Playing Panamanian Catch Up

Travel

So I apologize profusely for failing hard at keeping everyone updated via my blog. On the road its hard with wifi being few and far between in cities or the outskirts of towns, coupled with just a lowly iPhone to type on, you have a perfect storm for someone as absent minded as myself to forget to write an entry (or 4).

So let me get yall up to speed on how my time in Panama went before I post any blogs about my time in Colombia so far (which spoiler alert – I’m absolutely LOVING already!)

I was working at one of the most popular backpacker spots on the Gringo Trail through Central America, The Lost and Found Hostel, which entirely earns its reputation because it is amazing. Set amidst the backdrop of Volcano Baru, the tallest peak in Panama, a hostel with a 15-minute hike uphill into a cloud forest, with everything you could need surrounding you and not much else. Trails surrounding the property provided hikes for solitude, river tanning, and agonizing mudslides downhill. Afternoons spent chatting with guests and checking them in, getting to know them and their lives over a cup of coffee. I felt parts of myself returning after lying dormant after a year at a desk. I got my chatting game back. I was engaging again. I fell in love with that delicious morsel that is human interaction and the emotional connection that accompanies it. This idyllic setting fed the duality of my personality – I had the solitary time to myself necessary for self-exploration but the social interaction I needed to reconnect with the sense of outer self I was still searching for while in Costa Rica.

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The thing I wasn’t prepared for while working at the hostel was the constant sense of loss when every new friend inevitably continues on with their journey. While extremely grateful to have met them, the regenerative nature of going upstairs every morning to a set of new and unfamiliar faces every 3 days was emotionally exhaustive. Although it did allow me to practice one of my major goals for the trip – appreciation without attachment – on the reg. I`ve gotten fairly good at it, but there still exists this aching pang when I think back to people who I hope to see again, accompanied by a sickening realization that most of them won`t cross my path anytime soon.

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Travel continues to be an evolving mistress whose love is both fulfilling and frightening. I’m developing into a different person, that’s for damn sure. But the type of person is still unresolved, floating in the abyss between cities, lying facedown on a train platform or free falling from an airplane are parts of myself I`ve shed in favor of new traits, new understandings, new quirks. The person reflected back through the eyes of the people I’m meeting now is different than the ones from my friends at home. I’ll admit I’m still on the hunt for who I am, still absentmindedly searching for myself, thinking I’ll stumble upon it like a delicious empanada on the side of some street, tucked in with the change from a street vendor, or hidden inside the folds of a hammock on the beach. Travel, that bitch, makes you face yourself every day while giving you ample opportunities to distract you with swaying palm trees or island hopping which make you wonder what you`re even looking for at all – with peace surrounding you at every moment you choose to let it.

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So Panama was about friendship, forests, and the free time to think about what it all meant. But here are just a few of my favorite memories: I had some great nights at the hostel bar, taking tequila shots toe to toe with an Aussie who would make me regret that decision instantly. I had two amazing weekends exploring Bocas del Toro, a Panamanian Venice with hotels built out onto the sea and boats to take you island to island, where I got lost roaming the jungle in search of an infamous beach. I went to a local brewery in Boquete and ended up drunk with 10 new friends by the end of the night, two of which would then be a part of my journey to Colombia via sailing through San Blas. My first motorbike ride through the Panamanian highlands. Treasure hunting and River canyon jumping. I met up with a friend from the LF hostel in Panama City and had an incredible time going out, getting brunch drunk at the buffet at Hard Rock Cafe overlooking the city, and ending up at Panamanian block party until 6 am with 7 new friends once again. Sailing over the San Blas islands, seeing deserted beaches and drinking rum in our personal infinity hot tub, swimming in the ocean at night and climbing onto a sailboat to eat fresh caught lobster pasta. Waking up and spending an entire day watching the endless vista of the ocean and its waves crashing against the ship for hours. Sailing into a new city, a new country, and tingling with the anticipation as the coast of Colombia came into view.

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I suppose that’s enough of an update for now. Expect an update on all things Colombian in the next few days!

Adios a la Forma de Tico

Travel

Goodbye to the tico way…


As my time in Costa Rica is coming to a close, it´s hard to believe I´m already saying goodbye to my first country. To quote Robert Frost, ¨But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.¨ and I have been trying to set my sights on my next…well…sites. Bocas del Toro, Boquete, and Lost and Found Hostel in Panama for November. Then Panama City, where I´m chartering a sailboat to take me to Cartagena, Colombia and onto Medellin, Colombia for the month of December.

