Living simply

My Epic Journey: One Year Later

Have a good trip AVERY

Well, tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the start of my Epic Journey.  One year ago, I pulled out of the driveway in search of God, inner peace, purpose and a new way of life.  As I look back on the ideals I had before I left, I think how foolish I was.  I expected this trip around the country to change my life and change me as a person.  My life has changed as have I as a person, but not because of the physicality of driving around from state to state.  Seeing the largest ball of yarn or the ocean, those things did not create the change I am experiencing today.  It was wonderful to see all the things I saw but much of it left me still wanting for something more.

Over and over again in this blog, I have mentioned how the people I have met have changed me.  That fact is still true.  This journey has allowed me to meet all kinds of people: ex-convicts, possible gang members, homeless people, wanderers, and everything in between.  My perception of people has vastly changed.  I have had the hardest of people look after me, without a request, while I sat alone in a bus station at 3 in the morning.  I have had complete strangers care about me and my well-being in situations I never imagined.  People I would have been afraid of in my old life have shown me compassion without expecting anything in return.  My heart swells just thinking about it.

When I first came up with this crazy idea I was terrified to even speak about it out loud.  I was sure my friends and family would have me committed.  Then I slowly started to feel the waters and found out that everyone was ready to stand with me and show me support I never imagined.  I could never have done this without them.

The people have definitely changed me.  But there has been other aspects to this journey that have changed me also.  Flying without a safety net (or not having a home base any longer) proved to more than I could bear in the beginning, then became more and more of a blessing as time ticked on. I have a home base now, but it is different in ways I still have yet to imagine.  The concept of not owning much, which was scary at first, is something I freely embrace now.  The weight of “things” has lifted and I can breathe again.  Goodbye things, I do not miss you.

I have learned the difference between alone and lonely.  I am alone a lot, and yes, I am lonely sometimes, but I do not have to be both all the time.  Same with sad and depressed, I no longer let the sadness turn into depression.  I have learned that having control over everything is like a prison, you are locked in and there is no way out.  Giving up control, just like giving up things, is the key that unlocks the prison door.  Trying to control everything is just too tiring and it never quite works out.  These are just some of the things I have learned over the past year.

This year has been a year of changes and re-evaluating everything I knew before.  I am still not “there” but I now have the first year under my belt and I survived.  That is a glorious feeling.  Now my heart is open to more possibilities and more opportunities.  I am looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring.  This journey is not over by any means, but it is easier to see outside of myself now.  There really is a big world out there and it actually does not revolve around me. I no longer need to carry the burden of having everything in the world depend on me (one of my major misconceptions).  I can now start to live a life that is open, even raw at times, but not closed off because of fears and uncertainty.  Every new day is uncertain, I am learning to embrace it.

Here’s to experiencing more pain, more joy, more love….just more of everything.  It is scary indeed, but worth it every step of the way!

From Ohio to North Carolina….I wonder what’s next?

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Hiking Clingman’s Dome

Scenery No 1

Part of my North Carolina plan was to start hiking.  I have a friend that I used to work with (shout out to Jan!) who moved here and started hiking.  She is so healthy now and I want to be like her. She is my inspiration.  Except I really do not like the outdoors, or sweating, or hiking for that matter.  I am an indoor, read a book, or binge-watch Netflix kinda gal.

Unfortunately I have found all my years of non-outdoor activity have made me rather soft.  Walking the parking lot at the grocery store can cause me to want to take a nap.  I am actually afraid that I am so out of shape that I can never recover.  Everyone says it’s never too late to start getting in shape, but I think I am the exception to that rule.  I am marshmallow soft.

Mike came to visit for his birthday and he gets hold of Jan who happens to be in town and we all meet up.  We catch up for a while and then the talk goes to taking a hike.  I start to get nervous because everything around here seems so hilly.  I am not good with hills or non-paved walkways.  But I figure I can tough it out, it is the least I can do.

They decide on Clingman’s Dome and off we go to the National Park.  I learned along  the way that it is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at 6,643 feet.  Obviously, I realize we are not going to actually climb this peak, like from the bottom of it to the top.  That is not an adventure you start at 3:30 pm on a Wednesday.  There is a parking lot with a half mile walk to the top.  I was much more at ease as I know I can probably walk that amount without major injury.

