Posted in Backyard Tourism, People, Vagabonding, Wishes, Work, Working Holiday

Get Amongst It

This afternoon, I had lunch with my mother’s banker’s husband’s parents. Yesterday I had coffee with my pen pal’s pen pal. Last week I explored with a gal I lived near my freshman year of college and in different countries ever since. Last month I parked in my former coworker’s cousin’s friend’s partner’s driveway.

Travel gets complicated quickly, but once again, solo travel you are only alone if you want to be. Anymore, I shrug at the six degrees of separation: each of these strange connections is now my own first degree again and the world spins tighter and connections weave more intimately.

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Nina, who after we crisscrossed 21 countries, finally met me outside of the same coffee shop in Des Moines we always went to when we were back home.

Winter is creeping up the islands, and I’ve migrated into the latest phase of my working holiday. Get amongst it, the Kiwi’s call. But the mountains are a bit foreboding in the back of a van, so instead, I’ve gotten amongst them. I signed up for a housesitting website and have started flitting across the north island, staying snug next to the fire with dogs and cats and chickens, sipping on local wine and trying to sort out what I’ll be doing when the other half (!?!) of this year is finished. Every few weeks, I find myself sitting at a new table, talking with families who are leaving their homes in my care. In Auckland, I worked almost exclusively with Kiwis instead of backpackers and explored how they lived their lives and what their concerns were about their own country and their place in the world. I had to make an intentional effort to be okay to be still: my time in New Zealand is so short and there’s so many places to see that I struggled with not going out an exploring much. After all, it’s a bit like Neverland here:

Of all the delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed.

-J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

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Cathedral Cove at sunrise. It was worth waiting for a clear day in order to make the quick hike in the cold early morning. There was definitely a yoga-grammer who had camped overnight at the beach and was getting perfect shots on this perfect morning.

Months ago, I met a hitchhiker with a tattoo that ingrained itself into my memory. We talked about it for several hours as we traversed in the same direction and discussed the philosophy behind it. It read simply, “I can’t wait for right now.” To be so close to so many adventures and not be able to go on them while I saved up cash, I had to reframe my thought process. Right now is just as beautiful and good and surprising as Tomorrow in That Other Place. Surrounded by real people living real lives and having to crawl into the nooks and crannies where the locals find their culture instead of where Lonely Planet tells tourists to go was a challenge and a gift. That mantra allows for the excitement of adventure to bubble up in the mundane. It allows all the hopes of the future and warmth of the past to be held in this moment, a gem in time to be cherished and loved and to overflow. It allows the good and the bad to hold its place, the past and the future to hold their time. It allows for this moment to be wonderful and terrible and all piled up into itself.

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Oh, and one of my housesits was on a dairy farm. These calves are 6-10 weeks old. 

In this space, I feel strange. Housesitting is one of the rare occurrences that is incredibly mutually beneficial: the perfect barter where no money changes hands. Nobody loses, both parties win. I am given shelter, wifi, laundry, and hot showers. They, in turn, have someone keeping an eye on their home and don’t have to put up the cost of boarding their pets. It sounds so simple, but I can’t get over how much the homeowners thank me. In a country where weekly rent is easily monthly rent in Denver, it is they who give me a free roof over my head, but they thank me profusely for cuddling their dogs while they’re away?! I mean, I adore Goldie, but she is just a thin shell against the winter rains and near-freezing temperatures and I’m not a fan of cooking in the wind. So it is I who feel like the winner, being trusted with a near-stranger’s home as my base in each region. Each time I fall asleep in a new house, I’m grateful and the excitement wells up in me. I can’t wait for right now.

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You’d never realize this picture of serenity had cars drag racing on the other side of the gully and a busy park just behind me.

I’m loving traveling in the offseason, to boot. I’ve become acutely aware of the Instagrammer, and know that I’m guilty of it myself. In so many places I’ve wandered, I’ve been surrounded by dozens of people, each scrambling to the tiny plot of space where their friend can snap a picture that makes it look like she alone is on top of the mountain, and he just happened to be doing yoga on the beach at sunrise, and their contemplation wasn’t interrupted by the shutter click in that ‘candid’ shot or the jostling busload of tourists who just arrived. We all pretend we’re here alone when the reality is much busier and much louder than we care to admit. So these few, precious months when the weather is lousy and school is in session and normal people are at work, I am able to slip away and feel like I can breathe. Instead of seventy people surrounding me, there’s fewer than a dozen braving the wind and rain. We shiver together in solidarity as we admire the rocks that carry a stark beauty even though they aren’t bathed in golden light.

