Spoke(N)

Josh and I set out in the rain with our bikes. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring day, but it was important to me to show up in his life. He babbled happily about the trail he had chosen for us and proclaimed all the details of the rushing river and visiting neighborhood cats. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I ran the same path 3 hours earlier, there was no need. We giggled, started doing stunts, and pushed on. I taught him how to ride a bike with no hands. I didn’t realize how important I thought this skill was until I was teaching it. Finding your balance. Trust. Showing other people- proving to yourself- what’s possible. Daring. We finished our first route and he suggested we continue on another. I said yes. This time I took a moment, “Hey, I’m sorry if you needed me while I was gone.” He laughed and said, “Need you? Why would I need you? I mean. I missed you! I’m happy when you’re around, but I don’t need you.” We cruised around the skate park on our bikes. He cautioned me to be careful. This time I laughed and said, “There’s a difference between being adventurous and being stupid.”  To which he replied, “You can be adventurous and careful.” I thought about it for a bit and said, “I’m done living my life careful.” Wise little man said to me, “If you break your leg it’s a lot harder to do your traveling adventures.”

We wrestled around my bedroom floor giggling hysterically. I managed to pin him down while making silly noises. We laughed over my antics and I hollered down to my mom that he was laughing so he must be fine. “I’m a monster you swine! I yelled at Josh. “No, you’re not a scary monster. You’re a pig”. I swiftly said, “No! I’m a big and scary monster and I’ll prove it to you.” After this I got a bit quiet and serious. How many times have we wanted our monsters to be validated? Maybe they’re just 21 year old girls rolling around the floor with their younger brother trying to connect and love in this world.

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Coming home

Customs agent: “How long have you lived in Washington?” Me: “My whole life except for when I’m traveling.”

I swear I could feel my throat close up and my heart put on 12 coats of armor.

I didn’t want to come home.

Everyone in Iceland wanted me to stay. The girl I am in love with in Seattle, the one person I wanted to come home for,  walked away. I had thought of calling her upon arrival 5 million times. I’d written up things I wanted and needed to say. I fantasized about her picking up the phone or not picking up the phone. I thought of showing up at her house with flowers. A sign that read “I’m sorry” on one side and “Forgive me” on the other. I imagined the smiling octopus I would draw on it in hopes of making her chuckle. I was walking back into a whole world of pain. How can one break up with a best friend? Someone they never got to kiss or hold close? I had my sick mother, doctors, dentists, orthodontist, banks, working full time, and moving out to look forward to. I knew it was going to be okay, probably great, but it wouldn’t be fun. It was going to be fine, but not what I wanted. I was back to the land of settled dreams.

When we drove past her exit something inside me broke. The piece of me that was too afraid and tired to select her contact and make the phone call I had rehearsed to death. I knew there was a very real possibility I would never see her again. Never get to hug her one last time. Never get to tie up all the loose strings. Never get to look her in the eyes after everything we confessed to each other. I feel as if I’m resigning the fight out of me. Letting life and things I don’t want take the helm as I sit back and watch. On the road I have the freedom to take action in my life. Sometimes that’s stressful and anxiety inducing, sure. But, I don’t feel as if I’m watching the train of life blow right past me as I sit in the station. Hands tied. Simply sad. Out of my control.

People expect me to be swarmed by friends upon arrival. The truth is there’s not too many people left in Washington to care. I had one of the few people who does pick me up from the airport. McKayla is a wonderful friend who goes out of her way to show me how much I mean to her, but I still felt the long distance between us. I felt the silence of not knowing what to talk about. I love my family- my mom, my dad, Nathan, Josh, and my cat Tia. I arrived home to find my mom had left the Christmas tree up with all my presents underneath… and it’s just after Easter. The house smelled the same. A few things looked different. I felt different and yet everything was the same. It’s as if 5 months of my life never happened. Was it all a dream? How do these two realities exist in one life? My “home” life that’s never felt like home and my travel life. My heart feels splintered into a million pieces. I’m strong. I’m steady. Keeping it together. Efficient. Ready to do the things I need to do. But the want? The wanting I’ve always been consumed with. Hoping. Dreaming. Aching. Feeling. Where does that go?

 

 

Vicarious traveling

Vicarious living! We’ve all done it in this age of social media. Gorgeous photos, exciting books and TV shows, instagram, you name it! This is who I travel for besides myself.

  1. I travel for my family.

My grandma Cathy wanted to know every word about Argentina and the beautiful horses I’d get to work with. My grandma has health problems and loves horses as deeply as I do.  She grew up on a ranch. She is an incredible seamstress and a mother of (HOW DID SHE SURVIVE) four crazy boys. After giving her every detail I could think of, she pulled me into the tightest hug. When she pulled back she looked me dead in the eyes with tears on her face and told me, “Don’t ever stop chasing your dreams. I’m so proud of you.”  I got all choked up.  I was bewildered as to why it was so important to my grandmother. My mother, who has infinite wisdom, explained that I’m probably the only person in her life that dares to dream. She said, “Sarah for her you’re magic. You are incredibly different from the rest of your dad’s family.” They live mediocre unhappy lives- they’d probably tell you that themselves.My cousin got pregnant at 16 and I just about set a bomb off in the kitchen when I mentioned birth control. They work random, unfulfilling, low paid jobs. The family lives on gossip like an opera. All this to say substance isn’t high and dreams are practically crushed upon arrival.

My grandma Emily is a rightful badass. For the last 15 years she has had severe depression. Her health has been a struggle. We sit and I ask her about her life, as much as her memory allows her to remember. She was a writer and editor in New York at a time when it wasn’t common. She saw Broadway shows every weekend and was generally an incredible supporter of the arts. She drove all the way across the country with a BABY, a four year old, and a dog to follow my grandfather… not to mention gave up her career. She was a champion skier and she traveled, journaling all the while, later in life with my grandfather. When she found out I was leaving on another trip she called my cellphone twice. My grandma is not a technological user. She wanted to make sure she wished me a good trip. I called her back today and although she had anxiety over my missing Christmas she said it sounded wonderful, that I was very special to her, that she was sure they would love me, and that she was very, very proud of me.

