Starting the year solo & vanlife over the holidays!

I could have stayed in Tennessee for the holidays or I could’ve enjoyed it with my best friend out in Oregon. It isn’t that I didn’t have options, it just felt like the only way to end the year was alone. It felt right. I have done so much alone this year and when I really needed the support and the love of certain people, I didn’t get any at all, instead I got the opposite- cruelty. When you go through hard things alone, I realize now, you don’t really need anyone anymore. In 2020 I left a relationship with a man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with because sobriety and self development showed me that we weren’t as compatible as I thought. Then, suddenly leaving became the only, but the hardest choice. Then I left the country I had called home for years and came back to one I hadn’t called home in almost a decade. My heart broke so many times this year… for my love, for my country, for the tattered relationships I had wanted more than anything to keep whole. Like all of us, I learned what isolation and loneliness were… except I loved it. I learned to fall in love with my own space (the home I lived in) and with my own body again. I learned to set incredibly strong boundaries, how to heal, how to re-parent myself, how to self soothe… and have been rambling the US in Mosey the van now since June.

So doing the holidays alone felt right. Especially when my memories flooded back to the last Xmas I spent with my own family and then my ex’s family in Mexico— before the world fell apart and before we truly allowed our relationship to as well. Thinking back to the way I hesitated when he invited me until the very last minute when he got red in the face at my lack of a decision. I see my hesitation now as an inner knowing, another example of the way I refused to listen to my own body, of how I constantly shut my intuition down for the sake of other’s comfort. No more. Despite everything, we had a great trip & connected with each other so when we did finally say “goodbye” we did it with so much love. I’m thankful for the kindness we showed each other in the end because I see our growth in that goodbye. All of these emotions kept me from wanting to participate in the Holidays in the traditional sense this year, so after months in Tennessee I wanted my van, my freedom, and my solitude… so I packed up, said my “see ya later’s” and headed south for the winter.

As SOON as I hit the road again solo I always get this indescribable feeling of JOY that overcomes me and it hits me often while I ramble around. There is something about the van and the road, that have always done this to me. I carried on with my no plan “plan” with only the intention of spending a few days around Christmas in some national forest with zero cell reception. I spent a day by a gorgeous river spot while cruising through South Carolina and got to enjoy some awesome hikes. I stopped at a few beaches between Charleston, Edisto & Hilton Head and was brave enough to put my wetsuit on and laughed out loud while I floated in the freezing cold surf, finally reconnected with mama ocean again. I ate dripping mangos out the van door with my feet planted in the sand screaming City Girls lyrics and swooning over how sweet life can be when I allow myself to be guided, to feel empowered, to ask for what I want. I stopped and put my ear buds in and grabbed my hula hoop, or my long board, or my running shoes and seized the moment to skate that park, walk that bridge, or smoke that joint while I watched the sun go down. Mosey drove great and I found myself spending 2 nights in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Savannah where my new friend GI Joe, a retired Air Force Staff Sargent and his cat quickly became Botas and my new friends. We shared a love for unicorns and he complimented my style saying I, “had it going on”.

I walked Savannah’s historic district on Christmas Eve and was stunned at the beauty of Forsyth park and the way the invasive but beautiful Spanish Moss hangs off the Cypress trees. I sat under some of those trees and did an hour of work in the park before I found myself standing in front of the fountain offering to take photos for family’s who were enjoying their holiday together and instead of feeling sad for me, I felt happy for them AND happy for me. I watched a few drifters go by and found them later making and selling bamboo flowers and crickets, the same as I used to watch them do for tourists in Asia. I told them I had no cash but they made them for me anyways as the old man told me about his life in Savannah and the young girl shook over her cheap whiskey bottle. I told them I was sober and traveling, and they told me how the city had changed since Covid. We discussed the beauty of the park and the old Black man told me how the confederate statues made him feel. I marveled at the history the East Coast has. The cemeteries are what always reminds me… I find myself in East Coast cemeteries almost daily now and silently scold myself for not spending more time out this way before. Our country is so young and so bloody, and the only time you can really feel our history is on the East Coast. The west reminds you of progress and the southeast reminds you where progress lacks. It feels exciting, to be here now, and be seeing it through a different lens. I moved on after about 45 minutes and gave myself a self guided tour of the historic district, stopping in front of buildings and looking up the history on my phone.

I made it into Jacksonville that same night on Xmas Eve and was hoping to be able to drive into the national forest, but realized an hour down the road I had forgotten my debit card at the previous gas station- lucky for me a customer had brought it in so I turned around and went to pick it up. “A Christmas miracle!” I said! I don’t lose things in sobriety so I was upset with myself for getting distracted and forgetting to collect my receipt because I made a sandwich and cleaned my windows instead. Either way, I was just happy it was still there! But by the time I had collected it and turned around, I heard a storm was coming and I didn’t want to pull into national forest at night AND in the rain with Mosey. But as I approached Jacksonville, I started to question the lack of rain and noticed in the field to my right above the Tractor Supply store that it REALLY looked like a WALL of sideways rain through the flood lights and I thought, “what a funny illusion because it OBVIOUSLY isn’t raining here” and as soon as I had this thought, we were struck by that wall of rain at 65 MPH I found out from the news later. I am honestly surprised I didn’t flip and that there wasn’t a serious accident because for 10 solid seconds you could see NOTHING and the impact of the rain and wind hitting the road and my windshield’s perpendicular actually stripped the threads on the windshield arms and bent them to the left. The driver’s side wiper was hitting the side of my driver’s door, it wasn’t even on the windshield anymore and I knew instantly that my journey had stopped here for the moment. I limped her off the road and pulled into a Day’s Inn and learned that the best option would involve two 7 mm washers, which I wouldn’t be able to find on Xmas, so I made friend’s with the receptionist and she told me I could park there for the night and use the bathroom.

