I am sitting in Reggio Calabria where the rain prickles slightly and the sun attempts to warm you for a few seconds. Apparently, the unusual weather continues to follow me, the wettest and coldest the Calabria region has seen in many years. I remember hearing similar words when I walked through Scotland. I'm beginning to wonder if it's me... but I'm aware that I'm just witnessing the changes on the ground that are taking place all over the planet and the pace of "unusual" is increasing. Our planet is changing drastically fast. At my snails rhythm I am feeling and witnessing our impact on this world, one that is undeniable and at times leaves me deeply saddened and searching for hope that we can still save our beloved world.
In my last post, I shared how I had decided to leave walking the west coast of Europe to join an expedition called Steppes to the West. It was a meeting of creativity between Karl Bushby, another globe-trotting walker and Baigalmaa Baikal, a mongolian girl with a dream to take camels across the ancient Silk Road. I had walked across Mongolia in the earlier part of my journey but I felt strongly about going back, as part of a team, to support Baikals dream and return to a place (and almost the exact route I had walked) that would challenge me in every way- a place that helped me discover my greatest strength. And a place that once terrified me.
I just gave a TEDx talk about it in Edinburgh. The video has yet to be released. And honestly, I may need friends to watch it and give me feedback. When asked if it went well, all I know is that I managed to remember my ten minute dialogue. But I was trembling and don't recall much of the experience itself.
From August to mid-December I gave my all to Steppes to the West. Karl and I worked hard to recruit a team that would enjoy the challenges of walking across Mongolia. We managed to pull together a team of seven of us- some experienced and some new to expeditions. I was even lucky to have two friends from my hometown of Oregon.
Now that we had humans onboard, we needed to learn more about how to work with our camels. I had found Russell and Tara with Australian Camels and loved their techniques of training and working with camels. Luckily, with all the sponsorship proposals they receive, Tara managed to hear my plea for help. Although we had gone through a few Mongolian herders, I had noticed neglect that was painful and disturbing to me. (note: it was not so much about Mongolian tradition as it was the herders themselves.)
Russell and Tara assembled a small group of camel lovers that came out to help us train our furry friends and we all fell in love (with camels and each other.)
I seriously believe in what Tara and Russell are teaching. It's gentle, loving, and respectful. I watched as Russell had Shamrock, our most nervous, mouth-foaming and anti-human camel nose-to-nose in a face cuddle within two days. I know it might sound cliche but Russell truly is the camel whisperer!
And all this was done mostly in snow blizzards!
I feel seriously indebted to these two and their entire team of clients and friends who came out to help the STTW team. They all worked tirelessly to help create a respectful and trusting relationship between human and camel. And as Tara often said, "Camel training is the best personal/spiritual training." Because I found it to be true that I learned a lot about my communications skills and the camels helped me to listen to those moments when I was scared. They are the most forgiving creatures I've ever encountered. Well, they are like big dogs- just with longer legs!
Now, the update is that STTW is a new project. All the team members have left except for Baikal, the mongolian who held the dream of taking camels across the silk road. I wish her all the best as she continues her journey.
I will refrain from mentioning all the reasons I left the expedition but I will say that all the team members, including our sponsors, Australian Camels, have completely pulled away from STTW. And what hurst us all the most, was leaving the camels.
I made a best friend on that trip. He was over seven feet tall. His fur smelled of the smoke that came from the gers (yurt) chimney. I could hum a song from a distance and his ears always found my lips.
But It all started with pain.
While I was looking after the camels early in the expedition before any training had taken place, I noticed one of our camels was caught with his guide line wrapped around his nose peg and left leg. (another important note- without going into details, it's important to say that the nose pegs were a major discrepancy and point of argument throughout the entire expedition. And was a major factor in my leaving the expedition as well as other members and AC).
I ran quickly to the camel and saw a pool of blood as the nose peg was cutting into his septum. His front leg was wrapped by his guide line- I could hear a gentle moaning- and with a desire to end it as quickly as possible- I used my knife to cut his guide line.
