peeling layers

This shell mandala lasted only a few hours as high tide came in to reclaim it. 

This shell mandala lasted only a few hours as high tide came in to reclaim it. 

Planning this journey as it unfolds has had many benefits. We leapt into the unknown without the comfort of a plan as our net and we've made up a journey full of meaning and memories along the way. Being able to untether from timelines, itineraries and commitments has been liberating. We've been free in nearly every sense, at least from the stories of our lives as Americans. A kind of freedom we cannot explore back home, burdened by society and rooted with jobs, a mortgage and all the attachments of life, the joyful and the obligatory. 

Nearly a year ago, I set an intention to gain a deeper sense of the idea of untethering during this journey. Could it be done? Would I like the feeling of living with heaping servings of uncertainty? Would I grow or shrink? 

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” 
— Marcel Proust

I've succeeded in untethering in a way that enriches me but it never comes easy. I’ve written about this in previous blog entries. Enrichment from untethering rarely looks like what I expect it to (the irony tickles me). For instance, I never thought I'd drastically alter my relationship with nourishment (food) on this journey, but the journey demanded it of me. And two months since making the shift, I continue to feel better and less burdened, body, heart and spirit. By untethering from the way I was eating out of ease and familiarity—I shed some sort of layer I didn't realize was present (but certainly felt it) which was making it difficult for me to hear my body. Today I have a compassionate relationship with my body after a lifetime of an adversarial one, and I finally understand what nourishment means for me. 

I've also had the time and space and to soul-search without interruption, and I've untangled and untethered from previously unconscious or subconscious stories that impeded my ability to access joy. While I certainly don't believe a person needs to plant themselves more than 6,500 miles from home for three almost-maddening quiet months to gain self-awareness, I recognize how the extended stillness has made it impossible for me to slink away from the heart-work I want to do. There is little of the familiar to distract me from getting to the root of ideas and stories planted in my mind—allowing me to pluck the weeds that do not serve me and nurture the flowers that do. 

Of course, all the while these unexpected personal shifts are happening, we’re dancing through new worlds, new cultures and new norms. The lack of familiarity is a gift because it requires stretching and demands, if we want to be happy (and we do!), that we relinquish ethnocentrism, nationalism and any other isms. Isms make people unhappy. They are teeny tiny boxes we push other people, cultures, countries, etc. into because we have been programmed to think they threaten “our way of life," either personally, culturally or both. What we don’t realize is that the isms we drag around about other people, imprison and stereotype us too. One cannot travel well and lug around isms. People certainly try but they are not traveling well, they are traveling in a bubble carrying a ton of baggage all in an effort to prevent the world from touching their fragile sense of reality. Fewer bags and no walls has served us well along this journey. 

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in previous posts but I am typically a homebody. I do not consider myself adventurous. I realize that probably sounds ridiculous. But, it’s true. My idea of the best day ever involves a secret garden of my own somewhere in Oregon; a comfy, and probably very ugly, robe; a couple cats; a good book and my favorite people popping in once in a while for a cup of tea or a glass of wine. I suspect that I am a hermit at heart, which can be deeply enriching, but, it can also lead to depression. Taking a trip like this, or even trips in the past, like living with a Tibetan family in India for six weeks, is one of the ways I challenge myself to seek balance, and not sink into any reclusive mind- or mood-set for too long. 

I keep going especially when I'd rather quit and run back to the familiar. I’d never give up on this journey. For all of its discomfort, the rewards are significant. I travel because it is uncomfortable. Because it tests my mind, heart and intellect and it dramatically expands my sense of self, culture, country and purpose in the world. So, in a very real sense, every day on this journey I have to untether from my deep desire to hide away in my secret garden. In large part, because that is rarely an option. Somedays, I interact with the world around me from the sidelines—observing (and taking notes). Other days, we get right in the messy, beautiful middle of it all. And every day presents some sort of essential, rewarding shift.

It is hard not to compare myself, as traveler who keeps a blog with other travelers who blog. Am I doing it right? I have to keep untethering from the idea that there is a right way to travel or a right way to record it in a blog. This is a relentless insecurity for me … am I doing this right? Ugh! 

The answer is yes, even if I feel uncertain that is so. We are traveling our way. That is all that matters. And I write when I am inspired, the way that is natural for me. That, too, is all that matters. 

My intention of untethering is one that is serving me well. I suppose it would have happened regardless of setting such an intention, but it has been curious to see the myriad of ways I can apply the idea to my life. The internal, essential growth that is taking place in me is undeniable and thanks to taking a leap of faith into a journey of the unknown, uncertain and uncomfortable I will return home a happier, healthier person.

We've crossed our midway point and are making some changes for the months ahead. A few tweaks that will ensure we don't come home with any sense of having missed something because we were too relaxed and unscheduled. Of course, the world is much too big to conquer in one year. We won't even make it to Asia this time out! But, from here on out, as we step into what we consider "phase 3," we will untether from the familiar way we've been traveling and venture into a new way of relating to the world as "travelers." 

Our two best friends, Bike and Ike.

Our two best friends, Bike and Ike.