Self Truth

Got to Lima two days ago.  Wrote on the rooftop of my hostel for a bit.  Alone. Peaceful.  I’ve been feeling quite lonely these past few days.  From Cusco to Lima it’s been so grey, the dullness of the sky seems to weigh on my spirit.

Strange to believe tonight I will be on a plane back to the states.  It’s really been 2.5 months.  Costa Rica (the beginning of my trip) feels so long ago.  And Nicaragua…I had all these fears of seeing someone I’m sort of in love with (there is no label but I fondly describe him as my ‘seasonal partner’), and it ended up being a beautiful time in my life.  Although peppered with some strange aquaitances, I learned how to own my confidence with grace.  When grace failed me, I learned to laugh. And when my laughter faltered, I learned to let things go.

Anicca, the Buddhist term for impermanence.  My friend, Uri from Isreal taught me that word.  It was the first night I’d be thrown into the arms of Mother Ayahuasca.  Just me and Uri in the jungles of Perú.  I noticed it tattooed on his forearm and asked him of its meaning.  I couldn’t help but chuckle and reply, “Ironic.”

He joined in with me and said it hadn’t occurred to him until afterwards.  He gets that response all the time.  But really, why bother getting attached to anything?  In the end it doesn’t matter, we all die.  Nothing is permanent.

I nodded in understanding,  but really the thought of this made me feel empty, almost pointless.  I think I’d rather get attached and suffer.  Maybe that’s why I write.  Suffering is so crucial to writing.  The next morning, after Ayahuasca and much weeping, Uri, who was Buddha beside me all night, commented he wanted to suffer as I had that night.

The other day, I messaged a friend I made in Portland while living there last year.  So simply she asked, “Are you happy?”

Wow.  So powerful.  A ‘How are you,’ is such a robotic nicety these days, it doesn’t really mean anything.  I took a moment to respond.

“Grateful is a better adjective.”

I’m seeing the world like I always said I would, and I’m proud of myself for that.  But some days, I really feel the challenges of my solo quests.  Because of this, I always remind myself how good it feels to be in a loved ones company, to hold hands, to connect with a stranger, even for a day; they stay that much sweeter in my memory.

I sit here alone, writing on a couch in a long hall of a big, Victorian hostel.  Everything is white.  I wonder how many people before me have sat down with their thoughts, much like mine.  What were they searching for?  What were they remembering?

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I just met a man named Falk from Germany.  He’s been riding his bicycle around South America for 6 months and has another year or so to go.  He must be in his 40’s.  I wonder if he’s happy.  I wonder if he is like Uri and lives in a state of Anicca.  I wonder if he is like me.

I met a girl in Tarapoto.  Her name escapes me but she is from Switzerland.  We talked about how we liked to travel.  By how, I mean she didn’t bother doing anything touristy.  Only walking around, looking, observing, even cafés were in a sense for tourists, but sometimes she was thirsty.

She told me she enjoyed doing nothing.  Her friend had told her she was the only person she knew that actually meant it when she said she wasn’t doing anything.  Only sitting and thinking.  I found her quite lonely, but rather I think she valued her loneness more so.  Something I could relate to.

Soon I’ll be in familiar surroundings again.  Back with friends.  Back to the mountains.  Cali sunshine.  I’m sure some things will have changed, if ever so slightly.

I’m thinking of what these 2.5 months have been to me.  A step closer to something else.  Most people travel to get away, but I think I travel to get closer.  Picking up pieces of myself along the way. Each new place allows me to learn something new about myself.  I’m grateful for this- to discover, revealing the truth, even if it is my own.  Yes, there is more work to be done.  One more step, and another…

Ultima Dia (Last Day)

I have one more night in Cusco, Perú.  Broke my vegan streak for a home cooked Peruvian chicken dish.  Living life according to my rules.  No guilt.  Instead of one last wandering through the cobblestone streets of the historic center, I’ve spent most of the day in bed.

It’s raining hard.  While drinking tea and talking to a new friend from Argentina (in Spanish 👊🏽), hail began to fall around us through the roof as we sat at a table.  We had just been complaining of the cold showers as well.  I picked up a speck of hail to feel it melt in my hand.  It’s always been an odd phenomenon for me, hail. We laughed and climbed to the top story to view Mother Nature’s power and all of Cusco.  The city, the mountains, the deep grey skies.  This is it.

