Place of Dreams

Within five minutes of being in the Defender, Ronnie pipes up to tell me that the truck is running on oil from all those fried milanesas that are near and dear to the tastebuds of Argentinos. A local restaurant serving minutas (fast food) would serve as our “gas” station and we made a small detour to get a barrel of the used oil.

He hands me a rock as he jumps out of the car. Upon returning he tells me that it is from a meteor that hit the earth in Moldova and that it changed his fortune over night when he came in contact with it. I close my fingers around it, smiling at the idea and thinking, “Porqué no? why not? …could work just as much as anything” and I hope for fortune to melt out of it into my palm.

By the time we’re bumping along the road and flying through the turns around Lago Gutierrez, we are trading stories about the healthy and healing powers of plants. He pulls over to the side of the road to pick a tiny, bitter branch for me to taste, supposedly it helps with digestion or something.

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The final few miles took us down a gritty side road and into Nahuel Huapi National Park. We drove through the wooden gate, through a corridor of trees and into a panoramic view of my new home. Horses wandered around freely, chased by the border collies. A wall of mountains with a skirt of trees that sprouted a waterfall stood guard over the glacial lake.

No explanation was needed for how this place got its name, Peuma Hue (pey-oo-mah, wey), Mapuche for Place of Dreams.

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Having looked through the webpages of this high end, rustic resort before coming, I had been hypnotized by the views, the luxurious log cabins, the descriptions of the healthy organic food and the focus on yoga, mindfulness and magic that immersion in nature brings.

For the guests, yes, the reality is this fairytale. But for me, this would be different. I was coming here as a cultural exchange…swapping work in the gardens and kitchen in return for food and a shared room in the staff house.

As I was introduced to the reality of what this would be like, the perfect panorama I had driven into began to unravel. Anxiety and fear stirred inside of me. My chest tightened and the heat of the emotions boiled up through my body, rising to my face and creating a frenzy of activity in my rattled brain.

I worried about my health, which is always a struggle for me. Would they give us healthy food? Argentina and vegetables…especially of the green variety…don’t always tango together.

What would the other people be like? Nine of us in a tiny house? How would I balance myself among being social, the expected workload and writing my book?

Would I be able to write my book? Would I have the time and space to do that?

What if it didn’t work out? What were my other options? I didn’t have time or money to look for something new.

The uneasy feelings churned inside me as I realized how far we were from town and the nearest place to buy a bottle of wine, which I was wanting right about then. I then took a deep breath and walked in on myself having this reaction. I knew I needed to get some time alone outside in nature to wander, write and work through this.

I spent the afternoon exploring, walking along the rocky shores of the immaculate lake and through the gardens that were still asleep for the winter. I gazed up at the mountains, adorned with snow and stood there admiring their rugged beauty. I walked along the gravel path that wound through the property around the log cabins, crossing the fallen tree bridge over the creek and to the stone temple on the hill.

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I had been independent for a year and a half, answering to no one but the call to adventure. I would now be at the mercy of my new circumstances, losing my autonomy. I would be accountable to someone else’s dream and expectations. I would now have to write in between my work shifts, hoping inspiration and energy would meet me on demand.

I hadn’t thought about this and felt blindsided by it. It was like watching the movie of a book you have read and loved, only to find out that they had gotten it all wrong when translating it for the screen.

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I sat on the steps of the temple and journaled…about what I was feeling, about what I wanted for my time there. I realized that this was a familiar reaction to being thrown into unknowns, fear that it won’t work out. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to notice what you can control and take positive action towards that, let go of expectations, seek to learn and be surprised. I listed my intentions and started a list of ideas for falling deeply into my life there and committed myself to doing just that.

The negativity and fear wilted away. My heart was now exploding with gratitude for having this opportunity arise for me, allowing me to continue my journey. I felt full of peace, grace, awe and devotion for the wilderness around me, as if these mountains had been calling me and I had finally found them.

This is the serendipity that I had hoped for when setting out to show up in the world and see what happens. I was living in the mountains for the first time and would be there for six months.

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The Return

<from September 2014>

I feel like I’m on my third or fourth life of this dream as I’m arriving back in Argentina once again to make a go at writing my book here. Each time I’ve been able to come back I’ve learned so much in the process and have had new challenges and surprises awaiting me…what will it be this time?

