Volunteering

Phase Two: Fresh Starts and New Beginnings in North Carolina

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

Many things have changed since coming back from my journey.  Since everything was in flux, I was not really able to discuss the changes, but now I can.  This is actually Phase 2 of my Epic Journey.  The first part was the trip itself.  While I was actually doing the trip, I felt it was yet another of my failures, but in retrospect, it has actually prepared me for this new phase.  I learned things that I did not realize until later and the difficult experiences made me realize that I am not quite as soft as I thought I was.

Over the past few weeks, Mike and I have been cleaning out our belongings.  Getting rid of anything that is non-essential.  We had decided to live our lives more consciously and without a lot of physical entanglements.  I have lived in this same house for about 48 years and it has accumulated much stuff.  Getting rid of the stuff has proved to be much more difficult than I had ever imagined.  It is not so much the getting rid of it, but finding a home for the stuff when everyone is buried under their own stuff and just the sheer volume of things to get rid of has been quite a hurdle.  I decided a while ago that I was tired of the stuff owning me and now I am finally getting to a point where that will not be the case any longer.  If it does not fit in Devi, it does not go with us.

At the end of this week, we will be starting a completely new life.  We are going to be leaving this home and our home state for a new location in North Carolina.  During this entire process, Mike and I have talked and talked about everything and what we feel we need at this point in our lives.  Years of being one lost paycheck away from disaster has taken its toll, stress has made us sick and it seems we may have actually forgotten how to live.

Part of Phase One was to try a farmstay out in Oregon, but due to unforeseen situations, that never came to pass.  We decided that we would give the farmstay idea another try in North Carolina.  The idea is to connect, through an organization called Help Exchange, volunteers (that would be us) with people who are in need of assistance either on their farms or teaching facilities.  Tasks are detailed and volunteers are usually give room and board in exchange for the jobs they will do.  It is a great symbiotic working relationship because the people in need receive the assistance they desire and the volunteers are given the opportunity to give back while having a roof over their heads.  These stays can be short-term or long-term, it all depends on what is needed.

We actually have a couple of exciting stays lined up for the next few months.  There are about ten opportunities just in the location we are looking at, so the opportunities seem good for now.  We will be nomadic for the next few months; if we like the options, we may stay that way indefinitely.

As the blog starts the next phase, it will still be about self-discovery but now it will also be about something more than just me.  We will be meeting people who are living outside the box and who will, hopefully, teach us how to do the same.  My eyes are going to be opened to new ways of life that I never even imagined before.  The plan is to live lighter, live healthier and to live simpler.

Leaving everything we know and leaving my ultimate comfort zone is proving to be a challenge.  But I could sit in the same place for the rest of my life and play it safe like I have done for so long.  I could watch myself get more and more depressed because my fears and doubts would be running my life or I can step outside and start living.  It is time to start living and helping others.  I wanted my Epic Journey to give me answers to how to live my life, it seemed to only give me more questions, but now I see that when asked the right questions, the answers start to fall into place.

I wanted to thank everyone again who supported my trip.  It was life changing and I could never have done it without your support.  I hope you will stay tuned to find out about this new adventure.  We should be on our first short farmstay by the weekend.  I am looking forward to it (I am scared to death) and I hope you will walk this new path with me.  Thank you for listening.

Meeting with President of The Historic US Route 20 Association

It was only fitting to meet with Bryan Farr, President of The Historic US Route 20 Association, in the historic building which now houses the Willoughby Brewing Company (4057 Erie Street). Since I will be taking historic Route 20 from Cleveland all the way to Newport, Oregon, and then from Boston back to Cleveland, it only made sense to make a connection with Bryan.

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Bryan and me outside of the Willoughby Brewing Company.

He is working tirelessly to achieve the Association mission:

“The mission of the Historic US Route 20 Association is to identify & preserve the cultural importance of, and to promote the economic development of inner cities, small towns and rural communities along all 3,365 miles and former alignments of US Route 20.” Source: http://www.historicus20.com

Bryan was only in our neck of the woods for a short time, so being able to sit down and talk with him for almost three hours was unbelievable. He explained to Mike and me how he got started with this dream, and where he sees it going. He also offered me much-needed advice on how to car travel in a frugal and safe way. His tips were great and I will be sharing them in future posts.

Route 20 has always had significance to me due to where I lived as a child. Many of you know I grew up in a very rural location where things to do just did not exist. But if you could find a ride to Route 20 in Mentor, Willoughby or Painesville, then you could find something to do, enjoy great places to eat, do some shopping, see a movie and so much more than my little town offered. Route 20 was like going to the “Big City” for me. When I learned that I could drive all the way across the country on it, there was no hesitation to make that a big part of my trip.

