Begin the New Year with More Than Resolutions

*Photo taken near Ely, NV. 

Social media is full of New Year’s resolutions right now, an infinite number of promises people will probably break in less than a week. Why are we so willing to give up on taking care of ourselves? The layers of suffering we inflict on our own bodies, minds, and spirits are incredibly heavy. In the last several months, I’ve been getting very serious about getting my mental and emotional house in order—even though I have actually been working at the problem for a long, long time. Like since I was a teenager. And I’m middle-aged now. Interestingly, something about traveling had a lot to do with it. Ever since Michael and I hopped into our truck and drove to Casey, Illinois to pick up our Airstream, my life has been drastically altered. Obviously, traveling across the country is going to change anyone’s life, but when we traveled, we stayed away from our hometown for a long time. Years. Throwing miles and miles in our rear-view mirror became so much more than just a fun adventure: it became an opportunity to realize the mirror would force me to see myself in stark relief, and the dark places in my head finally got yanked out into the bright Nevada sun.

I’ve made arguments on this blog on plenty of occasions that travel will benefit anyone who gets out there to see beautiful things in our wondrous world. What I don’t think I’ve explained very clearly is how the world changes you when you make yourself a part of it with fresh eyes. Staying rooted in one place your whole life isn’t a bad thing—lots of people happily live in the same town their whole lives—but if you want to really explore who you are and what you want out of life, the road will show you. Countless movies and books and songs and poems have been created to describe the experiences of people who went on life-changing road trips. It’s not just to give us all a sappy night out or a cutesie song to sing at school events; it’s to send out a message that the road will change you if you allow it, and if you don’t, it might just wreck you. When Michael and I first came out to New Hampshire for his first travel job, we loved it here. But our travel adventure had just begun, and we were itching to get out and see where else we could go. We never really intended to go across the country right away because we weren’t sure how much we would like the travel life, but then the jobs Michael found on the East Coast weren’t paying as well as those out West. It became necessary to follow the money, so we ended up in Ely, Nevada. Holy cow, was that strange.

Our first month of living in Ely came as a rude awakening. Both of us struggled with normal, everyday things like making the bed or walking up a slight incline because the altitude is 6,500 feet. When you’re coming from about 1,000 feet or less, that’s a lot of height to gain. We struggled with everything for a while because we weren’t used to the thinner air, and then it wasn’t very warm. Like many East Coasters, we had absolutely no idea that Nevada is the state with the most mountain ranges in the contiguous US (only ranked behind Alaska for the most peaks), nor did we realize that much of the West is high elevation and quite cold. Living in our Airstream in what amounted to winter right away was not easy, but we managed. We’re resourceful. What really made the trip to Ely hard, though, wasn’t the elevation or the weather, but the fact that the town was so isolated it took three and a half hours to get to the next town. The local grocery store was always out of things, even staple items like bread, milk, and eggs. Sometimes it would be a week, sometimes longer before shelves would be restocked. We only found one restaurant—a pizza joint—that had food either of us was willing to eat. In general, the town had little to offer in terms of entertainment, either. While we were there, I generally went out and explored the wild places near town. If nothing else, Ely had lots of hiking. It’s the only thing I miss, and surprisingly I miss those wild places now. They grew on me while I lived in that lonely, forgotten place.

After Ely, we next ended up in the Carson Valley near Lake Tahoe, very fortunately stationed just below the chain of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and every morning when we woke up we pinched ourselves over the view. Even in Ely I would pinch myself to see the mountains across the road from our RV park, and I studied the odd cloud formations that formed around the mountains, creating strange patterns of rainfall, wind, and visibility. While living in the Carson Valley, we were introduced to wildfires, even occasionally seeing them up close. It’s an eerie sight to see the hills glowing red at night while the fires burn through the brush on the mountainsides. Once a set of fires were started alongside the road near our RV park, and on each side of the park the fires were burning close to the gas station and propane tanks. The firefighters were hasty about getting those fires extinguished rapidly, and we were thankful. Meanwhile, Michael worked his hours at all these hospitals, and I worked hard on my writing, and after a while I got lonely. Even though I loved the road, loved the places we were exploring, and truly felt amazed by how much I began to feel a part of all these places, I realized I took for granted the relationships I had when we were rooted in one place. And yet, at the same time I began to change. I became more of who I always was meant to be.

