bridge and Mountains
I tried to grab a picture of the mountain views.
Church top and rock
A picture of the top of the Mission from Gateway Park.
Lutes Casino front.
Ok… this may look sketchy but it was in the cute old part of town.

It’s also not like I was in any real danger at any point. But yet, the fear remained.

As I worked through it, I began to see how its roots tangled themselves around my courage. I saw this, and realized how tired I am of being the scared person. If I wanted to become who I want to be, I needed to break said roots and allow my courage to take over.

So I took action. I took a walk around the neighborhood and noticed the cute houses, the school children playing soccer, and the man mowing a lawn nodding and smiling. My courage was growing, and it was encouraged on by this quote sent be a friend later in the evening:

As you think about your own path to daring leadership, remember Joseph Campbell’s wisdom: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you’re meant to serve and support, and for your culture. Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and being afraid. At the exact same time. — Brené Brown, Dare to Lead.

Needless to say I slept quite soundly after sitting with these words.

When I woke up today, I decided on an afternoon hike a few miles outside of the town. I was set on having some time alone in nature to “sort it all out”. But, once again, I was denying entering the cave. Sure enough, when I got out to the trail, the road to the trailhead was closed. Further, my attempts to find another trail were also thwarted. I saw the sign. I needed to face my fears.

I came back to the town and decided to replay yesterday’s adventures, all the while facing down my fears and breaking apart their roots. It was an insanely healthy and progressive practice which led me to have a renewed view of my experience here. I saw myself becoming who I want to be.

Then I got the text.

One of my house sitting clients was inviting me back for a gig in the Spring. At first I thought, why not take it? I have nothing else planned?, but then something stopped me. I reached out to a friend who responded that they couldn’t make the decision for me, but if it was them, they’d make the decision based on “why they were on the journey to begin with”. Meaning, they’d decide not based off convenience, but off of who they wanted to be.

The words struck me with an unwavering truth. I’d have to turn down the gig and turn towards the unknown. If I didn’t, I’d be “delaying the risk I needed to take to become the person I want to be”, and keeping it real, I’m so of over doing that.

Leaving California

I awoke this morning (I’m writing to you on a Sunday) around 2 am… terrified. The fear gripping me was so intense it forced me out of bed to check on the cat. Finding her well I returned to bed, but sleep did not find me for several hours more. Instead my heart beat at an accelerated pace while my thoughts churned.

I saw this familiar reaction for what it was; the fear that comes from embarking on an unknown quest. I’d be leaving California on Monday after spending the first few months of my solo wandering here, and I was scared about both what was to come and what I’d be leaving behind.

For example, I’d be leaving behind scenes like these:

Purple sky at sunset.
Another beautiful Rancho sunset.
Sunset
Ok… one more
Aliso Beach
Aliso Beach
Ocean waves.
Kinda felt like I was back on Maui with these waves.

Of course I’ll find beautiful scenes wherever I go (NOTE: I’m convinced we can find beauty in pretty much every place), so I knew my fear was more that just leaving California’s beauty. I also knew I’d take whatever lessons with me that I was meant to, so my fear seemed more than that. Yes, I was still grasping and trying to hold tight to my life here.

Why?

Because I was starting to get comfortable.

Actually, I’m noticing this trend now. Whenever I’m settled into an experience, be it a house, a city, or some other space, my psyche pushes me to move on to the next. Perhaps this is due to the pace I’ve set for my self discovery, but I have to ask myself: “Why did I set this pace to begin with?”

Until I figure this out I’ll continue exploring both my external and internal worlds in anticipation of the joy the resulting discoveries bring.

Hmmmm. I think that last question has been answered, hasn’t it?

East the Sun, West the Moon

•• The title of this post is in reference to one of my favorite stories from my youth.


I write to you from the last afternoon of my house sit here in Templeton. It’s been an emotional day, and I’ve spent most of it reflecting on why. I suppose the first reason is that I’ll miss these pups (who are amazing pets/teachers) immensely. They were kind enough to take me into their pack for these few weeks, and I am grateful for the hospitality.:

Dogs standing next to each other.
Bibi and Buddy hanging out during play time.
English Spaniel laying on the couch.
Bibi watches TV next to me.
Dog asleep on lap.
Buddy doesn’t seem too interested in the show.

Beyond just missing these furry friends, however, something else is going on. But, what?

Fear.

Yeah, I’m scared. Really scared. Not being able to see what’s ahead of me, even though I know it is probably amazing moments and new connections, is really scary. It seems the assurance of the amazing moments doesn’t yet outweigh the potential of the crappy ones. I’m working on it though.

