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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A Fijian Love Affair

I often dream about whales and dolphins. Maybe my subconscious reminiscing on the days when my family used to drive along the Hawaiian coastlines and I’d ride with my 7 year old face pressed up against the glass, eyes glued to the water just watching for the inevitable water spout to blow. I think maybe there begins my love affair with water, as Mr. Paisley would surmise.

I love water. I love being near the water watching the waves. I love being on the water in a kayak or paddle board or sail boat or speed boat. I love being in the water jumping waves or hand-standing into the tide. It just brings such peace and a simple love for God’s bluest creation. My heart smiles when I sit at my favorite Kirkland park watching the sun set over Lake Washington. It smiles when I drive over those Clearwater bridges, beach-day bound. And now I know for certain, it smiles when I sway in a hammock, with a book in tow basking in the sparkly Fijian sun looking out over the crystal clear blue water. It just does a heart good.

Fiji was what I hoped it would be. It was relaxing for my body, calming for my soul and refreshing for my water-lust-ways.

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We didn’t do a whole lot at the Beach House, but what we did we did well. A jaunt down to Sigatoka, lots of reading, lots of hammocking and kayaking and makeshift snorkeling.

IMG_4081We ate beautiful local fruits and toast and jam at breakfast time, homemade banana scones at tea time and the freshest fish burgers at dinner time, encored with a bowl full of kava for ‘dessert’—it’s as disgusting as my fellow backpackers warned—but an obligatory chug, nonetheless.

IMG_4104We made jewelry from coconuts that daring local hands pushed out of the palm trees from 50 feet up. We watched the tides roll in and out, made new friends from countries near and far and sipped bottled water out of—wait for it—Fiji Water bottles.

It rained most days, but I found those quiet moments of pitter patter on the woven palm roofs soothing in a way I’d never let rain sooth. It is water afterall; just the type of water that typically annoys me. But when you’re sprawled out on a hand carved bench under an open-air bungalo-type structure with nowhere to be, no concern for how you look or ruining your shoes, the water falling from the sky actually feels as wonderful as the bucketed-land-water I adore.

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Yep. Fiji water bottles, a good steady afternoon rain and some bobbing in the teal blue waves really helped wash away departure week. Here’s to hoping for more affairs with the wet stuff that does a mending heart good.

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Sweet Like Sugar Cane

Like I said before, I miss people hard. That said, reunions are one of my purest joys. Waking up at 4:45am bright eyed and bushy tailed can only mean one thing in my world–it’s a sweet reunion day [[the near 20 hours of shut eye I snagged between plane naps and my own version of de-jet-lagging surely helped]].

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Kara looks tan and strong and the most care-free, peaceful version of Kara I’ve ever seen [[you should prob check out her blog too!]]. Praying it rubs off on me sooner than later. She’s basically Fijian, now that I think about it, as that’s how I’d describe these beautiful locals too. Big toothy smiles, hearty laughs and a ‘slow down, it’s Fijian time’ attitude screams Fiji island life.

A two hour bus ride later, we landed at The Beach House…this place is where I’ll finish up my departure-week-detox, that I’m sure of. Hammocks galore swing from those palm trees I’ve missed. People–all kinds of people–British people and German people and Boston people are barefoot and happy. The beach is right there. I mean RIGHT there. ‘No Woman No Cry’ is blaring while those people are huddled up making coconut jewelry, waiting for the rains to pass, shooting pool and shooting the shit. It’s kind of heaven on earth–on a traveler’s budget.

This kind of living must do a soul good. I know for certain, actually, as a 90 year old man, born in the neighboring town took us on a jungle trek this morning. We stomped through orange mud for 2 hours, stopped for pictures with the pineapple crops and sucked on sweet, juicy sugar cane, tripping our way through lush greens just for a dip in the waterfalls. God must have known we were lovin it, cause he opened up the heavens for a second waterfall on the trek back home.

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Soaked to the bone and not a care in the world…we are definitely not in Woodinville anymore.

Yep, this was a particularly sweet reunion… Sweet like sugar cane, even.

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Cruising Altitude

I did it. I have no idea how, but I did it.

Sitting on my first leg of this journey, it dawned on me–I’m officially jobless, carless and homeless. To some, perhaps the definition of failure. To me, the definition of a triumphantly bittersweet starting line. At the finish line, however, I want to remember this moment with clarity—so here it goes. The things I’m thinking about from cruising altitude:

1. This week sucked. There is no tactful way to say it. It was brutal and overwhelming and emotionally / physically exhausting. It utterly kicked my butt. Moving my things out of the Villa and into a storage unit; soaking up a few more precious visits with the sweetest friends; phone call after phone call to bank after bank; a painstakingly slow chore to  check one to-do-item off my list at a time…I admit it. I broke down more than a handful of times. We’re talking huge crocodile tears with the pouty lip I didn’t even know you retained post-18-months old. But it’s over. Just as Jodi taught me to utter, ‘everything always gets done.’ Thanks, Jodi. You were right.

2. There are angels on my side. Not the glowing-haloed kinds, per se, but the real fleshy kinds that cushioned my blows, lifted my spirits, fueled my body and carried me through this week. The most precious part? I don’t even think they realize that they are in fact, real-life angels. From Kara’s pops who rescued my move when I finally accepted that I could not, against all of my mighty convictions, move my household goods by myself; to the sweet couple who bought my beloved Tucson and gave me every grace imaginable; to Kelli, who in the 12th hour grabbed my hands as I broke down in her shop [[hello, big crocodile tears]] and took in my wedding dress to help me sell it, or donate it or at this point, WHATEVER with it; to my girls and their hubbies who gave me a hot shower, a glass of wine, a vent-sesh and a good nights sleep; to my cousin Kristen, who delights my heart with her perfectly-timed thoughtfulness and grounds me in love and gratitude[[more to come on our story]]…yes, those are my angels, among many. Thank you Lord, for them.

3. My bags are heavy. Packing for 6 months or 9 months or somewhere in between is as challenging as you’d imagine. I hope I have everything I need, and not too much more. Get this—I fit every little thing in one backpack [thanks to one of my angels for the loan] and one tote. Two bags. Two small bags. LEGIT carry-on size bags. #Ridic.

4. I’m missing already. I miss my #VillaLife morning routine, my step-dog, Romes and my mountain of pillows. But, if you know me well, you know that I miss my people to the depths of my soul. I mean, I long for people that I love. I think it’s starting to hit me that I’m going to long for some people and comforts of normal life, but I imagine a Fijian drink, courtesy of my Kara [[cause home girl owes me a drink like nobody’s business]] might help. I’ll miss you. Yes, you. Please pick a place on the map and come visit.

5. I’m ready to write. It’s weird. I’m not that excited yet. I think I still have some departure-week-detox to do [[again, where Kara’s Fijian drink will likely come in handy]]. It still feels very surreal and not quite sure how or when it’ll hit me that it’s ok to be excited, but I am, weirdly, very much looking forward to writing. I have so many ideas and so many stories I want to reflect on during this growth and grace journey. Thank you for reading. It makes writing more fun.

Departure week is in the past and can’t even believe leg one is almost over. We’re descending past the clouds, falling from the cruising altitude and the hub-bub of Los Angeles is in sight. I guess that really only means one thing—next stop, Fiji.

Legit carry-ons
Legit carry-ons