A cup of coffee one year later…

So it’s a Sunday morning and I’m savoring my iced coffee and banana protein pancakes, listening to EastLake music. Seems like a pretty normal Sunday morning in the book of Anne. Except it’s not. Because I’m in a stranger’s home [I rented it, for the record, not just squatting]. In the middle of Oakland, California [say, WHAT?!]. Because I’m about to go have family SuperBowl party with my Aussies. But most of all, because it’s my trip-a-versary.

One year ago today, I got off an airplane in Nadi, Fiji. A little bit nervous, anxious and excited. A lotta bit exhausted. I was hopeful. That this trip would do it for me. That the time away would heal my fractured heart and give life back to my weary limbs. One year ago today, I needed to be invigorated like nobody’s business.

And while I can’t claim even HALF of this was my doing [for there are a million people to this puzzle], I can confidently look back on this year of growth n grace and know that I invigorated…

I’ve spent time in 21 countries and been on 36 major flights this year and covered 90 major cities and towns…not including multi leg trips or the hundreds of additional sweet baby neighborhoods I explored along the way.

I felt spiritually connected to myself and my experiences and my God in the most surprising of places–in a mosque in Casa Blanca, Morocco and on a vineyard in Northern Italy and during my morning runs on a golf course in Ireland and on top of a mountain in Norway and watching fire-dancers in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, and wine pairing in Tuscany and watching sunsets from every nook and cranny of the world.

I spent the funnest, sweetest, most hilarious, terrifying, sickening, challenging, life-cementing moments with a crazy gal from California, with Fijian backpacker hosts, with each of my dear 4 HelpX hosts, with Mairi from Scotland, with my favorite Australian cousins, with my favorite American cousins, with a London taxi driver and with a Tuscany limo driver, with mom and sister and dad, with a bearded Arkansan, with 2 Seattle gals, with a Vietnamese boat captain, with my old boss from DC, with Rabat tour-guides-turned-friends, with a motorbike driver in Bali, with my favorite elephant-loving college bestie, with the boy I had a crush on in 7th grade, with my Kara.

This year, I para-glided in Spain and bathed an elephant in Thailand. I tasted wine in Australia and Italy. I motorbiked with no helmet on in every South East Asian country I could find. I lost my money, phone and sanity on the Cambodian border. I snorkeled with a shark in the Great Barrier Reef and shopped Saville Row in style. I saw the sunrise over Angkor Wat and watched the sunset over Mykonos, Greece. I watched a bull fight in Portugal and took selfies with kangaroos in Brisbane. I hiked in New Zealand and Norway and slept in hammocks in Vietnam and Fiji. I traveled in style with the Kulls and on a Greek cruise. And I rode on disgusting Vietnamese sleeper-trains and peed through the hole in the floor right onto the tracks. I had the drunkest night of my entire life with my dad [and then without my dad, cause I lost him] on opening night of Oktoberfest in Munich. I closed a club down in Stavangar and I took cooking classes with people from around the world. I got sick. Very sick. And I grew stronger. Way stronger.

I’ve been home for a few months now and I often think back on this year as if it was a dream. Frankly, I’ve been ‘on-the-go’ more at the tail end of 2015 than I was one year ago today when  ‘slow, steady, be present’ in Fiji was my greatest focus. I’m definitely back home. Ratrace and 9-5 included. And definitely hoping to find my balance in 2016.

The whirlwind of home brings lots of folks to ask me ‘did it work?’ Did your trip do what you wanted it to do for you?

The answer is yes. And no.

The time and space gave me a couple of very concrete things, that I prayed for. For one, it gave me peace with the fact that I will NEVER understand. Never tie a rational bow around the bullshit uninvited presents life’s thrown my way. And I now feel so comforted by the fact that I no.longer.need.to. It doesn’t have to make sense. And that’s ok. It’s way easier to just trust that God has the plan.