We both stood stunned for a few minutes.
he leaned his head towards me. I cautiously began petting him between the ears, thinking he must be terrified himself, but he kept leaning his whole body into me as if it comforted him. Or perhaps he knew it calmed me as well. I slowly assembled a new rope on his harness without any use of his nose peg.. I sang "Blackbird" as I petted him and melded into his chinny chin fur.
We were companions from then on. I had fallen in love with Harley (his name) and became a camel lover.
He's irreplaceable but to stay in my integrity I had to leave the expedition. It still saddens me today. I am eternally grateful for being invited to be part of STTW and to Tara and Russell who showed me the depth of a camels connection.
WHERE I AM NOW
I am back in Europe for a third go and walking through the mountains of Southern Italy as I make my way North. My SPOT LOCATOR is on if you want to see where I'm walking.
It's just me and Athena.
(photo credits to Australian Camels, TEDxUOE, Andy at YourArtsetFree.Com, and me and an iPhone.)
It's been awhile since I've posted. Not because anything is wrong, quite the opposite, I wanted to take a break from all the pressure I put on myself to document, write and update everyone. I just wanted to be on my adventure with the absence of selfies and check-ins. My intent wasn't to neglect my worried family or curious supporters. I just wanted to get lost to find clarity. It may seem contradictory, but it worked, or is still working because clarity is something that takes gentle patience to listen for.
I thought I'd write a long letter sharing the details of my route lately, across the southern island of New Zealand, finishing England and my North West walk across Europe with my mom cycling alongside me. (Mom was a rockstar by the way. At 70 years young she bought a tricycle, shipped it to the Uk to meet me and began living the high-life of camping next to dung piles and corn fields. She never complained once. Mom completely impressed and inspired me.)
In terms of the letter updating you, I opted for a video. This will give you an idea of why camels are in my life, why I'm back in a country I already walked and how I feel about it.
And then there's Brene Brown that's just shaking up my world. More on that to come.
Here's the video for you.
Sending you lots of love.
Scotland was amazing. Challenging and humbling as a long walk should be. I nibbled on wild strawberries and contemplated an ultimate surrender as a bog took half my leg and shoe. I did manage to retrieve both, thankfully, just a little damaged but in working order. Both foot and shoe stayed muddy for days but functional.
I had left Athena behind in Edinburgh and with the help of new friends I picked up a pack, walking poles, and headed for the start of the Penine Way.
I will divulge much more in some short stories.
I am honored to have a few short stories in a book created by Thor and Siffy Torkildson called The Walkabout chronicles: Epic Journeys by Foot.
Available on Amazon here.
But for now, let's get to the title of this blog. A Tramp. It's quite an interesting word to me. I only ever heard it growing up as a nasty word to describe a promiscuos woman. However, New Zealand (and Mr. Webster) describes it as a walk through a place for long distances. A local kiwi goes tramping in the forest or in their paddocks or through the town. So, I'm a proud woman declaring that I'm about to go tramping myself in the woods.
I'll take a deep breath and see if I can share a few highlights now.
I walked the heather moorlands where the Brontes sisters lived and understand how lonesome those hills were to inspire Wuthering Heights. The slugs in Scotland like Oats. Tartan is the true word for plaid.
Back in Sicily, a woman joined me for a week- she taught me how to open a bottle of wine with just a sneaker. No joke. And yes, I'm proud to have that in my bag of tricks. Thanks Nadia!
There's a lot more but for now I'll practice writing these strange and wonderous events to share it with you as a whole picture in the future.
Thank you for all your encouragement and support.
I'm at the very tippy top of the mainland of Scotland. It's named John O'Groats but I won't spend my time researching who he was. Instead, I'll walk onto the stony beach and visit a 5,000 year old village and pretend I'm settling onto a stone box bed with a sheep skin for cushion. How did they light their fires with so few trees? (story below)
I've been entranced by druidic tales and strong female characters of the Highlands since a child. My father says we are of Scottish and Irish decent but it goes no further of understanding than his red curly hair and freckles that I inherited. I feel comfortable here though it may be the outrageous kindness of the people I've encountered in the three days I've been here or something that flows in the blood and imagination.
