Life’s not actually a stage, silly.

Take two. I literally just wrote up a whole post and accidentally deleted it. Fail!

That’s actually fine though; this is a quickie.

(getyourmindoutofthegutter)

I wanted to let you, Reader, know that I had a moment today. You know those moments. You do. The ones where you are going about your own business and then realize something really personally profound. I causes introspection and melancholy for a good chunk of the day following.

What happened is that I started thinking about camping at Wedge Point, how fun it was, how beautiful and life-threatening (oh yes, I will tell that one), and I felt something akin to despair when I thought about how I’d lost my camera fifteen minutes after arriving at the beach. There is no evidence of my night there, of off-roading and the campfire.

And then…wait…evidence?!? wtf?

Shouldn’t the focus be more on experiencing this, than capturing evidence of it?

Enter moment-climax. I, embarrassingly enough, find myself making choices and taking pictures not for my own heartfelt reasons or my own pleasure, but to impress an unknown people whom I assume are somewhere out there keeping score of my life. I want them to like me. I want them to think I’m cool.

I don’t even know them.

So friends, in stubborn refusal to keep living for my phantom audience, I am no longer posting photos to a Facebook album. I’ll put a few on here, and the occasional wall post, but I’ll worry about albums with quirky titles when I get back to states.

Please tell me I’m not the only crazy who experiences this. Please tell me you’re trying to show off to your own imaginary crowd, too. And please tell me your coping mechanisms, how to fight the urge to be impressive.

I would like to be free from trying to prove anything. I would like to just be. I don’t need to broadcast myself. I didn’t spend $2,000 on a plane ticket to half-experience my destination. I didn’t take this trip for anyone to think I was more exciting or more interesting. I’m here because I think the world is really cool and I want to see a lot of it. I did this to experience some of the beauty and diversity He must have so enjoyed creating. I did this to escape the rut I was trudging into back home. I think I did this because I was jaded and bored, and because I don’t have much direction in life.

I’m learning why I did this as I go along.

And you know what? I’m loving the process. I’m learning how to let go. I’m learning freedom from the tyranny being impressive.

I’ve got nothing to prove.

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We don’t really drink Fosters.

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I’m going to try to write more regularly; it’s just difficult to create a schedule because I never know from day to day when I’ll be preoccupied. I guess traveling is that way.

Although, more than traveling I’ve just been hanging out with new friends in Perth. Yesterday was Australia day so while my current host, Kristen, worked on a mountain of psychology paperwork I fought the crowds and went snorkeling at Mettams beach.

The fourth of July has nothing on Australia day. Australians get rowdier, start drinking earlier, and take their characteristic friendliness to the utmost level. While snorkeling I met a middle-aged man who, upon hearing my “accent” (what?!?) took it upon himself to show me all the cool areas of the reef. He named fish for me, caught me a starfish, and shared an apple with me on the sand later.

I love Australians.

After this, I grabbed lunch at the marina and Kristen picked me up to go barbecue hopping. The first was mellow, and the record-defying heat suddenly turned into monsoon-like drizzling. Word of advice; do no drink Emu Exports. Nastiest beer I’ve ever tasted. It’s a joke here, the only day they drink the stuff is on Australia day. Yuck yuck yuck.

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Kristen’s parents had given me a bottle of wine, just for keepsies (they like me) and another for the parties. We broke that sweet nectar out at the second BBQ.

Which was so much fun!

Being a vegetarian can make BBQs a bit awkward sometimes, and I usually have clif bars stashed in my purse. This time I’d brought trail mix. But there was no need! Our lovely hostess had made six of the most elaborate and delicious salads ever; my plate looked like a rabbit’s wildest fantasy. Bliss.

The sky was getting angrier but we loved it. Ever since I’ve arrived here Aussie’s have been telling me how unusual the weather has been. It’s been getting more humid every year, and the past few days we’ve found ourselves in a heat wave. Over a hundred fahrenheit everyday, and then the storm last night? Absolutely wild.

