Win A FREE Canvas Print Of My Photography

I’d like to create a Question & Answer blog post, but I need content. Do you have something you’ve been dying to ask? I would love to hear it! I’m always happy to talk about anything travel related, but I am open to pretty much any other topic. I would like to hear what interests my readers.

Want to know more about my “day job”? Or what I’m currently reading? Or my most embarrassing travel moment? What I’ve learned as a young caregiver for a parent? Body positivity? Camping meals? Hiking? Need help achieving your own travel goals? This is your chance to not only get answers, but help create personable and interactive content for my blog.

After receiving all of the submissions, I will randomly select one person to be the winner of an 8” x 10” canvas print of their choice. If a particular photograph on here or on my Instagram account (@amoderndaywalkabout) has caught your eye, here’s your opportunity to own a print version for FREE, (shipping included if you aren’t located near me).

Questions can be sent as a comment below or, if you prefer more anonymity, you can email me directly at: amoderndaywalkabout@gmail.com

💚 Lauren

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A Hawaiian Getaway, A Stowaway Named Dementia

Is a vacation still vacation if you are stressed for most of it?

I fumbled with this question often since returning from my trip to Hawaii last weekend.

I have always wanted to do some sort of grand gesture for each of my parents. With Mom’s cognitive and physical abilities being stolen away like the cruelest of heists, I had been feeling compelled to arrange something special for her before she could no longer comprehend or enjoy such an experience.

The pricing wars between Hawaiian airline carriers had been amping up recently. Typically a good deal for a roundtrip flight to Hawaii from the West Coast is about $400. When I came across deals for $200 roundtrip flights you can understand why anxious to jump at the opportunity. By using my Chase credit card points I was able to get our flights, hotel accommodations, and rental car for free. I live paycheck to paycheck, but hacks like this, among other things, really help offset the cost of frequent travel.

On Wednesday of last week we flew from San Francisco to Kona on a direct flight. Going through security with my mom gave me an indication of what I was to expect for the duration of the trip. She struggled to control her rolling suitcase if it was moving any way but straight, at one point catching it on a waiting-line divider and ending up crumpled on the floor. Some of the people near us quickly came to her assistance. She was a trooper, only embarrassed for a second, and then moved on.

I constantly struggle with gauging how much I should do for her and how much I should let her do herself. Often it’s easier if I just carry her belongings or buckle her seatbelt or put her hair into a ponytail, but sometimes I can tell she wants to do it herself because she doesn’t want to feel like a burden or as if she’s a child. I try to allow her the time to do things on her own, but I can get annoyed or we have somewhere to be, so I take over and do it myself. And then I feel like a jerk, especially on the occasions she is aware that I’m being too bossy.

“Lauren, stop talking to me like I’m two.”

I inhale and pause.

Teeth clamp down on my tongue, holding it in place before it can wriggle free and inflict damage.

It’s frustrating to me how I can be completely comfortable with handling children who are having a bad day or are scared, screaming and crying, grasping my arms with a strength unexpected from two year olds. And yet with my own mother the calm, smiling patience I have practiced for the last fifteen years as a swim instructor and nanny can dissipate five minutes into a difficult interaction. Alzheimer’s is the test of patience that I never imagined I would struggle with. This disease is a reminder that no matter how masterful I am at something, there’s always room for more learning. Life will always humble you, especially when you think you are beyond the necessity of being humbled.

We arrived in Kona with anticipation. After an odd encounter with a rental car employee who tried a few times to take the automobile damage report form out of my hands before I had finished completing it, we sought out food. A few minutes from our hotel was the Poke Shack, a pricey hole-in-the-wall joint. With a lunch plate between us and cold beverages in hand we finally began to sink into island mode.

Afterward we drove up the road to Magic Sands Beach, a popular but picturesque slip of a beach. I set up my hammock while my mom soaked her feet in the gentle, salty waves.

“Lauren, what’s on the other side of the water?”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

“Well on the other side of Lake Huron there’s Canada. So what’s on the other side of the water here?”

“I guess Australia, but that’s hundreds of miles away.”

After passing time at the beach we checked into the Kona Seaside Hotel, bought five days worth of groceries, and took a dip in the hotel’s pool.

The next day we made our along the west and north coasts to a few viewpoints, parks, and beaches, eventually ending up in the town of Volcano. I had rented a condo with a kitchen just outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Taking Mom to this park was the highest of priorities. The magic of HVNP had branded my soul. Ever since my first visit a few years ago I had been longing to return.

Struggling to locate the condo, I called the number of the rental company. A man asked, “Did you use GPS?”

“Yes.”

“That’s why you can’t find us. The GPS doesn’t work correctly. I sent the directions to you.”

“You did? I don’t believe I received them,” I said.

“And what kind of vehicle do you have?” he inquired.

“A Nissan Altima.”

“Well in the email I sent you I also mentioned that our driveway is a 1.2 mile dirt road with pot holes, so it’s best to rent a Jeep or an SUV.”

“Oh. Again, I didn’t receive any of this information so I had no idea,” I responded.

“You’ll be fine,” he said. “Just drive slow and you’ll do okay.”

He texted me the directions and within a few minutes we had arrived at the property. Rick, the owner, greeted us and showed us around. It turns out that I hadn’t booked a condo like I had thought, it was a room at his house. “No worries,” I thought. “We’ll just go with the flow.”

As he led us to our room he mentioned that drugs, alcohol, and meat (seafood included) are not allowed on the premises, even in our room.

Shit.

I didn’t contest it, but I did make a point of politely saying, again, that I had not received any of the information about the property or its rules upon booking, except for a physical address. If I was traveling by myself it wouldn’t have been all that big of a deal for me to have a change in plans like this, but with Mom it was going to be a challenge.

“But I like to enjoy a glass of wine with my dinner,” she said, confused.

“It’s okay Mom, we’ll get a glass a wine elsewhere for dinner,” I quickly spat out before Rick engaged in what could potentially be an escalated conversation. A few moments before I had let him know that she has Alzheimer’s but I wasn’t confident that he would understand the nuances of guiding conversations with her.

Once Rick left us to unpack my Mom asked again and again about the rules. She didn’t get why we weren’t allowed to have a glass of wine, especially since we had bought a bottle at the grocery store the day before. My patience was beginning to chip away.

Our room was spacious, very clean, had a small fridge and a charming bathroom. Rick told us that in his kitchen a simple breakfast was complimentary from 7:30-9:30am, with tea, coffee, and use of the microwave available during that timeframe. The microwave was also available for use from 5:30-7:30pm. At first this seemed reasonable, although not anything like the full kitchen I had expected with my booking. But soon we would find that these unexpected rules and limitations were going to suffocate our vacation.

The following morning I assembled lunch for us to take to HVNP. As it was early and not during kitchen use hours, I MacGyvered some sandwiches for us. I used a large coaster as a cutting board and a disinfected library card as a knife to “slice” cheese and tomatoes. The results were tasty, but those were the most mutilated tomato slices I’ve ever laid eyes upon. I have had to make do with limited food prep options while camping or in my dorm room in college, but this was another level entirely.

