Yesterday’s video was accidentally set on private; sorry about that! It’s now public so check it out:

And here’s today’s video, Day 7:

(Check out the beautiful Italian clouds!!!)

The Three Keeps List:

1. Black Vibrams – I’ve been wearing Vibrams for three or four years now. I love them so much I can’t imagine life without them. Well, I could, but it would be really blistery. I really should be sponsored by Vibram, considering how many people I’ve prosthelytized to over the years and around the world (Argentina REALLY wants Vibrams!).

2. Inspiration book 2009 – I started making these little books in 2006. They’re part inspiring quotes and photos, part mini vision board, part life tips, part happy memories.

3. Inspiration book 2010 – Out of one of these books I read the 12 Keys to Happiness from scientist Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness – These are keepers too! 

1. Expressing Gratitude

2. Cultivating Optimism

3. Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison

4. Practicing Acts of Kindness

5. Nurturing Social Relationships

6. Developing Strategies for Coping

7. Learning to Forgive

8. Increasing Flow Experiences

9. Savoring Life’s Joys

10. Committing to Your Goals

11. Practicing Religion and Spirituality

12. Taking Care of Your Body: Meditation + Physical Activity + Acting Like a Happy Person

Yep. That’s pretty much it. I think I’ve got these covered! (At least, I work on them all every day. Still fine tuning, of course.) I origionally heard about Sonja’s book from Philosophers Notes, one of my favorite things ever – all the best personal growth/spirituality books summarized into 20 minute audio bites and 6-page PDFs. Highly recommended.

The Five Releases List:

1. X-mini MAX speaker – I did a TON of research when trying to find good portable travel speakers (I always obsessively research any electronics pre-purchasing) and I finally went with these guys. Not only is the sound excellent for their size, they’re not outrageously expensive, they charge via USB (no need to buy batteries) AND they run for 4-5 hours without being plugged in – perfection! I ordered these while I was living in Argentina and had a friend from the States bring them down as it’s quite difficult/expensive to get electronics with Argentina’s closed economy… they lasted for about 6 months until someone else broke one; then I used the single one for another 6 months until this one fritzed out too. Damned planned obsolescence.

2. Cannon charger – Also while in Argentina I had my friend bring me a new Cannon camera to replace the old Panasonic Lumix (which I’ve been recording most of these videos on). The Lumix stops working occasionally – ever since I took it to Burning Man and it got playa dust inside the lens – hence those spots that show up in most of my videos. Anyways, after more obsessive electronics researching, I got the Canon Powershot ELPH 300. It was my very favorite camera ever. Super compact, clear bright colors… the Lumix’s High def video and wide lens is a bit better for video but the ELPH definitely too better photos. And then, one day, I was hiking in some mountains in Patagonia, and somewhere during an off-trail 3 hour hike, my camera disappeared. Poof. I did the extremely steep 3 hour trail every day for the next 7 days, until it rained. Then I gave up. I never did find the camera. I hope some gaucho found it while he was horseback riding and was able to see the video of me and my friend Anne standing at the top of the mountain in high wind, screaming. Anyways, the camera was claimed by mother earth, and I no longer have any need for this charger. Why do I still have this charger one full year after losing that camera? No idea.

3. Art Eraser – I thought I lost my Faber-Castell eraser (oh, that name makes me feel like I’m back in art school). But then I found it. Donating this to the Academy!

4. Mystery key – I hate having old mystery keys. It torments me.

5. Brown hat – I was given this very good Wallaroo hat by a friend shortly before I left LA. I’ve worn it maybe twice in the past two years. They’re really good quality hats, but I just never wear it.

I ran across this Anais Nin quote that I love:

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.”

I feel like this challenge is slowing putting a few mosaic squares in every day… gradual change, transformation, unfolding. I’m really enjoying this challenge, but I’m not sure how I’ll still have stuff to get rid of at Day 30. We’ll see…

“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.”  – Paramahansa Yogananda

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”    – Eckhart Tolle

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”  -Aristotle

“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Journal Entry March 18, 2012

February 19, 2013

Last year a friend introduced me to a website called Penzu, an online diary. I wrote only one entry, on the eve of my 33rd birthday. At the time I was living in Buenos Aires, and since the seasons are flipped in the Southern Hemisphere, it was the end of summer/beginning of fall.
Here’s that entry, unedited:

