This project is more not-mine than it is mine. I've sort of, "freed it to it's journey," so to esoterically speak There are many working parts and the majority of them have nothing to do with me. I began this project. I’m the executive decision maker as far as logistics go. Aside from being the focal point for decision making though, most of the project: what it looks like, who it brings me to, and where it takes me, is outside of my deciding power.
All these logistics depend on a bunch of external factors related to people’s availability, responsiveness, willingness, and excitement. It depends on how willing they are to merge paths for a little while. Most of what it depends on is outside of my control. It depends on the weather...
The project that I’m currently doing can be described like this: seeking out momentum building experiences that will propel me towards my greatest potential and will allow me to live in full appreciation.
It began with the decision to visit a friend in Denver. She and I served with AmeriCorps at the Montana Conservation Corps, seven years ago.
Introducing... Miranda. She runs the online community called Uprooted Foodie. We worked for the same organization but had much different trajectories within it, so we couldn't even find a photo with both of us in it, aside from the one we took on this trip. We ended up here, incidentally at the MLK memorial in Denver on MLK day. He was with some other friends named Mahatma, Rosa, Harriet, and Frederick.
Here are a couple few shots of my trail crew and I. Our primary job was to create and maintain access to National Parks and Forests throughout the Northwest. I was on one of the adult trail crews and Miranda worked in a leadership position on the youth programs side of the organization.
Realizing the latest and greatest convergence of our lives (we are both building online communities), I knew I had to go visit Miranda but I didn’t know exactly why. Maybe to make bomb food with another vegan? Maybe to reminisce about the good times? Or to be around likeminded people, and collaborate on a YouTube project? I didn't know what was driving me.
I've gotten all those boxes checked off for sure. We've been eating tremendously and there's a story about vegan cheese coming, so wait for it. We filmed videos for both mine and Miranda's YouTube channel. I feel pumped about all of that. And..
The process of getting here is feeding something more central to me than anything to do with my social life, eating habits, or career. It’s feeding the connective tissue between all those aspects of my life. The decision to come to Denver on a whim has reminded me that living is learning, and the application of that cliche is essential to my wellbeing and happiness. I need those feelings and therefore I need to live and learn. And the most effective way I’ve found to live and learn is through traveling. Last minute planning put into action.
The crucial part is that I’m not running away from anything but running towards something: the next great thing in my life. I’m being pulled, not pushed. I’m traveling to be seen, not to hide.
I’m traveling to heighten the human experience.
"Seeking out momentum building experiences
that will propel me towards my greatest potential
and will allow me to live in full appreciation..."
Right now, a cozied up pitbull nestles her head behind my back, curled up next to me in a little ball on the red-cushioned sofa. There’s a stand up bass leaned slightly back in its stand against the backdrop of a window with drawn lime green curtains. Miranda’s boyfriend and gig musician, Kyle finds himself playing “too much Buddy Holly” on it and other jukebox musicals from the 1960s rock-and-roll era. Kyle's voice is the also the "highest male tenor" that one of his music director's had ever seen. When he laughs for real, sometimes people think it's Miranda. They are both kind, welcoming, and considerate hosts. Their house is set up like an Air BnB, in fact it was one until recently.
Everything a guest could possibly need is available without asking. On top of that, I've been told where to find everything. I've been reminded to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. And I've been assured to use the space as if it's my home. They have really freed me to my journey even though I'm staying with them. Sometimes being a guest doesn't go hand in hand with autonomy. We sometimes feel beholden to our hosts and therefore alter our priorities to fit ourselves into their lives. And sometimes our hosts have high expectations for our stay and therefore exact a high level of control over us. It's not often you really do feel like you are a pleasant contribution to your host's life, nothing more or less. Without pressure to do or be anything. It's rare.
Let me describe the scene of Miranda and Kyle's home. There’s an assortment of painted triangular tiles that have been arranged on the wall in a way that could easily win entry into the Museum of Modern Art.
There are a line of guitars hung on the wall, alternating between being right side up and upside down. I wait for sweet rose tea to steep in a cup resting on the counter 15 feet away. I’ll pour some almond milk in there to thicken it up. I have to tell you one more story though.
"I'm traveling to heighten the human experience."
Later that night, Miranda was brushing olive oil onto a pizza crust. There was Daiya pepper jack on the counter beside her, waiting to be applied, hopefully liberally to the pizza. Can I just take a minute to thank the almighty for pizza? Pizza stops time and makes you forget about all else.
When I asked her if she liked any other vegan cheeses besides Daiya, she told me a story about a time she went into the vegan supermarket. The cashier realized that Miranda had gotten the wrong cheese. The cashier proceed to tell Miranda about how the “meltability” of this other kind of cheese is waaaay better than Daiya and the taste..well it's way better too.
After such a compelling intervention, Miranda decided to swap out the Daiya for this other magical cheese. What other option did she have? Spend her whole life wondering “what if” she had tried the other cheese and fallen in love?
Miranda ended this anecdote by saying, “I’m die-hard Daiya.” After all that, she ended up getting home, having a tasting and being underwhelmed. This other cheese did not quite live up to the hype. Die hard Daiya.
Just when you think someone’s giving you the best advice and it turns out they don’t get you at all. That sentiment was shared by a musician named Finn at the Stem Ciders songwriter's night, an event Miranda and I had just returned home from, at which point the pizza cheesiness began. It was hosted by a group called Lady Cactus Media, a name that brings me a good feeling thinking about it.
Finn's got on a yellow jacket on with a plethora of buttons attached. The host announces that it's her turn. She pops up from her barstool and hurries behind the curtain to get her instrument and when she pops up on the stage, she’s still swinging the guitar around her body, settling it in to performance ready position on her front body. She tunes her guitar as she begins to tell us about how she went to a thrift store, got this amazing pin that spoke to her. She looks down at the pin and points to it as if we can read it. “It’s says incredibly unfamous on it… and it spoke to me,” she explained. So she bought it. And in that shop, a man offered her what she “thought was advice at first” but it turned out “he didn’t get me at all.” Apparently that's what the song was about.
Filler stories from incredibly unfamous songwriters. Buddy Holly Bass Players. Die-hard Daiya fans, I mean these situations are why I travel. It’s why I’m on this pilgrimage to live and stay with people. To find myself in situations I know I will learn from. The proximity you get to people’s truest, quirkiest selves when you live in with them for a a few days...I love that. You get to see them live the nugget of wisdom they would tell you if you asked for advice. Offering to come stay with someone is the ultimate form of asking for advice."
"Offering to come stay with someone
is the ultimate form of asking for advice."
It’s not as if memorable experiences won’t happen in a life that’s more settled down, it’s just I won’t experience them with such intensity. That feeling of novelty, like every moment has meaning...
I won’t remember things in such vivid detail because I won't live them in full appreciation. They won’t be enough for me to tap into the well of inspiration. The well of wisdom that allows these words to pour out of me. They won’t penetrate the part of me that wants to write hundred of words about my experiences, as I’m doing now.
The effects of traveling also affect me when I’m not traveling. The same way long periods of time at home can ready me for travel, long periods of travel can make fully appreciate being home. I seek to find a good combination of traveling and homing where I’m able feel fully alive during both. I want to do what it takes to live in full appreciation more of the time.