I’ve struggled with whether or not I should write this article. I don’t want to discourage people from doing yoga, because it is an incredible life-changing practice, but I do want to bring attention to a disturbing pattern that I think needs attention. The pattern is that ego, greed, and hypocrisy are destroying the yoga…
I couldn’t understand a word my coworker was saying. She spoke Italian, and I speak English. Grazie and ciao was the full extent of my knowledge of the Italian language, but I gathered from her motions that I was supposed to follow her. I followed Katarina down the stairs into the basement. Workers were everywhere. People from the kitchen (she calls it the “chicken”) were carrying supplies up and down the stairs, and a couple of other women were folding towels on a table on the far side, jabbering away in another language I couldn’t understand. Katarina opened the door to a storage room, filled with folded and stacked towels and sheets. In the center was a huge pile of wrinkled sheets and pillow cases. She picked up the iron and pointed at the large stack. Then she pointed at me!
Road trips aren’t just about all the destinations, but the journey. It’s the adventures, the possibilities, the change from our daily routine that beckons us, and it’s even more true when taking a solo road trip on a motorcycle. Space is limited. Nature is in your face. Fatigue sets in sooner and the risk of injury is much greater. I had an amazing time on my ride across this beautiful nation. I had a lot of time to think, and this what I learned in 31 days, 19 states and 7,000 miles, alone on my motorcycle.
I’m No Princess
There once was a time in my life when I had to have my coffee a certain way, I couldn’t sleep without a fan and a feather pillow. I wore those comfort requirements like a badge of honor. I don’t know why we do that. Maybe to show how civilized we are. Maybe it’s for attention or to demonstrate that we have evolved into a lifestyle that can require such things. In any case, those days are long for me. I slept on a two-inch air mattress with a tiny pillow. Most days I didn’t get coffee, or if I did it was from a convenience store. I averaged about 350 miles a day. I camped in 40 degree temperatures. I rode through torrential rain, 30 mile an hour sustained winds and 106 degree heat. I’m no princess anymore. I’ve gained a lot of self-confidence and feel like I’m strong enough to handle just about anything, even ending up 3,000 miles away from home without any money, ID, or credit cards.
It’s amazing how a road trip can make you appreciate the simple things that we generally take for granted. I found myself grateful for a hot shower, a cup of coffee, dry clothes and a quiet place to sleep. The sounds of the birds chirping in the morning, children laughing while they play, or a babbling stream, were like music to my ears. We have so much to be grateful for, but we are often too distracted to even notice.
It was a potentially life-threatening moment. I was 3,000 miles away from home with no money or ID. The temperature was about 90 degrees and I had been riding my motorcycle for hours. Exhausted, I pulled into a gas station to fill my tank. I looked down at where I keep my handbag and my heartbeat started racing. It was gone!!
About 100 miles back, near the Kentucky border, it had started raining hard. I pulled over underneath an overpass to put on the rain gear that my friend had let me borrow from her just for the trip. I ride with my bag slung over me, so I won’t lose it. I had to take it off and set it down to put on the rain gear. You can guess what happened next. A momentary distraction cost me dearly. I rode away and left it there under the overpass!
So, there I was at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, with no money to fill my tank, no ID, and no credit cards. I felt weak. I was sweating profusely and trembling. I sat down and tears filled my eyes. What was I going to do? I pulled out my cell phone. I could barely see the screen without my glasses and they were in my purse! The battery was down to 20% and my charger was also in my handbag! I was disgusted at myself for making such a stupid mistake!
I’m on a 6,000-mile solo motorcycle trip across the USA. Most of the time, I find that I’m dirty, tired and dodging extreme weather. People often ask me why I’m doing it. There are many reasons, such as to experience our beautiful country and to visit friends and family. But my greatest joy so far has simply been the way I feel so very present while I’m on this ride.
Many Americans spend so much of their day dwelling on the past, day dreaming about the future, or despising their present situation, that they often forget that the present is a gift to be treasured. Sometimes it’s not easy for us to quiet our mind and really consciously enjoy the present moment. It can take practice.
The easiest way to focus on the present is to engage your senses and quiet the mind. Many people do this during meditation, but I’ve learned that you can do it anywhere. Just stop your mind from drifting and focus on your five senses. What do you see, smell, hear, taste and feel? Riding through the beautiful state of Tennessee yesterday I really took it all in, and this is how I engaged my five senses.
This morning I couldn’t find a bowl for my cereal. I finally found a bowl only to realize I didn’t have a spoon. I decided to just make coffee instead and then realized I no longer owned a coffee maker. These are the things we take for granted every day, the things we spend a lifetime accumulating. Well, I’m letting my things go, in every way possible.
