Monday, November 28, 2011

Keep Austin Weird

Austin, Texas

My drive from Galveston to Austin was short and uneventful.  I considered stopping in Houston, but not looking for a big city experience, I drove on by.  Sometime later, when I met someone who grew up in Houston, who then told me about all that it has to offer, I was wished I had taken the time.  But, such is life.  I headed to Austin, to stay with friends whom I had met at Kalani, on the Big Island of Hawai'i. 

y friends live outside of the city, in a small community amongst the trees and wildlife.  It was easy access to downtown Austin where I explored the 'weirdness' of the area...and for me, I fit right in.  It was my kind of weirdness - liberal, had diversity, metaphysical options...ahh, a safe haven in a conservative state.  After walking the streets and around Lady Bird Lake, I ate at local cafes and funky restaurants to get the feel of the place, despite the budget issues.  I ventured to the outer areas, hiking through the terrain and finding caves to explore.  I found some wonderful spots for meditation and connecting with the earth's energies.  

My trip to Austin was a good respite from traveling alone, having two friends who may have not known me well or for that long, but were like-minded, generous with their home and time, and gave me the freedom to do things independently.  They were perfect hosts for me, who prefers to travel solo, and who often gets caught up in what others may want, compromising my own desires.  I look back on that friendship and their kindness with Toli and Christine, even after all these years you remain dear to my heart.
From research, a good description of Austin and it's people:  Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan " Keeping Austin Weird". This interpretation of the classic, "Texas-style" sense of independence refers to: the traditional and proudly eclectic, liberal lifestyles of many Austin residents; a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations; and, as a reaction to the perceived rise of conservative influences within the community.  Austin is known as an oasis of liberal politics in a generally conservative state....thus, being a place I could visit with a breath of fresh air in this conservative state that seemed to be providing me with some ongoing challenges while I interacted with people.

Downtown is filled with the presence of popular live music and nightlife scene, museums, a mix of diverse restaurants, Lady Bird Lake, which is considered one of the city's best recreational spots, and the 2nd Street District, now with several new residential projects, restaurants, coffee shops, stores, upscale boutiques and museums...Austin seems to be ever expanding, despite these economic times, but keeping with it's integrity.

Austin is a great place to visit, and to live, if I wasn't such an ocean lover...way too far from the ocean for me to reside here, but it was well worth the trip with all that it has to offer.  And, the bats...incredible...

About the bats:  On the Congress Ave bridge, the world's largest urban population of Mexican Free-tailed bats can be seen, emerging at sunset in search of insects..a great way for pest control, I suppose.  Starting in March, up to 1.5 million bats take up residence inside the bridge's expansion as well as in long horizontal grooves running the length of the bridge's underside, an environment ideally suited for raising their young.  The bats migrate to Mexico each winter.  Amazingly beautiful. Copy and paste into Youtube:

Free-tailed bats take flight from their roosts under Austin's Congress Avenue…
(KAREN MARKS / Bat Conservation International)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Camper issues

So, we all travel for different reasons.  I was traveling for multiple reasons myself - burnout, wanting a change, unleash my inner free-spiritedness, walk through my fears, etc., etc.  Most people are probably traveling for a vacation.  These are the people whom were in awe of what I was doing.  I relished in that positive response.
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Then there are those who are traveling as a way of life - free spirits, nomads.  These people are my inspiration.  I am in awe of them, even as I become one of them.

Then there are those who are traveling as a way of life who are struggling, who aren't aware of their personal issues and are looking for something...well, not just looking but grasping desperately for something...these are the people whom I have compassion for but need to stay away from for self-protection.  I can easily fall into some co-dependent behaviors, losing my focus on my own journey.

I came across one of these people in Galveston, at the camp site of the State Park.  He was kind, but with an agenda.  He offered me food and warm shelter in his RV during the night since the nights were so cold (which I nicely declined).  He wanted to show me around Texas, join him in his travels across the US...basically, he was trying to make a connection that comes with shared time.  He was ever so lonely and wanted a companion, immediately.  Each conversation became about how I was so much like him and wanting a relationship.  Umm...I just met you and I really haven't said much.  Ugh!  His deep-seated desire to have a connection overstepped boundaries and his comments were so inappropriate.

