I’m Camping Today — and there is no Tent! I’m at Camp Mighty!

Heading to Camp Mighty

I’m camping today – at Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, and just being on the property made the stress of that never-ending road trip melted away quickly. I made it to my room, and spent a delightful evening with my roommate, Elizabeth of Flourish in Progress.

Now we are off to a day full of Camp Mighty goodness, and not a single tent is involved! (Mine is in the trunk of my Mini Cooper which is parked nearby in case I need it. You never know, there could be a tent-requiring emergency!) I can’t wait to share what I learn and plan for the future and making things happen on my Life List!

Is Traveling Alone Truly Brave?

Is Traveling Alone Truly Brave?Over and over again on this trip, I’ve had people tell me that I am so brave for traveling alone.

I’m in my own car, in my own country. Familiar with the currency. I speak the language. I have a cell phone – and have signal most of the time.

When I was 21, I moved to Germany with my ex-husband, courtesy of the US Army. I drove all over the place in Southern Germany – where I didn’t speak the language other than the ability to order two beers or some french fries, and to ask how much something cost. We didn’t have cell phones yet. I never thought twice about hopping in the car and going somewhere.

One summer while I lived in Germany, while my husband was deployed to Turkey, I got a Eurorail pass and traveled with a childhood friend around Europe, taking a lot of night trains so we didn’t have to pay for hotel rooms.

That? That was brave. Both my trips around Germany and around Europe. What I’m doing right now? Not so much.

I find it fascinating how much we let fear rule us these days. I think that overall, as a society, we are actually safer than we were 20 years ago. Driving 12,000 miles – so far – doesn’t seem that brave at all to me.

Why is it that people act like if a woman does a road trip like this it is brave, but if a man does it it is no big deal?

There have been moments where I have had to be alert and aware, of course. I’m camping in National Parks. There are bears. I have seen exactly one bear, but that doesn’t mean I’m not staying alert and watching for them. There was the evening I drove across Utah on a 2 lane highway with no cell phone signal. I saw two people walking on the side of the road. A few miles later, I passed their car – they must have been going for gas. I wondered what I would have done if it had been me. I would have pulled over and waited until the morning – in the evening, the road is pretty quiet, but during the day there are a lot of truckers going through. I could have flagged one down to get help sent to me.

Do you have to be smart about it, and pay attention? Of course. But no more than you do in everyday life.

I should add, I do make sure I top off the gas tank a lot more often than I do in Houston. Especially after that night in Utah.

Have you ever traveled alone on a long distance road trip? Did you consider it to be brave?

Old Faithful – Yellowstone National Park…

Old Faithful and the Big Dipper

Tonight, after a late dinner at the Obsidian Dining Room at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, I suggested to Mike that we should head back out to see Old Faithful under the stars.

We went back to our cabin and picked up a blanket. I put a fleece jacket on under my windbreaker. I made sure I had spare memory cards and my tripod. We hopped in the car and drove over to the geyser.

We were prepared for a cold 15-20 minute wait, maybe longer, before it would start to go off.

I started to take my tripod out of my bag, and at that very second I could hear the water start to spray. I just froze for a second and looked at Mike.

All I could manage to say was, “You have GOT to be kidding me!”

No. Right then, it started going off. Glad I had already set up my camera – I popped it in the tripod and started taking photos. This was one of the first frames I captured.

When I visit a city with subways, I manage to always make a train appear as soon as I walk up to the platform. Seems I have that power on geysers as well!

Life Is Too Short – Travel Now!

Saint Mary Lake - Glacier National Park

As I sat on the side of a mountain overlooking Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, I couldn’t help but stop and think about how I think it is wrong to wait until retirement to travel. The time to take a month or two off to go out and see the world shouldn’t be when you are over 65. It should be NOW.

Travel enriches your life. Helps you to see the world from a WHOLE perspective. Not a new perspective, but a compete one. See how other people live. Understand their beliefs. How the geography and weather has shaped them. How the world impacts them – and to feel the impact yourself.

I believe it gives us a greater understanding and appreciation of our impact on the Earth. As beautiful as Going to the Sun road is throughout Glacier National Park, I understand why the tribes native to this region consider it a scar across the mountains. I’m glad the road is here, but I couldn’t help but think as I stood at the exhibit at the visitor’s center just how devastating it must have been to them to see their land changed as a road was created to transport thousands of visitors a year through the park. What changes that road has brought to the land. For example, I know that the invention of plastic has brought many advances and conveniences, but I also see the damage that it does. Litter on our highways, in our fields.

I believe travel, and especially camping and hiking, have sparked a passion in me to change. To respect the Earth more. Being among the mountains gives me a sense of strength and peace. In return, I want to take care of nature. Recycle. Reuse things. Be mindful of my impact on the world.

There are no guarantees that we will live to see retirement age. There are no guarantees that once you hit 65, you can stop working. I expect that by the time I reach 65, people will have to work well past that age. I would much rather structure my life so I can enjoy the good things throughout the years, savoring them now instead of waiting for a day that might not come. I think that facing your mortality can bring about the most beautiful things in life because it creates gratitude for the present moment. A mindful presence in this world. (My friend Tracy wrote an amazing post recently on Magnificent Mortality, and if you haven’t read it – you should. She sums up everything I have been thinking so well!)

Life is SHORT. Leave an impact on the world. Get out there. Enjoy your parks, your scenic drives. Don’t wait for the future. Do it NOW. Go!!!

Chicago, I’ve Come Home…

Journeys and stories ahead at O'Hare Airport

I just landed at O’Hare airport in Chicago. Matter of fact, I’m standing at baggage claim, still waiting for bags to arrive, as I write this.

I was washed with emotions walking through the terminal. The people — they look like my people. The voices, in spite of me moving to Texas back when I was 15, have a comforting lilt.

I realized that so much of who I am was formed by growing up 60 miles south of Chicago in Kankakee, Illinois. My love of architecture. The reason I live now in a 93 year old house in a walkable neighborhood, instead of in Houston’s suburbs. My attitude. My demeanor.

Chicago formed me.

I feel like I’ve spent the last 3 years working hard to get back to who I once was. Breaking off the veneer. Embracing my truth.

I feel like I’m finally home in more ways than one.

There is one big lesson I’ve learned on this journey. It never ends. You have to choose to hold on to it, to continue to embrace your truth.

This past three weeks have been a journey in my car of over 5000 miles, but it took a two hour flight from Denver to Chicago to see how far I’ve truly travelled.