Punta Uva

But there´s still the matter of reflecting on my time in Costa Rica and what I want to take away from the 6 weeks I´ve spent here in the Carribean. My wonderful soul sister sent me this aptly timed article about the various deaths that occur over our lifetime in the form of our ever-changing identity. It spoke to something I´ll be inevitably dealing with from country to country on my journey – the leaving of one identity in country and the adoption of a new persona in each place.

¨The death of an identity is like the shedding of armor, which exposes the soft, tender, vulnerable places and opens the heart in ways we couldn’t have imagined without the loss.¨

My legs are covered in more bruises and bug bites than I thought possible on one person. My understanding of clean and dirty are completely relative now. The minute differences between needing, wanting, and craving a shower. Sand will most likely accompany me for the remainder of my trip, smuggling its way into the nooks and crannies of my now musty smelling backpack and its ramshackle contents. My patience has grown (in addition to my leg hair) and with it comes a better understanding for the tico way of life, where 10 minutes mean an hour or mañana means a week.

I´ve been able to experience a life that people only dream of. Yesterday, the small family I´ve grown to love here hiked to a gorgeous lookout point at Punta Uva. While sitting along the rocky point, the waves crashing along the sides, the sun setting on the water before us, reflecting back all of its soul pumping sunshine onto us, someone began strumming a ukulele from the ledge above us. I´m not kidding. This was real life. This was my life.

But saying goodbye is part of the life of a traveler. Saying goodbye to paradise and the many forms I´m sure it will manifest itself in throughout my trip will become as second nature to me as throwing toilet paper in the trash can. It´s time to say goodbye to Costa Rica and the woman I was here. Which parts of her do I want to take with me? Which parts do I leave behind for the sea to reclaim like a piece of driftwood?

The oh-so-appropriate water blur on this photo is hilarious to me.

The oh-so-appropriate water blur on this photo is hilarious to me.

The person I was here was timid, believe it or not. I was scared, afraid of sticking out too much or sounding stupid when speaking the broken and littered Spanish I know. I apologized for the space I took up in the world, being a tall and large girl, and I regretfully informed people where that space hailed from – the dreaded America. In moving on, there is little I can do to change how I look and where I come from. These are pieces of me, pieces that make me who I am and I refuse to apologize for them any longer. So let the sea wash away these pieces, but leave the person behind who is able to find comfort in solitude. ¨Cool¨has become such a complicated word – each country having its own understanding of what it means – that it´s impossible for me to embody such a word. So better to focus on expressing who I truly am. With that comes my sense of style, something I abandoned in favor of clothes that were basic and functional. This was an idiotic oversight on my part. A woman whose main form of self-expression has been style cannot have her individually ripped from her hands in a moment where she is clamoring to anything familiar that she can find. I miss my brightly colored clothes, fitted and flirty dresses, and the feeling of feeling pretty. It´s a small thing that becomes magnified as time travels on.

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One of the biggest takeaways is the level of control I have over my own happiness. Happiness is not relative, like cleanliness. Happiness is right there in your backpocket next to your colones and your fuego. There was also a long adjustment period here. It took me a couple weeks to finally let everything sink in, from the language, food, culture, new surroundings, climate, people, and work, everything took some level of understanding to get to place where comfort was at least in relative reach. Moving forward, I know I have control over how long it takes me to feel comfortable, and the longer I take feeling like an outsider, the longer I will remain one.

So much gratitude for my Se Ua family

So much gratitude for my Se Ua family. My time in Costa Rica would not have been the same!

Un Día en La Vida Caribe

Travel

A Day in the Carribean Life


I´m trying to find a way to relay to my loves back home how life works here. Not just what I spend my days doing, but those small, refined details that highlight the different way of living here, pura vida if you will.

More of a yoga girl anyhow

Yoga every damn day. 

Riding a bike, for instance, is really a testament to how little effort you can contribute to peddling while still managing to stay in an upright position. (Which if you know my history with bikes, this is proving to be interesting.) Boredom is something completely created – a word to describe the simple act of living and being – so hours are spent just simply being on the beach, being at the bar, being with friends, instead of clamouring to get to our smart phones to tell people how busy we´ve been with being. Meals here are engulfed in silence while everyone gulps down every morsel on their plate with a vigor normally reserved for ravenous animals. Everything takes a bit more patience here and it´s refreshing to look up at the sky from a hammock and simultaneously realize how lucky I am to be right here, how happy I constantly feel, and where I last set down my daiquiri.