We spent the day stopping at each pullout in the park. Every handful of minutes I was turning my blinker on again so I could show Mom another dormant crater, volcanic rock field, or rainforest trail. Our mutual awe of the landscape, of the inexplicable vibe of the land, was exactly the kind of experience I wanted to share with her.

At one point I walked her down a short trail to the mouth of a lava tube. She doesn’t like the dark, especially caves, but I reassured her that it was something not to be missed. We held hands on the dimly lit path as I told her how lava had once traveled through the organic tube, like a molten subway. I play the mother and she is the child, our roles irrevocably reversed. We pretend that we’re okay with the morphing of our characters.

In moments like this, dementia is precious. Other times it is the reminder of all that is beyond our control.

Returning to our rental I mentally planned on how to make the evening go smoothly. I encouraged Mom to take a shower while I got dinner ready. I had a package of spaghetti noodles and a can of tomato sauce that I purchased on our grocery excursion a few days earlier.

I grabbed the box of dry noodles and walked to the kitchen. Rick was there speaking with another guest so I waited until I could interrupt without being rude. His wife walked in at that moment and approached me. I had met her briefly the day before but hadn’t seen her since.

She asked if I had used the kitchen that morning and whether or not I was planning on eating the continental breakfast the next day. I explained that although I would love to take advantage of the complimentary meals, my Mom and I would be eating our own food as I had bought groceries. I didn’t want the food (or money I had spent) to go to waste. She seemed offended that I wouldn’t be eating the fruit and granola she prepares for guests.

And then the unraveling began.

I asked her if it would be okay if I could boil the pasta noodles. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes and I’d only need to use one pot.

“No. You can’t use the stove, Lauren,” she said curtly.

“Oh, okay. It’s just that I need to make dinner for my Mom and I.”

“We don’t allow guests to use anything except for the coffee maker and the microwave.”

“Okay…hmmm,” I replied, starting to get a little perturbed. “It’s just that I was unaware of the rules of this property before I arrived. Like I mentioned to your husband, I bought groceries when we arrived on the island because I was under the impression that I had rented a condo with a kitchen. I understand that you have rules in place, but I just need to boil a pot of water for noodles.”

“You’re not going to use the stove Lauren,” she spat. “You can make your noodles with the hot water from the tea kettle at the coffee station. I’m sure you could look up something online about how to make them.” Then she turned and walked away.

I stood there dumbfounded, trying to keep it together. It wasn’t that I was angry, per se, I was humiliated. Here I was in someone’s million dollar home practically begging to boil pasta for my disabled mother and I to eat, and she refused to show an ounce of compassion.

I tried to keep my tears and pride from escaping as I broke up spaghetti noodles into small coffee mugs, pouring hot water meant for tea into each of the mugs. By the time I walked back to the room with the al dente noodles and tried to stir plain tomato sauce and butter into them, the noodles were cold and had clumped together.

And then my mom started asking about why we couldn’t have a glass of wine with dinner and why we were eating cold noodles out of mugs, and why Rick and his wife had such outrageous rules.

I was just about at my breaking point.

“Mom, let’s go. We’re going to get dinner somewhere else.”

I drove us to the nearest town with cell phone reception, Hilo, which was 35 minutes away. The more that went wrong, the more Mom became unwound and less able to understand and cope with the situation. I snapped. I yelled things I shouldn’t have said and only made things worse. You can’t scold someone with Alzheimer’s for their behavior. I know that. And even as the words flew out of my mouth I thought, “What the hell am I doing?”

I bought Taco Bell for us which she refused to eat, her body twisted away from me in the passenger seat, face hidden behind her hands.

“Don’t fucking talk to me!”

I got out of the car and made a phone call to the credit card company. For nearly two hours I tried to get the travel department to find us other accommodations. It was Friday night in Hawaii. Pretty much everything was booked up and they apparently don’t make same day reservations.

I ended up telling the rep that I would try and find something on my own because there was no way I could stay where I was at. It was 9:30 at night, I was exhausted, drained of patience, and wholly frustrated. I asked the rep to have someone return my call because I still needed the situation resolved. I wanted either a credit back for the room I had booked or a refund on the new accommodations I would need to make. Chase was responsible for not including the property information and regulations on their booking site, or emailing it to me at any point leading up to my trip. There is no way I would have rented this type of AirBnb-like setup, spent money on groceries and wine, nor chosen a small rental car if I had been made aware of all of the stipulations of the rental.

Mom and I made up, equally spent from all of the drama. All we wanted was to enjoy what was left of our time on the island. We were on the same team again, partners in tribulation forging forward.

The next morning I packed up our suitcases and the remainder of our groceries into the car. I found Rick and handed him the key to our room so I could get back the $10 security deposit for it. I don’t think he realized that we were leaving a day early.

“Did your mother enjoy her stay?”

“No, not really. That’s why we’re leaving.” The look of surprise on his face only added to my annoyance.

He walked with me to my car and offered to help with the luggage.

“Thanks but I’m already packed.”

Before Mom and I drove the two hours back to Kona on the other side of the island we made two stops, the first being Black Sand Beach. There we spent a few hours standing in the surf, debating whether the sea turtle on the beach was alive, and napping in the hammock. The dust had settled and we were finally able to really be present again.

The second stop was at Ka’u Desert Trail. This had been one of my favorite hikes I had ever done. I ached to do a proper hike while in Hawaii, but Mom had a bad knee and couldn’t walk for more than a mile or two on relatively flat trails.

Twice I paused along the path so I could place a hand on the volcanic rock, closing my eyes and breathing in the energy from the earth. The magic and nostalgia of that place is a powerful life force for me.

Once in Kona we settled into an over-priced, tiny condo for our final night of vacation. It was nearly the only last minute option available, but at that point it was more important to put some distance between Rick, his wife, and their house, and us. Plus, this condo had a kitchenette.

Thank God.

The next day just a few hours before boarding our departing flight, we sat at a picnic table on a beach soaking in the last quiet moments of our travels. We shared a peanut butter milk stout and watched the planes fly roar over our heads as they landed at the airport behind us.

Can a stressful vacation still be called “vacation?”

Hawaii was a chapter that would be remembered differently for each of us. For me it was an experience of beauty highlighted with many moments of frustration and grit and complicated undertones. For her, it was the escape to paradise that her memory will clutch on to for as long as it can. Most of the unpleasant aspects of the trip have been discarded, whisked away by disease.

For once I am grateful that she forgets.

💚 Lauren

Real Talk: An Interlude About Depression

*This post isn’t necessarily travel related, but my pursuit of writing truthfully requires me to shed light on other aspects of me from time to time. My life is not just road trips and plane rides, even if I often portray it that way. The intricacies of what make me an individual are all part of a story, my story. Thank you for bearing witness to the pieces of it.*

Mental health. It’s a widely discussed topic these days and deservedly so. Not that it wasn’t important before school shootings and bullying became commonplace news stories, but it seems to be a lot less taboo than it was even just a few decades ago.