Our time with Bryan was extremely enlightening, but I think the most pivotal part for me was when I asked if travel changes you as a person. This incredible smile lit up his face and he said it was true and he guaranteed that I would be a different person when I got back. He explained how seeing nature and not just from the window of a speeding car, but actually seeing a mountain or a redwood or an ocean effects something inside you as a person. The beauty leaves its mark on your soul. All I can say is…I cannot wait to experience that and all the other unexpected things that will happen along the way.

Today’s Post Shout Out:  A quick thank you to Kyle, our server at Willoughby Brewing Company. He treated us wonderfully and allowed us to stay for so long as we talked. Oh, I almost forgot my hamburger quest. Really great burgers at Willoughby Brewing Company!

The building is more than 100 years old and used to house the repair depot for the Cleveland Ashtabula Interurban Rail Line.

The building is more than 100 years old and used to house the repair depot for the Cleveland Ashtabula Interurban Rail Line.

Next door to the brewing company is the old power plant which used to generate electricity for the streetcar system.
Next door to the brewing company is the old power plant which used to generate electricity for the streetcar system.

I’m Sorry

I’m sorry I have not posted more this week.  There are LOTS of exciting things happening involving my trip.  But I had a long week at work and my creative juices were non-existent.  So if you don’t mind, I will try to post a few things this weekend to keep everyone one up to speed.  Thank you for your patience!!

P.S.  It is now less than two months until my “Launch” date!!

Excitement Coming Soon and a Word About Fear

Thank you to everyone who has looked at my blog.  I truly appreciate it and love you for it!!  Please remember that starting on July 25, the actual travel posts will begin.  Right now, I am still in the planning and executing stages of the trip.  Not as exciting as the trip itself, but I hope to keep you interested enough to keep following so that when the trip starts we can see the country together.

I have been visiting great blogs about women who travel solo.  These women are amazing.  I study where they have gone and what they have done and I am in awe.  I know women who have traveled solo for work and I am in awe.  I know women who have traveled the world in the military and I am in awe.  Meeting and reading about these women is inspiring me to be better and I hope that my small trip (compared to some!) will be interesting to you.  I do have a feeling it will change me and I hope it inspires you to fulfill a dream, whatever it may be.

I have always wanted to travel, but I spent most of my life afraid.  I would think of all things that could happen and I would be paralyzed with fear.  That fear barely let me leave the house for a couple of years. Embracing the fear made me feel better, I thought it actually kept me safe when in reality it just kept me prisoner.  I overcame some of it, but fear still has its grips on me..even today.  But thanks to my brave friends and new friends I am meeting locally and via the Internet, I am casting my fears away, casting them onto the Lord where they belong.

This trip has no political agenda, no hidden meanings or undercurrents, it is strictly about a shy and fearful woman waking from her self-induced small world view and doing something totally out of character with the hopes of being better.  I want to be better on all levels: a better person, a better wife, a better sister, a better friend and a better citizen of the world.  I cannot do that with the blinders I have on.

Thank you again for taking this journey with me.  I think it is going to be a wild ride!Coming Soon

Defining Finding Center

This blog speaks a lot to “finding center.” I am sure that phrase means many different things to many different people. Some people may equate this with “finding yourself.” I am not sure if the definition for me fits any particular square peg, but I thought I would define finding center for me.

For me finding center means: finding time to be with God and spending time in His word, having enough attention span to actually enjoy reading a book or cross stitching a pattern, listening to the breeze through the trees without the prerequisite television on in the background, learning a new skill, looking at the day for what it is, finding time to exercise just because it is good for me, and enjoying the journey, to name a few things.

My life has become a series of events/tasks to check off in a planner. Over the years I have found that I constantly make lists and then work for that red checkmark I place next to the task that is complete, then it is on to the next task. That is all fine and good and it makes sense when you are working at a goal. But when it becomes the only way you can live, joy and wonder have left the building.

You read the sayings that tell you to enjoy the journey, and that life is not about the destination but the steps it takes to get there. I have lost that ability, or maybe never had it to begin with. My life focuses on getting from Point A to Point B then Point C. I have no idea how to enjoy the journey. I need those red checkmarks in my life to know that I am actually doing something. One day, a few years ago, I realized that I no longer wanted to live just for red checkmarks.

That is what this trip is about for me. I have tried other ways to “enjoy the journey” but they have not worked. I enjoyed the journey starting with a to-do list that required red checkmarks to show how much I was enjoying the journey.   As you can imagine, that technique got me nowhere.

