Hello and thank you for your finding yourself on this page. My trip is set to launch in about a week, and the nerves are sneaking in. By nerves, I mean the seeds of self doubt: “Is this necessary?” “Is this wise?” “Should I even do this?” And, of course, the appropriate response is to shut these insecurities down.
Today is the first day I’ve had to begin the nitty gritty for this adventure since quitting my comfortable life as a Market Coordinator. I had decided to tackle online school immediately, wound up in an intensive course (16 weeks condensed into 11 days), and am now certain that I can accomplish whatever I wish (got an A+ in that class!). Most of the items I need have been collected, with the exception of a tent and a large water jug. These are my two most picky items, so I’m waiting to find the right ones.
Today, to fight away insecurity, I focused on intent: What is my intent with this journey?
The Story: As you may know, my Dad passed away February 12 of this year. I started out as a Daddy’s girl, he gave me my name, but he left when I was 6 and our relationship had been rocky at best until February 25, 2017.
I practice prayer and energy transfer nightly. On February 24, I changed my prayer line from “May Dad find what he is searching for” to “May Dad know I love him no matter what.”
As a result, he showed back up into my life February 25, in need of help. To save on details, we ended up living together until fall 2017, when he had gotten too ill for me to care for him alone. (His final home was the Martinez Veterans Affairs building). A few months later, he was diagnosed terminal with lung and bone cancer with 6 months to 1 year to live. I fully believe that it was destiny for us to find such deep healing at the end of his life, as my heart feels full knowing that when I look in the mirror, I can see him. We have always been so much alike, and nothing but time together could have exposed that. I know he found healing too, as we sat through deep talks several times, and always ended them with a laugh. We found what we needed from forgiving each other, and forgiving ourselves. I can exist knowing that my Dad does indeed love me.
Now he’s gone and I’m left with memories of his last years. Two months before he passed, my Aunt Char and I had accompanied him on a cruise to Hawaii. This was his 50th state, a proud feat of his. We played cribbage together while docked in Maui, and he looked at me and said he could die happy.
That is the legacy I want to remember him by. The strong, social traveler who saw our country. So this begins my intent. To learn my Dad a little bit better through a challenge of stamina and discomfort. I will be camping out of my CRV converted to a camper (to be completed within a few days from now), at various spots, and will stay with friends, acquaintances and relatives along the way.
My journey will begin through the South, up the East Coast, through a portion of Canada, and the final loop with be through the North (I’ve seen many of these states already). Some things I plan to investigate are: Historical places/museums, haunted/spiritual locations, bodies of water, and cultural landmarks. I’ve been gathering a list of destinations for several months, and will write about them as I go!
Along the way, I intend to work on my writing skills, meet new people, expand my knowledge of life, and to learn to trust intuition more fully. Continue following this post (or subscribe) to read perspective on the states, on traveling in this new-age way, and ultimately, to savor the sweet tales of what it means to heal into full truth.
If you find something particularly interesting, or want to know more, please reach out to me through e-mail at email@example.com
I’m also open to writing gigs, editing to content building, that you may need assistance on. This journey is going to take a large chunk of savings, after all!@thelostqueenofatlantis
I have a big network of people. This isn’t a brag, it is just a fact. So it makes sense that at least a few times a month, I get tagged in a social media post about solo traveling. Inevitably, there are always comments about how scary it is to solo travel, and these are the posts I am tagged in–as either congratulations for combatting fear, or expectation to combat this sentiment. I would like to provide some insight to how it feels to be a solo traveler.
Feel #1: Overwhelm
Summer 2005 I had spent working out intensely, in hopes of joining the Pittsburg High volleyball team when the school year started back up. In response to this, my thighs were solid, but sore, which meant I loved to wear loose fitting jeans (I was 14–no way was I going to wear sweats, eww gross haha and legging weren’t back in fashion yet). So when I went to my Grandma’s house in Oregon for the summer, I brought the only 2 pairs of pants that fit me to this liking, and a few shirts. I packed light for the 2 month stay. This was so relaxing–waking up in the morning with just a few options of what to wear. In a way, it felt like freedom to know that I chose these outfits, yet somehow wasn’t overwhelmed. Until one day, my step Grandpa wanted to take us on his boat to go fishing. “Wear clothes you don’t care about ruining,” he said. I was filled with panic. I cared about what I brought. Suddenly, I felt so limited.
Traveling alone is a fine line of narrowing down where to go, while not completely limiting the “go with the flow” options. Obviously, I pack a little more dynamically these days, same goes for travel. Before beginning this journey two years ago, I spent MONTHS researching the states on several different websites, through conversation, and via my road atlas, looking for all the options that truly piqued my interest. Up until a couple days ago, I forgot that this was meant to be a brochure, not an itinerary. I traveled through a state for a day using GPS to get to destinations I had researched, and while these destinations were awesome, I went to bed feeling cranky and anxious. It was the next day when I remembered that having direction in mind is helpful, but it is in the liminal “going with the flow” where the magic happens. Had I used GPS the entire time in 2019, I would have never made the connections in New Mexico that let me feel like I was visiting family this time around. Maybe this is a feeling that is hard to connect with, but traveling solo means having so many options, it is important to provide clarity and direction, lest the anxiety drain is what you seek. Remember, there is no one to tell you what to do when you solo travel. No one to negotiate with. It is ON YOU where you land. Which leads to feel number 2.
Feel #2: Fear
I know, I know, fear? Really? Yes, really. I follow several travel blogs and Instagram accounts, and often find myself jealous of male travelers. Somehow, when I’m fresh to the road once again, I feel that being a male would have the upper hand–stranger danger is less, the guard can be lowered, less people can mess with you, etc. While I won’t deny that I think this is true, being female has huge advantages as well–such as being seen as more trustworthy, being able to charm out of certain situations (have you read my El Paso blog yet?!), and ultimately, being a pioneer that earns respect. This doesn’t change the fact that I have to have a constant guard up. I am an attractive woman, from an overpopulated area that has taught me PEOPLE ARE UP TO NO GOOD. My trip in 2019 has taught me that this isn’t fully true, but this balance has queued my intuition on fear to a healthy degree.
In 2019, I wrote a post on van-life debates that contemplated curtains. While in Sedona, a male traveler told me no way would he use curtains, while a college female friend told me to block out view because she’s had guys mess with her dead asleep. I used curtains last time, and this time, I am choosing not to (my windows are fairly tinted, but still). I’ve felt more secure this time, being able to see out. Last time, I kept my taser by my pillow like a pet. This time, It’s only in arms’ reach because EVERYTHING is in arms’ reach in a car. Overtime, traveling experience means learning what is legit fear and what fear can be unlearned. But fear MUST exist.
As I was traveling through Oklahoma (spoiler! There will be a post on Oklahoma coming out), I stopped at a state park on my destination list. After parking, I looked around (ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings–this isn’t fear, this is street smarts). At a bench was a man, and while he looked normal enough, I got the strangest feeling in the pit of my stomach while looking at him, and I did all I could to avoid him seeing me. I continued down the trail, out of his view. I got halfway down the trail and thought suddenly “who else is here? What happens if I get hurt? I should turn around.” And while I was bummed to not see what I came to see, I had to listen to that voice. My heart wasn’t racing like anxiety, it was trained intuition speaking. As I was almost to the trail entrance, the man began walking down the trail and asked “are you from around here?” I kept my wit and strength to me, and walked further up the trail when he stopped and began talking more–about being part of a gang in Mexico, witchcraft, trying to spread prophecies, racism. I stood there politely but with an unengaged, stern face, one foot ready to lead me to the parking lot swiftly.. I hid my anxiety and used my brain. He was jumping from topic to topic, but was clearly sober (the fact that he didn’t seem like a druggie rambling, this set my stranger danger alert HIGH). This was a tactic I notice people use in sales and more grave situations to get people to let their guard down. I nodded and he began asking about me, what I was doing. “I’m heading north to meet up with an old college friend.” This one line I knew is the right thing to say. If he means no good, he knows someone will notice I’m missing before he has a chance to flee. He tried to invite me to his car to check out “documents” on info he was trying to spread, to which I quickly retorted “naww you gotta check out this trail and I gotta get going to my friend before he starts to worry.” He reluctantly agreed, so I quickly got back to my car. Only, I noticed that while he was parked on the other side of the parking lot before I entered the trail, his car was now right next to mine. I got out of there. Fear is healthy to acknowledge when it comes up.
There will always be moments of fear traveling solo. But this could have happened with a friend, as well. It’s group psychology to be a little less attentive when you have someone with you. And I know personally, I’m less likely to engage with others when I have a friend around. This is more dangerous. Light interaction is often disarming, as fear is what most bad guys feed on. In this situation, it took a little time to shake it off. If a gal pal and I experienced it, I know the anxiety would be heightened, as we would feed off of one another and wait for the other one to have some input. In a way, it feels a little safer to travel solo. That is, with plenty of people checking in on my daily (shout out, you know who you are!).
Feel #3: Ego Death
Ok Ok Ok I don’t love this term. The ego works with the ID otherwise we’d be off of our rockers. But hear me out on this (and please suggest a better subtitle if you have one after reading the description). Traveling solo means introspection. Self Reliance. Lots of solitude and time to think. I feel like a completely different person by the time I return–in the best way possible. It feels like accelerated growth.
When things happen on the road, and I have a drive ahead of me, I can’t help but to toss around every perspective possible. Time really is on my side here. One thought can lead to another and to another until one circumstance has created a domino effect of connection. So far on this trip, I’ve had to taste the bittersweet flavor of bidding farewell to loved ones returning home to leave me behind, of running from comfort, of forgiving an action that wasn’t even intended to hurt me, of noticing ways of interactions when a loved one would call, of seeing personal reactions to intense situations. I’ve felt fear, anger, joy, gratitude, love, peace, paranoia, frustration, confusion, exhaustion, anxiety, impatience, serenity. You name it, I’ve felt it. And that is probably the best part of solo traveling–getting to experience it all, and process it without worrying about how it will affect others.
Today, I drove. A lot. Since leaving 10 days ago, I’ve driven over 3000 miles. I felt tired, cranky, and unsure of what to do. I honored that. Went to a park, did yoga. Listened to an audio book. Drove down roads in silence. Felt it. All. Have you seen that Reese Witherspoon movie where she hikes the PCT and there is a scene where she is screaming out her demons? Well my screams may not be audible as I keep pace on the freeway, but I am definitely releasing demons by having nothing but time to sit with it all. And it feels great. I know I am finally letting some bags fall to the wayside, bags that are not meant for me to carry any longer. It’s exhausting and worthwhile, seriously.
