I Want A Lot

Trite is trite for a reason.

I have lists of books I want to read.  The Bible, the Torah, the Quran.  Aristotle, Plato, Confucius.  The Odyssey, Moby Dick, Ulysses.  The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter.  I even have a lofty goal of reading an autobiography of every single United States contentmentpresident just to learn more about the history of this nation.  Not to mention just about every other awesome novel, art book, and travel book ever written.  I have goals.

I have lists of things I want to learn.  Spanish, quilting, guitar, writing, photography, Greek history, window painting, color theory, yoga, floral design, grant writing, etymology, facts about every state, storytelling skills, Kiswahili, piano, political science, the periodic table of elements, women’s issues, art history, chalk art, how to garnish food artistically, how to fold napkins creatively, meditation, nutrition…the list goes on forever.

I have lists of projects going on.  I am writing a business plan to be a traveling face painter.  I have an Instagram page about my stuffed turtle that helps kids learn about the world.  I continually raise awareness and money for women’s issues in Kenya, Africa.  This blog is a HUGE project that I wish I could spend loads more time on.  I am writing a business plan for an online t-shirt company that promotes a positive body image for anybody who needs it.  Not to mention any projects that are asked of me at work, at church, or from school teachers who sometimes ask me to come and speak to their students about various subjects.

There are trails I want to hike, countries I want to see, faces I want to paint, people I want to meet…it’s endless.

The point is that I want a lot.

There is nothing wrong with wanting more.  We all want more.  Some want a bigger house, some want a better car, some want more money, some want even more basic things like a better education, or to get affordable medicine, or to get their teeth or hearing aids fixed.  Some people want things they NEED like food in their cupboard, or a warm place to sleep at night.  It’s OK to want more.  It’s OK to even want what you think you can’t have.  Maybe it’s not possible for you to bare children.  Maybe you are limited in life because you have a criminal record.  There are a million reasons to want more in life.  There are a million reasons we might not be able to have more.  But we can still want it.

Oh, I know there are all kinds of people out there who will tell you that wanting more will only make you greedy.  Some will say that you are never satisfied.  Some will pass judgement and make you feel small for not being able to survive on less.  After all, minimalism is trendy these days.  We are told to simplify and give things away we don’t use.  Of course you should do that, if it will make you feel better.  But wanting to have or keep those things isn’t wrong unless it feels like a burden.  Desire is good.  Desire is healthy.  Wanting things is OK.

But, my friends, there is one catch – you have to be content with what you have.

what's the catchI know, I know…there is always a catch.  You want to be thin but you have to eat right.  You want to be an intellectual but you have to read books.  You want to be wealthier but that means taking chances and working harder.  The catch always kind of sucks doesn’t it?  The catch with wanting more isn’t that hard though.  It doesn’t mean more work, it means recognizing the work you’ve already done.

Being content with what you have doesn’t mean you can’t want more.  It just means that if you never get more, you aren’t out any losses.  I struggled with this for a long time.  I even accosted my friend Bob one time to ask him about this.  Bob was a pastor and I was working in a little store that was never very busy.  I always read books there and I was reading one night about a Christian theory on contentment.  The book kept telling me to be be grateful, but the theory stopped there.  I was so upset by this and Bob just happened to walk into this little store that night and without even saying hello I started questioning him immediately about how I was supposed to never want another thing in my life and how that was even possible and didn’t this book understand that we are HUMANS and humans WANT things and God was the one who created us that way so how can he expect us to NOT want things?  Once I slowed down long enough to allow him to breathe, he gave a hardy laugh and then proceeded to dwarf me with his wisdom and explain that being content with what you have doesn’t mean that you can’t want more.  It just simply means you have to be content with what you have.  It’s that simple.

This is how people of very low means can be happy.  We have so much to learn from them!  I once lived in a very small village in the bush of Kenya, Africa.  There were so many children there who had so little.  Rags for clothes, scraps for food, and toys were a luxury they didn’t even know they were missing.  I remember one day I saw some kids playing with a wheelbarrow and they were SO HAPPY!  I want this happiness for you.  For me.  For everybody!  We make things complicated, but really, it’s not all that hard.

I want to read so many books, and watch so many movies, and listen to so many songs and podcasts… I want to travel to so many countries, and spend time with so many friends, and never miss a precious moment with my family… I want to try so many foods, contentmentlearn all about healthy eating, and hike until I can’t feel my legs anymore… But if I never get to do any of that – not one single thing off of any of those lists – I am still content. I get restless, and anxious, and impatient and I daydream WAY too much. But if I never realize another thing, another cent, or another person in my life, I am still content. I know the world isn’t done with me yet, and I am most definitely not done with the world, and I have to remind myself often that I am NOT old, that I DO still have time, and that it’s NEVER too late to learn something new. But I am still content.  It takes practice – seriously, DAILY practice – but it can be done.

Today I am grateful for everything that I have and for know the power of gratitude in my life.

Yellowstone Saves Lives

Yellowstone National Park saved my friend, Sammie. Sam is a homosexual man. We met and worked together when I lived in Kimball Junction, Utah. He’s a ginger, has a great smile, and is very funny. I knew that we would be good friends before he did. Sometimes you meet people who you just KNOW were created and placed on earth to be friends with you. Sam is one of those people. It took him a while to open up to me, but soon enough he was my favorite person to work with. My heart was genuinely happy when we were scheduled together.

I laughed with Sam about everything. We joked about the same people. We have a similar sense of humor and laughed about love, work, life…anything you could think of. One night at work he was complaining about a guest and she walked up right behind him. She didn’t hear him but it was such a close call! We laughed about that for days. One night we even sat down one night and named what every co-worker’s “hot mess” quality was. “Crazy Eyes”, or “Flirting With the Boss”, or “Constant Drama”. We assigned each co-worker one “hot mess trait”, all in good fun. It was a hit with the others, and Sam and I laughed about that for weeks. Every memory I had of Sam at that job was not only good, but happy. He was a bright light in my life.

Sam grew up in a small town in Wyoming with parents devout to the Mormon religion. The Mormon religion does not condone homosexual relations within the laws of that religion. To quote the official web site:
“Sexual purity is an essential part of God’s plan for our happiness. Sexual relations are reserved for a man and woman who are married and promise complete loyalty to each other. Sexual relations between a man and woman who are not married, or between people of the same sex, violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and get in the way of our eternal progress.”
I don’t have any new, earth shattering evidence about love and religion and controversial issues such as homosexuality. I don’t have a new point of view to argue about who is right or who is wrong about the subject of homosexuality. But I can tell you part of Sam’s story.

Seasonal workers move to different jobs often, following the influx of seasonal business. I make friends from around the world, and all over the US. I become very close to them, and then we move on. I do my best to keep in touch with people, and I have even gone to visit them during my travels, but the reality is that I will never see most of those people again. I never thought this about Sam. I knew, at some point we would spend time together again.  When that time came though, I made him cry.

