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.

Word vomit from a Spanish villa

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a million miles away from real life and the ‘talkin over the white picket fence’ thing. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve kind of spilled my guts on this little blog or because everyone knows I’ve had my heart completely shattered and feel empathy deeper than I know what to do with. I don’t know what it is…and it doesn’t really matter….but people have shared with me in this last year, like never before. People from all nooks of the world, all with a different story, have poured their hearts out to me. All looking for encouragement, or understanding or at the VERY least, acknowledgement of their reality. And no, I’m not going to spill those stories…But there ARE some things sitting hard on my heart from this pretty little Spanish villa today, and so without an ounce of expertise on any of this, I’m just gonna word vomit for a few:

NO, you do NOT have to work at a job that you hate. You don’t even have to stay at a job that you ‘tolerate.’ WHY on earth should you? Life is short. Love how you spend your 9-5.

NO, you do NOT have to work more than a 9-5. Get this. You do not even have to work any hours at all. Life is short. Honor your personal time. Spend it watching sunsets and doing yoga and cheering on the Hawks and hiking and drinking wine. Don’t look back in 50 years or in 5 days and think “gosh, all I did was work.” Always, always respect play time.

NO, you do NOT have to stay in a relationship that doesn’t overflow your love cup. Being in love shouldn’t be hard work. Effort? Sure. Compromise? You bet. But why would God, who IS love, create relationship, if it wasn’t intended to look like, feel like, sound like easy, flowin, God-like love? Life is short. Love shouldn’t be THAT hard. And if it is, then maybe you’re not following the best advice I ever got: ‘don’t love the potential of a man….love the man himself.’

NO, you do NOT need to be rich to travel. I know everyone wonders how I’m financing this trip. Only some of you ask, but I know you all secretly wonder 🙂 And so I’ll write a post all about that, but for now, just know, that if you really want to travel, then you can just do it. Life is short. The world is beautiful. Go see it. You will make time and money for things that you truly want to make time and money for.

NO, your life is not over if you wreck your car or get a divorce or lose your job or get your phone stolen in Cambodia [[or church]]. It doesn’t have to be anyway. And nope, I haven’t always felt this way…I thought getting cancer was IT [[not cause I was afraid of dying, I just thought life.was.over. as a baldie 18 year old]]. Then I thought my family falling apart was IT [[it’s different now, yes, but I do indeed still have a family]]. Then I thought yup, that heartbreak was IT [[but I suppose had said heartbreak not have happened, I wouldn’t be going paragliding in southern Spain tomorrow]].

And NO, yall, none of this is as hard as you’re probably convincing yourself that it is. I’m no expert, but I am sure as hell walking, living proof of all of these things.

Just flippin believe in yourself and trust God and lean on your people and jump. Life is short. Jumping is usually worth it.

Cause sometimes when you jump, you find a view like this:

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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.]]

Dare to Eclair

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.

Dublin Castle

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

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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Alighting the Dreich

“Drrreicccchhhh…you have to roll the ‘r’ in that throaty way… If you can learn to pronounce ‘dreich’ like a Scot, then you’ve really accomplished something here in Scotland,’ said Mairi.

I’m not sure I learned how to perfectly pronounce ‘dreich,’ but I do think I perfectly understand what it means…gloom, drizzly, grey, ‘blah’ Scottish days. Days that aren’t all that far off from a sluggish Seattle February day. I get that. I get that way deep.

Mairi also taught me that the way you spend your birthday sets the intention for how you’ll spend your year. And so she, along with her precious little blue-eyed blonde kiddos, made sure I did a lot of birthday smiling.

We cheersed with Prosecco on that sweet little reflection patio.cheers

We sipped proper Scottish whiskey with proper Scots in a proper Scottish bar.whiskey We drove through those green, green highlands that Pinterest tells you, you must visit [an absolutely accurate Pinterest reco. Do the highlands. Find the cows. Drink the whiskey. Thank me later]. We pulled over for photos with waterfalls and to hike around old castle ruins.

And they gifted me with a grey and white brush-stroked canvas to remember that sweet place that set the intention for my year.img_1108 At the end of a foreign fairy-tale birthday morning, I hugged my new friends with an overflowing heart and walked off to catch my train [a train that would wander through the most beautiful valleys ever…an opinion apparently shared with J.K. Rowling, as yes, it was indeed the setting for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express].hogwarts Three hours of gorgeous train ride later, the announcer with the Craig Ferguson accent invited me to ‘alight’ the train at my final stop back in Helensburgh, and it slapped me in the face….

I spent my birthday in the Scottish Highlands alighting the dreich. I left the gloom. I’m deboarding that dreich train, yall. Birthday intention set. Bring it on, 27. IMG_0868