I walk out of the airport to find my friend Jose waiting there for me with a cab and it feels more like home every time I come back. We talk excitedly, firing questions back and forth, filling each other in on what’s been going on in our lives lately. We’ve both been navigating a transition from Corporate America to trying to start new careers around our passions. I have this satisfied feeling in me, a deep longing has been quenched, to be back to my passion project.

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Carolina, Jose’s roommate, practically knocks me over with a hug and smiles and I feel a connection as if we’ve already had the inspiring conversations we proceed to have over the next week, the three of us holed up in the tiny kitchen, sitting on the counters, passing around maté and sharing stories and ideas about living a meaningful life. It feels good, no, priceless to have a tiny community of like-minded people to interact with and exchange support.

I quickly get to know the people at the fruit and vegetable shop around the corner and can never resist going into the bakery next door to get some hot chipá (little balls of chewy cheesy bread, made from tapioca flour and naturally gluten free). I love shopping for food in this way, each little shop specializing in their one thing; the conversations and relationships formed with the locals; everything whole, fresh, in season and homemade.

We turned the living room into a board room (a very cute boardroom), having brainstorming sessions and building websites. The brainstorming…I love, ping ponging questions and ideas back and forth and I’m reminded of my skill set and the parts of consulting that I loved. It feels so energizing to generate ideas and get creative, to help someone get clearer on their vision and be one step closer to manifesting it. The hardest part of building a personal business for me though is the business and technology part…hoping the challenge and frustrations will pay off if I can stick to it. Pretty soon my 5 year old nephew will likely be better at this than I am.

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We take a break to meet up with Lucho and head over to the feria de matadores…a traditional market where you are a minority as a tourist. I stand out with my blond hair and light skin, but I feel at home with the melodic castellano being spoken around me, the scents of choripan (a chorizo sausage and chimichurri sandwich) and locals strolling around the art stalls with their thermos of agua caliente (hot water) tucked under their arms.

We follow the crowds to the main stage where folkloric music is being played and everyone is dancing. Couples are circling each other, hands in the air, snapping their fingers to the rhythm of the music. Lucho and I try to join in which provides a great laugh to each other and everyone around us as we do.

photo credit - Jose Gastaldi
photo credit – Jose Gastaldi

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I get waves of feeling like we had been at the market a while, feeling it is surely time to leave, until I’m reminded of a quality I love about Argentina…busy-ness and rushing about just isn’t glorified in the least. It is the exact opposite. We won’t eat dinner till midnight anyway, we have loads of time. We end up staying for hours watching as the dance progressed to one where they twirl scarves about and caress each other with them.

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I stand there watching and smiling and feeling in my whole body that it was the right decision to come back to Argentina. It just feels so right to be here and I feel energized and motivated to accomplish what I came here to do.

**If you enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation that will go directly towards helping me finish writing and publishing my book. Also, check out my website for writing, photography and transformation practices. Muchas gracias!**

I’ve arrived

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I arrived back in the United States earlier than planned and felt devastated by this. Before leaving for Argentina the first time in December 2012, I had worked with my fears by trying to picture the worst case scenario for my journey so that I could consider how I would react. My “worst case scenario” had included being robbed and failure to discover my passions or finish my book.

So here I was in the early summer of Chicago, safe at home in my parents’ house having been robbed and not so much a published author yet. I felt like I was trapped at the bottom of a desolate well. How on earth did this fantastic journey of mine land me here? Now what will I do? I had this tremendous feeling of “I’m not supposed to be here” even though that is the opposite feeling being home always provokes for me. Everything felt upside down.

In my “worst case scenario” I had thought about how lucky I was that I did have supportive parents and a home to come to if I needed it. And here I was. Only, I hadn’t considered the emotional blow I’d take. I didn’t call friends or family (and I’m so sorry about that to everyone now!). I didn’t talk about the robbery at first. I was afraid to get an “I told ya so” reaction from anyone who hadn’t thought it the brightest idea to go traveling alone.