Spending so much time away from where we had lived for so long really drove me to be more open and vibrant. Without expectations of the familiar people in our lives, it’s easier to just be who you want to be. No one is going to walk up to you and ask why you’re acting so strangely, because they have no idea what you used to be like. They only know you in that moment, and then you may never see those people again. It’s both delicious freedom and terrifying loneliness. And in that loneliness lies your lack of self-love, your willingness to accept less than you deserve, all the promises you ever broke to yourself, all the opportunities wasted. You both free yourself and have to face what you have allowed to happen over the years of your life. All the crud you allowed to be heaped upon your heart, it all rises to the surface. My poor, wonderful husband had to listen to me rant about the misery of my soul on many occasions over our time on the road, and he was mostly very patient. What I came to realize is that I had work I needed to do to clean house so I could start living the life I was meant to live, instead of the life everyone else expected of me.

Now that we’re sort of full circle and back in New Hampshire, it’s a good time to get my house in order. We have plans to build our tiny house in the woods as soon as we save enough to buy land. The plans for the house are hanging on the wall, a constant reminder of where we want to go. I’m meditating my brains out so I can clear my mental clutter. Recently I decided to go on a news diet so I could stop hearing constant negative streams of information, and instead I listen to either music or audio tracks of inspiring thought leaders like Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, and a wonderful Instagram account called Her Namaste Life. I don’t always agree with everything they say, but they reinforce the positive thought processes that are instilling in me a new sense of purpose, a means for letting go of the past, living in the present, and enjoying my life instead of always wishing for the future to hurry up and get here. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start really living your life. What I love most about what I learned from the road is the fact that I fell in love with this country in a way I never expected, and now I feel as though Nevada mountains are as much a part of me as Western New York hills and New Hampshire forests. My heart grabbed onto those beautiful places, the endless miles of empty desert, the caves, the rock formations, the rivers, and especially all the animals we saw roaming through all of it. I loved every minute of looking out the window of our truck to take in the open spaces still left, smiling to see our Airstream coming along behind us. I am so ready to do it again. This time, I might even be ready to do it with my head on straight.

Listen, if you’re in a place in your life that allows for you to travel, don’t hesitate. Get out there and see the world. I think about how so many astronauts have come back from their trips to outer space and felt a new sense of awe and responsibility for the planet and all its peoples. Their hearts were ripped open by seeing the earth from space. When you get on the road and roam the countryside, travel to new places, have to contend with new situations and people, and you’re totally out of your comfort zone…it changes you. The air you breathe will smell different, the weather will surprise you, the plant life will make you wonder, and you’ll be uncomfortable in the best possible way. Nothing will be the same after you step onto the dirt of a new place. It gets under your skin and becomes a part of you. Because it’s part of you, your heart will want to take better care of it. While you stay rooted, we forget to look at the beauty of where we live. We forget to see the things we see every day, but even if you’re good about paying attention, the familiar allows us to take things for granted. Getting out into the world once in a while can give you a sense of both how big and small the world is, and how very important it is to treat it with love. Step gently in the desert to avoid killing the biomes in the sand. Keep hands off the ancient trees so they might stay healthy and live another thousand years. Only slip your canoes and kayaks into the clear lakes so they can be free of the oil and gas of motors. Pack out your trash in the woods. These little loving gestures make such a huge impact to save the wild places of our world, and if you see these places, you won’t want to spoil them. They become part of you, and you are part of them. We are one. We give and take. Oxygen and carbon dioxide. Water and air. Rain and soil. Ocean and land. Humans and plants. We rely on each other, and it becomes so clear when it’s you and a ribbon of road that leads into distant mountains capped with snow.

Instead of a new year’s resolution, maybe try new things, or maybe jump into a love affair with finding out who you really are. Forget the gym membership and that stupid diet. Eat your vegetables, drink your water, and go for the road trip. You only live once, and you never know when your time will end. The world is here for you. Really, it’s all for you. Go enjoy it.

Trees Bow to Bruce But We Are Cozy in Our Small Space

*Picture taken in Nelson, NH during winter storm.

