Holidays Elsewhere

I feel like I just celebrated Christmas and New Years not too long ago. Oh right, I did.

On a rainy July night in Killarney, Ireland, my fellow hostelers and me walked into The Grand for drinks and a little dancing. We were bombarded with loads of tinsel, “All I Want For Christmas is You” pumping over the speakers, and people in antler ears and Chrismas sweaters.

Unbeknownst to us, it was the Christmas in July party. (Is that a thing? Or do the Irish just make up reasons to party?) Between whiskey and ciders, we joined all the drunk holiday revelers on the dance floor. Everyone sang at the top of their lungs every time “Fairytale of New York” played, which was many times. Fake snow swirled from the ceiling to the dance floor and around 3 am the dj declared the end of Christmas and rushed us back out into the pub to ring in the new year. We all wrapped our arms around each other, belting “Auld Lang Syne.” We counted down from ten and colorful confetti spewed into the air, joining the white flakes stuck in our hair. 

The feel of the holiday spirit welling up in our hearts was unignorable as we all walked back, beaming, in the summer rain, to the hostel. 

The other time I celebrated the holidays on my travels was for real. I spent Christmas on board the Africa Mercy in Madagascar. It was my first time being away from any family on Christmas and my first time in a different country for the holidays. The galley staff made a beautifully gigantic brunch for the crew. Everyone set a pair of shoes outside their door for people to leave tiny gifts, goodies and cards in. 

We stood outside on the dock, in the drenching heat of a Southern Hemisphere summer with lit candles melting in our hands while we cooed “Silent Night” and laughing along to the Australian version of “Jingle Bells.” (Dashing through the bush/in a rusty Holden Ute/kicking up the dust/esky in the boot)

In the evening, all the families opened their cabins, so we could all go around and visit and eat sugary things. My cabinmates and I got the zany idea to utilize my newly acquired ukulele skills to sing a carol at every cabin. We sang “Jingle Bell Rock” about 11 times that night.

The New Year was rung in with musicians sharing a song or two on their chosen instrument. (Not me this time.) We made a sparkling apple cider toast and watched the fireworks burst and glisten on the projector screen above the ship’s cafe. 

Freedom

Many free spirits live without their own set of wheels. They float around to the places they need and want to go without a care, without a car.

But I can’t. I did during my abroad travels, but that was part of the nature of the journey. At home, though, a car makes me feel free. I love to drive and drive and drive and drive. But of course long journeys like that are only occasional. On the daily I need my car to get to and from work in a decent amount of time and to string together multiple errands and adventures on the weekends. The public bus doesn’t go everywhere.

Even though my new four wheels that I just purchased — the green Subaru that I’ve img_20160930_180150affectionately named Rory — gives me exhilarated freedom and independence, I also feel burdened. Because in order to have this freedom of motion, I have to give up other freedoms.

I have to give up extra time to make extra money to pay for his purchase. That extra money could have been used for a few fun weekend road trips, but as is the classic catch 22, I give up my adventure resources for the adventure vehicle, hoping that at some point the weights will balance closer to the side of plenty rather than scarcity.

Rory is also unpredictable. He’s old, 18 to be exact. A few weeks ago his radiator gave into the pressure of those years and cracked, spilled out its liquid and nearly toasted his engine. Then a string of other hidden problems surfaced: broken thermostat, blown head gasket, stripped bolts in the engine block. Now there’s an oil leak. There goes about 1,600 more dollars of adventure money. Oh well.

Nightmares

I guess I can handle a little bird of bad thoughts fluttering around my brain cage. But what do I do when that bird evolves into a big, clumsy T. rex that tears through my house, knocking over all the glass and crushing the furniture to pieces.