The last few weeks I have come across a handful of different friends and acquaintances who, with little or no prompting, have shared with me the tough situations they are going through. Without looking too much into it, the coincidence of this string of encounters seemed to hold some sort of significance. They are a reminder of human fragility. These conversations, though unexpected, were welcome. When each one of these people opened up to me about their internal strife I was honored to have been granted the opportunity to sit with them. When someone trusts you enough to share some of the most delicate pieces of themselves, you settle in and listen.

I am really big on self-care and self-growth. Even when I have phases where I really struggle to focus on either, I am hyper aware that they are in absence from my daily routine. That is part of why in recent years travel has become so important to me.

One of the inner layers of myself is a permanent bookmark for unhappier days. It is the silent reminder that I once had incredible difficulty with my own mental health. During most of my teen years and early twenties I had consistent episodes of turmoil and unrest. I was insecure and lonely. I felt misunderstood. I desperately wanted to be loved. I lacked confidence. My worst critic was myself.

Closing my eyes, I can still picture moments where my mom sat in my bedroom begging me to tell her what was wrong. In my mind I was screaming the words that I wanted to say, but I was physically unable to let them escape my mouth. I knew I was breaking her heart. She felt that she couldn’t help me, couldn’t protect me from the internal battle that was dragging me down.

I was suffering from depression and wanted nothing more than for it to evaporate from every cell in my body. My every angst was multiplied into a painful ordeal. I clutched each one in my hands, no matter the barbs and blades of them. I couldn’t uncoil my fingers nor pry them away from what I knew I needed to let go of.

At times I would contemplate suicide. It was more of an escapist fantasy than anything else. The closest I ever got to taking serious action was when I once swallowed about a baker’s dozen of painkillers. At this point in time I was involved with a guy that had complete disregard for respecting me. I was foolish in letting him string me along for as long as he did. But he ended up being one of most important catalysts to my recovery.

I woke up the morning after my desperate act of self-harm with some of the sadness quieted. I didn’t actually want to die. I wanted my emotional suffering to end. My semi-serious attempt to physically harm myself scared me.

In the following months I finally drew a boundary for myself and said, “Enough.” I was fed up with him. I was fed up with myself. Finally shutting him out of my life, for good, was one of the biggest breaking points in my life. It was the first time I stood up for myself. In the years after I have repeated, though in less drawn-out instances, the mistake of allowing people to mistreat me. Each time I have gotten a little bit better at drawing the lines of what I consider acceptable. And now I look back at the Lauren who was so fragile and unsure of herself and it seems unfathomable.

Every human being is born with the challenge of finding themselves. Now when I come across someone who seems so thoroughly sure of who they are, my soul beams. At times I’m even intimidated. How can a person come to be so bright with intention and individuality? It equally fascinates and inspires me.

And at times when I am trusted to be an audience of one for the sorrow of someone else’s life, I am humbled. I am reminded that we all want the same things: to love and be loved, to live our individual truths, to be safe and cared for, to be happy, to pursue what fulfills us, to connect, to unchain ourselves from all that holds us back, to be the best version of ourselves possible, to share our story, to be respected, to be remembered when we’re gone.

I’m still learning. And I will continue to learn until the day I die. These days I hope that my last day on Earth will be many years from now. In the meantime I wish for you, me, and every breathing person to take the time to recognize their worth. Fifteen years ago I didn’t think life would get better. I am grateful to admit that I was wrong.

If you ever find yourself in a moment of all-encompassing despair, there is a resource that is available 24-7:

National U.S. Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Sometimes what we need can be as simple as finding someone to acknowledge us and listen.

And for those of you who came to this blog right now expecting to read travel stories, don’t worry. Next week I’ll be back to the regularly scheduled programming, sharing all about the trip to Hawaii I’m about to take with my mom.

💚 Lauren

Camping Beside The Golden Gate

There’s a certain kind of disbelief when you see something in your own backyard for the first time, a thing that’s been there for years but you never noticed it for one reason or another. Tucked below and just shy of the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge there is a campground. I have unknowingly driven by this gem hundreds of times over the last thirty years and never realized it existed. Yet, there it’s been.

In 2017 when my best friend, Cathy, and I found out about Kirby Cove Campground, located in Golden Gate National Recreational Area, we instantly were intrigued. It has five walk-in campsites, creeks, eucalyptus trees, a pristine and quiet beach, and a front row view of the Golden Gate.

Snagging a reservation is tricky due to the limited amount of sites and the desirable location. You can book up to 90 days in advance, but the reservation can be for no more than 3 days per year. Last December and this January I made several attempts before finally being able to get a spot. Site 5 was ours for the second weekend in April.

I drove to Kirby Cove on Thursday, the first night of the reservation, to camp by myself. Cathy and her husband Ling were to head over on Friday, and then Cassandra (Cathy’s sister) would join us on Saturday.

That first evening I set up the tent, reinforcing it with a tarp below and a larger tarp over the top. I strapped down the large tarp so that it covered the whole setup and kept out most of the rain that had begun to fall. For dinner I ate cold, vegetarian chili straight from the can and washed it down with a few pieces of leftover Easter chocolate. I read the first few chapters of Michelle McNamara’s “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark,” before wiggling deep into my sleeping bag and drifting asleep.

The first half of Friday was spent reading and lounging in my car while I waited for Cathy and Ling to arrive. The rain pattered on the rooftop and windows, a background melody full of mood and nostalgia.

In the afternoon the three of us drove a few minutes north to Sausalito. The rain had yet to let up so we bode our time by reading in two different coffee shops and then grabbing dinner at a Thai restaurant. It would have been difficult and uncomfortable to try to cook dinner back at camp.

Upon returning to Kirby Cove we realized that our sleeping accommodations were compromised. Rainwater had found its way under the top tarp, pooled beneath the bottom tarp, and was beginning to flood the floor of the tent.

Whoops.

Promptly removing my sleeping bag and pillow from the damp tent we marched back to our cars and came up with Plan B. We moved the camping supplies and other miscellaneous items from my Subaru into Cathy’s VW Bug. After folding down the back seats and making a nest of sleeping bags and pillows we had a cozy, but very compact, sleeping space. Cathy, being the crafty fashionista that she is, added an adorable string of battery operated lights so that our nook was that more homely. Within an hour Ling was too claustrophobic so he opted to sleep in the Bug.

I had purchased a Forester with the intention of sleeping in it at times, but admittedly this was the first occasion I found myself snuggled up in the back of it. It was the adult version of building a fort, one of my most beloved imaginative activities from childhood. The only difference was that this fort was on wheels and could be taken nearly anywhere I wanted. If you let it, the world can be a playground.