My aunt Diane is a world traveler herself. She’s seen far more of the world than I have. She worked for the airlines and then married a man who seemed to have family EVERYWHERE. I love my aunt, but if you met her you’d think classic vanilla accountant. BUT, one day she locked eyes in traffic with a man in another car, he motioned for her to pull off the freeway, and as they say the rest is history. They got married for his citizenship and they had 3 children before a divorce. This man, whom she’s still friends with and who still maintains a relationship with the family, is from Iran. It’s one of the main reasons why Iran is at the top of my places to visit list. Persian food is my very favorite type of food and I absolutely adore the hugely giving and compassionate culture. She earned a full ride scholarship for being an INCREDIBLE swimmer. She told me many people, herself included, were living through me and that I must post many photos and share stories.

My uncle Jeff is a banker. He hasn’t done much  traveling and has the biggest heart I’ve ever known. He’s my cheerleader (well, they all are and I’m super lucky.) He is inspirational on reaching his goals. He achieved almost every single goal on his 10 year plan. He played in an international bridge tournament with my grandmother,purchased a house on a lake and owns a boat,got married and had children, worked his way up to the managing position he wanted, and many more. He gives and gives some more. It is incredible how sensitive and loving he is toward others and is the best at lending an ear.

My two little brothers Nathan and Josh. They’re amazing. I love them so much and I’d do most anything for them. They’re smart, cheeky, kind, and wonderful. Nathan’s studying game design and production at a college campus at 16 years old! He teaches himself coding languages for fun on his own time.He’s bested me at math for years and creates the most elaborate board games and clay creations I’ve ever seen. Josh plays soccer (We all do. Soccer family. I’m sure I’ll write about it.), loves taking things apart, is also engrossed in video game programming, dances, sings, acts, climbs all over everything, welds, and aspires to be a billionaire and has many plans on how to do it. He wants to travel with me one day and I can’t wait. As bright young aspiring…. teens?…. I want them to know their dreams are possible.

My mother. She hasn’t done much traveling outside of the United States. She is life coach, accountant, and head of household. She has the most wicked ability for soccer goals that aspire her to many tournaments. She was a swimmer and diver for many years. She’s written a book. She’s been through a lot and is one tough cookie. We have the best relationship when I’m traveling. Email and Facebook conversations are super good for us. We talk about our personal growth and the world at large. Perhaps I’m a coaching guinea pig, but I don’t mind. She pushes me to go after my dreams. I’ve invited her to visit me on several trips and one day I’ll succeed in getting her to come. She reads non-fiction like it’s going out of style and is probably more educated on alternative medicine, nutrition, psychology, and religion than anyone I know.

My dad. He hasn’t done much traveling and doesn’t quite understand what I do, but he loves me for it. One day we’ll take a trip together.  We had a very rocky relationship through my 12-18 years, but now he’s my rock. We win most improved. My father has been a: director of religious education, copy repairman, cook, restaurant manager, personal chef, and Chuck E. Cheese manager. He is an amazing and very aggressive soccer player.  He taught me how to throw a punch and boxes. My pops can draw really well, is AMAZING with small children and people in general, is an avid outdoorsmen and hiker, has a gift with animals, and studied drafting. We drafted inventions when I was growing up and built things from scratch.

2. I travel for my students.

This is still a funny one for me to say, but I’m a teacher. In a less than conventional sense, but let me explain.  In farm school I teach about: gardening, salmon, honey bees, goats, spiders, bunnies, soil, chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, horses, tractors, conservation, watersheds… you name it! The kiddos love asking me about exotic plants and animals. Stories are a great teaching tool! The more I expand the more I have to share.

I’m a horseback riding instructor (mainly 2-12 years old)and I work as a mentor in our Riding Club program for teens. My experiences through learning new languages, seeing the British mounted cavalry, watching the Spanish Riding School, seeing the treatment of horses in developing nations, and now training at a competitive Arabian endurance barn in Argentina (which is known throughout the world for their horsemanship.), help inspire the next generation. Teens in particular want to know more about the world and how they’ll fit into it. The more people and cultures I interact with the better,more compassionate, & aware teacher I become. They look up to me and with that comes a big responsibility. I want them to dream big and know anything is possible.

This includes my animal friends. I owe it to them to become the best person I can be. Educating myself and learning more about how they work and developing that mutual relationship of horse, rider, and trainer. One must be balanced and confident, listening and aware, kind and consistent, create and maintain trust, establish boundaries and expectations, and be the very best they can be in working with horses.

3. I travel for my friends.

Traveling is hard and requires many sacrifices of time, money, relationships, and career. If you’re creative and stubborn enough you can make it all work, but that requires a lot of trial and error as well as commitment. It’s not for everyone. For those of my friends that long to travel, but are held back by many obstacles this is for you. For those of my friends that have no desire to travel, but love seeing pictures and stories from a traveler this is for you.

 

In the end I hope my travels aren’t completely selfish, but if they only teach me more about myself and the world I’m okay with that as well. You never know how your actions may inspire others.

 

 

 

 

Leaving something good to chase your dreams

Leaving when life has fallen apart feels different. Trust me. It’s uncomfortable and scary to bring more unknown into an already unstable situation sure, but you’re not saying goodbye to something sacred.

The dream-

Argentina.  My wanderlust had kicked in. Every day I would come downstairs and announce a different location where I was bound and determined to go. My mom started to make fun of me. It obviously didn’t matter where I went so much as that I traveled. This past summer I flew to New York to support one of my best friends at the National Young Rider Championships. I saw some incredible horses and riders, but more importantly I was reminded this is what I want to do. I saw the path in front of me and the goals I wanted to achieve. This time around I would combine furthering my equestrian career with traveling. I began to search for barns abroad through Workaway.  I looked all around the world. In the end I contacted four barns. My first choice was Argentina. I’d never considered visiting, but I fell in love with the barn. Arabian endurance horses. Racing at the edge of the Andes mountains. The 5 year old girl in me who dreamt of being a jockey whispered, YES. Argentina is known through the world for having incredible horsemen. I’m going to go study under amazing trainers. Not to mention, they’re famous for equestrian polo and I can’t wait to try it. Bonus- it added a continent to my all 7 before 30 goal.