Instead of being friendly and working towards getting to know each other, he was overwhelming, all consuming...a leech...he showed up everywhere I went.  I couldn't go anywhere without being discovered.  We were neighbors at the camp and I didn't feel as though I could change sites, so I went to the beach.  He found me, joined me on walks...which normally would have been nice other than that I didn't want a leech for company.  I felt his needs and desire to be with someone sucking the energy from me - suffocating me.  This was an all too familiar feeling.

After a couple of days of this, I knew my time there was now limited.  I was hoping that his stay was going to be short, but he planned on being there for a couple of weeks.  I couldn't do this for that long.  It was unfortunate.  I wanted to stay.  I never felt that this man was a threat, but that he was so incredibly lonely and seeking something that I couldn't give him.

At that point in my life, I felt the urge to run, and I did.  Early the next morning I quickly and quietly packed up all my things and took to the road.  That was the best that I could do at that time, run.  Now,  looking back on it, I would probably have a different response and I could have found a way to take care of myself better and would be able to stay.  But, I guess that is the benefit of personal growth.  A similar situation probably still remains a trigger for me, but I know that I can do something different other than run.

So, I headed inland, to Austin...a place where residents of Austin consider themselves separate from Texas...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Texas ramblings...

My travels continued across the lower States. I wanted to visit Austin, Texas, to visit friends that I had made when I was on the Big Island, HI.  Yet, any stops before arriving there were going to be spontaneous, as the respite at the cabin along the river was in Louisiana.  I was beginning to gain the confidence of traveling alone, and my sense of free-spirit was starting to surface more consistently - meaning my fears were starting to subside, consistently.  I was meeting people along the way who were not only friendly, but supportive as well, even though nothing really required much support yet.  There was a sense that we are all connected, even though our experiences, food, music, etc., were different.  

See full size imageAfter visiting New Orleans, I crossed into Texas early one evening.  I ran straight into the Ego of the state.  I am not one to function with stereotypes and usually stay clear of them because I think it is unfair to have such generalizations - we are all individuals and I like to honor that.  Yet, at the Information Center at the border... was there.  Wow...they're not kidding.  It wasn't that they weren't nice, but they weren't as nice or as helpful as the other states had been.  It was subtle yet not.  I felt as though I walked into another dimension where Texas was another country, with such different rules.  Attitude, the underlying tone that draped each answer.  Good grief.  After a few experiences, I started to agree with the miscellaneous comments that were made about our president being a Texan...but I guess I should keep politics out of this.  For me, there is a difference of being proud of where you live and come from, compared to a 'better than' belief about where you are and come from.  

That being said, I headed for the coast.  I ended up in Galveston, at a State Park where I camped on the beach.  I spent the warm day setting up my camp, soaking up the sunshine and was in joy to be near the beach again.  I was one of few tent campers, RVs monopolizing the camp sites...later, I found out why this was so - at night it got so unexpectedly cold.  Shivering all night was so not enjoyable.  Yet, I stayed.  It was a clean campground, affordable, easy access to the beach where I spent my days and I was not ready to head inland to Austin.

While exploring, meeting others and sharing my story I met many who were in awe of my travels, yet almost all of them provided me with well-intended remarks of caution about traveling alone.  Wanting to keep my own fears at bay, I had to turn away from the negativity.  I truly believe that whatever we focus on comes to us, so I didn't want to focus on the negative possibilities nor even hear about it.  

All was going well until I met a neighboring camper...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Creole, Cajun and French Quarters

Water ViewIn Louisana, I found a cabin to stay in along the river (False River Hideaway Cabins).  It offered traditional Louisiana food, food that was new to me - cajun and creole dishes.  Delicious and fresh.  Those few days along the river were memorable for the solitude that it offered, the exchange of energy with the animals and nature, and a time to reflect on my travels thus far.