I am not saying that it is bad to have to-do lists. They have suited me very well in the past, but now that I am older I do not want to be quite so regimented. With that realization comes the fact that I know no other way to live by what my planner says. My heart told me that I needed to do something fairly radical to get my life to center and that is what this trip is about.

This trip is definitely about the journey and all the amazing things I am going to see along the way. I spend my time in the car now just watching things, people and experiences zoom by on my way to my destination. I see everything from the perspective of the rear view mirror. Even if I am interested, it is too late as the experiences is already gone.

I think technology is fine, I am not ready to turn Amish but for me it has made me impatient and full of anxiety. How many times have we all stood in front of the microwave mad because it is taking so long? How much anxiety is created because you never seem to get “it” all done in day, a week, a month or even a year? Road rage and depression are by-products of our modern life. I just want to get off the roller coaster and see what I have been missing.

So when I speak of finding center, I just mean that I need to find a way to relax and not feel guilty. I need to have an attention span that is longer than a music video. I need to be able to feel things again and enjoy the experiences. I can be experiencing something now but all the time I am thinking about the next experience, never enjoying the present time.

One day I will be out of tomorrow’s and I am terribly afraid that I will look back on my life and see that I never cherished the today’s of my life, I only looked for the tomorrows. I think that would be a very sad realization and I hope and pray that this trip teaches me that today is fine enough. If I am blessed with a tomorrow, then I can enjoy it when it gets here.Yellow Day Lily

The Drudgery of Details

All the jobs I have held required me to always be on top of the details, those minute tasks that if left undone could send the whole thing flying off the rails. I was constantly making sure that nothing fell through the cracks. All the time desperately wanting to be the “idea” guy, the one who came up with the concepts and did not have to bother with the details. They seemed more creative and a lot more fun to be around.

Today as I sit at my computer contemplating the upcoming two months before I leave on my trip, I cannot help but think of all the details. Originally, the concept of this trip was just to pack one bag, get in the car and go. I actually got to be the “idea” guy for about four seconds, then the reality of the details started to set in.

The tasks today seem overwhelming. There is so much to do, so many details to cover. I spent the morning scratching off Lottery tickets in hopes of winning enough to support the needs of this adventure. Sadly, no winnings were gained today. The reality has set in that I may not really be able to afford to do this trip. The list of things I need is ever growing, everything from vehicle maintenance to food, lodging and lots of little things in between.

The “idea” guy surely has it made as he does not have to figure out the logistics of his idea nor does he have to struggle with funding or promotion of it. I guess my task for today is to buckle down and use all that work experience I have to work out the details. At my real jobs, when facing impending deadlines, I was many times amazed that the work got done sometimes to my own amazement. I have to assume that this particular endeavor is going to be the same. Come July 25, all the ducks will be aligned and I can become the “idea” guy once again as I decide what to write about, what to see, who to meet and where to go.

For now I will be the detail guy and plan the trip as best as I can to prepare for mishaps, unexpected emergencies and day-to-day realities. I will pray for wisdom and will be thankful for all I have as I do not need this trip like I need food and water to live. The details will work themselves out, maybe not today, but they will. Immediate gratification is not really been anything that I have experienced on a regular basis. Patience and smart decisions win the race, not Lotto tickets and wishful thinking. I am off to make some decisions and look out for dangling details.

What the American Dream Means to Me

I was duped. No, that actually implies that I was unaware of the duping. I knew, knew all along. I fell for the lie, hook line and sinker. I wanted it so badly I threw any trepidations I had out the window. It was not until I was older and mostly burned out that I realized my youthful years were spend chasing the elusive American Dream. The dream which fell short in my case. Work hard and you will have a better life than the generations before you. I believed the bigger house, better car, clothes overflowing, and stuff would make my life better.

I came forth out of the womb always wanting something, more more more was all I could think of. My childhood allowance was never enough, I was always begging for advance so I could get more candy; more candy than I needed or was good for me. Promises of some elusive deed in order to get paid now so I could spend it now.

As I grew older, I continued down the same path. What could I get that would make me happy? That sparkly thing will surely make me happy and when it did not I had to keep looking. Please do not get me wrong, my life was not bad but I just knew the more I had the happier I would be. Since I did not make enough money to continue in that lifestyle, I found credit. We all know what happens then. The tide turns and you end up working just to keep the creditors at bay.

One job turned to two jobs, tired turned to exhaustion, hopefulness turned to hopelessness and so on it goes. I wish I would have learned early in life that things cannot make you happy but I was a slow student, I mean really slow. In the back of my mind, I convinced myself that I deserved these things when, in fact, I was not deserving at all. I convinced myself the next thing would be the one that brought the entire dream together, but it did not. I was exhausted, depressed and deeply in debt.