You never know what is going to happen on the road. I could have placed bets on what this trip would have looked like, and would have been broker for it. The most important part is to be open to experience, queued into intuition, and friendly. You never know when a local can become a friend or at least a guide to the next best experience. Or when someone will offer to take your photo, so you have one less selfie and more real photo of your experience. What I’ve learned so far is that the people you meet will really help determine the trip–life is really about connection. There are beautiful states I’ve been through, only to feel unwelcome. I don’t like those states. There are places where I felt connected to people, and now I know I have a “home” to go to whenever I’m around. Those places become more beautiful each time I return. Traveling solo can be as lonely as it is healing, as frustrating as it is freeing, and as exhilarating as it is scary. I won’t take in a movie alone at home, I’m a social human, but I definitely recommend solo travel to anyone and everyone, especially if it frightens you. You’d be surprised the inner doors that open when you take the solo journey.
Thank you for reading this post! Hopefully it has provided some insight into the real feels of solo travel. As always, if there is anything of particular interest to you, please reach out! I’m also open to writing gigs, editing work, and just good hearted conversation. Much love, @thelostqueenofatlantis
“You can choose to run from your fear. Just remember the further up the tree you go, the thinner the branches.“
The last time I hit the road, I had a weird reluctance to go to Texas, which makes no sense because I could imagine how beautiful it is there! I’ve also enjoyed everyone I met who is from there. So, this time around, I decided I was going to push this time, and promptly drove down to El Paso for lunch. Well, it’s important to listen to intuition. Alternatively, sometimes intuition doesn’t make sense until it is said and done. Either way, I decided that this time, it wasn’t worth running up the thin branches.
Back story from earlier this trip: Please forgive me for not writing this in order! This is an important little tidbit that ties into the reason I got out of Texas without arrest. Yes, you read that right. Without arrest.
I’ve always held a vision of living in a mountain home, with a harp as a focal point that I would play after a long day at work. Something like an Angelic aesthetic that I think would be beautiful for house guests to experience. A couple months ago, I realized I’ve been living in a mountain home for awhile, all I need is a harp. So, I looked them up. They are expensive. The cheapest decent harp I could find was on Amazon (I know, I know), for $375. I saved it in my cart for later. I can’t justify spending that much on something I’ve yet to experience.
Upon arriving at the Airbnb for my Dad’s brick ceremony, I saw a harp upstairs—the exact same one I saved in my cart. It was fun to play, even though I’m definitely not naturally skilled at it, and later I found out that everything in the AirBnB is for sale, since the owner runs art galleries and can easily redecorate her home. Long story short, it was about ⅓ of the cost, so I own a harp now. I am traveling around with a 3 foot harp in the back of my Pilot. How’s that for aesthetic? A blondie driving around with a harp.
2000 miles from home, I made it into Texas. My suspicions were correct–it’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL. El Paso has hills and funky roads reminiscent of Oakland, and architecture and landscape that resembles Reno. Driving feels chaotic, like driving through San Francisco, because there’s a healthy city population. There’s something familiar to it. The sky is big and everything is a little greener than I suspected. I stopped at a gas station, and stopped in spots to get cool photos when a long time friend began messaging me about the most dangerous city in the world, Juarez, which is right over the border separated by the Rio Grande. Apparently, the chief of police was just killed a month earlier. This kind of spooked me, being so near that kind of imminent danger, so instead of stopping for lunch, I decided to hightail it to the nearest national parks–Guadalupe Hills and finally the sunset Bat Flight at the Carlsbad caverns (which was the planned next stop last time i traveled). I did make it to Carlsbad, but I’m not sure if I’ll be going back to Texas this time around. Or anytime soon.
If you have gone on roadtrips, you know about checkpoints. There are checkpoints for agriculture, DUI checkpoints, and if you’ve crossed the border, there are usually checks for weapons and smuggling. I had blueberries and tomatoes on my front seat, and some knives tucked into my door. Imagine my surprise when they stopped me for something else.
The line to get to the main point was about 4 cars deep. In front of me was a car full of dogs. The narcotics dog came running over and I thought “awww how cute, they must be training this doggo!” He had those big black Malamute ears and a waggy tail. My heart melted a bit and I was happy for this furry officer. He was jumping at the car with other doggos. With a big smile, I pull up with my turn. “Hey, how’s it going?”
“Ma’am, what are you doing out here?”
“I’m on a road trip, thought it would be cool to have lunch in El Paso and then see more of the Southwest. I just got done with my father’s memorial in Northern NM.”
“Do you have drugs on you?”
“No marijuana, THC? Pipes? Paraphernalia? Those ARE California plates.”
“No, I don’t smoke. My Dad died of lung cancer. ….. I do have cbd cream and a tincture that MIGHT have THC in it. May I show you?”
“Ma’am, we need you to pull over. Give us your license. We need to search your car.”
I pointed out to them where I knew the CBD tincture would be, and realized there is another CBD vape in a bag I use for my laptop (I put it in there years ago and forgot about it. I really don’t smoke). After 10 minutes of searching and me making small talk with the chief, they called me over and asked me to gather all the stuff that might possibly have alerted the doggo.
“He only alerts us that there is something, not if there is a lot.”
They were respectful about my set up–they didn’t want to tear everything apart. Which I was soo grateful for. I handed them everything I could think of, and they asked how and what I use it for.
“The tincture helps with headaches I get from a brain injury. The smoking thing? Bought it years ago. I don’t use it. Please just throw it all away.”
“Texas has a zero tolerance policy for marijuana. This is an arrestable offense.” “I honestly didn’t even realize there is THC in it. You can see it is 18:1, CBD. Please throw it away. Can’t you forgive a stupid Californian?” This got them chuckling and joking back.
“Well I can’t forgive you for being Californian, but I can let you know we are looking for higher amounts, but a sheriff could show up and arrest you.” MY eyes got big. “There’s no reason for us to call a sheriff.” He smiled to let me know he was enjoying my nervous charm (which I must say, just came out as bubbly conversation). “Please go back over there and wait.”
I was back by the chief, talking about his experience traveling through the Southern states as an ethnic officer. “You traveling alone? You couldn’t find a friend to go with you?” My heart sunk to my belly. This guy had one of those unreadable serious faces. Was he putting fear in me? Making conversation?
“No, it’s so expensive to live in CA, I couldn’t ask anyone to take time off for me. Besides, I’ll be meeting up with friends in most states that I stop.” He finally smiled when I told him where I would likely stop in NM, as he spent much childhood time there. Meanwhile, the humorous patrol put my stuff into one bag and called the dog over. The dog jumped straight to the bag, nowhere else. He looked around once more and shouted “Is this a harp?!”
“Yes it is, I just bought it!”
“Do you play?” “It’s my dream instrument, I just bought it to learn!”
“Well, we can’t arrest an angel with a harp. You’re free to go. I would suggest getting rid of the THC. It’s on camera here but we’re going to leave it up to you.”
It had been 15 minutes of me hiding anxiety—I didn’t want them to think I was hiding anything worse. My nerves were shot but no one could tell.
“Thank you guys! Sorry to make you and the dog do extra work. Really sorry about that. Thank you so much for what you do and for keeping us safe!”
I got in my car and began driving, fast and far out of Texas. This state took a look at me and promptly shouted “SCRAM!!” Too bad, it really is a pretty state.
Yes, I threw the stuff away. But now I’m beyond anxious for the rest of this trip. At least there is an exciting story out of it.
Later on I will post about my Dad’s ceremony and the time My Mom, bestie, and I spent in New Mexico. Which I still love and am currently resting in to feel safe before continuing on.
Thank you for reading. As Always, if there is more you would like to know about, please ask. Much love, @thelostqueenofatlantis
Here I am, again. Feeling frenetic and ready to see what else is out there, more nervous than I can verbalize to anyone. My life is good. It’s changed drastically since 2019, just 2 years ago. I’ve graduated college, started a business, entered writing competitions, left the country, survived the pandemic, experienced connection in different forms, and moved to the central coast. After experimenting with a few different career paths, I’ve found a company and community where I feel supported and seen and gain new skills everyday (I can kill and clean a live crab, which is a cool flex I didn’t have before). I wake up in the redwoods, and work on the water. My life is good.
The travel itch, though, never quite goes away. I’m lucky that I have the capacity to channel it instead of let it rule me. My Dad used to HAVE to take off after a year or two, afraid that the happiness wouldn’t last. I sometimes very much understand his take on this, but am doing all I can to choose the right side of the coin to this. Happiness is a personality trait, although getting stuck in monotony can certainly challenge the joy. Instead, I will honor it, cutting out time and budget to get back out there, fearlessly, while balancing this life that is so good. That I love. Because getting back out there simply means I get to bring something new to the table to those around me. I’m not chasing happiness, I am growing it.
Last stent on the road, I bought Dad a brick at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, so his memory could live beyond me, so his sacrifices could be honored. Little did any of us know at the time that there could be no ceremony in 2020. So it was postponed to this year, and I’m ok with that. Last year, I was not in the content spot that I am in now. The ceremony would have been an escape for me, versus now, it’s just time to honor my Dad. It’s just his rememberance for the weekend, and then after that, the legacy and break in the chain that I am vehementely attempting to foster. I am excited for the adventure, but not questing to escape, and that is something I am proud to hold as we gather for his closure. Something I will be happy to bring forth for him.
Things are a little different this time around. I got a new (used) car this week that will be easier on my 30-year-old body. I know what I actually need to bring. Any while the nerves are still real, I have a confidence I did not have before. The more difficult part to maneuver this time is finding a way to have my cats looked after. Last time, I had lived with family and had local friends. This time, I am off in the woods, with friends further apart and the threat of COVID still looming heavy enough to keep people apprehensive about coming over. I am thankful for this worry, though, as it means I have love around me and reasons to come home. I am about a month and half away from taking off. Stay tuned, as this is bound to be a good ride.
“Make yourself useful and go catch a mouse.” Kitty Purry would jump up onto my dad’s bed for a pat and a reminder of her purpose. “Make yourself useful and go catch a mouse,” he would say in a gentle, sweet, playful voice, right after scratching behind her ears. She’d pur and I’d lightly smile at how cute the interaction was every single time.
I’m not sure she ever did catch a mouse in the months my dad and I had shared that farm house. About 18 months later, he passed away from bone and lung cancer.
There were only 2 people my dad requested be at his memorial, my aunt and I, so I carefully picked a date that she said would work for her. It was a couple months in advance, as a way to let the snow melt in the place my dad wanted to be scattered. There were only 4 people rsvp’d to attend, including her, so it seemed right to consider it postponed when she canceled a week before our chosen date.
Time unfolded and her anger and pain became unbearable and viscously directed at those around her, including me, and I had to cut ties with her to stay healthy. Before his memorial could happen. I felt awful for the memory of my dad, but also knew he’d understand had he been around to witness it.
While traveling to honor him and inspire the new Murchie family tradition, I stumbled upon the Vietnam Veterans memorial at Angel’s Fire, NM. Every year, they host a ceremony where they lay a brick in a Veterans name. I had missed the cutoff date to have it done that year (2019), so I bought the brick for him to be placed in September 2020.
