We’re using today as an “off-day” of sorts. Getting some errands done – laundry, stocking up on tortillas and peanut butter, cleaning the car a bit. Just spending time in and around the city, it’s so crazy just how different everything is here compared to back in Maryland. The landscapes, the weather (specifically the absolute lack of humidity), the people, the architecture… It’s definitely new and refreshing.
Last night we had driven about 6 hours straight from Fresno to Las Vegas. We did the basic tourist-y things when we arrived around midnight. We took a picture next to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and we drove down the Strip and then called it a night at a local Walmart.
I had originally planned to spend today doing some of the common activities in Vegas (don’t worry, Mom – we would have skipped the strip clubs and casinos anyways). This morning we weren’t really feeling it. We kind of had a vague idea of what we wanted to do and then even that changed. That’s one thing that I really appreciate about being on the road. Not having a strict itinerary or schedule. We can do whatever we want. We prioritized and instead of wandering downtown among the commercial and the excess, we’re getting done what needs to get done and then we’re headed to the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade. Even though I know it to be true, sometimes I need to remind myself that being outdoors is always healthier for me. As much as I do enjoy spending time in cities checking out iconic spots, when it comes down to it I always feel better when I spend time in nature.
Waiting at the laundromat usually is no fun, but we are in Las Vegas, which seems to have its own unique spin on things. There are arcade games and slot machines here. We decided to put aside about $15 for the slots and it definitely paid off! I ended up earning over $110 and Bryant got about $0.80. A successful day for sure. Who knew we would walk away from washing our clothes having made a profit? I guess that’s Vegas for you.
After an extended pit-stop in Corvallis, we’re back on the road. As I’m writing this now, we’re leaving Sacramento on our way to Yosemite. We’ll be stopping in Arizona, Nevada and Utah to explore the national parks, New Mexico to make some alien friends and then onward through Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee… Wherever we end up is where we’ll end up. Eventually, we’ll make our way back to the East Coast. Until then, it’s time for all of the adventures and exploring we can manage and more.
Remember that one time that I was like “I moved to Oregon!!” and now I’m referring to my time there as an “extended pit stop”? It’s not that there was anything wrong with Corvallis or with Oregon. It’s not that it didn’t feel like home. Corvallis was a cool place and it gave us the opportunity to meet some truly incredible people. So then why did we leave? Nice place, nice people, good jobs, a nice house… Nothing was wrong. But it just wasn’t right either.
Leaving Oregon had nothing to do with my physical, geographical location, but rather with where I’m at in my own life. In my own mind. As much as a part of me wants to settle down and make somewhere home, I don’t know that I’m quite ready for that. The things I want to learn, discover and grow within myself are infinite. Although my physical location isn’t what really matters for this journey, I feel like going back home to Maryland is the best way to facilitate the process. I am so grateful for my sojourn in Corvallis and for all of the people I’ve made friends with. I’m just as excited that we’re back on the road and get to experience so much as continue to trek across the country. And I truly am excited to go back home to Maryland. I miss spending time with my parents, with my pup, with my friends and really spending time with myself. These past few months have been a whirlwind and I’ve made some of the greatest memories in that time. I’ve learned a lot too. I feel like I have some direction I want to go in now, but I haven’t made the effort to really focus on it. At least not in the way I think that I need to. I plan on doing so much when we get back to Maryland and I am so eager to continue this grand odyssey.
In the meantime, I am going to continue to chronicle this pilgrimage back to Maryland, where the next chapter will begin.
Yesterday was the first time that Bryant and I went on any type of hike since we got to Corvallis. I don’t think that I realized how long it had been. I was so used to doing something every day while we were on the drive over from Maryland. Even before we left we tried to take Lionel out somewhere every day. Getting outside, exploring and adventuring was something we’ve always done together. Adjusting and getting settled here kind of distracted us from getting out.
As excited as I was and still am to be here in Oregon, there’s so much change going on that it’s gotten to be really stressful. All of the angst and worry had been building up and I didn’t really let it out in any way. I was so overwhelmed, feeling such turmoil and chaos inside. I felt like there were so many things and so many factors going into everything that I couldn’t couldn’t control and I couldn’t keep myself organized. It was overcast and chilly out, which made it harder to leave my safe, warm bed, but I’m definitely glad that we made it out of the house. Once we got there, I immediately skipped/bee-bopped/sashayed from the car to the trail and soon enough found my way off of the trail and into the woods, as usual. We took this path up a steep hill and into the woods. It looked like something out of some sort of fantasy. I feel like Bryant and I should have been dressed like woodland fairies.
After walking through at least 14 spider webs and falling 3 times, we finally made it to a clearing. That clearing turned out to be someone’s backyard littered with somewhat threatening “NO TRESPASSING” signs, which obviously we paid no attention to. We somehow made it back to the actual path and I immediately threw off my shoes and started cartwheeling and I climbed every tree I saw. All of that stress was gone and I felt so carefree.