Sitting cross legged, slightly damp, on my slightly stinky and sticky pink yoga mat. The birds are rustling and clucking in the leaves that climb the walls around me. The sky is a pale blue above, cloudless, knowing. The cicadas shreik intermittently, the crickets calm and consistent in the background. The brakes of buses squeak in a tire shape, traffic hisses by. My forearms are sore from yoga yesterday with the serious and intense spanish-speaking instructor who smashed a giant cockroach with a wood-colored yoga block. I feel the tightness of my hips stretching down over my knees and into my shins. The dove calls actively, seeking a response. A plane roars overhead – it must be loud at the distance for me to hear its rumble so easily from the ground. The air moves like someone’s walking past, cool on my upper lip. A bus acellerates. I don’t remember how to spell acellerate. How many words should I write? I suddenly crave coffee; the smell of cinnamon haunts my tongue. I remember mornings in Miracle Mile, at the Hauser. I would go to the gym or for a walk in the park; on the way home I’d stop at Organics to Go. They had the best-tasting coffee I’d ever had. No bitter, not burnt, not stale. Smooth, rich, soothing. I’d put a splash of half and half, half a packet of sugar, and cinnamon, bumping the cannister gently so as not to overwhelm the coffee. The fine powder would float in the air. I’d swirl the coffee with a wooden stick, always feeling a tinge of guilt to immediately toss the stick, used for 2.3 seconds, into the garbage; though the garbage was separated and labeled for recycling. I’d begin the walk home, sucking coffee through the little hole on the lid, filling my senses – my nose, my mouth – with the fragrance and spice of the mild cinnamon coffee, the cream, the sugar. I would feel comfort, relief from the facts: I was 31, I was alone, I didn’t know what I wanted or where I was going in the world, I made myself hate my job by framing it as a trap, a struggle, something to rebel against, something I couldn’t free myself from.
A loud bird is rasping. It could be a cicada… Oh yes, it is. The volume on these babies is incredible. He does the build-up, the separate calls, getting closer and closer, until he unleashes one loud long scream. I wonder if he makes that sound with his legs, his wings, his mouth, his throat? What mechanism enables him to produce that vibration, and to expand it at that level?
I am moving to Patagonia. The doubts have been visting. Was I wrong to stop working with Jonas? Am I just running away, giving up, refusing to take action yet again in my life, refusing to do anything challenging and uncomfortable? No matter. I’ve made the choice. I will continue to learn and expand at the pace that I choose. I invite trust, faith. It’s a constant choice, a re-programming into appreciation, ease, joy. I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t want to fight. I want to allow. I want to accept. I want to appreciate.
Today Kelly arrives. I must shower, I’d like to drop off my laundry, and then catch a bus to the airport. Her flight is on time. I wonder how long it will take to go through customs. I wonder how much of the stuff she received. I wonder if she’ll have Jonas’s microphone screen. I wonder if she’ll have my boots. I’ve accepted the fact that she might not have the screen, the boots, the largest package from Amazon with my speakers and wifebeaters and lotion.
I’m trusting that money will work out, as it always does. I choose not to stress. I choose not to dwell in the negative. I choose to hire my team of Angels and trust them to handle it. I choose ease, release, joy, trust, faith.
That other site said 750 words. I could go for 750 initially. Or even a thousand? Let’s do 750 for now. The site says 750 is three pages. Three Artist’s Pages. Did that help me? I’m not sure I did. When I got to the magical spot in 2011 I’d been doing rampages of appreciation for a month or two, Abraham’s Vortex meditations and Vortex work. I do feel that I need morning rituals to keep me on the positive, life-clearing and affirming path; or I fall back into fear, self-loathing, guilt, etc.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The leaves that climbed the walls around me…

while I was e-stalking my hero, Bronwen. This woman has a kick-ass website, great photos, makes beautiful and durable jewelry, travels like mad, rock climbs, yogas, sails, and writes beautiful blogs about it… Basically, I want to be her when I grow up. A me version of her, of course.

AND she’s got great taste in poetry – she had The Invitation on her site.

I read the book The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer during my work breaks back in my Anthropologie days. Beautiful soul truth:

THE INVITATION – ORIAH MOUNTAIN DREAMER

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love, for your dreams,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own, without moving to hide it
or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy mine or your own.
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy
fill you to the tips of your fingers
and toes without cautioning us
to be careful, be realistic,
remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty every day,
and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live,
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what
or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
and if you truly like the company
you keep in the empty moments.

Patagonia, 2012

Super Tramp Nomad Life

September 24, 2012

I wrote this post about four months ago, but like many maaaaany blog posts I’ve written, it’s been languishing in my Drafts folder awaiting further editing. Well, I’m in Florence now, and I don’t feel like editing – I feel like going out into the summer rain and getting some gelato. So that’s what I’m doing. Please excuse the unedited rambling, says the perfectionist.

May or June, 2012, El Huecu, Argentina:

One of my oldest friends has been traveling the world since November of 2010. The other day on Facebook she posted a photo of a beach in Sri Lanka, white sanded and turquoised watered, palm trees in the distance and a few puffs of cloud in a pale blue sky, a surf board stuck in the sand. The caption: “The view from my office; busy day.” Someone asked, “Your office? What are you doing out there?” And she replied, “I’m a hobo.”

A hobo. Wiki says the word “may come from the term hoe-boy meaning “farmhand,” or a greeting such as Ho, boy!… or from the railroad greeting, “Ho, beau!” or a syllabic abbreviation of “homeward bound”.

Writer H. L. Mencken wrote this:

Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but in their own sight they are sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but soon or late he returns to work. A tramp never works if it can be avoided; he simply travels. Lower than either is the bum, who neither works nor travels, save when impelled to motion by the police.”

I’m not sure if she’s a hobo or a tramp. It’s a shame tramp has taken on a negative connotation. I want to be a tramp! Or do I?

Being a hobo has definitely simplified my life. I’ve let go of a lot of my possessions and I’ve learned that I can live with less and less.
I feel content where I am right now, with my life right now.

Though I’m the most content I’ve ever been, there are a few small things I still struggle with: I am still working out procrastination blocks, especially when it comes to painting and writing, and I’m not currently living my intention to meditate two hours a day – one in the morning yes, but that second evening hour hasn’t happened more than a few times. I haven’t rolled out my yoga mat since I left Buenos Aires (I haven’t shaved my legs or armpits either, which is kind of awesome). I’m also eating more than my body needs, out of avoidance and self-soothing.

But I’m practicing acceptance. I saw a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh the other day that resonated with what I’ve been coming to comprehend – ‎”To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

A woman that I met here in Patagonia, who lives on a beautiful remote ranch, was wondering – does being out here in the middle of nowhere make people crazy and eccentric, or are the crazy and eccentric ones the ones who are drawn to this kind of life? And I wondered – crazy and eccentric compared to what? Eccentric, ex-centric, deviating from the circle, not having the same center. The same center as society? And of course we don’t all have the same center – our hearts and souls call each of us to our own paths, our own hero’s journeys and personal legends.