Of course, this was the pre-Covid world.
A boss texted me this Monday with an idea on how to better use my time, but she wanted me to confirm the dates I’d be gone on the trip to see the brick ceremony. So I called the memorial building to check the dates, only to find out that the ceremony had to be postponed to next year, due to Covid.
I awoke this morning feeling sad that once again, my dad’s memorial would be pushed back. I told myself that the memorial the VA hosted was enough, but my heart felt heavy. All I could do was begin getting ready for work.
Pit pat pit pat. I could hear Kitty Purry running up the porch stairs. The door was slightly cracked, and she pushed it open enthusiastically. This was new for her so I paced over to greet her. Her big, beautiful eyes sparkled with excitement as she looked up at me. In her mouth lay dangling a dead mouse. I gasped and then praised her for being a good hunter and for providing for us. She laid the dead mouse down, then stretched out beside it in pride, purring and looking at me.
It took me a few hours to realize the significance of this on this morning. Kitty Purry catching her first mouse on the morning I felt bad about my dad’s memorial.
“Make yourself useful and go catch a mouse.” His voice echoed in my head, and his smile shined in my mind as I realized this was him telling me that at this time, I need to make myself useful. I don’t need to feel bad about postponed plans. Instead, I need to use this time and go catch a mouse.
(Also, what a cat she is, to catch her first mouse on today of all days. Cats are tuned into something we are not.)
The above anecdote is the ice breaker: my plan to revive travels for a month has been postponed.
Since my last post, I’ve graduated college, moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains, and in an attempt to build savings for the next round of travels, I picked up work at 4 different companies–most very part time, but still consuming enough where I was working 6-7 days weekly, every week. Amidst heart issues. That turned out to be neurological. To sum up what I am attempting to convey: despite receiving time off of work to travel, my body has been undergoing some health traumas, and it is likely best that I stick around home for a while longer. Traveling during Covid didn’t sound too exciting, anyway.
Instead, I am going to go on a few mini adventures. So far, my plan is to check out some local hiking trails (I just moved to a coastal mountain town with many nature trails), explore “Fasting Prayer Mountain”, visit Tahoe with my close friend, and perhaps explore hotsprings with another long time friend from a state over.
I’ve also accepted a promotion at one of my jobs, gave notice at another, launched a new sales program at Luna Sea Vodka, and am officially enrolled in a Harvard course. There is plenty to keep me occupied.
Talking it over with a few friends and acquaintances, I would like to keep this blog alive with the more interesting aspects of my day to day. Perhaps the emotional journey it takes to heal grief, tales on the people I meet at liquor stores while selling, or little anecdotes involving synchronicity such as the one above. If you have any input on what you would find especially interesting on this heartfelt travel blog, please share below or DM me. Until then, so much love. @thelostqueenofatlantis
In 2018, I bought a passport as a 28th birthday present to myself. Neither of my parents have owned a passport, so this was a huge deal in changing family lines. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do believe in goals. My goal was to leave the country multiple times before I hit 30–simply because I noticed this as a trend of successful people. I thought that during my road trip, I’d hit Canada as my first passport use (I went to Mexico a couple times long ago–before passports became required in 2009). Unfortunately, coming home as quickly as I did meant missing this chance. But I hadn’t realized an even better opportunity would be awaiting!
Late September, when my Mom began to feel a little more stable, I went to the farmers market seeking ways to feel normal and to recalibrate to being home for awhile. While there, I saw my friend, whom I’d often score delicious Poke from, and he asked if I’d help sell his vodka. Sounding like a fun endeavor, I agreed. I had no idea that it would lead to the most exciting adventure possible.
The second week of October came, and my Mom was ready to get back into the swing of life–and told me to go back to living my life as best as possible. So I started selling for Luna Sea Vodka in Santa Cruz, CA. While on the road, I found myself chatting about Santa Cruz frequently, and relished at the fact that this was a chance to return to that community.
Sales came naturally to me–a tall blonde with the ability to drink–and I thoroughly enjoyed working with my longtime buddy. He apparently had a tequilla business in Guatemala while living there, and shared many of the details with me. So when he called to say he needed to go down there to help a friend, and he wanted me to go with him, it came as no surprise. “We leave in 3 days.” “Ok, lets do it.” “Yeah? :)” Yeah. :)”
And of course I was naive to think it was just work-related. There were only a few moments of “work.” He took me out of the country with intention of confessing his long time crush for me. I was happy about it. We’re very compatible.
Now on to Guatemala!
It is significantly more affordable to fly out of Tiajuana than it is to fly out of CA, so we drove down to San Diego, parked at a friend’s house, and made our way to the TJ airport. Once on the otherside of the infamous wall, “Empathy” was written out in tied ribbons. It was beautiful to see. We got on our flight, and had to catch connecting flights before making it to the outskirts of Guatemala, where we had to drive in to reach Antigua.
During the connecting flights, I had some of the best food–Mexico City airport has AMAZING tortilla soup, and surrounding hotels serve delicious breakfast buffets with fresh fruit, carnitas, roasted peppers, among other food. I know its strange to say, but that was some of the best tasting authentic food of the trip–Guatemala doesn’t use much spice, and the only memorable food there came from French restaraunts! I was warned about this, didn’t believe it, but now would try to fill up on food at the airport before landing in Guatemala.
Antigua Antigua is…simply beautiful. It is entirely easily to romanticize: old architecture, cobblestone streets, luscious parks and trees, ample night life, scenic volcanoes all around. Active volcanoes. The first morning there, I woke up at 7:30 to hear cracking sounds. “Did you hear that?” “Yeah, that’s the volcano.” Deven, my boss/friend/boyfriend, showed me pictures from when he lived there–the volcanoes regularly erupt and living within the lava range puts people at risk for death. The pictures showed glowing lava, burned houses, and piles of deceased people. This is their norm.
We walked down the street–away from the plushy hotel (Camino Real), to an authentic breakfast place (the food was very bland, although cheap. maybe $5). On the way there, I saw a few people begging in the streets, with tin cans, and felt reminiscent of San Francisco. “Did you see that?” “Yeah, I thought there’d be more of that in the third world. It reminds me of walking through SF.” “Yeah, but in SF, it’s not the police, firemen, and EMTs begging.” My eyes widened as I looked back. Sure enough, it was the infrastructure begging to get money for gas. Apparently, the state does not pay the gas or maintenance for public vehicles, which leaves the ill and ill-fated left in to suffer unless they have money to pay and bribe officials to take care of them. This left me feeling eerie, and very grateful that Deven called in his old bodyguard for the nightlife escapades.
While in Antigua, we went to: -Cafe No Se (a world-famous Mescal bar. Ilegal Mescal) -Sobre Mesa -Santa Domingo Hotel (notoriously haunted–it is) -Door 11 (cool little outdoor bar) -Shukos -Cierre de La Cruz (the “work” portion–a photo shoot) -Divas 2 (a brothel–prostitution is legal in Guatemala) -Fridas -The Ruins (a church from the 1500’s) -Zacappa Rum Bar -Mercado (an underground market place that police won’t enter) -McDonalds (this is FANCY. See main photo)
The laws around Antigua was rough to wrap my head around–bars had to close at 11pm, yet there was open panhandling, theft, and prostitution in the park. The Mercada is a market place that EVERYONE goes to for anything, yet is run by the gangs and cops refuse to enter because they will get murdered. Everyone is for sale. Want to stay at a bar later than 11? Give them 100 Qezalas ($13.36 American dollars). Want to have someone killed? How about 500 Q? (Ok, I don’t really know that, but those were the vibes).
Whenever we would go out for dinner, the body guard would stand across the street, staring at the front door and us. It was so uncomfortable–to know that I am lower middle class here, but considered incredibly rich there to the point of needing an extra set of eyes. Eventually, I convinced him to hang out with us in Cafe No Se. Apparently mescal communicates.
Naturally, aside from communication issues (I don’t speak Spanish unfortunately), I got along with everyone I met. There are a lot of nice people there, even with the blunt class difference. At one point, a lovely women, in her best English, invited me to go to yoga with her! It was for the day we were leaving so I had to decline, but that is definitely an example of how people and activities don’t vary all that much from country to country.
While hanging out, we ran into an old friend of Deven’s–a friend who is a cop. He allowed us to take a few funny photos with the vodka in the woods with a cop car. We can’t really use them for public marketing, but it is still hilarious to have.
After the photo shoot, a friend, a cop, and a body guard decide to go to the local brothel–and got me special permission to go inside (Deven refused to join if I couldn’t be there–something about being noble, and I liked that). I was the only woman in there not working–women are not allowed in because they can compete with the working ladies; and even if they could go, the local women HATE the name “Diva’s.” Prositution and sexual bribery is rampant there.
While there, I got some of the women laughing with my broken spanish (I befriended the body guard until he was willing to help me learn some words. Side note: by the time we left, I could understand 40% of what was going on). I called them all “Bonita” and from what I could understand, they did not find it degrading to work there. They were able to choose their own Johns, it paid better than the majority of other work, and the owner was a woman! It isn’t at all what I imagine the underground prositution ring in America to be like. I felt safe the entire time, and the women didn’t look dead in the eyes. At one point, I began dancing on the stage with one of the girls, laughing and smiling. When we left, she gave me the most sincere hug, and all the men cheered for Deven as we walked outside–his arm around me. That was quite the loud experience–especially for someone who had never left the country.
While this was an absolutely crazy experience–it was possibly one of the more enlightening ones. On the drive in to Antigua, we kept passing what is called “Automotels.” Here, for a nominal price, rooms are for rent by the hour for couples, prostitutes, and secretaries. I couldn’t understand before seeing Antigua first hand. Most people only make 200-500 Q monthly ($26-65 American dollars), which leaves them packed into houses with multiple families to afford rent. This means no privacy for love making between couples. No place to explore sexuality. And to be a working woman outside of Divas, there is very little option but to find a job where the boss is bribed with sexual favor. So Automotels exist. And are popular. I found it very sad, but all of the locals–men and women–assured me how necessary and normal they are. Everything is merely perspective.
Once the first couple nights passed, we calmed down and acquired more wholesome experiences. There are several ruins around Antigua, as it is a city of deep historical value. We went to the church from the 1500’s, which was beauitful, and cost $0.25 American money to enter. It rained while we were exploring, and I was instructed to quickly hide under an umbrella–the water is very contaminated there, and the rain is known to make everyone sick. I tested this theory later on, and it was right.
After the decreped church, we went to the Mercado, where I was able to obtain some local fruit (soo yummy), a few presents, and perspective. This place was like a flea market meets a farmers market meets a mall, meets a fire hazard. Aisles were barely wide enough to walk through, with items for sale looming far overhead. The meat was rotting, as it was not on ice, yet people still bought it. The fruit was brought in at 5 in the morning by local farms. It was a bustling, huge place that would be easy to get lost in–and I mean literally lost. I quickly made my purchases and got out, it was overwhelmingly stuffed in there.