The inescapibility of the ferocious wind makes me feel a bit better about my hunters cap, complete with faux fur and red plaid covering. I remember my friend, acupuncturists and skillful decorator, Melissa, telling me about wind in chinese medicine. It isn't quite literally the wind that causes sickness but the dampness at certain points in our body. I think my ears are the gateway to my downfall. If my ears are hot I can't concentrate but if the cold wind is licking them like we're in a sexual foreplay, I'm brought to my knees, trembling and disoriented. Luckily, I believe ear muffs never go out of style!
I did a new thing yesterday. I took a tour bus. Initially I felt quite ashamed as I am that person who outwardly sighs and inwardly cringes when a tour bus rolls up on a peaceful adventure. However, being so close to the Orkney Islands I couldn't come up with any reason not to visit the remote Isles only accessible by John O' Groats and home to some of the greatest Scottish tales of all time. Being on foot this was the cheapest and most accessible option. I thought of it as a holiday before beginning my foot adventure in the Highlands.
My tour guide was a jolly fellow who shared a love for history and particularly for the Orkney Isles.
Here is my new favorite story (adapted, edited and spicefully reframed by me- initially told by my tour guide! Silver lining in all decisions. This story was worth the trip.)
The local villagers attended church every Sunday where the pastor always included a prayer, "If God chooses to cast down a ship may he cast it down on our shores."
With no native trees it was difficult to find ways to keep the cottages warm in the winter months. They relied on imports and shipwrecks to fuel their fires.
One evening, close to sunset, all the villagers gathered to watch a large wooden ship being blown by a brewing storm towards their rocky cliffs. They watched with anticipation of all the trinkets, tools and timber the ship wood provide.
Then they saw a small row boat tossing itself towards the ship. It as little Janis.
Janis had grown up with a love for rowing and would practice in all kinds of weather, especially in rainstorms. She was known to be a bit of a tomboy but her popularity was in her second-sight.
There was a game children played on guessing whether the cow would give birth to a male or female calf. Janis never guessed wrong.
And even her rowing came natural as if she could control the waves and currents, or at least knew what their next dance move was.
As the villagers watched Janis row in the storm they became tense as they realized she was headed for the wooden ship. Janis was leading the ship safely through the rocky terrain. The captain was able to save the ship and the hundreds of crewmen onboard.
This angered the villagers. And started talk.
Talk that Janis was a witch.
She was arrested and sent to the prison in Kirkwall where she was tried as a witch and found guilty. This meant burring at the stake.
Janis had grown up with a local fella, Darragh, the same age and an equal fervor for life. They had learned and practiced rowing together and had grown affectionate for one another over the years. Some say they were lifelong lovers since they met as children.
But when Janis was just twenty years old Darragh's boat washed ashore without him. He was pronounced dead.
While Janis awaited her religious burning, a familiar looking man entered the village. Darragh had returned.
He had gone out fishing but an angry storm had pushed him further into sea where he was rescued by a British Naval ship. He had to abandon his boat and continue on with the ships direction, leaving his love and life behind. The ships course was determined and could not change course back to the village.
Grateful for being saved, Darragh offered his services to the Navy while vowing to return to his love and hometown.
It took him three years and when he returned to his village he discovered that Janis was imprisoned and awaiting death by fire.
He had saved money in hopes of buying some land for him and Janis. But this situation beckoned something immediate and skillful.
Darragh went and bought two of the best bottles of Scotch he could find. He traveled by horse to Kirkwall and entered the local jail. He began telling his stories of Navy service to the Jail guards while offering them shots of Scotch. Another shot. And a few more until they were sloppily drunk.
When one had passed out from drunkenness, Darragh grabbed the keys to the cells and roamed the halls until he heard Janis answering his calls.
He found her and freed her.
They ran to the seaside in search of a vessel to carry them far from their village.
Both of them were in disguise and offering their cooking services to gain access on a ship.
Janis had gone to a local shop for provisions when she recognized someone. A man with a black beard and the smallest hint of a white streak in the center of it. It was the British captain of the wooden ship she had veered through safely outside her village. He agreed to take her and Darragh onboard.
Some say they spent their life assisting the Captain as experts at sea while others like to think they made their way to another part of Europe and settled.