By 8am on Saturday morning the rain had finally ceased. With four inches of water having been dumped since Thursday, the break from the wintry weather was appreciated.

Cathy, Ling, and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge to meet up with Cassandra and their parents at a cafe. The Round House Cafe is a modest pit stop where you can enjoy a coffee and clam chowder bread bowl while admiring the grandeur of the bridge and the bay. The six of us took our time indulging in our morning treats and then walked over to the visitors center to browse the bridge themed textiles and chachkies.

Cassandra, Ling, and I walked back across the Golden Gate and met Cathy and her parents at our campsite. With the rain gone and the fog lifted, we opened up my tent to let it air dry and then set up Cathy’s four-person tent.

After the parents left we took a drive up the road to check out more of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. The Point Bonita Lighthouse was closed for the day, but we made note of the darling picnic areas nearby and promised one another we’d come back some other time for an oyster brunch.

Next we ventured to the Marin Headlands Visitor Center. As usual, I bought postcards and a couple bumper stickers. After chatting up the two friendly park employees who were working the register and desk, I ended up buying a larger National Parks Passport Book. My small one was mostly filled in some sections and I needed a more substantial book to accommodate all of the stamps I was getting at National Park sites. I suppose I never outgrew the childhood satisfaction of collecting things from places I’ve been to. Dissimilar from my youthful habits, I no longer take rocks or shells or similar items as I aim to adhere to “Leave No Trace” practices as much as possible. Whether it be event tickets, photographs, postcards, or “passport” stamps, I love having tangible memories to turn over in my hands for years to come.

Back at our campsite we shoved chips heavy with guacamole into our mouths and drank wine from cups we had crafted by cutting a few plastic water bottles in half. The scrappy, McGuyver-esque tactics that are sometimes needed when enjoying the outdoors is a challenging aspect that makes camping (or hiking, etc.) all that more exciting. Most of the modern comforts are left at home so it’s up to me to make do with what I have. The failures are just as valuable as the successes. Tarps and tents and car forts and water bottle cups are all part of the imaginative adaptations that we often don’t use while amidst the comforts of modern technologies.

Although Saturday was rain-free the wind had picked up. After dinner we made s’mores tinfoil packets with our choice of chocolate chip mint or churro flavored marshmallows. We retired to our tents as soon as we finished eating. Cassandra and I in one tent, Cathy and Ling in the other. It was an early night for all of us.

As we were finishing up a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning, Cathy pointed out that there was a toddler who had walked past our campsite and was heading down the path to the beach. No one seemed to be accompanying the kid so I got up and fast walked down to the beach. On the bottom of the stairs, at the foot of the sand, there stood the little girl in a pajama onesie. She was crying and blubbered “Where’s Mommy?” when I turned to her.

“Are you looking for you Mom?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Come on, let’s go find her,” I cooed, trying to be as gentle and upbeat as possible.

I picked her up, swung her onto my hip, and asked her questions as we headed back toward her campsite, 500 yards away.

Clementine is three and half and was happy to share that she has two sisters. Her innocence melted me.

We were about halfway there when her mom, carrying Clemintine’s baby sister on her back, came up to us. She wasn’t worried or frantic or, from what I can remember, thankful. I told her that my friends and I had seen the toddler walking down to the beach by herself so I had went to make sure she was okay.

Bending down to Clementine, the mother calmly explained to her daughter that she had gone to the beach but had walked back to their campsite on a different path so that’s why they had missed each other. I feel like this was an indirect explanation to me and not to the three year old. Only when the mother had returned to the campsite and the dad had asked, “Did you see Clementine? She was coming to look for you?” did they realize their daughter was alone and missing.

I walked away and shrugged my shoulders. I get it, you have three kids to watch. I’m one of three kids in my own family. I’d not a parent yet but I’ve worked with hundreds of kids for the last nineteen years of my life. But this was the same mother who the previous day had plopped her sleeping baby on the beach and walked 25 feet away, back turned to her, so that the other two kids could play at the waterline. The father was by his wife’s side and equally as careless. Are these the worst parenting choices I’ve seen? Not by a long shot, but my first impression of the adults in charge of these three little girls was not strong. I know it has to do with my background, but I don’t trust kids (or any inexperienced swimmers for that matter) around bodies of water, especially when they’re three years old and the body of water is an ocean.

Despite the small dramas over the three day camping trip, I think overall the excursion was a success. We braved the rain, took time to read, walked on trails and across one of the most beautiful man-made bridges in the world, laughed incessantly, enjoyed homemade meals and warm beverages, and appreciated the new nook we had found in our backyard.

Sometimes an adventure is sunshine and rainbows. And sometimes it’s a fort on a rainy day.

💚 Lauren

A Dirty Motel, A Pristine Park

A few months back my friend, Casey, and I planned an extended weekend trip to Yosemite. We’re always thinking about the next place we can visit, even if it is for just a handful of days or to somewhere we have previously been. With my three visits to his one, our decision to visit Yosemite together was an easy one.

Being from Canada and unfamiliar with distances between points of interest in the U.S. Casey asked, “What national parks are closest to you?”

“Hmm. Pinnacles, Redwood, Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Lassen national parks are all about four hours or less from my house.”

Casey had only been to Yosemite for an hour or two during his inaugural visit so we came to the fast conclusion that it was time to properly explore one of the most iconic parks in the whole country.

So a week and a half ago he flew in to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and then made his way to Healdsburg. With caffeinated drinks, Mexican food, and gourmet ice cream in our bellies I gave him a tour of both Healdsburg and Geyserville. I tend to get a little giddy when I show off my hometowns. Their small town charm, sweeping views of handsome vineyard acreage, and mix of simple and refined tastes, make me proud to be from Sonoma County.

That evening after the tour, a Thursday, we drove to Stockton to stay in a cheap motel. We wanted to drive at least half way to Yosemite that night so that we could spend most of the next day in the park instead of traveling.

I woke up Friday morning to an unsightly surprise.

Pink eye.

Sorry Motel 6 in North Stockton, I have to call you out. I always sleep with the right side of my face resting on the pillow, so when I only got pink eye in my right eye it was pretty obvious where it came from.

It wasn’t all that bad for the first 6-8 hours, but it progressively got worse.

Despite my poor choice in motels, luck was on our side with our next sleeping accomodations. We had booked a small cabin at Indian Flat RV Park and Campground just outside the park, but at the last minute someone called to let me know that the cabin was being renovated and we wouldn’t be able to stay in it. No worries though because they put us up in a hotel room at Yosemite Cedar Lodge, complete with a kitchen, just next door to the campground.

Jackpot.

After grocery shopping we spent the rest of Friday’s daylight hours checking out the visitor center, Ansel Adams Gallery, one of the Yosemite video presentations, snapping pictures, and picnicking in the sunshine. I tried really, really hard not to fall asleep during the short movie. I wanted to enjoy it, but the older I’ve gotten the more sleepy I get when sitting in the dark of movie theaters and planetariums.