After the Mercado, a drink was needed. We went to the Zacappa Rum shop–a rum from Guatemala that is beyond delicious. And there was a beautiful downstairs lounge. We got to leave the shop with Rum only made for Guatemala–only 6,000 bottles of this particular rum are made there yearly. It was sweet, smooth, the perfect gift for large, long standing accounts. After making the purchase, we walked around the shops a little bit. There was a beautiful jade jewelery store, and because we were both getting jewelery there, the salespeople brought out glasses and encouraged us to drink the rum while we were hanging out! I’ve never heard of this before, especially considering how little we were actually spending there.
The next day, on our way out of Antigua to Guatemala City, we stopped in the McDonalds. I was not excited, because I abhor fast food, but it was different there. Because the cuisine is so bland in Guatemala, many families will host graduations, birthdays, and other special events at McD’s. And this place was FANCY. It was huge–hundreds of people could fit there. The outdoor patio was lined with bushes, and in the center was a beautiful water fountain. Background to the fountain is an active volcano, and another set of ruins. It was here that it started raining and I didn’t immediately run for shelter. I woke up with swollen glands the next morning. The rain is seriously a threat.
Guatemala City: The Final Day Guatemala City is the nearest airport, which is still an hour away. I was assured that Guatemala City is very dangerous and not as fun to explore as Antigua, so we got in pretty late to avoid temptation. If someone who lived in Antigua thought a place was dangerous, that felt like a safe assessment to trust.
While there, we found another old friend of Deven’s–a French chef. He was on a romantic date with his wife, but they welcomed us with open arms. The restaurant they were at had the strangest sign–the glass door had a “NO GUNS” symbol etched into it. Okay, probably a dangerous place. The food was delicious, though. And for being the top restaurant there (exquisite ambience and design, unique wine decanters, the menu included foie gras) we only spent per plate what one would normally spend at the Olive Garden for a big meal. Being American here really did mean being rich. It was such a strange feeling–I felt so blessed, humbled, and sad all at once. Nothing in America has ever felt so imbalanced to me. I work hard, but I will never have to work nearly as hard as the natives there have to just to survive. My work gets me fancy meals and into other countries. Their work gets them a shared house and fear of starvation.
After the decadent meal, we went to a local bar for Deven and them to catch up. It was at this place called Rattle and Hum. It was super cute as part of the bar sat outside, with stools on the sidewalk. The strange part was the parking. When we got out of the car, a small group of men asked the friend for money to “watch his car.” He handed him money, and I asked him why, when we could literally see his car from our seats. “If I didn’t pay them, they would break into my car. I’m paying them to not break into my car. Sometimes they’ll even wash my car if I tip them enough.” The criminals have found a way to get paid. Crime was blunt yet organized.
After a few hours, we finally returned to the hotel, with 5 hours before we had to get to the airport. The flight left at 6, so we decided we had to get there at 4. The airport didn’t even open until 2:30, so this seemed reasonable. Our return flight was booked earlier, with Interjet, who got us there. The flight in was cool because it offered unlimited drinks, and a tasty sandwhich.
We got to the airport with 15 minutes extra at 3:45, only to find that the Interjet terminal check in was closed. There was no way to check our bags. So we ran up to the Interjet office where we became the first of 8 customers with the same complaint. Interjet refused to let us onto the flight because we did not arrive 4 hours prior to take off. “But you’re not even open at that time, and there’s more than enough time to get us ALL on the flight!” “Well, those are the rules.” After several calls and back and forth, the “best” they could offer was to charge us an extra $500 per person to get us on the next flight, and only get us to Mexico City, where we would need to buy new tickets to Tiajuana. Defeated and angry, and tired, we returned to the hotel to get rest. Thank goodness the uber ride between the hotel and airport was only $1.50.
Surprise! An Extra Day When we returned to the hotel, there was a stroke of luck–another company, AeroMexico, had a flight going out afternoon of the next day for a reasonable rate (it was cheaper than the alternative Interjet offered). It wasn’t direct, but it didn’t have such strange rules. We’d be in America on Halloween. So we called up his friends, and made a day of fun out of our “misfortune.”
Earlier in the year, I had a repeated dream of playing catch with my friends, but the ball would turn into a yellow and orange butterfly, friends would disappear, and peace would surround me. A butterfly in dreams represents change, and yellow and orange denotes happiness. I decided that this trip, right after my states’ journey, is the catalyst to that change. So I went and got a tattoo in Guatemala City from “Soul’s Anchor Tattoo.” It was a third of the price I was quoted for in Santa Cruz for the same art, artists here don’t expect tips, and this artist was the coolest with clean style. Somehow the only English-speaking artist at Soul’s Anchor (English was self taught through music) was interested in Crystal healing and was well traveled. The conversation was about as amazing as the art itself. My self-given souvenir will always be on me, and it sits as a reminder to accept change in all forms.
The day involved more decadent meals at his French chef friend’s retaurant, Metiz. I don’t think I ever ate so much fancy food. Meats, carbs, creams, all complimented by full bodied wines. After lunch, we drove over to Cayala. Cayala is like the Miami of Guatemala City. It is a place where people essentially launder their money by buying over-priced condos in a sub-city that nobody lives in. The shops, such as Coach and Tiffany’s, don’t generate enough foot traffic to make rent, yet are paid by the owners of the complex to stay in business. It was another gross-feeling place disguised by beauty and detail. It had the smoothest streets, LED lights draped between buildings, fresh paints, but barely any life. “Who buys these?” “Mostly drug dealers.”
We returned to Metiz’s after Cayala, where we sat drinking fine whiskey until it was time to grab some sleep before the next flight attempt. We made it to Tiajuana, and eventually San Diego the next day, on Halloween. Novemeber 1st was the final descent home–it felt insanely long after the 22 hours of sleep we managed to get over the course of 8 days.
Synchronicity By now, you should know my blogs tend to host a story of synchronicity. This one is no different. After missing the first flight, Deven was justifiably upset. I did my best to keep it positive: “You never know, maybe that flight crashes and the universe didn’t want us on it.” He called his Mom and she gave him a similar response (her and I are similar spiritually–before going, she wanted to be sure I was bringing my protection crystals to offset any negative energy cast at him for having success).
I never realized I was the one who would benefit greatly from that missed flight.
My online classes started 10/30, with assignments due on 10/31. When we got to the San Diego hotel, he sat with his head in his hands “I am so sorry I made you miss the start of your classes. Are you going to be ok?” I was a little sad “I may have to drop them, but this trip was worth every minute. I’ll figure it out.”
When we got back to Santa Cruz, I unpacked, and got straight to classes. I had missed too much in half of them (I was enrolled in 4). There would be no catching up, and any catching up would only get me a “C” with severe stress (I’m currently a 3.8 GPA). So I called my advisor…to find out I had a new advisor, who is from my hometown despite the school being 300 miles away. Her and I bonded, and I told her my simple education goal: to finish the last units of my degree as quickly as possible. She seemed confused. “You live in the bay area though? And you want online classes? Are you picky about what you major in?” After an hour of her finaggling ideas, she called me back. Apparently my old advisor had me in a mix degree program that would require me to drive to Lake Tahoe for classes. And I would have 3 semesters left as a full time student. She fixed it–I would need to stay enrolled in 2 classes (which I was fine with anyway), switch my major from Global Business Management to General Studies of Business, Literature, and Politics, and take one final semester. It saved me a year of time, nearly $15k in student debt, and I graduate May 16. If we had not missed that flight, I would have remained enrolled in those classes and potentially started this current semester with a very rude awakening.
Aside from gaining worldy perspective, a few stamps on my passport, becoming humbled while learning what it feels like to live akin to upper class, falling in love, and changing family lines through travel, I gained an official graduation date. I couldn’t have planned a better premier out of the country. And I am so grateful.
As always, thank you for following my blog. I don’t know what will be posted next, but I can promise it will be heartfelt with meaning. XO, @thelostqueenofatlantis
Friday morning. GPS off once again, down the road I went until I landed, this time in familiar territory. Pine trees all around, deer and elk prancing about, I was once again in Ruidoso. Completely by accident, and completely necessary in the longer run.
A quick text to Cute Waiter (CW) led to a mini adventure in the woods, and the making of new friends who gave me shelter for the weekend. My final weekend on the road for this chapter.
The weekend was full of wild fun–partying, socializing, bb gun shooting, pedicures, movies, and late night chats. Sunday morning hit, and I was tired. Existing on fumes. After trying a cup of coffee for the first time in 10 months, I gained the stomach ache from hell and to my shell I retreated, unable to function like a human. We all relaxed for a moment, until I couldn’t help how awkward I felt. I got up and went to my car, grabbed out the Atlas and looked at all the roads that lead to the Carlsbad Caverns. It was time to leave, as to not overstay my welcome. I took in a deep breath, mustering up whatever humaning I had in me to thank my new friends for the weekend of a lifetime, when I felt pressure on my feet. I looked down to find CW’s dog, Rocky, standing on my feet, looking straight up with his deep gaze.
Captivated and frozen, it felt like Rock was there to send a message You must stay. “You want me to stay Rock?’ His tail wagged slightly. “Ok, I will stay.” On cue, he walked off of my feet and went parading back into the house. I sipped some water, walked in, and shared what had happened in the driveway.
“Rock knows best.” “You’re going on the hike with us then, yes!” I guess I hadn’t overstayed my welcome, afterall. Or these guys were just the nicest. Either way, that late afternoon was worth it.
We went to Monjeau Peak, a beautiful wooded area that had been struck by a fire a couple years ago, yet existed in a state of green this early September. There was a mini castle laden with bricks, decaying trees, and the biggest treat: wild horses running through the woods. We all stood there, taking it in, experiencing it in our own unique ways. I leaned against a rock, savoring how fortunate I was to have felt in the company of friends for the weekend. It all felt so familiar and comfortable, and that is a rare feeling to achieve even with people I’ve known for years.
The night wound down for me, the student with homework due, but continued steadily on for the guys–who decided to battle it out Edward 40 hands style. Laughter, vomit, shouting, antics. One passed out on the couch, the other disappeared. When I was done with homework, the sleeping one woke up to watch a Taranino flick with me as the sky produced heavy rain, thunder and lightning. “Do you know how to tell how far the lighting is? Wait until you hear the thunder and count 1-100, 2-100, 3-100…” The storm was 40 miles away.
The sun rose as did the house. I woke up to see my friend go off to work, and to see CW arrive to bid me adieu. “What’s your plan?” “I’m not really sure, I just feel like I should go home for a little while, see everyone.” I shook it, and showed CW my itinerary.