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La Playa de Manzanillo

So during my time here, I´ve been living and working at Se Ua B&B and Aventure House.  I´ll try and walk you through a typical day here for me. I wake up around 7 am every day where I venture downstairs to a group of hardworking Costa Rican men and the other token gringo de Francia. Among them, my boss, usually shirtless is cooking breakfast with a joint in hand. The flood of morning Spanish wakes me up, in addition to my cup of coffee, and then I´m immediately bombarded by four dogs and two cats looking to also say buenas dias. We all eat breakfast together and then they begin working on different projects for the building. They´re in the process of redoing the hotel and literally have made, piece by piece, every inch of this beautiful place, almost for free. All the wood is gathered from the woods by taking a chainsaw into the jungle and cutting fallen trees (which I´ve learned are some of the heaviest, most durable, and prized woods in the world) into carryable blocks that weigh outrageous amounts but are effortlessly put onto the barebacks of the hombres. While they are off exerting more force in a day than I ever truly seen a man work, I clean the lounge area, help with laundry or getting rooms ready, or sitting dutifully at my computer helping them to get their social media up and running, sending out email blasts, and helping to create marketing materials for their adventure tours.

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Typical day at the office.

When los muchachos return from working, it´s my unofficial job to get lunch or dinner ready. You would think my feminist nature would be offended by the ultra-traditional gender roles in Costa Rica, but truly the machismo culture is just one more thing I am getting used to. Surprisingly, I find myself not being bothered much by it – in fact I support it. These men work harder than anyone I´ve ever seen and if my responsibility to to provide food for them – then that seems fair at the end of the day – especially since the work is literally too strenuous for a woman to do. At least this woman, anyways.

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Then once I´ve finished for the day, I go to the beach for a couple hours and go through a yoga flow or go to the local bar and have a few beers (some things never change). That´s actually how I was able to pick up a few shifts at Maxi´s – a nice change of pace from the work at Se Ua and another avenue for me to keep learning Spanish and meeting people from around this big beautiful world. It doesn´t hurt that it is set against the backdrop of the sea, with the breeze rolling by as I open beers and pour micheladas por las touristas. I´m reminded of my time working at the winery and I once again appreciate all the steps Ive taken so far in my life, remembering that every decision is taking me in a direction and that´s exactly why I find myself here. Here I am learning, learning about myself, about others, about languages – both from hearing and seeing. I´m also learning that my American idioms do not translate. Whatsoever. Until next time, mais. 

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Behind the bar at Maxi´s

The First Week (No Clever Title Needed)

Travel

So I´m into my first week in Costa Rica and so far….it´s utterly amazing. Truly. Like every single one of my dreams from the last year is coming true. Every moment I sat at my cubicle wishing for a different life, desiring a different daily than the one I had been granted, wishing desperately for change and adventure.

Every moment igniting a passion for the life I´m now chasing. And I can actually taste it because I´m in it, every day now. My daily life consists of waking up at whatever time I choose. I don´t go out very often here because truly I don´t feel very safe yet, being on my own, but that will subside with time, my level of comfort directly proportional to how much Spanish I currently know.

Which is still un poco. Muy pequeno.

But I´m trying to learn and I want to learn, that´s for damn sure. Because it´s not really fun to constantly be out of the loop. And it´s not even just Spanish, the amount of English I hear is minimal, at best. I hear German more than I hear English, truthfully. Spanish will be a challenge to learn, a challenge for my mind that I welcome with open arms. Like the books I´ve been devouring and the journaling I´ve been doing – all of it adding back nutrients to my malnourished soul.

Yes thats a tad dramatic. Yes thats a tad necessary though.

I hope everyone is watching my posts, drooling over my pictures, reading my words with a fervor that inspires them. Because I want everyone to do this. To follow their dream. To make this happen for them. To create the life you want, instead of the one you´ve settled for. I understand that things like marriage, kids, debt, money, time, or careers can all get in the way, but there is no excuse not to take a vacation you´ve dreamed about or quitting a job you can´t stand to do something you actually enjoy. Life is too short, our bodies too fragile, and our mind too powerful to ignore what we truly want.

Here is a synopsis of what I´ve done so far in my week: I´ve gone hiking along Volcano Brava, I´ve gone swimming in a waterfall, I´ve biked over 20 miles in a day, I´ve done yoga on the beach and in hostel gardens and alongside mountains, I´ve made friends with Costa Ricans, Frenchmen, and Argentines. I´ve slept in a hammock against the shoreline of the ocean, I´ve swam in waves with such force that it literally knocked me over, I´ve made strangers into unforgettable friends, I´ve driven miles over gorgeous hillsides covered in so much green I´ve actually forgotten what the brown flatlands of Texas look like. I´ve been happy, lonely, sad, ecstatic, and fulfilled in a way I haven´t felt in too long.

And that´s just one week.

ONE. WEEK.

