Living In The Present

As you have probably noticed, I have been doing a bit of preparation for this trip. Getting AAA, finding my camping gear, creating packing lists, finding the “right angle” for my face for when I take my first selfie with a bear . . .

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Thinking this would be a good selfie look – me pointing at my new bear pal.

I have also been trying to catch up with friends and family in this area. A couple of weekends ago, I spent time with two of my cousins, watching comedy and getting in fights. My cousin, Jasmine, has lived in Alaska, so she was giving me a few pointers about my trip . . . mostly I am supposed to be less stupid than I typically am when venturing out on my own. No worries though – I am not a Chris McCandless, although, I envy his strength and resilience. I can’t imagine doing everything he did in such a short period of time. If you have not read Into the Wild (Krakour, 1997), I highly recommend you check it out along with everything else John Krakour has written, but I digress. Basically, I need to start living “in the present”.

I had a conversation this last week with one of my closest friends (who also happens to be my most recent ex). We discussed how we both have a difficult time living in the present. For me, I am either always looking back at the mistakes I made or into the future — how will what I do in this moment impact the steps I take 2 days, 5 months, or 12 years from now? I focus on the “what ifs” and not on the immediate happenings. I need to stop doing this. It doesn’t change anything. What it does do is make me regret those chances that I did not take . . . which leads me down the “looking back” path. Living a life filled with regret is not what I want for myself.

What I need to learn is mindfulness. Every thing I do, I need to be present with it. Every piece of chocolate that I eat, I need to savor the flavor and not just chow down because I am stress eating. Learn to notice the brief moments happiness around me and take pleasure in them. Notice the crack in the sidewalk and step over if – not trip, fall, sprain my hand, and tear my favorite pair of jeans . . .

I have decided to start working on this idea of living in the present and being mindful. I hope that this trip will help with this. I know that I have to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I cannot fall so deep into my own head that I miss the beauty around me (or my chance at the bear selfie). I also hope that living in the now and being aware the world around me may assist in my developing some gracefulness. I do tend to trip and fall . . . a lot.  I think I will get a small tattoo on my wrist that says “GRACE”. I can be a constant reminder to stay in the now, know where my body is relationship to the world around me. (If you know of a good tattoo artist in your area, let me know!).

On that note, I will let you get back to your regularly scheduled programming. Only two more weeks in the Fargo/Moorhead area! If you want to get together before I hit road, hit me up! Otherwise, you can find me here.

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Bears. Yeah All I Really Want is Bears

My first BIG solo road trip was last summer. I dropped my kid of at school in Idaho and decided to venture north to Banff, Jasp

er, and Yoho National Parks in Alberta, Canada. It was a bit scary as I tend to dwell on the thought that I will be killed by a bear someday (I blame this irrational fear on my ex) and there were plenty of bear sightings. I know that this is highly unlikely to occur; however, it is still a possibility. Although I try to follow all of the rules of hiking alone, I just cannot make myself be loud enough on the trail (does this surprise most of you?!?!). I also prefer to camp and hike in areas that bears tend to live. I prefer mountains over sand or hills, so do bears. I like trees and shrubbery, so do bears. I like solitude , so do bears- – – This creates the perfect opportunity to meet up with my first (and probably last) bear pal.

During the Canada trip, I not only downloaded “Night of the Grizzlies” (Olsen, Jack 1969) and listened to that, but I also purchased the book “Mark of the Grizzly” (McMilion, Scott 1998). Two books about bear attacks. Did I do this to psyche myself out? I don’t believe this, but I do think I learned a few things from both books. I learned that I am a pretty stupid solo hiker when in the mountains, but that I have always been good about food storage. I also learned that the bears in the campground my last night in Glacier National Park were to be avoided, so I hid in my tent, with my head in my sleeping bag, tightly gripping my bear spray in one hand and knife in the other. They didn’t bother me. I wasn’t scared at all . . . HA!!! Because of this fear, people often wonder why I do not take trips with other people. At best they would be good moral support. At worst, I could trip them while I get away.

In all honesty, I prefer to travel alone. I revel in the solitude of planning, knowing that I can change my plans at any point (e.g. staying an extra night in Vermont because I think it looks pretty). Is this selfish of me? Eh, probably, but right now, I can be selfish. I only have myself to think about (and Charlie). I have traveled often with other people, but find that compromise in these adventures is a bit too difficult for me. Perhaps I haven’t found the “right” travel buddy yet. I don’t mind. I enjoy my own company, especially when I am out on the trail. I come alive listening to the birds, smelling the fresh air, and feeling the burn of my muscles as I struggle up a steep incline. I do not have to worry about holding someone back or feeling as if I am being held back. If I want to camp backwoods, I can. I don’t have to worry that the person I am with is “too scared” or that there are no facilities available or it is too rocky or . . . yada yada yada . . . all the annoyances that I have had to deal with in the past when camping with friends, lovers, or family.

OK, maybe I am selfish. It would not be the first time I have been called that.

I think it is OK though. This selfishness is not hurting anyone, except maybe me.

I really do not have much to say this week, so I will leave you with this — if the last selfie I take happens to be with a bear, please remind my mother of the promise she made me – That picture will be the one shown at my funeral as it will be my greatest accomplishment EVER!