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The drive to Clingmans is worth the experience.  The National Park is overwhelmingly beautiful and is beautiful from all angles.  As we climbed, in the car, the temperature dropped and dropped from a hot and humid 90 to a refreshing 70.  Ok, I was loving this trip so far.  We did not see any wildlife on the way in but we did see a black bear and a few elk on the return trip.  That was very cool.

After about an hour, we get to the parking lot at Clingman’s Dome.  Remembering it is only a half a mile, I put a spring in my step and we started off. Little did I know that, although it would make sense since this is a mountain, that the half a mile was all uphill.  Not just up a hill, but intense, steep grades that would make a grown man or woman cry.  Luckily, there were benches every few feet and I utilized them all.  Finally, I told my walking companions that I was never going to make it before sunset and that they should go without me.  They tried to talk me into continuing but I fought them on it.  So they eventually went on without me.

As I sat on the bench I watched a variety of people coming down from the top.  Each person shouting encouragement and saying how worth it the trip was.  I saw older than me people, some were handicapped, some were out of shape like me and many other varieties of shapes and sizes.  I was wimping out and became very disappointed with myself.  Quitting, especially this early on, was not what this adventure was all about.  So I started walking up some more.  After several stops, some short and some longer, I made it to the top just as Mike and Jan were heading down.  Their faces showed such surprise and happiness that I had made it. It was worth doing just to see them. They accompanied me to the top of the observatory where it is said you can see up to five states because you are so high up.

The scenery was breathtaking and surreal at the same time.  It did not seem possible to be over 6,600 feet up, on top of a mountain.  My brain was having a hard time believing what my eyes were seeing.  It was beautiful.  As I took some time to catch my breath, I realized that climbing this mountain, albeit not so much climbing as walking a path, was more than just taking a hike for me.  It was overcoming my fears of heights, and fears of having a panic attack due to the strain.  The fact that I even made it without collapsing made me so inspired to keep trying new things.

By the time we got back to the car, I was exhausted but in a good way.  I was thrilled that I toughened up and did it.  Mike and Jan were proud of me and that encourages me to do more.  At first glance, the mountain seemed to have won, but I steadied myself and talked myself into completing the journey.  I also prayed a lot for strength as I struggled up the walkway.  But it got done and I could not be happier.

Muhammad Ali said “Don’t count the days.  Make the days count” and that day counted in my book as an accomplishment that I can be proud of.  If you ever get the chance to “climb” Clingmans Dome, I highly advise you do it.

Observatory

Please note:  the photographs in this post were not taken by me.  I have some great shots that I took.  Once I figure out how to get them transferred from my camera, I will post separately.

Small Town Girl

NYC

Like John Mellencamp, I grew up in a small town and I lived in a small town.  Whereas he loved it, I hated it most of the time.  Oh, how I wanted to be like Mary Tyler Moore and move into a really cool apartment and have a really awesome job.  I dreamed of being a big city girl.  I thought I would hang out at art museums, listen to symphonies, drink fancy beverages, write awesome prose and basically just be very bohemian (a word I had to look up before wanting to become it).

I always put off my dream of writing because I had not experienced anything.  I thought only living in a city like New York or Chicago would give me the cred I needed to write and to be cool.  I have already established from other blog posts, that when God was giving out coolness I must have been in the ladies room or quite possibly taking a nap.  Cool is not who I am.

Let me tell you about my two days in New York City.  I was given an opportunity to visit New York City for a travel coordinator’s seminar.  I jumped at the chance and packed my bags.  I had been to Chicago many times and Los Angeles too.  I figured New York was going to be the place I fell in love with, the place that would change my life.

The plane landed in Newark and from that moment on I hardly drew a breath.  All the people, all the commotion and the overall bigness of everything started to overwhelm me.  Every movie I had ever seen about NYC flooded my memory all at once.  I somehow got into a cab (which was way smaller than I had imagined it to be) and got to my hotel.  When I got out of the cab, the city noises were almost deafening.