There have been hardships already as well. Struggles, stress, nervousness, anxiety, cash issues, bus confusion, disastrous laundry mishaps and all the other annoyances that accompany travel as well. And there is fear (¨Which is born to an extent of a story we tell ourselves¨) but all of that is taken in stride and in comparison to what I have. Solitude, freedom, and a better attitude than I´ve had in the past year – possibly ever. So I suppose it´s a trade worth making. I can´t wait to see what other swaps are in my future. Stay tuned, maes (dudes).

Gringa Goals

Travel

I’m now less than a week away from my departure date and time is creeping while simultaneously flying. Every day feels like an inch towards the eventual mile-long leap I’m about to take. When I get on my flight I’ll be leaving everything I know in search of something spectacularly new – but what exactly am I looking for?

Every person has asked me why I’m going to South America and why I’m going alone. Truth be told I find traveling alone to be less stressful and more fulfilling. Although loneliness is something I’ll have to deal with regularly – it forces you to branch out of your comfort zone and pushes you to interact with those around you. I also don’t have to compromise my plans for someone else’s, be on anyone’s time schedule but my own, and will be able to fully immerse myself in a moment without wondering how my travel partner is faring.

However I do have several goals for my trip that I hope to accomplish. Being alone will give me the time, solstice, solitude, and sheer boredom to hopefully address these throughout my journey.

  1. Reset my habits: As I mature into an adult there are certain childhood habits that have followed me around for some time now. I want to break cycles of chaotic clutter and try to maintain neatness and tidiness. I want to spend less time on unnecessary things like worrying. I want to choose to always be good to people, regardless of how my day may be going or who they may be. Focusing on the present moment, wherever it may be, is difficult for me as well. Simplify, simplify, simplify – use less, waste less. These and more are all things I hope to change and reestablish habits to return home with.
  2. Treat my body right: As I reset habits, I want to create new ones. I understand the importance of keeping a form of exercise in my daily routine and want to establish a stable yoga practice every day. I want to eat healthy and eat when I need to – as opposed to eating when I’m bored or because I have nothing better to do than stuff my face with pizza-flavored Goldfish and ice cream.
  3. Challenge myself mentally and physically: Ever since I’ve left school I feel like the workforce, specifically sitting in front of a computer, has slowly dumbed down my intelligence and made me extremely sedentary. A huge reason for this trip in general is escaping (what I feel to be) corporate prison and the dangerous side effects of that lifestyle. I want to spend my days learning to surf, climbing mountains, learning Spanish, learning new histories I’ve never read about in a textbook before, and exchanging ideas with new people in new places. Honestly, I’d never thought of myself as capable of any of the aforementioned things and the challenge to simply try them is enticing.
  4. Recharge my soul: While working I spent hours sitting behind a computer, isolated, alone, and stifled. I then commuted for an additional 3 hours (in total) of agonizing solitude in traffic that made me want to scream. On most days I did scream, actually, from the desire to just hear my voice. Every day. Every week. It seemed never-ending. I’m still shaking off the remnants of that lifestyle. I watch myself watching people instead of engaging with them. I have become introspective and critical almost to a fault. I see myself trying to reach for happiness but settling with mundane content for life – which for me is unacceptable. I still don’t feel like myself or like the person I want to strive to be.
  5. Disconnecting: Like most people in my generation – I’m far too guilty of spending far too much time on the internet, on Facebook, watching TV, and texting. I feel like I stare at a screen more than at a person’s face. Yet all this hyper-connectivity makes me equally hyper-aware. I’m stressed about Donald Trump becoming president. I’m scared for the refugees in Syria. I can’t believe that girl from my high school is preggers. I want that cute guy to think my profile picture is bangin’. I want everyone to think I’m cool based on my social media persona. By removing myself from the ability to be hyper-connected to every facet of society and my circles of influence I hope to truly find myself again. Not the self I want to portray to others – but that deep down, unfiltered soul that is being brushed to the side in favor of a filtered Instagram post.
  6. Reevaluate my skills and career path: Contrary to popular belief – I love working and genuinely enjoy spending my time efforts towards something that I value. This is a biggie because I’ve realized that graphic design (and the desk life that accompanies it) isn’t for me anymore. I love people and moving too much to spend my life being stagnant at work. Since I’m doing Workaway  throughout my trip I hope to experience a multitude of different jobs – from the mundane to the extraordinary. Farming to financials, scrubbing toilets, mushing grapes, greeting strangers, anything and everything in between – somewhere amongst these jobs I hope to find something that rings true to what I actually want to do – instead of what I had been told to do.
  7. Fall in love with words again: For along time I was journaling every morning, but as I became further and further removed from myself I stopped wanting to write because all I would spew was negativity and angst. Writing became something I approached with reluctance. Starting with this blog, clearly, but more importantly I want to journal again. I miss writing slam poetry. Being alone with my thoughts, a pen, and piece of paper are absolutely a priority.