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Piha Beach. I’ve seen breathtaking photos from my friends at sunset, but the day I went was like many Auckland days: rain.

It is strange, it is beautiful. New Zealand holds me tighter as together we spin around on this crazy globe, picking up the pieces of stories that tie them together. This year is already half gone, yet it’s only just begun.

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Huka Falls, where the water flows fast enough to fill five Olympic swimming pools every minute. The air was as chilly as the water looks.

 

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Posted in Something New, The Barista, Travel, Wishes, Work, Working Holiday

Apparently buying a car doesn’t have to be difficult

July 2016, my friends and I started dreaming about starting our own business.

Well, no, actually.

We started dreaming about buying a bus and traveling around the United States in it, and we figured we should probably have a way to support ourselves while doing that.

After a quick discussion with my insurance agent, we bought a 1976 Class C RV instead.

We didn’t start the business.

The RV now sits somewhere in Michigan, and I’m sitting in Hokitika, New Zealand instead.

Tonight I splurged on a budget hotel and have thoroughly enjoyed a hot shower and a flush toilet on a gloomy New Year’s Eve. I’m keeping an eye on the weather, hoping the rain stops and I can head down to the beach for a bonfire to ring in 2018. But even if it doesn’t clear up, in the morning I’ll climb back into my brand new old Toyota Estima named Goldie.

 

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Goldie was the name she came with. I meant to change it, but it suits her.

 

I’m not living in a bus, or in a Breaking Bad motorhome. I’m living in a backpacker minivan. The couple before me pulled out her seats and installed a bedframe and foam mats with storage room underneath for my clothes. Because it’s New Zealand, and there’s an entire culture built up around buying and selling fully-furnished campers for a year of travel, she also came stocked with a table (who knew how useful that would be?!?), cutlery and a tea kettle, a gas stove, and the most darling blue curtains to give me privacy at night. Also, can we talk about how easy it is to purchase a vehicle here? A piece of paper to the post office to put the registration in my name, a quick use of my AAA membership to buy discounted car insurance in a country that doesn’t require it, and BAM. She’s all mine!

I’m quite enjoying the magic of being a proper backpacker. I’ve picked up half a dozen hitchhikers in the last two weeks while traversing Southland and the West Coast (and today decided I really need to get a notebook for them to sign and write which country they’re from). This morning, I accidentally bought a latte that had no espresso in it, so when I pulled into Pancake Rocks I set about making myself a French Press (by the way, thanks for the camper press, Glenna! I’ve gotten so much use out of that old birthday present!). Sadly, I couldn’t find my lighter for the stove to boil the water. No worries, just pop over to the car next to me and ask the gal rolling a cigarette to borrow her lighter in exchange for some coffee. A few minutes later, we looked a bit like the start of a joke: an American girl, German girl, Kiwi guy, and French guy huddled under the back door of a van in the pouring rain while making coffee…

 

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Hardly even the first time that has happened! See here travelers in their natural habitat: huddled over maps with complete strangers, swapping stories of their discoveries. 

 

We all started laughing about the impracticality of being a 21st-century traveler in this country: there is hardly any signal! Sure, we have apps galore for finding places to freedom camp or communicating with our friends and family. But it’s completely useless when you can’t get a text message out to another New Zealand number, let alone access data beyond “H”. I think I’ve seen 3G a total of three times in two weeks, and 4G only once: mountains and tiny towns scattered throughout the countryside make physical maps and a willingness to pull off the side of the road for an attraction instead of forcing a plan the way to go.

And it’s not as though I have much choice at the moment. While I do have a perfectly valid visa, the Christmas holiday means that my tax number is a smidgen slower than usual. I could technically work if some employer were willing to either withhold pay or take out double the amount of taxes. But why? Everyone and their neighbor is hiring as soon as I’m legally able. For now, this island is mine to explore. I drink in her beauty with every breath and listen to the stories of Maui building Aotearoa.

 

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Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) on the, er, Wet Coast. The sun tries so hard, but the greenery does come at a price just off the Tasman Sea.

 

Besides, Goldie and I are just getting to know each other. She has side doors that occasionally refuse to unlock, and I have to keep reminding myself that around every mountain curve there could be another one-lane bridge where I need to give way. She’s a kind old soul, teaching me to drive on the left side of the road and giving me shelter at night. We find places to freedom camp, or as needed pay $20 for a place to park with a shower and proper kitchen. Much cheaper than a hostel, and in the long run cheaper than renting a room by the week. She chugs along merrily as we zip along the only road on the west coast (seriously: not even the scenic route. The MAIN road winds through mountains and along the Tasman Sea). The speed limit is 100km, but we rarely are on a stretch of road straight enough or long enough to even get to 80km. So we wander, taking in the scenery that belongs more in a fantasy novel than real life.

