Countdown to 2015 – 8 – Au Naturale, Wandering in Nature

The countdown to an adventurous 2015 continues with Nature, that sexy beast, coming in at 8. So with 10, we set intentions and with 9 we expressed gratitude for where we’ve come from and what has come to us. I can’t go further without mentioning the essential component of ‘time in nature’.

Why? Well, we’re all nature. We can start with that. We’re energy, vibrating at our own unique frequency, alive and connected to all that is alive. I believe we are at our happiest when we are most fully living our true nature, the ultimate expression of our essence and I think time in nature can turn our attention there.

I would bet on my infinite potential human life that there are studies about the good effects that time spent in nature has on a being’s mind, body and soul. Just today I read that this is a known contributor or common denominator in the lives of centenarians (people living to be over 100 years old).

Mostly I can just speak from personal experience.

When I am trying to process something there is nothing that helps me more than taking a mindful wander in nature. Depending on what is on my mind, what I want to be on my mind or what I am trying to get out of my mind, this mindful wander may be an adrenaline induced, heart pounding, sweaty climb up a mountain or it may be a slow, barefoot walk through a peaceful forest listening for the quietest sound I can hear or sitting in silence at the side of a lake.

Is there anyone who doesn’t find a mountain or ocean or flower to be beautiful?

Pachamama, Mother Nature, is my favorite artist in the world. The chaotic creativity of a buzzing jungle, the intense colors of a sunset that don’t even seem possible, the equal parts mystery and reason in the cycles of the sun, moon, tides, seasons and connection of it all…it is sheer mastery.

The Earth is a great healer too; it can provide everything we need. Shelter, food, medicine, each other, beauty… It is not a coincidence that we have evolved from cultures who were highly reliant on and educated in the dynamics of nature and the elements as a Provider and Teacher.

I cannot say with confidence that there is anything more humbling than a stormy ocean at night, a towering mountain adorned with crackling glacial ice or any other circumstances when nature decides to show her immense power and demand your respect.

And yet nature is also the most delicate of places…the peaceful, soothing sound of a flowing river, the calming “shhhhhhhh” of rustled tree leaves; everything perfectly in balance, ebbing flowing, responding, embracing what is.

In my humble opinion, the greatest of adventures happen in nature. It offers the most intensely beautiful experiences with all sorts of unpredictable circumstances…the greatest challenges rewarded with awe-inducing scenery that makes your head and heart ache with trying to understand how it is even possible.

And it can make you feel so small. I think this is beautiful. Sometimes I purposely picture myself in a natural place and I zoom out to a star-level view and I realize that I have a place in the world and yet anything seems possible from that perspective as I’m just a tiny person in an expansive universe.

Quite simply, nature mirrors us or we mirror nature. This makes it a magnificent teacher when we choose to spend dedicated time outside. Even in a city, we can go to a park or notice a flower growing in an unlikely place. I think it is so important to commit to going further into the great outdoors, the wilderness too.

If possible, an extended time living in nature is ideal…days, weeks, months. Notice all of the different sounds, species, colors and scents around. It is a gift and it is a lesson to live in a place long enough to notice the changing levels of the river, for instance, and to watch buds turn to blossoms.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

And now I’ve lost myself in my love letter to nature, so back to the point.

When processing something or when setting an intention, take a moment to go wander in nature while focusing on the question or desire and then notice what shows up. Maybe even pick a plant, rock, lake, animal, flower…whatever draws your attention and sit in its presence and notice its energy and where your thoughts, emotions and energy go.

Make a point of getting outside as often as possible, the more remote the better, but any nature will do. Notice how all of your senses are stimulated.

Plan an adventure in the great outdoors.

Sleep under the stars. Go somewhere where you can see the stars. Wish on a star.

Play outside. Create something outside. Be sure to have a hobby that is done in nature. It is no coincidence that moving to the 300+ days of sun and mountains in Colorado changed the quality of my life.

Read a book about our connection to nature…my favorites are by the author Bill Plotkin: Soul Craft, Nature and the Human Soul and Wild Mind. Or read some John Muir, National Geographic or learn a bit about Teddy Roosevelt.

This blog post could be a book and so I’ll leave it here for now.

My love of nature has brought me to the mountains of Patagonia, where I am living on a lake in Argentina and writing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to Patagonia…in pursuit of my passions and wanting to help others find theirs through this book and interactive guidebook.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share. What I like about kickstarter is that it brings together people who are working towards something, who have something to share with people who want to be a part of making it happen.

I have 8 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of the type of material that will be in the interactive guidebook/journal, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They will be focused on personal development practices, specifically around getting ready to plan a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 8 here is focused on spending time in nature.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com as well.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

Countdown to 2015 – 9 – Gratitude

I am so grateful to write this post. Countdown to 2015…number 9 is brought to you by GRATITUDE. I am of the opinion that every intention, relationship, adventure, challenge, triumph, day, night…and yeah I’ll say it, life and death…should start with gratitude. I think it is that important.