This song found me the other day as I was laying on some rocks and watching the clouds:

Ella sings of the murmur of the cottonwood trees that you see here in Patagonia, brought to Argentina by settlers, the only plant around here that’s taller than two feet. Cottonwoods, or alamos, reach straight up, towering three stories above the flat desert floor, crowding around ranches. ‘Don’t fence me in’ could be talking about physically being fenced in, but I think what’s more poignant is the longing for emotional freedom – to not be emotionally and psychologically fenced in, trapped by the opinions, expectations and judgements of others; and by the internalized fears and limitations that have been programmed into you.

It seems to me that out here, away from the crush of the judgment and opinons of the “normal” world, people are able to truly be themselves. They’re free. They’re not subject to what others think of them, and they have the freedom be wholly, unlimitedly, crazily, eccentrically themselves.

Homeward bound, searching for that center within, our souls,

We can only be free by accepting ourselves, and loving ourselves – hobo, tramp, whatever.

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I find the worst things inmy life are my fears, my internal limitations that keep me stuck, that keep me suffering. The Buddhist word for suffering literally translates to ‘a stuck wheel.’ I am afraid, so I don’t do, nad then I paradoxically create the exact situation I was trying to avoid. My avoidance creates the suffering, the discomfort, the negative consequences I’m trying to hide from, that my fear is trying to protect me from. You are the only one who can fence you in.

“Las Unicas Barreras Son Mentales” Buenos Aires, Jan 2012

Las unicas barrierires son mentales- The only barriers are mental. The only limitations are mental. My only limitations are mental. I have created the sitations in my life that I don’t like, that make me uncomfortable. I am 100% responsible for the good that has come to me, the good that I’ve refused to accept, and the bad that has come to me. I’m like a racehorse. I’ve put the hobbles on myself and then wonder why I can’t run free the way my heart longs too. I wonder what’s stopping me, holding me back, tripping me up. Well, it’s me.

Trees Talking on the Wind

September 21, 2012

This week I heard someone say that trees generate wind so they can talk to each other.

This idea completely fascinated me. What if it were real! How much more magical would it be to live in a reality where the trees create wind in order to talk, rather than the wind being caused, unintentionally, by differences in temperatures due to the sun.

Yes, it’s also fascinating that we’re on a giant spinning ball that gets partially warmed by photons of light that take 8.5 minutes to reach us from a gigantic flaming star, but still… I want talking trees. I want intention. I want consciousness.

El Huecu, Patagonia, Argentina

Living in Patagonia I loved the sound of the wind in the tall golden cottonwood trees, and here in Italy I’ve had a pine tree outside my bedroom window that makes a lovely rushing sound in the night.

Perhaps it’s not just air moving through the needles. Perhaps that sound is the voice of the tree, as it chats with the olive trees on the hillside, and the giant fig tree that spreads along the fence.

Perhaps they’re talking.

I wonder what they’re saying?

Love and Cities

June 25, 2012

I wrote this blog post about a day and a half ago in the airport, waiting to fly out of Argentina, but by the time I went to post the internet connection had gone out. I am currently sitting in the lovely kitchen of my lovely couchsurfing host in Firenze. Directly after this posting I am going to head out into the Tuscan summer sunshine and get reacquainted with my old love. (Oh, I’m talking about the city, not… a person. He’s married to an American now, I hear. 😉 )

Buenos Aires

I’m sitting in the Ezeiza International Airport outside of Buenos Aires, waiting for my flight to Italy.

I love blogging in airports. I love being in airports and eating a bunch of crap food cuz hey, I’m at an airport, what choice do I have? I even love picking friends up from the airport.

I got here really early – three hours before my flight. Synchronistically, a friend who lives in BA was flying to Europe the same night as I, a bit earlier, so we split the cab fare and a lovely chat.

Check-in and security took me about 11 minutes. I don’t remember having been in such a nice airport – friendly security, nice design, comfy chairs. Kind of funny as Argentina is a strange combination of first and third world. I would expect an airport like this in Germany, not Argentina. Of course, I was reminded I was still in Argentina by the porter guys with dark hair and blue eyes out front who asked me if I knew how beautiful I was, and the boxes and boxes of Alfajores stacked in the duty-free shop. I’m pretty sure I’ve consumed enough Dulce de Leche to last me for a long, long time.

I have about 60 pesos left that I should probably spend before I leave. Right now that converts to about $13 US dollars, but judging from what the Argentine government’s been doing lately, it seems another economic collapse is on its way. Either that or the president will be ousted. So I should probably spend my pesos before they’re worthless.

Over the past few days I’ve been wondering how I’ll feel about Firenze when I get back there. When I came down to Buenos Aires, everyone asked me: “Do you LOVE it there?!?” And the honest answer was: no. I never loved the city of Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires did grow on me the longer I was there – mostly, I think, because of the wonderful people I met, Argentines and Expats and travelers, many whom I know will be life-long friends. That, and the desserts.

But as for the city of Buenos Aires, I didn’t love it, though I didn’t hate it either. The drawbacks of the city never bothered me much – The broken sidewalks, the piles of doggie doo-doo everywhere, the stinking fumes of exhaust, the cars that try to run over your toes, the inattentive waiters, the artless tagging on the fading elegance of old unkept French-influence buildings, the shantytown slums hidden near train stations and developments. But six months living in a city as dense as Buenos Aires was definitely not healthy for my soul.