Slowly, slowly, me and Goldie.

 

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Morning comes bright and early with Goldie’s curtains

 

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Fox Glacier… the black to the left of center is ice. More of the glacier is hidden behind the cloud cover.

 

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Hunt’s Beach – sometimes the sun does shine! Tasman Sea to the left and probably Aoraki National Park mountains on the right.

 

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If only they would stay behind the gate at Gunn’s camp… Sandflies: mosquito’s evil twin.

 

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A Backpacker Birthday: My 27th year came into being with champagne in my finest plasticware and advanced ramen noodles.

 

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Kiwi bird prints? Maybe maybe maybe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dating, Love, Wishes

Permission

Within hours today, I got a text message, a Snapchat, and a letter from three different women with the same question. It’s a question that’s been coming up from many directions recently. I think the universe may be trying to say something.

“So, I went out with this guy. It’s… not happening. Is it okay that I hate this all?”

Yes, you beautiful women, yes.

You do not have to date.

You do not have to continue seeing someone just because it wasn’t awful.

You are allowed to prefer spending time with your dog, your whiskey, or yourself in the mountains.

You are allowed to have Tinder purely as a way to pass the time. You are under no obligation to talk to any of your matches, under no obligation to go on a date, under no obligation to start a relationship.

You are allowed to enjoy being single.

You are allowed to change that label.

No, you don’t have to be “single”. You don’t have to describe yourself as “unattached”. You don’t have to defend that you’re still “waiting for Mr. Right”.

Goodness.

You are students. You are scientists. You are problem solvers. You are hikers. You are beer geeks. You start grilling chicken and suddenly you’re three chocolate chip cookies into the batch. You’re transplants. You’re natives. You’re sisters. You’re daughters. You’re best friends. You like to be alone. You binge Netflix. You have no fear of trying a new restaurant without company. You are willing to be dragged along by a coworker to meet strangers. You sleep in hammocks or tents. You hop on a plane because someone needs you. You stroke your cat to sleep. You hold your roommates’ baby. You play your guitar. You roam through thrift stores. You save up for that kayak. You work hard. You dream big.

There is absolutely nothing deficient about you! You are allowed to not need a partner. You are allowed to go on dates for fun, and then to say, “This is exhausting and expensive. I’m going to take a nap today.” You are allowed to drink wine on your porch alone, or call up an old friend while going on a walk. You are allowed to go see that new movie alone, and to pick up some flowers from the farmers market because you think they’d brighten up your room.

My dears, my beautiful women. Look at you.

You are allowed to delete the app.

You are allowed to log out of your profile.

You are allowed to cancel that date.

Just as you are allowed to go back out there and try again, you do not have to.

If you want to be alone, enjoy it.

If you want to take six months to be intentionally single, to find yourself and what you like and who you are without using a partner as a measuring stick, do it! Those six months may turn into two years, and that is okay if you are okay.

You are allowed to be happy.

You are allowed to be happy alone.

You are allowed to throw rice at your friends’ wedding and then drive through the night to a national park to explore alone.

You are allowed to swap phones and swipe on someone else’s profile, but then ignore the buzzes as you tell stories to each other of the lives you’re busy living.

You are allowed to go to bed early and sleep in late because you’re working yourself to the bone and just need to recover alone.

Oh my ladies…

Do you need permission to be yourself?

You have it.

If you ever want it, the complicated, deep and shallow wells of dating will be back there.

But you don’t have to be there now.

You have the permission to step back and discover yourself.

Oh dear friends.

You are allowed to hate the fifty first dates and only three second ones.

You are allowed to be so tired of trying to get to know someone, but feeling like you’re going in circles.

You are allowed to want to step away from emotional ups and downs of wanting to click or wanting to love, but something is just not right.

You are allowed to enjoy being single.

You are allowed to enjoy being you.

You went out with that guy. And that’s okay. You can go out with yourself, too.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Changes, Family, Growing Up, Home, Lessons, Love, Time, Wishes

simply

My blog is named “Simply Eliska”.

These days, it feels like nothing is quite so simple.

Several months ago, I told a friend Eliska represented my new identity after a very intense growing period, but that I felt like anything painful that I’d felt since I’d pushed beneath the surface to Allison. I then confided that it felt like Allison was becoming unburied, and I was going to have to deal with all that dolor at once.

