To make living itself an art, that is the goal. – Henry Miller
Now I know why many men have stopped and wept/ Halfway between the loves they leave and seek/ And wondered if travel leads them anywhere… -Leonard Cohen, Stranger Music
Early on while walking the camino I worried about returning home and feeling as if nothing had changed. After living back in sweet San Diego for four months, I can see that my dear friend Nicole was right: if you have changed, then so has everything else. I think about the camino and subsequent 10 day vipassana retreat I did almost immediately upon my return stateside nearly every day. As cheesy as it sounds, after a rough year in Brooklyn I think they somehow managed to restore my soul back to a more primitive state. If I carry anything from these experiences with me, it’s the importance of embracing each day- its pleasure and its challenges, while making others feel welcome and appreciating the company of those you’re with now.
Which is not to say moving back into my childhood home went seamlessly. The in-between/ waiting/ stuck in limbo phase of life is what I am always worst at. Consistently I would find myself craving movement and change, pining for my days back in Guatemala at the yoga house or my year rambling around Madrid. It’s a puzzle to me that with each new journey my wanderlust only increases, despite feeling less connected to my culture, friends and family that I love so dearly here.
When I think about why I find such happiness in travel, I realize that it’s not actually the travel itself that I love, but rather the way I live when away. The list of checklist sites to visit, long bus rides, living out of a suitcase and crowds of strange faces actually exhausts me pretty quickly these days; instead, it’s the lingering that I love. Living simply, finding gratitude in every little luxury, and the shared humanity bringing out the best in people are the reasons I love being abroad, not necessarily the act of movement itself. In my travel life I rarely watch TV, and I don’t have a phone to keep me connected via Facebook or Instagram. I take time to exercise and meditate and eat real meals, and I almost always say yes to any opportunity that crosses my path. Perhaps because of these habits, I find myself consistently meeting people more willing to be open and vulnerable and engaged than those I tend to encounter in my so-called ‘real’ life.
In 2015 I’ve tried to practice living life in California as if I was still a traveler. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled about having easy access to Broad City and Parks and Rec, but instead of following my normal habit of feeling extremely anxious about what is supposed to happen next, I’ve tried my best to enjoy this time, knowing that soon enough it will change. Rather than falling easily back into old patterns, I hope to use all that I have learned about happiness through wandering to mold my environment, rather than letting it mold me. In that way, being at home was yet another exercise in continuing to create for myself the mind I want to live in, which at this point requires a lot of reminding about what I already know, rather than a whole new set of life lessons.
And it’s been great! I loved spending holidays with my family, and having my grandmother just a ten minute drive away has been a real treat. Being around to celebrate my friend’s accomplishments- engagements, promotions and new houses- has been wonderful, I couldn’t be prouder. And while I’ve enjoyed this downtime, I will soon once again be a ramblin’ (wo)man, as I start a new job in a few days as an instructor with Naturalists at Large, where I’ll be teaching the youths to care about the environment while bouncing around the parks of California.
I spent my last free weekend driving out to Joshua Tree with two good friends from high school I recently reconnected with, thanks to the magic of living back in my hometown. Driving out Good Friday without a camping reservation was a gamble, but we managed to snag one of the last camp sites at Cottonwood Creek on the south side of the park. After setting up our tents and a quick picnic lunch, we took a day trip out to Salvation Mountain, a bucket list item of mine for years.
After a long drive past date palms and vast expanses of desert, we arrived at Slab City to find the brightly colored mountain. We walked around, up and into the artwork, and I came away very impressed that one lone man spent 40 years creating such a beautiful, unique place, solely because of his desire to share love with the world. On the way back we made a brief stop in the real wild west at the lawless town of Bombay, where desert folk had formed an autonomous community, and another pitstop at the Salton Sea, where we stayed for approximately 30 seconds before the smell drove us away. After a day of being fried by the sun a visit to Hadley’s Date Farm was mandatory, and after a date shake we felt revived enough to head back to camp and start cooking dinner.
The next morning we woke up at 5am to see the blood red lunar eclipse, and after enjoying a view of what felt like all the stars in the entire universe, crawled back into our sleeping bags for a few more hours of rest before a groggy campfire breakfast. The rest of the day was spent driving north up through the park, stopping along the way whenever something looked like it might be neat. We lucked out, as everything was in bloom, softening the desert’s severe landscape with pops of brilliant color. After a long day of bouldering around, we ended the trip with dinner at the Joshua Tree Saloon. Out front there just happened to be Joshua Tree’s first ever block party, with live music, outsider art (including the world famous knitting museum!) and plenty of interesting local character. Perfect weekend getaway and an excellent send off to my spring season as a professional vagabond.