“Let’s get lunch after your class and then say goodbye.” I was buying time, feeling so uncertain about what to do for the first time in awhile.
Laughing, joking, walking down the street, I took in the last moments of Ruidoso, complete with seeing a slain elk paraded on the back of a truck. After saying “See-ya” to my gracious host, CW walked me to my car, which was right by his truck. Some polite chatter continued on about books and synchronicity.
His radio lit up, my phone was still connected to it via bluetooth from playing DJ that weekend. Simone was calling, I ignored it, knowing I’d call her back in 5 minutes. “Oh, I told her all my emotions this weekend. She probably wants to hear about that, and tell me about her new job.” “Oh, all your emotions? Huuhh??” He was all playful smiles as a text came through. “Let’s read that text, I can read it here you know.”
Playful panic inched over me as I grabbed my phone from my pocket, trying to beat him to the text. “Call me. Your Mom is in the hospital.” CW read it to me and my heart stopped. My eyes felt narrow. “Do you need anything?” “Yes stay with me for that call, I’m going to ugly cry.”
Some hand holding and hugging, I was so grateful to not be alone for that call. I was so grateful that I felt the need to go home. I was so grateful that Rock stood on my feet, or else I would have been deep into Texas in that moment of time, instead of with someone I could seek comfort from, instead of only 2 states away from home. My Mom had a heart attack. “I’m headed home.”
I drove for 6 hours, and was so tired, I had to stop for the night and sleep. Calls poured in during the day, but spotty service kept me alone, tied to the radio and whatever distraction I chose. I drove 8 hours the next day, made it to my Mom 20 hours after getting the call. She was scared, afraid of the angiogram scheduled for the next day. Afraid that her daughter was going to become parentless all in one year. Simone was there with her, refusing to let her be alone through it. I walked in with hugs, smiles, laughter, comedy, all the goodness I could muster to lift spirits. I don’t currently have access to that human I existed as that night, but I’m sure she helped us all get through the scariest part. The whole thing felt so surreal. And continued to feel that way for the next 3 weeks. I think the toughest hurdles are cleared for now.
Only in CA: Welcome Home.
“Yes! They have my favorite flavor–red!!” “See, that’s why I missed you–who else knows that red is a flavor?” “Well, it sooo is.” SImone and I giggled as we walked through Safeway, my first morning back, to grab some breakfast before heading down to support Mom through her angiogram.
Joking, probing, lighting up, we passed by the meat section, where a tall beefy man stood near the manager’s specials. Without thinking, I exclaim “Look at all that meat in the managers special today!” Simone nudged me, shocked at how outgoing I was being. The guy grunted, annoyed with the comment. Under my breath I kinda chuckled “Sorry, I’m still on travel mode. Talk to everyone.” “I know, i know.” Simone smiled as we walked a hundred or so feet away, laughing about California and how annoying the rest of the country finds us native Californians. “It’s just..look at all this milk! There are so many options. I have my milk back! Only in California!” “Only in California!”
..”YEAH, WHAT YOU GON’ DO ABOUT IT N****!” Smash, clank. “YOU GONN DO SOMETHNG BOUT IT? WHAT YOU GON’ DO!” The beefy guy (BG) from the meat section was full on yelling and squaring shoulders with another tall, beefy guy with clear gang tattoos, an obvious gang member (GM). A young woman, dressed like a gang wife in her bright red track suit, long nails, and puffy hair, stood off to the side, watching GM with a scared and serious look in her eyes. Displays were tossed on the ground as the men continued yelling at each other and store security came running up.
Simone was on her tip-toes, inching out into the aisle, watching it. I look at it and laughed. Almost in unison Simone and I say “Only in California!” hahaha. The yelling subsides, and they go their separate ways.
“It’s just you have to be in California to fully understand California.” Simone was making justifications for me. I missed the heck out of her comfort. “Yeah, like only in California are you going to hear POC’s call each other the N word and fight in the grocery store. It’s like, California is all ‘welcome home, you can only get this in California’!” We started laughing, “ONLY IN CALIFORNIA!” we repeated this a couple times as we turned the corner to go the register, almost running right into GM and his girlfriend. She had her arm around him, trying to calm him down. She looked at us in the eyes, she looked dead inside. Simone’s and my smiles dissipated quickly. We walked to the self checkout and watched them go to a line at the other side.
I was halfway through ringing up when I heard it. THUD. “WHAT YOU GON’ DO ABOUT IT NOW N****. I’M GOING TO PUT THIS IN YOU!”
I turn around, Simone looks frozen. BG has GM up against the wall, his hand buried in his back. I’m going to put this in you…”Oh my God Simone, he has a gun.” She looks at me. “Then we need to get out of here.” I forget to sit my red-flavored juice down as her and I speed out the doors. They open and there is a group of kindergartners there on a field trip, ready to enter.
“There’s a gun. Do not go in there.” Simone and I say variations of this to the chaperones of the kindergartners and they say “Grab hands and follow us.” Simone and I each grab the hands of some of the kids as a little boy asks me “What’s happening in there?” “There are some very angry people we don’t need you to be around.” All of us pile into the Verizon store as the sales rep locks the doors. The woman chaperone is a dispatcher by trade, asks me to describe the incident with what they are wearing. Simone, another chaperone, and I see more children piling out of cars. We go running out of the store and tell all the parents to get the kids back in the cars as we see sirens pull up. Cops, EMTs, Firefighters. We see BG in cuffs, being taken to the cop car. I look at her “I think it’s safe to go in there. I don’t want to steal this juice.” “Yes, let’s go finish up. We need to eat before we go to your Mom.”
As we walk in, we see GM limping, holding onto his ribs, hunched over, blood pouring out in a trail behind him. Him and the girl sit down. Simone goes over to ask if he’s ok, and overhears the story. BG made nasty comments to the girl, and it escalated from there. It was a knife, not a gun. Still glad we stopped the kids from seeing that, all the same. We ring up, check on the cashiers we saw frozen in the moment, and helped get the staff back in their right minds. We got home to find out that Grandma had caught the tail end of it, and thought it was a simple robbery. Nope. We were there to see it all. But you do not talk to cops in front of gang members. We left. Ate. and went to the hospital to see Mom. …Welcome home?
I know it’s taken what feels like a million years to get this blog running again, but my soul says it’s time to start again. The structure might change a little bit: I’m pretty tied to being in CA right now, so the state travel won’t be as quick. Instead, I will post about mini adventures and travel.
Since my last blog, I’ve *Advocated for my Mom’s health *Accepted a marketing position at Luna Sea Vodka (executed a couple events already) *Traveled outside of the country for the first time!! (Guatemala) *Moved part-time to Santa Cruz *Set a graduation date for Sierra Nevada College (I’m in my last semester, and walk May 16).
It’s been 6 months since returning, and I’ve been one busy lady. Tomorrow I go spread a portion of my Dad’s ashes, but just a portion. Maybe I’ll make a post about that.
“When you begin to doubt yourself, doubt your doubt.”
Average Gas: $2.50/gal Miles Driven:975.7 Slept: Original EarthShip, Truck Stop, Pink Pelican Inn
Taos Taos is home to the original Earthships–completely sustainable, recycled housing that works with the Earth. Lucky for me, a close friend from my college days at UCSC lives in the ORIGINAL Earthship. This means it is not as sophisticated as the newer ones, and has a few kinks to work out, but is still utterly amazing and cool and inspiring and OMG can you tell how badly I’d love to live in one?
New Mexico has relaxed building codes, which makes it prime for experimental housing like this. And Taos is full of artists, hippies, travelers, and others of consciousness, making it home to many Earthships.
The typical structure involves a front room that doubles as a green house, a wall of many colors built out of the bottoms of glass bottles, and walls consisting of dirt-packed tires. Many of the newer Earthships have solar paneling, compost toilets, and grey water collection. It was such a treat to get to stay in one!
Now that you know where I’ve stayed for 5ish days, lets dive right into the amazing town of Taos.
Taos is connected to Taos Pueblo, which I intentionally did not go to in an attempt to respect a culture I do not fully understand. As I mentioned in my blog on AZ, I found myself judging the ruins and lack of pristine in the Navajo Nation. It is not American in my sense, and that is great, although it doesn’t require my confused eyes. Taos Pueblo is the OLDEST community in America, inhabited by the Pueblo people. There are small windows of visitation hours during the day, but after accidentally driving there around 2:30pm and receiving a sharp face telling me to turn around, taking advantage of the visiting hours felt like trespassing, or infringement upon a tribe’s little personal space. So the most respectful thing I could do was stay away and admire a Native people’s ability to maintain space.
The first night in Taos proper, Kate (my good friend) took me down to the river–the Rio Grande! We hiked down and found a private spot where her, her Pitbull, and I set up and relaxed in the river with some fresh brews from the Mesa brewery. The weather was warm at 6pm, the water was cool, and we were comfortable. I was so surprised to find out how wet New Mexico really is. There are access points to the Rio Grande all over the state, not to mention many other water ways. And little to my then-knowledge, Taos has a famous bridge that overlooks the Rio Grande. It’s a hot spot for tourist visits, so of course Kate showed this to me.
Unfortunately, I had missed Kate’s day off and she had to work during the days I was in town, which left me to explore the town on my own. I ate at Gutiz’s (a French/Spanish inspired cuisine), stopped in Tea-o-graphy (hilarious shirts there read “A different way to tea bag”), shopped at Cid’s, perused Vagrant Heart (a MUST SEE art gallery), collected winter wear from Spotted Bear, saw the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (read separate blog), drove past other Earthships, checked out thrift stores, supported the Farmers market, and chatted with a lady in a metaphysical shop. I also re-organized my CRV (I had gained a sled from the day on the dunes that didn’t have a designated place) and caught up on rest and nutrition. I also asked way too many questions about the underground tunnels there, to no avail. These tunnels were built before the famed anglo Kit Carson “founded” the town. The mystery factor had me yearning to run through them, yet the city has every entrance sealed off–most completely nailed shut.
The evenings when she was free proved to be full of fun, excitement, adventure–all things I’ve learned to expect when hanging out with her. Our first full day together led us to the ashram where fellow travelers gather to eat delicious food in exchange for cleaning and other work around the temple. There were so many kind people there, and a peacock that paraded around, trying to snag food when the people weren’t looking. What a site! And what delicious food. Not great for those with food allergies, but a great place to gather and meet like-minded people all the same.
The last night I was there, we went to a concert at Taos Mesa Brewery. It is located on the outskirts of town, and the outskirts of the Mesa, making it the hangout spot for an eclectic group of people. We danced with the crowd, waved to the band, and socialized with everyone willing. Delicious beer on tap for reasonable rates, yummy food, and the dome-shaped architecture make this brewery truly one of a kind.