Although nobody knows the outcome, the story ends the same.... that they lived happily ever after.
My Dear Girlfriends,
I am sipping espresso on a rooftop in Rome and searching for something different to do just so I can use the phrase, "while in Rome." Any suggestions?
I am watching the city move beneath me and I feel nervous to plunge my body into the dancing sea of people. Not sure if my time in the Outback has forever changed me, craving less skin contact and welcoming the cutting bristles of spinifex. I curl into this chair and dream of a few days from now, on the island of Sardinia.
I wasn't exactly going for white sandy beaches and million dollar yachts but the springtime in the mountains are whistling my tune. The island is sparsely populated giving me a sense of hope for some wild solitude while in the ever gorwing population of Europe.
There's a long-distance hike, the Sentiero Italia, that goes the full length of Italy from Sardinia to Trieste. However, it is no PCT, with marked stones and signs, and it turns out that the trails through Sardinia and Sicily are like Bigfoot, a myth of greatness. This means I won't be as secluded or easily lost as I prefer, but it might be the most beautiful air my lungs may breathe before I head into the mainland of Italy.
And as all legs of my journey begin, I am excited and terrified.
As I walked through Turkey I had a vision of women walking with me, through video and audio. Women walking for women. To walk for a purpose that extends love and support greater than our selves. It strokes the tender place in me that desires my walk to offer something emotionally tangible and action-oriented, something more than a few dollars to a non-profit organization. A few steps together, from all corners of the world, that offered a spark, a long-distance hug, a go-get-em wink or an expression reading you're not alone.
And perhaps there are ways that the walk itself offers that, at least to my close friends and family, without much effort on my part.
But in all transparency, it is a self-satisfying relationship. When I walk up that mountain or through that sandstorm, it is YOU that I need. It is when I feel despair that I tap into your stories of strength. Yours, and the women I have never met, but read about and fell so deeply in love with their courage and boldness.
My vision for Walk a Mile is still in pregnancy. I am not ready to birth a movement dear to my heart that requires active connection, cultivation and support, which I cannot authentically give as I seek deeper stillness. Even after thirty kilometers I can feel like I’ve gone no where and my feet or simply pushing the earth under me.
When I think of how the walk has changed me, there are sparse words. It comes at moments when I am tired, hungry and confused and yet still feel whole. It is when I feel like I lost the purpose of my walk as I fall asleep in comfortable loneliness in my tent and by morning the birds and the clay in my toenails remind me of who I am. I am becoming a woman.
Under the Tuscan sun, I dance with the teenager that took ecstasy and cuddled all night on the beach with her friends while they talked about who they wanted to be when they grew up. Although none of them wanted to ever grow up, or move from that sand pit molded to the piled bodies.
And the 20 year-old old who experienced her first one-night-stand with a guy from Jerusalem who tried to sell her hand-cream as she walked passed him in the mall.
The 25 year-old who thought she would marry her boyfriend, have three kids and live in a teepee. And the 32 year- old who got a crazy idea to walk around the world because she felt truly alive when she thought about it. I cradle the memories in the fire pit and honor the stages of my life. And the stages of this walk.
I am halfway along this beginning-to-end journey. And I crave the solitude while I know I am not truly walking alone. As I am content that this project has left me broke in the bank, it has not led me astray from my heart. I just cannot sell the walk by self-promoting it. While many people offer advice (the same as I would have once given to a client) that I could be receiving monthly donations if I shared more and asked more often. I could get more attention, and therefore more contributions, if I reached out to media and newspapers.
It just hasn’t felt good to me or to the integrity of the walk. It may seem an oxymoron to some, I am physically visible as I maneuver myself openly and vulnerably around our planet and yet I seek less attention. That may change at some point but often I feel like a locomotive hermit crab.
I have not yet gone without or had to dig into a trashcan for food, although it is not beneath me to accept a half drunken bottle of wine!
I feel complete with the dirt under my nails and the blisters on my heels.
I am happy shitting in the bush.
So for now, I walk to get lost and find my way. I will be setting foot in Olbia, Sardinia and make my way South towards Sicily and up into the mainland.
