Lost

Last month I bought a one-way ticket to Bali. Last week I stood inside the Seattle Tacoma International Airport, at the gate, ready to board. It was 12:50AM and in eighteen hours I would be sipping fresh juice on an Indonesian beach somewhere. Minutes passed, allowing exhilaration to become something else. I became dizzy. I suddenly didn’t know why anymore. What was I even doing!? I paced the lounge. I spoke with the clerk. I meant to ask a routine a question about boarding procedures, but then I heard myself asking if it was too late to take my checked bag off the plane. It wasn’t too late. Something was wrong. They removed my bag and I didn’t get on the plane. Instead, amid boarding calls for flight 255 I turned around and walked the other way- in a zombie-like stupor.

In the month leading up to that moment I had rented out my room in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, sold my car (for much less than I’d like to admit), quit my job (that I loved), and said goodbye to some friends. I left without saying goodbye to a lot of people I love. And I hurt a few friends in my abruptness. But I did it all to accomplish the dreams I’d been talking about for years.

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One of my last Colorado sunsets from Rabbit Ears Pass
But when I stood at the airport, I knew it wasn’t right. So I walked away, wondering fearfully if this night was what I would remember for the rest of my life as the literal moment I walked away from my deepest aspirations.

Yes. I had big ideas of seeing the world. And this was always my dream, but this adventure now wasn’t THAT dream. It was a different one. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was running toward this adventure- in that erratic way- for the wrong reason. I lied to myself over and over about the reason I needed to travel the world right now. Truthfully, it was for someone else. Again. I’d been chasing the same boy around the world for three years. And, in the process I stopped knowing myself. This boy is someone who has given me some of the best times of my life. He is my best friend, and without him life just isn’t as good. Nothing makes sense when he’s not there, and I don’t know how I’ll forgive myself for leaving him like that. I’d rather not think about it, but I’m pretty sure that this time I’ve really lost him. He left Bali yesterday. He’s off in Europe now. And that’s all fine, because I’m done chasing.

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2012. First time in Bali
At some unknown point I stopped thinking for myself, and I ceased to be free. So I’m here, now. In Olympia, Washington. I really never would have guessed I would walk away from that comfortably chaotic love to live here again. But here I am. Life is unexpected in that way, and that’s okay. Whether I find myself here or not, it’s a fine place to be lost. For now.

5 Adventures That Changed Me [No. 1]

I was twenty-two when I went on my first big adventure. Fresh out of college, I set out on a six-month solo journey across the South American continent.  It was the journey after which I understood that the truest way to learn about life and my place in it was to experience it. To strip myself of all that felt safe, and just go for it. But this adventure of paramount importance that created such a rich and permanent change in me almost didn’t happen.

I had just completed a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was one assignment short of my Bachelor’s Degree.  After spending the last few months studying Latin American history, literature, and Spanish I hadn’t experienced anything profoundly enriching. I still went to Starbucks for my morning coffee. I made small talk with my neighbors and the guys at California Burrito down the street. School was school and living in such a big city made me feel alone. I was looking forward to my flight home.

My semester was officially finished that November, and a friend from college happened to be in the city. In one short week I’d be on a plane back to Seattle, so Erika and I booked a bus to Las Cataratas de Iguazu in the Amazon Jungle, where Argentina borders Brazil and Paraguay.

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Iguazu Falls, Argentina. Erika (left) and me at La Garganta del Diablo. 2012

We spent two nights and every bit of the days exploring the jungle in its glory. We were in the midst of a magical land of waterfalls, butterflies, and rainbows. Literally. Everywhere. There were toucans and coatis (think jungle raccoon). We took some drugs, and the colors exploded. The iguanas grew in size, while the monkeys seemed to be laughing at us. I never wanted to leave. Erika had begun her journey in Venezuela eight months before, and this was the end of it. But for me, she urged, it could be the beginning. I didn’t have much money, but I had enough for a few months, she said. So instead of booking a bus back to Buenos Aires we said our goodbyes and, spontaneously, I headed the opposite direction.

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On the road with dead bugs on the window.