Winter storm “Bruce” has come and gone today in New Hampshire, and the trees of the woods are frosted white, bowing low to the ground with heavy, wet snow and ice. Ominous cracking sounds emit from the woods every once in a while, followed by a cascade of snow thumping to the ground, sometimes accompanied by a large branch. Countless tree limbs are down all over the place, and we lost power here in Nelson once in the middle of the night, and again mid-morning. With all this excitement, what does one do? Well, one enjoys the fact that school is cancelled, which means time to play in the snow. What else would I do on a snow day? Very fortunately, Michael gifted me a pair of snow shoes only last night—who knew the perfection of that luck?—which meant I got to try them out today. They worked like a charm. I have wanted snow shoes for ages, and now that we are wintering here in New Hampshire, I have some. Winter hiking, here I come. Aside from the winter weather, I thought I should share thoughts on tiny living again. It’s been a while since I shared anything about our Airstream or living tiny, and it’s about time I write about it again. Thus, I shall share the ideas Michael and I are cooking up for our future in New Hampshire, and what we hope to do after establishing a cozy homestead.

Right now, Michael and I are renting rooms in a lodge which has shared common space in the kitchen and living room. Mostly, we don’t go downstairs much other than to cook and eat, so our living arrangement is actually rather tiny right now. It’s a good thing, since our intention is to stay tiny for good. After living in our Airstream for a year, we fell in love with the lifestyle of freedom, more time for fun (because you’re not wasting time taking care of your house), and the smaller footprint which meant smaller bills. So many good things come from tiny living, much of which came as a surprise to me. I didn’t expect to find myself so happy in such a small home, especially when I left behind a house full of stuff I thought I needed. Very little of what I left at home turned out to be important to me, and when we got back to Olean to clean out the house to sell it, we got rid of probably 80% of what we owned. Really, the things I found that mattered most were either items made for me, or were mementos of some kind. After that, books were my biggest thing. I mean, words are my first love, so I can’t help myself when it comes to stories. Art and pictures were another big one, but you can see from my list that all the things which mattered are less about the material and more about the inspirational value. As a result, we narrowed down our stuff to the bare necessities and sold or gave away the rest. It felt wonderful to be free.

Here in our little rooms, we have quite small spaces which remind me somewhat of how much room we had in the Airstream. Both Michael and I miss the Falcon (for you new folks here, that’s what we called our Airstream: the Aluminum Falcon) every day, and we’re still trying to figure out how to find the resources and space to be able to rebuild it. Until we figure it out, the Falcon is patiently awaiting us to rescue her from a kind friend’s yard, still a hollow shell with nothing but wires clinging to the aluminum ribs. In the meantime, we also have been looking for land in New Hampshire. We intend to build a tiny house on the property, a cabin no larger than 500 square feet. Even that might be too big, but we plan to make part of the space a sort of studio for art and woodworking. Both Michael and I miss doing things with our hands, as we didn’t have space to take any of our supplies while on the road with the Falcon. We don’t have space for it where we’re living now, either, so it will have to wait. The plan, once it comes to fruition, is to find a parcel of about 20 acres which abuts a state park or land conservancy of some kind. Our hope is to preserve the land against any future development and to keep the woods healthy and alive. We expect to live on a small portion of the land and let the rest be a sanctuary of nature.

At the moment, Michael and I are still deciding on details of décor, but the current idea is to build a log cabin. I’m not entirely sold on it, as I’ve never been too much of a log cabin person, but Michael insists that we can build it for virtually nothing if we can fell our own trees. I told him that sounds like a lot of work, but he says he can do it. Okay. Maybe. I’m still not sure, but I might be persuaded. My ideal was actually to build a tiny house in the style of an arts and crafts home, or maybe a contemporary build with burned cedar planks on the exterior. Still, if it saves money, maybe a log cabin would be okay. We think the interior footprint will be about 20 x 20 downstairs for the living space, which will be open floor plan for the living room and kitchen, with added space in warmer months in the form of a screened porch. Upstairs will be smaller at about 10 x 20, but we plan to stack the screened porch to have a second level off the bedroom as a sleeping porch. I get giddy just thinking about it. We have our eye on certain places we’d like to buy property, but we really need to sell our Olean house to make the transition easier. Fortunately, Michael’s brother found siding on Craig’s list that matches what Michael used on our Olean house, so that solves the problem of paying full price. Come warmer months, Michael can get the siding done, and hopefully we can toss it on the market.