But it also proved that going on a trip isn’t the answer to anything. I knew it wasn’t when I set out. I was doing this trip for tangential hopes and goals. Not running away to find myself. But what I DIDN’T anticipate was how ‘letting go’ of all fears and Type-A and ‘normality’ would shift my heart in a big way. It gave me confidence. To plan when I want to and let the rest unfold like a beautifully nuanced storybook. It gave me confidence to go after what I want and not put my eggs in baskets that don’t deserve my eggs. I think it gave me some patience and understanding. And I definitely learned how to be present. Presence…a gift for sure.

One year later, from a stranger’s kitchen, I raise my perfectly clean coffee cup to myself who raised a not-so-clean coffee cup to the Fijian sea. And I cheers to the success of that ‘growth n grace’ prayer one year ago this morning.

And I take it one step further…Here’s to keeping memories and life lessons alive and well. Here’s to folding in that ‘me’ with ‘normal life.’ Here’s to balance. And a ceaseless quench for adventure and the good life.

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‘Welcome home,’ he said. Two months ago.

‘Welcome home,’ he said, after a slightly awkward conversation about why I couldn’t squeeze in all of the answers to ‘countries visited prior to your arrival in the U.S.’ on my customs control card.

‘Welcome home,’ in a perfectly American accent.

Someone just welcomed me home, yall. And to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it yet…

What I AM feeling certain of though is this:

  • I am so, madly, deeply in love with how I lived my life in 2015. I put my health, happiness and adventure above all else. Selfish, maybe. Necessary and beautiful, yes. A million times over.
  • I feel different. Not a different person. Not the cliche bullshit. But the way in which I feel, see, hear, touch, love, dream is so emphatically stroked with a new brush. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but the world gave me a new paintbrush on this trip. It’s full of people and memories that I want to cling to like paint on a canvas. Always.
  • America is still America. The trucks are still big. The flag still gives me goosebumps. Football is still the greatest invention ever. But this American gal comes with a slightly more global twist.

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STOP.

I wrote that first bit more than two months ago. Two months ago, someone welcomed me home. I think I just froze. I boarded a plane in Munich thinking I was more than ready to come home. I cried all the way to Dubai and then all the way to Dulles. I deplaned in America, was welcomed home, went straight to Panera and promptly froze. The trip fell into the ‘did-that-dreamyness-really-just-happen’ mode and was replaced with two months of American hustle. TWO months I’ve been home.

And in that time, I’ve batchelorette partied, wedding’ed with three of my best friends, Louisvilled with the Kulls, reunited with my Seattleites,  baby showered, San Fransisco’ed twice, swapped out my traveler’s backpack for a proper rolly-suitcase, Kansas Citied with Bcoy, Penn Stated with Sara, highschool reunioned with a buncha Navy boys, purchased winter-appropriate boots, realized I need to get my finances back in order, Christmas shopped, quenched my football-parched-life, Turkeytrotted, decorated my office desk and made my way through a year’s worth of Good Housekeepings. No, Todo, I don’t think I’m in Spain anymore.

So how do I feel now? Having been welcomed home, having adjusted to the time zone and having accepted the fact that I’m officially easing myself back in to ‘real life?’ How do I feel after two months of frozen in a dreamy stupor?

I feel so in deeply love with how I spent 2015.

I feel different.

And it feels good to be home.

 

My teapot runneth over

I fell in love with Moroccan tea last week. It’s minty and sweet and green and delicious. And so, after only 24 hours of friendship, the precious couple that hosted us in Rabat gifted me with yet another perfect metaphor…

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My teapot runneth over.

It just does. It has. Time and time again.