It actually was a bright idea, a brilliant one. I still felt that and knew I had to get back to it. So I started to dig into my journals and take long bike rides, looking for clues from what I had experienced and learned as to what to do next. I knew that my writing and time in nature were going to crucial in deciding my next steps. I also started to dream up big and little adventures that would not have occurred to me before I had gone traveling long term. I also knew to embrace what was good about this situation, getting bonus time with my family that I would never have had otherwise.

I flew out to LA to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. I watched the World Cup games with my brother. I got to connect with my Uncle Rich who I hadn’t seen in a long time and he told me so many new stories! I got to have 1:1 time with my aunts and to attend my cousin Caitlin’s engagement party. I took a road trip with my Dad and brother, crashing their annual camping trip. We backpacked through Porcupine National Park and it was so cool to experience Lake Superior and stunning nature on my home turf. My mom and I took a 4 day canoe trip, camping on sandbars, doing dream work, yoga and cooking over fire. These microadventures made me feel whole again, such special time and surprisingly close to home.

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These may seem like small things, but these are the things that I have missed out on living in another city. This introduced me to a new element in the life I am going after. I knew I wanted a flexible and unconventional life and realized that if I can succeed at that then I will get more moments like these, to be with family without having to give up my wanderlust.

I found a fantastic coffee shop in town that became my daily office. I have always loved working in coffee shops. The symbiotic comfort of sipping a cup of that dark goodness while slowly breathing in the aromas puts me at peace and also awakens my creativity. I love the watching the flow of people and the dynamics of those meeting up with each other or going solo, engrossed in some work. I’ve always had the romantic idea that people are focused on creating, doing of-the-soul kind of work when in cafes…engrossed in novels, meeting to discuss an idea, immersing in studies, launching a new business, writing a book.

I became a devotee to my writing and journaling. I researched all sorts of opportunities and possibilities for grants and scholarships, crowdfunding and artist residencies. I started to build a website, print business cards and work on a personal brand. I sat down to journal one day and was checking in with the intentions for my journey as I would do on occasion, asking myself “What would my ideal life look like?” And then I wrote down a full page of a life vision, including my passions and just enough detail to have something to work towards with enough room for it to manifest in ways I could only imagine. Oh. My.

I had done it. I had done what I set out to do and had not realized it until then. I had discovered what I was passionate about and I instantly wanted to go start it all. And I really wanted to write it all down in a book, the book that had been tip-toeing out of me this whole time.

When Argentina lost the World Cup final, I cried. Not that I have an over-stated attachment to sports, although I am known to get a bit competitive. It felt personal. Warning, this will sound ridiculous, but it almost felt as if I should never have left Argentina and in doing so I took away all the wonderful energy and lessons it had given me and cursed their chances of winning.

I realized that I was longing to be back in South America, to write my book where I had started it and where my journey had taken place. I was not done there and I would not be chased out by three desperate, sad thieves from Colombia.

I have found that when you take actions and put yourself out there, that energy goes to do some reconnaissance  for you, finds the right opportunity and makes its way back somehow. At this time, I received a message from a friend of a friend in Argentina who had read one of my blogs. She asked me where I was and what I was doing. I told her I was looking for a place in the mountains of Argentina to finish writing my book and that I was out of money. She told me her mother owns a place on a lake in northern Patagonia where I could volunteer while I write. It’s called Peuma Hue, meaning Place of Dreams.

I booked a plane ticket, packed my bags and arrived two weeks later, back to Argentina.

Countdown to 2015 – 2 – Into the Dreamy Depths

I think it’s time to specifically call out the unconscious part of ourselves too and why we have it and what we can do with it. So as the countdown to 2015 nears its end, let’s take a look at what’s going on inside.

“Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

I think this is true and I think both are important as well as integrated. The unconscious is the part of the iceberg immersed in the ocean…the unseen, the feelings and emotions, the intangible. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling, woke up from a dream or had butterflies in your chest from falling in love, you’ve experienced the unconscious.

I’m going to write from a Jungian perspective because it is familiar territory and it resonates with me deeply. Jung identified both the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious.

The collective unconscious refers to the human template basically, what are the things the characteristics that all of us receive when we’re born, share with each other and contribute to in how we live our lives. The ability to think, feel, to breathe, our unique ability to analyze and be aware of ourselves as individuals and aware of our thoughts.