I knew I was heading towards New Orleans despite my desire to be spontaneous.  I had never been and wanted to see how it had recovered since Katrina.  I stopped at an information center where an incredibly kind worker gave me support, information, discounts for accommodations and restaurants in the French Quarters.  I am sure he was this way with everyone, but his gentle way of listening to my questions and offering suggestions outside of my own personal knowledge that may have matched my needs better touched my heart.

I arrived on the outskirts of the New Orleans to see remnants of Katrina - downed lines, buildings in disrepair, signs stating things were closed, etc.  But, once I got down to the French Quarters I discovered that things pretty much had returned to normal, or seemingly so.  Businesses were open, crowds of people mulling around, music blaring, people drinking...and drinking, no matter the time of day...normal, for this area.  It was a good feel.  The music soothed the soul.  A feeling of recovery that one feels after surviving a devastating experience and coming out the other side was present and alive.  A sense of lightness floated through the streets and it was such a joy to see.

The Vieux Carré, French Quarter or simply The Quarter, is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It embraces an international influence of many cultures (French, Spanish, Italians, Sicilians, Africans, etc.) So much of what makes New Orleans unique is captured in the melting pot atmosphere of the French Quarter - from the raucous party atmosphere of Bourbon Street to the bohemian elegance of Royal. It's a neighborhood full of surprises, beauty and magic, and is why I ended up here.  I meandered the streets, gardens and riverwalk. I ate their famous beignets at Café du Monde, along with cafe au lait.  I sat along the riverwalk, people-watching and even met people from Boston.

I stayed at this old historic B&B in the French Quarter, which had rich dark furnishings that made the room even smaller, but elegant.  At this time in my life I was not a big party-goer so I was ready for bed long before anyone else.  I could hear the music and partying until sunrise, when I dragged my body out of bed for an early morning walk.  Leftovers were present at each establishment but mainly the streets were quiet.  Relief.  And, with it, on my third day, a desire to leave.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Biloxi, Mississippi

See full size imageWith Dauphin Island behind me, I headed towards Mississippi.  When I was driving over the bridge that leads to the coastline in Biloxi, I got an overwhelming feeling, with heart palpitations and a dizziness that was so unexpected. It scared me.  It took me a minute to realize that it was a physical reaction to being so open to the energetic presence of this area - Katrina and it's destruction.  It was oppressive to say the least.  I cut the cords as they say, and I returned to a more centered place.  I am one of those who can walk into a room and know right away that something is going on emotionally, energetically - having that sense and awareness to the energetics of a place, people, events, etc.  I think we all have it.  I have learned to tune into it for those of you who say that you can't, I believe we all can.

Biloxi Beach Hurricane Katrina
Before and After Katrina (see below for link)
I slowed to a crawl and took in the sight.  The devastation.  The torn apart houses, the beach littered with detritus, and the gloom that hung over an area that was once a beautiful coastline.  It had been months since Katrina.  I know they were making progress in New Orleans.  That was on the news.  I was floored at how much this area had not progressed.  Nothing. Or, seemingly so.  It felt abandoned.  There wasn't anyone around, no one to connect with, to ask for information or guidance.  I rolled through the streets, stopping and gathering the details of the area.  I scanned the beach as I walked, and the houses that once were on stilts to only see an abundance of work that would be required to get rid of the debris, and restore the area.

See full size imageWhen I went several streets inland, towards town, there were people.  Some, were fixing their properties, but many were meandering, seemingly without purpose.  The people were utterly overwhelmed. I drove around, looking for a way to connect with someone but I didn't find anyone who could direct me to where I could volunteer.  Maybe I could have tried harder, or should have, but my mission to volunteer to help with the clean up seemed daunting and fruitless.

Biloxi, before Katrina
I didn't understand the lack of organization of the system, and why months later people were still floundering to the point of doing nothing.  I was now floundering myself with what happened, it's present state and lack of progress, and with trying to connect with someone, with anyone, so that I could offer my services.