If we can’t start from a place of gratitude, recognizing the good in the world and in our lives, we have nothing. I mean to be dramatic.

Expressing gratitude creates a mindset and a soulset (new word?) of abundance, possibility and positivity. It acknowledges where we’ve come from, what we’ve received and what good was there and is there. It is a response to the energy that has acted in our favor. It is a gift back to that source.

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” ~ Albert Einstein

Even in the worst of situations when the only thing we may have to be grateful for is to be alive, what a crazy wonderful thing that is…to be alive.

There’s that joke by Louis CK where he talks about flying and how people are getting pissed off about their wifi not working on a plane, for example, when they should be enjoying how crazy cool it is to be sitting in a big hunk of metal flying through the air at turbo speed.

There are thousands of studies that link gratitude to a state of well-being, happiness, personal growth, even good sleep. It is not a coincidence; it is truth. And it is easy. There is value in acknowledging that we are not alone in this world. We are supported and we are connected and we are part of a greater whole.

Some ways to keep gratitude front and center in your life (and please share others in the comments!):

Do something for someone…maybe someone you know or maybe a stranger…that is unexpected. Reflect on what you are grateful for and then share that in some way with others.

Keep a gratitude journal…handwritten or use an app. Record something you’re grateful for every day. Some days may be easier than others and some of the richest material may come out of the hardest days.

Let the last thought when you go to sleep as you shut your eyes be about the things that happened in your day that you are grateful for. 

Say “thank you” and mean it, maybe even hold eye contact while doing so if you’re face to face.

Take the opportunity on Thanksgiving and other milestone marker days to spend dedicated time thinking, writing and expressing what you are grateful for.

Set up some sort of sacred space in your home dedicated to your life, your intentions and such, where you can place notes and objects and reminders of what you are grateful for. Create imagery around it to keep it in your awareness.

Reach out to someone right now and tell them you are grateful for them and why. 

Journal about what is good in your life or even what is hard in your life and find the things within that for which you are grateful.

When you’re feeling your best of best or your worst of worst, let the first thing you do be to express gratitude…to acknowledge what there is to be grateful about in the situation.

Thank yourself for following your intentions and your passions and acknowledge what you’ve done for yourself.

I am so very grateful to have been on a journey of self-discovery for the last two years. I’m grateful for the experiences, the people who have supported and encouraged me and for realizing my talents and passions that I now wish to share.

I am grateful to have discovered a passion for adventure, transformation and for writing. I want to share that.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share. What I like about kickstarter is that it brings together people who are working towards something, who have something to share with people who want to be a part of making it happen.

I have 9 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of the type of material that will be in the interactive guidebook/journal, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They will be focused on personal development practices, specifically around getting ready to plan a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 9 here is focused on starting your year with gratitude.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com as well.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

Let’s Go on an Adventure in 2015!

We have this package of “a year” that we celebrate with champagne and kisses and often resolutions…the Earth has made another trip around the sun, through the cycle of the seasons, the shortest and darkest days, to the longest and brightest days. I don’t need to look too hard to find reasons to celebrate life and this seems like a pretty damn good one. I’ll take it.

So amidst all of the celebrations, I like to spend some time reflecting on the previous year…

What were my intentions last year? 

What did I do to work towards them? 

What were the key decisions and turning points in my journey towards those intentions?

Did any of them manifest? Have any of them changed?

What were the surprises? How did I respond?

What were the challenges and the lessons? What did I learn about myself?

Where did I find synchronicity and serendipity?

What were the highlights? The lowlights? and why?

What were my relationships like this year? What new people showed up in my life?

What did I let go of? Where did I explore something new?

And I like to then look forward to the next chapter of my story…

How have my intentions evolved for what I want for my life?

What do I want out of this next year?

What opportunities are available? 

What are my priorities?

How can I apply what I learned last year?

What do I need to do and what do I want to do?

What am I willing to do to make it all happen?

What resources do I have?

What’s my plan for checking in with my intentions and tracking my progress?

How do my dreams for the next year fit into the dream for my life?

This may seem a bit intense and those of you who know me know that that is sometimes true, but I like to think about it as passionate and intentional. I’m not doing this because it’s a “thing”…hashtag resolutions…I’m doing it because I actually do intend to make these dreams a reality. And when I’m intentional about setting intentions, the universe seems to conspire to help them become a reality…always in a way I don’t expect and not always on my time frame…but it happens.

I should also say that the questions are just meant to help guide me in this mindful exploration. I like to get creative and have fun with the process too. When I’m done, I end up with a list of meaningful intentions for the new year. And by all means, I celebrate.

