Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rough Itinerary

First of all, one thing I learned in Peru that I'm trying my best to remind myself daily (when I'm getting lost in guidebooks late at night, highlighting roads and railways) is that though you can plan everything out for a major, multi-city trip to a new country, you really should not. (It can also be argued that you can not, either, but that's another blog post.)

This is very hard for me because I am a proud planner of epic proportions. It not only makes me feel more ready to take on the trip I'm going on, but I simply I love to do it. My friends will tell you (and I hope most will say they appreciate) that  before a camping or road trip, I will make a color-coded googledoc for the group, assigning the food and gear, offering suggestions for hikes and activities. And for the record, this method has not yet failed us: there's always plenty of food and hardly ever two of the same thing.

When I got to Peru, I'll admit I was very happy to be in Lima with a sense of what I wanted to do and see. It did help to drive me towards the things I found most interesting. However, in retrospect, I could have allowed the last week of my trip to be free and opened, rather than planning out time back in Lima. I met so many people on the road who were coming from the jungle, or on their way to Lake Titicaca or Arequipa and a myriad of other amazing places and I found myself wishing I could follow in their tracks, rather than heading back to that big dirty city.

I'm trying to take this lesson with me and not actually plan all the details of the upcoming adventure. God, does that make me sad... I recognize the value in the unexpected, though, and know I will be pulled to much more exciting and worthy adventures along the way. All that being said, and to appease myself a little, honestly, a rough foundation of a plan seems like it will serve me well, not to mention there are some places I need to be at during a given time. For example, my WWOOFing sites (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and I have arranged a specific arrival and departure date for my volunteering and my GAdventures tour is set in stone. Between all of that, though, there is plenty of room for changes and movement, and I'm using all of my effort not to hold too tightly to any one plan at this time.

So all of those disclaimers being put out there, the plan for the big trip is, for now:

July 7th (aka my 25th birthday): fly out from Minneapolis
July 8th-10th Iceland
July 11th - 14th Amsterdam
July 14th - 25th WWOOFing in Bavaria on a goat farm which specializes in goat cheese. They have gardens and orchards as well, along with horses they offer up for riding through the nearby national park.
July 26th - August 10th
Meeting Jezelle and my good friend Greg in Munich, and going through some semblance of Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade and Sofia
August 11th - 19th WWOOFing in Bulgaria in a small eco-community up the mountains from Sofia. In their description of how to get there, they suggest being prepared to hike up, but if you need it and they find time they'll come get you on a donkey.
I'll then make my way down to Greece and visit Athens before heading to the island of Lipsi.
August 25th - September 5th WWOOFing on a vineyard on the island of Lipsi. This very small island is where Odysseus was held for 7 years under the spell of Calypso and is said to be quiet and off the beaten path. The vineyard I'm volunteering at is just 150 meters from the sea and the end of August will be harvest season, so I'll be busy picking grapes, then dipping into the Aegean Sea to wash off the day's work (if you can't tell, I think I'm MOST excited about this part of the trip).
September 12th - 26th Tour through all of Turkey. I'm going with the same group that provided my Inca Trail adventure, GAdventures, a group which I truly cannot recommend enough to the adventurous traveler. I'll be doing their Turkey on a Budget trip, which will take me all over the country, from Istanbul to a few home stays to a night on a sailboat to Troy, among other things.
October - Mid January Northern Ireland. This part of the trip is a bit up in the air. I'm working on volunteering locations which will fit into my research needs for the book, and won't announce anything there until it is arranged. No matter what, I'll be staying somewhere, doing research, working feverishly on the book and enjoying my family's homeland.

I still don't have a plane ticket home. I'm waiting for some more things to materialize and come together before I make any decisions there, but my little planner mind has several flights on a tracker, just because it makes me feel good.

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Eat, Pray Love?

There are two things that people seem to be asking me when I tell them about the trip I'm embarking upon. 1) Do you have a publisher for the book, then? and 2) Is this your own adventure of Eat, Pray Love

To answer the first question: no. No, no, and no again. I realize that this is a reasonable question, and in some ways certainly a metric of the work I'm doing. However, I find it a little disheartening each time I have to say "No. I'm just following my dreams without support from the outside world yet. Sorry to disappoint you." (Which is not to negate all of the wonderful and humbling support I've received through my gofundme campaign. Obviously people do believe in and support me, they just don't happen to be publishing houses.) 

I would love to be the sort of author who is given a book deal before they even go off to the far away land and do their research or write all day every day somewhere peaceful and quiet. Maybe, with a little luck and a hell of a lot of work, I could be. But today is not that day. So no - no one has agreed to publish my words. This is a deal I've made with myself to follow something through. And damn it, that's meaningful too! 

The answer to the second question is interesting. My first response was along the lines of "Not at all... I'm not a 36 year old divorced woman who is trying to discover spirituality and happiness. (Not to mention Elizabeth Gilbert got PAID IN ADVANCE to go on this journey and write this book). I'm a 25 year old who's taking advantage of life because I can and that's good enough!" 

Recently though, I've decided to re-read Gilbert's infamous book again to wrap my hands better around what that means for me. 

The first time I read Eat, Pray, Love, I had just turned 18, I was sitting in the parking lot between the cabins I cleaned in the morning waiting for the guests to leave and stealing a few minutes behind the pie cutters stand at Betty's Pies. I was about to move to Colorado for my first year of college. I had not faced the crippling anxiety that was about to take over my life. I was mourning coming out of my two best years, but full of hope, excitement and ready to be moved. 

This time I am certainly enjoying Gilbert's story of taking life by it's for different reasons, perhaps most importantly that it is getting me really excited to travel. The other most common question I get about the trip is, "who are you going with?" to which I usually respond "I'm meeting a lot of friends there!" which does mean that some people are meeting me along the way, but mostly I'm trusting that when I'm alone for a few days there's a good reason for it and when I meet people and we share experiences there's a good reason for that as well. 

It has made me dedicated as well to keeping better notes of the trip, to writing down more of my experiences in my own voice as they are happening, rather than with the oh-so-smart goggles of the present looking backwards. 

I'm remembering that this will be a lonely trip sometimes and that no matter what, when I get home I'm going to think of it as nothing but beautiful and wonderful for the rest of my life. (This is something I've gotten really good at remembering in the lonely moments. Today, even Venezuela was beautiful, though at the time I'd have given anything - besides, it turned out, my college degree - to leave early.) There is also something to be said for the personal journey I'm going on. I think in some ways I've lost bits of myself here in LA which I would like to reclaim, or at least focus on the woman I want to be most for a while, in new places, with my eyes wide opened. 

I'm still reading the pleasure-seeking Italian part of Gilbert's book. She relays the story of a greater heartbreak than any I can imagine, though I'm not sure it's fair to actually compare, then talks about choosing joy, relaxation and self-love. This is beautiful and wonderful for me to remember, especially right now when my life here is winding down rather slowly and I'm feeling a little bleh about the whole thing - ready to just get a move on, honestly.

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Poetry Month 4

April 24th

I reached the end of 
too many ropes that day. 
I didn't mean it like that - 
I promise - 
but once the realization
came into my bed
I strung it between my fingers
I could no longer touch you
without it rubbing against your skin
and there was only time then
until it all came loose and I ran 
out of rope to tie me to our dreams. 

Now all the space I 
rushed to fill with tenderness
even as I retreated
stands hollow
and I slowly breathe into it
my little lungs giving 
new meaning
to emptiness that is so full
of itself.


April 22nd 

I broke something
and so much beauty came
rushing from it.

I stand bewildered.

Even if I wanted to go back
to look for the pieces
hoping to meet you on the road

I know better than
to interrupt this sacred light
that's come into these little lives of ours
with my human


April 15th

This place
has taken away my 
soft edges
The things I loved
about my sweet womanhood.
and now all these
little things
are snagging on my personality.
There are burrs 
and spider bites
to pull out of this skin
Things that have crept 
into my bed.

Now absolutes stand
boulders blocking a path
towards the place between
all of our bodies.

It's a time
to lie down in the swollen spring river of my life
and let mountain water flush my skin.

I am made of water,
but I'm becoming a mountain here.

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Poetry Month 3


All my friends
are cracking at their seams
dreaming of other beds
other quilts we could be making.

Is this the burden
of being young women?
making a home for
ourselves and all that is to come
and all that has passed,
all at once?
No wonder we all break down
flush ourselves out of it all
from time to time.

We rinse our souls out with poetry,
tug and twist all the excess,
hang the lace and burlap and chiffon
in the warm breezes.
All of those seams tugging and pulling
at the spring time
while I sit up in bed late,
pulling out the seams of another quilt
I tired to cover this little life with
this winter

And above us the moon
cleans her own soul;
slips in behind the earth
and comes on out, hands opened -
a mother come back from the grocery
surprised at her children's tears
and hunger for her arms.
Unwilling to give us any understanding
that it is her wild movements that
send us spinning,
break the bonds we thought sacred.
And unwilling to promise never to leave again.

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Poetry Month 2


I am a table of cups
(some call them hearts.
I've been given a different deck)
The Ten
The Three
The Prince and the Queen.
At the end, the Ace;
All of it leading back to me.

No matter how the ground of California
should crack it's knuckles
and try to roll me from my bed,
      a lover waking up and groaning beside me
I remain stable,
holding that one vessel against
this belly
Trusting this soil
even as it tries to buck me from
whatever footing I've gained in these years.

One last time
this City of Angels will lash out at me,
even as I dash,
sipping at the sweet, heavy wine in this
the cup that's been given to me.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Poetry Month 1

April in National Poetry Month and many of the lovely women and men I have participated in writing communities with over the years are joining the call to write a poem every day this month. Poetry has never exactly been my creative voice of choice, but being a part of a larger group of creatives tugging words up from streets of our lives excites me, even if we are all spread out in ways we couldn't anticipate way back when. So I'll join in as I can!



I am dreaming of leaving
Late into the morning.
After I should have been awake hours ago,
I am heavy in my bed, visiting the other apartments I have left.

Last night
I found that I had left behind two birds
together in a cage.
When I returned to sweep the last of my life
they looked at me weakly,
their eyes sad and their feathers fatigued with hunger
and I had no idea if I should just kill them right then
or release them to find a new home without me.

In my panic within the dream, I walked away,
choosing nothing.

Perhaps we are ships,
put into a harbor now, swaying next to the kitchen sink
watching each other as we rise and fall
through the tides of our lives, thinking
"but we came here for a quiet night away from the seas!"
Feeling cheated by the one truth of life.
So to make up for it
we grab hands from across the bed,
hold one another by the hips and hair and shoulders
Crying out "ah, isn't being in love as hard as going without!"

These women and I.

As our desert city heats up,
we open bottle after bottle of red wine,
sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor
passing slurred stories of our fears
round the circle,
Knowing these sweet nights will end
once we untie ourselves from the harbor
and move back into the higher seas of life.