Of course, we also plan to keep traveling once we do purchase land. The whole idea of living in New Hampshire arose for the sake of Michael’s nursing career (aside from the fact that we love it here). New Hampshire is a compact state, and being residents means he can enjoy the reciprocity of the 30 or so states which also honor the compact licensing for nurses. It will make traveling much, much easier when we go back to it—lots less paperwork and expense by avoiding the fees and time of applying for a new license in every. single. state. For now, we expect to establish ourselves in the lovely community of Keene and the surrounding area to enjoy the rewards of New England life. It’s a gorgeous place to explore, and we’re happy to be here. Even when we travel again, it will be nice to have a place to call home, and the goal is to eventually build a couple of other tiny houses on the property so we can invite friends and family to stay comfortably. We want a place to bring people together, but also a place to pass on to people we love, a spot in the woods that we hope to keep sacred and alive. Living tiny is giving us a lot of benefits we never expected, and we want to pass it on to the next generation if we can.

If you’ve been thinking about living tiny and are having trouble with the idea of giving up all your space and all your stuff, trust me when I say you won’t miss it. The US has become such a throw-away society (along with other countries in the world), but if we start cultivating a space just for the things which bring us joy, it changes your perspective entirely. Go watch a few videos about tiny living if you aren’t sure about it, or even better, find a way to test it by living in an RV or cabin for a month or two. See if you can handle it. I’ve said that before, and I’m saying it again because it bears repeating. Tiny living offers benefits far beyond the wallet. It’s a lifestyle of freedom, joy, wonder, and lightness. If you have dreams, start working toward them because you only live once. Don’t wait for the future. Do it right now. Hang those photos where you can see them, write down your ideas where you can read them every day, and keep telling yourself those dreams are your fuel. They will grow when you give them the water of your hope-filled mindset.

Get Me Back to the Woods by Starlight

*photo taken from Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson, NH.

For weeks, Michael and I have been forced to live in separation while he works in New Hampshire and I work on our house in Olean to prep it for sale. We didn’t want to have to do this, but we need his income, and the work took him back to New Hampshire. As a traveling nurse, Michael can choose from positions available across the country, but he needs to have licensure to be able to work in any particular state. It’s rather annoying and complicated. The short story is that he doesn’t have his New York or Pennsylvania license anymore, so his current New Hampshire license became his saving grace. When we first started traveling, we stayed at a lodge outside of Keene, NH, a place in a beautiful wooded spot where the neighbors were far enough away to not be heard. It was glorious, it allowed our dogs, and it was temporary—no leases necessary. He’s back there again, renting a room in the lodge in the woods while I do my best to get the house ready for sale. For weeks I’ve been going through our junk at our Olean house, patching and painting walls, selling furniture, tiling a floor, and figuring out how to make the house look its best by using up the supplies we already have. In general, the work is back-breaking, so I was really happy to finally be able to visit Michael in New Hampshire for a short few days. The woods has been calling.

The day I drove out of Olean, the sun shone over the rolling hills, the grass greening and the trees just starting to bud. Spring has taken a long time to come to the North this year, with snow still falling far into April. Such weather isn’t necessarily unheard of in spring, but the number of times we saw snow in April this year was much higher than normal. It’s a rare occurrence to see snow and cold through most of the month, so the trees withheld their leaves and the spring flowers huddled in the ground with their heads poking just above the soil, waiting for the warmer weather. I loaded the dogs into the back seat of the beat-up Buick and put in my order for good car behavior on the trip, as the car is 12 years old and getting close to the end of its days. Taking it on a seven-hour trip might not have been terribly smart, but I wanted to take the dogs. Borrowing someone else’s car would mean I needed to leave the dogs at home, since they shed so badly no blanket would stop the fur from getting everywhere. I have yet to find a vacuum that can actually get up all the dog hair. Thus, I hopped in the Buick and away we went.

Most of the drive to New Hampshire takes me through the countryside of New York, with occasional cities like Binghamton and Albany to manage traffic and route changes, but mostly I get to enjoy the scenery on auto-pilot with the cruise control on the highways. Most of the rural regions of New York State consist of rolling hills, farmland, lakes, rivers winding through the trees, and small towns tucked into the valleys. Though I do not enjoy highway driving much, I find pleasure in at least getting to see the lovely green and occasional spectacular gorge or hilltop view of the region. I live for those moments, small jewels in the mind-numbing experience of traveling endless road. Once upon a time, I thought a seven-hour drive was a long time. After driving across the country from New York to Nevada, and then to California…seven hours feels like a day trip. The dogs were happy to enjoy the back seat of the car for once, too, since they usually spend their rides in a kennel in the back of the truck. I usually prefer to keep them safer in the kennel in case of an accident, but it doesn’t fit in the back seat of the car. This entire trip was all about taking chances.