Of course, there were certain aspects of BA that I did love: the smell of all the blooming flowers and trees during the springtime and summer, the jasmine everywhere, the haunting fragrance of Damas de la Noche, the Tilo trees; how you could hear birds singing day and night, even over the sound of traffic (at least in the barrios I spent the most time in, Colegiales, Belgrano, Saavedra, Coghlan); all the tall leafy black-barked green trees that arched over certain lovely streets, like Melian and Olleros; all the cafes that I could go park my butt in for 8 hours without being bothered with a bill or feeling like the waiter wanted me out – ever; the delicious food and pastries and cakes and helado and licuados that I discovered; the abundant public transportation; the beautiful street art (photo of my favorite artist at top); the crazy mix of adventurers and travelers that stream endlessly through the once-cheap Paris of the South; the ability of foreigners to live there endlessly and uninterruptedly without immigration or visa problems, made possible by simply popping across the river to Uruguay, getting your passport stamped, and popping back; and the Argentines who are so kind and cry when you leave, even when they’ve only known you for a few weeks.

Buenos Aires

I’m interested to see how I feel going back to Firenze. Did I not love Buenos Aires simply because I don’t fall in love with cities anymore? I really loved living in the natural beauty of Patagonia. Maybe cities just don’t hold the allure that they once did.

Or is it something that Italy holds that Argentina doesn’t for me? I fell in love with Firenze when I spent a single day there in 1997, when I was 18. I told the people I was with at the time that I would be back. And I went back, seven times in as many years. But now seven years have passed. I wonder if I’ll still be in love, or if that feeling was just a side effect of my youth, of romantic idealization, of escapism…

I suppose I’ll find out in a few hours. Have the feelings faded with time, or are they still here?

All my stuff, November 2011

One year ago, I moved out of my home in Los Angeles and began my Nomad Adventure.

This morning, I woke up in the room I’m renting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the same room I lived in before I moved down to Patagonia. It’s got a giant lovely desk/workspace, cute private patio, backyard with pool and jungle, and sweet landlords that have adopted me as their third daughter. I got up and meditated for an hour, then thought about painting, but didn’t today. I made myself some ñaco, a toasted whole wheat porridge they eat down in Patagonia, and drank a maté as I read A Daily Dose of Sanity and Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose in the jungly backyard.

After breakfast and reading I dumped my entire wardrobe onto my bed in an attempt to to minimize. I want less stuff less stuff less stuff, and paring down is difficult as I’m going from the middle of winter here in the Southern Hemisphere to the middle of summer in the Northern, but I’ll need cold weather stuff in a few months when I work on an organic farm in Ireland. I didn’t make much progress. I gave up and worked on my playlist for the Nowhere festival I’m attending in Spain (Euro Burning Man, basically); then I Skyped with one of my oldest friends, who’s currently living in Thailand and has been traveling the globe for the last year and a half.

And then I went to belly dancing class. I love belly dancing, I wished I’d been going the first six months I lived here in BA. And to end the evening, I Skyped with my mom, my lovely mother who never asks when I’m coming home, when I’m settling down, when I’m getting a real job, when I’m going to have kids.

Today, like every day, I’m grateful for this life. I’m grateful for this crazy adventure I’m on. I’m grateful for all the incredibly kind people I’ve met in the past year, all the fascinating and fascinated fellow travelers, all the people with big giant hearts. I’m grateful for the mysterious ways in which everything works out perfectly, and I’m grateful for the magic and synchronicity that have been happening on a daily basis as I practice listening to my heart and following my bliss.

I’ve rarely felt lonely in this past year. I’ve been anxious and scared a million times, for sure, but not often lonely. I’ve rarely missed LA, or any of the stuff I thought I might – mexican food, my convertible, the beach. I have missed my friends back home, but Facebook and Skype help a lot with that, and I’ve met a number of soul-friends during my time in Argentina.

This Saturday, I fly to Italy. From there I’m going to Spain, maybe Switzerland, maybe France, back to Italy, maybe Germany. I’m excited to see where Fortuna leads me. I can’t even begin to guess where I will have been and what will have happened by this time next year. But I know whatever it is, it’ll be an adventure, and I’m grateful for that.

Leaving Patagonia

June 5, 2012

I’m sitting at a café in Zapala, Argentina, en route to Buenos Aires, listening to a sometimes cheesy nonstop 80s mix that changes approximately every 45 seconds. Everybody Wants to Rule the World, one of my all-time favorite songs ever, was just mixed into MJ’s The Way you Make Me Feel, a song Ginny and I used to dance to at the ranch.

It’s strange being back in a place with sidewalks.

Patagonia, Argentina

The town of El Huecú. No sidewalks.

I’m feeling a little anxious. Partly because of this town, partly because I’m in transition, and partly because I asked a woman working at the bus station if there was somewhere I could leave my two bags so I didn’t have to drag them around town with me during my 6 hour wait between bus rides. She directed me to a red booth. A guy let me in to put my bags in a side room and then turned to the next customer. I stood in the doorway – Nada mas? – No name? No ticket? Nope. Nada mas. Ok. Ok, Mister Señor, I am going to trust you and leave everything I own with you – my entire winter and summer wardrobes, all of my journals and jewelry-making supplies, all of my Vibrams and underwear, all my books and the geodes I found in the mountains, my yoga mat, my meditation cushion. I guess I’ve got all I really need in the backpack on my back – my iPod, my Macbook, my toiletries, my sleeping bag, a pen and journal and my kindle…

The Gibelli's

On the way to the Gibelli’s ranch.

Current 80s mix song: Roxanne

Why is it so hard to pack less shit? Do I have that little faith in my ability to be comfortable and happy, to adapt and survive in any situation? I’ve got this deep fear, this anxiety about not having enough… I’ve been trying to change that programming for as long as I remember, being a child of packrats (or “collectors”); I keep letting go, letting go, letting go, but I still don’t feel like I’ve got much less than I used to.

