It’s been 10 consecutive days camping, hiking, swimming and posting up in driveways. The evidence is indisputable:
- I have not changed out of my Olakai sandals, except for ONCE when I used the local Planet Fitness in Eureka California. My feet are toughened up for the barefoot season, to put it nicely. (I did book a pedicure today. I’m camping, but a girl still has needs.)
- I’ve not worn a bra once, only occasional tank top like sports bras. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know I probably don’t NEED a bra. (refer to this early blog. Fair warning: not my best material. Raw, genuine, but pre-writing course and I’m not taking the time to edit.) From the looks of the locals, I don’t think this part of Oregon requires the undergarment.
- My skin is glowing with summer tan. And by tan, I mean my freckles have grown together close enough that from a distance, if you squint your eyes, I appear to have a mild bronze sheen. I’ll take it, it’s the best I can ask for.
- My eyes are sparkling, my gait nonchalant and my face relaxed. (Ok, that could be the botox I got right before the trip…) Schedules/plans/obligations are beginning to feel like a thing of the past.
It’s official. I’m in vacation mode. After a week of reveling in the foggy western coastline and brilliant green shade of Northern California’s Redwoods, it was time to head inland for sunnier times.
Meandering northeast, I stopped for the night in Eagle Point, Oregon where I met a charismatic, van-owning woman whom impacted my life significantly in a matter of hours. She gifted me a homemade smudge stick, added me to a women’s only online van community, and generously shared the journey of her grief/healing process when our conversation turned to aging dogs and loss of parents. She introduced me to Laurie Anderson’s documentary “Heart of a Dog”, and showed me mementos such as a healing candle from her mother’s service, and gorgeous glass pendant created from her beloved dog’s ashes by Psyche Cremation Jewelry in Bend, Oregon (which as you know was my next stop!) Cassie – my own special canine soulmate – is still very much alive, but a large part of my trip’s purpose has been to celebrate her life and prepare for inevitable loss as she begins to slow down at 14 years old. And always, in the back of my mind, are thoughts of how and when I’ll begin to deal with my father’s passing in 2017. So much occurred in one brief night at Eagle Point, it’s hard to explain in a paragraph. Just trust me; I was meant to meet this woman.
Tuesday allowed for a detour through Umpqua Hot Springs. I love hot springs! Growing up, I had a foggy sense of their existence as there are some near Baker Lake at our family’s annual camping location. But I only came to appreciate the rich, sultry liquid when my former partner and I visited Ainsworth Hot Springs in BC Canada (GO! there are caves to swim through. It’s breathtaking). Later, we enjoyed both primitive and man-made hot spring stops in Utah. I fell so in love with them, I have a future road trip planned entirely around hot pool destinations.
After soaking in nature’s steamy mineral bath (Cassie accidentally soaked for a second herself, thinking it was an individual dog-sized lake) we continued to Bend.
Bend, Oregon. Outdoor Utopia.
Every time I visit I resolve to relocating, along with thousands of other visitors who are searching for the perfect combination of city/country/mountains/nature/metro/hipster/family friendly/dog loving/sunshine/snow sports/progressive paradise.
But don’t tell anyone. If too many migrate, it won’t stay this way! (at least that’s what many of the locals will say if you mention interest in transferring your life to their precinct.)
Nowhere is perfect, but Bend is close. The downside is it’s verrryyy expensive, so I’ll have to find a longterm “Driveway Host” and live out of my van if I’m going to make the move. It’s not a completely preposterous scheme.
- “Driveway Host”: A van owner who offers other van owners a driveway, curb side parking, guest room or lawn to camp in. They may also provide access to shower, shore power, laundry, mechanical assistance, and if you’re really lucky, as I was – morning lattes and late evening dog-sitting.
Turning the corner in my van, Bend’s city proper welcomed us. The sun shone, freshly filtered through tall evergreens; the Deschutes river burbled in the distance and mixed with a buskers ukulele, composed a uniquely local melody; the subtle smell of coffee, organic gardens, kombucha, hops, and cannabis (all types – CBD, THC, whole hemp) wafted through the air.
Between the the mountainous atmosphere and the eclectic yet cozy culture, I feel at home in this region of Oregon. Free to live my truth without judgment, criticism or dismissal, I feel at home in my mind, skin, and van. My quirky vehicle weighted down with a SUP, bike, wetsuit filled rubbermaid totes and a big-eared cattledog perched in the passenger seat is only one of many on the road. Walking through town sporting overalls, bikini top, and tattoos perpetually attached to a dog at the end of a leash could make me the town’s poster model.