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Jasper National Park – August 2017

Musings, Ramblings, and Toast

From what I have read, most people take a year to plan a trip around the country. Then, there is me. This trip will have a three month gestation – – three months from the moment the idea was a gleam in my eye to Charlie and I bursting out into the world. I am digging the challenge. It is like a riddle or a very convoluted logic puzzle with multiple facets. What do I want to bring? What do I NEED to bring? Where do I want to go? Where do I need to go? Do I need to bring my red high heels? If I bring the heals, could I make my hiking pants look “dressed up” enough that I do not have to bring a nice dress too? What do I need to do prior to leaving? Get AAA. Get a Minnesota license. Grab that bottle of vodka from Jed . . the one at Bill’s . . .the one at —– How the heck am I going to fit all those bottles of vodka that I have stashed around town in the car and properly packaged to be legal? See what I am saying? Important stuff here!

I have started multiple, handwritten, to-do lists while daydreaming at work (because I don’t have enough to get done there), hoping that I do not forget anything important. I ALWAYS forget to pack a pillow and am unable to buy more than necessities on the road.

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The trickiest part in planning a trip this size is budgeting. There are so many unknowns. As I stated in my previous post, I do not have a disposable income. In fact, most people would think that this trip is truly the biggest financial mistake that I could make. Perhaps they are right. What I do know is that thirty years from now, when I am still slaving away for “the man”, dreaming about the good ole days where social security was just that – security, I won’t regret this experience. How can one regret experience? Perhaps choices made along the way will be regretful, but there will always be a lesson to learn, a story to tell, a book to write . . .

When I finally sold my house, paid off a lot of my debt, and put some money into savings, the plan to was to continue working in Fargo for a few more months, then move to St. Paul with my partner at that time. The money that I had saved would go toward a new sofa, new bed, deposit on a our place, and enough left in the account to cover bills for at least a year – just in case I didn’t get a decent paying job right away. I wanted to make sure that I was able to support myself in any situation. Although the break-up was one of the most soul destroying situations that I have one through, thank goodness it happened BEFORE we moved in together. What I suddenly realized the other night is that the end of the relationship tore my world not apart, but wide open! I do not have to stay in the northern Midwest. I don’t have to get a job that I may not enjoy, in a city within I really do not feel at home. I can go and do what I want. I am free to finally be me . . . whoever I am.

So, here I am — currently sitting at a good friend’s in the Minneapolis area, drinking a mimosa, and wondering if there is enough time to sell everything in my storage unit (or if I am too old to become a sugar baby). Either way, trying to figure out how to make at least an extra $2K before I leave. I am at a bit of a loss; however, I do know is this — I am taking this trip – alone. I am strong. I am happy with myself and by myself. I do not fear the unknown. There are reasons for everything – – and now is the time to figure out where I am meant to be in this world.

Also – here is another picture of Charlie. If you made it this far into the post, you deserve to see this handsome face. I am going to eat some toast. Cheers!

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First Post – The Plan (aka How the heck did we get here)

About a month ago, I had this brilliant idea. I was going to take some of the money from my house sale and head over to Thailand – Kind of an “Eat, Pray, Love” thing. Problem is, I hated that book. I hated that movie. I hated everything about it. The only thing I really did appreciate was that the protagonist left everything behind (including her Doctor McDreamy husband ) to find herself.

Finding myself seemed to be a great idea, but why Thailand??? Sure, it looks beautiful. It is one of the safest places for a woman to travel alone. Supposedly quite cheap . . . but when I returned after a 10-day vacation, what would be different? Nothing. I would come back to a job that has no opportunity for growth. I would have to be content with my annual 1-3% cost of living increase each year (which is WAY BETTER than what a lot of people get). Content with very few close acquaintances and one or two real friends.  Content with habitually crappy weather.  Nope. Thailand would make me hate myself more. Glad I figured that out prior to purchasing the ticket.

I do not have a disposable income. In fact, I barely have enough money to cover 9 months worth of bills . . . but I do have a dream. I have a dream to be happy somewhere. To live somewhere that I can afford, but more importantly, a place that I love. I want to be able to get up in the morning and hike with my dogs, sit on the porch and drink coffee, to not be stranded inside most of the year because snow and cold forbid any sort of outside excursions unless you want to wear 100 pounds of cold weather gear. I want to live anywhere but here — Fargo, North Dakota. Sure, it’s a great place to raise a kid, but mine has been brought up into adulthood and flew from the nest a year ago. Now it is my turn. So – I put in my notice at my job and decided to see the United States – by car.

May 18, 2018 is my last day at my job. May 21, 2018 I will get in my car with my pupper (Charlie!) and we will start out looking for our new home. The current plan is to head east. The map below shows the first few major stops (including Acadia National Park!!). Are any of these places at the top of my list for permanent residence? Nope, but I haven’t been to Maine. I haven’t been to Niagara Falls. I haven’t been to Salem. I haven’t met my friend and library cohort, Lisa, in person yet. Most importantly, I haven’t seen my closest and oldest friend, Sarah in well over a year (see you soon, love!). I have an opportunity to see new things and meet new people. I am taking that opportunity right now.Capture

After this part of the trip, I will continue south, into Florida, over to New Orleans area, into Texas, then back up north to Fargo. Charlie will have to stay with Grandma and Grandpa when I head west — Alaska, California, the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest. All-in-all, the trip will probably be about 2.5 months (or more). I plan to update this blog weekly as trip planning progresses (want to hear about renewing my library card and cancelling my Audible subscription? yeah, didn’t think so). Once I am on the road, I will do my best to update you with my progress and photos of course. Hope to see you on the road!

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Charlie!!