New dreams, realms and possibilities are opening to you now.
New dreams, realms and possibilities are opening to you now.

One of my intentions, my Top Priority intention for next year, is to write and publish my book on my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around my passions and an interactive guidebook to personal change to go with it.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me make this happen. What I like about kickstarter is that it brings together people who are working towards something, who have something to share with people who want to be a part of making it happen.

I have 10 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of the type of material that will be in the interactive guidebook/journal, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days, starting with this one. They will be focused on personal development practices, specifically around getting ready to plan a glorious, adventurous new year.

If you like what you’re reading here, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps, and also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com as well.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me and stay tuned for the countdown.

Write Now

I know this is going to sound biased coming from a writer, but I highly recommend everyone have some sort of writing practice as a personal development tool. If nothing else, it’s fun to be an adult and find your diary from when you were 6 years old and pouring your heart out. I sometimes picture myself at 80 years old reading the things that I’m writing now.

One of my favorite things to do is carry a little moleskin notebook around with me ‘a la Hemingway’. Here’s an exhausting, but not exhaustive list of the types of things I write down in there: the occasional ‘To Do’ list, book recommendations, my intentions for the year (at the front, so they are regularly in my face), little pieces of wisdom I learn from someone or discover myself as I’m out experiencing this highly stimulating world, inspiring quotes, dreams to be worked with later, more bits of wisdom, agreements I make with myself, doodles, and ideas as they pop into my head that I want to journal about or act on later. Last year I put my vision board in this little book so I could carry around the images with me. I also made a list of things I want to do regularly at the back of the notebook, where I give myself a “point” when I do them. I don’t know why a drawn line helps keep me motivated, but it does.

When I’m working towards a goal or making a change in my life, my sense of awareness is heightened. I am curious and ask questions and notice the little things around me. I think I’ll remember something later, but often just don’t. This little gem of a notebook becomes a treasure trove of these thoughts and discoveries. It lets you capture things “real time”, gives you a flavor of where you’re at with things when you look at it as a whole and also gives you a souvenir from that time in your life. And of course I realize this can be done electronically, but not for this chick. You’ll forever find me with my moleskins covered in random stickers. Flipping through the pages and seeing my own handwriting or scribbles is more intimate and holds more substance.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

And then there’s journaling…not just for traveling! Time never seems to tire, always just trucking along, tick tock, tick tock. We have experiences, we change, we grow…we let go of things, we gain new things, we let go of people, we meet new people. We make big changes and little ones, we live, we dream and hopefully we live our dreams. I can’t express how much I have learned about life and myself from regular journaling. Sometimes I’ll sit with a specific question or something I am trying to work through and write it all out, one of my principal methods of processing. Other times I just give myself a page limit, say 3 pages, and I free associate anything and everything that comes to my mind. (Julia Cameron calls this ‘morning pages’ in her book The Artists Way)

For journaling I actually type instead of going the handwritten route, which seems so contradictory to what I just said above. I’m living out of a backpack right now and so it simply makes more sense. If I could afford it, I’d have a sherpa just for my journals. Instead, go ahead and tease me, but I use the “handwriting” font on my MAC and type away. I like to do this in the morning as sort of a meditation…thoughts come up and they go on the paper. It honors the chaos by giving it a destination somewhere besides my brain…and then I can read it later and experience myself from the outside. I also like to journal at night with a glass of wine, by a fire and/or some cozy writing space. It doesn’t have to be a class or work, get comfortable and have the glass of wine.

New Years is coming up and my birthday is in June…for me, these are two natural milestones for reading back through my journals. Any cadence or milestone is great, whatever works, but definitely do it. I notice themes, ideas that unfolded into action and reality, relationships that have evolved, places where I got stuck, the things that helped me get unstuck, the new things I’ve tried, the feelings I’ve felt and what triggered it all, and little nuances that seemed like nothing at the time, but become the keys into my soul.

A few more little things I do that have been cool to do and to have later:

I keep a gratitude journal separately and I do join the modern ages for that one and use an app. There are apps that let you take pictures to go along with a daily entry. The one I’m using right now has a list of by date and title I’ve given to each entry, and then I can click on it to read what I wrote. Some days it is harder than others, but those are maybe the most important days to find something to be grateful for, the simplest thing. This is my first year doing it and I’m excited to look back through the year.

I also keep a running list of new things I’ve done in the year or “big” things I’ve done…no rule here, what makes the list is just according to me. I think it’s both important and fascinating to see what you’ve done, how you’re spending your time, what your priorities are, what goals you accomplished. It can point you to your passions, dreams, challenges, and new goals.

“We write to taste life twice.” ~ Anais Nin

If you like this post, you might like the big project I’m working on now. Please check it out: Let’s Go on an Adventure!