A number of us forsook the fireworks over the river for dancing under the lightning. Favorite moment; coming back from the bathroom to the dance “floor” and one of the guys flailing his arms in exagerated dance movements and shouting, “Are you excited?! Get excited! You’re in another country! Dancing in the rain on it’s national holiday!”

How true.

It’s Friday now, and this weekend is shaping up to be an excellent farewell to Perth before I leave for my first wwoof host, which happens to be a free-range chicken farm. (Guilt-free eggs!) I’m going camping this afternoon until tomorrow afternoon at Wedge Point, a place you have to four-wheel drive to get to. Saturday evening is a girl’s Hen party, which, because she is Australian I was invited to. Sunday we are snorkeling again, going to church at night, and wandering around Kings Park in the city just afterwards. First and foremost I need to retrieve my hired bike from Brooke’s house, (which is a bus to a train to another bus away, except that a Canadian-turned Australian at the party last night offered me a ride to the last bus station), ride it to the train station, take train into the city, return it, and bus/train/bus back to Kriten’s.

You need to know something interesting about Australians, something I’m planning on elaborating on soon; (my ride to the station is almost here)

Australians travel. They’re almost expected to. While in America it’s perfectly acceptable not to have a passport, Australians can’t fathom such a thing. They spend their gap years in the UK, the spend holidays in Bali, they road trip all over their country. They take a more relaxed approach, it seems, to this whole young adulthood thing than Americans do.

I have a friend who has no real career aspirations just yet. All he wants to do is explore. However, his sense of responsibility and moral obligations to his family prevent the kind of traveling he would like. His trip to Europe, a relatively tame excursion in lieu of say, certain Australians who have biked around Vietnam, practically broke his parents’ hearts. They want their boy to be a successful business man.

Because he loves them and doesn’t want to break their hearts, and because he cannot invest in a lifestyle he doesn’t feel, the boy feels stifled and stagnate. He isn’t doing what he loves and he isn’t doing what they love.

Is this right? How are we supposed to maneuver through our twenties fulfilling cultural expectations without even experiencing other cultures? Are we that positive we’re doing it right?

More later. More pictures too. Probs of Wedge Point.

Week one

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I am having the most amazing time. I don’t know how else to put it because seriously, I have been gushing about Perth nonstop since getting here last Wednesday. I’m trying to work out a schedule for blogging, and still figuring out how to do so on this nifty little iPad of mine, so bear with me.

Ive been staying with my new friend of a friend of a step-sister-in-law, Brooke, and if everyone on the planet was a fraction of how sweet and caring as she is, we’d probably end world hunger. She is fantastic. We’re up in Wanneroo though, which is far from most things, so I’m leaving today for another friend of a friend’s house, where I think I’ll be all weekend.

It would be impossible to recant everything that’s gone on so far, and frankly, right now I’d really rather be snorkeling.

Two highlights of the week though, real quick;
One, from the moment they picked me up at the airport my new friends have been so loving and fun. They love Jesus, too, which probably accounts for much of it. Josh, my step-sister-in-law’s old friend, works at Scripture Union and they’re needing volunteers for a couple of the youth camps this March. He’s working out the details, but I may very well be able to spend a couple weeks telling teenagers about God and kayaking around with them.

It’s interesting how I’ve kind’ve pulled away from my own church community, defriending the jr highers I used to mentor, that sort of thing, and now, on my crazy solo trip around western Australia, I’m surrounded by God-fearing individuals who want to include me in their ministries. And I can’t imagine a better way to spend two weeks in March.

My first bout of homesickness the other day wasn’t even for home, it was for the two years I spent on Jr High staff at church. I miss my staff friends, I miss the endless pranks, I miss hanging around the mall with my sixth-graders. I miss reading my Bible all the time.

I’m so grateful for this trip already, cuz I can see God using it to remind me of Hs graciousness toward me.