I know that getting out into nature will make me feel better – it always does. When I feel like I just want to dig a hole to hide in and sleep for an eternity and a half is when I most need to make myself get outside. I absorb a lot that is going on around me and that can be really exhausting. Even right now there’s so much going on, just sitting here in the living room. It appears to be nice and calm – which it is – but at the same time, there’s so much more. I hear a fan in the other room, there’s a cat climbing into a box across the room, the sun is shining into the window in a weird way. Bryant is on the sofa tapping his foot, I hear someone biking by outside the house. Whether it’s something I notice intentionally or subconsciously, it’s there. Yesterday I was feeling that, plus everything in my head and all of the external things going on right now that I can’t control. Sometimes my thoughts get so crazy, they’re like those little bingo balls flying around in that cage or like radio static while trying to tune into a station – any station, just something that comes through clear. I really just wanted to hide under the covers all day, but Bryant and I decided that we should do what makes us happy and explore. We headed to Philomath, which is about a 20 minute drive from Corvallis to check out this spot called Fitton Green.
When we’re out in nature, I still notice and take in a lot from my surroundings. The grass blowing in the wind, there’s a bird flying by, little ants are making their way through the rocks and dirt… Even though it seems just as busy as any other setting, it’s a different kind of busy that’s hard to describe. There is so much movement, so much sound, so many sights and smells. The trees are just being trees. That bird is just doing his little bird things. The sun is doing all it knows how to do and is shining down on us. It brings such an overwhelming feeling of peace. Everything is just being, as it was meant to. Simple as that. It reminds me of this excerpt from The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello about unconditional love.
“What is love? Take a look at a rose. Is it possible for the rose to say, ‘I shall offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people?’ Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light? It could only do that by ceasing to be a lamp. And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature – even to one who seeks to cut it down.”
If only we could all embrace and practice that indiscriminate kind of existence. Just being who we are and what we are for ourselves and towards everyone else. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? I think that might be one reason why being out in nature is so soothing – everything just is. All of the confusing, stressful happenings in our everyday lives just don’t matter anymore. It puts everything into perspective for me. I’m thankful that we were able to get out yesterday and hope to continue to do so more regularly.
I thought that I would be writing this post while waiting for my flight to DC. Instead, here I am; slouched on a futon in our friend’s living room typing up this post. Things happen, plans change – that’s life. We’ve been running with it from the beginning and it’s been working out pretty well.
Bryant and I traveled over 3,500 miles in 14 days. That’s 12 states, 3 time zones and way too many hours in the car. We did so many incredible, exciting and new things. This definitely was a trip of “firsts”; from Bryant’s first boat ride in New Jersey to my first time at a hot spring in Oregon. We visited some great natural wonders and just about every flea market in between. We now have plenty of memories from this trip that will be with us for this lifetime and the next.
The plan was to leave Maryland on July 26th and drive across the country. We didn’t have much of a plan, except for a few things we definitely wanted to visit along the way. Just so long as we arrived in Oregon in time for my flight back to Maryland on August 9th, we were free to do whatever we wanted. We made it here with a couple of days to spare and spent it with friends, exploring the town. We had all of yesterday to spend with our friends, so we planned an outing and game night followed by an early bed time so I could get up in the morning to head to Portland. A couple of hours into our outing, I felt a pang of emotion. I didn’t want to leave Oregon. But I just said to myself that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t necessarily want to and that’s life. I’d be back later in the year anyways. Hopefully. So I was going to do what I had to do which was get on that plane back to Maryland in the morning. Almost the same moment that thought went through my head, another one came up – I really don’t have to get on that plane back to Maryland. And now here we are.
These past few days have been a whirlwind but I am so excited for what’s to come. Instead of spending my entire day at the airport, waiting in Denver for two hours on my layover back to the DMV, I get to be right here. At home.
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past but we can’t relive it; and we hope for the future but don’t know if there is one”
– George Harrison
Time truly is misleading; it can be complicated and confusing. But when it comes down to it, it’s really pretty simple. All we have is right now.
I was originally going to call this blog Sempiternal Ataraxia, meaning an everlasting and eternal feeling of emotional tranquility. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s an impossible and unattainable ideal. Nothing lasts forever. We all wish that some things could and we also wish that some other, less pleasant experiences and feelings would disappear. We can’t control those things and so they’re not worth wasting our energy worrying over. It’s also not worth spending our limited time and energy striving to achieve this non-existent feeling of eternal peace. I think that what really matters is that we try to realize what we have right now. I spent a lot of time – and still spend too much time – worrying about all of the “what ifs” of the future and the regrets from the past. It’s not worth it. You can’t change the past – what’s done is done – and the future doesn’t really exist. I’m working on channeling that energy I would be spending on worrying into experiencing the present. Into right now. Love, beauty and life are multi-faceted. In order to fully experience them, we must feel both the ups and the downs, the joy and the pain. Sometimes we just need to put aside the stress and negativity. Today is a beautiful day. Take the time to embrace it. Live for right now.