The Mesa What do you mean an eclectic group of people?! My first night there, Kate warned me not to go to the Mesa without her, even if I met a chill person who said they lived out there. Apparently, it is a pocket of lawless land, where police are hesitant to go, and blondes are currently targeted by the criminals who live there. Naturally, I became intrigued by this (limitations? How do I push this? How thick are boundaries, really?). You know we went while I was there.
BUT WE WERE SAFE. We went to a hiking spot she knew about, and explored it in the same way we explored the abandoned Slaughterhouse in Antioch, CA that I took her to (see what I mean about fun, excitement, and adventure when we meet??). How did we explore it? With a balance of logic and imagination, careful steps, consideration of the nature around us, and light conversation.
To get there, we traveled down miles of bumpy, grated dirt “roads” amidst sage brush and plots of housing, passing interesting structures with mountains in the distance. She knew the markers to land us in the right place, and almost immediately after parking, we stumbled upon an abandoned well, hidden by bushes. We sat there looking at it, knowing that it holds too many secrets of crime, fear, accidents. At one point, it was just a well. At this point, it exists on land where criminals are free to do as they please. A few years back, a burned and mutilated teenager was found in this spot, discovered by brave hikers like us. Police didn’t want to go out there to retrieve the body. HOW DOES A PLACE LIKE THIS EXIST? Apparently, there are a few places like the Mesa throughout the USA, and I’d love to see more of them. It’s like stepping back in time to the wild west. Or maybe its just a pocket where the Wild West never died. Either way, this land of lawlessness was an unique experience that only added to the intensity and enlightenment of this trip.
Santa Fe But is it art??
Santa Fe is the epitome of an artist town: full of events, points of interests, and people who dance to their own tune. I’ve heard about it several times while at the farmers markets in California–it has been referred to as a retirement community, as a bougie city, as a conservative bubble, and of course as home to Meow Wolf. It also has a Trader Joe’s, and some cool thrift stores. However..I wound up driving through during Labor Day weekend, which meant I could not find a place to sleep. With that in mind, I cannot begin to express the amazing spiritual, connected time in my short time there.
My first stop after gathering groceries and a few vintage wears, was Star Dreaming Temple. If you’ve ever watched the Netflix show “Chambers,” I’m pretty sure this is what they loosely base the cult off of. Although, by saying this, I may be cheapening just how enriching this place truly is.
Star Dreaming Temple was built by “The Rainbow People,” using 800 tons of stones to erect several temples, each representing a unique initiation (I LOVED Temple of the Sun, Temple of Magic, and Temple of the Violet Flame). Each temple is spaced out, and laid across a large plot of land. Most involve labyrinths with a meditative center made from exquisite crystals and places to make offerings. All have weeds sprawling from the packed dirt, which interferes slightly with the still-worthwhile journey. Walking through each temple seemed to bend time, as I would spend what felt like 5 minutes looking at each one, only to find out the exploration lasted 20, 45, or even 60 minutes! Each temple is like stepping back in time, diving right into the self, and exploring crevices and traits that have been long overlooked. It’s a great place to self reflect, find forgiveness, and for me, a great way to feel the power of my Saturn Return. I would love to go back soon. I spent a few hours there, grateful, happy, and a little dehydrated (it was 105 degrees out) before leaving to go to Meow Wolf.
Star Dreaming left a meditative, pensive feeling. On it’s own, it is powerful enough to be the big thing to attend for the month, maybe even the year, but I had already purchased tickets to attend Meow Wolf, which was recommended several times by trusted sources.
At first, it felt uncomfortable. There was a long line of people of all ages, and everyone arrived in a group. Standing there alone felt almost isolated as the wait was 15 minutes. Everyone was too busy speaking with their group to pay any mind to the solo lady. So I breathed in deep, trying to receive this experience fully. The lines were not clearly marked, so each new attendee to arrive asked the same thing “um, is this the start or the end of the line?” After 10 minutes or so of this, they finally let us in. Once inside, there is no time limit, and there is unlimited access to the jungle gym/exhibit until closing.
The walls leading to the restrooms and exhibit are brightly painted, “graffitied” in blacklight-enhanced paint, with positive messages. A few of my favorites include: “When you begin to doubt yourself, doubt your doubt.” “Who is your guardian alien?” and “In a past life I was a tether ball but now I am just a divine baboon witnessing a solar journey.” The main exhibit itself is the enterprise of 400 artists, some well-known, some up-and-coming. It caters to all ages, as it is engineered to resemble a 2 story house that plays upon the fantasy of a child. The premise: a child lost their hamster, and it is up to the visitors to find it in the inter-dimensional house. The setting: this house is like no other. Go into the kitchen, and you might find yourself walking into the refrigerator. Go into the laundry room, and you may slide down the dryer into a star room. Walk into a bedroom, and the closet will lead to another universe of underwater, space age, candy, forest (there are several). The backyard leads to a jungle and then an abandoned ship. All around is fantasy. At first, I was overwhelmed by the crowd, numb to the kitchy cartoonish designs. And then, I found a hidden room.
This room held a “Warning: strobe light” sign on the closed door, and when I walked in, it was completely empty. It lit up when I stepped in, like it was celebrating its discovery. All around were statues of tribal-like animals with buttons and lights on them. I began pressing the buttons and discovered that each one created a sound. After a few minutes of tinkering, I found that it wanted to be interacted with in a pattern. Once that pattern was initiated, strobe lights began flickering, and loud dance music began to form. By the time I got it going full blown, crowds began flocking in. My heart smiled as I realized that this was a gift–the isolated room meant for me to indulge the inner child. I checked back in it several times before leaving, and each time thereafter, it was FULL of families laughing and dancing and lights bumping to music full blast.
I left dancing along, and wound up in the abandoned ship. Inner child indulged, I felt as though I was being taken on a mirrored journey–one that replicated my own life. At first I was confused, lost, but then when I began to dance and play, each step led to new excitement. I span around, looking at the abandoned ship in all of its glory. Only, it reminded me of Santa Cruz–the city I moved to at 18 for college, and didn’t leave for 7 years. I was instantly taken back, reminiscing on all the fun times with my friends, all the laughter, all the excitement, all the connection. I realized that all of my longtime friends were thousands of miles behind me. Kate now hours behind me. I began to cry, feeling even more alone than I did waiting in line. But then I began to laugh. For the first time of this trip, I honestly missed the life I had left behind–and that, no matter how it is spun, is a profound symptom of healing.
I continued through the exhibit, walked through a tunnel poking at the idea of television being a broken reflection, and felt lighter. I was ready to leave after waking through about 4 times (I also found the hamster the first round, within 10 minutes of arriving).
I stopped in the gift shop, bought some post cards for my old college friends and some feminist-artist-made shirts for myself (as a reminder to check out an ongoing display in New Orleans), and left.
It was dark at this point, and after an hour of checking out all the open camping spots, to find them full, I drove off to Albuquerque. The place Kate told me not sleep at for the night.
Albuquerque After missing home, Albuquerque felt like a treat. It was full of people dressed in baggy clothing, and actually had ethnicity. It also has the highest crime rate of the state, almost matching Oakland per capita. I found a safe truck stop to sleep at, and quickly drifted to dream land with the sounds of honking and other languages.
That night, I found deep healing as my dreams took me down a journey matched with the two of that day–nostalgia. I went through almost every romantic relationship I entered into, and found absolution. I woke up feeling lighter, and confused. Was it the reminiscing at Meow Wolf that brought me to this subspace? Was it the temples of prayer and crystals that aligned me with my heart chakra? Was it the green opal I put under my pillow that night to hide from theft? No matter what, I sighed in deep gratitude, pondered the lessons of the dream a bit longer, and continued to rest for the night.
The next morning, I went to the gym, and this is where I believe the universe began demanding that I do not flee further from home. While flossing my teeth, a filling (from 2015!) fell out! It hurt–it was a big filling! The lady at the gym counter looked up emergency dentists for me, and I met a dental assistant who gave me advice and warned that there would be no dentist available for another 2 days thanks to the holiday. After calling 8 phone numbers, the assistant was right.
To make the most of it, I just kept going the path and stuck to a liquid diet for a couple of days. My first stop was to see a familiar face from Santa Cruz, an awesome lady who makes jewelry (look up Bronwizard Jewelry). I supported her, satisfied my need for familiarity, and was fortunate enough to chat with some locals she had over. They sent to me to what is called “The Sandea Man Cave.” This place contains a legend: As it goes, a man lived in this cave for 400 years, living off of the land and summoning his own deep healing to survive. When he passed, scientists attempted to study his remains, but couldn’t find what allowed him to age so gracefully. So they left the man cave open, in hopes of one day discovering his secret to longevity. The Sandea range was on my list before this, so I hightailed over there.
After parking, I found the proper trail, and somehow managed to crawl past all the poison ivy without gaining a rash. The trail became crowded with people celebrating a successful soccer game, so after the caves were in site, I turned around and walked a few other trails. Sandea is truly beautiful, and the highest point offers a great view of the sunset.
Before leaving town towards Truth or Consequences, I stopped at what is now called “The Route 66 Open Space.” Originally, this plot of land held a Western-themed amusement park called “Little Beaver Town,” which closed down shortly after the comic strip it was based on stopped selling (sometime in the 50’s). Today, there are still remnants of bases of buildings, sprinkled with broken glass and cute graffiti. If I hadn’t read about it before hand, it would have been all too easy to just drive by what looks like a desolate lot.
Truth Or Consequences/T or C T or C, originally called “Hot Springs” changed their name in response to a talk show host who offered money and a live show to any town that would change their name to Truth or Consequences. This town was (and still is) full of people quirky enough to jump on such an opportunity! The town motto is: “We are all here because we are not all here.” And it fits.
While friendly and kind, everyone I encountered in this town had a rich, colorful past and an inclination to discuss it. Most clutched to deep spiritual beliefs, and the only pawn shop in town is actually a crystal shop! I received a surprise medium reading and learned of the Lemuria people while here.
The buildings are brightly painted, the shops are cleverly named, and there is water on either side of the town: To the West is the Rio Grande (connected to a dog park), and to the East is the Elephant Butte Reservoir. Oh, and there are natural hot springs everywhere, the lifeline of the town. Every hotel in the area boasts about their “private access rooms” to the hot spring water.
I was fortunate enough to rent an apartment hotel (by accident**) for the week. **I say by accident because it was extremely affordable to where I thought it might be just a twin bed. But nope, it came with free hot spring soaks and it had an office, kitchen, backyard, and even an outdoor shower.** I used it to rest through the discomfort of the missing filling and to complete my first week’s worth of homework. While there, I saw a centipede for the first time–those bugs are way cooler than they are creepy, and are apparently common as an infestation. The Pink Pelican was not infested with them, but offered multiple access points to the outdoors, so bugs were more or less expected (especially with my “Let fresh air in” attitude).