Then my dad died.

Two weeks ago, I was moving away from Colorado. I called my dad to tell him I was at his sister’s place for the night. It was so brief, maybe 15 seconds. “Hi Dad. I’m safe. I’ll see you soon.”

Two hours later, he was gone.

My dad lived for 22,725 days. I was alive for 9458 of them.

People keep telling me that we’re handling his death well.

I don’t really know why.

Sometimes I’m sitting still and realize that tears are slipping beneath my chin, unbidden. Sometimes I’m laughing. Sometimes I feel nothing but absence. Sometimes I swear I hear Dad walking up the stairs.

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My Dad slipped from this earth without warning.

I’m at the first place I called home. And suddenly, I’m not “simply Eliska” anymore. There’s no one in this county who calls me by that name.

I’m not even “simply Allison” these days.

I’m a grieving daughter. I’m a sister. I’m part of 130 years of history on this farmstead. I’m pulling my family into the world I had crafted independently for myself – here, Mom, let me add you to my AAA. Here, everyone, let me put you on my cellphone plan instead. I’m the answer to “Where are you these days?” and one of the rare times where people are 100% genuine in asking “How are you doing?”

I am not a barista. I am not a nomad.

Not these days.

These days I’m the scribbler.

I scribble thank you notes. I scribble the dates and notes from meetings as we take note of how to settle the estate. I scribble text messages to friends who have gone through similar situations, asking, “Did you feel… Did you do… Why?” I scribbled my Dad’s eulogy. And now I scribble here. I scribble because right now, it feels like the only thing I actually know how to do. It feels like the only place that still makes sense. I scribble because in my words I can begin to process this new version of normal that I wasn’t prepared to enter.

There’s very little simple in my life right now.

I got into the tractor a few days ago, and when I turned it on, I heard music playing softly in the background. I turned it up.

Bright fields of joy
Dark nights awake in a stormy bed
I want to go with you, but I can’t follow

So keep to the old roads
Keep to the old roads
And you’ll find your way

I wept, as I listened to a song that felt like my Dad was reaching across eternity to talk to me one more time. I wept for all the conversations I wanted to have while I was home. I wept for all the things my Dad will never be a part of as my life continues forward, and all the things I wanted him to be there for. I wept for my Mom, that her other half who looked at her with such adoration and cared for her so gently, was gone. I wept. I weep.

I was so lucky.

I had a father for almost 26 years who loved his family, and whose kindness and intelligence spread throughout the community.

Yes.

I’m selfish.

I want my Dad back.

I want my parents to continue to live the American Dream.

I want to be a whole, complete family.

So today I scribble.

Today I write, and remember those 9000 days with my dad, and the stories of the years before I was born.

Life isn’t simple right now.

But I’m going to be simply Allison, the farmer’s daughter.

“Hi Dad. I’m safe. I’ll see you soon.”

 

 

Posted in Current Events, Musing, NaNoWriMo, People, Wishes

another political rant

I can’t help it. I have to keep talking about politics. I’ve spent the last year and a half semi- to fully-immersed in a scene that I’d only vaguely cared about previously. Now that we’re at the climax, I’m almost bubbling over with the

I was two months too shy to vote absentee in the 2008 election while living as an exchange student on the other side of the world. So in 2010, I voted in the midterm election based mostly on what my parents talked about. For those of you who aren’t aware, that was the vote which ousted the Iowa judges who had legalized gay marriage in my state. By the 2012 general election, I had started to question the status quo and was going through a personal crisis. I was aware of the Republican candidates that came tromping through my university, but was out of the country during the caucuses and didn’t pay much attention until the general election.

Then things all went downhill. I changed my voter registration to unaffiliated and started glowering at the nonsense people were saying, wondering if anyone had ever taken a civics course. Mr. Olsen, my high school government teacher, would have never allowed anyone to pass his class with the amount of misinformation being propagated.

I was deleted on social media this election cycle.

I did not delete anyone.

I was furious sometimes at the things I would see show up on my timeline. I would shake my fist and go find one of my usual debate partners and vent about the inaccuracies and assumptions. I would see an article posted and delve into the sources, trying to decipher to conclusions drawn. Sometimes I would agree, sometimes I would roll my eyes at the bias. I would wander around the aisle, asking questions and demanding answers.

I am an unaffiliated voter. I did not delete you.