Once I got to the state border and into Vermont, the driving changed from highway to mountain-climbing. This part of the drive is my favorite. I absolutely love seeing the boulder-filled streams and rivers churning through the countryside, the winding road like a ribbon of joy weaving through the woods. Vermont is my kind of place: small artsy towns with lots of lovely clapboard structures alongside the road, and quaint places to eat and shop in every little village. I love when the mountains rise their massive shoulders up above the few flat spaces, their heights tall enough to block out the sun as you pass along their feet. My heart sings in these moments. Every drive I take more than once becomes a series of such moments to which I look forward; the view from Hogback in Vermont on Route 9 is one of my favorites. I arrived there just as the sun began coloring the sky with sunset, and I pulled over to take in the vast view of the Green Mountains. Did I take a photo? Nope. I just sat there and soaked up the moment. Sometimes, life is better without a picture.

From the mountains of Vermont I hit New Hampshire on the other side of Brattleboro just after dark. I had just called Michael to let him know I would be arriving soon, and had only 20 minutes left to drive, when I see the lights in my rear-view mirror. As ever, my stomach lurches in concern. Is it me? Several cars behind me pull to the side of the road, as do I. The lights come closer, and I have hope it will be for someone else, but no. It’s me. Apparently I have a head light out, the headlight I had to replace once already. Ugh. I sit in my seat anxiously as the officer checks my credentials and insurance info, wondering what he will do. Thankfully, the dogs sat quietly the entire time, not a peep from either of them. When he returns to give me back my license and registration, he instructs me to get it fixed, I thank him, and on I go. My white privilege keeps me from even getting a citation for the light. I mentally masticate on this while I drive the remaining few minutes to arrive at the lodge in the woods. While people of color have to fear being shot or arrested for such simple traffic stops, my skin color gets me off with a warning, even a polite and thoughtful exchange. I hope in my lifetime all people can be treated so kindly.

In any case, I arrive at the lodge with no sign of car trouble other than the headlight, and the dogs were thrilled to see Michael and to visit the lodge again. The lovely warm weather allowed for doors and windows to be opened, the breeze swept out the stale indoor air, and I felt happy to be back in a place where the only lights were the ones we turned on at the house. One of my favorite things about living away from town is the beauty of being able to enjoy the night. Seeing stars, walking by moonlight, and hearing the night animals in the woods are as good as a restorative meal. When you live in the wild spaces of the world, you begin to realize that moonlight is more than enough to see the countryside, even tinted blue and washed of most color. The magic of moonlight still allows the eye to see, but other types of light need to be extinguished to adjust your sight. It’s enchanting and thrilling to walk through the woods without a flashlight at night, especially by the light of a full moon. When you live by the light of what nature provides, you might be surprised by what you can see in the woods.

By morning when we awoke, our plan was to take the afternoon to drive around looking at land. We have decided for certain that our home base needs to be New Hampshire. Several reasons added to the decision to sell our Olean home, one of which is the tax burden of New York State, another being the fact that when we went to New Hampshire on our first travel assignment, Michael and I both fell in love with the town of Keene and everything we could enjoy there. Immediately it felt like home to me, as if I found the last piece of a puzzle and snapped it into place. Whatever spell the area cast on me, when I drove through those mountains it took hold of me again. The smile on my face lit me up inside and I felt once again like I had returned home. We took to the roads in search of a few places Michael had discovered as possible contenders for land purchase. Our list of needs is short, but we have a few standards for what we want: several acres on which to enjoy quiet and preserve land against other people clearing the woods for building; a small structure already on the property with electric, water, and septic; and the possibility of a view of the mountains. Michael found a few places that fit the bill, so we drove around to look at them, but one in particular stood out to both of us.

A spit of land in a town called Ashuelot has been sitting on the market for a while, but it has a small cabin and a small barn on the property. The cabin is in need of repair, and the barn too, but what we did like was the fact that a small portion of land set aside as a pasture for horses or cows has a lovely view. Though the land needs a septic system, it does have a well and electric. As we wandered the pasture and took in the state of affairs of all the old vehicles and junk left behind, we could imagine ourselves there, building a quiet spot for ourselves as a harbor away from the business of the world. If we can sell our home in Olean, we would have the money for the land. Now the question remains whether or not we should immediately build a tiny house on the property, or if we should first finish the Airstream so we can live in that while we build a tiny house.