My original plan was to stay for 2 nights and then head to the Carlsbad Caverns, but that got changed when the only Dentist appointment available was for Thursday. That made it so I stayed 4 nights, until Friday (you try sleeping in a vehicle with tooth pain. Call me weak or call me wise, I don’t care).
Waiting to see Dr. Coyne was a fantastic decision. When was the last time you met a dentist that you actually didn’t mind seeing? He’s one of the greats! Thorough work, generous, kind, with excellent communication skills. I was actually sad that I couldn’t have him as my go-to dentist. I’m pretty sure this filling will never fall out, and he even offered me advice on how to choose a better dentist to redo the other fillings that were done all too-sloppily in 2015.
The night before leaving, I interacted with older hippie women who suggested I stay in town for awhile, but it was through hearing this that I knew it was time to move on. This may be the land of Entrapment, but I have a goal to meet. Friday morning rose, I packed my belongings, and began to drive to what would be my last destination for this leg of the journey. Before leaving NM, however, I created a deal with a friend that I would come back to skydive somewhere around T or C.
Thank you for following my journey! Unfortunately, a family health scare had me hightail back to CA, and I am currently sitting at the farm I’ve spent my youth at. There is still another adventure blog to come, and then it is decision time for me: to stay in one spot and focus on school until the warmer weather of spring, or rush out to the Carlsbad Caverns and complete the first half of this journey before snow hits? If you have input, you’re welcome to leave it. Although, at the end of the day, this blog will continue to contain adventures either way.
As always, please reach out with any comments, suggestions, or writing gigs. A few of you have called to offer the ultimate compliment: This blog has made you feel as if you were beside me on this journey. Thank you if you feel this way, and thank you if you continue to read regardless of not feeling this way. Love and gratitude to you, my community.
These last few days have been interesting. My travels are on hold as Mom is in the hospital healing from a heart attack. Thursday, 9/12, marked 7 months since Dad passed, and Friday the 13th would have been his 67th birthday. I’ve spent this time being there for others, meanwhile the waves of emotions have pulsed through me. I woke up this morning in tears, something very unusual.
In Taos, NM (read in greater detail in an upcoming post), I had stayed with some close friends. Their house has a mold issue, which is a reality I had lived in 2.5 years ago. February 2017 to be exact. The same February that Dad had come back into my life, seeking help, love, and forgiveness–healing before expiration. Naturally, it is while staying in a home with mold that I would stumble upon the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Full circle. Only this time, I’m the one seeking healing.
Tucked in the woods about 30 miles outside of Taos, the memorial is bright white, with artifacts, a museum, a chapel, and a walkway lined with bricks honoring those who have served. Not too far from the parking lot rests a helicopter that was used in combat. Tears began welling behind these eyes as I looked in the windows and imagined what it was like for my Dad, the sharp shooter, to aim at the enemy from the sky, all while watching his friends’ die from the firing below. “I saw my friends’ heads blown off and had to keep going,” is what he would tell me when I was a little girl full of questions.
Somehow I made it past the helicopter without completely breaking down. No tear had fallen, just a feeling in my gut of understanding. I had not cried the entire trip, and after the sweat lodge in Sedona, AZ, I felt like perhaps I was unable to. May we find forgiveness for all the fathers.
Thousands of bricks lined either side of the walk, with the names, years served, and special recognition for the soldiers who had been honored there. How beautiful. I made my way into the chapel, prayed with Dad in mind (who believed in God deeply), and made it into the museum.
All the tears I had held onto, hit there. They were resting in the artifacts, the fatigues and boots Dad told me about, the history plagues, the letters from soldiers, the timelines posted, the pictures of POW, the looks on all of the men’s faces. It all made sense. The VA had helped my Dad at the end of his life, and it had given us so much, but it was because Dad had sacrificed so much as a soldier that he had to seek healing with me at the end. The looks on the faces in the photos had the same hollow gleam that Dad had while growing up. Dad couldn’t be there, because the men from Vietnam didn’t believe in getting help for PTSD. They toughed it out, the same way they toughed it out as Agent Orange fell on them. The same way they toughed it out as they were captured as POW. The same way they toughed it out when their friends expired right in front of them. The same way they toughed it out when they were first drafted.
I walked around the museum, grateful that there were tissues everywhere. This is a moving place for everyone, a place to release understanding and love for the soldiers who sacrificed more than just a few years in combat.
On the wall was a picture of the bunkers, a description of how unsafe it was for those resting there. I was instantly taken back to being 4 years old, trying to wake up my sleeping Dad for some boxing match I wanted to watch with him. I hadn’t realized that I couldn’t touch him when he was asleep, a symptom of war. I shook his shoulder “Daddy, Daddy, the fight is about to start!” SMACK. I had ducked, luckily, as his fist went right into the wall. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING! YOU COULD HAVE BEEN HURT, KNOTHEAD!!” Dad was shook, upset that he almost punched his sweet little girl. He sat up, hugged me, and told me to never try waking him up again. I’m sure I had sat there crying, shaking, scared of my Dad. I’m pretty sure he cooked dinner that night as my Mom walked in, and we sat on the couch talking about why Dad did that. “Your Dad was trained to be in combat even while asleep. Think about it: If the enemy were to attack while you were sleeping, you’d have to start fighting before you ever opened your eyes.” Looking back on it, my heart is moved in this moment, at the understanding Mom gave this man she chose to have a child with. No judgement, just understanding and love. It was just a few days later that Dad did his disappearing act again. His PTSD was triggered by this moment, and there was no coming back from it. Just self-medicating and movement to placate the screaming inside. Running away from the people who loved him, in an attempt not to hurt them.
I grabbed another tissue, this time grateful for the understanding and healing I received just from walking around. For the forgiveness I still needed to give him and now could. I had contemplated leaving Taos earlier, to escape the mold, but understood this was a peculiar little sign from Dad, playing a prank and offering the healing I believe he got when he moved in with me off of the streets that February 2017.
I somehow made it through the entire museum, and felt reassured when I saw a few other attendees take everything in, not hiding the emotions it brought out. The gift shop was the logical place to finish the memorial tour at.
Walls were lined with merchandise, and in the corner, sat paperwork to have a brick made in honor of a veteran. My Dad’s memorial was botched by others’ needs for control, and my heart was hurting as I knew his birthday would come and go with his ashes still in my possession. I picked up a sheet, just in time for a lovely older lady behind the desk to speak up “We lay bricks for all Veterans. We’re laying bricks tomorrow, as we do the Saturday before every Labor Day. If you fill this out today, though, it will have to be a part of next year’s ceremony.” Not only do I get to honor my Dad, but I have an excuse to return to New Mexico? Yes.
I filled out the paperwork, paid the fee, and felt so peaceful turning it in. The lady behind the counter asked about the soldier I was honoring, and she in turn told me about her veteran husband, the bartender down the road. We talked about what it is like loving a veteran, what it is like loving an old-timer who doesn’t believe in therapy. We shook hands, she gifted me a bumper sticker, and I walked away in peace, so very grateful that I found a way to honor my Dad even long after I am gone.
Thank you for following this journey. I have a few more travel posts to come, and then this blog may change shape until Spring hits and everyone is healthy and travel can resume once more. I am the only child and have the duty of loving my parents extra hard, being there as the main figure of community.
Average Gas: $2.40/gal Miles Driven:518.6 Slept: Motel, Truck Stop, friend’s driveway
I’ve been getting lost in New Mexico for almost 2 weeks now. But not entirely lost, just flowing, enjoying and connecting each step of the way.
The first day out of Colorado, I got caught waiting out a thunder and lightning storm in Las Vegas, New Mexico (yes, there are two Las Vegas’ apparently). It lasted for a few hours, so by the time I left, the sun began to set and I found myself renting a room in a rundown town called Vaughn. (I was too tired to drive an hour to the nearest camping spot). Now the name itself is easy to appreciate since my Mom raised me on the tunes of Stevie Ray Vaughn. However, upon arriving to the motel, a man with a haircut I’ve only seen in American Horror Story (think intentionally bald with a greasy ponytail center back), greeted me with a few too many “ma’ams.” The couple people in the lot stared without smiles or waves. My room had black curtains and black sheets (I guess that’s one way to hide stains), signs talked about desert bugs, and to be perfectly honest, my logical mind was spooked. But my intuition screamed that it was okay to rest for the night, so I did. And I’m alive, so, looks like intuition wins. The morning involved a drive through town. There are abandoned buildings all around: an abandoned hotel, an abandoned drive-through grocer, and an abandoned recording studio advertising for female vocalists! It felt very retro, as though it were a peak into the past. Grass grew through the cracks of the ground where presumably many people had walked in excitement before.
It felt like time travel, so I decided to free-flow from there and not use GPS. GPS felt like a betrayal to the natural order and era of the town that housed me for the night. So wherever I landed intuitively, is where I would land for the day. New Mexico has so many points of interest, I doubt there would be a disappointing place to explore.
En route to the unknown, I stopped at a Dairy Queen in Glorietta, and a state park in Pecos. What was to come, though, would be quintessential on my zeal to spend ⅓ of the trip (thus far) in NM. At one point, or several points, I found myself asking “but do I have to move on? Can I stay here? How disappointed would I be for it? Is part of this trip living in different places for bursts of time before continuing?”
Roswell The car I drove before Jupiter (named Mars. Notice a theme?) had a license plate cover that I gathered from Area 51 in 2016. It said “Area 51 Inspector: Official Use Only.” My current vehicle is named Jupiter, and the uncle I visited in Colorado is poignantly nicknamed “Uncle Abducted.” It is in total comprehension (or maybe, actually, bewilderment) how my intuition landed me in Roswell. But it did.
First thing I did was go to a Mexican food restaurant (I was missing the cuisine of home). The Yelp reviews read “friendly locals here” so I figured I’d get a little connection in. I needed it after the night in the retro desolate town. I felt pretty alone and was craving conversation (since the people at the motel were cordial but not friendly).
I sat at the bar counter and chatted about health with a kind waitress with a thick accent who delivered, quite quickly, a delicious burrito. Off to my left side I hear “Are you from Concord?” My ears perked, my hair stood on end, and I tried my best to remain calm How can you know that?! Politely furrowed brow I slowly turned around to see a kind-looking woman with short brown hair. “…Yes I am?” With a huge smile on her face, she said with reassuring joy: “I saw your license plate cover. I’m from Walnut Creek!” Tension melted away and we began to discuss what I was doing there. She then reminisced on her California days and what brought her to Roswell (quite the love story she has). This bled into recommendations of what to do around town, and ultimately an introduction to her daughter, who is around my age. We all hit it off, and she offered to show me around town. For the next several hours, we went to a museum (The Roswell Museum of Art, which is only topped by the Anderson Museum that has a residency program), discussed history, goals, faith, parenthood, art, profession, a little bit of everything! They went even further in their kindness and drove me around town to all the cool tourist places to take photographs. I was stunned. It was like hanging out with family for the day. The two women loved each other and got along in a way I’ve only seen on TV (think Gilmore Girls), and both were natural conversationalists who treated me like a long lost friend. Never in a million years would I have suspected this warming interaction while on the road!
