Before Going Down Under

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I have always wished there was a list for how to gracefully leave a place. A list for who you need to see, what you need to do, and how you need to pack. For me it always seems like a desperate whirl-wind of chasing the people I love around California, unloading everything I own into a giant pile in my parents house, and then making last minute trips to the thrift store to drop off the unwanteds and no-longer-needs before meticulously packing my bags up until the minute I HAVE to get into the car to go to the airport. Because of this wish for a straightforward list, I will try my best to make one later on in this post.

What no one really says about traveling is how hard it is to leave the ones you love. There always seems some kind of glorification around the traveler’s ability to up and leave on the flip of a coin, but the truth is that it is never that easy. Every time you leave a place, you are choosing to put your life with the ones you love on hold. Social media can only go so far to act as a buffer from that separation, and so you share your life through pictures and the occasional facetime. However, it is never easy. Liberating, sure. But easy, no. There is always a tug pulling you back towards the lives of the people you have cared about for your whole lives, whom strangers can never truly stand-in for.

This being said, for many of us, it is worth it. By letting go, we find ourselves. Yeah, yuck, it’s cliche, but in full honesty no one knows who they are until they find space from the people that think they know who they are. And when the traveler gets onto the plane and steps into uncertainty, the only person they have to believe in is themselves. The true traveler recognizes this separation. She can acknowledge the choice she made to travel, and the goodbyes she had to make, and the hellos she will be able to create. And then, in the end, the people who are there when she returns are the ones that are meant to stick around. It’s an unusual test, but it’s just another way to sort through the chaos.

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Without further ado….

Who to see: You usually will have a limited number of days to say your goodbyes. This means you need to be selective about who you say goodbye to. Spend quality time with your closest friends and family and write down their addresses before you go. Everyone loves letters. Do not waste your time on acquaintances. You will probably end up spending more money on coffee and beer than you need to in the days before leaving.

What to pack: 1. Shoes are the most important thing. Do not pack any shoes you can’t walk more than a mile in. I like to bring a pair of boots, sandals, and running shoes to keep up with whatever comes my way. 2. The little black dress. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the black dress. It will love you on the days you can barely move from exhaustion. It can dress up and down. It is lightweight. Everyone loves a black dress (I got mine from Ross.) 3. Enough shorts and shirts and pants not to have to do laundry every day, but not too many that you’re faced with the crippling decision of what to wear every day. I like to bring an assortment of clothes that all match with each other so I can swap shirts and pants accordingly. 4. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the camping essentials are a must. I never travel without my sleeping bag and a pair of long underwear to get me through long nights. This addendum to the list is bulky, but saves you in the long run by being able to camp instead of book a room. 5. Toiletries, duh, but facial wipes are amazing for long stints without showers. Nail clippers seem to be the friend I always forget, so I’ll throw that up here for fun. 6. A good book. Only one. You will find more as you go I promise. 7. A shawl for the plane. It doubles as a blanket and is an amazing travel companion. I just discovered this one recently.

What to do before you go: 1. Put everything you’re not taking into a cozy storage space somewhere so as not to burden anyone with your belongings. 2. GIVE AWAY EVERYTHING. I mean sure, if you are super thrifty you can throw a garage sale or sell to consignment shops, but trust me the things you have left will only beckon you to come back sooner. The less you have, the more free you are. I cannot stress this enough. 3. Notify your banks that you are leaving…. otherwise you may end up in a foreign country with no money, just saying. 4. Check the visa requirements and read the fine print. If you are doing a work holiday visa, make sure all of your forms are filled out and turned in. If you can only stay in a country for 3 months, make sure your final destination there is near a border for a quick escape (just kidding kind of). 5. Triple check what you packed to make sure you have everything, and then get on the plane and go! Let the stoke fill you up as your stomach drops into “what the hell am i doing?” and then back to “hell yeah, lets do this.” Traveling is always worth it. Always.

I am currently packing up for Australia. The goodbyes have been said, and all that is left is to get myself down to the airport. Stay tuned for the adventure to follow.

 

 

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Dreaming


This is for the girls who think in poetry. This is for the people out there who aren’t sure where reality ends and dreams begin. This is for those who are keeping their dreams alive because the same people who told them go ahead, held them back when they did. This is for those dreams. May they live on as long as possible against all reason. 