Let’s Go on an Adventure!

The year is coming to a close and a new one will start shortly… It is a time of year where I like to do a bit of reflecting about what has happened this year…who I’ve met, places I’ve experienced, things that I have learned. I also like to start setting intentions for the upcoming year…what am I working on? Where am I going? Where do I want to be going?

This year, one thing is clear: I will publish my books in 2015. I’m really excited to announce my Kickstarter campaign that I’ve launched to help me reach this goal and I’d be eternally grateful if you check out the link, back my campaign, and share it if you’re inspired. The campaign is a for writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to Patagonia, including an interactive guidebook for pursuing your passions. 

Continue reading Let’s Go on an Adventure!

Goooooooooooooooooooooooooal

World Cup fever was high in Colombia, with a notable commitment to sporting the yellow jersey…nearly everyone, every day. They even had jerseys specifically made for pregnant women, which there seemed to be a lot of. <Related tangent, they also make mannequins with bigger butts to accommodate for the extra ‘sexy’ gene the women seem to have received in Colombia.>

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Everyone who knows me well knows I have a World Cup “thing”. Celebrating my 30th birthday at the World Cup in South Africa eventually led to the dream I am pursuing/living right now. The party was amazing yes, but the overall experience of planning something for so long and making it happen, the singing and dancing and celebration, the people we met who will forever be in our lives…well, it changed my world. It was after the larger-than-life displays of passion that I knew I needed to go find my passions and I knew I could. (the infamous picture of us on tv below (terrible!) I can’t help but include it. I still love hearing the stories of people seeing us! Shout out to my incredible, passionate partners-in-crime: Katie and Jonathan!!)

2010 - World Cup South Africa - Katie's 2 548  world cup tv pic

Here I was four years later, with the World Cup in none other than BRAZIL!!!, my next door neighbor, promising to be epic in all its fútbol madness glory…and I had tickets. Of course I had tickets. I swore I’d never miss a World Cup again. It was also a milestone marker for me, which I was reminded of when I received many a message asking me 1. if I was in Brazil and 2. did that mean I’d be coming home from South America afterwards. That had been the original plan.

Well, the original plan had changed and I guess I didn’t even realize it. How do you know when things are not working because what you’re pursuing is not right for you versus because you need to keep trying if you really want it? I could easily write a chapter if not a book on this, but I’ll try to keep my rationale short.

My wise friend Christen posed a question to me… “what if there were no wrong decisions?” Another wise friend Henrik tells me that “if you really really want to do something, you can almost always find a way to do it.” I agree completely and I did want to go to the World Cup in Brazil. The truth is that I could have gone and also that it wouldn’t have been a wrong decision. It was when I looked at the things that were making it difficult to go and what was making it feel like it might not be the best thing for me that I realized I had been making decisions towards a different, higher priority.

I had a goal to finish my book and create a life around my passions. I had a choice. Just as when I wrote a check for a loss when I sold my house, once again I was telling myself that the most important thing is this journey of self-discovery and transformation. If the World Cup was truly the most important goal, I would have made more decisions towards that than towards my life goal. Not to be dramatic, but how we spend our time, money and energy is an indication of our needs and our dreams. And in the spirit of that, “we are always doing exactly what we want to be doing, as part of a greater whole”…coming from another wise friend, Jose. At least we have choices to make, albeit not always easy ones.

The difficult outcome was that I would be watching the World Cup from afar, although I did get to take in the champions league final with some local Colombians as a fun consolation prize. The good news is that I know my current journey is the right one and so that is the journey that will work out if I put everything into it…thank you very much ‘law of attraction’. And really how fortunate am I that my choices are either going to Brazil for the World Cup or living in the Caribbean to write my book. “Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool!”

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Hot Seat

Happy New Year again! The end of last year had me really focused on reflection and the new year had me really focused on intention. I’m still reflecting and still intention-ing, and decided to take a moment to put myself in the hot seat, answer some of the questions that I got a lot while I was home, and share where I am at in this whole journey. It’s a long one… 

The original purpose of this adventure was to go out wandering, leave the familiar behind with the intention to design my life around where my passions, talents, and skills meet my unique place in the world, the gift I have to share. (See my Inside Out blog for more life thoughts on things like this…) The reason I left the country to do this is because that was one of the most obvious things I knew…I love to travel and experience other cultures and I always grow and learn when I do that. So it made sense to start with that.  

I am very much still in the heart of figuring this out and I still believe it is possible. Here is what I can tell you based on the most “Frequently Asked Questions”:

Are you so happy? Are you having so much fun?