Leaving the something good-

Being home, in Washington, is challenging for me. What makes it tolerable is having the best job in the whole world. I love my job. Transitions have always been hard for me and choices difficult. I am sentimental and attached despite my strong sense of wanderlust. The barn where I grew up and into myself is my home- more so than many houses. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be. I was inspired to excellence and believed in. At a rough patch in my life they saw my potential and it changed me. At the barn I’m in my element. I’m a favorite custom lesson instructor. I “exceed” my employee evaluations. My reputations is of:”dependability, willingness to learn, amiable personality, adaptability, ability to handle disciplinary problems, and a self-starting initiator who’s experience and dedication shine through.” “She routinely delivers quality programs and has great customer service skills. She is respected and appreciated by staff. Sarah takes great care of our equestrian herd and farm animals. She knows the ponies well and they respect her calm demeanor and expertise. She is quick to recognize if an animal is not feeling well and is good at reporting concerns in a timely manner. She is a great role model for our Riding Club volunteers and younger staff members. She works hard and takes pride in providing excellent programs each shift. Her knowledge, professionalism, and continued dedication are an asset. A dedicated employee that comes ready to work with a smile. She’s fostered respectful relationships with all of our farm residents. She is reliable and always willing to help out as needed and available. She has a wealth of experience to share. Sarah remains calm under pressure and solves problems as they arise. ” Lots of big words. What really made me cry on my last shift before I left was the reaction of the kids.  They begged me not to go. They said they’d miss me. They made jokes about me teleporting back in time so I never had to leave them. They called me a legend and gave me sweet parting gifts. One girl pulled me in for a hug that never seemed to end. They thanked me and said they couldn’t imagine time without me. They showered me in things like you’re the best and an amazing instructor and made me promise to come back. My supervisors are AMAZING about my travels and support me with a big smile and a reminder that they want me back as soon as they can have me. They understand.  It’s never boring. I work with people aged 2 to adult. I never stop learning. I teach at the farm school, I work on maintenance, I get paid to ride… every day is different.  I train and care for a herd of 16 and a whole host of livestock- chickens, bunnies, sheep, goats, cow, turkey, and a pig. I have established relationships with 2 and four legged friends that mean the world to me. It’s my happy place even when everything else is falling apart.

What makes it hard-

My Argentina plans were up in the air. I requested work leave starting in November after my job in Argentina was confirmed. After 5 emails asking for logistical information I still didn’t know when my arrival date was and which airport I was to fly into. This left me without a goal to hang onto. I felt like a fool. Everyone wanted to know when I was leaving and I didn’t know if it had fallen through.

Expense. It’s going to be the priciest airplane ticket I have yet to buy.

Relationships. My mother isn’t well. Friends. My grandparents are getting older. Love life. The truth is that the world keeps on turning without you and you miss moments.

My job because I love it to pieces.

Why it’s worth it-

I’m going to come back with more experience to share. I won’t have regrets or what if for dreams I didn’t dare to chase. There are so many things I’ll get out of the experience I can’t dream-up. Friends I have yet to meet. Language I have yet to accomplish. Horse skills I’ve never grasped. I love my job and it makes me happy, but overall I’m not exceptionally happy in Washington. I’m exceptionally happy when I travel. Right now I have the time and freedom to travel. Who knows what the future holds. Waiting can turn into forever. I’m launching off into another chapter in my story.

 

 

Unhealthy Mother/Daughter Relationship

Life has not been easy for my mom. She has sacrificed a lot for her children. There are many ways in which I admire her and many in which I pray we are never alike. A few of the darker parts of myself come from her. My icy look of death and judgement- you have betrayed me or let me down and you will pay.  This look makes you feel terrible for hours. My scary I will not take no for an answer voice. She taught me to have a zest for life and is largely responsible for my wanderlust. She taught me to work hard and dream big, be different and creative, NEVER leave a ride waiting and NEVER be late.  Many mother/daughter relationships struggle, but ours is particularly messy.

She is type A personified. Growing up in a household that never did new things, or scary things, or challenging things creates a certain kind of person. Things were the same as they always were and they were good that way. My mother and her sister are accountants and their brother a banker.

My mother met my father at 15 years old. They were married at 20 and 21 years old. They had me just a few years later.  My mother didn’t realize she was a lesbian. She didn’t know until she fell in love with a woman- a marriage and 3 children later. Nothing happened, my mother’s sense of morals and guilt are far too high for that, but it began a chain of events that split our family apart.

The separation of my parents was not explained to me. I was very angry because it didn’t make sense. They still lived in the same house, they were civil toward each other, and they claimed they loved each other, but it couldn’t work. My mother came out to me at 12 years old.  The timing couldn’t have been better. I was just figuring out my sexuality and realizing I wasn’t straight. I wasn’t sure what this meant or if I was bisexual. Everything was confusing. My mother had a lot of internalized homophobia. I had to keep her sexuality a secret from the rest of the world, my family included, for several years. Was I living a lie… a double lie? I hate keeping secrets.  I didn’t want to become “that” kid who was gay because her mother was gay.  I was rather angry with my mother for putting me in that position which is made even more ironic by the fact that one of my younger brothers is also gay. What I did become was the girl who randomly popped up with a girlfriend one day. No statement given. The girl who without letting anyone know showed up to homeschool (conservative) prom and brought a girl…. who wore a suit. My mother still wasn’t out of the closet. Sometimes I was her beard and sometimes she mine. Why was I so vocal about LGBTQIA issue? Marching in parades? Phone banking? My mother. Why was my mother on the PFLAG board, marching, speaking out- why her daughter of course! We both led seperate, but related lives as we figured ourselves out.