I got organized and made myself some Mac & cheese while it rained and got a phone call from my sweetheart that he would put me up in a room for the night. So, he had spoken with the same woman I had and I found myself with a king size bed on Christmas Eve in Jacksonville, Florida while the temps dropped to the mid 20’s and I was snuggled up watching the news and the impact the storm had on the surrounding area considering myself lucky that we were safe. What a sweet treat! The next morning I packed up and went straight into Osceola National Forest. The last 45 minutes into the forest the service had already dropped and my speakers had stopped working and I still hadn’t fixed my windshield so I listened to Christmas Hits on my tiny speaker with the windows open as I drove. I pulled in to a discover these tall BEAUTIFUL PINES with the sun peeking through and my heart went “YES” as I sang Mariah Carey’s, “all I want for Xmas is YOUUUU” to the trees. I drove past a few campers and did the loop, managing to avoid all the newly formed puddles since yesterday’s storm. I re-circled back to a nice pull in spot with the minor inconvenience of one HUGE tire shaped hole and considered that if I avoided it, it would be perfect. So I pulled in and hugged the left side of the site and avoided the hole. I got out to admire my spot and it dawned on me that I didn’t want to have to reverse over the hole later, so I thought it would be wise to turn myself around now, so that I could drive straight out in a few days time when I’m ready to go. I’m sure you can guess what happens next- I backed straight into the hole! Oops.

I recruited some fellow campers and we tried everything from wood, to rocking it, to digging it out with a shovel and all we did was sink it further in until the muffler was buried under the mud and I decided it was a lost cause. We couldn’t even jack up the rear. I had planned on staying a few days anyways so voila! We get what we ask for! I had to hitch a ride into town to get enough service to call AAA but since it was Xmas they were having a hard time finding a driver and I kept telling them that it didn’t matter if it was today or tomorrow, as long as I knew someone was coming so I could leave at some point. She insisted it would be easier if they had someone to call and since I would be unavailable I nominated my sweetheart to check in with them. His story was even funnier a few days later when I got out of the forest and we reconnected. It seems the AAA lady was wasted that evening and when he kept calling to check on the update she finally told him, “What EXACTLY do you want me to do, sir” while slurring her words and he responded, “your job”. He proceeded to call multiple other drivers who insisted I was camped in an unsafe, hillbilly, meth area and that didn’t make him feel any better since they all couldn’t help until the next day. One driver told him $500 and then called him back at 2 AM crying and confessing that he had “done a bad thing” to only spent 5 minutes speaking on his failed marriage and life. Yikes. Despite all of this a driver did actually show up the next morning and he pulled me out like it was nothing while he told me of all the situations he had found people in out in this area. I made a friend who I built fires with for a few days who filled me in that the night before I arrived a man had chased his wife through the campground with an ax, apparently he had a drinking problem. So I guess they were right, the area CAN be a bit rough, but I made friends out there and met some locals who assured me that they would follow my blog and bring me good wood when I came back. I slept in 20 degree weather so cozy inside Mosey but when I emerged in the morning the water bowls were frozen and I had to put the jug in the sunlight until it melted enough that I could get it out to make coffee. Once my coffee was made I spent every morning with my gloves on chasing the sunlight beams as they started to light up the forest floor and I would sip my coffee and welcome in Christmas.

Botas had a blast exploring the forest and would only come screaming back in to the van when the big hunting trucks rolled past with dogs barking. Otherwise we found a routine where he would follow me the whole loop as long as nothing scared him back to the van and I finished a few books and journaled a lot and meditated to the sounds of the forest. It felt so good to be disconnected from my phone and from social media. I thought about how much it has become a part of our lives and how thankful I am for it but also how reliant I have become on it and how unhealthy my relationship with my phone has become- another addiction I must get under control. I have been working a social media job for the last 2 years online and I love it because it gives me this type of freedom, and gave me the tools I needed to later create an online sobriety community which has been another amazing connection and tool for me in recovery. But all of these things have made me dependent on social media in various ways and it dawned on me that I wanted to continue to use social media but less in some ways, and more in others. Hence why I am writing this to you on the blog, because I haven’t really been on social media this past week, and I wanted to go back to writing… back to my roots… and back to the people who listen. So if you are here, and reading this, thank you! I think after so many years I need a facebook purge so I can start building a more intentional community again, which has always been my goal. I’d like to use IG less, I am not supportive of it’s new censorship TOS but still plan on using it for work and minor updates but ultimately I’d like to write more here and less there, share more here and less there. You all know how much I love stories and that they’re probably the way I engage the most, I used to use it to update constantly but am feeling more of a pull towards my privacy right now and will be using that less too. I want to be present in my moments and in my life and to the people that are in front of me.

I want to continue 2021 alone, and I want to focus on what I am building and who I am becoming. The theme of this year has really been finding out who I am and who I want to be outside of the influence of other’s. It has been a reclaiming of my time and energy and I couldn’t imagine ending it any other way then reconnecting with myself and the forest and my intention for the New Year. Despite it all, we learned a lot this year whether or not we wanted to. There were blessings in the madness and lessons in the form of isolation, mental health, relationships and finances. I feel gratitude as my primary emotion. Gratitude for a deep knowing of myself and what I want out of this life and gratitude for no longer feeling shame around using the word “no” or asking for what I want. I feel proud of myself for continuously honoring where I am and what I want and not being ashamed to go get it. Stepping into 33 feels humbling and I know things are only going to keep getting better. If you read this far, thank you. I hope your reflection on 2020 has been positive despite all the negative. We are all in this together, although I count myself significantly lucky to still be able to move about the world in the way that I desire when so many people are struggling. Stay safe, stay sane. Muah

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