I now understood the discrepancy in the allocation of funds.  It was mentioned on the news but now I was presently in it.  I didn't know what else to do so I found a place to stay just outside of Biloxi to figure out my next step.   I was deeply touched by my time in Biloxi.  I struggled with my feelings, not only with the destruction, but the abandonment and lack of movement towards rebuilding.  I had been thousands of miles away on Kauai when it all happened.  And, although I could have compassion and empathy at the time, there was such a profound experience witnessing the havoc.  And, I considered about all of the times, where money and people of the US have gone to support others in natural disasters, I felt that this place had been forgotten when it needed to be remembered the most.

A link to more photos (copy and paste into browser):

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Across the lower States...

After saying good-bye to my friend, Wayne, I drove out of Florida with a plan to find a way to volunteer to help with the clean up of Katrina, and with the intention of seeing New Orleans since that was on my bucket list, although that term hadn't been born yet.  If I took the road less traveled I would have followed the roads by the Gulf shores.  But I didn't.  I headed inland and took Route 10, stopping in Mobile, Alabama for food, and then headed towards Dauphin Island.

Dauphin Island was remarkable for it's long white sandy beaches and it was absolutely beautiful, yet eery.  The houses were in disrepair from Katrina or totally destroyed.  And, there was hardly a soul around.  Desolate.  Creepy.  Neglected.  Forgotten.  And, it probably felt like it had been forgotten since the focus on the clean up from Katrina was in New Orleans, not here in Alabama.  Sadness came over me while I was there.  I wanted to find a place to stay there but I couldn't handle the feel of the place.  I drove inland for a few miles and found a cheap hotel using a coupon from the local paper.  Somehow this felt safer to me, energetically speaking - and if you have that mindset, you may understand what I mean.

See full size imageI did revisit Dauphin Island again over the next few days.  I do Reiki and I wanted to send healing energy to this area.  I wanted it to heal, recover, and revitalize itself.  My time there was only a few days, but I am still touched by my memories of driving over that long bridge that lead to this sandy white paradise that felt so incredibly marred, although the beach was seemingly intact, yet I am sure there were geographical changes due to the hurricane.
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Something was amiss while I walked the beaches.  Maybe it was the unfairness of it all, not just the destruction that Katrina caused physically and emotionally, but how the government was providing support to the people of this natural disaster, or not providing it, depending on where you were located.  Maybe it was the discrepancy of our system's decisions, and then to see how people were being impacted by them.  I don't seem to be finding the correct words to describe my experience.  I do regret not staying on the island itself.  It felt non-supportive of me when they could have used support, even the minor support of having a paying guest at the island motel.  I am of the mindset that what we all do as individuals, no matter how small, does make a difference.  So, I say this because of this knowing and wish I had chosen differently.

What I recollect probably no longer exists.  Hopefully, it doesn't.  I am assuming that the funds came, that people found a way - and that Dauphin Island has return to it's natural beauty providing nurturing to all those beach lovers out there.

Monday, September 5, 2011

To Florida...

I had a much needed connection with my friends, Jeff and Ken.  I am now off to Florida to visit an old friend of the family, Wayne.  He was actually my sister's boyfriend for a period of time.  Chaos hit, including some prison time.  I always viewed Wayne as a free-spirit and living within the confines of the traditional box, i.e., school, job, etc. is what caused him to have trouble.  If he had been given the opportunity to not live in such a fashion, put into non-traditional school situations, etc. I think he would not have had the trouble that he did have.  The details of those long ago happenings aren't important.  They are his life story and life lessons.

I have mixed feelings about seeing him.  It has been years since we have connected, although we have seen each other since high school.  He was a truck driver for many years and he would visit the Boston area, giving us time to catch up.

 As I am driving the several hours to his home in Pensacola, FL, I think back about my childhood and how far I have come.  Will Wayne recognize me?  What are his memories of me and who I was back then.  I know that I am much different, and I too have embraced the 'free-spirit' lifestyle, or at least that is my goal and I am making steps to have that as my foundation instead of only periodically.

