I was thankful for the break in the rain as I loaded my old Volvo station wagon and headed south towards the desert. My mind was heavy with questions about relationships, my job, my future. The car was packed to the roof with enough food for a small nation, and barely enough room for my two kids and a tent.
I drove without a real agenda, with only a general idea of places we wanted to see. I had no idea where we would stay, only that we would travel along a very vague circular route through the southwest, and that we would not be coming back for more than a month.
The trip was a lot like my life- without any clear plan as to where I was going. I just needed to journey in a different direction to see what was out there. So, I drove.
I drove, and drove. I drove for weeks. I can't say how many miles because the odometer in my old car had stopped working long ago. But this trip wasn't about the car, even though we lived out of it and slept in it more than once. It wasn't about counting miles either, even though we covered many thousands.
This trip was about exploring and being free.
Enjoying the journey was as important to the experience as any destination.
We stopped for everything from Wild West theme shows to giant statues of road runners made out of garbage. I rarely drove more than a few hours in a day, and spent a few days discovering each place before moving on. As I drove, we talked. We talked about everything from the splendid sights all around to our dreams and goals for the future.
No one asked "Are we there yet?" because we rarely even knew where there was.
We watched the landscape constantly change, and oohed and aahed over the scenery. There was a daily chorus of "wow" from every seat as we became enamored with all that is out there.
But, it wasn't all about beauty and wonder either. Navigating strange cities and countrysides, and setting up camp in a new place every few days was a lot of work. We were like pioneers, growing more competent in our skills all the time.
At night, we were at home and cozy in our tent, playing cards and reading stories aloud by lamp light and talking even more in the dark. As we laughed at silly jokes and bickered over who ate the last cookie, I was so glad to be able to spend this time with these kids.
I was asked more than once what possesses a 39 year old woman with a college education and a seemingly stable life to head into the the unknown for 5 weeks of sleeping on an air mattress.
Sometimes the questioners were people who admired the spirit of adventure, but just as often, it was by someone who felt unsure about both the sanity and the safety of a woman alone on the road with children.
I never really had a clear answer for any of them. I could only say that I wanted to see the world with my kids, and hotels every night were not in the budget.
Before I set off, there was a big part of me that thought this trip would give me time to contemplate all the things in my life that were slowly sucking away at my soul. I imagined staring out at the desert, pondering life and finding direction.
It turned out that it wasn't that kind of trip.
Traveling without an itinerary does have the advantage of allowing spontaneity, but when children are involved, it requires a lot more thinking. If you are the only adult in charge, you not only have to find the way from point A to point B, but you also kind of have to make sure that they have a safe place to sleep each night and food to eat each day. It helps if that food is more than cookies and chips too, hence the overloaded Volvo.
When you are busy packing up your nylon fabric home into your car and making choices about where to move next several times each week, the journey becomes one that is more about external exploration than internal. Children also tend to make noise, which in turn makes quiet contemplation rather difficult.
But, somehow, without any conscious effort or realization, the internal work happened too.
As I marveled at the giant 200 year old Saguaros and miles of sparkling White Sands, the seeds were being planted in my subconscious. Sitting in a 700 year old sacred Kiva at Bandelier and gazing over the marvelous Arches of rock, something sprouted in my heart. As I stared up in awe at the imposing cliffs of Zion and down in amazement at the pointed spires of Bryce Canyon, the seeds grew.
By the time I watched the sun set over Death Valley, I somehow knew deep in my soul that I would be alright. We all would.
There was still no logical plan or magical clear answers to any of the things I was supposed to be pondering, only a calm confidence that the same wonderful world that featured this incredible variety of magnificence, had fabulous things in store for me as well... if I would just give them the time and space to be.
The rivers, the mountains, and the deserts- they all took time. No one forced the Grand Canyon or rushed the redwoods. Every place we went was different and marvelous in it's own way. They had grown, changed and evolved over time.
To be honest, some of that process looked rather painful, but the results were just as they should be. The things didn't belong were eliminated, and they became their own unique wonders.
I came home not knowing exactly what my future would bring, but convinced that I needed to eliminate the things that didn't belong in my life.
Change might be scary, but unlike the mountains, I don't have millions of years to grow into what I want to be.
I have one short lifetime to find my unique beauty in.
We came back feeling in love with the world. I was inspired to keep going and seeing more, traveling more with my children. We are planning to hit the road again in a few months, this time heading north. The trip that started it all also ended up inspiring me to do more things the naysayers would fret over. I cut my hours at my job and eliminated the most draining components. Of course that also eliminated a huge portion of my income, but it opened up a well of time and energy for other creative endeavors. I feel as free and endangered as the Condors nesting over the Colorado River- hatched in captivity and released into the wilds. I am spreading my wings and ready to fly.
****This essay was published on Escape Is Possible and also appeared on the Dave's Travel Corner website.
It’s my 43rd Valentines Day, and by 6:30 PM, I was in my PJs with a cocktail and a box of Girl Scout Cookies, hanging out painting and collaging in my garage with my dog and cat at my feet.
It sounds like a sad story, but I’m actually quite content. More than that...I’m really, really happy.