IMG_1042

Free as a bird.

It’s a Tuesday morning, 10:30am on the dot. People are lined up outside the banks as they often are in Argentina, about 20 deep. Driving into this small town on the Cono Sur bus, I saw spray painted on a wall: “Guns and Fuckin’ Roses.” Now that’s a fan. On the way to this café I passed by a clothing store with a cute jacket in the window. I haven’t seen a clothing store in two months. I haven’t had that temptation, that thought – Do I want to buy that?

IMG_2134

It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing when you’re branding cattle.

The simplicity of country life. It is so profound – no stores. No advertising. Hardly any people. No traffic, aside from the occasional herds of cows and goats that block the dirt roads and stare at you dumbly. No restaurants or cafés.

The Gibelli's

This is where I learned to drive stick. Put the clutch in when cows appear!

Current 80s mix song: Danger Zone

That was one of the things I loved about Burning Man – for a week, you didn’t have to think about money. Your brain didn’t have to go through its automatic, silent, constant calculations – do I want to buy that? How much would that cost? How much money do I have with me? What’s my checking balance? Do I want to spend $4 on a cup of coffee right now? I would look cute in that jacket. I wish my skin looked as good as that girl on the poster. Maybe I need to buy a new facial scrub.

Patagonia April 2012

“Shopping” for patio flagstones.

Current 80s mix song: What I Like About You

When you’re in nature, you’re not calculating. You’re not comparing. You’re not processing the million bits of information that come at you when you’re in a city.

Patagonia April 2012

Air doesn’t get any fresher than this.

In the countryside, you’re admiring the clouds. You’re breathing clean, fresh, pure air. You’re seeing the colors of the leaves turning from fall to winter, the branches reddening. Your fingernails are never clean for more than 20 minutes after a shower, because nothing’s paved and dirt and dust are a part of your environment that cannot be separated, conquered and divided, or controlled.

Patagonia April 2012

Fall colors at the Chacra.

Current 80s mix song: Can’t Touch This

It’s peaceful. I had a profound sense of contentment, of peace while I was at Ginny’s ranch in El Huecú.

Patagonia, Argentina

My view from the house every day. I love this mountain!

My skin is incredibly clear and soft right now. Is it because I’ve hardly been drinking any coffee? No milk (aside from powdered) or cheese, no eating out at restaurants, no pizza, no ice cream? The lack of air pollutants? Lack of stress? All the maté I’ve been drinking/ I can’t remember the last time my skin was this clear.

Patagonia, Argentina

Typical Saturday lunch: goat asado and tortas fritas.

I’m having a cup of coffee. It’s not very good. But the sugar packet has a cute drawing of a mountain, sun, waterfall, river, and some kind of hoofed animal – it looks like an Impala, maybe, with horns. Do they have those here?! It does say Patagonia on the bottom…

I stopped at a kiosk on the way here to get money for my cell phone, and a few bars of chocolate for the bus ride. They had about 30 different kinds of high-quality chocolate bar, a more impressive display than I’ve come across even in Buenos Aires. In El Huecú, you only had 2 or 3 kinds of quality chocolate to choose from.

Patagonia, Argentina

They scream like children when they die. Rest in peace, goats.

Current 80s mix song: Material Girl

This café I’m writing in is half full. People are rushing by outside. I’ve seen a two women with unusual headdresses, perhaps some kind of folk dress. There is a lot of noise. I haven’t heard this much noise in two months. In El Huecu, the only noises were dogs barking, roosters crowing, the occasional truck, wood cutter and turkey gobble. Horses whinnying for hay, birds chirping madly or the strangely indigenous loro parrots shrieking by the hosteleria.

Patagonia April 2012

Mountain shrouded in mist.

Current 80s mix song: She Bop

About 24 hours from now I’ll be back in one of the densest cities on the planet. I am not looking forward to the polluted air or the noise of traffic. I am looking forward to acro-yoga classes and getting a delicious fresh-baked medialuna, and for the adventures to come.

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Adios, nos vemos!

Goodbye, Patagonia! I loved you. Two months flew by and were over sooner than I expected. Thank you for your space and silence and fresh air. I know you were responsible for the beginning of a new chapter in my life, I’m almost certain I’ll be back to see you again.

Patagonia April 2012

Sunrise hike.

Current 80s mix song: Groove Is In The Heart (I know, technically 90s, but damn I love this song)

I asked for a sign, and I got it.

But the problem with asking for a sign is that when you get one, you still have to make the choice:

Do I follow it?

Do I base my life and future on magic and synchronicity and trust? Or do I follow reason and rationality and logic?

I almost gave in. I almost went the safe route and went home, back to the States and my family. But instead I chose to follow the signs.

(This is an extremely long post – probably the longest I’ve ever written – so if you don’t have the time or inclination to read the entire thing, scroll down to the end for the punchline!)*

BILL MOYERS: “Do you ever have the sense of… being helped by hidden hands?”
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: “All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time – namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

 

Nomad Adventure

I’ve been nomadic since June 2011, driving across the US and Canada before flying south to Buenos Aires, Argentina in October 2011, and then heading even further south into Patagonia in April 2012.

“Don’t fall off,” my ex business partner warned me. “You’re running out of land.”

He said I was running away. Perhaps. But running away from one thing is running toward something else.

What am I running towards? Myself. I know that’s a silly thing to do when I’m right here with me all the time. But I see this journey I’ve been on as a process of lightening. Across the continents I’ve left a trail of fears, guilt, obligations, and ‘shoulds’, and who I am and what I want is coming into sharper focus.