So there you have it – this gringa’s goals before she goes! 

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City Girl → Caribbean Chick

Travel

As my countdown to leaving for South America continues to dwindle down (less than 75 days at the time of this post!) my planning is getting kicked into high gear. This week I finalized my first workaway in Costa Rica in the town of Manzanillo, in the Limon region of Costa Rica. It’s on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and it’s literally the end of the road as it stops at the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. But actually – the place I’ll be volunteering is literally IN the refuge.

Like…in the jungle. Surrounded by trees. With no hot water.

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So it’s hard for me to look at this photo and be scared. It’s hard for me to watch this video and be anything but excited because this place looks like untamed paradise. Secluded, away from civilization, smack in the middle of nature with not much else to do but swim, maybe learn to surf, hike, and lay in a hammock I can’t imagine anything I would really want to do more.

The hostel itself is run by two Costa Rican cousins who have built everything using recycled materials from the land. They have activities and tours they are trying to promote and need help with general maintenance and upkeep of the hostel.

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I’m booking my first hostels, arranging travel details, figuring out if a river tour down to Puerto Viejo would be better than taking a van throughout the country, seeing how it’s possible to see surfing towns, volcanos, cloudforests, and mountains all in my first week. My head is swirling with visions of Caribbean rice and beans, drowned with ideas about hiking and kayaking, and completely losing touch with my reality here in Texas.

I fall into deep holes of planning – losing my footing in planning things like Patagonia or hiking the Inca trail, finding myself resurfacing back at bus routes to Bolivia and finally realizing that THIS is about to BE my reality. I begin to wonder if I’m cut out for it all, if I’ll end up killing myself by climbing a tree and then plummeting to my death in the Amazon or if I’ll freeze high in the Andes determined to make it to Torres del Paine.

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Again, I resurface, taking a deep breath. Back tracking to Panama. Realizing I’m getting far too ahead of myself as I’ll have several countries and other crossing and obstacles to address before my fears ever get in the way. I think back to my first time camping on a tiny island in the middle of our lake in Wisconsin. I brought open food with me, I left the tent unzipped for lengths at a time, I was eaten alive by bugs, and when I got back to our warm, insulated, dry, and bug-free cottage my family gave me hell. I wasn’t cut out for it. I was a city girl – born and raised – and I wouldn’t be able to ever go camping again.

little island

I didn’t go camping again for almost 15 years until an ex-boyfriend suggested we go. Terrified beyond belief I agreed and the trip comprised of roasting peaches on an open flame, drinking wine and telling stories, and being shown how to pitch a tent and maintain a fire. Fast forward to camping in the Redwoods without anything to spark a flame – except lighting every single piece of paper in car on fire and hoping to hell it works. Now I’ve gone camping in Arkansas, parts of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona and I clearly don’t intend to stop anytime soon. The only thing stopping me before were my own insecurities, bred long ago by an incapable young girl – conquered by the strength of young woman’s determination.

Part of planning is preparation. But I think preparing for what is to come is proving to be the most difficult part. Letting go of all my belongings – selling all my furniture, clothing, and adopting a backpack for the next year. Leaving behind friendships that mean the world to me in favor of the actual world out there. Laying aside doubts. Lightening my load by paring down to bare essentials in every aspect of life. Listening to the voice in my head the keeps telling me how badly I want this . Locking out the voice that tells me I’m not cut out for this.

These are the things that are more difficult to plan for. There’s no vaccination for homesickness or any amount of waterproof wicking to whisk away all my doubts. But as each day closes and another one begins, I’m inching my way to an eventual plane ride away from everything I’ve ever known in my life. That unknown that I’ll be throttling towards can’t be planned for. There is no way to Google it. But it’s something that’s equally alluring because it can’t be understood until I’m right there in it – watching the life I’ve known fall away and the life I’m choosing coming into focus.

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I can’t wait.

Rediscovering Childlike Wonder

Travel, Uncategorized

 

When was the last time you got on a swing? Lifted your feet off the ground, closed your eyes, and (just for a moment) felt like you were flying? When was the last time you did a cartwheel? Can you even still do one? When was the last time you truly danced – not to seem hot, not to seem impressive and Beyonce-esque, not trying to emulate anything but just moving for the joy of moving to a song that you love? The last time you ate ice cream before bed without stressing about the calories or the time it would take to burn off said ice cream at the gym? When was the last time you jumped on the bed? Sang at the top of your lungs?

When was the last time you embraced life like a child?