In the back of my mind, I figured if it got really bad I could sell everything. It turns out that no one wants my used stuff, and if they do they only wanted it if it was cheap. All that money I spent on pretty things and no one else really cared about them. I was a complete fool.

Now the mantra seems to be less is more and I see it now. Your possessions should not own you as mine did. I worked and worked just to pay off the debt and the happiness they were supposed to bring was nonexistent. What if the things you had were functional and/or something that really, truly meant something? How better would life be if you could sit on your porch and drink a cup of tea knowing you did not have to work 80 hours this week to just barely get by. Once that concept really hit me, I realized how wrong I had been. How greedy and thoughtless I had been. Now was my chance to turn the tables.

I have downsized over the years and with each item that is no longer in my possession, I feel lighter. Unfortunately there is still a lot of stuff to go, stuff no one really wants and that stuff has made me feel as if I was drowning. It all needs to go. My experiment for this trip is to take it all down to what I need to live and what brings me a little bit of comfort. One box is all I get to take with me. That box will house my personal belongs that I just cannot live without. If I find along the way, that an item no longer fits that need, I will give it away or throw it away. By the time I return home, I should be well on my way to living with less and hope to never be that person I was before. The person who thought of only herself. I want this trip to change me permanently, I want to be healthier in so many ways; spiritually, physically, and mentally.

It may seem selfish to being taking this trip and I am struggling with that. But if I do not make a major change in my life, I am not sure where I will go. I do not want this trip to be a trip of leisure as much as I want it to be a challenge, the likes I have never endured. I want this trip to be hard and uncomfortable and when I get out of the car somewhere I want to actually see it. My attention span is and has been about as long as a music video (remember those?). I miss the fact that I cannot sit still long enough to read a chapter in a book. I have numbed my brain so much with electronic entertainment that I have lost the ability to converse on a personal level with another human being, I think of what is only next not what is right now and my brain rarely stops thinking about things that are meaningless. These I believe, in my case, are side effects of the American Dream.

It is time to change the ideal of American Dream to be as individual as each one of us is. My dream might not be yours, and vice versa. I believe the American Dream is still a valid concept, it just needs to be changed and reviewed a little more often. Maybe it is not about McMansions and fast cars, maybe it is about helping someone out and living a more moderate life. I hope this trip opens my closed eyes and my closed heart. As I said before, the person in the mirror is a stranger to me and I do not like that at all.

The People Who Influenced This Trip

The year was 1977, I was 15 years old, living in a very small town and being very dispassionate about my life.  On a summer day, I walked into a movie theater and my life was never the same.  The things I saw that afternoon changed me and created in me a permanent state of wanderlust.  The movie that changed everything was “Smokey and the Bandit.”  I sat riveted in my seat experiencing the freedom of being on the road in a really cool car.  I longed for that kind of freedom and my desire to travel was born.

When I was younger I was able to take a few really awesome road trips with my mother and sister.  I watched them both travel the world and live in different places.  I, on the other hand, stayed mostly close to home desperately wanting to be one of them.  I admired my sister for taking the chances in life I was too afraid to take.

I read an article many years ago (sorry I do not remember what publication it was in) about Angelina Jolie – pre-babies and pre-marriage. She spoke of how she was a lone traveler much of her life and said that all she needed was a backpack and she could live anywhere for weeks.  Talk about freedom, talk about excitement, talk about cool.

Many years later I became obsessed with a little television show called “Supernatural.”  The story is of two brothers who drive around the country on back roads “saving people, hunting things.”  They live in cheap motels or their car (another really cool car -1967 Chevy Impala).  They live with very little and do not acquire much along the way.  Before you say anything, I know it is a television show but I love the lone lifestyle personified in the show.

Watching Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” made me want to go out and rent a “Great Red Shark” cherry red convertible, which was actually Hunters personal 1971 Chevy Impala loaned to Terry Gilliam and Johnny Depp for the movie (yet, another cool Impala) and tear up Las Vegas in truly old school style.   Okay, not really…I would end up feeling terrible about that type of behavior.  The book painted such a strong picture of what a road trip feels like.  I wanted that kind of life (minus the drugs, guns, etc.).

Many of my favorite Classic Rock songs speak about life on the road.  I lived my life only dreaming of such a life.  I am so excited to have a chance to live it if only for a brief time.  Thank you to all the Road Warriors I have known, including my husband, who have inspired me and kept the dream alive.