I finally got to my room on the 12th floor.  I quickly bolted the door and placed a chair in front of it for added security.  I slowly moved toward the window and looked out.  Buildings were everywhere, as far as I could see.  Even that far up all I could hear were car horns and sirens.  The sidewalks were wall-to-wall people.  More people on one street than lived in my entire hometown.  I gingerly moved over to the corner of the room, fell to the floor hugging my knees and stayed in a fetal position for most of that first day.  Overwhelmed did not begin to cover how I felt.

Not sure if or when I even slept, most of the day was a blur.  I had obligations to fulfill regarding this trip so I made myself get out and go to the seminar.  After it was done, I walked to the Chrysler Building thinking it was the Empire State Building.  That is how “cosmopolitan” I was.  At home, I always considered myself so citified, when in reality I was really just a small town girl and New York City was not the place for me.  I was lost and afraid the entire time I was there.  I walked to Times Square which was larger than I thought it would be but at the same time smaller than I thought it would be.  It seemed very surreal to me.

Saddened on the way home, I realized that all my grand dreams were just that…dreams.  Nothing was as I had thought it would be.  I was pathetic in the big city.  I was so very sad when it hit me that I was just small town.

Fast forward to North Carolina.  I stayed in Asheville for a while.  Asheville is in no way similar to  NYC but it is a fair size town with lots of people.  I never felt secure there.  I never felt like I fit in.  It is a lovely town with lovely people but it just was not for me.  Then I found Bryson City.  A town more like where I came from.  My comfort level went through the roof.  This town fit me and I fit it.  Everyone literally knows everyone else.  The people in the diners are friendly as are the shop owners.  There is a slower pace that small towns have that I require in order to thrive.

I cannot live under the constant pressure of a big city.  I can do without the over-abundance of micro-breweries and dance clubs.  I like shopping at Family Dollar and Freds.  I do not need specialty shops and fancy places.  My heart is heavy that I am really not as cool as I once thought I was, but I understand it now.  Some people are made for the big city and some are not.  I am not.  I am learning to embrace my small town attitude and be thankful that I, at least, got to see a few big towns in my life.  I guess part of the journey is finding out not only what works but what doesn’t.

I guess, like John, I will probably die in a small town and I am finally ok with that.

Taming the Tiger

angry tiger

Anger has always been an issue for me.  My personality type gets overwhelmed very easily and when that would happen I simply lashed out like an angry tiger.  I may not even have been really mad but frustrated about a situation.  Luckily it usually took a while for the tiger inside me to work up enough steam to blow, but when it did it was not a pretty sight.  My angry outbursts are among my biggest of regrets in life.

Now that I have time to reflect I look back on those days when the tiger controlled me.  Like so many people, I was over-stressed, always broke, behind on bills, not satisfied with work, felt sick all the time and my to-do list was ever growing.  I felt like I was never staying afloat, let alone getting ahead.  I looked around and saw friends who seemed to have it all together while I felt as if I was unraveling a little more every day.

Sadness and depression enveloped me and I could not see an out to the way I was feeling.  That made the tiger even madder.  It was a vicious cycle that seemed to never end.  When I knew the house was going to be lost to the bank and a new life had to start, I was felt crushed.  I tried to be excited about the uncertainty of it all.  Inside I turned into a scared child.  I pretended to be okay but the fear was overwhelming.  The tiger was ready to strike at any time.  I prayed for an end, even if it meant the end of me.  Extreme, I know, but I was completely hopeless all the while showing a smile on the outside.

Fast forward about six months.  Things have settled down for the time being.  I found a job that makes me happy and makes me want to be there even on my days off.  I found a nice, quiet place to live and the tiger inside of me is at rest.  I still get overwhelmed.  When you work with the public, things are going to happen and people are going to push, but for the most part I have enjoyed everyone I have met so far on this journey.

I realize now that the stuff I thought I took comfort in actually feed the fuel for the tiger.  The things overwhelmed me as did the bills to pay for those things.  In my dark and alone times, I thought of how to live without all the stuff but my ideals were unrealistic.  When I realized that I became upset all over again.  Now after living a very simple life for a while, I am rejoicing in the lack of things.  Lack used to mean something negative to me, now it is a goal to reach.  I now find comfort in little things like a soft blanket or a really good cup of coffee.  I no longer need the fancy coffee maker to make the coffee, I will leave that to someone else.  As long as I can find a way to wash, I have my three t-shirts and two pairs of pants are just right.  Everything I own fits in one suitcase. Lightness has overcome the darkness and I actually feel as if I can breathe again.