I am happy more than I am not. I am having so much fun more than I am not. I have had some of the most amazing, fulfilling, exciting experiences. And it has also been very challenging. Some of this is the nature of what I’m doing. I often feel tension between going after an adventure and being at my happiest, while also checking in with myself to make sure I am accountable to my overall intention. I am learning that the two go hand in hand ideally, which I sometimes lose track of. My intention and the way I travel also means that it can alienate me a bit, and I’ve had many lonely times this past year and times where I’ve felt stuck because I wanted or needed someone to go adventure with. I ask myself often if I’d rather be anywhere else, doing anything else. The answer was usually no. 

What are your days like?

Although I mainly post about my travels and adventures, I really have been living here. The majority of travelers I meet are in and out of a place in 3-7 days, after doing the “things you’re supposed to do there”. I imagine that can be a great experience and I’m not judging that at all. For me, it has been key to live in a place though. So I spent 3 weeks in Buenos Aires, 6 weeks in El Bolson, 1 month in the Peruvian Amazon, 1 month in Honduras, 4 months in Mendoza, 2 months in Bariloche. To me if feels like I’ve lived in those places. With many of my days, I’ll journal, write, edit photos, wander, meditate, run, cook, read, take Spanish lessons. No extreme adventure or big activity, just living. This is necessary for my goal, for the way I like to travel, for my health and the amount of down time I need, and for my finances.

The favorite questions…how are you able to afford this?

This will be different for everyone, but this can be done on the cheap. I did save money before coming, although I also lost money selling my house. I have met people who came for 6 months with $2000 savings to people who have come for 4 years with $200,000 savings. If you want to travel long term, it can be done.

I have no debt. That is huge. I do not buy things…I don’t shop. So even something like a bottle of water for $1 or a taxi cab that would be an hour walk instead. I don’t do it. It is not awesome, but I really do think about every dollar I spend. My main expenses are food, a place to stay, transportation for long distances, and then experiences if they cost something. I don’t really allow myself too many luxuries, it was a big lifestyle change for me. I have to be careful with this too though because at times I feel I’ve been so strict with myself that it impacts my ability to just enjoy the present moment or go after my goal. And so, I chose to spend more money than my budget to go to the transformation retreat in Peru, or to buy a guitar after a year of journaling about how I want to play the guitar. And I consciously try to make that money up elsewhere. 

I feel that I have been a generous person in the past, although I would like to continue to be present with and focused on generosity. I have also been extended a lot of generosity this past year that has been most humbling to accept. And it is ok to accept generosity, and inspiring to then be generous myself as much as I am able in any given moment of time or situation.

There are many things you can do for money or in exchange for food and a place to stay: helpx.com or wwoofinternational.org are popular. I have not done these things, but have met many people who have. Couch surfing is popular too, but I have no tried that either. The point is, there are ways to do it. When I got here I was amazed at how far you can get just talking about what it is you want to do. I could have run out of money a long time ago by not being so strict with my spending, but for me it has been important to have more time to figure out what life I want to create. So while it has been awesome, there has been sacrifice involved as well.

My goal is always in mind. Will this help me towards that or not? That drives my spending. That, and my basic needs.

How’s your Spanish?

Well, it depends on who you ask. My visitors have been impressed and that has been very flattering. I have learned a lot, and have so so so much more to learn. Pay attention to a 5 minute chunk of conversation you are having with someone…all the words, tenses, slang, emotions. Now picture learning all of that as new. Or listen to a 4 year old talk…all of the words, tenses, slang, emotions. Learning a new language is HARD and I do not have the type of brain that is biased towards that. 

I can definitely get by, and I have had conversations for hours with people in Spanish. It isn’t entirely correct or natural, and I often have to try to use the words I do know to explain a concept or how I’m feeling in a much more round about way than I would in English, but I can do it.

I have not taken classes as they are expensive and I have Rosetta Stone on my computer. So I use that and it helps. I have gone to free language exchange events. I have a couple of apps on my ipod with games and ‘word of the day’ type things to help me. I also listen to pod casts with Spanish lessons. I sometimes just sit near people in a cafe or at the park and eavesdrop to see if I can understand. Hopefully that doesn’t sound creepy! I try to say yes to every chance I can get to interact with locals, but sometimes I really have to be geared up for this as it is exhausting. My intention is to learn much more this year.

How is your book coming along?

Ah, this one is tough. I’ve been writing all year. I guess it could be called journaling, but for me it is more than that because it is all potentially input for my book. I have started my book. It took several attempts to get my voice right and my intention clear, although even that is still subject to change. 

Basically it is about stories of adventure, nature, travel and the personal transformation that comes about through those things. It is about creating a life around your passions, my story of that. Please, please, please feel free to comment with ideas, questions, whether this resonates or not, etc. 