Please, keep walking and dancing with me.
When that rainstorm leaves my bones soaked and heavy, it is your smile that pulls me up and over the rock. Your hand that warms my shivering shoulders.
Thank you for your support and understanding. Friends are the tide that sings to the moon.
I love and miss you all so much.
Your sequined hermit crab
The beginning of my Gibb River walk in the Kimberley was magical. Birds invited me for early morning tea and the mid-afternoon sun seemed to only shed deeper meaning and shadows between the gorge walls.
Then, Athena got her sixth flat.
I lost my spoon (and relearned the joys of finger eating).
Got sprayed with cow diarrhea by a passing cattle truck- followed by a maniacal laughter and the full awareness of no shower for weeks to come.
The flies were multiplying by the minute.
Then one afternoon, it went from unbearably hot to brain-boiling.
I could no longer wear my typical (aka-my everyday-my only) pants and t-shirt, the only comfortable thing to wear was my cotton dress. It allows a little breeze and when no one is around, no passing vehicle or cattle herder, I lift it up to my chest, tuck it in my overly tight sports bra, creating an air conditioner utilizing the wind and the cascade of sweat dripping down my torso.
In desperation to avoid bbq'd skin, I managed to make a decent shade structure, with some rope, a dress, a broken umbrella and a few bungee cords. McGyver had more than a fashionable mullet to inspire.
While on the Gibb River, I was reading a book about the Kimberley people, particularly the tribes of the Worora people and wanted to walk some of the stretches they had lived and walked before. It was not an affectionate desire, the tribes in the North were known for cannibalism and laws that allowed a man to spear his wife if she could no longer give him children. A harsh landscape reflected a harsh lifestyle.
What became interesting to me is that the coastal tribes that had an abundance of fish, fresh water and shade, didn't express a humble happiness that the central Australian tribes seemed to emulate.
The isolation and long journeys in the desert forced them to thrive on the little they had. They drank less water and yet seemed to have more organized parties and dancing. The tribes along the Western Coast imparted cruel punishments and vengeful tactics. But this is found throughout human history. Different morals and values. And most often, no matter the degree of violence inflicted on warring tribes, the community itself is caring and they look after one another.
That is until you become a barren female in the Worora tribe.
Their homeland is where I was headed. I changed my finishing route in Australia, from the lush city of Darwin, to the Aboriginal village of Kalumburu.
Walking the world means there are a lot of places that I will miss out on seeing, like cultural landmarks, museums, and all things touristy. Admittedly, no matter how ancient or historic a place is, if there's a tourist bus outside, I will bee-line it in the opposite direction.
When I see images of friends eating gelato outside the Sistine Chapel or a yoga retreat in Bali, I am reminded that my way of travel is so vastly different. When people are getting coffee in a Monaco cafe, I'm the dirt-smeared homeless woman, complete with overflowing buggy, that confuses people as to whether or not they should offer me their half-eaten croissant.
I've been presumed a refugee; a bag lady (which, after picking things up off the side of the road, I inevitably have to own that one); a spiritual pilgrim; and a trash collector. Ok, I can own that one too. I carry all my own trash until I can throw it away. Because after all, there is no "away". The least I can do is leave only a trace of foot prints.
This journey is about how I walk, and where the walk takes me.
I am in it for the love of adventure and exploration, both of physical landscapes and of the heart.
I am in it for the challenges I will face that will strengthen my character.
I walk as a free woman who could choose crazy-experiment over secure-job in a world where many women still can't choose their husband or education. I walk with them in my thoughts. And the little that people give me, I give to them. I can still eat a bruised croissant if I have to.
I walk because riding a bike is still too fast. And I'm clumsy. I once sprained my ankle running in place.
A passer-by in a car once said, "It's a lot easier to drive."
Easy would be at home in air conditioning, my butt glued to the lounge with a book and waiting for the pizza to turn a perfect golden brown.
I chose to walk because it felt right for me. I knew full well "easy" wasnt included in the itinerary.
I walk into a web of the unknown and slowly watch the world around me shape itself into being.
