Eyes Wide Open

I’ve never found something that accurately describes what I love so much about travel… as I currently sit with my hood on my hoodie up and the warmth of my laptop is far too comforting as I try to stay warm on the bus…

Yes… it is the getting away and actually disconnecting – except that I couldn’t relax last night because I knew the work and homework hanging over my head wasn’t going away.

It is one of the three things I spend money on myself for… but that stresses me out.

I take a bit of joy in proving to myself that travel doesn’t have to stress you out because my mom was always very stressed about travel and it almost took the joy out of traveling for me. I have on occasion waiting to pack until moments before leaving just to prove to myself that it doesn’t have to be stressful. But let’s be honest some of my less glamorous  moments have been around travel as well. (Aka me shouting down the street for the counselors and campers to come back this afternoon.)

So I’ve always had a hard time putting my finger on just what it is that I love so much about travel.

And last night when perusing Pinterest I found this quote which begins to point us in the right direction:

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Travel is about the experiences, the memories, the people you meet along the way (friends and strangers)… the food (which I often am able to enjoy)…

But then I found this quote (because I apparently couldn’t sleep), and it summed up exactly what I was feeling last night…

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Heightened state of awareness… mindful… receptive… and undimmed by familiarity…

That is what I enjoyed for the past two days in a city…

not a new city…

a city I’ve been to several times…

But the magic of travel makes it all new…

The  fountains beside the escalator in the mall…

the garden plots in the sidewalks…

the locals running along the lake shore before 7am…

the 40 some people at Church at 7am before heading to work…

the buildings – the marvelous architecture…

overlapping of styles…

beauty, history, and humanity all wrapped up in one place…

the homeless man curled up in a doorway…

the bellman who ushered us away from the door after getting caught in a torrential  downpour…

the  blown away umbrella…

the overly pierced DJ setting  up in Top Shop..

the girl and her mother in matching outfits…

the little girl in the mall with the most adorable outfit..

our friendly bellman…

the stressed out business woman waiting for her Starbucks…

the free iced coffee from the lady in McDonalds who appreciated our group…

so many little things.. so many details wrapped up in 24 hours… all noticed because one can’t go somewhere out of their comfort zone without traveling with eyes wide open.

 

Oh hi…

Apparently my busy life just doesn’t settle down…

And by that I don’t mean I am frantically running around being busy – yes, there is some of that too…

But I am busy enjoying life…

I think I last posted as I boarded a plane to Italy.

I was in Rome for a Church related convention. Yes, it was a busy week – with a packed schedule from 7:45am to 9pm. I would run off in every free time to try and find an Ethernet cable and download or send urgent messages related to the students’ graduation the following week.

But it was also a week of prayer… time to stop and reflect on my journey and where I had come since a year before… time for meaningful conversations… Time to visit with family who live there…

Five or six hours of sleep were worth the price for the morning runs on routes that overlooked the city of Rome, or brought me straight through St. Peter’s Square. Can you say: favorite. run. ever.

We had two days in the city of Rome – I realized how the many trips over there have paid off -I am 100% a foreigner, but I know my way around… I can make myself understood…

And I practiced mindfulness… looking up small alleys and admiring the architecture, spotting a couple sitting outside a restaurant having a glass of wine, the majesty of the churches, the sweet taste of gelato, the emergency workers coming in to aid the collapsed, dehydrated tourist, the street musicians, the silence of the crypt of St. Peter’s, the homeless people begging on the streets… all of it… I walked through the streets and tried to open my eyes as wide as I could… to soak it all up… take it all in… imprint it on my memory.

Because mindfulness or recovery is not about not being busy – that isn’t likely to happen in my life any time soon – it is slowing oneself in the midst of the busyness to let oneself feel, process, and be… Knowing that there are times too when one simply has to get through and let things catch up later…

That is what I intend to do this week now that I am finally on vacation for a couple days…

And also to process what I couldn’t then – that I went to Italy – the land of my greatest trigger food – pasta – and was fine. That I wasn’t as self-conscious as I normally would be although I definitely trembled (okay I was full out shaking) when introducing myself in Spanish to a room full of 90 people. It took me a few days, but I overcame my shyness.

And I’m learning that each of these experiences marks us – I will never be the same person who left for Rome.

I have now traveled internationally entirely solo (didn’t even realize that until just now.)