The process felt like I was in labor for about six months.  There were times when the pain manifested it self physically.  My eyes ached from crying, my muscles hurt and my voice was hoarse from yelling at God.  Now I wake up without an alarm clock, not fretting the day, but rejoicing that God did not listen to me and end me all those months back.  The smile then was forced and fake, the smile today is real and genuine for the first I can remember.  The tears I cry now are happy tears.

Not everything is perfect, I still experience sadness and am lonely at times, but what happens when the good days start to outnumber the bad days.  Life becomes a totally different animal.  No longer am I tied to an angry tiger and that feels good.

I used to think I could not live without this or that, but when you start to live without this or that you have more room for happiness and love.  All my experiences in life, good and bad, have gotten me to here.  I cannot express what it feels like to actually have a second chance.  I could never feel gratitude before because I was so miserable, now I am thankful for everything.

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Here is to saying goodbye to the angry tiger and hello to the…..cute and fuzzy bunny (?) inside of me.  Wishing you happiness and love in your life too!

 

 

 

No More Wringing of the Hands

wringing of hands

I worry about everything.  Things that are possible, things that are impossible and all that is in between.  Basically I wring my hands a lot.  I have known for a long time that worrying is a waste of precious time, but I cannot seem to drop the habit.  I feel as if I do not worry about something, that thing is going to happen.  It is a vicious circle.

This is not a new behavior for me.  As a child, I worried that my parents would die, that I would get sick or that some catastrophe (like nuclear attack) would happen.  It was the groundwork for my OCD in later years.  OCD that hampered my life for so long.

So here I am on a quest, and I have something holding me back.  I knew it was fear but the fear is based in my worry.  Now is the time I need to break the chain of both fear and worry.

No more rethinking every conversation, no more coming up with scenarios that are not  ever going to happen and no more wringing of hands.  I cannot even imagine how freeing it would be to step out the front door in the morning and not have that dark rain cloud over my head telling me to stay in and hide.

I have found it is actually easier to be fearful than to be brave.  Which makes sense; going out on a limb, so to speak, is scary no matter who you are.  After talking with many people who have done exciting things, I have found out that brave people are not necessarily unafraid, but the fear does not stop them.  Some say that the fear actually encourages them to keep going and pushes them further.

I am going to take baby steps.  Firstly, stop wringing of my hands.  Secondly, I need to accept the fear I feel as motivation to walk over it and start experiencing all those things I have been looking for.  Modern life is always trying to cramp the bold style; scary news broadcasts, all kinds of media that exploit the horrendous nature of some humans, and just a general fear of those things we do not understand.  Life seems to have become full of random, unexplainable violence. That will do a lot to keep you behind closed doors.

For today, I will let the sun shine on my face.  I will feel the breeze blowing through my hair. I want to smell the outdoors and hear the sounds of nature.  I am excited to finally be taking steps to actually go outside my comfort zone, not just words.

Here is to being brave, even if it is a small step.  It is, at least, a forward step.

praying hands

Here is from going from wringing hands to praying hands.

I Wish I May…I Wish I Might???

wish board

Pathetic as it may be, this is my wish board.

This is going to sound idiotic, but I never understood the purpose of a wish.  I get that when you wish for something you are asking for something in particular or some other tangible item that you do not currently have.  It could also be something intangible like a superpower or the like.  But when you wish, who are you talking to?  It is not a prayer like to God, so who is listening to all these wishes?  I am so confused.

In my last career position, we had a corporate strategy meeting where we all added ideas to a wish board.  I was new to the concept and found it intriguing.  Everyone contributed ideas about how to make the company better for employees and customers as well as stronger financially.  There were no wrong ideas, so we were all free to add things that would have been considered over-the-top in a regular corporate meeting atmosphere.  Then the best-of-the-best were picked and added to a wish board that hung in the lobby as a reminder of where we wanted to take the company.

I have to admit I snickered a little under my breath at the idea.  Then after one particularly desperate day, I thought I would make my own wish board (I actually called it a dream board, but I believe they are the same thing).  It was way harder to do it for things I wanted in my life, there was no real out-of-box thinking.  The reason, I think, for that is because it is my life and I know I am never hitting the road with Bad Company or shredding down a mountain slope on a snowboard.  Not happening, so I felt the need to be a little more realistic.