My dad flew over from Virginia to join me for the last two weeks of my trip. And like the rest of my 7.5 month jaunt, the time overflowed in all of the ways:

  1. Driving along the beach with the windows down, only to stop for happy hour with a view, feels like all of summer’s goodness. Perfection.IMG_1875
  2. The castle in Sintra looks like Disney came to life. Magical.IMG_1833
  3. There is no greater ‘office’ than a beach cabana in Portugal’s Algarve. Inspiring. 
  4. A box of Crayola’s exploded all over Chefchauoen, Morocco. Fact.
  5. Portuguese bull fights are the most bizarre spectacle imaginable. Dislike. I❤️Bulls.
  6. The leather tanneries and hand-made fabric weavers and pottery artisans in Fez are mind boggling. Souvenirs.
  7. Germany feels more like home than I remember it feeling when it WAS home 10 years ago. Perspective.
  8. The Lowenbrau Haus at the Munich Oktoberfest on opening night is where sobriety comes to die. Lethal. 
  9. I am now fiercely independent and so in that way, more like my dad than ever. Headbutt.  
  10. Despite headbutts, the irony is not lost on me that I was inspired to explore the world because of a man who broke my heart. And I’ll return home with one who would do about anything in his power to keep it whole. Grace.

Portugal and Morocco and Deutschland in two weeks…What else would you expect when traveling with the Colonel?

Runneth. Over.

Gliding in Spain

Spain came and went easy as a carafe of sangria. It was soothing for my weary traveler soul, perfectly fulfilling for my kitchen-missing-soul and surprising, even for my ‘seen and done a WHOLE lot lately’ soul.

I decided I was just over being ‘on the go.’ And so, I made a game-time decision to trade in the beautifully bustling Alicante for sleepy, olive-producing Algodonales. Again, I traded my hostel bum for the country girl life, where I met Mike.

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Mike, like all three of my previous hosts, greeted me with the most generous spirit, beautiful home and invitation to take on his nemesis [aka one of my greatest joys]–cooking. All I did for three weeks was cook to my hearts content. Old favorites and new experiments. It didn’t matter. I was in a kitchen and I blared Michael Buble and I sipped on a fat glass of red and Mike and I shared meals and stories galore and I was completely content.

And when I wasn’t in the kitchen, I was by the pool.

And when I wasn’t by the pool, I was making sweet new friends and soaking up views so pretty they may as well have been a painting.

And when I wasn’t by the pool, I was PARAGLIDING.

And when I wasn’t paragliding, I was working. Cause yall, from a million miles away, I was recruited for a pretty amazing job opportunity. Proof, that taking time away from the hustle does NOT make you less desirable. In fact, I think this journey and letting go of the ‘need to succeed,’ is precisely how I found a job offer just dumped into my lap. It just makes sense. Take care of yourself and others and God will take care of you back.

Yep, my Spain was easy livin..really, it was just like gliding.

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New triggers in Ireland

Is it just me, or do sounds and smells throw you back to certain moments in time, more than any other triggers? I love those triggers. Especially when they throw me back to the glory days of University of South Florida life…

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The smell of Thai food, tanning oil and tequila [yuck] throw me back to my 18 year old self when I first met Lucia [my little elephant lovin friend]. The sound of bats crackin into a ball, cheering against FSU in the best whiteout ever and crazy dance music in Ybor throw me back to when I first met Lucia’s man, Chuck.

They were good, good days, those college days. And last week we did a lot of throwin back. Lucia and Chuck, along with new friends Kathryn, Scott, Andrea and Bella met me in Ireland for a week of birthday celebrations, foodie marathons and Irish music. And I am certain that in years to come, I’ll do a lot of throwin back to those Irish days too. Just with slightly different triggers…Liiiiike:

The sound of an accordian playing Waltzing Matilda at an old pub in Killarney while we cheers-ed with a pint.Waltzing

And the smell of a Mexican-tasting lasagna at a restaurant in Temple Bar that claims to ace food ‘from Mexico to Rome.’ It doesn’t, for the record.Food

And the sound of bicycle bells as we speed down and curse up the hills in Killarney National Park (it’s gorgeous and completely worth the 20 miles of cycling. Just wear yoga pants and get a padded seat).