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It’s argued that as children we are happier because we have less responsibilities. Less responsibility = more happiness. I’m here to argue with that notion. I would dare to claim that as children we are happier because we just don’t give a damn. While to some that can be construed as ‘responsibility’, it rather relates to the idea of doing something for the joy of it – not the outcome, appearance, or ROI (return on investment) of something.

Recess was a time every kid looked forward to every day. Every. Day. It was 30 minutes of pure release from the chains of a school desk. A time of day when we let our legs run as fast as we could, releasing every bit of pent up energy we’d been accumulating since sunrise. In bursts and bounds of joy, we kicked soccer balls, climbed monkey bars, walked and talked about our childhood dreams, and just enjoyed the sense of freedom, knowing full well that eventually we would return to our classrooms and settle in to endure the rest of the day, still smelling like sweat and sunshine for the rest of the day.

Well, what the fuck happened to that?

So many people nowadays spend their lunch breaks at their desks, craving an episode off Netflix or the latest gossip about Kim Whatsherface or Ashley Whogivesashit. We complain about not getting enough exercise, not enough sunlight, and not enough happiness and we blame things like work for our misfortunes. So why not reinstate a recess for yourself? I’ve been going to a nearby park every day during lunch and doing that exact thing. I bring my lunch to the park and once I’m done I spend an hour outside while I swing, run, jump, walk, do yoga and I play. And I return to the office feeling incredible and ready to tackle the second phase of my day. The release from the Internet, the computer, my phone, my job, my friends, and yes, my responsibilities, gives me a sense of peace that I now understand was necessary as a child – and still is as an adult.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy travel is it’s always a break from reality, but it’s also because you approach things with a sense of wonder. You are enthralled by strangers, in awe of architecture, looking forward to trying new things, and not worried what anyone thinks of you because you are essentially anonymous in a place. But if you truly think about it – what does that stranger passing by while you dance down the street matter to you? The worst thing that could happen is that they stare at you and possibly go home and tell someone, “I saw this crazy girl dancing on the street today. But damn did she look happy.”

Isn’t it odd how we cling to things like alcohol and drugs to reinvent that sense of release we felt as children? Alcohol gives you a ‘free pass’ to act a fool in the bar. Smoking weeds gives you the courage (or lack of willpower) to eat whatever you want and giggle as long as you can. These things bring up face to face with the realities of having an open, childlike mind once again. But the real trick is integrating those lens into our every day.

As I take the steps to becoming an adult – like buying a car and working full time – I’m finding it important to counteract these responsibilities with silliness and whimsy. My clothing is getting more eccentric. My goals outside the office soar higher than my childhood dreams. Instead of going through a tunnel on a playground and coming out to the other side, I get in my car and get as far away from reality until I come out onto another side of myself.

If I’m beginning to lose my childhood at 23, I’d rather spend my life trying to get it back than embrace the adulthood that will inevitably be thrust upon me.

Old Loves Die-Hard: Dia de los Toadies Review

Travel

There was an array of Fort Worth folk, from young to old, who came out to ring in the 7th Annual Dia de los Toadies Festival this Saturday at Panther Island Pavilion. With the aptly timed weather transformation this weekend, it was a nice change of pace for the locals to come out in full force to support the beloved Toadies, as well as a myriad of other native Texas (specifically Fort Worthian) artists. It was nice to look around the crowd and see Vans that weren’t being worn ironically and plaid shirts that were actually suitable for the event.

The Saturday show followed an acoustic Friday evening that featured Doug Burr, Rhett Miller, and the Toadies. Due to weather conditions the event was moved to The Shack, which tinged the event with a weathered and worn, light rock hoe down feeling (but in a good way) which begged me to question why more events haven’t been held at the venue. All the acts played with the gusto of a full band, giving the crowd their utmost energy while still providing that sense of genuine intimacy to the smaller crowd that showed up despite the undesirable weather conditions. Rain or shine, true fans gave an outpouring of support for the acoustic set. And Rhett Miller still performed his trademark, over-exaggerated guitar strumming and hip swinging during his solo set.

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However, the weather subsided and opened the gates for a full throttle rock festival on Saturday. Starting off the day were local acts Blank-Men and The Longshots, providing two various spectrums of self-described synth-punk and junk-rock, respectively. The Dallas band Somebody’s Darling and another Fort Worth local, Quaker City Nighthawks, fit in well with the rock vibe of the evening while providing that just-needed sense of soul n’ roll. Pleasant Grove carried over the folk-rock of the previous evening, showcasing some new material for the audience. Austin band Residual Kid brought the grime, grunge, and that little bit of youthful garage needed to prepare the audience for an evening of ‘Rubbernecking’. Also out of Austin, Ume’s guitar and distortion-heavy garage-inspired sound closed out a mellow set on the second stage that spoke to to the burgeoning new-age acid-rock genre.