Just before bed on Friday night I predicted to Casey that “I am going to wake up with my eye swollen shut.” I wasn’t far off.

After dragging myself out of bed on Saturday morning and looking in the bathroom mirror, my eye looked and felt significantly worse. It looked grotesque. It was definitely swollen, though not completely shut. There was even more infectious gunk tucked in all of the nooks and crannies, a clear film had formed over the entire eye, and there was no longer any such thing as the “white of my eye.” It was completely deep pink with one patch angrily red, as if a blood vessel had burst.

When I had spoken on the landline phone to an advice nurse at Kaiser she was equally horrified and apologetic that I had contracted pink eye from a hotel pillow. I didn’t have cell service or wifi at the hotel in Yosemite so I was unable to tell her where to send the prescription approval. I had no ability to look up information about pharmacies in the area. She went above and beyond to assist me by researching facilities in my area. I can’t thank her enough for risking getting written up from her boss for helping me out when I was in a precarious situation. There I was on vacation with a friend, disconnected from most comforts of technology, and I was spending hours of my weekend dealing with a bacterial eye infection. That woman deserves a huge hug and a raise.

You’ll never read this, but thank you for being human and ignoring the rules.

Casey graciously drove me to the nearest “real” town, Mariposa, forty minutes away so I could pick up special eye drops. I opted to closing my right eye entirely instead of trying to keep it uncomfortably open. I joked to him that I was going to buy an eye patch, but I really would have done it had I found them in the store. I would have gladly chosen the attention of a pirate-like accessory over a Quasimodo facial distortion.

Once we got ahold of the drops we drove back toward the park so we could find a trail to hike. At the suggestion of a friendly ranger we decided to take on a fairly easy, flat section of the Valley Loop. After accidently ending up on an adjoining trail, turning around, starting over, getting cut off from the trail by a creek-turned-river, and then starting over again, we finally found our stride and were able to do a five mile hike without any more unplanned interruptions. It was a good reminder that the journey is just as important (and interesting) as the destination.

Casey skipped thin stones on the water of the Yosemite river and looked out for wildlife, while I took pictures and mindfully watched my step to avoid rolling an ankle (as I’m prone to do). We listened to the intermittent, nostalgic chorus of bullfrogs. Wild deer and ducks paid us no mind. The cloud cover added to the drama of our adventure. We were like two kids running away but also trying to make it back home in time for dinner before the rain set in. Despite being less than a half mile from the main roads we saw only a few other hikers.

Three hours after embarking, we finally made it back to the car.

On Sunday, our last full day of the vacation, we took on the 1000+ foot elevation gain of the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. With my hiking backpack in tow we fought our way up the mountain. I had warned Casey that I’m a fairly slow hiker, especially since I haven’t done much hiking in the past several months. He was incredibly patient and didn’t make any comment or indication of annoyance toward my frequent stops to rest.

We had originally planned to climb the trail further to Nevada Falls, but by the time we made it to Vernal Falls there wasn’t enough time to include the second waterfall before having to return to the trailhead prior to sundown. I’m glad we didn’t push it and hike to the top anyway because shortly after making our way back down the mountain I discovered an obstacle.

For the highest third of the trail there was snow covering most of the ground. It wasn’t all that much of an issue while going up, except for the random patches that had been compacted by the trampling of feet and transformed into slick booby traps.

Verbal Falls is a hypnotic force of water that slips powerfully over a wide slide of granite. It is the kind of reward you hope for after hauling yourself miles up a towering mound of earth. If it wasn’t so late in the day we probably would have taken a nap beside it.

On the way down it was entirely more difficult, for me, to walk. With the combination of hunger, fatigue, and frustration, I tiptoed down the trail. I am not exaggerating. I literally inched my way down for the entire snow covered section of the path. It turns out that my snow boots had terrible traction on the ice and snow, especially when gravity and momentum were already pulling me downward. Every step felt unsteady. My focus on getting down the mountain was repeatedly interrupted by flashes of imagery involving me either twisting a knee, rolling an ankle, or tumbling over the side of the trail. Yeah, I was being a bit dramatic. But I have injured my ankles and knees before and it’s really the last thing I wanted to do. It didn’t help that while my fierce independent nature was struggling to get me to at least a walking pace, groups of people were hiking past me in snow shoes and sneakers alike.

By the time we made it back to the hotel we were famished. The hike took six hours. Regardless of how much it kicked my ass, I still loved it. I think Casey did too.

After checking out on Monday we enjoyed the last moments of our time together with long talks and views blanketed in sunshine. There were a few moments of silence, but comfortable silences. I like to think that these pauses were both of us experiencing the quiet mourning that creeps in when an adventure comes to end. Both home and dear places away are something treasured, but the transition between the two can sometimes be uncomfortable. I don’t know if it’s gotten any easier with practice.

Hopefully you can understand why I was unable to publish a blog post last Sunday. With one eye out of commision and no wifi, I granted myself a “Get Out of Jail Free” pass. Next weekend I have the privilege to camp at Kirby Cove, right beside the Golden Gate Bridge, so stay tuned for a post about that experience.

Until then, stay curious and be kind.

💚 Lauren

There’s A Razor Blade In My Taco, And Other Food Stories

Food. It is a subject that has been talked about, debated, explored, cherished, and fiercely fought over for generations upon centuries. It is a life force that can be taken at face value, a vessel that brings nutrients and other sustenance to living creatures. Food is simultaneously much more. Everything we eat has a story. It is a living history. From Taco Bell, to Noma, to your grandmother’s Sunday dinners, all dishes come from an elaborate lineage of influence: individual people, economical status, geological and environmental changes, politics, and culture. Countries invade other countries and bring food staples from their homeland, thus initiating a dramatic shift in the local cuisine. And with the advances of modern technology and transportation perhaps at this very moment in time we are experiencing the most illustrious period of rapid food evolution yet.

The history of my love for food goes back the full thirty years of my life. I don’t just love food, and I am in love with food. The joy (and sometimes, heartbreak) of creating a dish with my own two hands is incomparable to most other aspects of life. Food is exciting. It is comforting. It is social, yet also can be decisively intimate. It is a thread that connects the world.

While you stew on all of that for a moment, I want to share with you a few of my favorite personal food experiences.

1. In elementary and junior high school I was a tenacious lunch trader. The cafeteria was the wild west and I was there to taste everything. My mom would pack a balanced, healthy lunch for me, sometimes accompanied by thoughtful notes, and I would consistently give half of it away. In return for my pb&j sandwiches I would get pan dulce or Cup-O-Noodles instant ramen. For my juice box I could easily barter for a soda.

Midway through lunch time I would make the rounds of my friend’s school lunch trays for greasy uneaten chili or rectangular pizza. After repeating this routine for awhile they all knew to save their unopened chocolate milk cartons for a particularly food obsessed tween.