My car starts to act up as I drive.  Not a good sign.  Worry and fear creep in and I start to imagine the cost of the situation.  Money issues arise again in my mind.  Do I have enough?  Frugalness is too much a part of me since I do not have a steady income.  I want to relax about it.  I say affirmations knowing that I can create a situation that I don't want if I stay in my fear.

I arrive at Wayne's who says he wasn't expecting me so soon....umm...didn't we just have a conversation about this?  Ugh...not the welcome that I had hoped for, and it puts me in a precarious situation.  I don't want to intrude nor put anyone out.  My gut says leave, but now the situation is much too awkward.

I stay, but I only end up staying for a few days.  Wayne has changed.  He has bonded with my mother over the years due to her loving support during high school and beyond.  He feels as though I am hurting her by my travels and lack of contact.  He can't conceive that my relationship with her is different than his, nor comprehend the toxicity of it.  I wish he wouldn't intrude, but he does and makes calls to my mom for me.   I try to explain, but it is much too complicated and I don't want to focus on the negatives of my life.  I have done a lot of processing of my childhood and have let go of the anger.  But, that doesn't mean that I need to do my life differently than what I am doing just to meet the needs of someone who remains toxic to me, someone who challenges me in the way that I am living.

Wayne starts to take on the role of my mother.  He becomes worried for me as I travel and explore Pensacola.  This is not the Wayne that I had known.  Maybe he has seen too much and feels that it is different for a woman solo traveler.  Or, maybe he is absorbing or acting on my mother's concerns.

Wayne questions everything that I do, a familiar situation which elicits my insecurity, feeling the lack of support.   My body image issues arise which are triggered by conversations with Wayne.  I have had weight issues since childhood, yet, in retrospect, these issues were not accurate, and were put upon me by others.  As an adult, I realized that I had not been overweight all those years, just not as skinny as my mother and sister - my body type being different than theirs.  I learned to put opinions of others before my own knowing that I am okay, no matter what I do or how much weight I have.

I have released much of the weight that I had gained during my intense and draining last year as a teacher, so I should be feeling light.  And, I was traveling lightly...sort of.  But, here with Wayne, I felt heavy, emotionally and physcially.  This isn't a good place for me even though I feel such joy being at the ocean, and am pleased to meet up with Wayne again - I did consider him family.  This reconnection is not what I had planned.  I start to think of my next step.

This past fall is when the hurricane Katrina hit the area.  I was on Kauai at the time and it all seemed so far away.  Now, I could see the result.  I know that lives were lost, property and material things were too, and it must of been devastating for them.  But the destruction and removal of all those hotels and condos on the waterfront made the beach much more beautiful and natural - the way it is suppose to be.  I know that many would not agree, especially those who lost property, etc.  But, for me there is a sense of peace as I walk these amazing beaches.  I do not feel the negative energetic remnants of Katrina.

When walking the beaches, I decide that I want to help - to volunteer, to support those who need some help with the clean up of Katrina.  I am willing, I have the time and want to contribute.  Oddly enough, after some research, I discover that a single person is not able to find easy access to volunteering.  I have to be a part of a larger group.  This seems ridiculous, although I understand the need to be organized and it is easier to do it with groups.  I am a bit disappointed wanting to be heading towards doing something productive.  I am not accustom to such lack of structure, which may be prompting the need to get involved.  I decide to trust that when I continue my travels I will find my opportunity.

Wayne struggles to let me go without a planned next destination.  He can't fathom this lifestyle for me, although he has done it himself.  It is an odd paradox.  I have to leave.  I so need encouragement and not doubt or arguments.  I get in my car.....and I am off.....feeling the freedom.  Luckily, my car shows no signs of problems.  I am grateful.

Monday, August 29, 2011

On to Georgia

Jeff and Ken (Did I win this game?)
My trip down the East coast felt short, but sweet.  I am now on my way to visit an amazing friend, Jeff, who has been a great support in my life, and especially on this present journey.  This leg of the trip feels much easier for me - I am heading towards a friend who knows me and accepts me for all that I am, or am not.  I do not have the fear that I usually have as I transition, when I haven't known where I was going and where I would be staying.  It feels good to not have this fear, however, my desire is to feel this fearless, this light-hearted with each transition, not just when I am heading to a friend and a familiar place.

