Travel

Gearin’ up for Ramblin’

This post isn’t about my arts and crafts. Although I will be doing some arts, crafts, and DIY for this project and I’ll share those with you.

This post is about a decision I made about what I want for my future.

I have always been drawn to a minimalist lifestyle. It’s something that I know I can do from my travels. I have spent 6 weeks living out of one suitcase. Even then I didn’t use everything in my bag. (Some part of me thinks that these experiences are what I am grasping for- the freedom and excitement I got to live daily while I wandered new places.)

We use and think we need so much more than what we actually do need.

At the end of July I watched a documentary on the tiny house movement and it just clicked for me. That is what I need to be working toward in my life. I felt it immediately and have felt that way every day since.

I started working on designs, planning, and getting rid of excess junk. I cleared out my kitchen cabinets in two days. I became a bit obsessed.

I kept wondering- How the hell would I pay to build a tiny house? Obviously, I’m just going to have to work hard and save up. This isn’t going to happen overnight, that is for sure.

Still, I want some part of the experience now- a “practice run” in tiny living, if you will. So I decided that I want to live in an RV while I plan, save and build my dream tiny home.

Fast-forward a few weeks and I find myself elated to be the proud owner of a 1972 Holiday Rambler!

It needs some work, so I am fixing it up and hope to move in very soon after it is complete.

I am enjoying this project. I am learning a lot of new and exciting things. I like that when it is done, I will have a home that I can take anywhere and that I put the work into.

I can look at it with pride and say “I did that”.

There are so many different ways to live and I have spent many years wondering where my place in the world is. I feel that I am on the right track now. I adore my HR and the community that comes with being a vintage HR owner is awesome.

I will keep you updated. Here’s a look at my Holiday Rambler the day I brought it home.

 

What I’m Reading

I’ve been reading this book by Pam Houston called “Contents May Have Shifted“. At first I found it off-putting, how every page is a new story with reoccurring characters.

Then I fell into the rhythm of it. The writing is beautiful. The descriptions actually leave you feeling like you’ve visited the places and seen what the author has seen.

The book also does a good job of reminding me of little moments I’d stored away in my memory from my own travels. Things that, at the time, drove me crazy and now are stories I fondly share with a laugh.

It makes me think back on the time in Madrid when I finally got a hotel room with air-conditioning only to come back to the room one night to find it had broken and was leaking nasty water onto the bed. How I had to move the bed across the room myself and use my last towel to soak up the puddle on the floor.

Discovering that Paris would never actually live up to my dreams. My first sight of the city being of a man peeing on the station wall as rain clouds rolled in overhead. Being harassed nonstop by men selling little Eiffel Tower trinkets and mocking us when we politely declined.

Finally getting into the one bathroom that I shared with 14 people, finding that there was no more running water and going 2 more days without a shower. Being unable to sleep as my roommates sung ABBA songs at the top of their lungs into the night.

Getting stranded at the Madrid airport for 9 hours after running to catch my flight to Athens. Getting rained on as I climbed the slippery steps to the Acropolis.

Having my unzipped luggage puked on by a drunken boy who passed on our hotel room floor.

Getting lost on the streets of Amsterdam in the darkness.

These are the things we don’t plan or want to happen when dreaming of exploring a new place. These are the things that we hate at the time they are occurring. These are the things that we remember with a smile later.

Sometimes I don’t recall the little details about my travels. It’s good to be reminded. It makes me ache to go on a new adventure. There are so many great and terrible moments that come and go when you travel.

Like falling in love with people so quickly it feels like a free-fall, then the tearful good-byes and promises to stay in touch. It truly is a an emotional rollercoaster.

I’m not done reading the book yet, but I am enjoying it and the way it leads me to look back on my own experiences.

I think it would be a good read even for someone who doesn’t like travel. We have all had experiences that would relate. The author also makes some profound statements on life in general that are worth thinking about.

I have spent my life trying to understand the way this rock and this ache go together, why a granite peak is more dramatic half dressed in clouds (like a woman), why sunlight under fog is better than the sum of its parts, why my best days and my worst days are always the same days, why (often) leaving seems like the only solution to the predicament of loving (each other) the world.

-Pam Houston “Contents May Have Shifted

I’m not from here…

A part of why I became someone who loves travel is that I was unhappy. My family and I moved to Cullman, AL when I was fourteen.

It was very different. I had lived my whole life in Canton, GA. I didn’t know anyone. I always felt like an outsider. It never felt like home.

When I left and someone asked me where I was from, I took my time telling my life history to avoid saying “Alabama”. I always made the distinction that I wasn’t “from” there, I just “lived” there.

