“I think you’ll probably crack somewhere between Denver and Kansas City,” my brother comments on my seemingly sound mental state as we drive into town this morning. “Keep your arms down! Only people who wear deodorant get the right to stretch their arms.”
A bit of a rough start to the day, my brother and I not on the best terms and getting run off the road by a flying ambulance.
Changing the tone, I walk into a coffee shop in town and am greeted with gregarious guy and a girl who “really loves my hamsa necklace”.
I have no idea what kind of solidarity my necklace gives off to people, but it reaches such a vast range of characters and it holds different meaning for all of them.
“As the pattern gets more intricate and subtle, being swept along is no longer enough.”
We’re in Missoula, we’re pretty tired, and we’re planning on being in Bozeman tomorrow. Bozeman is where my brother’s friend Eli lives, and where Ben will be staying while I drive back to the Midwest next week.
I can never say that I want to stop traveling, but I want to stop traveling for a little while. I want to take in all of the flavor that my parent’s new home has to offer, and catch up with family and friends in the area while doing my own thing.
It’s been seven months, it’s time to see home.
It’s not time to find a home yet, it’s not time to settle down. But it’s definitely time to slow down and admire the details again.
Spending the day reading foreign policy. Something that I haven’t done in eleven months. It feels good. And also, the world is bat shit crazy.
Noah is heading to Zambia with the Peace Corps in February, and he’s loading up on books and information to prepare him for his new life and job. I’m not exactly jealous, because I am in no way ready to jump into Africa right now, but I am reminded of how much I love international relations, and how much I want to pursue it still. I gave up following politics and foreign policy because I didn’t want to be a part of the games. But I realize now that I can be informed and still engage in politics, just not in the linear way that frustrates me. I can engage in my own way, becoming an informed citizen and increasing dialogue. I can learn to listen more, and not just argue. I can learn how to research, and write it.
And that’s what I’m going to do this next year.
I’ve decided what I want my next year to look like. Writing full time, everyday, and stretching those creative muscles and learning how to put my work out there. Foreign policy research full time and become an informed world citizen who is learning how to open doors and options for myself and others. Local activism with things that matter to me, Food Not Bombs, Women’s Centers, Refugee Centers. And making a living at a coffee shop and/or a job through volunteering. And a structured life in so much as I can eat
healthily, and jog everyday.
This year will be a building year for me. A year of details. A year of slowing down, and really focusing and acting on who I want to be.
A year ago today I was terrified of leaving my parents basement. I was scared to drive down the street. I was scared of everything.
And what kind of life are you protecting at that point? You’re torturing yourself and not allowing the world to shape you.
I pushed myself out, because I knew that once I got out everything would be easier. And it was.
Once in California I remember clearly writing in my notebook, surrounded by chaos and people and stress and new ideas and limited reflection time:
The Key: Keep Moving.
I still believe that. And as much as I am tired and want to slow down and have a reliable schedule and job, I know that travel for me is more than just intrigue. It’s also a way to combat the fears that creep up on me, and render me seemingly immobile by my own thinking.
I remember calling my Mom from Oregon and telling her that I had finally figured it out. I was a different person out here on the West Coast, because no one was giving me time to get lost in my own thoughts. I was so stimulated that there was no time for fear, and intrigue and delicious numbness took over my being.
The year had its challenges, but through it all, wherever I was, I could feel myself growing from these struggles, instead of simply spiraling.
The Key: Keep Moving.
Heading into town Friday night we are startled by the bucks all over.
“Large rats,” Noah calls them. “Look at that! Just YAWNING at me from her yard…”
We make it to Rhino bar, and grab drinks.
“Wooo. Mood lighting with Alabama,” Noah shouts as the lights dim and “Sweet Home” comes on. He reaches up into the air and yips for the joy of life, not giving a shit about what anyone else thinks of him. Nat, Gertie and Francis, Noah’s coworkers from the YMCA summer camp walk in the door, and join us at the table.
“We’re lifers,” Gertie confides in me about the YMCA.
“No we’re not. I’m going to Zambia,” Noah announces, grabbing his beer to cover his smile.
I’ve been holding off, but I finally grab my notebook out of my purse and open it to scribble notes on the tiny table we’re all sitting at.
“What are you WRITING?? SEE? We’re RELATED!!” Noah tells his friends. He keeps a journal, too.
I discuss social work over PBRs with Gertie throughout the night. She’s going to school for social work and I tell her in, three or four beers in, that I want to get into social work to write it. I believe working directly with people everyday is so necessary, but I also believe that we need people to shine the light on the issues through written words.