Sometimes, we might feel lost without a sense of direction or purpose. I was feeling very stuck and unsure of the future for a long time. We all need to find some sort of light to guide us and to ignite our passions. As cheesy as it might sound, I found that light in Bryant. His confidence, energy and spirit are so beautiful, strong and contagious, even. He has always and continues to inspire, motivate and empower me to better myself every day. The more and more time we spent together, I soon came to realize that the light I saw in him wasn’t what was powering me to move forward. It was the light inside of myself. Little bit of a nerd alert, but one thing that it kind of makes me think of is a particular scene from Lord of the Rings – go ahead, start laughing if you want. Galadrial had given Frodo the Light of Eärendil, saying “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out”. Later when Sam and Frodo are entering Mordor and come across the spider, Shelob, they used that light to drive her away and to guide them through the web. What I’m getting at is that the light was given to them by Galadrial, but they were the ones who made use of it. The light served as a valuable tool to get them out of that situation, but they would never have escaped if they themselves didn’t have the courage and strength to fight through it. We all have that light, that fortitude. It just might take some time to find it and we may need some help now and again, but it’s always there.
We are all capable of so much and I don’t think that we always give ourselves enough credit. Saying “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for so and so” I think is still a valid statement. Over the last several years, I have had amazing support and love from some very important people in my life. I don’t know where I would be without them. But one thing I needed to realize and to remind myself is that even though they were there for me through everything… so was I. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for me. I vividly remember the night that I finally came to that epiphany. I remember hanging out at Bryant’s house, word vomiting all of my feelings. Really just spewing my train of thought and all of a sudden I said “Oh my god… I’m the reason I’m still here. I got myself here. It was me“. Once I realized that, it was like a door to a whole new world opened up. Warm, fuzzy feelings and light spread everywhere, angels started singing and there were butterflies and rainbows, too. That thought was almost like in the movie Inception – Leo DiCaprio’s character said it perfectly… Yes, I’m about to quote another film. I used to watch a lot of movies, okay? He said that “an idea is resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” Sounds a bit scary, especially if it’s referring to people who are planning on bouncing and poking around in your brain trying to manipulate your dreams and influence your thoughts, but that fine, whatever, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Once I was able to verbalize and form that idea into a coherent thought, that shed light on an entirely new perspective and way of thinking for me.
Finding that light within ourselves is vital; becoming educated on awareness and enlightenment is kind of what helped me to see that light in me. I still barely know anything when it comes to all of that, but I have already made such a huge change in my life and I’m eager to keep improving and learning as much as I can. Something that I’ve learned over the last several months and on this trip is that facing fears is also a huge part of it. I have become more adventurous and I have rediscovered that sense of curiosity that I remember having when I was younger. I’m scared of heights but I’ve climbed mountains. I don’t like certain foods but I’ve been cooking meals for myself and Bryant that I normally wouldn’t even think of going near. I have always been pretty shy when it comes to people, which is still true to a point. I’ve been able to get out more and put myself out there more than I ever have before. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and proving to myself that I really can do a lot more than I thought I could has really boosted my confidence and given me a sense of accomplishment that has fueled me to keep doing more and more.
Only five days into the trip and it feels like we’ve gone on a month’s worth of adventures. Every experience is new and unknown, spontaneous and exciting. Between car camping in Walmart parking lots and pitching a tent in Middle-of-Nowhere, USA, MTV Cribs would be loving our glamorous living arrangements. My family and I took Bryant on a boat for his first time and we got to swim in the Atlantic Ocean off of the New Jersey shore. We climbed the Ledges Overlook and Brandywine Falls in Ohio and we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day at the beach in Indiana (weird, I know).
There has been one thing that has been a bit difficult to adjust to – not seeing friends and family every day. I’ve never really left home like this before and it’s hard to not have the same kind of interactions with people as I would back home. It’s not quite a homesick feeling for being in Maryland so much as a homesick feeling for the people there. I’m beginning to learn and understand the concept of attachment and how the relationships I have with myself and with other people are changing.
Co-dependency is not good in any kind relationship. I’ve noticed that it is often driven by a fear of loss or of rejection. Depending on someone isn’t inherently bad, but like anything there has to be a balance. I will no longer allow my happiness to be dictated solely by another person or thing. My happiness is paramount. There is nothing selfish about putting yourself first. Like I said before (and like I will probably say a thousand times again) – balance is key. There is a median between an unhealthy, interdependent relationship and being entirely self-reliant and sovereign without allowing for meaningful relationships to develop. It became pretty simple once I realized that I don’t need anyone. I do enjoy the time I have with loved ones and I embrace every moment I have with them. It isn’t “I can’t live without you, I need you” so much as it is “I am aware that I don’t need you in order for me to live fully and happily, but I choose to spend and to enjoy my time I get with you”. Even though this idea is pretty simple, that doesn’t mean that it is easy. Now that I have a better understanding, though, I feel more confident and that feeling is helping me through a lot of the feelings of separation and distance with my friends. They are all with me in spirit no matter where I am, even if it’s 3 thousand miles away.
I hope that I am able to better develop my self-confidence and independence so I can keep enjoying this trip to the fullest extent. Meanwhile… onto Iowa!