This notion was verified at a food truck lot when I asked the bartender “Do you have anything non-alcoholic?” She smiled widely and listed 4 delicious options besides water, cola, or iced tea. When I googled “non alcoholic beer, Bend” about 5 articles popped up. This is my place, you guys.
The ultimate display of my comfort level occurred at Sparks Lake when I opted to sunbathe topless, completely unprovoked.
If you know me, you know this habit to be opposite my personality. Skinny dipping with friends? Sounds awesome! You go in the buff, I’ll wear prudish undies. Women’s only, clothing-optional spa? I option for clothing, thank you very much! And politely avert my eyes from those choosing otherwise. Not because I judge them; because I judge myself and my own thoughts. I often joke about refusing to go naked in my own sauna at home. Raised in a conservative household, bodies were invariably covered with clothing. Which is fine. But I’ve had a bit of envy mixed with confusion and uncertainty around people who let it all hang out, in public no less than private. For instance, the free spirited nakeds at Umpqua hot springs. I myself was in a bold bikini, but the uninhibited confidence of those in the nude left me longing for even a hint of that character trait. Turns out, I’m not lacking it altogether. It simply took 24 hours in a safe environment before I could start expressing it.
Of course, I kept my top within reach and every time a voice or footsteps got too close, I hurriedly clutched it against the “R” rated parts of my chest. My risk taking behavior was worth it – not a tan line in site.
Cassie and I have been hard at work trying to fit as many activities as possible in our time in Bend. We splashed in the river at Tumalo State Park. We jogged lazily around Mirror Pond, stopping to greet the geese. We bought hipster sunglasses and a variety of “Be nice, you’re in Bend” and “Ride Oregon” stickers. I drank many coffees at many shops and Cassie lapped up water from the plethora of dog bowls available around the city. We ate the best fried chicken po’boy I’ve ever had at ‘The Lot’ food truck park. And there, as if planted right in the middle of a Warner Bros rom-Com, we met the nicest boy with striking light green eyes and his sweet 10 month old puppy, Rolf. (names have been changed to protect the innocent)
Here’s what happens when people feel at home; we become relaxed, confident, at ease and at peace. Self-doubt and self-judgment slips away. We can begin to act without obsessively over-analyzing each move.
As I continue to mature in my late 30’s, I grow less concerned with anyone else’s opinion. But as a human, I have to admit I still fear judgment. I long for acceptance.
Especially as a woman in recovery from religious trauma, self-loathing, perfectionism, opiates and alcohol, the ability to walk around with the inner wisdom that “I am absolutely OK just as I am” is nothing less than a miracle.
When I initially entered into a contract with the state department of health, I lived a double life for about one full year. Desperate to preserve my reputation through anonymity, I went to great lengths to hide the fact I was on anti-addiction medication and attending weekly therapy and support groups. I spent a lot of that time considering whether my life was worth living.
Coming out as a sober, recovering individual gave me the freedom to learn to love myself. I started, of course with a blog. Eternally a work in progress, my confidences waxes and wanes. Many times, prior to meeting a new person or entering unfamiliar territory, I have a debate with myself: “Do I share about sobriety? How much is enough, how much is too much? Will I be judged for my addiction? Will I be dismissed for my past mistakes?” Recovery is not the only factor in my self-imposed deliberation. There’s also my fervent liberal views, Buddhist inspired meditation practice, advocacy for LGBTQ….and Oh Yeah, my passion for hippy van-living.
For four days last week, in Bend, I was nearly 100% free from the inner conflict of how much “myself” I “should” be. I shed my armor and glowed with authenticity. I gathered courage and seized the idea that this roadtrip was welcoming me home to myself.
Find the place that makes you feel most at home and allow yourself to practice being you. Once you encounter the joy and liberation this brings, you can’t settle for anything less. You’ll discover acceptance is defined only by you; those that can’t or won’t accept your truth – even if you love them – have no say in the matter.
I feel exceptionally lucky that traveling landed me in a community that called for me to come as I am. Looking forward to a She Recovers Retreat as my next stop on this adventure, I realize I have many of these spaces. It’s not just luck though, it’s a choice to engage with others who are authentic, seeking transformation and letting go of old shame, stories and habits that poison their perceptions.
It’s a life I’m deliberately cultivating, filled with strong women, opportunities for growth and endless possibilities to experience intrinsic wholeness.
Where are you most yourself? Where can you shed armor and glow authentic?
Where do you feel you need to dampen your shine, or conform to the “norm”?
I challenge you to push yourself to glow more often, more places, regardless of opinion or circumstance!
Looking for support, structure and accountability to make this a reality in your life? I would love to accompany you on your journey.
Cheers and Gratitude,
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment for a FREE Discovery Call here!
Recover and Rise: Life and Recovery Coaching for your highest well-being