I can’t help but feel the tinge of sadness for all the friends I’ve made and most may never see again.  It’s a strange feeling knowing each person you meet will not be a constant you are accustomed to.  To share a week is lucky.

As I begin to sink my teeth into these mountains, and all the doors begin to open, it is time for me to go.  Friends say I could stay, find work, keep going.  But I think I’m missing that constant I can count on.  I’m missing some other mountains, and some other hills as well.  And with the more places I visit and call home for a short time, I know I will have more places to miss, and of course more people.

With each town I have been a part of, I feel like a cat living a different life.  Speaking of cats…At my apartment I lived in for a week during a short workaway, I was blessed with beautiful views of the city.  I’d take it all in, but noticed something on a lower rooftop.  Something mangled looking, garbage?  No, it was definitely a decaying cat.  Moments like those I believe my life is a dark comedy.  Everyday I would take a moment to enjoy the view, but couldn’t bring myself to not look at that poor dead cat and wonder about it.

Perhaps that’s how I look at most of my trips, on the whole there is so much beauty and greatness,  but there’s always something along the way that made me cringe.  Maybe it was drunkenly kissing the wrong guy (yes that happened) or not taking advantage of the clear, sunny days to take a certain hike; but as a good friend always says, c’est la vie.  I’m going to smile on all the moments the way they were, laugh at myself for the way I can be, and enjoy this day with cooking and movies in bed.  Because my rules, no guilt.


 

 

Dating and Traveling


As we all know, dating nowadays is exhausting.  Technology has opened the doors to ever greater options of courtship while dually diminishing our standards of thoughtfulness and respect through the process.  So yeah, dating is tough, but what’s even more difficult is trying to date as a traveler.  Motives are misconstrued, insecurities are amplified, and a general understanding of how to date a traveler is like asking a drunk person to walk a straight line, they know how to, they’re just suddenly incapable under the circumstances.

First off, I’m surprised there isn’t already a hip portmanteau or blend word for a travel dater (Any suggestions?).  For the past 3 years I’ve had a serious case of wanderlust.  Coupled with my natural inclination to be in a relationship, these two ideas that make me happy struggle to  coexist for an extended period of time.  For one reason or another I get to the next place alone, every time.  My time spent in one place seems to dictate how long the relationship will last, never the other way around, and I have yet to travel with a significant other.  The easiest thing to do on both sides is to be grateful for the short lived romance and get when the gettin’s good.  Why haven’t I been able to maintain something long lasting?  Why doesn’t it ever work out?  Ever? 

When I type in ‘travel dater’ on Google the first result that pops up is an article entitled, ‘Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels’ by Adi Zaradias.  Ok, I’m going to go cry now.  Among a handful of cliché, over romanticized travel fluff jargon, in bold letters the author writes, ‘She will never need you.’ Yes, obviously women who travel are pretty capable, badass bitches, however, what is also implied is that if you’re not in the travel game, you won’t get it and you’re not good enough.  Ouch.    Additionally, I feel she’s trying to say travelers don’t have a soul when it comes to relationships.  What the hell?! 

I’ve met many different kinds of travelers with all sorts of ideas about love and relationships.  To be honest, the spectrum isn’t much different than if you put a bunch of random people with roughly the same age in one room.  Everyone would still have their own unique outlook on how they want or don’t want to experience a relationship.  The only problem is that when you put the idea of frequent travel into the mix, it gets complicated. Duh.  

I’ve had to tackle tough conversations with partners explaining why I can’t stay.  My goals and intentions for possible travel plans are always explained in the beginning.  The thought of having a particular corner of the world that I need to visit hanging over my head is not an option I’m willing to compromise.  Resentment in the conquest of love is not a risk I’m willing to take.  So you might be wondering if I don’t stay, why wouldn’t your partner go, right?