I enlist her for a team leader position with the program I just finished in August, and she is all about it. “It’s the best thing you’ll never do again,” I warn.
Noah jumps up at our table and lets out a stream of “YAHOOOS!” and we all drink more beer with sloppy cheers.
As we’re walking out of the bars, we pass a brick wall with a Hunter S. Thompson quote painted on it, “Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide… living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ‘the rat race’ is not yet final.”
I woke up early Saturday morning to a giant buck making those weird coughing noise outside of the window I had opened in the middle of the night.
He was just staring in the window at me, and I wondered how he knew that I was in here. I was asleep, and quiet. Could he just sense my presence? A second deer came up next to him, and gazed into the window at my half asleep person as well. We spent a good five minutes learning one another’s souls with the mountain sunrise as a backdrop.
Falling back asleep, I woke up again around nine, to another noise outside of the window. Peeking over, I see that this time it is a turkey. A giant turkey, right up by my open window, poking his head in. How do all of the animals know I am in here? So bold, looking straight into my eyes, cocking its neck in question. There is a family right behind it, five other turkeys and a baby.
Walking into the kitchen I am greeted by a beautiful breakfast provided by Valerie. Eggs, coffee, toast, fresh fruit and smoothies.
Noah, Ben and I head to the Farmer’s Market after breakfast, catching the tail end of the bountiful weekly festival. Almost all organic farms, all super local. Grown on the mountains surrounding the city.
We also stop by the People’s Market, where Noah buys loud, purple button up Wranglers.
Missoula has a lived in hippie feel. Gritty, granola and approachable. Sandals, scruff, missing makeup, faded flannels and college kids kicking soccer balls down the sidewalks barefoot.
Driving home I’m in the backseat with corn cobs, kale, celery and onions all grown to the right of the giant cow statue on the edge of town. We chose to buy our veggies from the organic farm Noah worked on growing up.
The smoke rating online today: unhealthy. Wildfires, man. Everyone’s talking about it.
Mother Nature is shitting on my day, today.
Life’s is not perfect. Sometimes there’s smoke. And sometimes that’s when you have to roll the windows down and turn the music up.
The bumper stickers here are great- Missoula is a strange mix of hippies alongside the gun toting, truck driving, republican voting men who populate much of the state. A lot of the big trucks have the sticker “HIPPIE HATER” on the bumper, in response to a recent law that banned ATVs on park lands. And the smaller, fuel efficient hippie cars have the friendly, “Montana is full, GO HOME.”
There was a giant windstorm last week that uprooted much of the trees in the city. Giant, ancient trees laying horizontal next to houses- dwarfing the houses- with their roots flailing in the air like feet.
We’re driving out to the river later that day, and pass Hell’s Gates canyon. Noah tells us about how the Native Americans used to populate this area, and when the settlers came through the canyon, the Native Americans would run down the mountainside and attack them.
We make it to a river, and jump onto tubes and float down to the beach to drink beer.
That night we make stir fry, nap and watch movies.
“Any reduction of artifice is appealing.”
Today, I drink coffee all day at a cafe, and read foreign policy. Later, shaking from too much coffee and not enough food, I book it to the nearest Mexican restaurant.
I feel comforted by landlocked states. I feel like I’m catching some decent grounding for the time being, after a year of flirting with edges. I feel like I can fully lock in for a year, and get some solid work done. Oceans far enough away. People smiling and waving to strangers again.
I cannot stay. I can never stay. But I can appreciate it very much, after being away for a year.
Just got a text from one of my Mom’s other cousins, hooked up by my Aunt Donna. He invited me to come stay with him and his family in Boise, Idaho in the future. I’m headed East for the time being, but would love to stop by his place next time I head West.
Family is pretty great. Connections with people you met when you were a baby, and meeting again as an adult. Getting to see the world through them and with them.
Downtown tonight by myself I get in the biggest conversation I’ve been in with strangers in a while. We’re sharing life stories as I pursue the postcard shelves, and they ask me to get drinks with them tonight. Meet them at nine?
In the end I don’t hang out, I come home and drink local beer and watch House of Cards with Valerie.
Tonight I was reminded that I don’t have to do everything. I took that pressure off myself to “experience” all that travel has to offer, and to just take what I need, and share what I have.
Travel and writing are teaching me that life’s never going to be what you think it’s going to be, but you can still always make something with it. Differences and similarities in all the places you pass through. The things you understand that comfort and scare you. The things you can’t understand that comfort and scare you. It’s all the same. Throw yourself into it.
Never pass anything up that’s intriguing because it scares you, but never do something just because you think you should.