Preparing for the moving sale
During Memorial Day weekend, while most Americans were out camping, celebrating, and having fun, I was in yard sale hell. I’ve spent an entire week sorting, stacking and packing up all my earthly possessions, preparing to sell everything at my gigantic moving sale. By the time I opened my garage door on Saturday morning at 9:00, I was already exhausted, but people were parked on the street waiting, and waves of people came and went all day long.
“Will you take fifty cents for these?” a woman said to me while holding out a pair of genuine Coach shoes that I paid $110 for a couple of years back. What do you say to such questions? It’s just stuff, and I really don’t need any of it. We settled on $2.00.
I think many people read my travel blog and assume I’m living a glamorous life traveling the world. It’s true, I’m traveling the world, but it’s far from glamorous. Other people think I’m having a mid-life crisis or am being selfish. The fact is, I’ve made a very calculated decision to make some serious life changes. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always wanted to travel, and I’m blessed to be doing what I love. But I’ve had to give up many things I like so that I can do things that I love. I’m paying a heavy price for my freedom and here are just a few of the sacrifices I’m making.
It’s hard to have a romantic relationship of any sort when you’re traveling constantly. I left someone I love behind in India and I’m avoiding dating now until I have a more stable lifestyle. I’m missing out on seeing friends and spending time with my family. I had to say goodbye to my most loyal companion, my dog Ozzie, who is now being cared for by some dear friends.
Frankly, I can’t believe I’ve lived this long. For those of you that don’t know me personally, I have lived a pretty extraordinary life. I’m a preacher’s kid, and as a result of having conservative beliefs forced upon me, was a very rebellious teenager. At one point in my life I shot up drugs, ran away from home, and lived on the streets of Portland. I came dangerously close to ending my life. Yet here I am turning 50 years old. I am healthier and happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I am blessed to be living the life of my dreams, but the journey, from there to here, has been rough.
It’s funny what a person thinks about at such big milestones, like turning 50. I think about childhood friends, my mother who passed away from cancer in 2004. I think about mistakes I’ve made and the people who have had such a profound impact on my life. People like my brother, Brent, my business mentor and dear friend, Susan, and my editor, Sonya. These people, and many others, have reached out to me in my darkest hours when times were so tough I couldn’t manage on my own. I am so grateful for the love and kindness that has been gifted to me throughout my lifetime so far. Yes, when I look in the mirror I see inevitable signs of aging that I struggle to accept, new grey hairs, more wrinkles, spots…what’s up with the damn spots? But I am blessed to be celebrating this milestone. Many people don’t make it this this far. I have two nephews that died in early childhood. So, for them, and for everyone who loves me, these are the reasons I’m glad I’m 50 years old.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been adjusting to life back in the USA for a while. Surprisingly, it has been every bit as difficult as my first few weeks in India. My time in India changed me, in every way possible. In fact, I’m writing a book about it. I’m not the same person that left here feeling anxious and lost a year and half ago. I’ve grown tremendously, and as a result, I’m noticing things that I didn’t before. Here are some things that I’ve observed about Americans since I’ve gotten back, and they are some of the things that have made my transition feel a bit unsettling.
Americans are too damn busy
I came home with an extensive list of things to do because I had been gone for a long time. I had deferred maintenance stuff to take care of on my house. I had to file my taxes, get new eye glasses, go to the dentist, visit friends, etc. But what has fascinated me most is that all my friends and family are even busier than I am. I’ve already been home almost a month, and there are many friends I still haven’t seen because they haven’t been able to squeeze me into their busy schedules. Americans are all on a hamster wheel, running around in circles checking things off their massive To-Do list. Rarely, do we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. In other cultures, people often start the day with tea or coffee and just visit with strangers.
We have become a bunch of human doings, not human beings.
In America, I don’t see many people just being in the moment, relaxed and enjoying the present. Instead, Americans are too busy thinking about what they need to do next. I find it alarming now. It causes stress and anxiety. It isolates us from one another. It’s the reason that I’ve decided to break the chains of corporate greed and work for myself again. It’s why I’ve decided to travel so much. When I travel, I feel like I am enjoying the present moment and engaging in this day, these people and this place. I’m not preoccupied with bills to pay and errands to run.
After living and working in India for 6 months now, I can tell you that much of the time I feel like everything is just a big hassle here. Getting things accomplished in India requires a lot of patience, and those that know me best, know that is not one of my best traits. Nothing, even the simplest things, are ever easy! Here are some of many examples.
Buying data for for corporate use
We opened a corporate account with a local telecom carrier so that we could more easily make changes to our plans. This would give us the option for “post paid”, versus pre paid, meaning they would bill us for our data usage instead of having to pay up front. Initially they asked for about 10 documents, such as articles of incorporation, a letter of explanation on company letterhead, copy of the directors passport, etc. Each page of every document had to be stamped and signed. After jumping through all these hoops we finally successfully opened an account. A few days later I went into the store to make some changes to our data plans only to find out that I have to provide originals of all those documents EVERY time we want to make any changes.