Funemployment Ends

I’ve been lucky enough to have a little unemployment from California funding my journey. When I signed up after being “liberated” from my day job in March 2011, I was told I’d get 99 weeks, about two years of what my friends have termed “funemployment.”

Two weeks ago, about 53 weeks into the 99, the Federal Government announced they were cutting all extended unemployment benefits to Californians. Effective immediately. My cash flow stopped suddenly, eight months before I expected it to.

I’d known my unemployment could end at any minute – I could’ve been called in for an interview in California – so the news wasn’t a total shock. But it did change my plans for the rest of 2012.

Luckily, serendipitously, synchronistically, I have a few thousand in the bank.
I have never had a few thousand in the bank. I’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve had credit card debt since I began traveling to Italy once or twice a year during a long-distance relationship in college.

But I made the decision to be “financially free” (ie debt free) in 2010 and stopped using the credit cards. This year, I had a perfect opportunity to cut down more of the debt – I had the unemployment coming in, I got a good tax return, I received a few grand from my father’s death, and I chose to take a job in a remote town in Patagonia that covered all room/board expenses for a few months so I could focus on paying down bills. Nothing to spend money on out here, not even a restaurant.

Within my first month down in Patagonia, and just before unemployment ended, I’d paid off every card but one. For fixed expenses I’m down to one credit card, one hospital bill (from the rabid bat incident last summer) and my college loan.

So, synchronistically, the unemployment couldn’t have stopped at a better time. I had some money and low monthly expenses.

Now What Do I Do?

But what to do next?
I was at a crossroads.
I was being tested – what kind of life do I want to live?
Do I take a risk, or play it safe?
Do I go home, to the comfortable and secure, or do I take the leap of faith, the step into the unknown?

Fly back to Los Angeles and move in with my mom?
Fly to Oregon, a place I’ve wanted to live since I was eight, and move in with my aunt?
Fly straight to France, where a friend has a house I can stay at, and figure out a way to make money under the table in Europe?

I was torn. And a little scared. What if I ran out of money? Maybe I should go home and get a ‘real’ job. Going back to the States didn’t sound half bad, either – safer, more reasonable, more comfortable. I’d get to see my family and friends. I speak the language, it’s familiar, I know I can work legally, I don’t have to keep moving because of visa limitations. And I don’t even speak French. Of course going to France would be fun, but I’d only planned to go there because I had a free place to live, and it would be good to see my friend.

I realized that this indecision was the same old fight that’s existed throughout my life – the fight between the heart and the mind, fears and dreams. I’ve been trying to figure out and follow my dreams this past year, and it’s still a work in progress. I’m still sorting out what’s me and what’s other people, and I’m still working out the blocks that I sabotage myself with.

So now I had to decide – Do I give up on the adventure and go back to safety, comfort, the known, the secure? A 9-5 job in the States?

Or do I continue living outside of my comfort zone, pushing my limits, taking heart-based risks, living all this spiritual and inspirational stuff that so fascinates me?

And does it even matter? Any path can be an adventure an growth experience with the right attitude…

I know sounds like it’s all fun and games and first world problems, choosing what country you want to fly to next. But my uncertainty and all of the options, were making me anxious and uncomfortable. Freedom equals responsibility, and when you no longer have anyone or anything to blame for holding you back, it can be a scary and daunting thing.

I decided I would go home. I’d fly back to Los Angeles and spend the Fourth of July with my mother (something I don’t think I’ve ever done, since it was traditionally a holiday I spent with my father), and then after about a month I’d fly to Portland, and stay with my aunt while exploring Oregon.

The Universe Won’t Let Me

I had a return ticket on United Airlines from Buenos Aires to Washington DC that I’d pushed back from December to April. However, when I went online in April to change the return flight from April 18th to July 1st, thinking I’d spend the Fourth with my best friend in DC, I got an error message. I tried again and again, but it wouldn’t go through. Finally it showed that my reservation was changed, but I would have to make a call to United Argentina sometime before my departure to pay for the ticket change.

I later realized it was luck/synchronicity that I hadn’t been charged for that ticket change – turns out my friend wouldn’t be in DC for the Fourth of July anyways, so I had no reason to go there. So in May, when unemployment stopped and I decided to fly back to LA, I tried to change the ticket again. All I got on the website were error messages, so I started calling United.

I called, and I called, and I called. It was either busy, or when I would finally get through to an agent, the phone system it would immediately hang up on me. I ran out of money on my phone, so I bought another 40 pesos of credit, and then another 60 pesos. Busy, busy, hang up. I finally got through to a woman – “Please don’t hang up on me!!!!” – and she started the process of figuring out what fees I would have to pay. After about 4 minutes on the phone with her, click – disconnected. I’d run out of money again.

So I stopped. Why was this so hard? One of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few years is Don’t Push. Take action, then let go. Relax, allow. I’ve learned through experience that when I push something to happen, in the end it doesn’t work out anyways. This has been especially true, oddly enough, with technology. Technology tends to work in my favor – when something’s not working smoothly for me, I’m not supposed to do it. One of the best examples of this: last summer I was trying to buy an Amtrak train ticket online from Boston to Washington DC, but the website kept giving me error messages. I decided to stop pushing and wait til the next day to try again.

The next day I was on a whale watching cruise in Provincetown, MA. I met a friendly woman who was celebrating her birthday with her husband. Her husband, it turns out, was a train conductor for Amtrak. A few days later they picked me up, drove me to the train station, and I got on the train he conducted with him – the train from Boston to DC. For free. The cost of that train ticket I hadn’t been able to buy online? $160.

So, I stopped pushing for the United ticket to Los Angeles, and started wondering – maybe I’m meant to go somewhere else? Fly straight to Portland, Oregon? Fly straight to Marseille, France?