About a year after Sam and I parted ways he called me. There was no need to screen this call, I answered the phone with great enthusiasm. We exchanged pleasantries, I regaled my nomadic tales of the past year, and we talked about my future plans. Then I excitedly asked him how he was doing anticipating happy and funny tales as usual. When he said “not so good”, I felt my stomach drop as I heard the quiver in his voice. Immediately concerned, I told him he was safe with me, that I was all ears, and to tell me what was wrong. “I don’t know where to begin”, he says to me, as he began to weep. He kept repeating himself, “I don’t know where to begin. How do I start?” One of the worst parts of my lifestyle is that everybody I am close to is almost always far away. When I want to hug someone as tightly as possible and they are thousands of miles away from me, it’s agony. All I could do was give him the time he needed and listen.

His life was in shambles. He was struggling with a proper place to live, a new car payment he couldn’t afford, a sexual encounter that left him feeling unwarranted shame, and he had also lost his job because of all the stress. Not wanting to interrupt, I just let him cry. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been to that ugly place where tears are the only river that flows. I had never known this Sam. The Sam I knew was a little anxious at times, but he also had a five year plan for his life. He had good friends, he lived alone which takes guts to do in a big city. He had a good job, he knew he was funny and lovable. He was stable for the most part, as far as I knew. In fact, I typically feel like a neurotic train wreck around people like that and I remember thinking that Sam had his shit together and how awesome that was. But this Sam was new to me. This Sam was hurting, and hurting badly.

I let him shed all the details and tears, and in time he began to feel a little relief. I told him I was sorry about everything he had gone through. I asked a few questions, and he told me a little more, then cried a little more, then told me every last detail about how this all happened. The tears finally stopped and his voice was calm and I was finally able to joke with him and get a small laugh. There it was, that moment of relief when you feel like the weight of the world is off your shoulders. Sometimes all a person needs to do is vent. I asked him what his plan was now. I asked if he knew what he was going to do. He told me he was going to go to his parents house and live with them while he got back on his feet. I was glad he had an alternative, but I was also very concerned about this. Small Wyoming town…devout Mormon family…and a very vulnerable and hurting soul.

Sam and I discussed this option for a long time. I made him explore every other option, and I asked him if he felt like he would be OK there. I had a feeling it was a bad decision, but he seemed to think everything would be fine.  I didn’t know his family personally, so I allowed him to convince me. We ended that phone call that night with me reassuring him that he always had a friend in me. That he was lovable and perfect just the way he was. I told him that we all go through hard times and that this was just a rough patch, a speed bump on the highway and that soon enough it would be all over and everything would be fine again. I reminded him to keep perspective, told him I loved him, and to keep me posted, and we hung up. He felt better, but now I was the one who was anxious and worried.

Over the next few weeks I texted Sam a few times after that just to check in and tell him I loved him and that I hoped everything was OK. He called me a couple of times to catch up and tell me he was doing a little better and would be with his parents soon. He seemed to be feeling a little better as he worked toward this.  I still had that uneasy feeling though, you know the one, where something just isn’t right.  That physical presence of a knot in your stomach that won’t allow the bad thoughts to slip from your mind.  I didn’t hear from him for a few weeks. I texted on occasion, but Sam isn’t the best about replying so I assumed that no news was good news. Then, after a couple more weeks, I got another late night call. He was upset again. VERY upset. He told me that he was so confused. That he hadn’t been able to find a job. That his parents were pressuring him to get himself figured out. Then he told me that they were making him feel all those old, terrible feelings that were so familiar to him. He told me that they were telling him that his lifestyle choices were the cause of all of this. That his choices were wrong. There are a lot of people who think you can choose who you love and because we live in a great country we are allowed to have that opinion. Personally I think that’s a very cold and small minded way of thinking. People who believe that have either never put themselves in another person’s shoes, aren’t capable of doing so, or are simply scared to death to empathize with something so foreign to them. Fear is the ultimate obstacle, and fear is a dangerous thing. I let him talk, I let him cry. What more could I do? He was miles away from me. I told him to keep looking for work and that everything would be OK. To just not give up and to keep trying. When we hung up, he felt better, but he was far from feeling good, and so was I.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Sam and wondering if he was OK.  A short time later another call came. More frustration and more sharing from him, more encouragement and more love from me. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do. Then the calls started coming regularly. Sam and I both had to finally admit that his parents were emotionally abusing him. They set up a counselor appointment for the family and Sam was in that meeting for about 20 minutes before he called me to let me know that the counselor was trying to counsel him to be straight. He informed me that the family was blaming him and making their lives miserable by his “choice” to be homosexual. He was calling a lot and things seemed to get worse and worse. They were trying to make his “gayness go away”, and Sam was trying to live a life true to himself. He wasn’t finding a job, he was being abused, and he was drinking too much – which made everything even worse. Who wouldn’t be in that situation?

One night on the phone I finally said, “I wish you could go to work in Yellowstone. They provide housing, you would make good money, and there is a small gay community there, as well as a straight community that not only tolerant, but supportive. Why don’t you apply there? The job won’t start for a couple of months, but it’s an option.” He was intrigued, captivated even. I told him all about the job and the seasonal life and how I felt that would be a perfect temporary solution for him – and maybe even a long term one if he decided to stay for several seasons in a row. We discussed his options, and how to apply, and what he would have to do to get there and get back on his feet and get out of his situation and to never, ever, ever have to rely on his parents for anything else again. I felt bad that I hadn’t thought of it before, but I felt great for thinking of it now. And I think, for the first time in a very long time, Sam felt hope.

I was texting Sam every day at this point. Anything from a simple “I love you, Sam” to long texts about how he was going to be fine because he was a brilliant, talented, kind and caring human that was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He let me know that he applied for the job right away. He also let me know right away when he got and interview.  Then finally, when he got offered the job. It started six weeks after he accepted the offer. And there it was – the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. He had something to look forward to, something to strive for. Sam had something to run towards. What he didn’t know was that he was running towards dignity and freedom.  But he had to get through the next six weeks first.

Things got worse before they got better. He was still drinking too much, and emotionally unstable, and being subjected to abuse on a daily basis. He wasn’t working and had no income and we all know how that can wear on a person, especially someone who is already vulnerable. He almost came to live with me for a couple of weeks in spite of the risk it posed for me to lose my own housing, but Sam hung in there. He stayed strong even when it was incredibly difficult to do so. And through it all, he defended his mother. He said it wasn’t her fault and that she just didn’t know any better. Sam is a good person, with a huge loving, understanding, and forgiving heart. I wouldn’t have offered the same grace to this family if I were in Sam’s shoes.

When Sam left his parents house to go to Yellowstone I was traveling. I was in a completely different time zone on the other side of the earth the next time he called me. I was so happy to see that he was calling. He hadn’t communicated much over those last few days before he left. I was off work and visiting friends, and he was breaking free from oppression and on the road himself…so communication was limited. But when I saw he was calling and realized that I was able to answer, I was ecstatic! I didn’t even say hello, I just answered the phone with a smile and knowing that he would already be in Yellowstone by then, I said, “Do you love it?”