She was on a bike. The bike was moving. Her body was moving the bike. The ice plant hung to the sides of the road; an unwelcomed welcome guest. Her hips jiggled on the bumps. She felt herself smiling. She wrote in third person. She saw life as a wonderful and fleeting thing and she was never the person she was ten minutes ago. She was always morphing into others. “Oh you’ll find yourself someday,” they all echoed in her ears. “I have,” she said, knowing she was a million different people in one. She wasn’t afraid of the truth. She loved it, she sped towards it, and climbed over the walls protecting it, and asked and dug and ran. She scared people unknowingly because she was a dream they had locked away in some part of their hearts.

She was tired of scaring people, but ordinary conversations didn’t interest her anymore. She realized how fleeting life is one day while watching a dandelion get trampled in the duff. She realized she was made up of the same things. When she was sad, she would lie in the sand, or ocean, or grass, and try with all of her might to dissolve into anything else. Something else. Anything other than that body she had been born into. She used to hate her face for the ways people didn’t look at her. Then she hated her face for the way people did. She was ashamed to be society’s standard of “pretty.” So she hid in every way she could. She fell in love more times than she could count so that she would be able to share some of the things she thought were beautiful in her. 

And she had dreams. Oh boy, she had dreams. But those dreams lived inside her and everywhere around her constantly. Sometimes they would slip out and into the ears of her good friends “I want to go to Australia,” or “I want to fall in love.” Usually they would just sit there around her, playing with her hair, tickling her feet and scratching her belly, hoping that she would recognize them. She would always say “I’m not ready yet,” then skip off into something else.

This is for the dreamers. The one’s whose dreams are begging for attention. The one’s who carry them with them everywhere they go, and see them in everything they see. It is us that will stand smiling at the ends of our lives. We will never regret the risks we took as much as the one’s we didn’t. For you, my dreamers, this is the wick that will keep your candles burning. Let your flames breathe, and when the time comes, set the whole world on fire.

Climbing.

Gibraltar Rock, Santa Barbara

It takes gear, time, and friends to climb. Once the mountains start calling, they don’t stop, and when you learn the language of the rocks, you not only hear it’s whispers on warm summer breezes, but you feel it in the ache of your hands and body. It becomes a craving, an almost unhealthy addiction, and it is impossible to run. So you don’t.

Then you do, but all of the running is away from everything else deep into the home of the rocks. That is where you’ll find her. That wild woman that feels and reasons with equal gusto. And when you find her there with wild hair and a dangerously alive fire in her eyes, you’ll feel things that you’ve been afraid to. If you dare, she will let you, and she will hold your hand tenderly the whole time while pulling you deep into the heart of everything. 

Climbing is not exclusive. Despite popular belief, not all climbers are exquisitely fit and sleek Roman gods. Though, naturally, the field is full of such gods, every shape that a body climbs in can be found on the rocks. It is the puzzle solvers and challenge seekers and nature enthusiasts that inhabit these wilds. And I’m not saying everyone is good, heck, a lot of us aren’t, but at least we are out there. As climbers, as friends, as humans, we flee to the hills to slow down and unwind with babbling brooks and trees and birds. If we get exercise while we are out there, then it’s a bonus (you always do whether you realize it or not).

Remember that woman you found a few paragraphs ago? Yeah, she is still there, always there. She is anywhere you leave her or want to find her in the woods. She waits for you while you’re at work, eager to play again. She loves climbing because it takes everything in her to accomplish each climb. Her eyes, dancing up the moves barely before her hands. Her feet, seeking and finding each new step to push and lean and pull from. Her shoulders, tense and relaxed and strong. She has been waiting for you because she is the parts of you that are still wild. When you run out of breath, she pushes it back into you and takes you higher. She is the animal of your body that needs to move and love and explore. 

She climbs because she can because you can. If you doubt her, you doubt yourself and the parts of you that you have let wander away. When you see them floating in the little stream of your mind, bend down and take a look. What has come between you and them? What excuses do you make that keeps you from her? What stops you from climbing the mountains? And if climbing isn’t your dance, what is?

This is a blog about finding her, you and the dance of the two. Climbing is where I found her, and where I run to be with her. She, for me, is my true self that I lose sight of when I walk down the path of “shoulds and should nots.” And so this is for you too, as we find her and us and each other somewhere. After all, this is what it means to be human.