Solo Travel: Anyone’s Game

I am now 2 weeks into my new life as a nomad… driving through states, sleeping out of my Prius, seeing incredible views, and posting up in Starbucks and McDonalds around the Southwest to steal Wi-Fi. There are so many things that I could take the time to write about right now, because I’ve experienced so many amazing things already, from time spent with my sister, brother-in-law and nieces, to strangers met on a cliff that helped me find my way back onto the correct trail, to panoramic views of the Sierra’s and a private car-camping site at the base of Mt. Whitney… but I’m going to take the next several hundred words to explain what I have experienced so far as a woman traveling alone.

Now, I haven’t been out long, mind you, so I’ll likely have more insights on this very thing in a month, 3 months, or a year. But so far, my experience has been a mixed bag. I’ve met several wonderful people who have been extremely kind, helpful, and enthusiastic about the fact that ya girl is out here roughin’ it in a car the size of a coffin. But I’ve also experienced some things that have given me pause… caused me to think and ask questions about the nature of our culture and society… how far we may or may not have come in the past 245 years of American history. First, let me begin by saying that the travel/nomad community is lovely. It’s full of people who are full of life, adventure, and the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow could bring, and I love it! I met several such people at my first car camping spot in Las Cruces, New Mexico… young couples disenchanted with the grind of modern life who were exhilarated by the idea of living out of a van with their dogs or their baby. The conversations had with these people were energizing, exciting, and affirming… “Oh you’re also traveling indefinitely with no certain plans for stopping or returning to modern society?! Cool, me too… I must not be as crazy as I thought.”

It isn’t the nomad community that has caused me to question things or feel insecure… but the traditional community.; the lovely, kind, and bewildered people I’ve met while hiking, doing yoga in a park or coveting McDonalds Wi-Fi. These are the people that comment things like “You’re out here all alone?! Wow, you must be brave” or “Where’s your husband? What does he think about all this?!” While people certainly mean well by these comments, and I hold no ill-vibes towards them, it’s really made me pause and wonder what the heck our culture’s values are. Since the beginning of male-female dynamics, there’s been this power-play between man as strong and capable, and woman as supporter and nurturer. While I admire and cherish the supporter and nurturer in everyone (not just women), I’ve been bumping up against the sexist view that a woman can’t be alone because she needs protecting. I’ve had women say, “You’re out here hiking alone? I’d be too scared… what about bears and predators?” I’ve heard men say, “I’d never let my wife do what you’re doing… it’s too dangerous.” Now let me tell you why I believe that these beliefs are ass-backwards.

First, a big reason why people view something as “dangerous” or “irresponsible” is because they’ve never done anything similar to it in their lives. They listen to their true-crime podcasts while sitting on their comfy couches and hear horror stories about a woman found dead at the bottom of a cliff, or a man found dismembered in a hotel parking lot (if I hit a nerve there for anyone, let it go on record that I was the person I just described like… 3 weeks ago). These horror stories affirm the decision to stay inside, stay safe, and stay in certainty. For instance, someone who has only gone on day-hikes may view a backpacker as “hard-core” or “insane” for willing to be out in the woods for days on end. The fear that keeps them from trying it comes from never having tried it. Could that day-hiker discover after trying backpacking that it is indeed terrifying and dangerous? Sure! But more than likely, that day-hiker will come away with a new-found understanding of themselves and of the people that really exist “out there”, AND, most importantly, they will have tried. In my situation, people who have only hiked with their spouse or friends think it’s so dangerous to hike alone, but is it really? I pass like… 5 people every 30 minutes, I have cell service, I have a knife, I have water and granola bars and plenty of lung-power to scream “HEY BEAR!!!!” should the situation arise… it’s really not as dangerous as many people make it out to be. Have people died alone in the woods before? Definitely! But people have also died alone in their homes, on the street, in schools with teachers and peers, and in grocery stores. So all I’m saying in response to this first kind of comment I get is, try the things you view as admirable or interesting or cool but kinda scary. You’ll learn so much through the process, you’ll likely feel a tremendous amount of “hell yeah” for the fact that you tried (even if it doesn’t go as planned) and you’ll hopefully come away realizing that the fear that held you back is no longer necessary.