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” – Dalai Lama

 

Answer from the Goddesses

After a few anxiety-ridden days of ruminating over what to do, I sat down with Ginny in front of the crackling fireplace in her room for a maté and confessed my confusion and anxiety over where to go next. I was overwhelmed by choice. I described the frustration I’d been experiencing – my struggles with United Airlines trying to re-book my ticket, the 100 pesos (~$20USD) I’d wasted calling their Argentinian 1-800 number over and over, the repeated busy signals and hang-ups. So this left me asking:

Why? Why wasn’t this working?

And then I saw Ginny’s Medicine Bag. The Medicine Bag is full of cards, runes, and books with Native American teachings. She had a deck of Goddess cards that I particularly liked, so I decided I’d ask the Goddesses where to fly to next.

I pulled out the deck, shuffled the cards, and asked: Where do I go?
California, Oregon, France, or hell, why not Italy, my favorite country in the world?

I expected some generic message from the card that might push me on a certain direction – a card about home or mother might mean I should go to California, forest imagery might be Oregon, adventure might be France…

I pulled a card and flipped it over. And I burst out laughing.

The card said:

FORTUNA: The Roman goddess Fortuna was the same as an earlier Italian goddess who presided over the earth’s abundance and controlled the destiny of all human beings. Her name, derived from Vortumna, “she who turns the year about,” came to symbolize the capriciousness of life and luck, the vagaries of fate as the wheel of life turns around. Her festival was celebrated in October. Fortuna gives way to approach the ups and downs of life, a perspective that can offer us some equanimity as we proceed on our journey.”

 

I laughed until tears squeezed out the corners of my eyes.
W.T.F.
I later flipped through the deck, and that one was the only card that mentioned Italy.

Italy. The country I fell in love with on my first trip to Europe at age 18. The country I left my first boyfriend for, spending a semester there studying abroad (when I had to return to the States I was quite depressed that I hadn’t spent a year). The country I went back to after graduating from college, intending to stay there forever, but then coming back to the States because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to pay back the $40,000 student loan I had (at the time the currency was the lira, not the Euro). Italy, the country I returned to four times in as many years because I fell in love with an Italian (my second boyfriend, a relationship that ended because of the distance and the fact that he was kind of a mammoni that wouldn’t move out of the house, and I got tired of waiting for him to get his own place so I could move in). The country of the language I love to speak and the food I love to eat.

So, I got my sign, my answer. Loud and clear.

And I’ve decided to follow it.

More Syncronicities

When the Goddesses said to go to Italy, I started thinking of who I knew over there.
I emailed a friend of my best friend in DC who I’d forgotten had just been relocated to Rome for work, and asked if I could crash on her couch if I came to Rome.

She said she had a guest room ready for me.

I emailed another friend I’d met 11 years ago on the way to a Radiohead concert in Verona. I told him I might be heading to Italy this summer, and asked if there were any good shows coming up.

He told me Radiohead was playing in Florence on July 1st. All their other dates were sold out but there just happened to be a few tickets left for Florence.

Ok, ok, Goddesses, Fortuna, Universe, fate, I get it!!! I’m going, I’m going!

So before I even booked my flight to Italy, I bought a Radiohead ticket online. The purchase went through without a hitch.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
– William Hutchinson Murray from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

 

The Universe Won’t Let Me Again

The next step – the hunt for flights. The cheapest flights I could find on Kayak.com from Buenos Aires to Italy was an Aerolineas flight into Rome on June 25th. I checked every other Italian airport, including Florence, but they were all $300 or more than flying into Rome.

So, I tried to book the ticket on the Aerolineas site.

It wouldn’t go through.

I tried a few more times. Error, error, error. But there was an 800 number to call! Oh god. So I called, and got through immediately. A helpful woman with a Peruvian accent suggested maybe I was entering a four-digit expiration rate for my credit card rather than a two-digit. So I tried online again. Error.

I stopped. Why wasn’t this working? AGAIN?? I thought I was doing what I’m supposed to do!

I couldn’t book that train ticket to DC because I would get a free one the next day.
I couldn’t change my return flight to DC because my friend wasn’t going to be there.
I couldn’t change my flight to LA because I was apparently meant to go to Italy instead.

So why was Rome giving me problems now??
Perhaps there was a cheaper flight available? So I dug deeper. I googled ‘cheap flights Italy,’ I checked old emails from my Italian days to see if there was some travel site I’d forgotten about. I tried searching different dates, for the entire month of June, for the end of May. I tried searching all the airports, again. Nothing cheaper than flying into Rome. So I called Aerolineas again, and shortly got through to a man who put me on hold while he tried to figure out my issue with booking online. As I sat on hold, I flipped through the 20 or so tabs I had open in my browser.

And then I saw it. Somehow I’d missed the search result, or misunderstood it since the flight had a layover in Rome: a flight from Buenos Aires to Florence, a few days earlier that I’d been looking for, on June 23rd. For the same price as flying into Rome.

I hung up the phone.

I booked the ticket to Florence.

It went through without problem.

Florence. The first place I ever fell in love with. My second home. I hadn’t been there in seven years.

I screamed.

I’m going to Florence.

‎”Life is a fatal adventure.
It can only have one end.
So why not make it as far-ranging
and free as possible.”
– Alexander Eliot

 

I’m still afraid. I’m afraid I’m being stupid, afraid I’m making the wrong choice, afraid I’m wasting my money and my time, afraid I’m wasting opportunities, putting my comfort and security in jeopardy.