I am so looking forward to this visit though - it will bring me lots of laughs and give time to rejuvenate even further....recovering from burnout seems to be a much longer process than I thought, but maybe it is because I am doing something that does require energy from me, (that is, leaping into the unknown).  This may be easy for those who find traveling solo easy.  For now, I focus on arriving at Jeff's house who shares his life with his partner, Ken.  Both are always so welcoming and they make it so easy to be in their home.  I was so touched when Jeff informed me what Ken had said when Jeff checked in with him about my visit, "Mi casa es su casa.".  I knew then that I always had a place to go despite being 'homeless'.  I have such gratitude for their friendship.

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Jeff and I met many years ago at Northeastern University, both having a goal to become fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and to become an interpreter.  

I, however, didn't continue down that direction very far.  I ended up transferring to BU (Boston University) for Deaf Education instead.  This was a much better match for me than being an interpreter.  As an interpreter, you are placed in situations that are constantly different (which is not easy for me) and require you to not have a voice.  You, as the interpreter, transfer information, that's all.  This can be a challenge and frustrating especially during times when miscommunication is happening between the two parties, which often happens since there is a cultural aspect that hearing people don't often realize - there is a Deaf culture, which is different than the hearing culture.  As well, since one of my life lessons deals with feeling as though I am not being heard, this probably wasn't a good option for me - placing myself in a situation where I didn't have a voice.  I love kids, and working with Deaf children became a passion for me as I continued through the 2 year-long Masters program at Northeastern University in Boston.

                                      Jeff and I spent many years in Boston, as mutually supportive friends and playmates.  He was the one I called when I spontaneously wanted to go to the beach, or go sliding during a snow storm, or spend a day playing at a water park, or hang out at Walden Pond for the day, and to share a bottle of champagne, just because, and for no other reason...or while watching a sunset.  He was also the one whom I called when I needed a friend, and who always made time for me when I needed to talk, vent, and, he listened...and still does.

After many years of being in Boston, Jeff decided to transition from Boston.  He took the leap - purged his things, packed up his baggage and left, Hawai'i being his destination.  It was an incredibly grievous time for me when he left and I grieved having him near me for a long time.  Yet, I was simultaneously thrilled for him - he was on his way to living differently.  There was nothing that I wanted more for him, that he find happiness, so I supported him in any way that I could.

A few years later, I found myself doing the same thing...following in his footsteps.  As you may know, I headed to Hawai'i first too.  His ability to make the change was an inspiration and gave me the willingness to let go of all that I knew, knowing it was okay to leave the safety of my comfort zone.  My spiritual mentor, Jeannie, often reminded me as we discussed my plans to change my life, that if I could change my perspective and see it as 'expanding my comfort zone', not leaving it, which then could trigger some underlying issue and prevent me from proceeding.  This was beneficial for me and I use it each time I am transitioning to a new location, when that fear begins to creep in.

I am reminisce about all that Jeff and I have been through over the years as I drive.  My trip from SC to Decatur, GA is uneventful.  I drive through beautiful country-side, see lots of churches, and wonder if there is really a need for so many when it is such a rural area.  I see some odd things like a gas station named, "El Cheapo", which just looks out of place in this part of the country.  When I arrive, I receive a warm welcome, hugs, and we begin to catch up.  We chat for hours and during my stay we savor long meals together at home and at restaurants.  We go to Starbucks and enjoy downtown Decatur.  He is the kind of friend who you don't necessarily have to do anything special with to make it a special time.  Playmates who are soul mates are so valuable!  Mahalo to Jeff and Ken, and to their dog Blue who is my walking mate.  Hey guys...have you taken Blue out for a walk recently?

Check out books by Jeff:  In the Nick of Time and The Time of His Life:

Jeff is also an astrologer.  Visit his website at

Visit Ken (Hornbeck) who is an actor, trainer, and facilitator: