It’s been longer than I’d like since I was last on the blog! But not without good reason. This year has been the most eventful of my life. From hiking the back country of Kauai, HI to planning a friend’s bachelorette party in Vegas, it’s been full of countless adventures, all culminating in a very full circle kind of experience taking an assignment back home in CT and putting a pause on the travel lifestyle. I’m thankful for a lot of clarity this year in what it means to find your spark.
Just to catch up, after my road trip in April, I settled back in to the Bay Area of California at the same facility I had worked the year prior. I had a great apartment with one of my travel friends I had met last year, and was greeted with the warmest welcome back by everyone at work. My soul does love it there and I truly feel like I have a home away from home. This was my first time I had gone back to a facility I had previously worked for, so I immediately felt the comfort of already having friends and a job I knew, which are usually the hardest parts to manage during the transitions.
In June I was off across the ocean for my first time traveling to Europe. My good friend, another traveler that Bay Area blessed me with last year, invited me to go to a friend’s wedding in Ireland and spend a week exploring. It rocked our socks. We stepped off the plane to a cab directly to the Guinness Factory and the rest is history. We endured a 3 day Irish wedding bash that has forever outdone any other American wedding I will ever attend. The 16 hour wedding day itself was a testament to how they celebrate and my friend and I were proud to claim the titles of the last Americans standing. It was held outside of a castle in Trim Ireland which is surrounding by green countryside and historic landscape. We drove to the west coast to the Cliffs of Moher, spent a day on Inis Mor of the Aran islands where there is still Gaelic culture, explored Galway, and drove to the Dingle peninsula for the scenic Sleigh Head Drive (*must do if ever in Ireland). What captivated me about Ireland was the perspective from a country with so much more history than our own. They have built so much more of a culture of unity. The people are so friendly and any pub that you go to at night will have musicians playing traditional music that all people, young and old, sing together and know all of the words to. They consistently ask you “Are you doing OK?” I was consistently doing very well, mostly because the food was incredible and actually tasted like real food. I was floored by how tasty a buttered roll could be and how fresh food could actually taste when it wasn’t subject to the thousands of additional chemicals that Europe bans and the United States allow. Something else that interested me was that the pubs pour beer in to glasses with the name of the actual beer poured into them. The US typically pours into any labeled glass so it humored me how much it just makes sense to pour into the proper glass. Anyway, Ireland was an incredible experience and I’d love to go back there again someday.
About a month after Ireland, my Cali travel friends and I joined a group with one of their siblings/friends and spent a week in Montana at Glacier National Park. We had an awesome crew and hiked over 50 miles of some of the best trails I’ve seen in my life so far. Someone had mentioned before our trip that Glacier’s beauty outdid Alaska’s. Obviously I had passed it off because of my love affair with Alaska… But Montana stepped up to the plate. What I think the difference is between the two is that Montana’s land is quite some time ahead of where Alaska is now. In Alaska, many glaciers still fill the valleys, much of the land is still frozen, and a lot of it is inaccessible. At Glacier, you are able to hike directly into these glacial valleys that have now had years and years to reforest and regrow the landscape. The Highline trail moved up to my #1 most favorite trail because every turn was a different experience. It held panoramic views of the valley and the snow capped higher elevation peaks. We passed waterfalls, climbed over snow piles, walked through fields of yellow wild flowers as far as we could see. We came up on long horned sheep, prairie dogs, and pet a marmot. At the 8 mile mark we veered up the Garden Wall trail which was the glacial lookout for the Grinnell Glacier. We climbed over 900 feet in just over ½ mile and I thought my heart was going to explode until I got to the top, looked out over the glacier, and saw the glacier and the 3 glacial lakes dotting the distance. And then my heart truly did explode with awe. It was just incredible beauty more than words or pictures could give any justice too. The rest of our week there was filled with more hikes, zip lining, horseback riding, kayaking, and time spent with great people. It was such an overwhelming feeling of how life should be. And of course, like I often preach, the universe throws it in your face when you are where you should be. After one hike that my friend and I ran back, we had some time to kill lounging at the lake when a woman paddle boarded over to us and offered us her 2 kayaks while we waited for our friends. Turns out she happened to be a manual therapist and owned a clinic and had an extra apartment on her property that she rented out to traveling healthcare professionals… I can’t make it up.
So I lived on the high of that trip for quite some time as I returned to California and finished out my time in the Bay. I did a couple trips to Big Sur, Napa, San Francisco, caught some country concerts and soaked up the sunshine and the rest of my time with my travel friends until it was time for us to part again. It’s always so hard but I’m so grateful to have made these friends that are just as mobile as I am because I know that life will bring us back together.