But the day I finally booked the ticket to Florence, I saw this post by Kute Blackson, summarizing and affirming the truth that I know in my heart, the truth that my head hasn’t quite been programmed as default yet:

“The fulfillment of your dream is not simply a matter of resources. But about your resourcefulness. How resourceful are you willing to be? How committed are you to your vision?

There is always a way. Always. Perhaps not the way you have always been doing it. But the way it’s seeking to happen for your highest good, which may not be the way you thought. So get yourself out the way so the way it’s meant to be can unfold.

The obstacles you might face along the way are simply opportunities to expand yourself, innovate and tap into other dimensions of your creative power that has yet to be expressed.

The fulfillment of the dream you have cannot be fulfilled by being the same person you have always been. It will require you shed the limitations of your previous self so that you stand in the greatness that your dream is demanding of you now.”

It’s about playing full out and giving everything you have to each moment, leaving nothing left on the table. So, lick the plate of your life clean.

You might have no road map for where your dream is taking you. But this is the time to trust your ‘Souls GPS’ to navigate you home. It’s your vision that will bring light to the path you are to travel.

Your dreams are the way in which the Divine seeks to dance in physical form through you.

The universe will respond to you at the level of your commitment.

Your excuses will get you nowhere.

Your commitment is key.

Commit.

For real.

Love. Now.”

 

And that same day, my Note From the Universe:

There are no accidents, Michelle.

If it’s appeared on your life radar, this is why: to teach you that dreams come true; to reveal that you have the power to fix what’s broken and heal what hurts; to catapult you beyond seeing with just your physical senses; and to lift the veils that have kept you from seeing that you’re already the person you dreamed you’d become.

And believe me, that was one heck of a dream.

Tallyho,
The Universe

 

So, for now, I’m following dreams, allowing life to be magical, and going with the flow. Stay tuned!

*Afore-promised punchline promised to those who weren’t willing or able to read the whole thing: After my income flow stopped and I encountered a series of obstacles and website blocks, I didn’t know where in the world to go from Patagonia, so I asked the Goddesses: California, Oregon, France or Italy? And drew a card. The card told me to go to Italy. I arrive in Florence on June 24th.

“We’re making tortas fritas out front! You want a fresh one??” Anne hollered up to my loft above the kitchen, where I was attempting to meditate. Though yes, I did want a fresh torta frita (fried bread, kind of like a savory donut), I declined in order to continue my meditation. “Ella no sabe lo que está perdiendo!” Jorge shouted. She doesn’t know what she’s missing! But then I heard Ginny whistle from her bedroom, and Anne was already back outside, so I climbed down my ladder to help Ginny into her wheelchair and we rolled to the fire outside. Anne and Jorge were flattening balls of dough and tossing them into a pot of hot frying oil over the fire, and Emilio was serving maté to everyone.  It was chilly out, the tips of my fingers numb, but the hot tortas fritas and maté helped enliven them. I ran back inside to get some local honey to put on the tortas, which taste like fried biscuits, and we sat around the fire, chatting in broken Castellano (Spanish) and English and laughing.

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A bit later Anne, Ginny and I climbed into the truck, throwing Ginny’s wheelchair in the truckbed next to the canisters of diesel fuel – there’s no gas station in town, and often the gas station the next town over doesn’t have any gas to sell. We were going to the one year anniversary party of the Bomberos Voluntarios de El Huecú – The Volunteer Firefighters of El Huecú. We went to the main plaza of town, a grassy square with pine trees. In the middle townspeople and Bomberos were taking photos, milling about, and there was music blasting over the speakers.  We kissed a bunch of people on the cheeks – Como anda? Bien! – until it was time to head to the cheif volunteer firefighter’s house for an asado. Ginny had donated a goat for the BBQ, along with a few other estancias. There were about 50 or 60 people there, and many goats flayed open and strung up like Jesus on the cross to cook over the open fire. There were also fresh-fried empanadas, potato salad, cabbage and tomato salad, chimichurri sauce.

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I noticed a man with a plastic container pouring something onto his beef and egg empanada before he took each bite. “What is that guy pouring on his empanada?” Anne: “I think it’s chimichurri sauce… Oh no, wait. Oh no. Oh God. It’s sugar.” We burst out laughing. An hour earlier we’d been making fun of how everything in Argentina has sugar in it. EVERYTHING. The coffee grounds come with sugar in them. When someone’s talking about juice here, what they mean is Tang. Workers don’t want water; they want Fanta. If it’s not sugar, it’s salt. I took a bite of one of the salads at the asado – super salty. Too salty for a second bite.

Finally, the moment we’d eagerly been waiting for – the goats were done BBQing. Women came around with big trays of goat meat, goat ribs, goat fat. I got a piece of meat attached to a vertebrae. The skin was crunchy, the meat delicious – like beef but juicier, fattier. Anne grabbed for her favorite, a rib. “Wait… is this a rib? What is this? It’s got a joint.” She examined it, puzzled, and flexed it, showing it to a large local woman sitting across from us. “Cola.” Tail. It was a goat tail. “Oh… hmm. Um.. It tastes very… goat-y.”

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The three of us cut out before the cake painted with flames was served – Ginny needs her siesta! – and walked/rolled across the dirt street, where someone had a padrillo – stallion – for sale that Ginny wanted to check out. The man disappeared into a small wooden stable, from which the noises of a monster emitted. After a few more minutes of ominous sounds coming from the stable, a big muscular horse shot out, white with grey dapples and a black Gladiator mohawk.

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We had some close calls at being trampled or kicked by this horse on steroids, and he even bucked a few times for us, but I was too busy trying stay out of the way to get a good picture of that. I thought he was beautiful, but Ginny didn’t get that “have to have him” feeling, so we loaded her back into the truck and drove slowly home alongside the wide, dry riverbed.