I haven’t mentioned our Aluminum Falcon for a while, as there hasn’t been much to tell. With Michael working in New Hampshire, the schedule he works there has not allowed for him to come home much. The weather has also been difficult for all of March and April, so little could be done to complete the work waiting on the mostly empty shell. One of the troubling problems with finishing the Airstream is that if we do the work on the trailer, we won’t have money for a cabin. We’ll need to save again. However, if we finish the Airstream, we will be able to keep traveling. With the purchase of land in New Hampshire, we can change our residency to relieve the tax burden, and Michael will have access to compact licensure for nursing. Since New Hampshire is one of over 30 states to recognize the licensure of nurses from the other states in the “compact,” being a resident of New Hampshire would free Michael from having to pay for licensing in those other states in the compact. As it stands now, he must go through the hassle of paperwork, fees (which often cost a couple hundred on average), and then waiting for the license to be approved. It’s frustrating to say the least.

This may seem like an easy choice, to just finish the Airstream and continue traveling, but the only trouble with the travel lately has been difficulty in finding work that pays well. Lately the market has been flooded with travel nurses, which makes it hard for Michael to grab jobs before someone else snaps them up. With competition so hot and heavy, it’s been stressful to find good work in places we want to live. So we have a quandary. If we stay put for a little while, I can network with folks in New Hampshire to get my writing career going a little more lucratively, and Michael can have a more steady paycheck for while. The drawback is that the paycheck will be a drastic pay cut. Ick. Choices, choices. We have every intention of continuing to travel, but for a short time we have this tickling desire to make a little bit of land our own, a place where we can return every so often for a sprinkle of relief from the rat races. It would be so fulfilling to have a slice of woods where we can land whenever the world overwhelms us. And so we stand, in limbo, our Olean home still unfinished while I work on it alone (though I am coming along fairly well), our Airstream patiently waiting in the parking lot, the land we would like to buy hanging in the balance. To build a cabin or not to build a cabin? “Doubt thou the stars are fire; doubt that the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar; but never doubt I love (Shakespeare, from Hamlet).” I love the woods without any doubt.

Maybe the stars will write me a poem in the sky and I can divine their answer about what we should do. These are good problems to have, these options. Leaving a town we have lived for many years is bittersweet, but we feel ready. Olean has been our home for decades, and the time has come to learn and grow in a new place where we feel a fresh connection to what it has to offer. The excitement of creating a new place to live, a quiet retreat away from the sirens, the thudding stereos, the screaming teens, the lack of parking, the trash, and the people pulling up my flowers or twisting branches off my trees, that is a goal worth grasping. Our dilemma is one of incredible privilege, whether or not we worked hard for it. We earned some of the privilege we enjoy with hard work, dedication, and time, but it is privilege nonetheless. I am grateful. Hopefully when Michael comes to Olean this week to get some work done, we can find our way through the maze of choices and come closer to an end point. Until then, we will both try to enjoy the quiet of the time we have alone, keep our heads down while we work, and maintain our course forward. The stars will steer us right.

*If you enjoy my blog posts, please check out my Resources, Courses and Short Stories page for more reading and opportunities to learn. Remember, even though I no longer work from a classroom, I’m still a teacher. Have fun out there, and enjoy the rest of what I have to offer. 🙂

Are You a Wanderer with an Anchor? Time to Buy a Bus Ticket.

*photo taken from Mt. Monadnock trail to summit

Hey, you! Have you been reading my posts and thinking wistfully to yourself, “Gee, I wish I could travel like that. I want to live in a tiny house or RV and have a job that lets me go wherever I want.” Good news. You can. Ironically, I am anchored in Olean for a short while to sell our home here, but have no fear. Michael and I have plans for the future. I may be stuck in Olean for another month or so, and over the weekend I was thinking about how very much I wanted to be in New Hampshire with Michael. As I have said in other posts, I absolutely fell in love with New Hampshire while we lived there a year ago. We lived in a small city called Keene, and its claim to fame is its proximity to Mount Monadnock, often mentioned as the second-most climbed mountain in the world after Mt. Fuji (though that might be debatable, as such claims can be sketchy). The geographic region around Keene is my kind of beautiful, with rolling hills, boulder-filled streams, deciduous forests, lots of green, and plenty of lakes and ponds. Such a place is my ideal for where I want to live, so I am very excited about going back soon. But I digress. You probably want to hear about how to make your travel dreams come true.