My mom won’t let anyone forget that she never spoke back to her mother. She was quiet, respectful, and did everything that was asked or expected of her.For most of my young life she was seriously depressed. You walk on eggshells around my mother. She can be slamming the breaks on the car to cry hysterically on the side of the road,  screaming at you for some minor upset, or not speaking to you. To name just a few. Sometimes she’s happy, funny, clever, supportive, loving , and my best friend. Sometimes she’s anxious, manipulative, cruel, selfish, and my worst enemy. I’m never quite at ease with which version will show up. I crave emotional stability.  There have been many good pockets. These are sometimes worse because when she swings back it’s even more jarring. I was taught to be the good girl, the rock, the caretaker- and I didn’t have any other choice. I became a stand in parent and I became my mother’s second when my parents split.

My mother has a flair for the dramatic and a few other things. She threatened to kick me out of the house this week…. even though it as under her advice that I be there. Despite the fact that I had leaned heavily toward continuing to live away from home she talked me into it.  I was suddenly a selfish brat who took advantage. Like all things in my life, and particularly with my mother, I swallowed my anger and any sense of ego and proceeded to act like her actions were completely justified. Because I’m never good enough, my actions mean nothing, and I’m a piece of shit like she regularly reminds me. Of course I don’t love her as she also semi regularly informs me.  If this were true- which it’s absurd to even entertain-  it would have been one hell of a lot easier to go my own way a long time ago despite so much pain and sacrifice and sticking by her side when she was at her ugliest and defending her when people had nasty things to say.

My mother can never understand my anger for her. This continually drives her nuts and she insists I must try to explain it again even though it never ends well. Our relationship is so complicated I could never fully explain how or why I feel the things I do. From my perspective she tells me just how wrong all my feelings are and doesn’t listen. My anger toward my mother is both very simple and extremely complex. I am angry with her for asking so much of me time and time again. I am angry to have to be the “better person”. I am angry to be “another parent”. I am angry she doesn’t have anyone else. I am angry that she wasn’t always a safe person. I’m angry I have trust issues and that she once threw a plate at me. I’m angry that I had to hold her while she was sobbing at 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20. I’m angry that I had to convince her it would be alright. I’m angry that I had to protect my brothers from screaming and crying and tantrums and reprimanding. I’m also angry that she throws it in my face that after everything I will never forgive her. After everything she thinks she calls the shots on when I need to forgive her or even if I’m capable of forgiveness. From my perspective I’m been one heck of generous with forgiveness. I’m angry that I’m never good enough for her. I’m angry that she contradicts herself.  I am angry that she resents me when I take care of myself.  I’m angry her health is terrible.  I am angry that when I watched Gilbert Grape for the first time I sobbed because that’s me. My family is in pain and broken.  They need me and I want to fly. I wish so badly I didn’t feel angry and resentful. I wish I could be perfectly happy with my mom treating me the way she does. But I’m not. I wish I could be the perfect daughter I used to be back when I never exploded, but said yes mommy and loved her unconditionally. It’s not okay with me. Despite the fact that I put my head down and I take it and I take. At a certain point I can’t take it anymore and the reaction is explosive. I know it isn’t pretty. I know it isn’t good either. As logical a person as my mom is her arguments have a lot of holes. When I point them out to her she doesn’t have a good answer OR she weaves her words in such a way that I end up feeling crazy and like my feelings can’t be valid. I stood up to my mother and told her no. I set a very clear and respectful boundary. I then broke it and she pushed again. My mother gets what she wants from me and if she doesn’t she throws a fit and gets it anyways.

I need to get out of the house and onto a plane. Seriously. I meant to be gone two months ago. I’ve let it slip. First it was my family and then it was work. These last two weeks have been a wake-up call. I don’t particularly relish being home and it’s been months. I’ve been bad about putting everyone, but myself first. So I get angry. I get bottled up. It isn’t pretty.

So why am I angry? Because I don’t feel like I’m living my own life. I’ve doing exactly what everyone else wants of me and being who THEY want me to be. It’s not making me happy. I don’t normally HATE it, but it doesn’t make me jump out of bed. I’m extremely motivated and can cram a million things into one day if I want to. DO is my motto. I can boil it down to obligated or responsibility if I want to make myself feel bad. Occasionally I ask myself if traveling is simply running away.

If I am running away it’s because I’m running away from a normal life. I don’t want to be mediocre. I don’t want to go to school, work an office job, have 2.5 kids, amount a mess of debt, and acquire a picket fence. Sometimes I really want to want those things and sometimes I almost believe it. I want to live every moment to the fullest,  meet new people, scare myself, learn about myself, study different languages, try new foods, help others, create, share, be a leader, collect stories, remember life is beautiful and kind, the list goes on.  I want to expand not stagnate. Maybe I am running away from a toxic home life, but if I’m going to leave the house I may as well chase my dreams while I’m doing it. I’m not going to move out 30 minutes away. If I’m moving I’m going far. Washington isn’t my forever home. Always known that. Maybe I am running away from being treated like shit. From everyone asking everything of me. Maybe I don’t want anyone to ask anything of me. Maybe I’m tired.

My mother is busy telling me she needs to get better completely better. She surprised the heck out of me the other day by suggesting she may need anxiety medication. When I’ve implied she needed meds she would flip at me or when I’ve yelled that she needs to get help, help that isn’t me. It’s the worst when she is calm and rational. It’s all about perspective and I’m no angel here. I know I’ve messed up many times. I know my mom has sacrified many things for me. I know I could have done better. I know I am one significant half in how this relationship functions. I wish I knew how to make it healthier. The healthiest it has ever been was when I was abroad. We sent emails back and forth and communicated in a way that felt completely different and exciting. Perhaps it was because we didn’t need anything from each other- because we couldn’t.

When will I not feel responsible for my mom and my family. When do I stop feeling guilty and get to live my own life? What will happen when I travel and come home again? I’ve already moved out, moved again, moved home, traveled, lived abroad, and then come home again.  In the end, I want to know why loving people hurts so badly.

 

 

 

 

How I Afford Traveling

I’m 20 years old and I’ve traveled 5 months out of this year. I’m about to head out for several more months and I’m not a secret millionaire. Before I started traveling budget was my biggest fear. Even now it can cause anxiety, because the truth is that as much research as you do there’s always the unknown. I think it’s a poetic truth about life.

  1. Work when I’m home.

I saved up $8,000 in four months working in the tourism industry. I took a job on San Juan Island in Sales and Reservations. Not a glamorous title, but the perks were STELLAR. I made probably $1,500 more in free whale watching and kayak tours for myself, friends, and family. Most importantly I began transitioning to the nomadic lifestyle. My housemates and I were constantly having  spontaneous adventures and watched the sunset almost every night. Sure I lived in a house with 8 people and my room was the converted garage with no dividers and shared with 3 + the washing machine. I contemplated peeing in the backyard several times because we only had one bathroom, but even that was training in the end.  I learned the ins and out of being a savvy traveler and what the industry wants from their guest. Find where you want to go. Email, or even better CALL, and explain who you are and what you do. Why you want to use their product and how you can help THEM. Example: REVIEWS. Every company in tourism, but particularly small business, lives off reviews. It’s lifeblood. Blogging is HUGE. I was flabbergasted when I found out how many bloggers we personally flew in for private tours to take cool pictures and write about us. I’ve become a giant on TripAdvisor and it’s gotten me many a discount. Another thing to keep in mind is there’s a discount for EVERYTHING. Student, military, AAA, senior- you name it. Ask what discounts they have available.

Housesitting/pet sitting. I grew up on a farm. Mostly this one comes by word of mouth.  Tip: If you leave the place cleaner than you found it and fresh flowers on the counter I bet they’ll ask you to come back next time they go out of town. I get free lodging- and a break from my family- while being paid. Gig payment ranges from $120-$900 a pop. It’s always the animals that pay the highest. I’ve given daily shots, medications, and IV’s. Any specialty care gives you bigger bucks.

Horseback riding instructor, horse trainer, animal care and maintenance, and farm school teacher. I’ve been trained for every job on the farm. Parks and Rec is my department with the city and it’s scary accurate to the TV show. I love it with a burning passion. Contrary to popular belief working for the government does not guarantee good money.  I won’t complain about my retirement fund, but I am not allowed to work more than 40 hours a week. I have no additional benefits, I work outside all year round at a physically demanding job, and I work all hours of the day. Pay and hours vary GREATLY. Sometimes I get 5 hours a week and others I’m right on the 40 mark.

Data Entry for FaithTrust institute. I do supplementary work for a non-profit working against domestic violence. They call and ask me if I want to come in for a 10 hour day. I say yes.

Babysit. This one is self explanatory. Basically I take any job. One time I painted an entire house. I’m not a painter, but she didn’t care. Paid pretty well too.

2. Save and live at home.

I haven’t lived at home my whole life, but when I’m within commuting distance I take the chance to save at home. My little brother graciously let’s me crash in his room. My mom asks a lot from me when I’m home, but food and lodging are expensive. Let’s considerate it an exchange.

It’s as simple as I buy gas to get to work. I cut down on coffee or frivolous expense. I don’t cut my hair or buy new clothes.

3. Decide I want it.

I make it happen. I work like crazy and I don’t spend. Save, save, and more saving.

4. Being creative and flexible.

Scott’s Cheap Flights, Kiwi, Kayak- I track flights like a bandit. If you want to see the world and you’re not dead set on a location or time it’s crazy affordable. I saw a roundtrip flight to Ecuador today for $240. I can fly from Italy to Paris for about $15 dollars. Depending on where you are buses are crazy cheap. In Europe Flixbus is your best friend and in Central America you’ve got the chicken bus.

Here’s my biggest hack. Volunteer. I kid you not. Once I figured that out I stopped traveling for weeks and started traveling for months. Now all I pay for is my plane ticket. I do this by using: Couchsurfing, Workaway, WWOOF, and oh my gosh old fashioned walking around, asking, and giving out my resume. If you want to take the bike route, I’ll totally try this someday, give Warm Showers a look. My favorite way to travel is to stick around and develop roots. It works perfectly for me to have a home base town where I meet friends, learn the language, and soak in the culture.

Couchsurfing: type in your city and request a host. They’ll put you up for free and it’ll tell you if it’s a spare room, couch etc.

Workaway: exchange a certain amount of your week devoted to your volunteer task for food and lodging. My volunteer tasks have included: horse training, city guide, gardening, and hostel front desk.

WWOOF: work on an organic farm in exchange for food and lodging.

Warm Showers: For cyclists only. They’ll give you a warm shower and, depending on the host, free accommodation, food, and drink.

5. Budget.

My mom’s an accountant. I do all of my own research and then she helps me plug it into a reasonable spreadsheet of expected cost. While I’m traveling I give her access to my accounts and we predict my average spending and how far my money will go.

6. I ditched the travel insurance.

I bought it for my first trip and then realized I wouldn’t do it again.  I ended up going to the doctor in London and because of paperwork hassle I never got my money back. In other words, money down the drain. On my second trip, to Central America, I realized any healthcare cost I would incur would be well within my pocket money. IT’S CRAZY CHEAP. Some people fly around the world for medical treatment and I can see why. On my third trip I realized Europe has a free health care system- it varies from country to country so please do your research. I visit my doctor before every trip I take and I always do my research on vaccinations etc.

You can do it! I believe in you. Some circumstances make traveling harder and each traveler requires something different. Sharing my bedroom with 8 other people was doable for me, but it’s not for everyone. I have a gluten allergy. Be clear on your needs and then you can build a game plan.

Cheers!

 

My Experience as a Gay Traveler

I love women and I travel. What’s that like for me?

First off, everyone’s LGBTQIA+ experience is different. I have a fear of traveling to Russia or Germany, but for some reason not the Middle East. I had no reservations about heading to Central America. Logic sometimes has nothing to do with it.

When I had to fabricate a fake engagement story the guy looked at me funny and said, “Aren’t you a bit young to be married?” I laughed and said, “I know right?! It was so sudden.” What made the moment genuine is internally I was saying, “Why the heck am I doing this? This is insane. How many facts do I have to dredge up about a fake marriage to a GUY?” Not to mention none of the conversation was taking place in English.

I stand out because I’m a bit quirky, confident, and a tomboy, but my presence doesn’t ultimately scream GAY. Most of the time people assume I’m straight. Usually I let them keep this opinion.   What does scream gay is my head turning when a gorgeous woman walks by.