My stomach dropped when I heard him crying again, but quickly realized that this time he was crying with joy. And he couldn’t stop. He just kept saying “You have no idea. You have no idea”. But I did have an idea, and I knew exactly what it felt like.  Many years prior Yellowstone saved me too.  I had been bound by all of the expectations and oppression of family and friends and a culture that didn’t suit me.  I myself had broken free from everybody else’s imposed “should” for my life – from worry about what others think and what others will do. The best feeling of all though? The best feeling of all is being free from what others do not approve of. Human spirits are not designed to live under that kind of cloak. We are built to be our free selves. From the most mundane people on earth to the most adventurous – we are all meant to live out the lives we feel drawn to. I let him express his joy through tears, and may have even dropped a few myself. I could feel his relief half a world away.

I went to visit Sammie a month after he arrived in Yellowstone. He looked marvelous – emotionally healthier than I had ever seen him. He goes by Sammie now, by the way. He wanted a new name for a new turn in life and it suits him perfectly. Sammie is making good money, he is in a good living situation, he has some stability again and ironically enough he found it in a seasonal job that has an end date. He’s going back for the winter season. He has a boyfriend now. A strong, steady boyfriend who truly cares for him. His parents have even come to visit him a couple of times and they seem to have a much better understanding of the fact that whether they approve or not, there is no going back. That Sammie will never, ever again live for anybody other than himself and that they are going to have to deal with who he is if they want to keep their son. They have some growing to do. Sammie has some growing to do. We all do.

As for me, I have an even stronger long distance friendship with one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known. I take great joy in knowing that it was the mystical, raw, natural power of Yellowstone that helped make him whole again. Yellowstone is beautiful. Many years ago Yellowstone saved me too. It saved me in ways I couldn’t even imagine then. But now, Yellowstone saved my friend too. If you need saving, maybe you should give it a try.  the natural, raw, spiritual power of Yellowstone National Park is mysterious…and very real.  I can’t explain it, but I have felt it.  Now Sammie has felt it too.

I love you, Sammie. I admire you. You are an amazing human.

Today I am grateful for the magic that is Yellowstone National Park, for vulnerability, for diversity, for close friends who trust you enough to open their hearts to you, for getting even closer, for telephones, for jokes after tears, for people who stand up to religious law, and for those who don’t. I am grateful for text messages, the light at the end of the tunnel, and for hope. The kind of hope that makes a person light up. The kind of hope that shines so much light on dark souls that it washes them completely clean again and fills them with a light that beams out of them so brightly everybody around them can’t help but feel good. That is what I am grateful for today, my friends. I am grateful for lives being lived the way people want to live them in spite of everybody around them telling them they shouldn’t or they can’t.

I’m Racist Sometimes

I’m racist sometimes. Not all the time. Not even most of the time. But once in a while, I have racist thoughts. My saving grace is that they always prove me wrong. The shame is real though, and I am far more uncomfortable with that than I am with my racist thoughts. These things happen to you too. You can deny the racism, or the shame, or even both if you want to, but they are real for every single one of us.

I have a great car that I bought right after my divorce. I had wanted one of these particular cars for quite some time and once I had the freedom to make my own decisions with my own money, I bought one. That was 11 years ago. People who travel a lot typically personify their vehicles. It may be out of boredom creativity, or maybe loneliness, but I am another cliche’ traveler like that. My car has a bold personality and represents nothing to me but freedom. I take care of it, it takes care of me. It keeps me safe, and I keep it in good working order. It’s a perfect relationship. In fact, I have been far more successful at this relationship than any romantic endeavor I have ever pursued. I have met some of the coolest people when my car needed work. This makes sense, right? You are vulnerable. You are giving people the chance to either do right by you, or treat you terribly wrong. I have had several instances in my life where people not only do right by me, but they also go above and beyond to make sure I am taken care of, that I make good decisions, that I am safe.

A couple of months ago the exhaust broke on my car. I was in Browning, MT on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. I found a garage so I could try to limp home, and figure out what to do once I got there. It’s an incredibly tough thing to admit, but I was having all kinds of racist thoughts. I didn’t trust the garage. Especially not with this car. I don’t really trust any garage until I do proper research, but this time I allowed darker suspicions take control. I was desperate. I was vulnerable. I was afraid they would hate me because I am white, that they would not fix my car right. I was afraid that they would cheat me, and be racist towards me because of their history with white people. I live next door to this culture and I don’t know much of anything about it. I regularly have to drive through the land they were forced to live on, to live on the land that was stolen from them. Why wouldn’t they hate me? Why wouldn’t they cheat me?

Our relationship with the Blackfeet tribe is veiled to me. It’s mysterious, and uncertain. I have a million questions, but employees here are never introduced to these people. There is no welcoming committee. If anything, there is an unspoken, underlying feeling that we should avoid the reservation. Without being told outright to stay away, we are told to visit establishments OUTSIDE the reservation when we need things. In short, we get the feeling we are supposed to avoid them, that it’s unsafe there. In fact, I feel completely ignorant about their culture, and frankly, I feel like I am trespassing on their land most of the time. I would love to know more about them, but I don’t know how to have these conversations. Do I ask the grocery store clerk about Native American Racism? Do I ask the gas station attendant for forgiveness? Not one entity in the area helps to facilitate a meeting for this purpose. My questions go unanswered, my guilt for the past remains, and my ignorance persists. At least until I am vulnerable and I need to get my car fixed.

So yeah, I had questions for these people. Not just about my car, but about our relationship. My questions were serious, and I wanted answers, but how do you ask them? Especially of someone you just met? It’s like asking someone on a first date if they are interested in marriage and having children. You only do that if you want someone to break out into an Olympic sprint in the other direction. These are difficult issues, awkward feelings. Here is one verse of the song of questions that plays in my head: “Do you hate us? Do you hate us for the things our ancestors did to your ancestors? Do you hold this generation responsible for what has happened in the past? For things that still happen? Do you want me to do anything I am not doing? What can I do? Is there anything? Or would you rather I just stay away? Would you rather we all stay away? Are there atrocities that still happen to you? What other ignorance am I guilty of? What is life really like for you? Can we coexist? Can we do anything at all? Can you help me understand? Can we help each other heal? Do you even need to heal, because I know I need to. I need to heal from the guilt of all the wrong that has been done to you. Am I disrespectful to you in any way? Am I allowed to love you? Will you allow yourself to love me? Can we be friends? Because I would really like to be friends. And I am not just saying that. I truly, with all my heart and soul, mean that. Can we be friends? Please?” These aren’t questions you ask somebody you just met.

After some time in the waiting room, full of angst and fear, a very nice native fellow came into the waiting area to let me know that the exhaust mount on my car had broken off and that he put a temporary fix on it, but I should come back to have it welded together properly. They charged me $20 for services rendered and gave me a very reasonable estimate to make the repair. That was it. No comments, no hatred…nothing but honesty and courtesy. You know that moment when you realize you are wrong – like REALLY wrong – and you feel completely stupid and remorseful? Yeah, this was one of those moments for me. I realized all at once what an ignorant jerk I was to distrust these people at all. I noticed a sign on the wall that they were AAA certified. I realized that there were two police cars out in front of the building discussing repairs to their cruisers. I realized, with an intense humiliation, that this was a reputable establishment and that I had no reason to believe otherwise. I had been afraid of something that didn’t exist. I was discriminating based on fallacies. I made assumptions based on rumor and things I conjured up in my own head. I was doing to THEM the very thing I was afraid they would do to ME. And that was when the shame crawled in, and smothered me like an icy cold blanket.

I returned a few days later and had the car repaired. I was again met with nothing but friendliness, professionalism, and reasonable prices. A few weeks later my tire had a slow leak. I went to my now trusted garage in Browning. As the repair was taking place the woman behind the counter chatted with me. She was very nice, and I wanted to ask her more questions but I held back. She was white. How did she get here? Do you like living here? Can we be friends? And again, after some time, her husband came to let me know that the tire was fixed and to thank me for the business. He is a native Blackfeet, born and raised there and they own the business together. He asked me how I liked the reservation. And do you know what happened then? I answered him. I answered him honestly and openly, and we talked. The All three of us really talked.

For probably an hour we proceeded to have real, genuine, and deep conversation. We talked about how our relationship with one another needs to be expressed and clarified. We talked about life on the reservation and what it’s like, and life in the park and what that’s like. He told me that his community actually tries to cater to visitors and how they shouldn’t feel afraid and I told him how I wish we could have some kind of orientation upon our arrival about his people so as to dispel any of the questions that others might have about the tribe and our relationship to it. They both tell me a little of their life story and how they came to know one another and how they have struggled with building their business because of discrimination. They showed me pictures of their son and his rodeo achievements and I told them that I have Cherokee ancestry and how I wished I knew more about that part of my lineage. We discussed education and how important it is and the fact that many Native Americans are educated but that there are very few jobs on the reservation so much of that education goes underutilized. I admit to them that I have been cautious about coming to the reservation in times past and how every time I visit I am greeted by people eager to be helpful and friendly. Both of them answer questions – questions I didn’t even know I had. I ask if we can be friends and if we can hang out sometime. And it feels good. All of it feels really, really good. There were a million more questions I wanted to ask, but they are running a business, and I had taken enough of their time, so I gave them the $17 they charged for fixing my tire, and made an appointment to get my brakes fixed the following week. I thanked them for their services, for their time, for the conversation, and then I left.

Travel continually makes me vulnerable. A lot of people are uncomfortable with that, and that’s OK. Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to the world. I am glad that my car broke down at this particular time in this particular place. One couple can’t answer all my questions, but I feel good about having new friends. I feel good about having the courage to allow myself to grow and to allow new and different people to come into my life while I kick old and crappy assumptions out the door.

I once got an estimate to fix the body of my car after a slight collision. I spoke with the garage owner about how much I love my car. The guy behind the counter was obviously very practical and great at dad jokes. He looked at me and said, “Penny, you love your parents. You don’t love your car.” I didn’t get the body fixed, he was right about that. But I do love my car, he was very wrong about that. My car is tired these days. It has a lot of miles, and it makes a lot of noises. It’s covered in dings and dents that I won’t repair, and soon I will have to get a new one. Yes, this car has outlasted several boyfriends and taken me across the country and back several times. This car has taken care of me in ways I never dreamed a car could. I can admit that I am racist sometimes, but I can say even more confidently that I am willing to learn. My precious car helped me do that.

Today I am grateful for my affinity for my old car, 170,000 miles of adventure with more to come, the silly act of making up a personality for an inanimate object, the open road, chance meetings, plugged tires, reputable businesses, the unforeseen paths life takes us down, the courage to admit that I was wrong, real conversations, honest people, strangers who become friends, for people who go to the deeper places with me, and for the desire to overcome my own ignorance and continue down this road of life long exploration, learning, and understanding.

Endurance

My employer feeds me. If I could opt out of this, I would, but I can’t. Living in a dorm in 201510-omag-annoyed-woman-949x534Glacier National Park requires me to eat what my employer chooses to cook. Every employee makes comments about how bad the food is, and how it resembles prison food. I have never been to prison, but I suspect that their food is probably better than ours. To make matters worse, I am vegetarian. The people who cook for us think that as long as there is some corn on the line, that will be sufficient.

I’m also not allowed to listen to music out loud. It’s as though I am living in Beaumont and Reverend Moore is running the joint.  There is a bar about 30 minutes away but who wants to drink and drive? We are allowed to drink in the employee lounge but with no music, no cues for the pool table, and fluorescent lights we aren’t allowed to turn off, what’s the point? No amount of beer can make a prospective romantic endeavor look good under fluorescent lights. Oh, and we aren’t allowed to possess, or drink alcoholic beverages in our rooms. You know, the rooms that we pay for.  And the bathroom doesn’t have toilet paper a lot of the time.  And the showers aren’t the cleanest.  And the WiFi is terrible.  Many times I don’t know why I live here.

I’m complaining. There is actually a lot more that I could complain about. I’m sure you don’t want to hear it, especially in light of the fact that I live inside the boundaries of one of the most stunning national parks in the country. I don’t want to hear my complaints either. Actually, I hate the sound of my own voice. We are half way through the season and I am already sick and tired of all the rules we have to endure. I need to hike.

img_1605I got my boss, Kim to come along with me on the trail. The hike gained 2500 feet of elevation over four miles then descended another nine miles into the valley that I live in. After two summers in this park, “strenuous” doesn’t intimidate me much anymore, but this hike is 13 miles. 13 miles is a lot for me to do in one day, and it’s strenuous to boot.   The first four miles gained elevation and provided views of two different glaciers, thousands of wildflowers, and the experience of walking across a scree field with a patch of snow crossing the path. The nerd in me thinks it’s super cool to hike in snow in July. We talked about work on the way up. I complained about the food that is served to the employees. I’m sure I was annoying but she brought work up too, so we’re even? Anyway, it felt good to vent about it and get it off my chest, but I also feel like I should have talked about more positive things along the way. Yup, I’m human.

The views at the top were spectacular. We sat to eat a snack and take in the view. You could see for miles. You could see as far as the curvature of the earth would allow you to see. Up into Canada and beyond. Maybe even all the way to Antarctica if I looked hard enough. The snow melt created a lake that was an incredible turquoise blue. The glacial silt that gets washed to the bottom of the lakes reflects light in such a way that it makes the water mysterious, almost magical in color. You half expect an ancient and wise,  mythical creature to come out of nowhere and walk up to the edge of it. As we silently take in the view that is before us, I realize that not everybody gets to see this kind of thing. There are many people in the world who are not able, or who can’t even imagine what I am img_1614looking at with my own eyes. I wasn’t thinking about work anymore.