I’ve complained about the echo chamber before, of the dangers of being too tightly wound in a circle of like-minded people. I’ve complained about Facebook’s algorithm before of showing me more and more of the same things I’ve been clicking on until I believe that everyone must think exactly as I do because I never see articles that contradict me.

And so I keep you. I keep you even though I disagree with every argument you make, every meme you share, every article you post.

I keep you because I can be wrong.

I keep you because I want to see what you think.

I keep you because I want to see what you say, and see if I can challenge my own point of few.

I want to be able to understand where you’re coming from.

I want to be able to listen to someone who thinks differently than I do, and restrain myself from trying to bring you over to my side.

Call it a lesson in patience, and one that I don’t always succeed in.

But here’s the other thing.

January 20, 2017. We’re going to have a new President.

We’re going to have new members of Congress.

The world is going to keep spinning.

I’m going to keep being noisy. I’m going to keep advocating for the things I believe in. I’m going to keep voting, keep donating, keep volunteering. I’m going to do everything I can to make the world a better place.

And part of that? Well part of that means keeping you as part of my world.

Maybe on Facebook we’ll post contrasting debates, but sit down for coffee and talk about the illness your daughter is facing, how you’re applying for a program, or the trip you have coming up. We’re going to live in the same world, occupy the same space.

I may disagree with everything you say.

But we live in this country together.

I want to know what you’re going to say.

I want to know what you believe to be true.

I want to know where you get your information.

I want to know why you think one way or another.

What about you? Are you going to listen to me? Are you going to be able to sit down and have a reasonable, intelligent conversation?

Or will you delete me, because I say something you don’t like?

Will you insulate yourself, so that the only propaganda (because don’t fool yourself: that’s what we fill our minds with, no matter how much we claim to “research”) that you ingest is the propaganda from your favorite sources?

Will you allow the anger that you feel rise up in you when you read my contradictory posts to become so vehement that you sever our connection completely?

I’ve hidden the most frequent political posters, don’t get me wrong. But that was because they were cluttering up my feed to the point where I couldn’t see my friend’s wedding pictures, or recipes, or the less active friend’s thoughts on public affairs. I’ve hidden no one specifically for their beliefs.

Would you defend my right to disagree with you? Would you defend my freedom of speech? Would you acknowledge that I’ve done research too and drawn a different conclusion? Would you believe that I can be on the opposite side of the spectrum and still love you?

Like I said, I’ve been deleted this election cycle. I’ve tried to maintain a middle ground, reaching out to both sides to understand where they’re coming from. And with some, I’ve had phenomenal conversations. With others, the instant I bring my opinion onto their post, I disappear from their connections.

It is what it is.

I’m tired of trying not to get deleted you when I disagree with everything you say, because I’m the one you accuse of being too concerned about political correctness, without ever finding out what I think is actually important. So here I stand, and I hold my breath for one more day.

Because at the end of it?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Happy Election, everybody.

 

 

 

Posted in Home, Lessons, NaNoWriMo, Travel, Wishes

you let go

I didn’t think I owned much. After I’d left my apartment in Iowa, giving away my table and chairs, my dresser and couch, I’d moved to Denver by myself in a minivan. That was my standard: I can’t have much if that’s how I started, can I?

I’m falling into a point of my life where I want own nothing but what I can fit in my Sentra. A few changes of clothes, a few dishes, a book or two. As I’ve started pushing my earthly possessions into the storage closet in my parent’s basement (sorry, Mom) I’ve realized how even with moving frequently and often from one bedroom into another basement room, I’ve managed to accumulate quite the collection of useless items.

There’s so much stuff. A pair of pants I never wear because they fit me funny. Mismatched socks, some with holes in them I keep meaning to throw out. Mugs with chips in them because I’m too sentimental about where they came from to throw them out. A mini ironing board that I use once a year when I’m in a hurry and forgot to pull my shirt out of the dryer right away. An old college textbook that I thought might be useful someday. A stack of papers from a volunteer program I did three years ago.

Somehow I keep carting them around, address to address, state to state.

I now have in my possession less than a dozen outfits, a few blankets, and my computer. That’s about it.

I now have the ability to pack up my life in a heartbeat. Ten minutes, and I can be on the road with no trace that I even existed. I don’t own pets, merely adopting my roommates’ or friends’ animals for the brief moments we share space.

I think I expected owning next to nothing to be more freeing than it actually feels.

I’m a nomad, so my heart has always been ready to go. While I had more of a physical attachment than I was aware of, the emotional connection has always been held with loose fingers. It’s something I’ve encountered with many travelers: we’re quick to befriend, but just as quick to move on. People will ask you how long you’ve been traveling together, and you’ll admit that you just met twelve hours before when you joined in the same walking tour.