There are two main reasons I have not traveled with a partner.  The first is simple: time.  I have never stayed in one place long enough to allow a relationship to get serious enough for that option or to even consider how to go about it. The other reason, which gives me the most grief, is that (in my personal experience) men don’t take dating a traveler seriously.  It’s a bit of a catch 22 at times.  Because I am leaving eventually, they don’t care to put in the effort, and because they did not show me their best selves, I don’t care to ask them to join me in my life changing adventures.  It’s like an inevitable relationship trap I willingly go into.  Every.  Time.  

My understanding is that people view a traveler as someone who doesn’t really care about who they’re with in the first place, the real catch is the next stop, the new experience, the plans after them.  Then there’s self preservation.  Why get caught up and treat it seriously when the other person will leave?  When you try to date someone who embodies both these notions, it can be dangerous.  Yes, I’ve been cheated on.  The only thing I can say is, I do care, and I’m as every bit of human as the next person.  I put love, respect, and value into all my relationships and I deserve to receive that back as does everyone in a relationship, no matter the circumstances. 

Perhaps this is a bit of a commentary on the types of people I choose to date.  I can hear that one friend on my shoulder telling me, ‘stop dating losers!’ Truly though, I hope I have shed some light and widened the perspective on dating someone who travels.  It could be, if you’ve ever dated a traveler, that you end up being a whirlwind of a story in their own epic adventure or even become the other half of the journey entirely.  But isn’t that the possibility we hold to all relationships we enter? 

Stream of Consciousness: Welcome to Portland


I’m here, I’m doing it.  Finding the quirks and the gems that make this city’s heart beat.  Diving into another lesson on loneliness and taking chances.  Daily practices of hope, positivity, and productivity that I’ll land my perfect job.  Reasurring myself that opening up to vulnerability allows a deeper discovery of self and an evolution of strength.  Reminding myself that minor frustrations are temporary, and also putting focus towards how good I feel when I walk  these streets.  Taking in the beauty of the roses and lemon verbena that seems to line every sidewalk.  I can smell the air.  It’s fresh, it’s sweet.  I’m a constant stranger and somehow everywhere is my home.  Portland is my home.  What new discoveries await…

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Everything in Its Right Place

Getting to Portland posed a bit of a dilemma for me, rather moving all my s*** was difficult to pull off.  I sold my car about a month ago and prior to deciding I wanted to move more permanently to the West Coast, I more or less lived out of a backpack for 2 years (unless I was back East where all my belongings stayed).  Once I had to be responsible for giving all my things a home (although I was surrounded by beautiful objects, familiarity, and my creature comforts), I’ve realized it’s a real big pain in the ass, given my lifestyle I haven’t yet wanted to give up.

Last year, I packed my Subaru as full as I could and brought it to the Marin Headlands of Sausalito, CA where I lived for a few months. I stayed in a ginormous bedroom  that needed to be filled, so I went on craigslist and bought a cool coffee table.  Well, my job, along with the housing that was offered with it, was only temporary, so 4 months later I had to move it all out.

Next, I went to go work and live on a farm.  This time my accommodation was more creative and I moved into a ginormous tent, along with my cool coffee table, a tempurpedic bed, a rug, and a tiny bookshelf.  Oh yeah, gypsy life was really suiting me now.  You can imagine how cool I felt when I invested in a sheepskin.  This lasted for about 4 months.  Then my English boyfriend’s visa ran out, and I thought I was going to suffer the cold for another month or so, but the very next day he left, the zipper to the tent broke.  Solution:  camper!


The camper was kind of on its last legs, but definitely an upgrade as far as space and warmth were concerned.  I had to say goodbye to the igloo oasis along with the memories of the beautiful English guy that maybe I’d see again one day.

A month later, I went on a hiatus to Southeast Asia and I was happy to live out of a backpack again for 5 weeks.  Not long enough though!  When I came back, my car broke down a couple weeks later; I sold it.  I already had it set in my mind that I was going to move to Portland, and when I decide something, it’s just the way it’s going to be.

I offered a friend’s dad payment on top of gas there and back, and he was more than happy to take me.  The 10 hour drive was long, and I wanted to stay awake and keep him company for as long as I could, but I couldn’t help but catch a snooze here and there.  Driving just hypnotizes me.

We got fish and chips at a seafood joint he frequents and he encouraged me to order whatever I wanted.

“Hey, it’s your money anyways.”  He joked.