It was so peaceful here that Kim fell asleep. I left my bag and walked higher to be alone, to breathe deeply, and to simply sit and appreciate the view while I could. If the gods that control this world would allow me to see this view twice, I had no idea when that would be. My neurosis makes me wonder if it’s white privilege or just plain privilege to be able to see what is before me. Whatever it is I am beaming with gratitude for the chance to experience it.  My ability to go from an ungrateful complainer to being speechless with gratitude sometimes gives me whiplash.  Obviously work is not what was occupying my thoughts.

A bit later I noticed that two marmots were working their way closer to my friend and to my backpack that I had left unattended. I quickly descended down to where the bag was and just in time because the marmots were about to drag my bag off for themselves! The wild animals in this park are accustom to humans. Kim woke up to find me sitting next to my bag with the marmots licking my bag. I just couldn’t help but stare at these fascinating creatures at close range. I got my camera out. Kim and I both laughed at the playful curiosity of these adorable creatures and enjoyed their company for quite some time. Work was the furthest thing from my mind.

I could have communed with the marmots all day but we still have nine miles to go on the hike and knowing that we aren’t the fastest hikers we set out towards home. Besides the stunning scenery, this trail is awesome because you can start at the trail head and hike home. The nerd in me thinks that is super cool. We walked a lot of this way in silence. The number and diversity of waterfalls that were scattered among the various canyons, valleys, and rock faces along this hike was legendary. That feeling I had at the top of being in another world transcended into feeling like I was walking through the Lothlorian forest itself. It was a bit disenchanting that we didn’t see Galadria or Legolas along the trail somewhere. My apologies for the Lord of the Rings analogy, but that is honestly what this place felt like. There were times when the beauty was so sincere, it didn’t feel real – as if only Hollywood and digital technology could have created what we were seeing. But Hollywood didn’t create it. God did. Or whatever you it is you call the force that shapes all things. Whomever you think created it, they did a great, freaking job. I even touched the trees to make sure they were real. And as for work? What’s work? People who live in magical, mythical places don’t work!

We continued down the trail to the bottom of the mountainside. The magical scenery turned to dense forest and we couldn’t see much in the way of scenery. We hiked for quite some time like this and then saw a junction and sign that said we still have 4 miles to go. We had already hiked a total of 9 miles, but it was up and down a mountain pass, and four more miles felt like a lifetime. I wouldn’t let Kim get discouraged and proclaimed “We can do it!”, and I took the lead as we continued down the trail. A while later my knees started to hurt, I felt a blister coming on in the same place I had gotten a gnarly blister just two weeks before. This part of the trail was thickly forested so we were also getting all kinds of unwanted attention from the bug population. Some discouragement seeped into our attitudes. We felt each other slowing down, and exhaustion setting in. Then do you know what happened? The trail started climbing again. And my knees were hurting even more. And this is where the discouragement won. we slowed down considerably. And we started getting tired. And the bugs were dive bombing our faces. And I was back to complaining. Sick of hearing my own voice again, I asked Kim if we could stop. I had finally admitted to myself that I needed a break. We ate a snack, I checked for blisters, and we put bug spray on. I decided to say as little about work as possible from this point forward. I’m sure Kim was glad.

At just about the time I started obsessively repeating the thought in my head that we must just be around the corner, it turned out we were just around the corner.  I exclaimed that we where home, and I don’t know where she found the burst of energy but Kim actually ran up to me, jumped up, and shook my shoulders in excitement. In spite of all the things I can’t stand about living here, I was glad to be back. The hike was difficult for both of us, but a triumph.

th (1)Kim and I parted ways, feeling satisfied with our accomplishment, complaints and all. I have two nasty blisters on top of my old gnarly one, and when I got home I collapsed onto my bed. I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow. At some point I woke up and the nerd in me had drool coating the side of my face.  My own stench clouded my nostrils like a thick fog. I stumbled to the shower to wash off the stench and again collapsed onto my bed, falling asleep before my head hit the pillow.

As I am writing this, two days later, I can feel the pain in my muscles and joints and it hurts to walk down the hall to go the the bathroom. Every muscle in my body is screaming obscenities at me if I even think about moving, but I have accomplished something that was difficult for me. I have seen something not many people get to see. I have enjoyed time with a dear friend. I have stared in awe at the geological wonders of this world. I have done something that wasn’t easy and I had to push myself to do. I can endure another week of the parts of my job that I hate because all of the things I love about it. I can endure another week of my employer pissing me off. I can endure anotherth (2) week of being annoyed with my own complaints. I can endure all of this because I am glowing with that sense of self respect and accomplishment that comes with enduring something you think you can’t endure. On those days when I think I can’t possibly take another bite of corn, or when I feel like organizing a dance with loud music and strobe lights and debauchery and shenanigans just to make Reverend Moore pray for my redemption, I will just think of the sense of accomplishment I feel at this very moment. I will remember what it’s like to endure, and stay to the end.

Isn’t this what happens to all of us? We start off excited in the beginning. It’s so easy to cruise right along when something is new. Whether it’s a new job, or a new relationship, or a new house, or a new car, or a new trail head. Doesn’t matter what it is, the surge of energy we feel is real, and it feels as though it will last forever. Then we get to the peak. Everything seems perfect, as though the whole universe is conspiring to smother you in happiness. It’s as if the velvet robes part and the heavens open and the world couldn’t possibly be a better place than it is in that moment. Then we come down a little. We have to come down because Utopia can’t last forever. We are still riding the cloud nine train, but not quite as high as we did a while back. Then something happens and it rains, and when it rains, that cloud we were riding on sends us sailing straight for the ground without a parachute, and we crash. This is the low point where everything is hard and you can’t see the end. When you are exhausted and can’t possibly take one more step without resting. The part where time slows down and morale is almost non-existent. This hike was the perfect example of how cyclical everything is. It is important for all of us to remember to take a step back and notice where we are in the cycle of happiness. To take stock of how everything is going and keep perspective. To have the vision of the finish line even when it seems that the hard times are never ending. We must train ourselves to endure to the end. Life’s trials are training you to make it to the finish line. Endurance teaches us that everything will be OK. You don’t have to win the race, you don’t have to be in second place, or even third. Pushing yourself, enduring, making it to the end will leave you exhausted and sore, maybe even scarred. In the end though, you’ll have a huge smile on your face, and that alone is worth all of the effort. And if that isn’t enough to keep you moving, think about the fact that only thing you can do now is move upward, back towards the peak. Back up to cloud nine. Yes, my friends, endurance is a hard lesson, but a good one.

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Today I am grateful for difficult climbs, glaciers that will soon be a part of history, snow fields in July, the nerd in me that enjoys nerdy things, grand scenic views, mystical blue waters, marmot spit, being able to see as far as the earth will allow me to, a landscape that is so picturesque you drain your camera battery even when it’s on airplane mode, bug spray, moleskin, animals that aren’t afraid of me, blisters that serve as battle scars, sore muscles, and endurance. The endurance it takes to live in a difficult situation, the endurance it takes to push your limits on a continual basis, and the endurance to reach the end, the endurance it takes to have a good attitude, especially when you just don’t want to.

A Bad Day At Work

thumbnail (32)They asked me to write for the newsletter at work.  We train our brains to tell us that we aren’t enough.   We tell ourselves that nobody cares, or wants to listen, or worse yet, even if they do, we don’t want to burden them with our problems.  Our concerns aren’t important enough, they aren’t as serious as other people’s problems in life.  Why do these terrible thoughts come so easily to us?

I had a bad day at work.   One of those days where every last thing seems to go wrong.   I didn’t go there that way.   I woke up happy, I went in happy, I tried to make everybody around me happy.   This is something I strive for every day.  I guess you could say I’m a “people pleaser” in a way.   I like to see people happy.  Seeing people happy brings me great joy.  I am not perfect.  I have days where I am the one who needs someone to pick me up, but I look at a world map every day for perspective and I try to practice gratitude on a daily basis and this particular day started out good.

I don’t know where the downward spiral began.  I was doing my job, trying my best, and then, in what seemed like an instant, everything went wrong.  Guests were angry, management was annoyed, coworkers were irritated.  Words were said, more words were said, and voices raised.  Feelings got hurt, anger showed up, and then came the proverbial kick in the stomach when I was down.   You can relate to this, right?  It was one of THOSE bad days at work.   So bad that you don’t even want to say goodbye to anybody when you leave.   So bad that you wonder why you even chose to get out of bed that morning, much less attempted to be in a good mood.  So bad that perspective is impossible and gratitude is a distant memory.  All I wanted was for this wretched night to end and to go home.  It did, so I did.

thumbnail (23)The next day was my day off, so I threw some clothes and food in my backpack and left.  I am fortunate enough to live and work in Glacier National Park so “getting away from it all” isn’t a very difficult thing to do.  Everything was still on my mind.   Everything that happened.  I couldn’t let go of it.   I felt sad.  Very sad that everything went the way it did. Sad that I didn’t even know really what the problem was, sad that I handled it the way I did.   I felt attacked, and hurt and just…bad.  I had gotten my back country permit the day before and I set out on the trail feeling heavy with negative thoughts.  I was looking to nature to center me and ground me a bit.  She has a way of doing that, as you all know.  I wanted to think about something else.  Anything else.

I am a slow hiker.    I am not old, but I am not in my 20’s.   I am not fat, but I am not light on my feet either.   And I like to stop a lot along the way.   I like to take pictures, really look at everything around me, and breathe.  I like hiking alone for this reason.   I like not having to keep up with someone or feel guilty about slowing them down.   I like the silence and not having to talk.  It was sunny, but not too hot.   Winds were calm.  Thethumbnail (22) birds were singing.  I found myself thinking less and less about the awful day at work, but it was still there, weighing on my shoulders.  There were very few hikers here.  Everybody was pleasant, but nobody stopped to chat.   I was grateful for that.   I am a server in a restaurant and when I work around so many people so many hours a day, so many days of the week, time to myself is an absolute and unequivocal priority.

I got to the campground much faster than I anticipated and feeling lighter.   The worries thumbnail (27)of the day before were still there but not so forward in my mind.  I was hoping I would be at the campground alone, but shortly after I got there a lovely couple from South Dakota arrived and we made small talk.   Shortly after that, two other people arrived and one of them was an old friend from Big Sky.   I knew him when I worked there a few years ago.   How ironic it was to see him in the back country, of all places!   We hugged and talked about mutual friends and about Big Sky and about how much we love it there.   He told me that he still lives there and about his new job and I tell him how good it is to see him.  He left me to set up his tent so I decided to make dinner and talk more to the couple from South Dakota.   We see a mountain goat and decide to explore the area a little together.  There is a waterfall and I get caught up with fascination for the moss that blankets the rocks, and the fungus I find on the leaves of a shrub.   I take pictures of all the little things which is something I love to do.  A plant growing out the side of a rock, a caterpillar eating a leaf, the beams of light from the setting sun shining through the pine trees.  The couple asks me to take their thumbnail (9)picture and I smile at how happy they look and how clearly they love one another.   I decide to give them time alone and go lay down in my tent and as I do so, I realize that I had completely forgotten about the day before.   I had found my happy again.  I realized that while the day before was not to be taken lightly, it didn’t have to be taken that seriously either.

I fell asleep early and woke up in the middle of the night looking at billions of stars and the silhouette of the pine trees against the night sky and I felt peace.  I fell asleep again and the sun woke me up early the next morning.  I made a cup of tea and stared at the reflection of the mountain on the perfect stillness of the lake and again, I felt peace.  I thought about my life journey, how I ended up here, why I am here, and where I am headed.  I gained perspective.

We are told by everyone around us to live in the moment, and living in the moment is important.   If we don’t live in the moment we don’t have memories to share with the world.   Perspective is the ability to see beyond the moment.  Perspective is what gives us something to strive for while we live in the moment now.   Sometimes, we lose perspective when skies get dark.   Sometimes living in the moment is impossible when our boots are heavy and we are trudging through the mud.  What we all need to remember is that there isn’t a competition for the world’s worst problems.  We all have problems.   It sounds trite, but rings true.   When you have problems, lean on your friends.   This is what friends are for.   Some people in the world really are all alone. I am not.  I am lucky enough to have close friends all around me.  Here at Many Glacier I have the best kind of friends.  I am surrounded by my tribe.

When I went home from work that night I poured my heart out to my roommate.   I am lucky enough to have a roommate who cares.  She let me scream, she let me cry, she told me I was worthy and that I was not a burden.   She is a true friend and a blessing in my life.

I hope that all of you have someone you can turn to.   Someone to help you get perspective in those times of need.   I hope that all of you train your brains to tell you that you are enough.   I hope you know that there are people out there who do care, who do want to listen and who do not consider you a burden.  I hope you know that while you may not be starving or beaten, or repressed, or abused, that your concerns are important.  If it matters to you, it also matters to people that love you.  Lean on them.   Let them listen, let them help you regain perspective.  Not just on bad days, but every day.

Today I am grateful for my backpack; for the courage and ability to hike slowly, by myself, and be quiet; for my roommate who is a beautiful human; for bad feelings and good feelings and everything in between; for mountains and moss and fungus and sunshine and stars and silhouettes and reflections; for bad days at work and good days on the trail; for all the friends I have made and will make on this crazy life journey; but most of all…most of all I am grateful for perspective, which brings me peace.

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100 Good Things In My Lifetime

I write all the time. A lot of the time I do it just for me. I write a lot of lists too. So many of them. I recently rediscovered a list that I wrote quite some time back. This list is titled, “100 Good Things In My Lifetime”. If I remember correctly, I wrote it while I was in a very unhealthy relationship and I wanted to be able to refer to it when I was feeling low, which was often at that time in my life. Unhealthy relationships can be catastrophic if a person doesn’t work at keeping their spirits up. I am no longer in that relationship, and my down times are less frequent than they were when I created this list, but I greatly enjoyed rediscovering it again. I wrote the list for myself, but I am in a safe enough place to share it with you now, and I thought you might get a chuckle out of it. I also thought that maybe, just maybe, you would get inspired to make your own list. I hope you make one and keep it for times when things get tough and you need a pick me up. It can be anything you want it to be. Anything at all that you consider a good thing in your life. And by all means, don’t stop at 100. Write as many as you want! Write a 1000 things if you’re blessed to have that many!

Today I am grateful for all of the things on this list that I am about to share with the world, for rediscovering awesome things that I have written in the past, for taking the time to love myself, for having the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship, and for the constant strive to choose happiness in my every day life.

Here is my list. Enjoy!

I was born to the most amazing parents ever in the history of all parents.
My sister and brother let me live after stealing all the attention for so many years.
My parents grew food and flowers.
Not only was I taught the importance of spirituality, I also discovered it for myself.
Being continually blessed with the most amazing friends in the entire world.
I discovered shandy beer, sour beer, goses, and scottish ales.
I learned how to spell really well.
Ms. Nelson taught me to appreciate entertainment.
I learned to love reading and literature.
God gave me a servant’s heart.
Mr. Heaton told me to read The Lord of the Rings, The Stand, all the classics, and many, many others.
I got married.
I got divorced.
My National Parks Passort has SEVERAL stamps.
My US Passport has a few stamps.
I have traveled to many, many places and because of that I have lead, and will continue to lead a very full life.
The chance to serve the homeless in NYC.
I was turned down by the Peace Corps. Because of that, I found a reserve of determination I didn’t know I had.
The Red Cross changed me for life.
I know what love is.
Receiving a genuine lei when I got off the plane in Hawaii.
I saw Dead Poet’s Society.
I have seen the dinosaur bones, and Lucy.
Dad taught me to make snowcream.
Mom taught me to walk in another person’s shoes.
I’ve gotten drunk enough to pass out.
I have stayed sober enough to drive.
Seeing the changing of the guards.
Learning to drive a stick shift.
Seeing Graceland.
Being a part of a church family that makes me understand the true meaning of community.
Living in a place that spoke a different language.
Living in Yellowstone National Park for two years.
Graduating College
I took the road less traveled.
I made mud pies, caught turtles, stared at pond skimmers, and ran through the sprinklers as a kid.
Defined my own version of “Rocky Mountain High”
Being introduced to gratitude.
My sister making chips and cheese in the oven as a kid.
Playing Monopoly, Yahtzee, and Cribbage with my Dad.
Playing Euchre with Lynn.
I have resisted, and yeilded to sexual temptation.
Got a 100% on the human bones test in seventh grade.
Sitting on the Mayan ruins of Tulum.
Seing Baloo in Walt Disney World, and seeing Bumblebee and Optimus Prime at Universal Studios.
Witnessing a mama grizzly play with her cubs.
Realzing how much I do NOT like moonshine.
Realizing how much I DO like Rum!
Gave up make up for years.
I take my dreams seriously.
I survived cancer in more ways than one.
I remained a girl while being a tomboy.
All those times when my brother exposed me to new music.
Got to be a Goonie for a day.
Experienced the sunset at Cannon Beach
Falling in love with the music of Van Morrison
Experienced as much of the romance Montana has to offer as I possibly could.
Saw Jack Black in Hollywood.
Learned to appreciate and drink lots and lots of tea.
Collected as many magnets as I could from any place I have visited.
Played all the Atari 2600 games with Shawn, who was a great, great friend.
I have done my fair share of puzzles.
Told my parents I loved them. They told me how much they loved me.
Sat in a natural hot spring.
Fishing with my Dad.
Wrapped Christmas presents with my mom.
Mexico with my Sister.
St. Louis and Kansas City with my Brother.
Pardise with Lynn and Kris.
Visited so many places all by myself!
Laughing fits with Jennifer.
I laugh often, and hard.
Kitty Cuddling
Puppy tail wagging.
Giraffe Kisses.
Seeing an Eagle soar.
Witnessing water so clear you could see every color on the fish swimming in it.
Watching the pandas in Toledo, San Diego, and Taipei.
Having clean, clear, cold water available to me whenever I want it.
Having clean, hot showers available to me whenever I want one.
Owning more books than I could ever possibly read.
Realizing that wild, brave, and free women are the most beautiful creatures on earth.
Movies that move me.
Experiencing the wonder of the Grand Canyon.
Seeing nature’s skyscrapers at Zion.
Learning to know when things are out of my control.
Getting back in touch with my artistic side.
Having the courage to pursue my dreams.
An everlasting yearning to learn, learn, learn.
Hugging a redwood tree.
Knowing how to have fun without drinking.
Getting to meet and befriend people from all over the world.
Standing on the the Arctic Circle, the Tropic of Cancer, and twice on the Equator.
Hiking trails that made me cry.
Standing on an island that was so beautiful it didn’t feel real.
I have picked up trash someone else left behind.
I get the opportunity to make people smile on a regular basis.
I experienced the beauty of Morning Eagle Falls.
Gave the ocean the respect it deserves.

Good Stuff

Our Common Human Threads

“How do you do what you do?”

This is a question that I get asked often. I am blessed to have many friends. Friends that I made growing up with and living 20 years of my adult life with in Michigan, and friends from all corners of the earth that I have made throughout my time following my first passion of travel. There are many ways to maintain friendships. Phone calls, letters, visits, and the creation of social media has made the ability to keep up with friends profoundly easier. I take the time to call close friends, write letters and send cards to many others, and I always visit as many of my friends as possible in my travels. I post on social media sites IMG_0296often. It is here that my journey seems to intrigue people and it is here that they seem to ask the questions about my lifestyle that they are curious about. The photos show me backpacking in Glacier National Park, standing in front of Old Faithful, laying in the snow on Denali, standing on the Equator, volunteering in Africa, partying in Ecuador, learning about ancient native cultures in Arizona, and snowboarding in Colorado. The questions roll in…”How do you do what you do?”, “What do you do for money?”, “Where do you live?”, “Does that pay well?”, “Are you happy living this way?”, “How are you able to do all of these things all of the time?”…These are only a few of the things people will ask someone who lives an unconventional lifestyle. I am writing today to try to answer those questions for the people who don’t ask but are still curious.