We bid farewell at a t-shirt shop, where they suggested a town to go to for the night, with some suggestions on safe places to sleep. I thought it was going to drop off there, as they had already extended so much kindness and love to a perfect stranger, but a few hours later, they called me to check in, connected on social media, and prayed with me! My heart felt full as I drove into the next town. There are more kind people in this world than there are bad. Some piece of hope that I hadn’t realized was lost, was restored that day. And that is exactly what I told my Mom when we spoke that night. There are more good people in this world than there are bad.
Ruidoso I drove into the suggested town, a bougie ski town in the woods, yet dead center in the desert. It was such an intense change of micro climate, Ruidoso feels like it belongs somewhere near Lake Tahoe, or somewhere deep in Wyoming. Woods, hills, trees, deer and elk (within 20 minutes of driving, I spotted 8 creatures along the road). The heart of the town seems to be a giant casino called The Inn of the Gods, which sits upon water with clean architecture comprising the main casino. There were several trailheads and camping-grounds, and I managed to find a good sleep spot before the sun went down.
In an attempt to reflect upon and celebrate the amazing day, I went into a little bar/restaurant the ladies had recommended getting a glass of wine in. There was live music, but a mostly empty dance floor. A cute waiter pointed me towards the bar, where I quickly became the person for all the staff to talk to. Everyone there was so interesting: there were a couple locals, people from Arkansas, Colorado, and even from Georgia. So many stories and perspectives to exchange! The manager even gave me a free pour, which kept the conversation flowing longer.
At this point, community high sets in. The day was fantastic, everyone is friendly, and my night feels great. The place is closing down though, and it is only 9:30. The drinks, community high, and attractive faces triggered my FOMO (fear of missing out). Sleeping does not sound ideal at this point. The old band member from Arkansas asks me if I’d like to go to the Western bar a couple blocks away and soak in some more music and conversation. I unwittingly agree, forgetting that I promised the cute waiter from earlier that I’d stick around after his shift to talk (when did I get so smooth?). He agrees to meet us at the Western bar, and I continue on the flowing vibes.
Naturally, the high dies down once I realize, at the bar, that this OLD band member is actually hitting on me. I’m looking for an out. Struggling to find a polite way to say “Fuck off, I’m so uncomfortable” after the guy makes a comment about getting lucky. How can I be so naive? Why didn’t I just go to sleep? No more casual wine nights Trin. Who knows what is going to happen. You can’t tell Grandma about this, she’d be so disappointed. This guy is her age, why is he preying on me?… I’m about to use the bathroom excuse to leave when the cute waiter walks in, asks me to dance, and I tell him what is going on. It turns into something out of a sitcom as he explains that the old guy is technically his employer, so he has to play it cool, too. So there were several moments of sitting in a booth with both of them, switching between politely talking with them and giggling to myself at how awkward it is when the old guy is trying to politely talk with the guy actually in my age range. Fortunately for me, the cute guy likes to dance, and asks me to the floor enough, the old guy gets the hint and leaves. “What’s your sign?” “Cancer.” Of course. My kryptonite.
We spent some time chatting away in our booth until his friend with a cowboy hat and fitted jeans joins (I’m DEFINITELY not in California anymore). The conversation turns into a passionate, calm, informative political exchange. Loaded with respect. We disagreed but still seemed to enjoy it. I was among the right kinda people. The theme of the day. Connecting with the right kind of people. Phew, great switch from earlier in the night. To save on too many details, the conversation continued until sunrise, something my 28 year old self has not done for years. We made plans to attend church in the morning, and he offeref me a safe place in his driveway to park and sleep. I obliged, after meeting his adorable dog of course. It was a New Mexican Saturday perfectly spent.
White Sands: Alamogordo /Tularosa The Following day, I was blessed to continue to have company to go sledding down the white gypsum sand dunes of Alamogordo. Tired (maybe 3 hours of sleep) and a little overstimulated (gosh this brain injury), it remained a sweet treat to have connection for the day. The gypsum sand dunes were formed from a nuclear blast and are considered one of the great natural wonders. So the sand is unlike any other, and is actually a natural place to find Selenite, one of my favorite stones that is used to transmutate negativity and foster angelic intuition. However, the thicker sand doesn’t make for the best sledding. Without about a crayon’s worth of wax applied to the disk prior to each descent, there is no descent. Just hopping and stationary placement and accidental flips if any motion is caught. There is a video on my Instagram if you’d like to see me flip over by accident (@LucyLusche). Despite the rough sledding, White Sands is definitely worth checking out. The layout is beautiful, the inner child gets fed, and on Sundays, a missionary brings his camel out to help spread the word of God! Bonus: If the right route is driven, the highway hosts “The Largest Pistachio in the World.” The day wound down with an infamous New Mexican sunset and some cranky “I need food vibes.” Further proof that while I am so grateful for the connection-fed weekend, I am equally grateful to be on this trip alone. I don’t want to take any discomfort out on others!
**Feed me and call me pretty: tips on how to deal when someone is experiencing hanger.**
Next to come: Land of Enchantment, or Land of Entrapment?
Truth or Consequences
As always, thank you for following my journey! if there is anything you are particularly interested in hearing more about, please ask. And if you have any writing gigs, please let me know. XO, @thelostqueenofatlantis
This current lifestyle of mine is not unique at all, but is still uncommon enough to be interesting to the vast majority (this isn’t the 9-5, mow the lawn, make dinner, and get hitched lifestyle, after all).
I’m fortunate enough to have lived in a house in Santa Cruz where I became acquainted and connected to the van life lifestyle. Over the last several years, I’ve watched women I admire travel the continent in their vehicles (buses, vans, station wagons, even a prius!). Sometimes alone, sometimes with a partner. Because of this, I’ve picked up on some general trends on how to make it possible. And the night before I left, one of my close friends called me up to offer trajectory tips: the do’s and don’ts.
While traveling, I’ve met more fellow gypsies, vagabonds, van-lifers, travelers. All with similar insight. While there are consistent rules, there are a few things that are debate-able and wind up a very learned, personal choice.
Debate 1: Curtains If you have followed my blog religiously, you’ll know that I left later than expected because I needed to finish making curtains with my Mom. This was with the understanding that curtains are a safety issue. While I’m glad I have them for many reasons, this is a very flexible “necessity.”
Obviously, I am an attractive young woman. This requires not only privacy for privacy sake, but privacy for safety sake. Someone could peer into the windows, see that I’m a solo female, and make the decision to harass, break in, or God knows what. Curtains can also protect against bugs, reflect light (mine have a silver side), and create a homey feel.
Several travelers, however, go without! The ones who forego curtains always have very tinted windows, and don’t seem to be sweet-blooded (mosquitoes don’t chase them). I’ve met men and women alike who say that the curtains have been a non-issue. That by the time anyone realizes they’re sleeping in their vehicle, it’s daytime and doesn’t matter.
I’ve slept a couple times (in safe locations) without curtains to give it a try. For the most part, it makes the vehicle a little less conspicuous, which is a plus. It also allows me to see out without any effort, another plus. But in the end, I prefer my privacy, shade, and an extra barrier to bugs.
Debate 2: Truck Stopsand Pull Outs So many people know that truck stops are legal places to stop for the night. Older travelers have told me that’s all they do–they stay at truck stops religiously. I’ve stayed at a few, and agree that they are a good option, but there is etiquette!
Truck drivers can only legally drive for so long, so it’s only okay to stay at truck stops if there is room. When I stay at one, I’ll sit in a spot a bit off, and watch the traffic patterns: where do trucks turn around at? How close together do they park? And then I will choose a place that is out of their way, yet still safe for me. Some travelers don’t believe in staying at truck stops at all, going instead for pull-outs, parking lots, and other places (I can’t give all the secrets now, can I?).
Sleeping in the vehicle isn’t always considered camping, so there is wiggle room here. Many people in an RV adhere to this loophole as well, and will sleep in pull-outs on the side of the road. This seems dangerous to me under most circumstances. Pull outs are often close to the road, and way too easy to get hit if a driver is sleepy and swerves. And when a pull out is further off the road, it’s often easy to get blocked in. I’ve utilized pull outs for naps and breathers, but haven’t felt good about sleeping a night in one, yet.
Debate 3: Laws While it’s universally agreed upon that you move with a calm smile when asked to, legality around van-lifing-it is up for debate. My close friend told me “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean people are okay with it, remember that.” While another traveler told me “rules are merely suggestions.” These are conflicting messages that are both valid!
Colorado says it’s completely legal to live in your vehicle, while other states (like Arizona) differ. Neither of these states necessarily have designated spots for vehicle sleeping, though. So while it is legal in Colorado, that dispensary parking lot may not be okay to sleep in. While on the same note, it may not be legal to live out of your vehicle in Arizona, but if you vehicle sleep in an open parking lot that says “no camping,” you’re more likely to get off with zero consequence versus someone who parks and leaves their vehicle to set up camp. It’s all about common sense!
Debate 4: Waking up for Weather This one seems to be common sense, but is still debated, for other sensible reasons. Many travelers will check the weather the night before, and wake up before any drastic heat incline (you know that vehicles get way hotter even with cracked windows). However, some travelers are also not morning people. So depending on the temperature, and the location of “camp,” some van lifers will roll the windows all the way down once sunlight and crowds hit, and sleep until they’re ready to get up (one person confessed to sleeping until 11 on average)!
Personally, I’m with the majority here and wake up with weather. This morning, for example, had a 9 degree temperature incline between 8:30 and 9. While I would normally get up before it ever hit 70 degrees (that’s usually 7AM or earlier), It was only to be 75 degrees at 9, so I decided to sleep past 8. And I felt it. the heat woke me up around 8:10, even with the windows further down (I woke up at 7 to roll them down more). So while I’m a night owl by nature, van life is changing that. I will opt for the afternoon nap under a tree, instead. For any of you that can sleep in a sauna without heat stroke, I applaud you despite not being able to join you.
Rules: I’ve heard these from a few people 1) DON’T DIE 2) Use common sense and instincts (Trust intuition) 3) Have fun 4) When asked to, move politely without argument 5) Don’t draw too much attention to yourself (Okay, I break this ALL the time. My website is all over my CRV) 6) Find what works for you 7) Be respectful of the land and people around you (basic courtesies here like don’t litter or peel out)
If you find yourself annoyed with the sharing of secrets, please read this blog carefully. I did not share where it is totally chill to sleep, how to blend, and what laws are malleable. This post, instead, serves as a basic insight. Not a guideline. If you’ve read this looking for more info, reach out to me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Chatting is the easiest way to help one another. Which is always my goal. To help. That is love.