Even though my Valentine is 350 miles away, I don’t feel alone. That’s an odd thing for me, because historically, I’ve been prone to putting a lot of expectations around celebrations and occasions, and then suffering woeful disappointment when things didn’t work out the way I expected.
Danielle LaPorte talks a lot about seeking out the way you want to feel, rather than the external factors, and I think that’s actually some pretty good advice.
What I want to feel is joyful~ the sense of prosperity and abundance~ love.
And I do. I feel all of those things in my life.
So even if I don’t get to spend the official holiday of romance with my Sweetheart, I’m OK. He’s way more than my Valentine~ he’s my friend and my partner~ like a true, for real partner~ and I’m blessed that he shows me so much love, support and encouragement every day, that my heart is full and I feel it even when he’s not here.
I’ve heard people dismiss Valentines Day in the past because we should really show our love all the time, and I always felt that even though that was a nice sentiment, I liked presents. But now, I get it. It’s way more than a day. (Although I still do like presents)
So, tonight, it’s me and some furry friends, who I also love very much. For some reason, even though they love me, neither of my teenage children were all that excited about my proposal of going ice skating with their mom on V-day. Whatever.
I considered going to watch some friends belly dance, but at the time they were leaving for the show, I was enjoying the sunny day tending seedlings and hunting slugs in my garden.
So, I went for a ride on my bike to watch the sunset and came home to make art in my garage with my animal companions. I’m looking forward to romantic post holiday celebrations when my Sweetheart gets back to town, but in the mean time, this is definitely the best I’ve ever felt on Valentines Day.
I'm all about sharing the love, and since I think love and laughter are quite nicely entwined, below I'm sharing a few things that are making me giggle~
Hope you all had a very happy and love filled day!
No matter what the news and my mother try to tell me, I still believe that the world is a good place. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes people are awful and everything feels like a giant suck fest, but more often than not, people are actually really good.
I’ve been known to lose track of things on occasion. There’s a lot floating around in this head of mine, and sometimes the filing system isn’t up to speed. Usually it’s little things like keys, sunglasses, and grocery store lists, but sometimes when my weary mind is full of too many things, I’ll misplace important dates, bills and other things.
More than once, the loss of things has caused a great deal of inconvenience and even some fairly huge pain in my life.
This makes me super appreciative of the fact that my head is attached~ especially in light of how many things are not attached, and are therefore rather easy for me to lose track of.
Last week, I lost my wallet.
Not just any wallet, but my very special “Bringin Home the Bacon” change purse, which is not only super cute, but also has some large scale sentimental value.
It started quite a while ago when I was visiting family, and in a store with a sweet, older, relative-of-a-relative, who wanted to basically buy us everything in the store. I’m not normally opposed to this, but while standing in line, I saw this display of adorable little purses, and this particular one caught my eye.
It had a girl in braids riding a pig with curly letters that said “Bringin Home the Bacon.”
It was exactly what I needed to represent that point in my life.
I was just getting to a place where I was the primary breadwinner and financial supporter of my family. Not only that, but we were doing OK.
So, when the sweet relative-of-a-relative offered to buy me the wallet, along with the cart full of other stuff, I couldn’t let her do it.
Well, to be honest, I was OK if she bought the other things, but I had to buy the wallet with my own big girl money, simply because I was in fact, bringin home the bacon.
Fast forward a year and a halfish, and I’m standing at a coffee counter 150 miles from home in a conversation I didn’t want to hear about things that could definitely affect the bacon that I’m bringing home. The talk gave me the grim feeling of a dead man walking.
Somehow, I managed to get through it without crying, running away with my hands over my ears or otherwise freaking out.
Unfortunately, all of the mind control I had to use left me absent minded enough to leave without my wallet.
I didn’t realize it was gone for hours, by which time the coffee house was closed and I needed to be on the road on my way back home. Without a wallet.
Fortunately, I had enough gas to get home and my license and credit card were in another part of my purse. The missing wallet however had cash and signed checks, one of which belonged to one of my kids who would surely do the freak de sheik if they knew.
It all seemed ironic, losing my sentimental money carrier when my money making possibilities for the future were beginning to look bleak.
I retraced my steps, looked everywhere I could access and left a note on the coffee shop door.
I then tried really hard not to beat myself up, freak out, or imagine doomsday symbolism in the loss. I have to say, I did better than I would have at most other points of my life.
It was a chunk of cash, but money could be replaced. And even if I did lose my main income stream, after all I’ve been through in the last few years, I knew I’d somehow figure it out.
Anyhoo, the next morning, I awaken to a voicemail from the coffee shop. Another customer had found a wallet and left his number. A few phone calls and arrangements were made. A friend picked up the wallet and got it in the mail. Within less than 48 hours, a delivery truck brought the wallet to my home, and EVERYTHING WAS STILL THERE. Cash, signed checks, even my belly dance class punch card. The wallet had passed through numerous hands, and no one took anything. Like I said, the world is full of mostly good people.
I’m feeling less dreadful about the metaphorical symbolism in the whole thing as well. Even if I temporarily lost track of my Bringin' Home the Bacon, it made its’ way back to me.
For now, I’m just glad that my faith in humanity is restored, and that I know in my heart that even if I need to find new ways of bringin' home my bacon, I’ll figure it out.
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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