A Restless Soul

Just over a week removed from a month-long trip across the country and back, and I feel…sluggish. I’m taking my time figuring out the next steps and just enjoying not necessarily having anything to do. I’ve gotten some writing done, tried to catch up on podcasts, and shows that I want to finish, but no real plan. Not in the short term anyway.

My desire to be back on the road is evident. I was driving today and saw one of the nearby cities on the signs overhanging the expressway and nearly kept driving. It’s a tenuous thing, balancing that need for adventure with maintaining a life. I spent so many years refusing to go near the candy store, only to allow myself in and to eat everything in the store. Now, it’s about moderation.

I’ve always had this restless soul. Only in terms of adventure, but it’s been there. And now that it’s been indulged, it inevitably leads to a follow-up question: what’s next? And short-term, I haven’t quite decided yet. I could stay in Louisville for a bit, save some money (and pay off some debt), and then head out on another adventure. It’s arguably my “safe” option. I have other reasons for wanting to stay in Louisville, but do those inspire enough in me to stay the course?

On the other hand, I could head to my preferred destination from my trip: Boise, Idaho. It’s hard to accurately describe Boise, but it was the only place on the trip that felt like a home to me. I can think of other places that might have felt that way if I hadn’t been in a mental rut, or the weather had been better, or other mitigating factors. And even if I did go, I only spent a few days in Boise. It could end up not resonating with me the way I thought, and then it’s on to the next adventure.

Either way, I wanted to make my longer-term goals location-less. Things that I could learn and do and visit that weren’t limited by where I called my home base. Because I could see a scenario where that place changes multiple times over the rest of my life. Which is ironic, because I hate moving, but I digress…

The list I came up with can be divided into two paths: a creative/work path and a physical path. I realized on this trip that I had let my fitness fall to the point that I couldn’t appreciate all that those places had to offer. Creating those goals is a plan to get back to that point.

So, first, the physical list. These are things that others have done before me, and many will do after me, but I believe that’s a tie that binds people rather than making it any less impressive. I want to visit all the National Parks. I hit a handful of them, but there’s so many more to explore, especially in Alaska. I want to complete a 100-mile ultramarathon. As difficult as that would be for my body, I want to push my mind to that point. I want to hike the Pacific Coast, John Muir, Continental Divide, and Appalachian Trails. All of these are varying degrees of length and difficulty, and all hold an important place in my mind. And last, inspired by Mike Posner, who completed it this year, I want to walk across the country, coast to coast. It’s something I thought a lot about driving down the 101 in California.

Now, the creative/work path. This list is arguably less bold, but it’s probably the things that I view more challenging. These, to me, require more intentional work to accomplish and discipline on my part. I’ve started these (kind of), but I want to write a novel and a book of poetry. I want to continue to coach girl’s basketball as well. I really love it, and it combines a lot of my interests into one. I’m not sure what level I’d want to end up at, but it helps me stay connected to a game I love and help develop the next generation of people. The last one is centered around learning. I want to learn how to make things with my hands, be it woodworking, metalworking, ceramics, blowing glass, etc. I love using my hands and am looking for another creative outlet besides writing.

I believe all of these are fundamentally achievable for me, but I’m also not tying myself to them, allowing them to become part of me. We allow so many things to influence our self-worth because we either fail or succeed. My failure or success to do a job or achieve a goal doesn’t change who I am as a person. So, maybe I’ll accomplish all of those things. Perhaps I’ll meet none of them. But for me, it’s about the pursuit.

I have a lot of time to do all of these things. Hell, I have a lot of time just to live.

~

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

 

In Search Of…: 6 Things I Learned

For those unfamiliar, I spent the last month on the road, living in my car (save one glorious hotel night). It was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I was incredibly lucky to be able to do it. But I’m back now, and there were more than a handful of lessons I took with me.