I have shared stories about how Michael and I got ourselves into traveling, but only in tidbits here and there. Our story will not be your story, because you have your own skills, interests, and dreams about what you envision to be the perfect lifestyle. Instead, I want to share with you the thought process which goes into achieving a life of freedom to travel, and actions you can take to start making this kind of life a reality. Lately I have become aware of a massive community of people who have written books, given talks, and even coached people on how to change their thinking. They use a lot of woo-woo stuff that seems a lot more like voodoo than anything else, but when you apply a little science to the mix it becomes a little less fiction and a little more reality. Sometimes I teach workshops on how to change your thinking, and I use freewriting to help people shift their awareness away from self-defeating attitudes and more toward belief in their own ability to help themselves. Since I am living proof that one can create the life you want, I like sharing this knowledge to help people do the same.

First, take a look around you. Where are you now? Are you in a place you like? Is it dismal and deadening? How do you feel sitting there? What is your general mood today, or any day? What thoughts go through your head about the place you live? Do you think good thoughts or are you hammering away at everything you see as you walk around, thinking about how much you detest being trapped in that godforsaken place? Basically, are you happy where you live, or do you wish you could be a gypsy? If you feel dismal and consistently think negative thoughts, you will walk around feeling dismal all the time. This isn’t voodoo, it’s your reticular activating system (a tiny little bit of your brain near the brain stem) doing its best to provide support for your inherent belief system. So if you believe life sucks, you’re trapped, you’ll never escape that town in which you live…well, you’re right. You won’t. The RAS will continue to confirm your current beliefs because that’s what it does. The good news is that you can change that.

I am going to ask you to try a little test for me. Get out a sheet of paper and a writing tool. Sit down somewhere quiet, comfortable, and that makes you happy. If you have to get out in the woods or at a park or a coffee shop, do what you must. Take that writing tool in your hand and write: Where I Want to Be Right Now. Now use your phone or watch or a nearby clock to time yourself. I want you to write about this topic for at least five minutes (but ten would be even better, or just write until you feel done). Keep your pen moving no matter what crazy things you write, no editing, no crossing anything out or worrying about grammar or scribbling. Be messy. Be random. Be honest. If you start writing about the cat’s fleas, just gently nudge yourself back to the original topic to get back on track—be nice to yourself. Our ids are easily swayed to flit from thing to thing. When you finish writing, take a look at what you revealed to yourself. If you really do keep the pen moving the whole time and you allow yourself to be really honest and write whatever comes into your head, you will tap into those subconscious thoughts which are driving your reality bus. Pay attention to it. What messages are you telling yourself about where you live? Honestly, this works for anything (such as income, people with whom you spend your time, careers, whatever), but for the moment let’s stick to where you live.

If your answers to yourself are all about wishing for beaches with sugary sand or climbing mountains in the Himalayas or walking the streets of Prague and that isn’t what you’re doing…time to align your thoughts with actions and intentions. Michael and I started making plans to travel while he was still in nursing school. He had to get at least a year of experience under his belt before he could apply to an agency that would hire him as a traveler, so we had a long wait before we could make travel life a reality. My kids were also still too young for us to uproot ourselves and take off, but eventually we got ourselves on the road. Did we have every iota of our lifestyle perfectly planned? Nope. We jumped into the life as a test first so we could decide if we liked it enough to keep doing it. Of course, we did like it. Right away. That spurred us to purchase the Aluminum Falcon, our beloved Airstream, in which we lived for a year in Nevada. If you’ve read my other posts about that experience, you know we didn’t have that all perfectly planned, either. We started living in it the day we purchased it, sight unseen, and had to learn the ropes of RV life on the fly. Again, we didn’t have everything aligned when we leaped into the life we wanted, and you don’t have to align the stars, either. Have a general plan and start going for it.