I purposely used a smaller sheet of paper because I wanted everything on my list to be of importance to me.  I started with a picture of a tiny house.  I have wanted a tiny house for years.  I have read the books about the lifestyle and watched the television shows.  I am having doubts about it becoming a reality for me, but I put it out there as my foundation.  So, let’s just call it the fact that I want to live with a much smaller footprint whether it be a small apartment or a tiny home.  Smaller is really the key for the base of my board.

Then came what to do with my life.  I would like to work from home as a writer.  Yet, another thing that might not be in my future.  I am going to write no matter what, but I cannot see it paying rent or feeding me.  But again, it is the foundation for all of this.  I really think I should not be negative at this point, but I am also very realistic.  Unfortunately.  I used to dream big, but life sort of took that ability away from me.  Too negative?  Maybe.  This concept is harder than it seems.

Since I do not see a New York Times Bestseller in my immediate future, I need a job.  I just want a job that I am trained to do and one that I love.  I want to feel like I am making a difference and supporting myself in the process.  Having not “worked” at a regular job for a while, I have to admit the thing I hated about a regular job is the thing I miss the most.  The structure or you could call it having a purpose (that sounds much better).  I need that sense of on-going purpose.

Tiny footprint, writing and purpose.  Good start.  A few other things that followed included:  daily Bible study, volunteering, consistent exercise, frugal living, eating clean and making my own food as much as I can and my own cleaning products.  That is basically my dream board.  Funny, how when I put it this way, I see that I actually have some control over these factors.  Not really wish material (other than the tiny home).  So, do I not understand the concept after all?  I am still so confused.

What about my wanderlust?  I still want to continue the Epic Journey, but it needs to be thought out better.  I never realized just how expensive a journey like that would be (I could never have done it without your support), or how grueling it would be.  I need to take some time and reconsider the remaining portion of the trip. It will happen, I promise.  I just need to regroup.

What about home/farm stays?  I am struggling with my true abilities to do this type of work.  The past 53 years of my life have done nothing to prepare me for this particular lifestyle.  I feel useless at times and that just plain makes me sad.  Another thing I need to rethink.

To sum it all up, my wish board is more like at To Do List.  I can keep wishing for these things but without taking action, they will never happen.  Getting back to my original thought, I guess I really do not understand the concept of what a wish is for.  Do you go into a wish knowing it is just a pipe dream or somewhere in the back of your mind, do you think it could happen?  What happens when you wait and wait and the wish does not come to pass?  Seems to me wishes are pathways to be disilllusioned.

I think I will put my wish board away somewhere and turn it into my To Do List.  That is concrete and measurable.  I will leave the wishes to others. I honestly wish I could believe in the power of wishes, but I guess I am too pragmatic.

Here is to a healthy and attainable To Do List for those of us who are uncontrollably realistic…

and here is to those lovely souls who have dreams and wishes, may they become real and change your life in a way that adds more light to the darkness of this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh My…How Things Change

Change Ahead

Change is my new mantra.  It is so funny to think about, but I used to avoid change at all costs, now the landslide I call my life is constantly shifting.  I was thinking this morning about all the little things that have changed in my life.

I used to wash my hands constantly.  Yes, slightly obsessive.  Now, I can go to the barn then make a sandwich and never give my hands another thought.  Of course, if they are covered in something I will wash them, but not the 30 times a day I used to.

My old rule was if I wore something for longer than five minutes, it had to be washed and dried.  I was constantly doing laundry of clothes I never really wore.  Now, I have to remember to change my clothes after a few days.  I forget sometimes how long I have worn an outfit.  Pants can go a couple weeks and shirts a couple days.

Grocery store runs were an almost daily norm for me.  If I saw a recipe and did not have an ingredient, off to the store I went (and bought a lot more than that one item).  I have learned to improvise.  Now I use what I have or do without.  “Going to town” now means planning ahead and being resourceful in the meantime.

Most of my life has been spent sitting behind a desk; shuffling papers,typing, answering phones and other non-physical activities.  Due to that lifestyle, I became very soft and doughy.  Now I am walking and moving so much more.  What an amazing difference that makes.  I am down about 30 lbs. (with quite a few to go) just by getting out of the chair once in a while.  After you get used to it, moving actually does feel good!  I am even considering starting to hike  — well, I still in the thinking stage of that one.