While I haven’t made any permanent changes quite yet, these lessons will strongly guide my decision-making process in both the immediate and distant future. Some of these were new thoughts, some were things that I had been feeling for a while, but didn’t have the experience to back them up.

Relationships are Everything

How we relate to the people around us is everything. This is top to bottom, everyone from your immediate family to the person you order your food from at a restaurant. We are all on this planet together and our fractured relationships are what will cause us to fall. So, when you love someone, tell them. When you’re upset with someone, tell them so you can work it out. Our lives are simultaneously infinite and short. Why waste any of it with people who don’t respect you or want to have you in their lives? Conversely…

Money is Nothing

This is definitely something I’ve been feeling for a while. We get so caught up working for more, more, more. And I’m not ignorant to basic cost of living. There’s a whole world of issues situated with the fact that there are people that have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. I’m talking about the excess. We don’t need millions of dollars to live. Depending on where you live and your familial situation, we don’t even need hundreds of thousands of dollars to live.

I have completely detached from money as an important construct. I’m more concerned with how I’m spending my money going forward. Spending a lot of money on this trip, some of which I simply don’t have at the moment taught me that the experiences I gained were worth much more than my bank account.

I Don’t Need a lot of Space…But I Do Need My Own Space

Living in my car was in some ways easier and harder than I anticipated. It was fairly easy to sleep and stay asleep at night, and I never got into a scary situation at night doing so. That being said, having a toilet and shower at close hand is a luxury I hadn’t thought through. I think I could do it for a short amount of time, but having my own (albeit small) space is very necessary.

Slow Down

We spend so much of our time racing to get to meetings, events, and classes. Why? Because we’ve overloaded ourselves. We’ve been led into the trap of thinking we have to sprint to keep up when in reality we are all running a marathon. Marathons require patience, resilience, endurance and a strong will. And it’s not just about that, it’s about slowing down to smell the roses. Be in love with every day and conscious of where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.

We Are All Tiny and Mighty, Unique and Common

There’s nothing to make you feel small like driving across the country and back in a month’s time. Except maybe standing amongst the Redwoods in California. Or standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We are all so insignificant on our own on this planet. Nothing any of us could do, on our own, could cause any real change. It’s in this way that we are all common.

And yet, when we are together, working toward a single goal, we are mighty. We can do any good or bad thing with millions or billions supporting us. But that is back to my point about relationships. It’s so crucial that we have even one person supporting us. We all have a unique story that needs to be told. No one other person has lived the same life that we have. Our struggles, triumphs, and choices shape our story. Having that backer can start a tidal wave of us living as our true selves.

Every Moment is a Brush Stroke

Painting is also something I spent a lot of time thinking about, in both the literal and figurative sense. It started in Utah, where I imagined the difficulty in expressing the beauty of the landscape through paint. Even photos weren’t doing it justice, how could paint? But through skill and practice, great painters can accurately convey those colors, shapes, and details in their work.

The same can be said about our lives. We are slowly working on a work of art if we choose to see it as such. Each moment, a small brush stroke. Some strokes are perfectly placed, and we won’t attempt to change them, because they are perfect. But some strokes are imperfect. A cramped hand causing an ill-advised pass over the canvas. But that’s the beauty of the painting. Not only can the mistake be revisited and done again, but even if it’s not, forgotten amongst the other perfect brush strokes, we move on.

No painting is perfect. It’s impossible to accomplish with a human hand. And that’s why we have to look at the big picture.

~

We don’t all get opportunities to experience ourselves on the level that I did in this last month. It’s something that I was very intentional about and took very seriously. It’s how seriously I want to make finding new experiences in my life. I’ll be speaking more about those goals and plans in the future, but for now, I hope these lessons can resonate with others.

In Search Of…: A Finish Line

I’m in Tennessee right now. A far cry from Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday. But, not much has changed.

To recap, I spent most of Saturday in Lubbock, which was a surprisingly enjoyable time. Lubbock has that perfect “college town” feel to it, with enough amenities to make it worth exploring.

After Lubbock, I spent Sunday in Austin, which was a bit disappointing. Austin is clearly one of those cities that has outgrown its size, and the city is trying to play catch up. There were so many people everywhere. I get that it was a weekend day, but even moving in some parts of the city was difficult.

I spent that night in a small town in Oklahoma, driving through Dallas in the process. Dallas was huge and predictably chaotic given that the Sunday Night Football game was being played in Arlington.

Yesterday morning, I drove to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and got to enjoy that tiny little mountain town a bit before heading here to Memphis.

Again, not much has changed in that space of time. I’ve seen and done a bit, but nothing, I feel, of note in terms of this trip. But as I’ve been slowly approaching home, I’m starting to spend more time ruminating and planning. I’m nowhere near an answer or solution yet. I want to completely remove myself from the road, have a proper shower, and reflect on the trip as a whole.

And there are some key things that I’ve learned as well. Some things were reinforcements of previous beliefs, others were new. But I’ll spend some time as well thinking about how I want those things to reflect themselves in my life going forward.

I want to see my family and friends again and in general, just experience a life where I’m not living out of my car. Bold, I know.

I may not know exactly what’s going to happen over the next couple of months yet. But I can’t wait to start figuring it out. And to everyone who has followed along, texted or messaged me, and generally been happy for me, thank you. It helped me get through the rough patches and reminded me of how lucky and privileged I am to have been able to do this.

In Search Of…: Sedona

Yes, Sedona gets its own post. Honestly, I may have to do a second post of just pictures.

Sedona was a place that I wasn’t really conscious of while I was planning this trip, which is ironic because Prescott was on the list early. But as I started to be more vocal about my journey, the place that was recommended to me most, even more than Lake Tahoe, was Sedona.

Driving in seemed very similar to the landscape of the rest of Arizona. It wasn’t particularly unique. But, coming from the north, there’s a bend around a large collection of the notable red rocks, and Sedona opens up like Narnia. Verde Valley is like this secluded, hidden paradise of incredible. It’s, in my opinion, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to.

The main thing I was here for was the vortexes. If you haven’t heard of them, there are four significant points in Sedona where the energy fields are elevated, and they are considered to be places of spiritual healing and connection. The energy swirls in these places, and it’s reflected in the trees around them.

Sedona Tree

I headed for the Airport Vortex Mesa, very close to Sedona’s airport. The free parking space was closed, so I parked about a half-mile away and hiked. And this ended up being very purposeful.

The hike there wasn’t too bad, but it was almost like we were all conscious of what was to come. Our pilgrimage to the site was quiet, no one speaking much. Very much a pilgrimage in that sense. And once we got to the large rock overlook, it could be felt how reverent the place was.

It was, by far, the most unique outdoor experience I’ve ever had. I’ve had moments where I really FELT a place that I was in. That part wasn’t surprising. But there were lots of people at the top, but there was almost no sound. People were meditating, lying down, or just absorbing it. But no one was talking. A church is the only place I can recall ever being that was held in that kind of regard. I think that’s the best way to describe it.

Sedona Summit

Once back in the car, I knew I wanted to go to at least one more. Two of the remaining vortexes, Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock, were very close to each other, so I went to Cathedral Rock, with the intention of seeing Bell Rock after. And for the best reason, I didn’t make it to Bell Rock.

I had to park about a quarter-mile up the road from the trailhead due to the parking lot being full. It’s such an interesting location because surrounding this huge, impressive natural area is a lot of expensive houses. It makes sense why people would want to live nearby, but interesting nonetheless.

I read ahead of time that the trail to the summit was relatively short, 3/4 of a mile. But it gains 650 feet in elevation, which is kind of crazy. And it really shows how much a difference in elevation makes. At the Grand Canyon, I could barely climb a few hundred feet without stopping multiple times. Sedona is about 2,500 feet lower, and I had a lot easier time climbing this trail, even with the crazy gain.