Right now I don’t have a partner that I’m traveling with and I don’t travel to seek out ladies or anyone for that matter. I’ve had people ask me about boyfriends. I’ve lied about having a boyfriend when it felt necessary. I’ve talked about guys I had crushes on, but casually not mentioned gals. I always read the room and if I don’t feel comfortable I don’t force myself to share anything I did not want to. Most of the time I don’t bring sexuality up- guys, gals, or otherwise.

I’ve only outed myself a few times while traveling. All of those times it went well and I’ve been able to keep myself safe. Some locations I’ve traveled too it’s been illegal or highly frowned upon to be gay- but the biggest reason I don’t continually out myself while traveling is that it doesn’t feel relevant to me. This is something that varies greatly from traveler to traveler. If I’m not seeking a partner and I don’t have one- I don’t feel that it’s anyone’s business.  Maybe I could have changed a few minds here and there. I get that. I took the easier route.   I am sometimes afraid to out myself in my own country. It takes a lot of energy, bravery, and patience.  I didn’t want my travels to feel like anything other than my own and part of my travels were learning to drop obligations. I was figuring a whole lot of things out by myself and preferred my own company so much of the time. I have wondered if that’s selfish or my own fear talking. Traveling wasn’t about my sexuality- although I did learn more about it in the process.

What I did notice is I wrote in my journal every time I saw a gay couple holding hands or *wow* even kissing. I took a picture the few times I saw a Pride flag hanging in someone’s window. It impacted me greatly in a positive way. Which will be helpful to remember if or when I end up in another relationship. Seeing other gay people being happy and open is something that always impacted me in the best way. When I saw other travelers that “looked”  or “seemed” gay it made my little heart soar. I went to a few Pride related events in Italy and spoke with some Italians about their thoughts on the community.  On the flipside, I heard a French man say the word faggot like a dirty word and it was so unexpected and I was so startled that I froze. I went to bat with a highly homophobic Portuguese fellow and in the end it was a good conversation. I spoke very strongly about my opinions and respectfully heard everything he had to say. I didn’t share personal anecdotes because I had to be able to live in the same space with him without fear. However he told me his perspective had really changed after our conversation.

At one point a fellow bisexual (I’m not sure how accurate this is as I’m not 100% certain where my feelings do or don’t lie toward men, but hey I’m not going to box myself in either way if I’m unsure.) made some rather crude comments about my fellow coworker. I felt very uncomfortable as she drunkenly pegged her gaydar on me. She asked how in the world if I was sharing a bed with this gorgeous gal had I not tried to get in her pants. I was flabbergasted and very uncomfortable. I didn’t want my coworkers (both girls) to feel weird that we had to share a bed. I would never pull the moves on someone who wasn’t interested, PLUS they both had boyfriends, PLUS PLUS we were only friends.  This same Irish girl came onto me. I was not looking for a fling. Nothing happened.  At the end of the night when she was super drunk and I’d taken her up to the best viewpoint in the city (I did this for most guests. It was only 10 minutes from the hostel.) she grabbed my butt and made it clear she thought I was a real catch. I mean clearly if she thought I could seduce the goddess. (That’s pure sarcasm.)  I was VERY surprised because like every guy within a mile radius she’d spent the whole evening eyeing up my stunning friend. Unexpected experience to say the least. Besides having my ego inflated while she told me how hot I was- it was all rather bizarre.

Spent the day showing a Canadian girl around Genova, the Italian city I lived in for 4 months. She was very chill and sweet. We got to talking honestly about relationships and our first kisses. Long story short even though she’s not gay her first kiss was with a girl. We both found that pretty funny.

A good, but crazy, friend of mine got pretty wasted after a fight with her boyfriend and a tough phone call from her mom.There was lots of drama and she asked me to go out to the bar with her. After too much wine and a live band we started dancing. At a certain point she did a lap dance type routine and was all over me. I was glad she didn’t know how uncomfortable I felt.  I had an  internal conversation with myself about if she would be making different choices if she knew.  I have since come out to her and received nothing, but support. Nothing to worry about there she would have been her same wild self.

In London I visited a world famous jazz club. There were a bunch of lesbians situated in front of me on the dance floor and I had an eye on one that looked single. Or at least I assumed so because she was doing her fair share of flirting and wasn’t sharing face like some of the others.  If the dang drink prices hadn’t been so inflated and myself so budget conscience I told myself I would have offered to buy her a drink. It wouldn’t have been anything more than some fun flirtation, but I was disappointed in myself for only watching from a distance.

In Guatemala I met this girl that was beautiful inside and out. I was enamored to say the least. I made a comment about gorgeous women to my friend in her presence and expecting her to be straight I turned to apologize. Turned out she’s bisexual with a strong preference toward women. Only she had a boyfriend. Bummer. Double bummer is they were big into PDA. She did tell me she loved my butt though and that she was super glad I existed because I was amazing.  Honestly don’t get the butt obsession, but whatever. We totally went on a stupid adventure together to pick our dinner bouquet out of windowsills and sidewalk weeds 😛 A friendship meant to be.

In Italy I met a middle aged woman from California. I can’t remember how it happened, but somehow she found out I was into women. I think it was because I was bemoaning my terrible crush on my bosses brother. Weird, I know. Somehow it was connected I promise. Any who- she ended up sharing that she was bisexual and we ended up talking about how each of us viewed attraction and what it meant in our lives.

There’s plenty of times in my travel journals where I bemoan finding a certain girl or gorgeous stranger attractive. I wrote things like “I’m so gay” and “are all British women gay? Because they dress like they are.” I also wrote about people back home. Some say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I told two girls from home off while I was traveling. I’m a very logical person and proposals of interest from halfway across the world didn’t float my boat. Somewhere along the way I realized that I was very much in love with a gal from back home… that has yet to go away. Again, I’m a logical person and she isn’t available.

At some point I was with a group of people and my bisexual status came up with a good traveling friend of mine who I’d spent a good amount of time with. She was flabbergasted that she hadn’t known or even guessed, but she totally didn’t care and we loved our friendship even more for it after she knew. She opened up to me about her fairly new experience with being bisexual. From then on we pointed out gorgeous men and women we passed by.

