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.

1598744_751361848246475_2038686354_n

 

Advertisements

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:

11925850_662742370494335_491355070_n

Second thoughts on water…

I still love water. I’ve seen and submerged in a lot of it during our stay in Cairns, and it’s utterly beautiful. But I’ve been consumed with thinking ‘how can something so beautiful and so natural cause such pain and chaos?’

Crock warning signs everywhere, vinegar on every beach corner and stinger-suits galore…as beautiful as this Australian ocean is, it’s absolutely a poisonous devil’s playground.

Then there was Will. And now there’s Travis. And I’m just agonizing over the dichotomies of life right now….

  • Water is beautiful and calming and so peaceful, but those tides can churn, waters can become rough and perilous, and yesterday’s glassy blanket of blue can close chapters long before the story should be over….before it barely even began.
  • Wine can fill my soul, but it can shred my body when my overindulgence wins out.
  • Trust is good and right. It’s the easy path for me, choosing to give the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes that can bite you in the ass too. Sometimes it bites you in the ass that now has no shorts, cause your favorite pair’s been swiped by a fellow backpacker. A petty example, but an example nonetheless.
  • Love is beautiful too. I believe in it. I see it around me, I feel it. But it broke me. It broke me so hard, that I’m not quite sure that I’ll ever be able to buff out as radiant a shine as there once was.
  • How can growth and grace, two words that feel like they should sing in constant harmony, require and cause so much chaos? How can the balance feel so hard at times? How can two beautiful things work against each other, but need each other at the same time?

These dichotomies consume me…Is it a ‘too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing’ scenario? Is it God’s way of telling us to settle, trust Him, wait for Him to figuratively turn water into wine in our lives and always, always love him? I don’t know what it is. I don’t think anyone does. It’s impossible to work out how such good things can cause such bad things…how bad things happen to such good people.

I can’t quiet this internal dialogue. Not today and probably not tomorrow either, so I suppose in the meantime I’ll just send so much love, all the love I can muster, to those good people who loved Will and Travis. And trust that when we sip on a glass of wine with our toes dangling off the dock in the cool water, we’ll feel the love coming right back to us.

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