As the sun set and the skyline of Fort Worth appeared, it was hard to ignore the energy of the crowd. The pairing of the Old 97’s and the Toadies may seem random to some, however they showcase the vast differences of the city of Fort Worth while by bringing out music lovers from distinct genres. The Old 97’s set a specific tone for the evening with their mix of country and alt-rock bringing out the best in the crowd. Rhett Miller crooned, “Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On” to a crowd that swooned over his vacillating hips.

This year’s Dia de los Toadies may have been the seventh installation of the event, however it was also marked by the 20th Anniversary Release of the Toadies’ Rubberneck album. With the Fort Worth skyline highlighting the band as they cruised through their set, it was hard not feel a sense of pride and love for a Fort Worth local. When the Toadies began playing their final run-through of the entire dark-rock album, it was hard to ignore the nostalgia of the audience. Men dragged their kids to the front of the stage to get a glimpse of their former selves, while also indoctrinating the next generation of rockers and head bangers. The seemingly die-hard fan base rocked out just as hard as the musicians onstage. But not quite as hard, as the Toadies literally blew out their sound system while performing, “Tyler”, giving fans a chance to sing their hearts out to a treasured Fort Worth band. It was a pleasure to see a seasoned veteran take the stage. While the Toadies powered through their set with the same vigor and voice of a band 15 years younger, they did little chit chat throughout the set list, save for a comment from Todd Lewis. “Thank you most to the fans – y’all have been with us for 20 years, which is unheard of.” 

In reality, the only thing heard that evening was pulsing rock reverberating on the backbone of the city skyline, which felt right in line with the heartbeat of Fort Worth.

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Thank you to Keep Fort Worth Funky for helping to keep the city up ‘up to funk’ on everything. Ya’ll rock.

 

Fort Worth, I Love You.

Travel

fort worthWhen I first decided to stay in Texas sometimes I would catch myself wondering why I was still there I’d graduated past my initial reason for coming here in the first place. I chose Texas Christian University based on the close proximity to my longtime boyfriend and because I looked good great in purple, but the least appealing feature of school was it being in Fort Worthless (as I used to call it). While I was a student I assumed the level of conformity necessary to survive at TCU. Joining a sorority and having a general care for the football team became staples, yes, but I was getting an amazing education I wouldn’t trade for the world – which was clearly how to handle myself at the beer pong table.

Kidding. Sort of.

Then, I found a man who introduced me to another side of this lovely town. He helped me to reacquaint myself with the very massive world outside of the TCU bubble. I found a love for the local music, for the mom-and-pop shops around town, for the plethora of amazing people who choose to live here because they like a city and not a campus. I stumbled upon a network of people who filled me with a satisfying joy because they were individuals who saw Fort Worth as a fast-growing opportunity for fun and personal growth. clearforkFort Worth has a hometown vibe that is undeniable. Fairmount, where hipsters run-a-muck between craft beer paradise and dive bars full of familiar faces. Jukeboxes full of melodies handmade down the block from the bars in a home with a fully functioning front porch. A tightly knit community, clearly evident from the literal knitted decorations adorning the bike racks along the street.

coffeeThen cruise on down to the Stockyards where tourists come and go by day, and locals swarm the same spots every weekend. See the same cowboy hats and know exactly which dance moves they’ll be spinning out on the dance floor that night. Get asked the same questions, like where to eat or what to see and give the same generic answers, knowing deep down you’re a little proud of the kitschy culture down here where the smell of cow pies litters the air with the sound of plucky guitar strings and country twang accents.

sundance sqaureDowntown is a beacon of Fort Worth, with Sundance Square the center jewel among the glittering tree lights that line the quaint streets. Local stores dot the cobblestone street of Camp Bowie, reminding us  that everywhere in this city there is a collision of history, while forging onto new frontier. The dirty Trinity River glides throughout the city, but who can care less about cleanliness when you can watch a free concert from a tube at Panther Island Pavilion.

tube trinityOn a fortunate day off, I can wake up and grab locally roasted coffee from a barista who knows my name. I can go and sit in the Botanic Gardens or the Water Gardens. If by chance it’s a rainy day, I can go to one of the three museums nestled next to each other in the Cultural District and spend the day admiring a well-curated collection of artists from around the world. I have the option of going to a brewery tour, the zoo, bike riding, paddle boarding, or an outdoor concert on a small patch of green. The craziest part? The majority of these options are free because Fort Worth loves it’s people just as much as the people love it. It’s a mutually satisfying relationship that contributes to the friendly smiles, generous conversations, and general happiness you find threaded throughout this lovely city.