Later on he told me at least twice how happy it made him to buy me dinner and have company at a meal.  My heart melted a little.  I realized how nostalgic this trip was for him once he told me he would travel that route up to Washington with his late wife all the time.  He talked about her the entire way there.  Out of all the anecdotes, I know that she died, “July 22 on the john at 10 minutes to 12:00.”  Yes, that’s on the john.  He told me it’s actually pretty common for the elderly to die that way, and was quite frank about the whole thing.

We pulled into a pit stop where he and his late wife would stop for a hot pork sandwich.  Attached to the restaurant was a gift shop and he insisted I pick out a mug for him to buy me.

As we pulled up to my new abode in Portland I asked him what he was going to do on the way back.

“Buy a hot pork sandwich.”  I laughed and hugged him goodbye.

Now I’ve got a new place for all my things.  And I realize I have too many clothes, and what sane person who travels this much has 4 boxes of books?  Alas, I have my perfect writer’s nook.  Everything in its right place… For now.

 

 

It Could Be Anyone, Anywhere

  

It’s tough being a modern, independent, adventurous woman sometimes.  When I ended my last long-term relationship of 3 1/2 years, my protective bubble fell away. I’ve experienced how being outgoing, nice, and alone has made me a perfect target for predators, and has set my ‘bullshit detector’ on full blast.

At home or abroad, it makes no difference- it still happens.  While working at a nice farm-to-table bar and restaurant where I lived, I was walked in on in a bathroom (that didn’t lock properly) and trapped.  The guy got a swift knee in the gonads and I got away.  So did he.  My last 2 days in Thailand, a man I met who spoke 5 languages and was finishing up his degree, wouldn’t let me close my door after walking me to it.  He only left after I told him I’d raise my voice louder after every time I told him to go.  Guess he wasn’t smart enough to translate ‘No.’  Of course he had the audacity to ask me out the next day.  Get out of my life!  When someone offers to buy me a drink, my automatic thought is, ‘what do you want from me?’  I’ve come a long way from being naive and trusting.

While backpacking Costa Rica, I made friends with a local.  He offered to show me around the gems of Manuel Antonio, and I was excited to see the less touristed areas.  We trekked for a while, but once we were in a completely secluded area, he asked me to lift up my top.  I was out like lightning.  It was then (my first solo trip) that I had to come to terms with who I was to the outside world, especially while traveling: attractive, single, and easy to take advantage of.  It was depressing.  I wanted to make genuine connections, get to know another way of life, see the side of places I might not be able to on my own.  Why did there have to be an alterior motive?

This isn’t a ‘woe is me, I’m beautiful and life is hard’ post.  It’s a message to men that women, under no circumstances should be viewed as something to be conquered.  It’s a message to women that it could be a reality for you.  It’s a warning that the cool operator that says you have a beautiful heart and he only wants to respect you, might actually want to do the opposite.  I know this, because I’ve experienced that.

I’m truly thankful that these close calls haven’t gotten out of my control; I feel for those in which it has.  My heart seriously hurts for humanity when a gentle, beautiful, trusting person can be broken.  It’s not fair.

This isn’t a light post, I know, but it’s an issue worth talking about.  Many travel blogs only talk about the beautiful, positive side-and surely that’s true and real, but there’s the dark side too.  So much seems swept under the rug and replaced for something lighter and brighter.  I want to share my beautiful discoveries with you too,which I do, but I  also want to reveal the darker truth that few seem to talk about. 

My intention is not to discourage solo travel, but enlighten, raise awareness, and hopefully arm you properly.  It’s a big, beautiful, chaotic world out there worth exploring.  But not everyone is as trustworthy as myself and perhaps you.  Not everyone has pure intentions, and that is just the reality.

The hard part is acknowledging it is a part of life.  Have I put myself in situations where the probability of these instances are more likely to happen?  In some cases, yes.  Does it make it justifiable?  No.  But I refuse to change who I am and how I do things unless it suits me.  Why should I?

It’s upsetting and frustrating because I come from a place that wants to see the best in people.  Although I’ve had numerous experiences where I’ve been unjustly disrespected and sexually harassed, it hasn’t lead me to put all men under the umbrella of unworthy.  But it’s happened enough times that I want to speak about it.  What gives?