Food, what can I say.  My old idea of food had to come to me in a prettty, shiny package all wrapped up nice and secure.  I knew where food really came from but I liked the idea of sanitary food.  I have found that food that is home grown, locally grown or just fresh from a farmer’s market tastes so much better.  I no longer need the plastic wrap to make me comfortable eating food.  Also, how much better is it when the food has been tended to and cared for.  You can actually taste the difference.  Sometimes I even accidentally eat a little dirt.

There are so many little things that have changed, I could go on for days.  The real thing though is how much more open I am.  I am still scared to death every day of my new life.  Mostly, I have no idea what I am doing or what is going to happen next, but I am open to the experiences.  I used to be so closed off, I just wanted to be alone.  It was just easier to be by myself.  I had no reason to meet anyone new.

Yesterday, I met a fellow Helpxer who came to my hosts home to help with a project.  We all had a great day talking about life, traveling, pain, insecurity and joy.  We talked the gambit of emotions and feelings.  At the end of the day, my new friend is going her separate way but I am hoping we can stay in contact as our journeys are similar.  I realized my struggles with uncertainty and feeling lost are not abnormal.  Lot of people, more put together than me, struggle too.

So as I think of all my personal changes and the fact that they make me feel as if I am standing on shifting sand at times, they are making me a more open person to all this world has to offer.  Talking to strangers, doing jobs I never dreamed of, and just putting myself out there are things I could have never done without the changes in my life.  The added bonus is the incredible people I am meeting are showing me new ideas and new ways to think that get me outside of my head.

There are days I curse change and wish I could wrap up in my blankie and just wallow but change is not allowing that behavior any longer.  I was very comfortable being enveloped by my sorrow and fear; we had become friends.  Now it has all changed and is continuing to change.  I am interested to see where the tide takes me and what my next adventure is.

Thank you for sharing with me.  Here’s to change and all that that entails!

 

 

Morning Comes Early

Having never been one to jump out of bed and start the day, my new life requires that I do that now.  The morning comes early when there are horses, dogs, cats, birds, turkeys, ducks and the occasional goats to feed.  These lovely living creatures need me to care for them.

Walking outside to see the sun starting to stream over the mountains, smelling the pure mountain air and feeling the cool breeze on my skin has transformed me into a morning person.  The absolute quiet of the day and the stillness have made me fall in love with this new, albeit temporary, lifestyle.  As the kitties rub my leg and the horses nudge me toward the barn, I realize that there is much more to life than I had ever imagined.  My view was certainly very narrow.

The day continues as it always does with more chores to do and errands to run.  Then the cycle starts again as night begins to fall.  I will hear the animal voices reminding me not to forget to feed them, as if I could.  But now the sun is disappearing behind the mountain and the fresh air still brushes against my face but just with a cooler temperature.  Life is good on the farm.

I am learning that taking care of something other than myself is its own reward.  I so quickly fall into a pattern that revolves around myself.  That only leads to frustration and depression.  Caring for others opens the heart and the mind to a new way of thinking.  It makes no difference if you are helping another person or a furry friend, the mind cannot seem to concentrate on both self and others at the same time.  Thinking of others is not an automatic response for me, but the more I do, the easier it becomes.

A few more things to do then off to bed as morning does come early to the farm.

Here is to the opportunity to see a new and different life than the one I knew and to constantly expanding my horizons.

A Time for Reflection 

  
First, let me say to everyone out there…I am wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a new year full of blessings, health and joy!!

I know it has been a while since I posted anything.  I traveled a little bit, made it to Florida to visit my sister and brother-in-law, got sick and started a new home stay.  As usual there is a lot going on but I was just too ill to write about it.  I am finally feeling better, thanks to my host family and a local free clinic.  

A year ago today I was at home in Ohio thinking about taking an extended trip to the Wesr Coast.  I had a job that I had to figure out and logistics.  I was aching to hit the road but was pretty sure it was not going to happen.  Here I am a year later and I did the Epic Journey (at least part of it), left my family home of 49 Years and am living somewhat nomadic for the time being.  What an incredible and terrifying year.  