The other highlight is simply that I spent yesterday cycling around an ISLAND inhabited by the cutest little marsupials ever and was practically mobbed by a family of them. This was at Rottnest Island, and quokkas are found nowhere else in the world. They’re friendly and inquisitive, and have no natural predators on this island. I’d met up with a couch surfer from England and the two of us toured the island together. At one point we were cycling up a hill and I kid you not, two little quokkas came bounding out of the bushes straight for me. I stopped and just sat down and they hopped all over my stuff, searching desperately for my cliff bar. I was cracking up. It was the coolest wildlife moment I’ve ever had. There were so many of them! Babies and everything!

No, you’re not supposed to pet them. No, I cannot follow those sorts of rules.

It took about four hours of a ferry, trains, and a bus to make it back to Brooke’s last night after ten, and reading an excerpt from my journal last night, you’d think I was on ecstasy or something. Just scribbling gratitude all over the pages. I could think of no other response to the day’s beauty and natural excitement than thanksgiving.

I still can’t believe I’m here, that I get to experience this. I promise I’ll get to writing something about the mishaps (cycling to Fremantle at noon, anyone?) but right now I’m just so happy. I’ve never been so happy, I don’t think. I’ll give you some practical travel advice I’ve picked up, too, but I just can’t feel practical right now. I’ve snorkeled off of Rottnest Island and I’ve kissed a quokka.

All I want to do is revel in it.

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Planning; how not to.

Six hours, forty-five minutes, and twenty-four seconds

Remember when my flight countdown included months and weeks? Because I do. And I remember feeling like I had a lifetime to prepare for three months abroad.

I’m not prepared.

Actually, I’m doing fine. See? I’m all packed and everything fits.

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40L backpack from REI...i.e. Craigslist.

I know how to maneuver through my ipad, I have a better memory card for my camera, I have my first two WWOOF hosts, and I even know where I’m staying my first little bit in Perth. That was a mess in and of itself. My original plans fell through, leaving me scrambling on Couchsurfing and Facebook last night for a host. I woke up slightly despairing, as I always do when I feel out of control, at three am. I stared at the ceiling until 3:40 and felt completely pitiful getting up to start coffee. However, while I tossed and turned the night away, my Australian friends were being awesome and coordinating a ride from the airport and a few homes to lay my head at night. Everything is groovy now, but man, this morning was certainly a lesson in stress-management.

Now that its really real and I’ll be en route to San Fran (then Sydney, and finally Perth) in less than nine hours, I’m feeling the weight of this escapade. I really don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never done this before. I don’t actually know how to land in a foreign country, ride their public transport, not get my stuff stolen, not have my own schedule. Remember how much I like control? I’m not going to have much of it over the next ninety days.

I guess that’s a good thing though. A month after I crashed my car last summer I hoped in a van with four other twenty-somethings and road-tripped up the PCH to the Rainbow Gathering. This particular adventure was spurned by my older brother’s experiences at previous gatherings; I was craving my own. My original plan was to ride up with a friend from church (why do I even make original plans?!?) but that fell through. Defiant, I decided to find my own means to the Gathering and posted a has-dog+gas-money-needs-ride on Couchsurfing. Enter my new buddies from Sedona.

From left to right; Pam, Joey, Randi and Hatim

There was a caravan, the five of us (and my dog, Kira) in Joey’s van and five more in his older sister’s van. I wanted to really let go of my own preferences for this trip. This was more than stepping outside my comfort zone; this was riding five days up the coast outside my comfort zone. Before we left I sat down, eyes closed, and prayed I wouldn’t be stressed or controlling. I prayed I could let go of my need to be the leader. I wanted to experience what it was like to be a tag-along, to keep my opinions to myself, to love my co-riders as they were and not as I wished they were.

I purposefully put in no input in our music choices (ICP?!?) or designated smoking areas. I didn’t object to our route or our frequent stops when scenery looked cool. This was completely foreign territory to me!

And you know what? It was the most fun I’ve had in my life.

Going with the flow, turns out, is a lot more interesting and freeing than trying to steer the flow. I was just along for their adventures; they were four friends on a road trip and I was basically a hitchhiker they’d picked up. I was continuously surprised to find that, while we had sometimes polar opposite basic beliefs, they were the most accepting and considerate people I’d ever met. They wouldn’t smoke in the car because Kira got sick and they doted on the mutt at every opportunity. When we had eaten all the banana chips and corn nuts we could handle and stopped for real food, they made sure to find places that served gluten-free and vegetarian dishes. They were curious about Christianity and completely non-judgemental.