“Where do you work?”
As a nomadic seasonal worker I move often and work in vacation destinations around the United States. I typically work in a national park during the summer months, and then I usually move to a ski resort during the winter months. These places are only busyEquator In Ecuador 2018 during those times and they need staff to help accommodate the influx of travelers to the area. I work as a server in a restaurant. Although working in food service in this country can be challenging, I truly enjoy the interaction I get with visitors and piers from around the country, and the world. With a B.A. degree in computer information systems, I’ve definitely had jobs that pay better than being a server, but the money that I make in these areas is actually quite good simply because of the volume of guests that I come into contact with each day. I also love humans. All of them. Even the difficult ones. Since nobody is perfect, bad days can happen, but the fast paced team environment of food service poses daily challenges and many personality differences that can make your day exciting. I am fortunate enough to work with many foreign students working in the US on a temporary work study J1 visa program. And, as you can imagine, national parks and ski resorts get visitors of all types. Working with, and serving people from all ages, religions, nationalities, economic backgrounds, races, and and sexual preferences provides the opportunity for me to see the common threads Capitol Reef NPof humanity at it’s core. Many people live in the same town all their life, and see the same people, and allow differences to divide them from other humans. I have learned to see the traits that unite us. Every single one of us. Everybody loves beautiful places, everybody gets hungry, everybody has needs, many need to know what’s vegetarian or gluten free, some need to vent when their bosses don’t have a clue, a lot of people have hidden talents, many have very important jobs, everybody needs to know where the bathroom is, and genuine smiles and laughter go a long way to bridge the gap between cultural differences and cross language barriers. My daily life is riddled with the challenges of humanity and I love it.

“Where do you live?”
“What do you do when you aren’t working?”
Seasonal jobs offer a huge advantage to those who choose to work them. Four to six weeks off in the spring between jobs, and four to six weeks off in the fall between jobs. I have already told you that travel is my first passion, and I have also told you that I make a great living wage in these areas. The housing is provided at many seasonal jobs. You actually live on site, in a dormitory style housing, where you work, and this isPartying In Ecuador usually offered at a significantly lower cost than a conventional living arrangement. This allows me to save most of the money that I earn and once all of my personal obligations are taken care of, I use the rest to travel with in the off-season. I also am entitled to unemployment compensation benefits during those times. I have taken extended road trips around the US, visited several countries, and made contact with many friends – some of which were foreign students that I worked with in my jobs. Knowing them has allowed me to cut costs while traveling abroad. So basically, I work in vacation destinations, and I get two to three months off every year to travel, with income coming in the entire time.

“So you don’t live anywhere permanently?”
No. I don’t. I live in dorm settings with a new roommate every working season. My car and a tent, or my suitcase and a hostel is my home during the off season. Many might see this in a negative light and some would even call me homeless much of the year. I see it in a much more positive and beautiful light. In dormitory living I get the opportunity to get close to people who become real friends. Not just people who are cool and I would like to spend some time with. I mean REAL friends who have heart to heart, 2:00AM talks with me. Friends who are there for each other through struggles. Friends who laugh with each other and cry with each other and make a true effort to keep in contact even after we part ways. And in the off season, I am free. Free to wander and roam and discover as I choose. Free of mortgage payments and rent payments and utility bills. In her book,Volunteering in Kenya “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges her readers to come up with one word that describes them fully. One word that could be used to describe everything about them as if no other words were available. My word is “explore”. Those off seasons are my time to explore. They are my time to be free of many of the ties that bind others to obligations I have no desire to posess. In exchange of house payments and car payments and cable tv and boats and quads and all of those things, I explore. I explore places, people, ideas, theories, religions, cultures, theologies. I explore highways, scenic byways, backroads, large cities, small towns, college towns, hiking trails, and swimming holes. I explore my own mind, the thoughts that come to me, and the feelings that make me uniquely me. When I travel I see common words, commonality in cultures, animals I didn’t know existed, and lands that make me curious about how this earth was formed all those millions of years ago and how it continues to shape itself today. I explore ALL of those questions that I have only because I travel. Only because I expose myself to new and different things. Those periods of travel have made me grow exponentially as a person. They have revealed personality traits I wasn’t aware of. They have taught me more than I could have ever dreamed of knowing when I lived in only one permanent place. I do have a permanent address at my sister’s house in Michigan just to make the logistics of my life easier, but to answer the question, the only place I live permanently is – on earth.

“Are you happy doing this? You like the way you live?”
Emphatically and absolutely, YES! I understand that not everybody wants to live this way. There are many pros and cons to living a nomadic life. I am required to share space, I have to live by a lot of rules, I don’t own much, change is constant, I won’t be settled long before I have to pack it all up and move it again, and that alone can truly be exhausting. You can let those things stop you if you wish, or you can think that they should stop me. I tend to dwell on the positives. I am constantly in extraordinarily gorgeous places, I have the privilege to live in places where people save for months toIMG_2930 visit, it’s exciting to learn continually, and to reiterate the above, change is constant and I don’t own much. I am continually having to question who I am, where I want to go in this lifetime, and how I can use the gifts and talents I have been uniquely and divinely given in a way that will bring joy to others. There are no daily doldrums in this lifestyle. I don’t pass the time with television. I don’t dread Monday and I don’t live for Friday. I live every day, every moment…because every moment is fleeting, temporary, dissipating as it is passes. I will never be in the same place with the same people at this same moment again. Some of you may find that disheartening or peculiar, and that’s fine. Not everybody wants to, or can live this kind of life. I find it exciting, and fulfilling, and while I see myself settling down somewhere in the very distant future, I have no intentions of giving up the now at this time. I will continue to be nomadic, to expose myself to the world, to let it beat me down, teach me, and reveal my true self. The authentic human I want to be, the authentic human I have become. Yes, I am astoundingly happy doing this.

My questions for all of you are these:
Do you like living the way you live? Are you happy doing what you do? If money were not important, what kind of work would you spend your time doing? How do you live in the “now”? How do you want to be remembered? How do you do what you do? Because IBackpacking In Glacier am just as peculiar about a conventional lifestyle as you are about an eccentric one. Let’s talk. Let’s share. Let’s find common ground. Visit me sometime, or maybe even come with me, and I will visit you, and we will learn to love one another in spite of all of our differences. Let us find our common human threads, together.

Oh, and if you are interested in having a job like mine, and you don’t have any idea where to start, please contact me and I will point you in the right direction. You don’t have to be young, in fact, you don’t have to be anything. You just have to have the desire to try it out. The courage to step outside the box and see where life takes you. You will be astounded. I promise.

Today I am grateful for the poster I saw when I was 19 years old that advertised working in Yellowstone National Park, for all of the questions I get from people about my crazy life even when they ask over and over again, for the exposure to an alternate way of living, for the courage to continually step outside the box, for other people who do this and the encouragement we offer each other to continue down this path of learning, for exposure to some of the most diverse situations a person could encounter, for seeing the positive side of things, and for living a life that others find inspiring. That is what I am most grateful for because some people in the world don’t get the opportunity to inspire others and that, my friends, is an opportunity afforded to far too few in this world.

Snowboarding Steamboat 2018