And the smell of e-clairs…E-clairs from gas stations and fancy bakeries and everywhere in between. [[Chuck tried every single one in the country in one week, so consider him your personal Irish e-clair Trip Advisor.]]

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And the sound of Guinness glasses clinking at the Gravity Bar, atop the Guinness Brewery in downtown Dublin (best tour I’ve done on this trip. LOVED it. We all did. Like, did you know that 8 million gallons of water flow from the Wicklow Mountains to the Guinness factory every single day?! That’s why it tastes so good. It’s got Irish mother nature pumped into it.)Guinness Factory

And the smell of lavender that covered the Dublin Castle grounds.

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And the sound of the jail cell doors slamming shut that one time we were in prison (Blame it on Scott, the eternal troublemaker).

And the smell of rainbows and pots of gold in the National Leprechaun Museum (just wreaks of magic).

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Yep. Those are my triggers that’ll throw me back to that one week we spent trompin around Ireland like a bunch of college kids.11870841_10104185756801661_1517085854207675396_n

Chasing Delight

Meet Orla. She’s beautiful. Like, she glows. She’s one of the most radiant and inspiring and genuinely good women I’ve ever met.

OrlaI’m helping Orla with her health and wellness business this week, but the health and wellness she’s pumping into my soul is the real help exchange. She’s sharing her life with me—a life she centers around delight. Whatever delights her, she does. That’s it. It’s really that simple.

And right now, delight for me comes in the form of new experiences with new people.

I think one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself when traveling is to approach all new things with an open mind and heart. Take what you will from each experience and leave whatever doesn’t resonate. Orla’s given me the opportunity to exercise that gift tenfold here in this quiet little village set  atop a proper old Irish golf course. I mean seriously…

I chanted with Hare Krishnas at a temple in downtown Dublin.

I hiked around Glendalough–old monastery grounds in the Irish wilderness, where Vikings and Monks once dwelled, in their own time.

I was invited to dinner at a budding conscious community, where three amazing families live together under one roof– three times the laughs, blonde tots and helping hands.

I milked a fake cow at a country fete [quite successfully by the way, for which they assure me there’s a lineup of Irish farmers ready to change my last name].

I played tambourine in a garage band with a bunch of beautifully talented musicians.

I learned about natural healing remedies: oils and vitamins and energy work.

I followed in my brothers footsteps, and adored the sweet little fishing village of Howth.

I went down to the river to pray. Literally. Just like the song. I love that song.

I checked out a poppin gay club on Banking Holiday weekend on a rooftop in Temple Bar.

I made crystal meditation jewelry with two ladies who will sit hard on my heart when I leave this town.

I sipped a Guinness with Tom, during which a perfect stranger became a friend over swapped stories and a frothy local brewski.

I even saw a mini miracle…

I got my phone stolen again this week…At a temple…During service. And it was just one of those times that I couldn’t stop the tears. I was so mad at myself for not learning my lesson. I mean this happened once before. But wouldn’t you think you could let yourself go and close your eyes during worship? Yeah, bad intentions exist all over this world, in every nook and cranny. But this time, Orla was on my side. And that girl’s got somethin special in her. She came up to me with a firm squeeze, a quick prayer and a ‘don’t worry…we’re going to get your phone back today.’

Yeah. Right.

Yeah…..Right. She was right. The community of people I was with sprang into action. And they found my phone in the bottom of the trash can in the men’s restroom [‘loo’ as they call it]. It was stolen by someone with bad intentions in a place full of good intentions. Good intentions brought it back, I think.

And while it was a powerful reminder of ‘stuff just being stuff,’ it also delighted me to see how powerful our thoughts and prayers can be, even in the most mundane of ‘problems.’

Yup, Ireland has been pretty special so far, thanks to my lovely Orla. And now that I’ve alighted the dreicht, I’m in full-on sprint-mode to the delight!

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Girl time, gelato and Greece.