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Now, I realize it’s a no-brainer why I stayed. But somehow I still get questioned for my choice. This post is for those of you that don’t understand the wonderful nature of Fort Worth. Hopefully you don’t realize it is, in fact, terrific.

We don’t need it turning into Austin. I hear Dallas is nice.

Somewhere Outside of New Mexico

Personal, Travel

110 degree truck stops and nights sleeping on a ground so cold you felt like your nipples would freeze off. Cities of millions to towns of barely a hundred. The coast of the pacific to the flatlands of Texas. Every mile in between filled with a sense of limbo. In between one place and never quite fully in another. Blue skies that are littered with the clouds you see from old world paintings. Empty nothingness stretching out for an endless eternity with nothing to look at but the paved road ahead. This is a road trip.

You wouldn’t think that two girls in a white convertible stuffed to the brim with anything and everything you could imagine would get a lot of looks. Well. Maybe you can. Maybe that’s why we bought tacky hats at roadside gas stations to obscure our red lipstick and blatant disregard for the standard look of a weary traveler.

We zigzagged between cities bustling with people, friends we were heading towards full throttle or strangers that would eventually meander into our journey. After a city we would nestle ourselves into the abyss of nature, huddled around a campfire that we built barely by the skin of our teeth and helluva lot of ingenuity and old business cards. In the darkness, we’d eventually come face to face with the startling fact that we were the only ones around for miles. Along the way we stopped by abandoned roadside diners that remind you how easy it is for life to come to a close. We’d screech the brakes to a halt to take a picture of a sunset, train tracks, rainbows, or a row of mailboxes so out of place that we had to document them. We would sit still in the night and look out onto the mountains or trees or oceans and just listen to the natural noise of the earth. This was our road trip.

If you want to hear the most stifling quiet on earth, stop along Route 66 in the Mojave desert around the edges of California. You won’t hear a thing. Not a bug, not a car, not a voice, not even a shriek of wind to break the unbearable silence. Just stifling quiet.

If you want to feel the enormity of nature, go to the Redwood Forest, where trees make skyscrapers seem manageable. Hundreds of years of growth, corralled in by mountains making them that much more unattainable. You look up and you realize no matter how low you ever feel, you have the memory of these trees to encourage you to keep growing up into the confident and magnificent person you were planted on this earth to be.

If you want to feel close to the edge of the earth, look down into the Grand Canyon. But don’t just look down, look out into the vast expansiveness of formation. See colors of gravel you didn’t know existed. Throw a rock down into the cavernous earth and relish in the reverberation of its noise. Drive into the campground at 1 in the morning and confuse a statue of a moose for a real, monstrous-sized elk moving into the woods. Allow yourself to wander alongside the canyon during the midnight hours and feel terror at the darkness. Allow yourself to feel bewildered. Allow yourself to feel the majestic nature of this world and feel bliss in knowing that you are witnessing it.

“If you want to see everything awesome and terrible about America, go to LA.” Stay in a house that reeks of weed with homemade art littering the walls. Lie on the ground of a bedroom that’s only decoration is an LED candle illuminating the emptiness of the room. Meet people you may never see again and reunite with those you can’t imagine never having met. Sit in traffic and still hate every waking moment of being there.

If you want to get to know someone, drive with them in a car for 9 days straight. Hear horribly pitched notes to your favorite song. Laugh uncontrollably at the most awesome rendition of Don’t Stop Believing you’ve ever seen. Feel someone looking at you with eyes that don’t judge, but rather know how your feeling without speaking a word.

But hear the same spoken words a thousand times. “Where are the jalapeño chips?” “What’s the exit? Fuck you Siri!” “I have to pee.” “Can we listen to Colors of the Wind again?” “Is your phone charged yet?” “I’ll have a latte with an extra shot.” “How many beers are left? We need another six pack.” “I have zero bars.” “Does Amaro or Lo-Fi look better?” I need to buy this.” “We should check out the Goodwill here.” “Of course we’ll make it.”

Spend hours looking at America together, listening to the same reggae CD on repeat, eating in the most unladylike way with the most grotesque food and smile because you have shared something together that will transcend a period of your life into a timeless memory of youth.

If you want these things then take a road trip. Go. Flee your life for brief moment and get perspective on what matters in life. When you return, everything will still be waiting patiently for you. See America for everything that you’ve never known it could be. Witness what the world looks like with nothing shining down on it but the moon and the stars. Escape your responsibilities and troubles, knowing that you’ll eventually have to come back and scoop up up the littered remains of your life. Feel the lightness from being in a moment so free from attachment. Realize you have nothing holding you back from such a trip but the life you yourself have created. So if you want to see creation, leave what you have manufactured to witness what the world created of itself.

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