I can no longer walk past a grasshopper without admiring its genius construct or the cacophony of bird calls in my immediate surrounding.
To walk the earth, for me, is to practice being deeply connected to the subtlety of every moment and how it changes and forms itself.
This walk is like a marriage. When things get tough I'm not going to quit or choose something more comfortable and beautiful.
I may reach the end of my walk and still wonder what this walk is about.
A year ago. Colorado. It is the end of a women’s yoga retreat. I don’t know anyone at the start but six days later I am nude and riddled with laughter as my breasts bounce, pivot and smack against my sweaty skin. They are flopping so wildly it’s possible they’ll fly right off, but I don’t care a bit what it looks like. I am in ecstasy. I know I am meant to be dancing, singing and crying together with these women. It fits, it feels right and I feel overwhelming gratitude for having invested myself in this game-changing week.
As my body lay in prostration on the tile floor, cooling down after a night of devotional dance, I am not seeking an answer. My mind is full of white light and the cold ground melts into a soft embrace. It feels like being held by my mother when I was a little girl and she’d stroke my hair humming me to sleep. Tears descend and a smile grows in my chest. And I hear, “Take a walk.”
So, I do. Immediately. I stand up and begin walking the circular two-mile path around the retreat just as it strikes midnight. I walk slowly, each step deliberate, listening to the crunch of leaves under my feet. I haven’t done much night walking before, so if it weren’t for being sandwiched between a Zen center and a Hindu temple, my heebie jeebies about things that go bump in the night might have convinced me to stay indoors on the dance floor.
As it happens, I walk, and under the Southwest sky, the landscape turns from an evergreen desert to a wet-logged forest. I see African boab trees and Mount Everest. There are Mongolian yurts next to the temples of Angkor Wat. I am walking around the world at midnight in Colorado.
A week earlier, I had come to the retreat with a question. What am I supposed to be doing with my life?Although I felt content with my current circumstances, I craved to know what it could feel like to have absolutely no doubt that I was doing what I was born to do. I wanted to wake up every morning with a YES in my body–a lust for life. If I knew that feeling, I would devote myself to it. I would risk everything for it.
As I walked the circle of the retreat center, my initial response was a joy that crept like Ivy from my belly up to the crown of my head and out my fingers and toes. I began running with all the energy and aliveness moving inside me. I was cackling like a wild witch (a tactic I would later learn could be useful to ward off certain company). I could feel the air and all the forest beasts celebrating with me that I had found it. It was the discovery of what I needed to do: Go walking.
It didn’t make any logical sense to me (and still doesn’t) but my job is not to make sense of it. It’s learning to trust in what I feel is true for me. And of course, there are justifiable fears–persistently provoked and supported by family and friends who thought I was experiencing an early mid-life crisis–of the horrible things that can happen to a woman walking and camping alone on the side of a road somewhere or in the middle of nowhere. And I was frightened by the thought of all that I would have to leave behind to embark on a journey that would take at least five years to complete.
Though as strong a force as that fear was, I could not come up with enough excuses to play hooky on this one. When I said YES to walking around the world, everything changed for me. I began fully trusting in every step. Now that I have crossed Oregon and Australia on foot, I know that I have to trust every step. It can mean life or death to panic and ignore my gut instinct.
My average distance is twenty miles a day but on this night in Western Australia, I am painfully approaching the forty-mile marker. I am no longer walking as much as I am kicking my legs forward, hoping they’d land in front of me to keep carrying me ahead. I am searching for a place to sleep.
I have to stop and lie down to raise my feet towards the sky and recirculate the blood. My ankles are beginning to swell along with tears of frustration.
The Australian outback is comprised of wide-open spaces and occasional clumps of grass. So when the heat becomes too strong at midday, I begin walking in the cool of night. But this evening, I hit a long stretch of tall golden grass on all sides of me, which is home to some of the world’s most poisonous snakes. Walking into waist-high grass is about as scary as plunging into shark-infested water off the plank of a ship. I am desperate for a flat, open area to pitch my tent, crawl in and cry my sore and swollen body to sleep.