Cue my reunion with 4 other travelers I met in Alaska last summer! One of them was working in Hilo, Hawaii so we didn’t pass up the opportunity to meet up together on the Island of Kauai. Our intentions had been to hike the Napali coast but the storms that year had wiped out the trail and it closed. We did a catamaran tour instead and admired the coast from the water which I would absolutely recommend doing. The day before, we had hiked the Kalepa ridge trail to an overlook at Kalalau valley that was mystical and breathtaking and our catamaran pulled right up to that so it was pretty amazing to have both perspectives. Other adventures there included a tubing adventure down an old sugar plantation irrigation canal, eating lots of poke bowls, and dreamed about when we can return to hike the coast. And wouldn’t this trip have been incomplete without another universal beacon. We stopped to get a picture on our drive home from one of the trail heads when we met a group that asked us for directions to the trail we had just come from. They were planning to walk there as the Uber from their cruise ship had dropped them off too early, but they were still about 8 miles from the trail. We offered to drive them back and while talking in the car, discovered that one of the guys was from overseas but was currently working in California. When I asked where, of course he was working in the same city I had just left in the Bay, and had just finished up physical therapy in the clinic I was working in. What are the chances that I could run into this person in the middle of nowhere backcountry of a Hawaiian island who I had probably crossed paths with multiple times at work just a few weeks before? Amazing.
Before I went to Hawaii, I managed to drive all of my California belongings down to my family in LA for storage so I could ship what I needed to CT with my car, and pack the rest of what I needed from CA to a bachelorette party in Vegas then directly to Hawaii and from there home to CT. Then I started my new job a day later. The past few months had been so fulfilling but I was so physically and emotionally drained. I was lucky to be able to return to the comforts of my family, with my mom’s home cooked meals, and with the exception of work, I hibernated for a while until I allowed myself back out into society.
My desire to come home this year stemmed mainly from being in two of my good friends’ weddings this Fall which I wanted to be a part of. I also had an underlying excitement about some consistency of being back home again and taking some time to recharge. I did struggle with some uncertainty in the decision to take a job back here. It is always good to come home to visit, but I wasn’t sure how I would react to letting go of some of my carefree independence for a while. For the past two years, this travel experience has lit my soul on fire. I have grown so much and I think some part of me was a little nervous to come back and see how I fared back where I started out. I admit that a few things were validated off the bat. I had recognized when I went to California initially that the people and the lifestyle were different, I couldn’t exactly put to words how, but I fit in nicely and I was happy there. It was time away from the east coast for a while that allowed me to really perceive what we call “the rat race.” The pace is faster for sure. The job demands are harder. I’m seeing almost twice as many patients in the same amount of time than I was while working out west. People here are generally more harsh, sarcastic, competitive in a way you don’t see other places. Being a very empathetic person, I felt the anxiety of the people waiting in line at Starbucks, in a hurry and frustrated about not getting their proper order, in a way that I don’t remember feeling in California or Alaska. For the first time, I felt a little out of place.
I don’t intend to deprecate Connecticut. I do love where I grew up and there are plenty of things about being home that I missed or that I realized I didn’t take advantage of while I was living here. I was happier than a clam watching the Fall foliage quilt warm shades of reds and yellows that would glitter through the trees beams of east coast sunrises. I forgot how beautiful those were. And obviously, there are so many people that I love here, whom it’s been hard being away from. But I think there’s something to be said for the adage “You can’t go home again.” Not just necessarily because the place itself changes or loses its value at all. But I think by leaving home you find out what you need. Home is all you’ve ever known until you leave it and then you are forced to face a world that is different. You have to figure out what you’ve been prepared for, what you haven’t been, what you expect for yourself, what you crave. You have to figure out how to fill your needs in a new environment and you learn what needs you’ve had that you haven’t been able to fulfill in the past. You change, grow, mature, and become more complex. When you go back home, it is no longer all you’ve ever known. I think that some people crave this kind of stability or just identify with and fit the place they grew up in and they stay there. Some people seek something else and go and look for it.
I think that no matter what stage of life or what kind of life you’re living, you have to build the ability to identify what motivates you and let go of what doesn’t. Whether it’s the kind of place you live in, the people you surround yourself with, or the activities you choose to spend your time doing, you have to learn to recognize what adds value. I absolutely love this quote:
“You often feel tired not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what lights a spark in you.”
For me, I’m still figuring this all out. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been home, I’ve been scattered, which isn’t like me because I’m typically composed and pretty organized. My things are everywhere, some honestly still not unpacked from California, my car is a mess, and it’s been exhausting being pulled in every direction trying to catch up with people and do things I’d like the chance to do while home. I’ve had a great opportunity to be close again with some of my friends I’ve been missing since I’ve been traveling. I’ve walked 2 more friends down the aisle, excited to start the rest of their lives with the loves of their life. I’ve been able to meet the first 2 babies that my friends have had, both that I’ve fallen in love with and so look forward to watching grow up. I am beyond thankful for this. This whole experience of having a year full of travel, adventures, new places and freedom, all rounded off by living back home again has allowed me to recognized that home will always be my anchor, and I was meant to head toward the stars. I’m so thankful to have this stability and support behind me, but right now I’m happy in the in-between, always on the move, still learning and growing and figuring out what I want. I admit that someday something else might light my spark and I think that’s exactly how life works. Constant course correction. Life is the journey itself.