As for the second type of comment I get (the sexist ones)… all I have to say to the world is, STOP ASSOCIATING A PERSON’S COMPETENCY AND ABILITY WITH THEIR SEX. And to any man, woman, or person out there who won’t “allow” their spouse to dream of an opportunity and pursue it, quit tryna be God, cuz you ain’t. We are all people of free will and the thing is, we are all capable of anything we put our minds to regardless of what genitalia we were born with. Do I, as a woman have to deal with certain things that a man does not? SURE! Just this morning as I was doing yoga in a park in Lone Pine, CA, I began to feel a little uneasy only to look up and realize that a man who had been sitting at a table far off moved to a stream a few hundred feet from me and was watching me. Does that make me uncomfortable? Of course it does. However, I have control and agency over the situations I put myself in. If I begin to feel uncomfortable, I can move. I can get in my car and leave. I can scream and alert the other people in the downtown area that I may or may not be in danger. I can use my pepper spray. I can keep doing my yoga and assume that he’s just a creepy guy and not a predator (which I did, and a nice older couple came along and told him to stop staring at me and he left). That may have seemed somewhat rambly, but I use all of those possibilities to illustrate the fact that a potential danger should not necessarily keep anyone from doing something that would make them happy or bring them joy. If we all avoided anything potentially dangerous, what kind of life would that be? Every single person out there has some type of “lofty dream” that seems unattainable. On average, more women than men STILL end up giving up on their dreams due to a variety of reasons, one of them being that they are too afraid or have been told that it would be too dangerous as a woman, especially a woman alone. As a woman alone, I can attest to the fact that every single person I’ve met while traveling (apart from the park-bench creeper) has been welcoming, helpful, and interesting. Every time I’ve seen potentially dangerous wildlife, I scream “HEY BEAR” or sing “Memory” from CATS at the top of my lungs, and they leave. Every time I’ve slipped and hurt myself, I take a second to breathe, assess the situation, and I handle it. There’s no boogyman lurking in the forest to come eat you from inside your tent. There’s no pack of hillbilly’s in the trees waiting to steal all your belongings. And for sure, there’s not a single situation that you can’t handle.

I can’t sit here and tell you that nothing is actually dangerous and everything is easy and simple, and will turn out perfectly… because that’s just not true. Just like I know that it won’t be true of my trip! I’m sure I’ll bump into intense situations and moments of fear or uncertainty, but I have the belief in myself that I can handle anything that may come up, or I can call someone who can give me advice or assistance. There may certainly be flat tires, knocks on my window telling me “YOU CAN’T SLEEP HERE, MOVE NOW”, wildlife encounters, and the ever-present male gaze, but I, like anyone else out there, am competent and capable of handling, navigating, and integrating those experiences. So, long story short, it really is possible to do just about anything just about any time. Certain factors make those things easier or harder, like having kids, a disability, a financial hardship, or being in the middle of a devastating life shift, among other things, but you really can do just about anything you dream of. Maybe you can’t grow wings, but you can certainly complete that 50 mile backpacking loop you’ve been eye-balling. Maybe you can’t become James Franco, but you can absolutely drive across the country and see amazing things. Maybe you can’t be a snow leopard, but 100% you can audition for your local theater’s production of Guys and Dolls. And if you’re sitting there saying “no I can’t Morgan, you don’t know me”, you’re probably right about the not knowing you part… but I would challenge that you’re wrong about the “no I can’t” part.

If your inner world is telling you “I CAN’T, I CAN’T, I CAN’T” where is that voice coming from? Is it actually coming from you? Or perhaps a friend, a spouse, a protective parent, or the programming of your culture? If the voice comes from anywhere but your own intuitive voice, DISREGARD IT! Easier said than done, I know… it can take time and a tremendous amount of work to shed the beliefs of others from our belief in ourselves, but It’s 2022. DO YOU, BOO.

Love always,

-M-

A Loose and Chaotic Assortment of Emotions

I am writing this post on the evening before my last day living in Austin, Texas. The place where I have lived for the past 9 years. The place where I found my roots, my people, and my sense of belonging. For many, the occasion of moving may be stressful, annoying, off-putting, or much-needed.. like “Thank god I’m escaping from this hell-hole.” And at different points, it has been all of these things for me as well. But as I sit on my couch, the last piece of furniture that remains unclaimed by others, I am hit by the movie reel of moments lived within these walls.

This was the first space I moved into alone. No roommates, no significant other to share space with… just me, and my 6-week-old puppy, Poppy. We moved into this space a week before I began orientation for my new career as an elementary music teacher. I was unsure, terrified, excited, and dealing with a whopping case of imposter syndrome… but we came into this space and made it our own. The walls and ceiling were cracked and peeling, the floorboards occasionally popped up with a mind of their own… but I grew to love this place. What made me love this place was not the furniture I purchased, built with friends, and lived with, nor the location or size of the place… but the memories I made within it.

My first standout memory of this apartment happened once my friends left. After helping me move everything in, building furniture while drinking beer and coffee, going out to eat… I returned here, just me and my dog. I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility watching her sniff every corner and try to eat literally everything. The song “Amsterdam” by Gregory Alan Isakov came on my Spotify shuffle station and I broke down crying with amazement over the fact that I had somehow graduated college, gained a career, gotten a dog, and moved into a place all by myself within 3 months. Since that moment, countless beautiful moments have graced these 775 square feet. I gained beautiful, lasting friendships with people that came over often to play games, share stories, cry, laugh, play music, and dream. I test-drove relationships within these walls and experienced a tremendous amount of pain, sadness, and regret until one day, the love of my life walked through the door to meet Poppy and stayed forever. This was the first home we shared together… the place within which the first several chapters of our story was written. Mike moved in when the pandemic began, and it was honestly the best few months I could have ever asked for. We spent our time making dream catchers, candles, gourmet meals, and forts that we played video games in. We held each other during moments of fear and sadness, and stitched our stories together in an enduring way that held patience, understanding, compromise, and fierce love.

So all of these past words I’ve written lead me to this one main point: I am so grateful for this foundationally screwed, semi-falling into the Earth apartment. And I’m going to share with you the words that I just sobbed out loud to my apartment walls after 2 glasses of wine.

Thank you to the place that holds all my deepest memories. Thank you to the walls that witnessed the depth of my sorrow, the weight of my grief, and the breadth of my joy. Thank you to the bathroom that saw too many drunken nights throwing up, or moments spent trying to pull myself together with my reflection, or dance parties in the shower. Thank you to the bedroom that watched me dream almost every night for the past 5 years. That heard dozens of FaceTimes with friends in other states that ended in tipsy goodbyes. That witnessed failed relationships and loves until the right one came along, claimed a spot on the right side of the room, and stayed. Thank you to the kitchen where I opened many celebratory bottles of wine to enjoy with friends. Where Mike and I made dozens of “taco nights.” Where I would get pissed off at being snuggled while trying to cook only to laugh about it later with a full heart. Where we sang “Crocodile Rock” at the top of our lungs while making homemade ramen. Thank you to the living room where each of my closest friends have sat. Where we did drunken Karaoke nights and played Boomwhackers at 3:00 in the morning (much to my neighbors dismay). Where we did full moon rituals and shared our fears and insecurities, only to be so deeply embraced and understood. Where we played Quiplash and laughed so hard I actually peed my pants (just the one time though). Where I broke down my walls and learned to love and trust the people who love and trust me.

Thank you to the walls that witnessed me falling in love with myself. When I moved in here, I was a lost, freaked out, confused 22 year-old with a lot of wrong ideas about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. But this space allowed me the safety to ask questions, cry at the answers, and delve deep into the shadows I’d never wanted to see. This space witnessed countless mornings of dedicated yoga practice, breathwork, meditation, and ecstatic dance, with just as many mornings of hangovers, regret, depression, and loneliness.

Maybe this post is more for me than for anyone else… so that I have something other than just mind-picture memories to look back on when I’m 40 and wanting to remember my 20’s. But regardless, what I have realized is that the spaces we put ourselves in, the people we allow into our lives, the ways that we grow along the way… those all add up into a beautiful path worth walking along. Life will never be perfect, beautiful, and magical all the time. But when I look back at the past 5 years living in this apartment, I am shocked to see more amazing moments of ecstatic joy, bliss, love, and surrender then I ever would have expected while living them. At age 22, I could have never imagined I’d be leaving this apartment to move into a Prius with my boyfriend and my dog… but here I am. And the walls that housed me these past 5 years helped me get here.

So cheers to you, apartment 811. I hope someone actually fixes your foundation one day <3.

The Courage to Feel Fear

Let me paint the scene I am currently experiencing for you:

It’s May 8. My boyfriend leaves tomorrow for his 6 month season as a backpacking guide in Yosemite. I just finished an intense and difficult 45 minute yoga flow focusing on power holds and hip opening. I finish the yoga flow, and began to sob uncontrollably for a good 30 minutes as my boyfriend holds me and witnesses the full expression of my vulnerability. I cycle through about a million different emotions, chief among them being fear, anxiety, dread, excitement, deep sadness, and even deeper gratitude. As I look around the rooms of my apartment, I see flashes of scenes I’ve shared with Mike over the past 3 years… snuggling on the couch, singing Eagles songs loudly while making tacos, getting pissed off at each other over board games (or, me getting pissed at him, and him just taking it), hugging each other inconveniently while the other brushes their teeth…

I have lived in Austin for 9 years, 5 of them tied up into this foundationally screwed apartment I now sit in. For all of it’s cracks, cockroaches, broken cabinets, and loose floorboards, this was the first place I moved into as a young woman, freshly graduated with my degree in music education. The walls of this place witnessed countless hours of loud music sung on the couch with friends, tearful emotional releases after failed relationships, wine-drunk evenings grazing on potato chips and avocado toast. This is the home where I raised my dog and absolute best friend, Poppy. From the time she was just a tiny potato pup nugget to a fully grown, almost 5 year old dog, she’s shared every memory in this place with me. This is the first home I shared with my partner, Mike. The place where we fell in love, learned to trust, and dared to dream of greater things and wild adventures.

So as Mike packs up all of his things and condenses them down into a size that will fit into the Prius that we will live in together, I feel fear. And sadness. And regret. And gratitude… and all of the things at once that cause me to ugly-cry and open-mouth sob. For as excited as I am for this new chapter of life, I am also completely terrified. Giving up all of the comfort, security, possessions, and stability that I’ve culminated these past 9 years is pretty shattering to my nervous system. I have always viewed myself as a creature of comfort…. someone who loves to know what’s coming next and what I can expect from any situation. So giving up my job, apartment, lifestyle, and city in pursuit of not knowing where I’m going or what I’ll be doing tomorrow definitely doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. I feel fear over it not working out. I feel sadness to leave this place. I feel anxiety over the next 3 weeks as I pack up all of my belongings to fit into something the size of my current closet. I feel regret that I didn’t appreciate the place I live in more while I still had the time to marvel at how amazing it is that I built this life for myself. I feel excitement, of course, to embark upon a new chapter of life, and a deep sense of gratitude for all of the memories, people, experiences, and lessons learned while safely tucked away inside this 850 square foot unit. I also feel the immense privilege that comes with being able to make this decision, which comes with a double whammy of gratitude and uncomfortable guilt.

I give all of this context to bring out one point: it takes a tremendous amount of willpower and courage to allow yourself to feel fear. So many times in my life, I have felt fear, a flash of anxiety, and then resorted to self-soothing methods like binging TV, drinking too much wine, shoveling $15 worth of taco bell into my face, or busying myself with cleaning or hanging out with friends. These methods kept me comfortably removed from my own problems and shortcomings for years, and I don’t regret those years spent in distraction. Eventually that feeling of distraction led to a feeling of lostness and confusion, which led me to begin searching and questioning everything. That questioning led me to the realization that the best way to navigate through life and emotions successfully is by fully feeling them in each moment. Happiness, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety… they’re all meant to be FELT, not avoided and ignored. And so, as I find myself in this period of immense change and upheaval of my norm, I also find myself breaking down into hysterics at the drop of a hat. And I love it. I’m so grateful for every feeling as it comes up. They don’t always feel easy or graceful, but the full expression of each emotion has enabled me to consciously take each step forward with certainty and a deep knowing that even when things get hard, it will all be okay. Everything will always be okay.

I think I honestly wrote this post more for myself than for the viewing of anyone else, but since you’re here, if you find yourself in a moment of fear, uncertainty, depression, anxiety…. breathe. I know that sounds so cliche and predictable, but truly. Breathe, let yourself feel what you feel fully, and if that means that you’re swallowing your own snot because you’re crying so insanely hard, or laughing like a mad-man because your joy is so limitless, or gasping through sobs as you shake with tears of gratitude… just feel it. Feeling can be terrifying and can bring up so many things that you may not have thought about in a long time, but it’s always worth it in the end. So to quote my boyfriend quoting Game of Thrones:

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”

So many thanks and joy to you for reading through this and going on this emotional journey with me. I am thankful that you’re here, and I’m thankful to share with you through this blog. Enjoy your day, and step forward knowing that you’re loved by me and every emotion you have is beautiful and valid.

Sincerely,

–M

What The Hell Am I Doing?

So I guess it’s high time I explain what’s going on in my world. After 5 whole years of being a normal, highly-functioning, *mostly* responsible adult, I QUIT. I just quit the whole business of it all. Well, I should say, I’m QUITTING, because it hasn’t happened yet. In fact, from where we sit right now, I’ve done nothing remarkable or different at all other than turn in my letter of resignation at my job of 5 years. But essentially, in less than 30 days, my entire life will be changing… (and as I type this, I literally have to take deep breaths to calm the anxiety and my inner parent screaming “STOP IT. DON’T DO IT.”)

So I guess I should break this down into sections, since I really am kind of about to change everything all at once (I promise this isn’t a quarter-life crisis???).

SECTION 1: THE JOB

It was once “sold” to me as an idea that career was the big “thing” in life. The thing that everyone goes through all those years of education for. The thing that would really bring you into that upper echelon of adulting prowess and sheer responsible bliss. For the first year of my teaching career, I really felt this. For the first time in my life, I had financial freedom! I could go to restaurants and bars whenever I wanted and buy useless, pointless things on Amazon (yay!). I also genuinely enjoyed what I was doing. Getting paid to hang out with kids, teach them music, and listen to them tell jokes?! Count me in. The second year wasn’t too bad either… I got to direct and produce my first ever musical production with a big group of kids, and it was a success! But then COVID hit. And things really took a nosedive for me. I felt undervalued and underappreciated in the eyes of the public. Everyone was asking more and more of teachers and then getting angrier and angrier when we couldn’t be 5,000 different things at once. Gradually, the vibe around campus got darker and darker as kids and teachers came down with COVID, some cases mild, some severe. And yet, we were still supposed to give MORE than the 150% that we gave last year because we were doing it all “for the kids!” While I value and admire the sentiment that teachers are selfless, loving, compassionate givers who bend over backwards for their students, it began to break me. After all, the whole world was living through a new, terrifying kind of trauma, and yet I needed to be stronger, more responsible, and more flexible than ever before. In the years following the initial outbreak of COVID, the state of education has begun to suffer more and more. The students don’t have the resources they need to re-acclimate to being around 650 kids while also learning social skills, test content, OH!, and dealing with that previously mentioned trauma. The teachers are given new “magic bullet” strategies every few months and expected to implement them immediately and seamlessly into the classroom, only to have them thrown out and replaced with something else later on. And on top everything, everyone is just BURNT OUT. So many teachers are tired. So many students are exhausted and just want to feel safe and loved without having to “catch up” so they can make up for missed time. And through all this change and dissonance, I began to realize that teaching absolutely wasn’t my calling.

I’ve tried to put on every hat given to me as a music teacher. I’ve become so flexible that my legs are over my head and back where they come out of my pelvis. I’ve given everything I can to the kids, and I’ve loved them all 5 years. But I officially submitted my letter of resignation and now I’m on to… what? I have absolutely no idea.

Which brings us to…..

SECTION 2: THE LIFESTYLE

A disclaimer NOT TO READ THIS SECTION IF YOU LOVE COMFORT AND SOCIETY BECAUSE YOU’LL JUST END UP PISSED AT ME. I’m going to use the term “we” to refer to humanity as a whole, not to you as an individual.

Comfort is seductive. Society makes it SO seductive… practically fall-on-your-ass, pick-your-jaw-up-off-the-floor sexy. We have luxury couches, big, flat televisions, candles to make everything glow all sexy, soft, fluffy beds, long episodes and long seasons of TV shows to watch endlessly, short and sweet TikToks to entertain us… I mean, DAMN! Who wouldn’t want that? And our pace of life, too! So fast, so effortlessly difficult… we make it look so normal, don’t we?! We wake up to our beeping tiny computers telling us to get up, we sit down to get places, we sit down at work where we go to make the money that we need to sit down to go home and sit down to watch TV and play our video games. Over the past couple of years, I’ve started to realize how freaking bizarre this whole rat-race is.

It started with walking 500 miles in Colorado… yeah that really woke me up to how different things can be when you’re comfortable being uncomfortable. For one, it helped me to realize how disconnected from the Earth and myself I had become in my daily life. I spent so much time indoors, and when I was outside, it was often on pavement, and absoLUTELY with shoes on. I spent more time being comfortably distracted with my ultimately meaningless activities like binging the new Netflix series, playing video games, drinking, and doom scrolling. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those things at various times! But ultimately, at the end of the day, week, month, year… I felt like “what the hell am I doing?” After some amount of time, I realized that I’d been ignoring all of my problems, my trauma, my fears, and my anxieties by allowing myself to stay stuck in the societally built comfort nest. So to quote myself at the beginning of this post, “I’M QUITTING.” I’m quitting my apartment, my TV, my job, my single-city dwelling, my societally approved, stamp of approval lifestyle, and…

I’m moving into my Prius.

Full-time.

Why? Other than the reasons I mentioned above, I’m not totally sure. All I know is that my inner-knowing is calling me to it. It’s begging me to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee. It’s yearning for long drives to free forest land. For waking up to alpine lake views and Wal-Mart parking lots. For lessons learned through ease or difficulty. For a bit of struggle to shake up the monotony of “normal life.” For an adventure and a story to tell when I’m old and gray. For the opportunity to act on a whim so I never have to question “what if I had…”

I have no idea where this will lead me. I have no idea what I will learn or how much I will love/hate it. But I can tell you one thing, I’m committed to searching. I’m “all in” (the ABC Bachelor franchise really ruined that one for me) for finding my most authentic self… the self that was born of a self-paved path. And I’d love to bring you along on the journey, if you’re interested! The goal is at least this blog, perhaps a vlog… and I’ll update you on the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.

Thanks for joining me on this journey (and for reading my long-ass rant). Cheers to living!

Sincerely,

–M