You become accustomed to living out of a suitcase for a few weeks or months at a time. Your four shirts are quickly melded to the exact contours of your body, no matter how often you’re able to find a washing machine and soap. But it doesn’t matter, because those four shirts see so many sights and absorb so many smells of so many cultures. The more you absorb, the less rigid you become.

You learn that you’re not always right. You hear how other countries, other religions, other families operate. You adopt some of their world, and they adopt some of yours. Or you toast each other and your differences, knowing some things won’t change. But it doesn’t matter, because you realize on the other side of the table is a human being, not the enemy.

You start holding on to less.

You hold on to fewer strict opinions, more open to discussion and ability to change.

You hold on to fewer languages, realizing the fluidity body language and how your brain won’t recall the right word at the right time.

You loosen your grip on time, allowing for change and fluctuation, last minute ideas and new companions.

You let go of the determination that something you know is the best or the worst, as you come to appreciate the nuances of home and away.

You start demanding that others speak with respect and facts before making blanket statements.

You let go of the concept of home, because there are people and places that hold your heart all across the globe, scattered like dust in the wind.

I own so little. I hold on to so little.

Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is it just fine in this precise moment?

It is so easy to accumulate. It is so easy to continue to carry things around that have no worth, whether it’s a broken lamp (I just need to find a new pull string!) or a relationship (we’re not that bad for each other), a job (but what would I do if I left?), an apartment (yeah, everything’s gross and it’s really expensive, but it takes so much work!).

I’m so young, but I’m learning the weight of value. Who do I value? What do I value? When I live in a six foot by four foot space, what is worth so much that I am willing to sacrifice those inches? When friends are a dime a dozen, which relationships do I value enough to fight to maintain when I’m “out of sight, out of mind” and have to make an intentional effort?

My external environment now matches my inner self. Perhaps now my inner self will do some spring cleaning as well. Perhaps I can let go of the past, both the good parts and bad. Perhaps I can begin each day in peace and fresh beginnings. Perhaps I can empty myself and go in to each morning in each city with eyes wide open. Perhaps the past can remain there, and only the lessons follow me into the future.

I have no possessions.

I have nothing holding me down.

Defying gravity.

It’s time to find color in the earth instead of my wardrobe, vibrancy in real relationships instead of the fleeting. Hold on to what has value, release what holds you back, create beauty in each moment.

I didn’t think I owned much. But now I want to own even less.

Now I just want to own myself, to take accountability for my words and actions, and then to move on in freedom.

Live simply.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Current Events, Growing Up, Lessons, NaNoWriMo, People, Wishes

Beauty and the Ballot

“That’s it!” I’ve seen friend after friend exclaim. “I’m not going to vote in this election. I can’t support either candidate!”

I get it, I do. Two of the most unpopular candidates in history are running for the highest office in the land. I understand your resentment, your confusion, the distaste and distrust. Heck, I unfollowed half a dozen of my Facebook friends because their incessant posting about both candidates had me riled up every time I was online. (I wish I would have done that ages ago – my stress level has dropped drastically in the last two weeks.)

This cycle has nearly doubled the amount of negative voters than were in the 2008 election – that is, voting against one candidate rather than for another. Everyone is angry and tired and in disbelief at the circus we’ve been dragged into. Both sides of the aisle are astounded that the other candidate is even vaguely considered viable. “She’s a liar! A security risk! The emails!” “He’s got paper-thin skin! A racist/sexist/every-ist! Tax returns!” “She’s too embedded in the system!” “He’s been bankrupt four times!”

So far, we’re on the same page, right?

I’m still going to vote. And you need to, too.

If you want to leave the presidential part of the ballot empty, feel free. I genuinely won’t fault you.

But…

You are given a big ballot. A ballot that includes Representatives, Senators, amendments, propositions, and local issues. It’s difficult to believe in such a heated election cycle with all the media attention focused on the top ticket level, but those down-ballot choices will make more of a difference in your every day life than the President.

The President will most definitely matter on an international stage, but unless s/he has the same party as the majority in Congress, doing anything domestically is going to be like pulling teeth. (A member of Congress has to introduce a bill, so whatever your candidate is promising, s/he still has to have allies in Congress that can push through opposition in both houses. Hence the desperate need for bipartisanship… and a realization that you can socially be on one side and fiscally on another, so even having a majority party doesn’t mean they’ll always support you.)