My highs have been very high and the lows below low.   I, truthfully, have been afraid most of the time.  Change is hard for me and I have had a lot of it.  I have cried more this year than I ever have and I have also laughed more than I ever have.  I have felt more isolated than I ever have and more connected than ever.  The year has been full of contradictions and confusion.  But looking back all I can really see are the people I have met.

The people who  have crossed my path have touched my life in ways I could never have imagined.  I reconnected with many of my family and long-time friends before taking this trip and that was a blessing I can never forget.  We all got busy with life and this trip seemed to bring us all together again.  My work friends supported me from the very beginning and I could never have done this without that support and love.  On the road, I met amazing people taking their own personal journeys.   I learned the trips were different but the need to dream and explore were all the same.

I have met people who have traveled the world and walked across the country in search of the perfect place to be.  I have met single women traveling alone and  finding independence and strength.  I have met many people on quests to find peace by pitching everything and starting over.  I have met people willing to take strangers into their homes and provide shelter, food and purpose.  I have had complete strangers watch out for me to be sure I was safe when traveling alone.

When I planned the original trip I thought it was going to be about the things I saw and the things I did.  I was wholly and completely wrong.  Those things made an impression but it was who I met along the way that have changed me.  I have grown in ways I could never have imagined a year ago.  I have learned lessons and heard stories that have literally blown me away.  

There are times when I miss my own couch or bed.  Sometimes while driving, especially at night, I look at homes with the warm glow of light shining through the windows and I miss my own space but then I realize that I am on a different path right now.  I may settle down in one place again but for now I still need to expand my comfort zone and learn more of the lessons life has for me.

To everyone who has followed this crazy journey with me and to everyone who has supported me, my gratitude is unwavering. I could never have done this without you.  There are new plans being made for 2016, so the journey is not over yet.  I hope and pray that you will continue to be with me as I try new things.  My life is blessed because of you and I thank God daily for your love.

Here’s to family and friends this Christmas season and to all the best life has to offer in 2016!!  Thank you again everyone!!

Fresh Brewed Unsweetened Iced Tea with Extra Ice

iced tea

In the past, I have been very specific about certain things in my life. Iced tea is one of those things. I would only go to certain restaurants to get it because I knew who used powdered tea and who fresh brewed their tea. Getting a sweet tea by mistake would just about ruin my day. I always figured I know what I like and that is that.

Times they are a changing. I no longer have the luxury of having that mindset. I used to wear two or three outfits a day, now I wear one outfit for two or three days (as long as it stays clean). I used to have a pantry full of food, much of which I would never get around to eating. I would only have organic Half and Half in my coffee. My bathroom was full of bottles of scrubs, astringents, lotions and many other concoctions that I felt I absolutely needed to have. I never realized how wasteful I was.

Once you decide to downsize, you have to start rethinking everything; what is really important, what would be nice (if you had the room), and what is completely ridiculous to carry. I wanted to have just what I could carry in Devi (my Mitsubishi Endeavor). So I got rid of most of my stuff and packed up Devi and found that I still had too much stuff. Now I am in the midst of downsizing yet some more.

The point for me is that I always thought I had all this stuff that I could not live without and I had to live in a non-bending, specific way. I have learned one bar of soap washes my hair and face as well as my body; I no longer need soaps for different body parts. Three shirts and two pair of pants can make complete outfits for over a week. There is no room in the car for junk food (that is a fairly new rule and I do not always live by it…but I am trying) and so on.

I have a little respite today, so I am going to try to consolidate and get rid of a few more things. I will consider what is important or has some sentimental value and what is unnecessary. I will probably look back sometime today and wonder how I ever got by with my old way of thinking. I am embracing this new lighter lifestyle as it just seems more organic. Please do not get me wrong, I have a long way to go but, at least, I am on a path-not sure if it is the right path but it is a path. Learning to live with less and without a lot of extra conveniences is a process and I am assuming it is one that is learned over a long period of time.

For today, I will forego a few more of those “things” I thought I had to have and learn to embrace it. If I am out and about today, I may stop at Mickey D’s and get a fresh brewed, unsweetened iced tea with extra ice (a girl cannot give up everything)! Here’s to living with less and loving it!!