The borders of my food imagination had started to expand from the generosity of my schoolmates. I vividly recall sitting at one of the cafeteria tables with a handful of girls from my class and watching them share a bag of Doritos. The bag had been carefully torn open so that it was a thin plate for the orange dusty chips to be spread upon. And before each of us dove into the snack, a healthy rain of Tapatio hot sauce was shaken on top. I had never thought to put anything on Doritos before, let alone a hot sauce that was entirely different than any condiment I was familiar with. My life was changed. Today if you are to find yourself in my kitchen you can play a quick game of “I Spy” and find the numerous hot sauces tucked into the shelves of the fridge and cabinets.

2. Traveling has also had an important influence on me food wise. One of my top three meals of all time was in Maputo, Mozambique. I was there as a volunteer with a Habitat for Humanity group. It was our last evening in the country before heading to South Africa for three days of safari adventure in Kruger National Park. One of our group leaders, a lovely local woman named Joyce, arranged for us to have dinner at a seafood market just a couple blocks from the ocean. As we all wandered around the stalls, Joyce and a friend of hers picked out a variety of fish and crustaceans.

While our group drank Mozambican beer, our dinner was being prepared by locals. Joyce had taken the fresh seafood to one of the hole-in-the-wall stalls that encircled the seafood market and had them create several dishes for us to share, family style. I had no idea what to expect when she had taken us here, but when the food arrived I was smacked with bliss. Between the beer and the remarkable company and the enchantment of being in a foreign place, I was high. Grilled whole fish and calamari, clams, crab, butterflied prawns, lemon rice, tomato salad, and french fries. There’s something about a family style meal that can make you so very grateful and present.

On our drive to South Africa we made an unexpected, but highly appreciated pit stop. Joyce told our driver to pull over to the side of the rural road, right in front of an isolated local vendor. A tiered, makeshift table was covered with varying containers of homemade piri piri. The Portuguese influenced hot sauce is found all over Mozambique, with each restaurant and home making a slightly different version.

The containers were not sealed and most likely not all that sanitary, but I like a little danger with my food. I had been addicted to the stuff since day one of our trip. Joyce’s gesture was so simple, but clearly had an impact of me. I bought two jars of piri piri, one of the liquid version and one of the thick, seeded version, and happily smuggled them back home in my luggage. My kind of treasure may look a bit different than yours.

3. Like most Americans, I am not unfamiliar with fast food. I tend to go for months when I stay far away from it, and then at times I will find myself in the drive-thru line multiple times in a three week period. Life is about balance, right?

More than half a dozen years ago I was experiencing such a lapse of impulse control. Being a pescatarian, my options can be limited at restaurants. The addition of the “Green Burrito” menu at my local Carl’s Jr. meant that I could snack on a fish taco after work without sacrificing very much time or money.

A particular taco put an immediate stop to my unhealthy eating choices for awhile.

One day, soon after biting into my order, I felt an unfamiliar and unwarranted crunch in my mouth. Confused and assuming it was some sort of fish bone, I spit out what was in my mouth. Amidst the mushy bit of tortilla, fried fish, and cabbage, there was a shiny, .5″ x .5″ thin piece of metal. After wiping it with a napkin I inspected it closer and was in shock to see that it looked like a razor blade of sorts.

What. The. Hell.

I doubled back to the restaurant and asked to speak with a manager. A jovial, easy-going man came out and asked what I needed. I explained that I had ordered a fish taco, tried to eat it, and was interrupted by the cameo of a metallic blade in my mouth. I held open my hand so he could see it. He asked, “Would you like a new taco?”

Um, “No.”

“I’d like to know why there was sharp metal in my food.”

He couldn’t offer an explanation and blatantly didn’t believe me. I understand now that it was such an absurd and unlikely predicament that I must have looked like a scam artist, but at the time I was seriously unamused and wanted answers.

After refusing a second offer for a free taco and a flirtatious comment, I walked out. I didn’t want to let it go, but obviously I wasn’t going to get anywhere with the manager.

I called the Sonoma County Health Department and left a voicemail briefly explaining what happened. A few days later, with no response, I called again. After another 24 hours  I finally connected with a health inspector. He asked me to go over what happened, the location of the facility, who I spoke with, etc. From the tone of his voice I could tell that he also didn’t believe me. Mind you, this took place just a year or two after the famous con of finger chili at Wendy’s. “Hmmm,” he said, “That doesn’t sound like the manager. I’ve known him for years and he’s always been very professional.”

Within a week I heard back from the health inspector, and this time his tone sounded much different on the phone. “I went to the Carl’s Jr to investigate a possible origin for the blade you described.” I held my breath.

“I found where it came from.”

In the kitchen where the food is prepped and assembled there apparently is a large dicing grid that is used to chop tomatoes and onions for salsa in a quick and efficient manner. The grid is made up of interlocking half-inch blades, the same dimensions as the one in my possession. And one was missing from the grid.

I fucking told you so.

No, I didn’t actually say that. But can you think of a single moment where that is any more appropriate?

 

💚 Lauren

A Road Trip Fueled By Social Media: Part Two

Lauren and Julie

Heading south to Los Angeles from Pismo Beach, the excitement I had from my visit to Chris Burkard’s studio made for an easy drive. The monotony of driving for hours at a time was diluted by the sense of vivid inspiration I was experiencing. The road was unfolding before me, but so were the possibilities. I envisioned a number of paths for my future self, each with a reward equally as gratifying as the work needed to achieve it.

Once in Los Angeles I decided to skip my lunch plans at Krimsey’s Cajun Kitchen, a vegan eatery I have been anxious to try. It was late in the afternoon, which meant peak traffic hours that should be avoided if at all possible. So I drove to West Hollywood to get settled at the apartment of my friend, Julie.

Staying in line with the theme for this weekend SoCal adventure, Julie is a gem that I met online. She is a fellow member of GLT. We had connected over a year ago when she had posed a question about extended road trips across the United States and I had responded by saying that I happened to be on such a trip at that moment. We’ve felt a bond ever since that first encounter and have stayed in touch often through Instagram. She hikes and prefers “real” social media accounts (not ones that are expertly crafted and show an unrealistic interpretation of what traveling is usually like). Similarly, she puts travel at the top of her priority list. She understands part of what drives me, and vice versa. So it was completely unsurprising that, when at her apartment, it felt more like my nineteenth visit and not the first.

(Julie is in Malta with her mom at this very moment, true to her adventuresome spirit, so, “Safe travels you two!”)

With my gracious host having a busy schedule that weekend, I spent Friday night sinking into a book, enjoying a Thai dinner at a neighborhood joint, and soaking in the bathtub. It was the perfect contrast to a day spent mostly in the car.

I moved like molasses the next day, taking pleasure in transitioning from one activity to the next with the glorious privilege that is a leisurely Saturday. Around noon I drove to a nearby indoor climbing gym, Cliffs of Id, and paid the hefty $25 day fee for a short bouldering session.