I learned more and had more fun on our drive than I did at the destination.

Even though we split up once at the Gathering, every time we found each other in a crowd it felt like coming home. We keep meaning to get together, but as a favorite character in a favorite book said, “Time is an old bald cheater.”

All of that to say…I found out on that trip that I like myself better and have a better time when I’m not a controlling freak. When I’m playing it by ear, along for the ride, everything seems to go more smoothly and be more exciting. I was trying to keep this in focus at 3:40 today while coffee brewed.

I need to remember this for the next three months. Probably for the rest of my life, actually. There’s a fine line between responsible planning and stifling opportunities. I have two farms so far, with five days in between them. Whats going on during those five days? I’ll tell you when I get there.

And that is characteristic of how I’m managing the whole trip.

Let the seasons begin.

 

Sit and say WWOOF.

Well, its officially game time

I’ve received my WWOOF book.

Ohboyohboyohboy

You know who didn’t sleep last night? This girl.

I can’t remember a time I was more excited. For those of you who aren’t yet aware, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an organization that allows travelers to work on a farm in exchange for room and board.  Its a mutually beneficial relationship, the farmers receiving free labor, the chance to offer hospitality, and the opportunity to learn about other cultures, while the traveler gets to learn a valuable trade, sleep and eat for free.  This is seriously everywhere.  You can most likely WWOOF just outside your hometown.

You become a member and the super friendly and helpful staff send you the annual WWOOF book, which is like a phone book with short descriptions provided by farmers of the work that needs doing and their contact information.

Yes, I was scouring those Western Australia pages for hours last night.  Yes, I’m individually typing up each email I send across the world.

I’m stoked about this, because I care so much about the quality of food and standard of living for animals.  I care about eating foods that come without suffering and chemicals, and I care about local farmers scratching out a living and not succumbing to a Fast Food Nation of factory farms and genetically modified veggies.  (More on this later.)

I’m also stoked, because I love people.  I really.  And getting to stay in someone’s home, with their families and their dogs, ah, that’s just the perfect way to see a country.  I don’t want the touristy parts of Oz; I wanna just do life there.  I want to do life organically, holistically.  I want to sell tomatoes I’ve helped cultivate in little markets on the weekend.  I want to feed, water, protect, and know the animals I eat.  I want them to have awesome lives and pain-free deaths.  (More on this later, as well.)

Also, if you’ve ever seen Kate’s farm blog, you’ve seen my dream life.

WWOOFing is the concept that fueled my dreams (and then actual plans) of peacing out for Australia.  This was the original plan, before I even knew the two girls in Perth my good friend in Arizona is buds with, who I am thrilled to be staying with the first couple of weeks.   I can’t wait to post pictures of my new farm life, and share the experience with you.  I can’t wait to come back with all this organic farming knowledge.

I already can’t wait for return stays in WA.

Anxiety Girl, the anti-hero.

In which I share how to stop being a stressed out maniac.

I don’t know where your mind goes when anxiety strikes, but I’m sure its as awful as where mine winds up.  I’ll be minding my own business, turning over in my head whatever stressors are most current, and wham! I have a nightmare about my baby sister.  I’ve psychoanalyzed the crap out of this sleep-stealing phenomenon, and here is my theory; I am perpetually feeling like my little sister’s well-being is out of my control and that terrifies me more than anything.  I want to protect that little bird from every pain and evil in the world, and I know I’m ill-equipped.  I don’t live near her.  I barely even speak with her.

Confession; I am a control freak*.  If I am not in control I am not happy, I am not at peace, and I am wildly insecure.

*God and I have our points of conflict regarding this issue.

When things feel overwhelming (holyshitAustraliaisinelevendays), my poor psyche goes into overdrive and creates the worst possible scenario to have happen to the person, the relationship, I cherish most; Sara Jean.  Have you ever loved a person so much it feels like mourning?  That’s how I love my sister.