So it’s back to you, dear citizen. It’s time to remember to look local.

Vote down-ballot.

In Colorado, one of the issues that is near and dear to me is Prop 107 and 108. I’m an unaffiliated voter, which means that unless I change my party affiliation sixty days before the caucus, I am not allowed to participate. Millennials are more and more falling into this category: one that doesn’t identify completely with one party or another. In the state I’ve called home for two years, this means that unless I know which side I’m leaning more towards a full two months in advance, I’m not allowed to participate in selecting who will go on to the general election.

This year of all years should prove why that’s a headache to a humanist. Also, I’m from Iowa, where you can walk in the night of, register to vote at the door, and participate in the caucus. I was more than a little bitter that I didn’t realize this rule was different in Colorado until 7 weeks before the caucus here… a week too late to do anything.

Oh, and the other part is voting to change the Colorado caucus into a primary. Just FYI.

See what I mean, though? This is something that matters. To me. On the ground level. You know what else is on the Colorado ballot? A right-to-die amendment, like in Oregon. Renewing a tax that funds everything from the Denver Arts Museum to local theater troops. An adjustment to the requirements for amendments to the Colorado constitution. Introducing a first-in-the-nation single-payer healthcare system. Raising the minimum wage.

Oh, look. The state is attempting to put some pretty hot-button issues to the vote. Did you know about that? Are you really that upset at the political madness going on at the national level that you don’t want your voice to matter at the state level, which is going to affect you more immediately and intimately?

And there’s another thing:

You can be anti-Hillary. You can be anti-Trump. You can be pro-democracy.

Did you know that after only 5% of the popular vote, third parties are eligible for funds from the Federal Election Commission? Take a peek at these other parties, see if there’s one that you actually do agree with. Your vote could bring funds for 2020, and bring more parties into lower positions (even the mayor of your own town!) simply by bringing attention to the fact that they are there.

Now, I’m of the personal opinion that we need two drastic changes to our election process. I think we need to tweak the electoral college, and I would adore introducing ranked voting.

Ranked voting would allow for voters to escape the “lesser of two evil” conundrum we find ourselves in every election. Yes, it would cost more money to implement ballot counters to read these results, but in the end, you can vote in good conscience for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein and not feel that a vote for someone you like is actually a vote for the Republican or Democrat that you hate. It would make it more likely that someday a third party could take the position of Commander-in-Chief.

Since that isn’t likely to be implemented anytime in the near future, my other plea is for the Electoral College to have one slight adjustment. Again, I’m from Iowa: a state with a relatively small population. The Electoral College is something that makes sense to me, because it forces presidential candidates to care about my state after they’ve won our first-in-the-nation caucus. What I hate about it is the “winner-take-all” requirement of all but two states. Remember how Al Gore won the popular vote and lost the election in 2000? That’s why. Maine and Nebraska are much closer to accuracy, although allocating by congressional district still allows for gerrymandering. Proportional allocation though? To both have the winner of the election accurately reflect the will of the people and give the smaller states a voice? What a wild concept! (Forgive the sarcasm… it’s been a draining year.)

I’m not going to deny that this is by far my most involved election cycle, watching every debate and actively seeking out economists and political scientists and people smarter than me to give me their viewpoints.

But as I look around at my compatriots, I think the reason why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders soared to the forefront of media attention is exactly what the rumors stated: we’re tired of the same-ole, same-ole. We’re a generation of communication, of the internet, of the ability to have answers at our fingertips while still choosing to remain locked into Facebook’s algorithms of feeding us more of the same until we live in an echo chamber. We’re bored of being told that how it has always been is how it must always be.

We’re tired of the establishment. So let’s make a change, even if that means that we vote for a future a bit further away than January, and a result a bit closer to home than Washington.

 

Posted in Changes, Lessons, Love, Snapshot, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Life out of season

I loved Denver – she was just my type.

In appearances, the mountains glistened, the city sprawled, the old became new. In personality, there were a thousand places to go, craft scenes to explore, people to meet. In soul, she was vibrant and alive and six hours from everywhere.

No wonder it was so easy to fall in love – Denver was just my type.

But something was never quite right. Long timers warned me. She’s changed, they said. I didn’t care.

But Denver didn’t love me back. Oh, we were friends, certainly. She took me along for the ride. But the lust was never reciprocated. I was one of many to court her, but in the end she chose another.

She was the heartbeat of Europe with the familiar shoes of Iowa and an exotic note all her own.