I told myself I would “own” being an author when I got here and it has been challenging because the moment you say, “I’m writing a book” people want to know what it is about, when it will be done, and often have a comment or facial expression that tells you exactly how they feel about your intention. I feel my most vulnerable when I would like to feel my least vulnerable.

Really though, I promise I will let EVERYONE know when the book is done. 🙂

What have you learned?

Well some of this I will keep to myself, but I will share the most important thing that I’ve learned as it relates to what I set out to do. I learned that at the very heart of what I love to do in life, are the following things:

Adventure: to me this often means a physical challenge (I love climbing mountains!) or some sort of challenge, with an element of unknown, something unique, something to be figured out and accomplished, often with a creative element, something exciting and unconventional.

Local Immersion: my best stories are from when I have been able to really melt into another culture with its people and customs and language. To interact, listen, ask questions, engage, share, and learn.

Nature: I am at my best and happiest when I am in nature. I love exploring new nature, mountains, lakes, oceans, jungle, anything. I love the vibration, feeling totally alive, listening, learning, activating all of my senses, feeling so alive.

Transformational practices: I helped people through change in a corporate setting for 9 years. Over the last several years this has transformed to a desire  to apply that skill set with helping individuals through personal change…most importantly, myself. This includes, but is not limited to anything from journaling, reading, creative practices, meditation, climbing a mountain, working with dreams, understanding what my body needs to be at its best, etc etc etc etc. Practices that help me grow and integrate physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually…that’s a passion for me.

So I had inklings around these things and last year confirmed without a doubt that whatever I do with my life, these things are at the anchor of it. That and the flexibility it takes to do these things…not once and a while as something I enjoy, but at the heart of my life. 

So what is next?

I wish I had a clear answer on this. I am now back in Argentina and just had a glorious 5 weeks of visitors, first my two aunts and uncle and then my parents. Right now I am just trying to catch up on writing and photos and exercise and then I have some research to do and decisions to make. I know I need to up my skill set with the things I listed above, and so I am researching courses, programs, masters in these areas. I also need to keep exploring how to pull all of this together into a life, one that includes an income. That is top of mind. Again, I am so open to any ideas, suggestions, questions, connections. 

Hopefully this helps make some sense out of what I’ve been doing. For more info, stayed tuned on the progress of my book. I swear I am writing it. Or just talk to me, I love that too!

 

Gone Journeying – A Call to Adventure

Are you familiar with The Hero’s Journey? If not by name, you’re likely more familiar with it than you know. King of myths, Joseph Campbell, identified a similar structure in myths throughout countless cultures, eras, and in our own individual lives that shows up with striking frequency. So much so that many a movie, novel, or personal transformation story echoes this mystical pattern. Creative geniuses of the likes of Bob Dylan and George Lucas have been known to acknowledge being guided by this pattern.

So what is it? In short, the “hero” of the story experiences a “call to adventure”…some sort of pull, feeling, or event that tells the hero that their current situation has become too small and it is time to go out wandering to discover something new. This might appear as a feeling that is magnetic, a ‘must do’, without being able to actually see the magnet. In some cases, the call is not recognized or it is dismissed, often leading to a more dramatic and often painful “yank” to adventure. The universe now has the hero’s attention, and the hero commits to crossing the threshold and going on this journey. The hero goes out wandering and often encounters signs and guides along the way, as well as barriers and obstacles to overcome. Typically there is a climax as the hero is faced with the biggest challenge yet, a death of old ways and a birth to a new revelation. Ultimately, through the course of this journey, the hero learns, grows and receives a gift, his personal, unique gift. He is then faced with the task of returning back to his community, crossing back over the threshold as a transformed hero ready to share this gift.

There are many types of travelers that I meet. There are those who have a break from school or their job and are using it to travel. There are those who are moving abroad to work, either with a job lined up or the willingness to find some sort of work that will enable them to live abroad or travel. There are those who are going for months or even years, those accomplishing huge adventure goals, those taking a short vacation to experience a new place. There are those who are taking a break, maybe a sabbatical and have a job or commitment to return to. Here I am wandering Argentina, out exploring and meeting all sorts of these travelers and I feel so different from them. I feel this weight or responsibility. I think travel is a wonderful thing for many reasons, and I respect all types of travel. So what is this feeling? It finally it hit me…

I am not “gone traveling”. I’m gone journeying, a heroine’s journey to be exact. The purpose of my wandering is to pursue the call to adventure that I felt first as the “yank” and then felt more gently once I accepted it. (I touch on this in an article I recently wrote for elephantjournal.com.)