Beyond fear there is a gnawing. I don’t know the short description of it yet, so you’ll have to read more words to get there. The gnawing is this wondering… am I meant to meet all these amazing people and pets, have wonderful times with them, then never see them again? What is the point of that?! It’s deflating. It’s like one let down after the next… and this line of thinking gets me thinking:

What did I sign up for?

I then go into a self battle of You thought you were running towards something, but maybe everyone’s right. Maybe you’re just running away from adult responsibility and reality. Maybe you ARE the failure everyone thinks you are.

I’ll save you from the graphic scene that ensues.

I’m not sure what the answer is or IF there needs to be an answer, but as I stop to consider how to close out this piece I’m reminded of these scenes from the morning after the recent full moon.

Moon in a morning sky.
The moon sits high in the morning sky.
Sunrise with pink clouds.
Not too bad of a sunrise, huh?

As I was walking the dogs I noticed that the moon (seen above) was still high in the morning sky, glowing brightly. Shortly after, the Sun was ALSO rising in the sky. As I noted this, I thought about how both of these seemingly opposite masses were existing in the same place at the time. I chuckled to myself thinking how our binary worlds would go crazy from more of this type of thinking.

Maybe it’s time I go a little crazy then?

Balancing Leading and Being Led

I awoke from the dream with a start.

I knew I had to act, but I also knew too much action, or the wrong action, would only perpetuate the problem. I considered this conundrum as I got out of bed and took care of the pets. When I was done I settled in for my yoga practice; for a venture inwards.

As I flowed, I reflected on what might be the cause of my internal discomfort. I recalled the new mantra I developed while here in Templeton; Be Led. I put this mantra to use because over the past weeks I witnessed the more I tried to push anything forward, the less the result of the pushing fulfilled me. If I instead let go and allowed the universe to take over, I usually found a better result.

For example, when walking the dogs I could try to get them to go the way I wanted, or I could follow their nudges. Following those nudges usually amounted to moments like these:

Sun rising over the hills.
Another beautiful sunrise.
Rose
I stopped to smell the rose.
Close up of a dog's face.
Buddy requests a break.

But, it didn’t always amount to these types of moments. In fact, I believe the discomfort that led to the dream was the result of going too far in this “Be Led” direction. I need to lead at times as well. At the very least, I need to take action. Which brings me back to the morning in question.

As I continued my practice, I softened and admitted this “going too far in the ‘be led’ direction” was the message the dream was sending me. Well, the dream and a few other resources. The universe, or your subconscious, doesn’t just deliver a message to you once, after-all. It will deliver it gently at first. Then, the message will get louder and louder until you finally listen.

The message I was ignoring was one of getting out of my comfort zone. Now, I realize this may sound crazy coming from someone who is on the journey I am, but I assure you, I’ve made myself far too comfortable here. I don’t leave the house. I don’t explore the area. I just haven’t ventured out all that much.

At first I told myself this was because of all the traveling I did in recent months; which was in part true. But, there is a bigger reason. I’m scared of what I might find beyond myself.

The message started as a whisper in the back of my mind. Then my friend emailed a group of us asking about manifesting a state of flow. Next, I read this line from the book my friend loaned me.

“Risk taking is one key way to access this flow state…”

This was followed by an episode of the Codependency No More Podcast telling listeners to take more risks in order to build up self confidence and worth. In the same episode, the guest encouraged listeners to curate skills to access and listen to their subconscious. One way he suggested to do this was to keep a dream journal, as often times our subconscious speaks to us in our dreams.

THEN came the dream.


I was playing with the dogs in the Templeton house when the doorbell rang. I answered it and there stood a man surrounded by many dogs. The two dogs I was sitting ran out to greet the others and I began my usual schtick of “they are friendly enough, though the little guy is anti-social.” The entire time the man, who looked mesoamerican in decent (or so I thought in the dream), stared me in the eye without blinking. He spoke. “There are 3 things causing you to withdraw.”

“What?” I replied. Though I knew what he meant.

He repeated himself while continuing his stare. I knew the 3 things he referred to were the pets I was watching. They were my recent excuse for staying in my comfort zone. Acknowledging and accepting the thought, I looked the man back in the eye and communicated the following through thought, “I see. You’re an angel. Thank you for coming to me.”

He smiled, and I awoke.


It took me a few hours to fully accept that I’ve been holding back, but once I did, ideas for how to spend my Saturday arose. I got into a flow of balancing leading with being led.

I landed on visiting the small beach town of Cambria. It’s been drawing me in since the West Coast Road Trip days, so I decided to give it a whirl. I was happy I did!