Afterward I visited another restaurant on my food bucket list, Azla Vegan. As an Ethiopian restaurant inside a shared warehouse space called Mercado La Paloma, it was just the kind of hole-in-the-wall place I day dream about. The man working the counter was kind enough to walk me through all of the food and drink options. I’m the type of person who likes to try a little of everything on a menu, if I have the opportunity to, so of course I opted for a mixed plate of the various Ethiopian dishes. Sidenote: This is exactly why I am a sucker for salad bars and buffets. I can have a small scoop of everything and leave no flavor untasted.

Azla Vegan Ethiopian

Post-lunch I had a hankering for a planetarium, so I ventured to Griffith Observatory for a first-time visit. Closely following bookstores and the ocean, planetariums top my list of most beloved places. There’s so much magic in reclining in the dark under a blanket of space while listening to the velvet of a narrator’s voice. I often feel so relaxed and at peace that I start to drift off to sleep. But missing out on the presentation is never what I intend, so I do my best to keep my eyelids from lowering all of the way. Just give me a friendly nudge if you ever find yourself next to me at of one of these wonders of science. I won’t mind, really.

Griffith Observatory

To wrap up the day I drove forty-five minutes north to Santa Clarita for dinner at an all-you-can-eat sushi joint I had visited once before with some of my cousins. Sometimes I’m not the most practical, but hey, when it comes to sushi I will take pride in questionable decisions if it means I can enjoy one of my food vices.

Sushi 2

Sushi

On Sunday I had my appointment to get my eyebrows microbladed, which of course was the reason I had driven to Los Angeles. If you’re not familiar with microblading, it is a semi-permanent type of cosmetic tattoo that is made to look like eyebrow hairs, thus correcting wonky brow shapes, over plucked brows, patchy brows, or creating brows where there are none due to alopecia, cancer treatments, etc. Microblading is quite expensive and requires semi-yearly touch ups to maintain the integrity of the brow. The cost is what kept me from getting microbladed previously, but because I had the opportunity to get my brows professionally done for free, I just had to go for it.

The entire experience took about two hours. The use of a numbing gel made for a nearly pain free session. The only aspect I disliked immensely was the sound. It was as if a razor was being taken to a piece of sand paper. The slow, crusty scraping was a jarring reminder of what was being done to my skin. As something impossible to ignore without the use of headphones, I tried desperately to disassociate myself from the sound as if it weren’t happening to me but to an inanimate object.

Microblading

Walking out of the studio with fresh brows, fuller and more shapely than I typically put the effort into creating, I was greeted by Julie. She whisked me away to a hip brunch spot for a final meal before I had to leave for home. We spent an hour excitedly swapping travel stories and learning more about what makes us such fast friends. Stuffing myself with pumpkin chai pancakes and hearing Julie explain why she travels and what makes it so important to her, I couldn’t have been more pleased. There I was in Los Angeles, on a weekend trip that had come to fruition at the last minute due to a chance encounter on Instagram with a famous microblading artist, and I was sitting across from a person who I’ve known briefly but still understands a part of me better than some of the people who’ve been in my life for decades. What a strange, fascinating juncture the internet can be. By wading through the shallowness, you can come upon some really sublime gems. Maybe this is exactly why I forgive myself for the hours spent scrolling screens. Or maybe not. But at least I can say that I was able to move beyond the screen of my iPhone and into the world with an expanded, more dynamic experience than what may have organically manifested.

With the most millenial of compliments, I thank you, internet. You’ve done me a solid yet again.

💚 Lauren

A Road Trip Fueled By Social Media: Part One

I imagine most people would agree that social media breeds both annoyance and appreciation. Frequently I internally scold myself for wasting too many non-sleeping hours browsing the Internet. But then, just when I hit the threshold of tolerance for my slothly habit, my incessant phone scrolling is redeemed by a connection to a stranger.

Both Instagram and the Facebook group, Girls Love Travel, have brought me in touch with some incredible people. From posting in GLT I have had the opportunity to get to know a handful of different women fairly well. With a kindred spirit, Courtney, I have spent a snowy weekend at the Grand Canyon followed by a lively stay in downtown Tucson. In Barcelona I met up with a handful of female peers for a walking tour in the Gothic Quarter and a late night dinner. At home in Healdsburg I hosted a fellow solo road tripper, Holli, for wine tasting, tapas, and live music on the plaza. Then there’s Cassie, also a solo traveler, whom I have yet to spend time with in person. She seems to embody the same values and drive for adventure as I do, and she works as an educator (in a different aspect than myself), so I easily feel a genuine connection to her.

With Instagram there has been similar success. As mentioned in my recent post about Crater Lake National Park, my Canadian friend Casey is equally as obsessed about the national parks as I am. How lucky I feel that this photo sharing app brought a road trip companion into my life.

Then there is Doreen, who I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet. We consistently cheer each other on and offer words of support to one another when we share our personal truths and triumphs to the online public. I hope to one day show my kids how to experience the world in the same way she does with her three little ones.

There have been many more notable connections and lasting online exchanges than I have mentioned here. I am grateful for each one, no matter how detailed (or short) our interaction has been. Even when I occasionally insert myself into a situation with someone who fundamentally disagrees with something I have said, often I have found that by the end of the conversation we have developed a small friendship, or at least an amiable respect for one another.

I am a firm believer in having difficult discussions with people who oppose me. By showing someone that I am willing to listen, hear them out, ask thoughtful questions, and present my own perspective in an insightful and non-threatening way, I know that progress is possible. Minds can be opened, on both sides, if you make the effort to actively participate in discussion from a mindset of learning. Doing this is draining, so I don’t seek out this particular kind of discourse often. But when I do, I try to give my best effort at having a meaningful interaction.

Too often the veil of the internet is used as an excuse to be rude, oppressive, combative, narrow minded, and shallow. Results are made with patience and tact, not anger and pompous attitudes. Ears cannot hear past aggression.

Tangent aside, there have been some real gems that I have mined from the Wild West that is social media.

A real-time example of a fortunate encounter with someone online is the road trip that I am on right now. Just a week ago an opportunity dropped into my Gmail inbox. Audrey Glass, a talented multi-medium artist with her own cosmetic tattoo studio in West Hollywood, wrote to ask if I was still interested in being a brow model for her master class in a few days. She was offering a hands-on educational course for certified microblading professionals (aka advanced training for cosmetic tattoo artists), and she needed a real person for one of her “students” to tattoo. I excitedly told her that my botched brows are up for grabs and that I would get going on making arrangements to travel to Los Angeles for that weekend.

Audrey is someone that I have followed casually on Instagram for the last few years. As it is with the public access that the web allows, I admired her life and accomplishments from hundreds of miles away. As an inherently creative person I gravitate toward others who are also creative, even if they work with a medium that I am unfamiliar with.

So on Thursday night, after having rescheduled some work obligations with my excessively supportive and flexible coworkers, I packed up my Subaru and headed south.