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What am I doing? Well, after fighting it for some time, I gave in to the whisper to go wander foreign lands right  now. I sold my house, car, most of my things, and set out to get in touch with my essence and design my life around it. Not to “find myself”, but to fully “be myself”. I’m not traveling, I’m not jumping into an expat life, I’m not looking for work. I’m on a journey to have my unique gift revealed to me. This journey could happen with or without travel. Ok, well travel is part of it 🙂

So why travel? Well, because you are alone if you are going about it the way I am. Things are different, foreign, there is a threshold to cross and dance with the unknowns. I am trying to look at things in a new way and this facilitates that because newness surrounds. And for me, I love to travel. To create a life around what I love, I started with something I know I love…travel. This is why it made sense for me.

So why alone? Because it is uncomfortable or maybe a gentler way to say it is that you are out of your comfort zone. This is a heroine’s journey. It is a rite of passage, which is very common across cultures and eras as well and is experienced alone and often in nature. Along with travel, nature is such a great teacher and mirrors so much back to you. It teaches me my tools and forces me to come up with new ones as well. It teaches me what I am capable of when I have courage and take action. What frustrates me? What does that tell me about me? What am I afraid of? Why? Is it a familiar feeling? What am I doing about it? How am I processing it? What excites me? What is it about it that lights me up? Who have I attracted doing this journey, and what experiences? What have I learned in the process of preparing to leave and throughout wandering? What do I do when I get to a new place? How do I approach people and situations and how do I want to be approached?

My journey is a conscious one and one grounded in intention. I am getting answers to all of these questions. I am pausing to reflect. I am still discovering my passions, talents, and my unique gift. I’m still out on the journey. There absolutely have been challenges along the way and there continue to be. At times I’ve actually been too obsessed with The Journey and have had to learn to just be again. I need to be guided by what I love and continue to fine tune what I learn when I do that. One component of this is that it’s a “can’t turn back” sort of situation. Once you cross the threshold into this journey, it is almost impossible to turn back. But history also shows with this pattern that if the hero moves forward with conviction and awareness, the hero perseveres. It’s not a coincidence. To me, it is an energetic response to the heroine owning her true nature and letting it out to play only to find it was within her all along.

This looks different for everyone, but the components often resonate. It feels right to share this story because I think we benefit a lot from sharing our personal experiences and connecting with what resonates. And I think the hero’s journey is just so simple and awesome. Have you felt the call to adventure? What do you love? What would it look like to let yourself dedicate time to fully pursuing what you love?

To read more about The Hero’s Journey (or Monolyth), well, just google it! Or you can read the book where Joseph Campbell first references it called The Hero With a Thousand Faces

A Month in Paradise

Early May found me flying to Honduras to meet my family for my Mom’s 60th Birthday. I had a layover in Houston where I was able to meet up with an old friend from grade school for dinner and some luck and coincidence meant that Meghan, David, and Bodhi had a layover there too. All of the English and US culture in the 18 hours of that layover were quite jarring, but to be with my family compensates in the millions.

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I do not mean to sound like a spoiled brat when I say this, given my year of adventure, but this felt like vacation. The smell of the salt water, the copious amount of sweating, bright sun, palm trees and that quintessential tiny, laid back beach town feel. It was so exciting for us all to meet here to celebrate my Mom. We had an amazing week of exploring the life of the town and spent almost as much time exploring life underwater too. We put together a series of events we called the Jo-lympics for my Mom, which had us making bizarre cocktails with local ingredients, patiently battling over laser joust, laughing our way through charades, and running through the town on a scavenger hunt searching for local artists, turtles, horses, and someone willing to hug a palm tree with us…among other things. We ate fresh seafood, went diving, and spent a ton of time snorkeling in the bay 60 seconds from our front door. Even Bodhi (3 years old!!!) snorkeled for the first time and loved it. Ask him; he’ll tell you all about the angler fish and barracudas. I love him to pieces!! I am forever grateful for the health, adventure, and love I share with my family…it’s out of this world.

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It was a bit of a trek for me to get up there and I decided to take advantage of that by waiting out some of the Argentinian winter in Roatan. I moved down the street to a little shared, wooden cabin a bit off the street in the jungle. It was like my own private jungle safari. I had a wooden deck with a table and chairs and a couple of hammocks. In the morning I’d listen to the roosters crowing and watch them waddle around with their little chicks; hummingbirds would be all a-flutter around the purple flowers in my “front yard”. I could hear the occasional cashew fruit or mango fall from the neighboring tree. Things became super interesting at night…typical nocturnal activities: there were lizards galore scurrying around. I saw a huge, long, thin, black and white striped beetle of sorts strut slowly across the wall, teasing the lizards. They didn’t take the bait, but BAM out jumps a frog from the shadows and snatches it, ninja style. It promptly spits it back out, but now I’m distracted because the thing can fly and a swooping bat comes out of no where as the next attempted predator.