First, I took a walk by the ocean:

Moonstone Beach
These driftwood tent structures were all over the beach. Any ideas what they are?
plant
Plants at the Beach
Bench and trees
A bench through the trees.
Ocean and rocks.
The waves come crashing in. The coast reminded me of Ireland or Scotland.
Ocean
More ocean views.
Thistles
Seeing these thistles really made me think of Scotland.
Ocean and rocks
I couldn’t get enough!
Gradient on a rock.
How cool is this rock?
Lis by the ocean
I realized I never take pictures of myself… so here one is!

Walking for only a few minutes cleared my head, heart, and body. I felt completely new! Next, I decided to head to town to grab coffee and to pick up a few things for dinner.

Cambria Coffee
The coffee and muffin were awesome!
Town
I loved the pines and hills so close to the ocean.
Houses in the hills
More houses in the hills.
Quote
Loved this quote!
Fairy garden sign.
Who stumbles on a fairy garden? I do!
Signs in the garden
I love these signs.
village
A fairy garden village? I’m all in!
Unicorn statue
A fairy garden would not be complete without a unicorn.
Fairy statue
One of the fairies :-).
Lis in the garden
Me in the surprise Fairy Garden.

When I got back to the house, I was SO happy I had taken this small, yet big, step forward.

backyard with a buddha.
My view as I reflected on the day.

Ever since, my brain has been going a mile a minute with new ideas and insights. Plus, my soul feels one size larger.

Thank you, Subconscious Self! See? Further proof we already know the answers to our troubles could not be more apparent. We ARE being led by ourselves. We simply need to lead the charge inward to surface said answers, then accept them.

On a Walk By the Ocean

Last Friday I was light on work and had loads of free time. Being that I was in Seaside, CA, I thought it only fitting to take a walk by the water. I opened my hiking app and saw there was a nice trail that went along the sea, so I hopped in my car and headed over to the lovely town of Pacific Grove to check it out.

In truth, I had gone to Pacific Grove the day before to check out some book stores and grab a coffee. I thought it was a cute town and was excited to head that way once again. Here, let me share some pictures of the town with you:

Street with bay in background.
A view down one of the streets towards the Bay.
Station front.
Not the Grand Central Station I was used to walking by, but Grand Central Station nonetheless.
Center sign.
The center attached to one of the bookstores I visited.
coffee sign
Loved this sign!

When I arrived in the recreation area’s parking lot, I reflected on how unplanned much of my days are in comparison to just a few months ago. I didn’t research the walk or where to park or how to get there. I simply trusted and let Google lead the way.

The sights I were greeted with did not disappoint, and they only got better as I walked the 4 mile loop. Here I’ll share those with you as well:

Monterey Bay
The view from Lover’s Point, the start of the walk
ocean and sand
Where the ocean meets the land.
Rocks along the water
Rocks along the water’s edge.
seals in the water
Seals rest while looking at the water.
Steps down to the ocean
Steps down to the ocean.
Some plants growing along the rocks
Some plants growing along the rocks.
Ocean and rock
More ocean views
waves against rocks
Check out the waves against the rocks!
golf course
A golf course by the ocean.
Driving range sign.
I couldn’t resist this picture.

As part of my reading I have been enjoying the book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and in doing so have been reintroduced to the concepts of self-kindness and mindfulness. I took these with me as I walked.

I saw myself getting agitated with myself for being “bored” with the beauty around me and for wanting to turn around. I saw myself also getting agitated with my chattering mind. When I noticed these agitated states, I simply observed them. I then extended compassion and kindness to myself while I pushed forward on the walk. I saw the walk not as simply a walk, but instead as a chance for me to practice and to live more fully.

Of course my efforts were rewarded, but those rewards weren’t externalized into some grand event. They were simply there with me as I walked if and when I chose to see them:

deer grazing
A friend along my route.

I also took with me thoughts about a time of transition my friend is going through. She’s struggling a bit with the emotions and thoughts which are arising (as we all do), and as I looked down at the water I saw the transition point of where the ocean met the sand and I thought of her. (NOTE: Being a huge Counting Crows fan I was also struck with the lyrics “She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land just like she’s walking on a wire in the circus.”)

I continued to carry these thoughts with me along my walk, and as I was nearing the end the voices in my head kept yelling at me to sit down on a bench, look at the water, and write. I (finally) listened to them, and this is what came out the other end of my pen:

I looked at the water. Specifically the point where the waves crossed the sand + rock. I thought how all these transition points are jagged, complex, confused. I thought about the rock standing strong as the water hits, and how it eventually gets weathered down. I thought of the sand which the water caresses then carries out to sea to parts unknown. I thought of the adventures that sand would have if it chose to go along with the sea. I thought of the water constantly crashing, pushing + retreating to regain strength for another crash. I wondered if during a transition of life if it’s up to us which of the 3 we choose to be.

Now I see we are all 3 at once.

These words on page I was allowed to walk in peace once again.

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!