Sedona Selfie

The entry was amazing and not terribly difficult. But around a third of the way up, there was a ridiculous rock formation. It was honestly more of a wall. There was a narrow strip that was for your feet, and you were kind of on your own. A couple I met on the way up and myself were assured that once you got past it, it was easy from then on. I never saw the couple again, so I’m left to assume they didn’t make it up.

After that, it did get easier, but it was by no means easy. There were still a few steep spots, but once I got to the top, the views made everything worth it.

Sedona Cathedral

This was a less intense, spiritual experience than the Airport Mesa, but it was no less stunning. I spent a long time up there soaking in as much as I could. Once I had my fill, I made my way back down, and by the time I got to my car, I was wiped. No Bell Rock Vortex for me this time.

Lastly, I was in search of some gifts and mementos. I found some shops and headed that way, and I finally found the blemish on this oasis. Sedona is very clearly a town that is mid-scaling to become a tourist trap. The localized shopping and restaurants are mostly contained to one section of the town, and it’s overrun.

Considering it was a Tuesday afternoon, traffic was terrible and the construction didn’t help. Parking was a nightmare everywhere and I was a bit flustered. But, I thought I’d try a restaurant and walk from there. No parking to be found. Ok, I’ll just hit the shops. Nada.

Finally, I found a small spiritual shop that looked interesting and sought refuge there. I love crystals and their energy, but I wasn’t really in the market for more. And that was the majority of the offerings here. I strolled through the tarot books and decks, the jewelry and statues, and was about to leave. But something finally caught my eye.

The front, a red ocean wave enso circle. An enso circle, which I have tattooed on my left arm, is, in Japanese culture, a symbol for absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void. It stood out to me a year ago and holds a lot of meaning to me.

Book 1

Book 2

Surrounding the circle, and wrapping around to the back, mountains, and waves. Enclosed in the cover, a blank journal. It was one of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever come across, and I loved it. I’m not sure what I’m going to use it for, but it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever bought for myself. Well worth navigating the tourist flooded streets.

I ended up not being able to get a shirt or stickers or something else that might tell other people that I had been there. I tried, even after the journal, but the place I settled on, labeled as having a gift shop, was empty. I took that as a sign that I had gotten everything I needed from Sedona.

And really, that’s kind of the point of this trip. The experiences and stories I gained can only really be shared amongst friends and family in a retelling. A t-shirt or sticker may open up that opportunity, but until you share the stories, there can’t begin to be a level of understanding.

 

In Search Of…: A Canyon

One of my favorite things about being out here has been the proximity of so many National Parks. California has nine, Utah has five and Colorado has four (Alaska has eight, but that’s not within reach). Kentucky is surrounded on all sides by states that have National Parks, in addition to its own. But all of those states combined have six total parks. It’s not even close.

So, after visiting Zion, I made my way south to the Grand Canyon. It was actually much different than I anticipated. For some reason, I had in my head that the Grand Canyon was basically a big, long hole in the ground surrounded by desert. It couldn’t have been more different.

GC Tree

The first thing I noticed was the forest I drove through to get there. Many pines and other year-round trees paving my way to the canyon, due mostly to another surprising fact: the elevation. It’s about 7,000 feet above sea level, which explains the climate.

Once in the park, there was more forest all along the rim and different types of trees all through the canyon, changing depending on the various climates in the canyon itself. It’s such a complex ecosystem that I wouldn’t have guessed had I never been.

I stopped at a couple of the viewpoints and went down part of one of the trails. I didn’t go very far, which is probably good because it was a struggle getting back up. It’s something that I underestimated about this trip, but I do wish I was in better shape. I’d be more capable of exploring some of these areas and seeing new things. But as I said before, it just gives me more goals for the future.

In the gift shop, I learned that the Grand Canyon has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, just this summer. This means that its one of the more than sixty places in the world that are the best for stargazing. The low light pollution lends itself to this and gives me further reason to go back to the park.