Let’s talk about guys for a second. You’ll get their attention and if you’re like me a lot of your friends will end up being guys. I received 4 marriage proposals and, no, they weren’t jokes. Trying explaining why not with a straight face. I went on one date with a fellow while I was traveling. More on that later.

I had a sneaking suspicion that two of my female friends in Italy were an item, but that was never refuted nor confirmed. They’re 100x more affectionate over there, but these two were always together. They were best friends, but sometimes the looks they gave each other made me wonder. Who knows…. I suppose I could ask.

The most uncomfortable thing that’s happened to me was a lie I told and then had to tell over and over. I hate lying and I’m not very good at it. I was very upset when I found out my ex was engaged less than a year after our break-up and my coworker asked what was wrong. I told her about the engagement and made my ex out to be a guy- now I told myself they were gender fluid and it wasn’t an outright lie, but it wasn’t the truth either. ***Also because we shared a bed and I’d publically and horrifically bemoaned the girl that suggested I sleep with her.*** From then on when my coworkers would speak of my ex boyfriend I’d get REAL quiet.

Everyone’s going to have a different experience and I can only imagine what other ones might be like. LGBTQIA+ travelers are out there (haha!)  and can be found all over the world.  There isn’t a ton of information on the internet about being a minority traveler in general. If you have a voice to share in the mix, and you feel comfortable, I suggest sharing your story. I’ve love to hear it. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

All my love and support

Sarah

Why I’d Rather Travel Solo

There’s a lot of talk these days about solo travel vs. traveling with a partner or friend. You can download apps to find travel companions or have family members suggest people you’ve never met. I want everyone to travel in the way that’s best for them.

This is simply why I’d rather travel alone:

1.It’s better than bad company.

Seriously. Think about it. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, and stick to whatever budget makes me comfortable. There’s nothing more difficult than being attached to someone who has a completely separate set of wants and needs. I’m not against traveling with someone else- one day I  hope to have a partner who longs to explore the world as deeply as I do- but finding a compatible match isn’t easy. I’ve met up with other solo travelers while on the road and decided to continue traveling together- because it works. Don’t wait until you’re halfway across the world to realize all you’re going to do is fight.

2. The fear is worth it.

A lot of people told me I was brave. They’d never be able to do it. I’m not impervious to fear. I spent a night in Guatemala shaking in my boots convinced I was going to die- it wasn’t pleasant. What I do know is that good things aren’t always easy. I’ve made a habit of being scared and doing it anyway because I can see potential. Call me a chronic “hoper”.  This is one gamble that has a large pay off. I come away knowing I can handle anything.  Not to mention develop a “at least it’ll make a good obituary” sort of humor toward dying.

3. I meet more people who will most likely change my life.

Let’s face it. When we’re hanging out with our squad or our gorgeous significant other the rest of the world sort of disappears. That’s part of the charm. We’re comfortable, loved, and happy. Not looking for anything else. When you’re traveling alone you’re alert and attune to your surroundings.  I meet WAY more people traveling solo and ones I probably never would have talked to if I already had someone to strike up a conversation with. The people I meet are different from me. We change each other by interacting. When you’re traveling conversations are deeper and more meaningful. It’s a lot less “did you see it’s raining?” and more “have you ever been in love?”

4. I will take care of myself.

I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but when I travel I put me first. There’s simply no other option most of the time. It’s me, me, and me. I was raised to be a you, you, and you, sort of person. Being solo takes the responsibly off others and puts it on myself. I have to watch out for, feed, clothe, and care for myself.

5. I’m not going to wait around.

I was in a relationship for 2.5 years that was mostly comprised of waiting around. I can’t stand it anymore. My soul says, “let’s go do it.” Unless you have someone ready to jump when you say jump you can wait around forever for a travel companion. Go do it or it’s never going to happen. People who don’t want it will always have an excuse. Get rid of them or leave them behind- because your dreams should not be on hold.

6. I’ll have more opportunities.

I can’t count the number of times I got into an event or on a bus because there was only one of me. My opportunity to receive a yes instead of a no goes up. Most people travel in couples or groups. Think about how many seats are wasted in the movie theatre if everyone spaces themselves out.I’m easier to host so opportunities like Workaway and Couchsurfing work to my advantage.

All in all, I’d never take back any of my solo traveling.  I’ve created memories with myself that I may never be able to recreate or retell for other people, but I’ve strengthened what it means to be me. I know who I am and what I want, how precious is that?

 

I require a high social quota

My social desires are extremely high. There are people who are afraid to text other people and then there are my breed of people… who sometimes send 12 texts in a row without getting a reply and then wonder if the other person is okay. I LOVED how social traveling was. There was instant companionship to be had everywhere. Eating and cooking meals together. Laughing hysterically about getting off on the wrong train platform. Deciding to bust out the last 2 miles of trail in the dark- without a flashlight. Evenings spent laughing hysterically over card games.  Discussions on the meaning of life. Sitting in silence watching the sunset. The list goes on.

I do like my alone time. As an extroverted introvert, or whatever it’s called, when I reach my limit  I recommend leaving me alone, but for the most part I LOVE people. I love talking with people and watching people and I almost always want to get together with people to-do things. Like all the time. It’s a demanding desire. Coming back to the USA has made this incredibly apparent. I’ve been feeling alone here. I like spending time with myself too, but this is a weird sort of social detox. There’s no sense of instant gratification in the socialization department. No instant best friends or constant invites for adventures or dinner. Everyone is so spread out and, honestly, not very openly affectionate.  It feels  difficult and exhausting to find and create the community I desire. I’ve begun to question if people really do like me, or if they’re just tolerating me. It’s like that quote, the one with the lowest libido always has the most power. In this case it obviously isn’t sexual, but I feel like I have the lower hand because I want to do things SO much. I want someone to say let’s go stargazing at 10pm or let’s Skype.  I want to hang-out in general, it doesn’t even need to be adventurous, but there’s school, distance, work and so many other factors that serve as obstacles.