I dreamt a group of very bad people wanted to kill me. And not just me but other sad, innocent people. The people said they would come for me in the night. But first, I had to come to their office in the day because they decided my leg needed to be cut off, too. I tried, briefly, to appeal to their humanity and beg for mercy, but there’s no point in persuading people who want you to die for no reason and who want to saw off your perfectly healthy limb. In panic, I thought I should make an escape, leave the country and disappear. Besides, it’s not like they held me captive. They just told me to come. But for some reason, instead of making a run for it, I waited outside their office like a patient waiting for her doctor, willingly, waiting for them to call my name.

Water Water Water

Something in me requires that I spend time with water. Looking at it, swimming in it, paddling on it, wading in it. sitting next to it. Something.

I’m obsessed. I get water cravings. I especially get beach cravings, but unfortunately those are hard to satisfy when I live in the Inland Northwest, about six hours from the nearest ocean water. Luckily, there are loads of lakes and rivers. Every time I spend time with water, my state of mind and my physical feelings vastly improve.

The other day, I stopped by the river after work and dipped my feet in the water just as the sun was getting low in the sky.

Today, I was reunited with my most precious possession: my standup paddleboard! I bought my paddleboard the summer before I left to travel, so I only got one summer with him. And it was a glorious summer. But I missed him the whole time I was gone. While I was traveling, I dreamed about this moment. I dreamed how splendid it would be to paddle out on one of our lakes again. The water was glassy. The sun reflected charmingly off of the surface. The water was cold, but refreshingly crisp. And how I missed those pine tree-studded shores.

The Adventure Continues…

No, that’s not some far-off expanse of foreign land. That’s home. That’s the prairie right outside of Spokane in Washington.

It would seem, since I’m back at home, I no longer have use for a travel blog. What does one do with a travel blog when the trip is over? My answer: Keep traveling!

I’m not going to take off on another worldwide adventure just yet. I plan to stick around this town. While being abroad, I realized how little I actually explored of Spokane and the places surrounding it.

The Northwest is an amazing place that people from all over come to see and I have some serious appreciating of it to do. Today I hopped on a bus to Seattle to go to a dear friend’s wedding and stay in the city for the weekend.

That’s just the start. Canada is just two hours above me, Idaho and Montana within arm’s reach and Oregon a short drive to the south. I strategically took a job with a schedule of four tens, so every weekend is a three day weekend!

One of the most important things I learned over the last year and two months is to live everyday like I’m traveling.

Before my trip, I got into a snooze-worthy cycle of work, relax, work, relax, work, relax (with a lot of worrying and feeling blue thrown in between). But when I was traveling, I didn’t let myself be so boring. I soaked everything in and went on adventures. Why would I not do that back at home?

The way I see it now that the lazy haze has lifted around me, there are adventures to be had, places to see, loads of people to meet and even a business venture to pursue! I want to share that with you all as well as recall some things from my trip that I didn’t get to write about and continue to talk about the struggles of anxiety and depression.

So if you want to come along on that journey, you’re more than welcome!

“To You”

One of my favorite poems from Walt Whitman:

“To You

Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me,
why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?”

This is how I tried to operate while I traveled.

Too often, people think they will look weird or creepy if they just talk to random strangers on the street. How often have you simply wanted to know what someone is doing or complement someone on something they’re wearing or tell the person nearest you some interesting musing that popped in your head or just say “hi” to someone that looks kind or fascinating? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s pretty often.

But more times than not I don’t say anything because I’m scared. But when I have done it or someone has done it to me, it was great.

In Bath, England a family wandered away to do something and left their dad behind on a bench. I was sitting next to him. We just started talking for no particular reason. His family returned with fudge and gave me a piece. Free fudge!

In Asheville, North Carolina I was walking around the city with my backpack on the way to the airport and a guy just walked right up to me and asked, “How long have you been traveling for?” It was a guy I had observed quizzically over the last hour as he sat near me in the market square, devouring a whole cooked chicken with his hands by himself accompanied by a full, brand-new bottle of barbecue sauce. I found out he’s a traveler, too, and an AmeriCorps volunteer. I never got an explanation for the chicken, but it was fun. Cool guy.

This is how I tried to operate while I traveled and how I want to be at home, too.