The personal unconscious refers to our unique experience of the collective unconscious. It is the culmination of our experiences, the influence of various cultures and communities we are born into, the season and time of day we first experience and the impact of all of this and more on how we individually express and manifest it all.

I think we can all agree that we are not just these static bodies made up of all this physical, tangible stuff and nothing more. Where does the change take place…not physical changes, but how we change as people over time? Where do our experiences go as we accumulate more of them? Where does the growth we experience in our lives occur, the learning? How do we evolve and apply ourselves and express ourselves? Where does creativity live? What does our conscience look like and how does it operate? Why do we seek new experiences and goals and dreams?

And so there is much we can learn if we are willing to dive into the depths of the intangible world within…we might call it our souls. What would it look like to acknowledge this and engage with this energy?

How do we do that? A number of ways.

The realm of the unconscious is that of symbols, where it plays around with ways to express itself and work its way into our consciousness. Symbols are containers for energy, meaning, information, values, emotions. They give us something physical and tangible to identify with so that we can then process all these unknowns with what we do know.

This is why storytelling is important and why we have cultural myths. This is what we experience in dreams. This is one way that nature is a mirror for us. This is something we can find in our own writing and art if we commit to a practice and then experience ourselves through our own creations.

Initially I wrote a whole section on dream work for this post, but there is just too much information there and if you’re like me, you get a bit antsy when a blog post just won’t end even if it is interesting. So expect a post on dream work sometime soon. (Follow this blog and you’ll get an email when it comes.)

For now, my recommendation would be to get curious about your unconscious world and search for some practices that most appeal to you for getting to know it.

Maybe it is sitting with some of the questions above. Maybe it is starting to journal, take nature walks, meditate, record dreams, read poetry or philosophy or a book about Carl Jung. If at all possible I think a long term, solo journey in nature is the most ideal way to dive into this stuff.

Might I suggest some topics to consider:

“Who am I?” ok maybe that is a bit intense. But what makes me, me? My values, qualities, talents, passions, personality?

How do I process information?

How do I express myself?

How do I want others to approach me?

What are my shadow qualities?

What triggers challenging emotions in me? How do I handle that when it happens?

When do I feel the happiest and most alive?

What was my childhood like?…both the things I loved to do for hours and also my defense mechanisms and strategies that I used as I discovered I was my own person?

What do I need to let go of in my life that doesn’t serve me anymore to make space for new?

What new things do I want to invite into that space?

..all territory of the unconscious and the soul.

To me, not befriending your unconscious is like not celebrating your birthday. Your unconscious is there and it is active whether you like it or not and it has a critical role to play. We all have the opportunity to get on board with that and have a conscious approach towards it and actually be grateful for the gifts that lie there. When we don’t, what resides there can often arise in ways that aren’t so comfortable.

“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” ~ Johnny Depp

With our birthdays, we’re turning older whether we like it or not. Aging is a reality. Celebrating your birthday is an opportunity to celebrate your life…holy shit, we’re alive! That’s pretty cool. To me, a birthday is a symbol of our life and an opportunity to check in with what we’re doing with it.

Ok, off my soap box. Happy birthday to everyone and happy exploring of your unconscious. This is just the tiniest of introductions to all things unconscious, but my hope is it was interesting in the least and a call to curiosity and action at the most.

Thank you for tuning in to this series of ten blogs posts on personal development practices for a fulfilling 2015. If you’re just arriving, welcome! Here’s where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

If you like what you are reading, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too. The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

I have 2 days left in my campaign, all or nothing! I will beg. I will. Please.

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.

Countdown to 2015 – 7 – Passion Play

As the countdown to 2015 continues so does our opportunity to focus on what we want out of the coming year. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

10 – Setting intentions – thoughts and questions for inspiration

9 – Gratitude – an absolute must

8 – Wandering in Nature – taking a look in the mirror via the wilderness

And now for number 7, how about a bit of passion play.

I’ve been focused on “passions” maybe more than anything else in the last 2 years as I’ve been trying to pursue my own. My working definition of passion is something that goes beyond a hobby or interest; something that we want to dive into and get lost in; something we want to learn more about and explore and share; something that lights us up inside and makes us feel so alive.