I find a spot to rest but it is too dangerous to camp here. My feet are in the air. I’m lying on my back. And if you can’t tell it’s coming, well, I am feeling sorry for myself. I feel stupid for being in such an inhospitable place all by my lonesome, incapable of finding a place just to sleep for a few hours.
I am getting a crash course on doubt. Not that doubt is a new feeling for me but I had thought that perhaps when I was living my purpose, doubt would have melted like cotton candy on a rainy day. It is still here and it takes a little more wailing like a kid mid-tantrum before the tears dry and the view of the night sky behind my feet wraps around me like a shawl. The drone of cicadas in the distance hums a calming stillness in my heart.
I breathe the glistening stars and the vast emptiness around them into my body and whisper several times: I am following. I trust you.
As I roll onto my side and push myself up for the next mile, a reflective strip catches the glow of my headlamp. I limp toward it and tucked behind a thicket of trees is a narrow path leading to a sandpit the size of a football field. I look up at the sky and smile, “That was quick.”
Under the stars, in my sleeping bag, on a football field sized sandpit, alone somewhere in the Australian outback, I cry myself to sleep, but the tears are not self-doubt induced. They are the magical satisfaction that I am exactly where I need to be and that has always been the case.
It's been three months since I crossed the bridge in Turkey from Asia to Europe. This time was intended as a writing retreat before making my way North through Europe.
But I am still new to writing. And still haven't adopted that title. I wonder sometimes how many pieces of writing I have to toss, never to be read or published, that I will consider myself a writer. I mostly get tangled in commas, run-on sentences, and the through line. Which the word throughline is spelled three different ways, leaving me with the critical decision to add a dash, a space or nothing. Then I check my thesaurus just to make sure the word even fits. I like to think it's a rite of passage that other writers in their humble beginnings know all too well.
What I do know is that as I attempt to get small fragments of my walk into short stories, the true joy is being back in the memory and writing it for the love of the art. How many ways can one write how to shit in the woods in a non offensive manner? Or an unintended offensive way? Or perhaps today I don't care if it's offensive to anyone uncomfortable reading about the natural #2 inevitability.
When I am staring at a blank piece of paper and the only words that I can scrounge are Once upon a time, I pull out paper and paint and practice watercolors.
Practice makes perfect is repeated in my mind from a child.
I look at the one thousandth lemon I've painted and realize, I still don't get it. Making a round object actually look three dimensional seems to be incredibly hard for me. Most of the time I end up with a brown puddle of water on my paper. Frustration guaranteed.
But I still do it.
I still write.
I still paint.
I may never be great (or even good) at either of them. It's because it's deeply satisfied with the practice of it; overused commas and puddled lemons accepted.
Perhaps this is the way my Grandmother felt about crossword puzzles. She did several a day. Challenged her memory and creative thought process. But she was also happier afterwards and content while doing it.
Have you ever heard that once you make a living out of something you love to do, it can take the fun out of it?
I don't believe this has to be true. However, I do think that if I had a book deadline I might write differently. It could be more of a challenge to create creative moments. Whereas now, I write when I want to write.
And if I ever did get any good at painting a lemon, would the enjoyment of painting it decrease?
It's not about getting paid to do something. I think it's about the pressure to deliver.
I haven't had my business for two years. I wanted to allow myself a feeling of freedom from social-media strategy, launches, webinars, and list-building. I made a decision to devote myself to the walk and let go of formal strategies to fundraise.
I felt it, for awhile. Then a creeping sensation settled in when I got close to wifi. It's as if I didn't want anyone to know I was accessible. A blog must be posted, new photos, Facebook posts and messages to answer. I found myself getting initially overwhelmed and quickly heading for the road again, a place of no signal.
I don't have a sponsor demanding film footage or a publisher reminding me of a deadline. It's just you and me. Here on this blog.
But I still felt a pressure to get something out. Because that's what bloggers do, they blog.
I take few photos. I film even less. And I'm posting less and less online and just writing for myself.
I like to imagine that although you like to hear from me, you can understand the circumstances I strive to create. Something that still feels free; wild at heart; lost in adventure.
My aim is to keep my walk simple and manageable. To share parts of it with you through images and words. And I am learning to navigate by a desire to share with you from my heart rather than a pressure to create.