GC In Tree

After leaving the park, I headed for nearby Prescott, Arizona. It’s a place I’ve always had eyes for, largely because it’s relatively inexpensive and near some forestry. Much like many of the places I’ve been, however, it didn’t resonate with me. Pictures can only tell so much of the story, and as I said before, the people will truly explain the place you’re in.

So, for the first time in the last three weeks, I got a hotel room. And it was much needed. A proper shower and bed were really great, and it was nice to not have to rearrange my car. And the complimentary breakfast in the morning would prove to be very necessary for my journey the next day: Sedona.

In Search Of…: Something Else

A lot has happened since my last post. I’m in Arizona now, and while I’m enjoying this trip a lot, I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted. The thing I’ve come to understand the most is that most of these places, the cities anyway, are pretty much the same. There’s a Starbucks and some hotels and the same chain restaurants. 
 
The differences come in the people. They’re what adds the character, good and bad, to someplace. And it’s our relationships with those people that make a place worth being. I’m understanding why people stay in the same place their whole lives. And while I still don’t think that will be my fate, nor do I want to stay put, I understand it now. 
Joshua Tree Large Tree
After I left the coast, I traveled to Santa Barbara, across to San Bernardino and out to Joshua Tree. I wanted to stop in Los Angeles, but given the wildfire situation and power outages, etc., I didn’t want to add to the chaos in the city
 
Joshua Tree is one of the places that I had on my list that I was most excited about. Not only had I heard a lot of great things, but lately, there was news of people going into the park and tearing out the trees. These trees are hundreds and some even thousands of years old. I can’t wrap my head around why people would do this in general, let alone to the Joshua Trees. Regardless, I wanted to see them before the area could be destroyed further. 
 
Joshua Tree was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had on this trip. You could feel the energy coming from the forests even in the car. It’s hard to explain, but it was unique. A very similar feeling to being around the Redwoods.
Joshua Tree Small Tree
But when I touched the trees, the feeling was enhanced. The way I wrote it down immediately after was that I could feel waves of sound coming through the bark. It left a residue of sensation, a ringing, on my palms that traveled through the rest of my body. That part was new. 
 
I left there feeling rejuvenated in a way I wasn’t expecting and headed for Las Vegas. And that was the polar opposite of Joshua Tree.
Vegas Sign
I stayed in Vegas for a few hours. I found a delicious local restaurant and ate dinner, went to the Bellagio and played a few slot machines, walked around for a bit, and left. I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy Vegas in the way that most do. It’s everything that I don’t find appealing, crammed into a few blocks. 
 
Fresh off the experience in Joshua Tree, my body flat rejected Vegas. I was miserable, and I left not long after I arrived. I did get to see the Bellagio fountain show though!
Vegas Fountain
Next up was Zion National Park. I was ready for a similar experience as Joshua Tree but was let down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, Zion was beautiful and stunning and incredible. But it was Sunday, so it was packed. In addition to that, it felt like a short trip through the park. The places I most wanted to see were part of a shuttle service that I was unaware of until I was in the park already. 
 
It was partly my fault for getting my expectations so high, so that’s what I’d chalk my frustration up to. I’d like to go back someday and do it right. 
 
And that’s how I feel about a lot of these places. I want to go back and take my time exploring them. Do more of the hiking and physical things when I’m more capable. Camp out at the ones that allow it in the warmer months. In the end, I’m grateful to be able to do any of this, so I won’t get greedy quite yet. 
Zion Creek

trees

have you felt a tree?

not the bark

or the fleshy inside, exposed

by trauma

have you FELT it?

the hum of the rings

echoing its strength with age

the roots, a tight grip on the earth

nourishing the base

and holding its place

the branches stretching upward

always in pursuit of more

most will physically feel

but will your soul also?

~

Photo by niko photos on Unsplash