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 to you today 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 myself and my friend 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 not only was a 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 lesson learned which come to mind. Here we go!

Stay Open to Random Acts of Kindness

I realize that 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 free of rejection, I opened myself up to reaching out to friends whom I haven’t talked to in a long time to see if they’d be open to 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 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 one night at the local Motel 6. In the morning the hotel Wi-Fi wasn’t working in our room, though it was working 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!

Thoughts From 10 Days in My Hometown

Earlier this Summer, I shared with you some reflections I had during a road trip I took from Washington State to Los Angeles. After said trip, I hopped on a plane to New York. This flight kicked off my July and August on the East Coast. During that time, I’ve traveled up to New England, down to the South, and back again… an adventure I’ll write about in future posts. Before this adventure started, however, I spent 10 days in my hometown. It’s this stint I want to reflect on today. Here goes!

Balancing adventure time with staying still time is important

When I arrived in upstate NY, one of the very first things I noticed was my need to stay put. I had a great desire to not leave my parents’ house. Normally, I’d try to get out at least once or twice to see old friends and family, but not this go around. I simply wanted peace and quiet. Luckily, staying in a town where cell service still isn’t reliable was just the place to fill this requirement.

In reflection, I saw that all the energy I expended on the road needed to be balanced out, and boy am I glad I took the time.

This isn’t my home anymore

This was a big one! Despite all the peace and quiet being helpful, I finally recognized it wasn’t on my terms. I saw that my parents live here 24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 52 weeks a year. Who am I to come in and request they not start lawn mowing at 7 in the morning so I could get more sleep? Who am I to ask that they free up the bathroom in the mornings so I could get ready for work? I used to be a resident here, but I’m clearly not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I have stayed at my parents for days and weeks on end a time or two during the past 18 years of my life. However, this time around I connected with the fact that I simply don’t live here anymore and I no longer have any sort of say in what goes on in the house. It’s not my place to make requests or to change anyone else’s routine. I saw how before when I would come back to visit, I would slide back into my roll as a child living in the house. This time I recognized how this slide no longer serves me (it probably never did) and I pulled back on it right quick.

This meant recognizing that when I’m here I’m a guest who has to maneuver my time around the routines and constructs of my parents. This is something I’m finding increasingly frustrating, which also means it’s something I’ll be addressing in future visits (either by staying somewhere else or preparing my schedule differently).

In addition, I saw this small town also wasn’t my home anymore. Yes, I grew up here, have a great deal of family still here, and can probably go into many of the local establishments and be recognized, but I simply do not hold dear the same values and beliefs of the surrounding community. My world has shifted, and my points of view along with it. I’m a visitor here, and knowing this makes me feel both excommunicated and liberated.

I’m not sure where these realizations will take me, but I am sure recognizing them is important (and probably something I should have done long, long ago).

We grow up and we grow apart. That’s OK.

Going along with the above themes, I also realized how much I’ve grown apart from those I spent much of my childhood and young adult years with. I attended a wedding shower for a friend I’ve known since pre-school and felt fraudulent for doing so. Having gone many places and done many things in my life without having my hometown friends around me, I suppose this feeling only makes sense. We aren’t on the same pages anymore. This doesn’t mean we don’t love each other, it’s just a reality of being an adult who leaves.

I know the sooner I own and accept this fact, the lighter and more prepared for additional growth I’ll be.

In Conclusion

On July 1st my friend and I started our East Coast road trip which will be featured in the next installment of this blog. Until then, I find myself in this sort of limbo between who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. I suppose this limbo is what living life is all about, though. Who knew?

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!

Being Me Anywhere

Tower of the Americas In San Antonio, Texas
San Antone – Where it all began.
Photo Credit: The Brit_2 Flickr via Compfight cc

I remember the first time the sensation came to me. It was morning. I opened my eyes and scanned the fuzzy outlines of daylight.

Where was I?

I put on my glasses and saw the clear outlines of my surroundings. Relieved, I set my glasses back on the night stand then let my head fall back on my pillow. My eyelids began to drop in hopes of a few more moments rest as I thought, Ah yes. San Antonio, Texas. That’s right, I live here now.

My eyelids flew back up.

Holy shit! I moved to Texas!

Then I felt it. It started as a tingle in my center, then radiated outwards until my fingers and toes were awakened. The line of thinking it encapsulated goes something like this:

  1. I moved thousands of miles away from home and I’m OK.
  2. I moved thousands of miles away from home and I’m still ME.
  3. I can be me anywhere.
  4. I can BE anywhere!

I cannot tell you how excited and at peace I was with this feeling. I didn’t know it then, but this feeling would become the essence of my being. Sure, it took me years to get the logic clear from point #1 to point #4, but the sensation that started it all first appeared to me that day on West Gramercy Place way down in San Antone.

Weldon Wagon Trail Hike
Hiking the hills above The Gorge

Fast forward 13 years to a few May nights in The Columbia River Gorge. On one such night I was, once again, lying in bed. This time I was trying to fall asleep, but, alas, sleep would not come.

Instead, I lay awake thinking about my upcoming adventure; living “on the road” without a permanent address. It would be just me, my car, my laptop, and a suitcase. I lay awake that night not just thinking, but mostly fearing.

I feared I was making a mistake. I feared missing the cozy cottage I’d been calling home. I feared a life without the immense quiet and solitude I’d grown accustomed to. Who would I be without these things? Could I BE me?

Over the next few days, the sleeplessness cycle continued. I had no idea how to counter my anxiety, so instead I took a friend’s advice and accepted it as part of me. (I should note this is much easier said than done. I didn’t just magically accept it. It was a struggle and it took effort, but it was worth it.)

This acceptance allowed my mind to calm and clear. It was only at this point when I remembered that morning back in SA Town, and the essence that came with it.

I don’t need the cottage or the quiet. I can BE anywhere.


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