It was bittersweet to have to return to Cullman after I had spent almost 3 months living in Peru. I had gotten used to the pace of Huaycan, the sights and sounds of it. In ways that Cullman never had, it had become my home.

I’d had a purpose in Peru, a job to do each day, people who enjoyed seeing me and whom I loved spending time with. I knew my neighbors and was always occupied with some kind of project. I can’t say that it was easy being there, but it was always interesting.

Being back was disorienting. I was thrown off by how quiet things were. Where was the sound of my upstairs neighbor stomping around and their cat running over my head at night? How come I couldn’t hear the tamale guy or the knife sharpener yelling down the alley to drum up business? Where were my all loud, lovable housemates?

I found the lack of noise eerie and couldn’t sleep at night. I searched for things to do with my day.

I had been walking a lot in Huaycan, so I decided I needed to put in the effort to at least go for a walk each day.

I had to go to one of our parks if I didn’t want to be killed by a car. I tried Heritage Park, but it had no personality, which only served to remind me I was no longer in a bustling little Peruvian shantytown. Eventually, I went to Sportsman Lake Park.

I could hear ducks quacking before I opened the car door. Sunlight filtered through leaves onto my skin.

As I walked around the lake, I slowly lost some of the sadness that had been hanging over me. It was still and quiet, but the wildlife, other people, and general sounds of nature helped drown out the silence.

My worries started to fade and the rhythm of my steps on the path became enjoyable.

For a while, I was able to forget my troubles and be in the moment. The feel of sun on my face and arms was soothing.

I still noticed how unlike Peru it was, but in a way that made me appreciate the differences. It was the first time in awhile that I had felt content.

Somehow in leaving Cullman, I was able to come back and find a little slice of that feeling of home that I had been missing. Now I find that I don’t hesitate as much to just say “Alabama” when someone asks where I’m from.

Volunteering Abroad

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…”

-Mark Twain

I’m certain that I had read these words before I saw them painted on the wall. It was as if I was seeing them for the first time, though. Something clicked in that moment, and I felt as I had all week- something inside me was changing.

The first time I left the United States, I went to Cartago, Costa Rica. It was a somewhat spontaneous decision. I was sitting in my apartment one night, searching the internet for local volunteer opportunities, something to do on the weekends. I stumbled upon Cross-Cultural Solutions.

After an hour or so of reading their website, I had made a deposit on a trip and bought a plane ticket. If you knew me back then, you know how out of character this was for me. I overthink things. A lot. I also ask the advice of almost everyone I know. I didn’t do that this time. It seemed right.

I printed out information on Cartago and presented it to my loved ones, announcing my  plans to volunteer there. My best friend at the time thought that I was out of my mind and would be killed. I carried on anyway.

The week before I left I received my assignment. I was going to be working at a special education school. I was thrilled.

My time in Costa Rica was amazing. It changed who I am. I met the most wonderful people. My life has taken a different path since then, and I am very thankful for it.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. I absolutely loved every second of it. I mean that. Even the hours spent painting dirty classrooms and moving furniture across the school campus. The children and parents made all of it worth it.

The kids put on skits for us while we were there. I remember walking into the auditorium the first day and the students came running over, hugging and kissing us. One little boy shook my hand, kissed my cheek and with a huge smile on his face, told me how happy he was to have me there.

The volunteer house is still one of my favorite places. It has an open corridor, so the winds blow through it. The walls are all painted with messages and murals from the previous volunteers.

In my free time I wandered around the house, devouring the walls. When I discovered the Mark Twain quote in the corner by the bathroom, I stopped in my tracks. It is such a simple message, but so true.

I fully believe everyone should take the time to travel and explore new places. Everyone should leave their comfort zone and see things that they’ve never seen before. It really does make a huge impact on who you are, if you will let it.

Since then, I’ve traveled as much as I can. I quit my job when I had enough money saved up, and I took off. I saw some new parts of the world. I had a great time. I will do it again when I am financially able to.

I would recommend volunteering abroad before any other kind of travel. My latest trip was to Peru, where I volunteered in Huaycan for 2 and a half months. Living and working in a place gives you such a different experience. It is so much more fulfilling.

My time in Peru was spent with the organization The Light and Leadership Initiative, which is run by Lara. She is fantastic. I found her through Ubelong. Cedric is great and informative. Check them out if you are interested in volunteering abroad.

My last day in Cartago was my big moment. I had been waiting all week for it- I got to leave my mark on the wall in the house. Some of my roommates were much more creative than me. Jerry left a thumbprint behind a sign above his bedroom door. Tarsha misspelled her message and had to redo it.

If you ever find yourself in the CCS house in Cartago and are walking through the back hallway, take a look at the wall and see if my painting is still there.

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