The first night was spent in a basic motel in Morro Bay, adjacent to San Luis Obispo. This allowed for more free time on Friday instead of having to spend that entire day driving.

With a cheap diner breakfast settled in my belly, I hopped back in my car Friday morning to complete the last few hours of my journey. I took my time and made sure to stop at a few places on the way. The first of which was Dinosaur Caves Park in Pismo Beach. The sky was sullen and damp so I only walked around for a bit. I am a sucker for nearly anything dinosaur (or shark) related, so it was still a satisfying pit stop. Being nearly the only person there I didn’t feel all that obnoxious while taking pictures of the prehistoric themed playground.

The next was entirely influenced by Instagram. Since developing an interest in photography I have made a point to follow the work of people I respect and admire in the field. Often the photographers I notice are those that have had their work featured in the likes of National Geographic and other outdoor/world centric publications. Chris Burkard is one of those people.

With his boyish grin, never ending enthusiasm, environmentally conscious values, and eye for striking and near-mythical compositions, he has become a top contender on my growing list of photography heroes. His documentary film, “Under An Arctic Sky,” featuring him and some of his world-renown comrades chasing waves and the Northern Lights in frigid Iceland, captivated the part of my soul that chases ultimate freedoms and adventure. In other words, I cried happy tears while my dad commented on how idiotic it was to surf in an Icelandic winter.

So when I pulled up to Chris’s photography studio in San Luis Obispo, I was so thrilled to be there that I made myself nervous. Walking into the completely empty front room I silently tried to quiet my inner workings as I soaked in the artwork on the walls and countertops.

Shortly after browsing, a girl appeared from the back. She was warm and engaging, and seemed genuinely glad to talk to me. I found a kindred spirit in Hannah. We swapped a few stories and laughs about some of our travels and plans for “when we grow up.” She is an intern for Chris after having recently graduated from college in South Carolina. I knew she had a similar spark in her, the one that drives a person to drive to the middle of nowhere just to see what’s there.

Even within these small moments there can be a familiarity and comfort in another person. Who knows if I’ll ever cross paths with her again, but I’m grateful for her brightening my experience.

With a signed copy of Chris’s children’s book, “The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth,” and a set of small, square photography prints in hand, I climbed back into my car so I could return to the road. I was energized by the experience, electric with inspiration, but also struck by the realization that I should no longer put off buying a real camera.

****To be continued next week.****

💚 Lauren

Cobwebs and Clarity

Lately a certain mindset is shaping, allowing for an untangling of unnecessary cobwebs in my life. These sticky threads are what hold me back from obtaining what is often just beyond reach.

Doubt. Guilt. Fear. Resentment. Disappointment. Insecurities. Dread. Stubbornness.

Each of these are the thinnest of restraints, but together and with abundance they disallow forward movement. The irony is that the web is of my own doing. With each placement of thread I fool myself into believing it can be ignored.

I am happy to report that I have been cleaning cobwebs.

Recently there has been an energy crescendo. As if I have been shaken loose of repetitive human entrapments, once again I feel the weightlessness of clarity.

With the addition of a life coach, as well as the phenomenal caregiver support and resources I have been introduced to, my tribe is growing. The women and men who inspire and lift me up are people to be treasured. I feel as though I have the tools and backup to return to a trajectory of genuine growth.

I will never have “it all figured out.” That is an unattainable goal. The point is not perfection, but resilience and adaptability. As long as I continue to push through (or around, or under, or above) obstacles of any gravity, I will be living as intended.

Empowerment. Confidence. Drive. Inspiration. Perspective. Clarity. Creativity. Love. Passion. Humbleness. Patience. Perspective.

These are how I invest in myself and my future. The manifestation of my farthest floating dreams, the ones I secretly hold highest above all else, can only take place if I allow it. I need to choose it. And not just once, but again and again. A dream cannot be tangible unless I continue to draw it closer.

I wish nothing more than to honor my journey through the human experience by framing my life with as many dreams as I can fulfill. With thirty years behind me now I have so much to be proud of, but even more to look forward to.

Sometimes guidance comes in the form of a pep talk to myself or a wink and a nod from the tribe. On occasion it’s a powerful kick to the shins, followed by an excruciating recovery. No matter the catalyst, my success lies within choosing to live my truth.

And remembering to brush away the cobwebs.

💚 Lauren

Winter Camping On the Coast

Gualala Campground

Mission accomplished.

Lou and I were able to snag a campsite at the first campground of our choice, Gualala Point Regional Park. The area is tucked next to a river, with a canopy of mostly redwood trees, and less than five minutes drive from the ocean.

We set up camp upon arriving and then took a nine second jaunt over to the “Echanted Forest Trail.” It was a darling, albeit short, path through ferns that stopped at the river. After snapping a handful of photos we headed for the Gualala Bluff Trail to take advantage of the coastal views.

Lou hiking

Lou stumbled upon a perfect spot next to a cliff that overlooked the water. The wind mysteriously was unable to touch the pocket of grass we rested on, so we took settled in for over an hour. Talking for some of the time, we mostly relished the drawn out moments by soaking in the elements with silent appreciation. My soul has always been drawn to water, specifically the ocean, so I often tap in to my most “zen” moments while on the coast.

Gualala Coast

Dusk was creeping up on us so we mozyed back to our site to make dinner and relish a campfire. Lou had brought marinated veggies and tofu for shish kabobs so we assembled the skewers and hastily charred them on the propane stove. With a glass of rosé and a chocolate chip cookie we sprinkled our conversation by the fire with comfortable silences. There is something entrancing about watching wood burn. Our quieted spirits fell victim to the siren song of flames and we soon became sleepy enough to crawl into our oversized sleeping bags.

Campfire

With a good night’s rest under our belts we started the next day with a trip to town for some coffee and a bite to eat. I immensely enjoy eating out, but grabbing breakfast at a diner or cafe is one of my favorite circumstances for spending money on food. Thankfully by the time we were done the sun had begun to poke through the foliage back at camp, thus making it a smidge warmer for our next task: packing up.

Having a friend join me for a camping trip is always a treat, but I especially appreciate the extra help when it comes to packing or unpacking all of the gear. Plus, I have someone to share the entire experience with, thus validating my elation for time spent doing mostly nothing.

When pulling over a few times on the way home, Lou and I were able to savor the last few moments of a subtly lovely trip. The drought in California is much cause for concern, but I wanted to make good use of these blissful sunny days in the middle of winter.

California Poppy

Just minutes from home I asked her if it was okay to pull over once more. This time of year there are mustard flowers that grow in abundance throughout the vineyards in Wine Country. Cherry blossom trees, and honestly most everything else, believe it to be spring right now, so many flora are in bloom a tad earlier than usual.

If you have an opportunity to go camping soon while the winter weather is overly pleasant, do it. Unpack your tent now while the crowds are mild and the temperature is nothing short of delightful. The reward is worth any effort, and you’ll be all the better for it when come July a campsite is suddenly the most desirable real estate.

💚 Lauren