While you dream about your perfect life, are you then also killing that dream? That may be why you’re stuck, if that’s how you feel. Instead, have your dreams and then instead of saying to yourself, “Wouldn’t that be nice? But it won’t ever happen to me…” you need to tell yourself, “I really would rather be living on a beach in the Caribbean, so how can I make that happen?” Start looking for jobs in the location in which you would like to live, or start researching ways to work online doing what you’re good at doing, or maybe look into creative ways to make money on the side so you can start saving. I don’t know what your reality looks like, but if it’s holding you back, then you can shift your thinking and align your actions to change it. Really, it’s that simple. The reason why more people don’t do this is only because they may not realize how powerful this actually is. So many people in the world already know that if you align your thoughts with actions toward what you actually want, your dream life can be your real life as soon as you want. Michael and I took a couple of years to manifest our dream of traveling, but that doesn’t need to be your experience. Maybe you have the freedom to drop everything and buy a plane ticket to Africa, where you know you can start working as a teacher and start traveling the continent by the end of the week. Do it! What are you waiting for, Santa Claus? Seriously, you only get one life. Will you waste it dreaming, or do you want to get off your rear end and live? Time is ticking, my dears.

You might also be saying to yourself that I don’t seem to be living my dream right this minute, since I’m stuck in Olean, NY and not with my wonderful husband in one of my favorite places ever. Well, you might be right, except that I am fixing up the house to sell it so we can have money for land and to help fund the expenditures of remodeling the Falcon. I am also taking advantage of being in our old hometown to hook up with folks who can help me with things like getting my website adjusted to allow me to start using an email service for my subscribers, and also to rid myself of excess material possessions I no longer need. I see this time as a cleansing experience, and also as an opportunity to make money and to connect with the friends I have missed over the last year and a half. Though I would absolutely rather be in New Hampshire, I will make lemonade. We have to roll with what life hands us on a platter, and make conscious decisions to mold our experiences into what we want to achieve in our lives. Do you believe you can travel, or do you just dream about it and never do anything to make it happen while always complaining about how you never have money to go anywhere? I wrote a post a while back about ways you can inject a little travel into your week, month, or year. Pack a picnic and hop in the car with the kids, and see where the road takes you. Go somewhere you’ve never been before and keep your eyes wide open.

The bottom line here is to ask yourself what you really want, and be honest. No one needs to read what you write. Ask yourself the important questions about how you live now, and discover the uncharted territory of your imagination. If you can imagine it, you can do it. Even crazy things. I just watched a Ted Talk by David Eagleman called “Can We Create New Senses for Humans?” and it blew my mind. In this talk, Eagleman shares all kinds of insanely inventive gadgets which allow blind and deaf people to experience sight and hearing in other senses, like touch, and how that information is gathered and translated by the brain. Totally science fiction, but it’s real. If this guy can create a vest that translates all the emotions on Twitter into vibrations which your brain interprets…I think you can go nuts and plan that cool trip to see the Great Wall of China. Seriously, others have done that. You can, too. It’s just a trip. Meanwhile, scientists are creating instruments that allow us to see galaxies so far away, you’d never get there in hundreds of lifetimes, or that study the nature of “dark matter” in the universe. If they can do that, you can take a trip to see some beautiful things. All you need is a will and then you can find the way. Do it right now. Plan your trip. Cut out pictures of places you want to see and paste them on a poster board you hang in a place you will see every day. Imagine yourself there, enjoying the sights, the smells, the tastes of the food. Believe you can, and you will. Keep yourself open to avenues of getting there, and I promise you will start to see them right in front of you. That’s how your RAS works. What you believe, it will seek and reveal. Your intentions drive the reality bus, so grab the wheel and start driving, kids.

Here I will leave you with the usual request to be thoughtful if you comment, and to encourage anyone who wishes to comment to please share your own experiences about creating your reality (as opposed to being enslaved by it). Soon I should be installing a “Resources” page with courses I plan to offer along the lines of what I explained briefly here, as well as a few other fun ideas. They will be available for a variety of prices, including free courses for those in a financial pickle, or for the people who want to test the waters before buying anything. When I get that running, I will send out a blog post. In the meantime, please try a writing session or meditate on your circumstances and see where it takes you. If you’re so awesome at it that you end up in space, I want to hear from you. Please send an email with a description of your trip, because that would be the best success story ever. Get out there, friends. Grab that life and wrestle it into existence if you must. Find a pair of powerful tin snips and cut the chain of what anchors you to unhappiness. Your ticket awaits, and the bus has arrived. Get on board.