I don’t fit into American society. I’ve wanted to be normal and I’ve never really succeeded. I was the homeschooled kid, the horse girl, the gay one, the theatre nerd, the outdoor enthusiast, the one who got pneumonia and bronchitis too many times, and the girl that played every sport- to name a few. It doesn’t help that I’ve always had a quirky fashion sense, don’t partake in many “girly” things, am not a big party person, and I belong to a religion no one has heard of. A whole host of reasons total up to not feeling like I fit in.

Let’s talk about culture for a second. Are we bound to the place we were born? I’ve always marveled at people who never leave their hometown. That’s inconceivable for my adventure and curiosity bound heart. How could you not want to meet new people, go to new places, and try new things? The logical part of me knows it’s a privilege and dream setting scenario, but to not have the desire seems wild. I know I’ve mentioned it, but my wanderlust is on fire.

I found a sense of happiness and home in a culture that wasn’t truly mine and I’m still trying to figure out what that means. I hesitate to generalize, but this was my experience. I loved Guatemala. It wasn’t all easy. I was very sensitive to the poverty. Strangers spoke with me on the street in Spanish, saying hello and asking how I was doing. What a bunch of hardworking, dedicated, kind, and family/community oriented people. England was fun, but culturally London didn’t feel much different from Seattle where we have our notorious social “freeze” going on. Often it was the folks visiting from European countries that were the friendliest people there.  Italy was knock-out and drag-out love. In fact, I’m going back to Italy in 2 months to go to Italian school. Italian culture was the home I didn’t know I longed for. There’s no sense of time. (Granted that’s true of Guatemala as well.) My entire experience of Italy was sensual.  From the way they treat food and drink to the way they hold conversations with you. Like you’re the only one in the entire world. They’re touchy over there and, no, not in a creepy way. Hugs and kisses galore. Love is in a whole other realm of existence- incredibly affectionate and very public- this applies to friends, family, and lovers. Everyone is ridiculously laid back. In fact, there’s a running joke that that’s why nothing happens quickly in politics over there. There’s a huge sense of enjoyment. Life is meant to be savored.  They are an incredibly passionate people. Wow. Holy smokes. I didn’t know I could meet that many people fired up about life in one place. There was a sense of being fully alive, present, and vibrating. It’s beautiful, yes. But there’s something else. It’s one of the few places I’ve felt at home. I’m tired of working so dang hard to MAKE things work. If you knew me in my previous years, you’d know I was overachiever extreme. My life was a story of me constantly packing as much as I could into my time. I thrived off of it. I created what I needed and wanted. I felt like a superhero. Now I like things coming my way. The slower loose life. It doesn’t create the same sort of anxiety and stress that makes me crazy uptight.

Why I hate coming home

The inspiration for this post was because of a silly happenstance. A friend I met while traveling egged me on to write my first full length feature film inspired by her wild life. Ironically, while I was working on the script today she contacted me. Somehow we got to talking about her impending return to Vancouver. The experience of coming home.

I’ve been blessed with travel since a young age and for that I’m very thankful, but the transition has always been hard. Recently, I’ve gotten better at it. That means I don’t go into a major funk for months on end, cry every day, or perpetually live in the past. Basically it’s less catatonic, but still hard.

Some people miss their home. For those of us that don’t experience those sappy home induced feelings it’s a struggle. I missed my family. I was so happy to see my family. But, I’ve always felt like Washington isn’t my place. It’s beautiful and holds many people I care about, but it doesn’t feel like my home. That creates a sort of pain unto itself. Feeling like you don’t belong in a place.

People that are actually around in my life mean a lot to me. I know a lot of people. I talk to a lot of people. But not a lot of people stick around in my life, make a mutual effort, or really know me. I’d be lying if I said coming home isn’t extremely lonely. I’ve just made all of these incredible relationships abroad that I’ve left behind. We email, whatsapp, or Facebook message for at least a few weeks. Some of them will stay in my life forever, but who knows if I’ll ever see them again. These are some of the deepest relationships I’ve ever formed. Talking about life, fear, what makes you cry, what fills you with passion, your past, your future, making a fool of yourself, dreaming big together, being spontaneous, telling people exactly how much they mean to you. The list goes on, but suffice it to say that a piece of myself now lays with people all across the globe.

Coming home throws in your face exactly how insignificant you are. As naive as it sounds,  you realize the world doesn’t stop turning without you around. There’s no big fanfare. In fact, it’s exactly the way it was. Maybe even better. When you do see people they act like nothing has changed or they want you to regale them with stories. I love telling stories, but it is uncomfortable for me to talk about traveling. That’s part of the reason I started this blog. I never know what to say. What can you say? I want to hear about what other people have been up to. Talking about myself feels….. self centered. That’s why I haven’t really shared this blog with anyone. Traveling is an intimate and vast experience that feels impossible to fit into an elevator speech.

Some days being home makes me feel the kind of empty where the bottomless pit of despair takes over. It makes me feel like going crazy. A feeling so out of control that I need to get rid of it in any way.  These days that’s a lot of hiking. Running or dancing or walking until my rampant thoughts go away and I can just be.  Some days I want to be held. Some days I drive and drive without a destination, but to get away. Some days I sit under the stars until I’m too cold to move. Some days I go out into nature because I can be alone… normal. Some days I catch-up with good friends. Some days I work on projects (blogging, films, theatre, photography, job applications, and getting rid of my material items.) Some days I visit my grandmother in hospice. Some days I volunteer or plot to help the homeless. Some days I just get out of bed. Some days I spend hours making elaborate meals.

But really, this time around I’ve been gentle on myself. I’ve moved slowly. I haven’t made plans with anyone I didn’t want to see. I haven’t automatically scheduled my life to pieces. I’m going from a situation where I didn’t have a concept of date or time. It was lovely. The pace of life was slow and expectations were only self imposed. I’ve tried to keep a low profile status since being home. You get used to freedom. Preferring to be quiet and slightly elusive. Some people don’t know I’m home. Arguably most, unless I’ve made the effort to text them. The worst part of coming home is expectations. Most people don’t really want you to be different.