If you’ve read this, then you know how I feel about my momma. And if you read this or this, then you know how I feel about my cousins. So how flipping cool is it that they just flew across the Atlantic to do some Italy and Mediterranean adventuring with me?! I just had the sweetest two weeks with mamacita and my cousin, Morgan. And my sister. Oh, that sister of mine…

I don’t believe in perfect people or perfect places or perfect travels. But I do believe with every ounce of my heart that God gave me the.perfect.sister. Ten years my junior, we’re probably not destined to be in the same phase of life at the same time…not “supposed” to have a ton in common…Jordan’s in highschool. Still a babe. And I’m….not. But that girl is as much my soul sister as my biological one. And oh my gosh, did I need some sister time.

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Two weeks with these three gals made my heart smile big…

We wined…We drank fresh table wine at small hole-in-the-wall Roman joints. We clinked bubbly [[or bubs, as we like to call it for short]] on the cruise ship, dressed to the nines, while a good ole Greek Isle view faded into the horizon. But my favorite wining was the proper wine tasting day…the most picturesque day spent in Tuscany filled up my soul. Our charming driver, Mauoro, shared his favorite three wineries with us. Wineries set amidst the olive trees with sweeping Tuscan vineyards that produce brilliant wines. But the best was no doubt, the last. Our host poured wine after wine after wine to test our pairing palates with the salad and cheese and minestrone and cured meats and aged balsamic and Grandma’s lasagna drizzled with truffle oil. It was a treat and a half; and a checked bucket list item for the books.

And dined…From Mom’s spaghetti scoglio, Morgan’s caprese salad, Jordan’s penne alla arrabbiata and ALL of our gelato, Italy is the home to ‘eat’ in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ for good reason. Don’t even get me started on cruise food. I’m still detoxing.

We walked…Mom and Morgan might disagree, but walking is just my favorite way to explore. You just follow your feet. Sometimes they find the Colosseum, sometimes they find the Bridge of Sighs and sometimes they find perfect Greek beach to cool off. I don’t know where we totaled in mileage, but I do know that walking time company with my girls was so appreciated.

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And cruised…For as long as I can remember, Mom’s been telling my half Greek cousin Morgan that one day we’d go to Greece together. As moms do, she made good on her word, and Greece we did. In style. On the Splendour of the Seas. And as much as I’ve been on a completely different wavelength for the last 6 months of backpacking, I have to admit, easy, stylish travel felt really nice. It felt like a treat. It made me feel girly and clean. It was as it sounds…splendid.IMG_1168

We explored…Temmes are used to traveling. But not this way. Not my way. My new way, anyway. Exploring without agenda feels nice and natural. When you show up in Florence and have no idea what’s around the hotel and what’s best to do, you just go find the good. It’s that simple. I loved exploring little medieval Tuscan towns and winding Venice pathways and adoring the Roman doors and finding the perfect little Greek cafe with my ladies. May as well just call us all Dora from here on out.

And rested…The thing I’ve had to learn, to force myself to accept, is that rest.is.ok. Taking a nap is good for the body and soul. Sitting on a bench and people watching is often just as culturally enriching as racing around with a tour group in the Vatican to see the Sistine Chapel might be. We walked and explored. But we also rested. And it makes the exploration that much lighter and appreciated.

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But best of all, we laughed…that sister of mine keeps me in stitches. She is as witty as they come. She does goofy accents with me and let’s me call her ‘the half to my bruise’ when we happen to wear black and blue dresses to dinner. She does puppet shows with the towel elephants and calls mom ‘Bert’ or ‘Marge’ or ‘hey lady’ [to which my mom always responds…?!]

And laughed…We laughed like only sisters can laugh. Real deep belly kind of laughs. We laughed for 14 days straight. The Italians and Greeks probably thought we were off our rockers. And that’s why I love me some sister time.

I can only pray that when we’re 90 and 80, we find some really sweet old rockers [[preferably in Tuscany, for old times sake]] and laugh ourselves out of those ones too.

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