I had been in transit one night and part of a day when I reached Tupiza, Bolivia. I stopped off overnight in Salta, Argentina, where the evening was spent finalizing my undergrad thesis, while convincing myself I wasn’t crazy. But after two buses and a border crossing that had me scared shittless, I was regretting this incredibly ill-conceived notion that I could backpack across South America. Nerves kept me awake on the bus all night. And after crossing into Bolivia an odd baby was placed on my lap. So, I didn’t sleep then either. At the end I handed the baby to the woman I guessed was its mother, got off the bus, and watched as the metal heap sputtered, shot smoke, and rattled away. Once the exhaust cleared I felt the anxiety (and fatigue) that had been building turn to something else.

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Incan Ruins outside Tupiza, Bolivia. 2012

I heaved my too-heavy pack onto my back, and shuffled through my pocket to find an address I’d scribbled back in Salta. There was a woman selling pastries, “¿Cononces el calle Suipacha, uhh.. este, Hotel Mitru?” I asked. She knew and she pointed down a paved road toward the old colonial center. “Dos cuadras…derecho” I was able to pick up. I bought a pastry, thanked her, and set off walking. That marked the beginning of my solo travels. I’d made it to Bolivia, and at that moment against the staccato structures and dust-stirred street I was, for the first time, enlivened by the thrill of the unknown.

Have you ever made a spontaneous decision that completely changed your life?

In Nature

“It seemed glorious sport to be feasting in that wild, free way in the virgin forest of an unexplored and uninhabited island, far from the haunts of men, and they said they never would return to civilization.”                                                                                                                                                                                 – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

Nature changes the brain. It really does. Being in the moment for an extended period of time allows the noise inside a busy brain to dissipate. It allows us to focus on what’s right there in front of us- what really matters. In a personal world that can constantly feel as though it’s spiraling out of control, a world riddled with anxieties and fear, I turn to nature.

In nature, life seems more manageable. Problems are fewer. Conversations come easier. And the food always tastes better.

I hate when my friend’s grumble, “Uggggh, I don’t want to go back to real life.” What the hell is this “real life” you’re talking about? Aren’t we experiencing it now?  Responsibilities are real, sure, but the way we emphasize their importance is all wrong. We are here now. Just shut up, smell the fresh air, and keep walking.

I have friends who warn me against climbing trees. “Don’t go climbing any trees while you’re out there, now..” my roommate’s words echo as I leave the house. “Okay!” I lie. I love climbing trees. It’s just one foot in front of the other, advancing farther from the earth with every step. To keep my hands from trembling I must reach cautiously for new branches and, naturally, I’m happy here.

Those errands, that meeting, that shift I picked up- none of it is any more important than the time I set aside for myself to live in the moment. And pretending it is has become too exhausting. Up in the tree the only thing that matters is not falling out. I can never have my fill of nature. Being in its midst makes me greedy for more but also less greedy for other things. Materialistically, I have everything I need. I have too much. As long as I am able to live wildly in the moment and appreciate all that I am given, I will be free.

Talking to You

Before you go clicking away to another adventure blog- hear me out. I’m just getting my bearings. It’s been years since I wrote anything. But maybe what I say will resonate with you. Maybe it will make you laugh. Or you’ll get inspired by something here. But, you might completely hate it. I haven’t written anything yet. Who knows? Maybe this blog will totally suck.

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My friend Grace at start of the gorgeous South Coast Wilderness Trail. Washington State – May 2015

This blog is here for one reason. It’s here to help me make sense of my confusing life. It’s here to help me reason with the fact that I never really feel at home. Not anywhere for very long, anyway. I’m writing to make a deliberate effort to live in a more fulfilling way. To travel. To adventure. To grow. To explore. To love. To combat anxieties that tell me I’m not anything enough to live the life I absolutely want. And the anxieties that tell me not to write. Screw those anxieties. Financial anxieties, too. Screw it all. I just want more. I just want to fall in love in new ways. To live a life where my heart beats fast every day.

Like I said, this blog is here for one reason. It’s here because I want more out of this one chance I get at life.

As a wayfaring twenty-something dreamer who spent my post-college years drifting from job to job, place to place, never quite feeling satisfied I thought hey, maybe I’m not alone. Maybe you are like me. Maybe you, too, are dreaming of quitting your mundane job waiting tables and getting on a plane somewhere new and different. The idea is only to keep growing and learning from new experiences. Maybe I can construct an adventure blog that means something.

Maybe I’m just dreaming. But wherever I land, it feels good to be taking the leap.