I also loved all the crabs scooting around, looking like grumpy old men or gangstas. There were some resident parrots at the place I was staying, and without fail I’d walk down the stone steps every day and hear “Hello!” or “Hola!” and in the middle of responding, realize that I was talking to a bird. I only saw one snake and it was in a tree teasing a cat below. The rest of the wildlife I found underwater…

…I had decided that I’d invest the time to get my advanced diving certificate. Not a huge deal…some studying and five dives including:

  • a “deep dive”, must be over 90 ft I believe, for me this was a wreck dive too!
  • a drift dive, “go with the flow” of the current
  • a night dive, saw an octopus and conquered a fear (water at night), YES!!
  • a navigation dive, where’s your true north?
  • and a peak buoyancy dive, like meditation – breath and awareness

Basically finishing this allows you to go to the recreational dive limit of 120 feet of depth and probably some other things that I highlighted in my course book, but most of all for me it meant more experience with different types of dives and a “certificate” (one of my goals of the year was to get certified or take courses in things I am interested in when and where it feels right).

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There were many challenges of staying in Roatan…my cockroach roommates, the extreme heat, the sandflies and mosquitos that had no fear or respect of deet whatsoever, a terrible sinus infection that kept me from diving for 10 days, the fact that I can’t drink beer!! (tropical weather = hot wine = ew!). I was in a pretty small town, which is nice because everyone knows you and bad because everyone knows you. Though, it does make it easy to meet people and it felt great to have friends and a more steady social life than I’ve had while traveling. I really loved the dive culture…loved my dive shop (shout out to Reef Gliders!!) and met a lot of cool people there. My friends Ken and Emily are both there doing their Dive Masters training. We would all chill out and get excited about diving over a coffee or cocktail at the attached café tucked away from the street. It is neat for me to see people so passionate about something that it consumes them and then to hear stories about that very thing.

Ken the Kiwi and I had a lot of adventures together. We did some evening swims out to the play boat (this boat that a guy turned into a massive rope swing that sits in the bay for anyone to enjoy). One night in particular we watched a gorgeous lightening storm moving in, nature’s fireworks. In the dark water below the boat we could see the green flashes of bio-luminescents. It was magic! We watched another lightening storm approach while eating fresh mahi mahi caught that day and talking with a community elder who’s been barefoot for more years than I’ve been alive. On one of my last days, Ken bought a motor bike and we took it for a trip around the island. It started with a search for the required helmets…tough task for a Sunday. Eventually we had two locals driving around, guiding us to a super market that was armed with a guy and his shot gun. I love when things like that happen in places like this, it becomes a community project to find the two gringos some helmets. We stumbled upon local soccer games and cuisine, cows, horses and friendly locals all day while bouncing around the dirt roads on this motor bike.

I fell in love with diving on this trip. I love the world that opens up for you under water. It reminds me of going to see a concert of a favorite band…all of this build up and excitement, what will they play?! What surprises will there be?! Either way, I’ll be dancing!! There are beautiful fish darting everywhere, all shapes and sizes and colors. Some more common than others yes, but there’s always a special moment or two or ten on a dive…I saw an octopus on my night dive that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It changed colors and kind of oozed its way around, sometimes pretending to be coral and other times splaying out its tentacles and gracefully tickling the sand as it landed. We saw many turtles, but one in particular we came upon while it was eating and it was just massive and peaceful. We saw a giant, moray eel swim out of its cave and beside a giant grouper, hunting together. We saw grouper bigger than me, many of the fierce barracuda, schools of HUNDREDS of colorful fish, too many of the dangerous lion fish, sting rays, turtles of all sizes, tiny blue shrimp that will give you a manicure, drum fish (my favorite) and a crab the size of a pea. We swam along walls, over coral, to 120 feet of depth, around a ship wreck and through many cave-like swim throughs. It’s so cool to be able to witness this sort of thing; to be able to breathe underwater, feel the waves move you, to watch all of the life and coral and the sun dancing around.

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At one point I did feel a bit lost with what to do with my time in Honduras. This felt strange to have this feeling while in such a paradise. I realized that my goals for my time abroad were, foremost, to live in Argentina, learn Spanish, and to write a book among many other things. I also realized that I like to explore a place for a specific purpose. For Honduras, that was diving. While I’d LOVE to dive more, I was able to do a fair amount and my current focus and purpose is Spanish and the art of living, in Argentina. There is a surprising amount of English spoken on Roatan, or maybe this was just a noticeable difference from Argentina and I’ve felt like I’m on vacation. I did incorporate yoga, spanish lessons, cooking, and writing into my island routine, but eventually I felt called to go “home”. I had made some friends who I was able to explore the island with and that was hard to leave. I’m so grateful for the “vacation” and I would love to return some day. In fact, right now it feels like I am just away for a short while. But I have indeed returned to Argentina, and it feels good. I am ready for some local experiences here and bring on the Spanish, che! Image

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