I’m realizing I’m going to need to find healthy ways to deal with my anxiety, if not for obvious reasons than at least so I can stop watching my baby sister die in my dreams (the last two nights involved her drowning in the aqueduct behind her house, and being assaulted by a gang of teenagers under a bridge.  Frick.).

I wake up in a panic, shaking and fists clenched, and it is a miraculous feat if I’m able to shake the guilt-ridden melancholy that threatens to plague me the rest of the day.  Its gotten better, and I promise I’m about to share how, but I wanted to explain why its such a big deal to me to NOT procrastinate, and to make sure my loved ones know what they mean to me.  Its a big deal to live intentionally because the consequences involve anxiety, guilt, and bad dreams.

  1. First thing you’ve gotta do is create a to-do list.  I use Google’s task list on Gmail.  Then, set deadline.  I make sure to put three items on my “finish today” task list, and I make sure to finish them.  They are priority over my other to-dos.  The next day I’ll tackle three more, and so on and so forth.  If you’re on a roll, feel free to add more to your day as you finish, but for those of you who are easily overwhelmed (ehem, myself), focus on your three.  Maybe, if you finish them early, you’ll have time that day to rest or play cards with your little sister.
  2. Which is number two.  Do not waste your days not telling people you love them.  Tell them you love them until they take it for granted that you love them, until she rolls her eyes because you’re so corny.  Tell them why you love them.  Show them you love them by looking into their eyes when they gush about their favorite tv stars to you, and do not try to multi-task.  Give her your full attention.  This will stave off the guilt-dreams, like when you wake up weeping because you see yourself forgetting her in the car for days.  Frick frick frick.
  3. Say you blew it with the first two, and you’ve just woken up in in a sweat because of the horrible, disgusting, atrocious dream you’ve just had.  Do this; sit up and inhale real slow, and hold it.  Exhale.  Repeat.  Pray.  Its ok if you wind up in a fetal position while you do this part.
  4. At an appropriate hour to wake up (not 3:37, dear Self), get up and walk around outside and note how pretty everything is, and how the whole world is not falling apart.  Go back inside, eat oatmeal, and text your sister a funny quote.  Be grateful that its morning and you have a whole day to be productive and kind.
  5. DO NOT LISTEN TO JOE PURDY!!!!!
  6. Create the task list and get ‘er done.
  7. Pray all day long, because really, having control at all is an illusion and this whole thing is by grace.

Annual Review, 3/3; Setting your intentions.

I used to do yoga at an indoor rock climbing gym in Scottsdale, and my favorite thing about it was the teacher’s soothing voice instructing us to “set our intentions” at the beginning of each session.  It could be the intention to feel more connected to the earth, to our selves, or simply to get a good stretch in.  We were to keep our intentions in mind while tangling ourselves up in knots, and when we finished we were to reflect on the hour and see how things panned out.

That’s what I’m doing in 2012.  I have some vague and some specific intentions, and I’m excited to have them written down so that throughout this year and next December I can reflect upon them.  The people who live the most vibrant lives did not wake up and find they were accidentally rocking the universe; they were intentional about things.

In this coming year, my intention is to live consistent with the truth.  This pertains to all truths, i.e. the truth that matter is not eternal (so why be a consumerist slave?) and the truth that human beings were meant to be good stewards of the earth (so why participate in the torture that permeates America’s factory farms?).  Things like that.  Its very simple; relationships are crucial, so invest in them.  The world is huge and complex, so learn about it.  “Edible food-like substances” are bad for your physical and emotional well-being; forget them.

The list is pretty extensive, and I know I’ll elaborate on certain issues further down the road, but brevity’s sake I’m only sharing a couple of my New Year’s intentions.

I’m anticipating awesome this year, in that I’m learning to live deliberately.  I’m excited to “live deep and suck the marrow of life,” as Thoreau put it.

Did you, reader, make any resolutions this year?  Are you anticipating the comical breaking of those resolutions long before Valentine’s Day?  What do you think about the New Year’s Intentions idea, and what intentions have you set for yourself?