I board a plane tomorrow, bound for Iceland.
In my backpack I've stuffed a tent + tent footprint, sleeping pad, sleeping bag + liner, and a blow-up pillow. To camp. In a snowy arctic winter. In the wilderness (campgrounds don't open for another 6-8 weeks). And I'll be there for a month. And I'm doing all of it solo. Oh yeah, and I've only camped four times in my life. All four times in my parent's backyard.
As I'm counting the hours before I leave...it's only now occurring to me that this is all sort of crazy.
Velta, the teeny tiny tough-as-nails Latvian grandma I've shacked up with for three months, has taught me profound lessons on resourcefulness and survival. I'm now realizing she's also taught me the beauty of sharing your life with strangers.
I don't mean blogging about my adventures, splashing them on Facebook for whomever to see. I mean intimately sharing your weird day to day life. With someone you barely know and cannot actually speak to. For months. And loving it. And loving them. And being open to all of the randomness that ensues.
Here's the thing: Sitting naked on a stone cold floor in a primitive cabin on the other side of the world - bathing admittedly like a Victorian whore - puts your life into perspective pretty quickly. It was a microcosmic moment that perfectly summed up my feelings about Latvia.
No plumbing? Okay, I can figure this out. Fire for heat? Alright, I can figure this out. Water from a well to bathe in a small metal basin? I'm in, let's figure this out. So there I was, waking up groggy and peering into an empty fridge. It was my first nudge from The Universe. I also get to figure out how to feed myself in the simplest of ways. I certainly got what I asked for.
I will never forget my first view of Latvia.
Peering out the window of my airplane, a tidal wave of excitement and panic washed over me: Somewhere deep in those woods is my little off-grid homestead. What am I doing with my life? Oh man, Imma needta figure ma shit out real quick.
No one has perfected the art of leaving like travelers. We live our lives in a constant state of leaving somewhere, leaving someone. I've learned to never say goodbye, just "I'll see you later." I sat with thoughts of leaving for many hours on my flights around the world. I realized something.
Leaving feels like firsts and it feels like fear.
Last year I radically purged my life and chose to travel indefinitely because I want to find my edges. I want to question them and challenge them. Then I want to push past them.
My solo trip around the world is motivated by an obsession to redefine what I think is possible, what I think I’m capable of. So I've decided to go full Hemingway. I'm spending three frozen months in the isolated Latvian countryside in an off-grid house. Seems like that’ll do the trick.
Fixating our mind on a series of expectations inevitably sucks the joy from our pursuit.
If we want to arrive at any accomplishment with our happiness intact, we have to let go of expectations and our fear-based concept of failure.
It’s 6:07 pm and 91 degrees outside. Beads of sweat bubble up at every pore, as they’ve been doing since the moment I landed in Montezuma, Costa Rica.
My knee caps are sweating. I’m standing barefoot and braless in the grungy bathroom of a grungy hostel, attempting to wash all seven of my underwear in a tiny bucket set inside the grungy sink. I’m using the dwindling bar of lavender castile soap I’ve hauled around since I left for Indonesia more than three months ago.
Both metaphorically and literally, I came to Bali to be stripped. Intentionally, delicately, fiercely stripped. I came to Bali to challenge every drop of ego and pretense I held dear. I came to Bali to heal.
My time on The Island of the Gods has been a firestorm of transformation. Just over five weeks later, I don’t recognize myself. My love letter to Bali is one of gratitude for the lessons she taught me, or reinforced, or drilled into my stubborn brain. Either way, the lessons are the thing.
"Small trek..." I asked, somewhat suspiciously. "Small trek, to see rice paddies like the birds," he said matter of factly. We climbed up up up the side of the mountain, navigated delicately along the canal system perched along the ridge line.
At one point an 8-year old Balinese girl went flying past us, giggling, running up the mountain as she likely does many times a day. I felt pretty lame as I stopped to take a photo and catch my breath.
Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping...the swooshing sound of sticks and dried palm fronds on Mr. Gede's handmade broom begin before the sun rises, and never truly ends.
One of my most visceral memories of this island will be the sound of rough brooms scraping stone sidewalks. Walk down any street at any time of day and you'll see shop owners sweeping the corner of the world carved out for their livelihood. Even the woman who sells sarongs at the beach, in a Sisyphean display of resilience, sweeps sweeps sweeps the encroaching sand.
I love snorkeling. Like, a lot. I've been snorkeling all over the world for years and have never had a thrashing like I had yesterday.
The correct question to ask me would have been: "We are going to extremely rough, extremely open waters. You will not float around in a coral reef while we go off and dive. You'll bounce around getting clocked by giant swells, focusing too hard on staying alive to even bother sticking your mask in the water to learn what's lurking below your feet. Now, do you want to snorkel with us?"
They did not say this. So we loaded into the seat-less, door-less vantruckcar and headed to the beach.