She fought me. Threw housing problems, ill-fitting jobs, broken relationships, car theft and exorbitant prices my way. I ignored these signs. I had friends! I had adventures! Surely, we were meant to be, Denver and me.

I loved Denver. She was just my type.

But then, one day, as dreams began to form again, I looked at the dart I’d thrown on a map. I looked at Denver. And I realized with sadness that she didn’t love me back. She’d never given herself to me as I had to her.

The suffocation of the unrequited love affair began. I felt our connection crumbling. I was a barnacle clinging to her rather than a lobster paired for life with this beloved city. Trapped, I felt the urge to flee. What now? Where do I go from here?

I loved Denver. She was just my type.

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Growing Up, Languages, People, Snapshot, Stories, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Soul Wide Awake

I know you don’t mean to insult me when you call it a vacation. But I don’t think you realize how wrong that word is.

A vacation is an escape from reality – relaxation, scheduled time to recharge. A vacation has hotels booked, tours planned, beaches chosen.

This is not a vacation.

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I am not escaping from reality – I’m finding it. My soul, at rest in the world of money and responsibilities, stretches and swells here. It fits my body perfectly instead of wearing my skin like a hand-me-down coat: not uncomfortable, but ill-fitting and not my style.

My plans are but a vague outline, often changing on a whim as a passerby says, “We’re going here, want to come?” I stay in a 12-bunk dorm, forgoing privacy and pray the locks hold on the cabinet where I’ve stashed my passport. I dine on street food and cook pasta leftover from a long departed traveler – that is, if the whirlwind of the day reminds me to eat at all.

I wear blisters on my feet with pride as my legs ache from getting lost all day in an unfamiliar city. I sneak into quiet streets to consult my map and compass as to not draw attention to my foreigner status, and curse my body’s need for sleep.

I listen to the cadence of a new language swirl around me and stare at signs, struggling to decipher their meaning. I cringe in shame when a hostel worker or airline employee glances at my American passport and immediately switches to English for my benefit.

You think this is a vacation?

No.

 

 

This is travel.

For now, I become she who has been hidden since my last journey into the unknown.

I become she who feels more intensely, sees in brighter colors, and smells the universe each morning. I live with abandon and belong exactly where I am.

I am she who is confident, beautiful, fearless, strong, and fierce. I am she who is curious, radiant, defiant, wild, laughing, and free. I am she who holds her arms open to the world and says, “Here I am! Give me the best you have!”

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My soul is wide awake, and every moment is a precious gift.

And then I return.

Back to the world of routine. Of bills and schedules and putting gas in my car. Of small talk and appointments and wearing a path in the sidewalk I tread each day.

In the traditional world, a groove becomes a rut, and I soon look up from the bottom with fear and trepidation building.

“I can’t leave this,” I tell myself. “I’m too afraid. This isn’t fun, but it’s comfortable. This isn’t right, but at least I know where I’m sleeping and how to get around. I’m afraid to go again. I should stay where it’s safe.”

But that tiny spark that can’t be put out whispers to me, “You must go.”

You think I’m going on vacation?

No.

This is breathing.

This is living the best version of me.

This is seeing my soul wide awake.

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Published on Thought Catalog on October 26, 2017

Posted in Dating, Growing Up, Lessons, Love, People, Wishes

To the girl who will replace me

I wish that I could say that I was above the pettiness of social media stalking.

But I’m not.

I casually spotted, then intentionally searched. And I had a few thoughts.

I don’t know if you even know it yet.

But I think you will be The One.

The One for Him.

I see the same characteristics, how you’re a blend of features of myself and his other serious ex.

You’re his type.

I see what you study, what your few public pictures show. And I can tell that your interests align with his even more closely than mine did. That conversation with him won’t be a teaching moment, but something of excitement as you weave through a world you both adore.

A part of me wants to hate you. Selfishly wants him to always love me from afar, even though we should never be together again. I want him to always ache for the fact that he screwed up, to feel guilty because it was his fault that our relationship ended.

But mostly, I’m just watching.

I want to tell you how to understand his mood swings. I want to compare stories with you about his quirks and favorites. I want to gush over his son with you.

Even more, though…

I want to know that he’ll take care of you. That he learned from his mistakes. That you will have a partnership. That he’ll love you, and for once, he’ll move you up on the priority list. I want you to be cherished, to be treated with dignity.

I don’t know you from Eve. But, dear girl who will replace me, my fingers are crossed for you. That the boy I loved will turn into the man who loves you.

You’re beautiful. He’ll tell you that.

But always remember – you’re worth it, too.