Some of my close friends would say I disappear for awhile but I hope they can attest that I always check back in.
Sometimes, my father emails me with five simple words, "Where the hell are you?"
Perhaps that's a through-line here. (I'll add the dash for a little pizazz!)
I like to get lost.
I need to get lost.
And our connection will thrive if you know that although I sometimes disappear somewhere, I always find my way back.
And hopefully with some treats in hand!!
I've organized the website to harbor short stories via the country, on The Words page.
I've edited the chronicles from Australia and they are also located in one place, on one page. I am still writing and some stories are not yet completed and many more are still to be written. So, the walls are up but watch your head as the rafters are still protruding.
I have two new stories for you. Totally at a random part of the walk. One in Mongolia and one in Georgia.
Snow Sneakers about my debut in Mongolia and Queen Tamar- My heart wrenching love story between me and a furry friend. (I still haven't written about Oogi. One sad love story at a time is all I can chew).
The rare film footage I've taken is put into two new videos.
My attempt to make an oncoming snow blizzard a bit more inviting.
Watch it Here.
A magical morning in Mongolia!
Watch it Here.
Lastly, got to make this good, in case you don't hear from me for another three months ;-)....
A view walking with me across Mongolia, Georgia and Turkey.
Watch it Here.
I appreciate you being on this journey with me.
Thank you for watching me get lost.
Till next time.
Batumi to Istanbul
When I left Tbilisi, Georgia to head for the European side of Istanbul, my love for the street markets selling paintings, jewelry, silver cups adorned with turquoise, and colorful rugs were hard to pass by. I was heading out of the city to walk to the Black Sea. So, as the sun glinted off the brass and gemstones, I stopped to look and admire the things that I would perhaps buy if I had somewhere to put them. As I browsed I could hear Athena (my cart) thanking me for not convincing myself I was in need of a new cup.
Although I didn't need anything, It was important for me to drench myself in the smells, textures and colors. This is the cultural experience of my walk. To meet people, to listen to the native birds, to smell the bread baking from a families window and live in the awe of where I am. Wherever I am these days, it's because I walked there.
I always experience a happiness and a sadness when I am finishing a leg of my journey. Mongolia was a turning point for me in my walk. I experienced the most challenging weather, both sandstorms and snowstorms. And an attack in my tent at night that had me delve deeper into my conviction in walking, my faith and strength.
When I finished Mongolia, I was personally relieved to be lifted off the ground (literally, as I reached Ulaangom, I was given a ride back to the city where I rested for a month). But I also had to deal with a painful detachment of finding a home for my new best friend, an eight month old puppy who walked with me for almost 1,000 kilometers.
Walking Georgia was like going back in time two hundred years. Farmers using sickles to "mow" their lawns or cut their grain. Curiosity was as great in Georgia as it was in Mongolia. And at times it felt like Georgia was just one big mountain. I was never short on offerings for a tea break from locals. I really enjoyed Georgia and once I hit the crowded streets of Turkey, I was longing for the loneliness of Mongolia again.
I have so much to tell you about- like the seven furry friends I adopted in Georgia, Athena breaking in Turkey and how I'm finding my soul-skin again.
I know I'm leaving you wanting to know more of all that's happened and so I'm going to take some time over the Holidays (Nov-Jan) to write some of these stories that will take you on a journey with me through Central Asia. I'm not sure where I'll do that yet but I'm thinking of it as a writing retreat (let me know if you have any recommendations).
Then.... I begin my trek across Europe.
So, campfire stories coming up....
When people have the opportunity to interview me or to get curious, most ask how often I take a shower or how much Athena (my cart I pull behind me) weighs. After walking Australia and Vietnam, while getting ready for Mongolia, I sat down for cross-world Skype session with Pema Rocker and explored with her the deeper questions that drive me on my walk. That interview will be an upcoming Soul Growth Radio podcast you can tune into soon, but our conversation, was not complete, and for the “Sound and Fury issue,” we continued with an email interview on the sounds of my walk across the earth. In between our questions and answers, you can hear clips of audio I recorded along my walk in three different countries.