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~ Roald Dahl

With vulnerability, I admit I used to get jealous of people who were living their passions or who were doing things that I wanted to have as my passions…the people who were born on top of a mountain and have been climbing them ever since. I thought of them as a different, untouchable race.

Honestly, when discovering how much I love to climb mountains my first feeling was despair for the lost years growing up in the anti-mountain midwest.

This has really changed for me the last 2 years as I decided to focus my whole life on finding my passions. I shifted my perspective and realized that I want to live in a world where everyone is living fully and passionately and connecting and supporting each other in this. With all of my attention there, I became a student of passion.

I got outside my comfort zone. I looked at the things I was interested in and made a point of doing more of those things and noticed how I felt…treating them more like a right than a luxury. In doing so, I met others doing similar things and often doing related things that were bigger, bolder and creative…things that hadn’t even tickled my consciousness.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from those interactions:

It helps to become an admirer. Seek out people doing things that make you say “wow. I wish I could do that.” And then rather than taking the role of bystander…be inspired to take action. Court someone as a mentor if possible. Study what they do. Be curious and ask questions…to them directly or to the great all-knowing google.

Seek out resources. Seek out community.

Keep trying new things. When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

The imagination is key here…even with an inkling of what your passions are, you can start to play around with them.

Pick an interest or passion and brainstorm, without restrictions or judgment, different adventures to have with that activity. Write out goals, possibilities, things to explore. Dream big and broad and then pick one of those dreams and start pursuing it.

What would it take? What would it look like if I wooed this? What do I need to know? What do I need to do to make this happen?

It is magnetic to be around someone who is pursuing and living their passions. Opportunities seem to open up and connections are made. This is one thing that I love about travel…you often meet people doing something they love and you also encounter a lot of perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise in your familiar surroundings.

It is never too late to play with our passions and to pursue them and pursue them some more. I guess it would only be too late if we reach the end of our lives and realize that we never did.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

2 years ago (as of yesterday!) I left the USA for Argentina on a journey of self-discovery to design my life around my passions.

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 in a book and guidebook that I plan to publish. What I love about Kickstarter is that it is all about bringing together people to support each other’s passions.

I have 7 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 thoughts on pursuing your passions, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They are focused on personal development practices, specifically around preparing for a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 7 here is focused on pursuing passions.

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.

Follow this blog to receive the others in this series. Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

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.

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!

Write Till You’re Wrong

When I followed him up the stairs and onto the terrace, I knew I had I found the perfect Caribbean writer’s haven before he even opened the door. It was up a hill with a balcony overlooking a tiny bay with mountains that held the blue sea in a sweet little embrace. It was dry season, so the hills were a rusty, brambly tangle of bare branches and tall cacti…not the tropical green I was expecting. From my vantage point, the tree tops hid the shabby town below and hosted big iguanas that would sometimes climb to the top branches. The place was small, open air with a beautiful view, and it was my retreat. It was so wonderfully situated that the sun set over the sea even when I imagined we were facing east. Magic! This is where I would write my book, in Taganga, Colombia.

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Continue reading Write Till You’re Wrong

Holy Mangos!

I had the brilliant idea of waiting until Good Friday to do the pilgrimage up to the little church on top of Montserrate, the backdrop mountain of Bogotá. And it was a brilliant idea if you like to participate in what the entire city is doing at once. It was holy week and people were eager to be holy. If they weren’t there, they were spilling out of the churches into the plazas or visiting the salt cathedral, which is 180m underneath the ground. I still feel holy from having been in Bogotá for holy week. I even scheduled my bus just on time to catch a procession going past my hostel with drums and incense, men and children in dark purple, silk robes, carrying huge statues of the stations of the cross. I watched them walk past by candlelight, saying prayers, and made it to the station just on time for a trip to the coast.

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I was headed for Palomino, a beach town on the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela that was written up in the book as a chilled out, long, dreamy stretch of beach with a strong current that backs up to the jungle. The current actually ended up being just the right strength for me to swim against, perfect for a daily workout if I didn’t mind the occasional salty wave in the face. “Town” was one street with casual, local restaurants, fruit shacks, and pool halls lining each side and a sandy road that leads you to the beach in fifteen minutes.

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Continue reading Holy Mangos!