I faced a challenge – an incredibly difficult decision which I regret of getting in a car with someone who had been drinking against my better judgment and I regretted it afterwards – not because anything happened but because I know better and I deserve better than that. I immediately started spinning and beating myself up. Thank God for several hours of time difference and a best friend who replied to my text, “Not going to happen again… no big deal… don’t hate yourself… That’s stupid and you’re not stupid… Life isn’t supposed to be a straight line… Its supposed to be a path that you allow God to guide God knows and looks at the situation the same way as you do: ‘well that sucked didn’t it, N?’ is what God said when he  got out of the car with you.”

There is a lot to take from these experiences… I am certainly not the same.

April Travels Bring…

It has been a while…  Five trips in one month. Less the one that I had to turn back from because of snow.

I am writing this from the other side of the globe.

Seoul, South Korea. (Yes, dear family and concerned friends who don’t read this blog or even know of its existence… south not north.)

Seoul is a place I never imagined visiting.

I was nervous about the flight but it wasn’t a problem… It may have helped that I had four seats I could lie across. Jet lag was better than Europe. (I may eat those words on the return trip.)

But this city:

It is gorgeous.

Men in business suits.

Clean city streets.

People who get where they want to go but without rushing.

Nearly no horns honking despite the heavy traffic.

Old and new mixed.

Women’s style which seems to have no rules of fashion. Does this cut down on peer pressure?

Kids under immense amounts of pressure for education but happily sidling down the sidewalk.

Men in business suits walking beside the river on lunch break.

English and Korean.

Korean characters – artistic and complete devoid of meaning for me.

Safety – to the point that elementary and middle school students walk the streets unsupervised.

Rocks neatly placed as stepping stones across the river.

The world’s 14th largest city…

… with space for plants and flowers on every corner.

In short  – feng shui.

It is harmony. I may never fully understand this culture, this people, and most definitely not this language.  But I definitely learned something today.

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Busy!

Too busy to blog…

A good problem – maybe…

Life is busy…

And I blog to take time to sit down and find myself… Someone I know  used the expression: “confront myself”

It is the habit of practicing mindfulness towards ourselves.

To feel.

To think.

To process.

I spent eight days traveling. Seeing so many things (I’ll blog about that later.) But it is necessary to come back and regroup.

But April is a month of 30 days and 5 trips for me. So I guess I will be learning new ways to find myself.

And you find  your moments…. On the back of the 1000 Island tour boat standing on the back deck of the boat staring at the water and the grey skis…

… at the end of the pier in Montreal staring up at the city skyline watching the sunset…

… In the silence of the massiveness of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal breathing in the awesomeness…

… Feeling the reverberations of the majesty of Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls from “Behind the Falls”…

Those were the moments of finding myself as I ate more chicken and French fries (I think we need to review the tour menus for next year) and put students to bed.

We are not alone. We always have ourselves. But we can’t forget about ourselves.

Fresh Air

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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

– rush our to the airport
– spring breakers
– gate checked baggage
– new friend on the plane
– I hope we actually hang out
– warm weather
– no coats
– running in a tank top and shorts
– blooming flowers
– hope
– stepping back
– slowing down
– taking a deep breath
– wanderlust

The Mountaintop

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Since I was a little girl, I have skied… downhill… water… whatever you prefer.

But here’s the thing. I have always been TERRIFIED of skiing.

It may have had something to do with the 6am wakeup call, shoving steel cut old fashioned oats down my throat because “they stick to your stomach,” followed by the ever nauseating car ride, topped off with skiing till I could no longer feel my fingers or toes.

Or maybe it had something more to do with this:

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Or the time I was run off the trail by a snowboarder…

Or the fact that since I’ve had my ankle surgery I have been terrified of re-injuring it.

Most recently, it is the fear of hurting myself and damaging my ability to run.

But nevertheless, about once a year for the last few years the mountains have called my name. There is something about the mountaintop. Several of those yearly escapades have taken place in Switzerland. Today’s destination is not quite so glamorous (and brings back memories of the time I came here with my family and spent the entire day puking in the parking lot). But the lure remains.

There is something about being “on top of the mountains where everything makes sense.”

Because somehow up here everything does make sense… the world slows down… problems and work are forgotten… and all that matters is the wind rushing past as I race down the hill.

I’m constantly afraid of falling. But for some reason I keep going, riding the lift up, and coming down the hill again and again. And isn’t life a little bit like that, a risk we dare to keep taking? A challenge worth facing?

Today I fell… and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!

New…

New Year…

New city…

Not for real, just for a few days…

Wanderlust…

How I love that word…

But really, what is something new…

Something clean…

A new story

Unwritten

I like that song

Blank pages

A new notebook

A blank check

Baby cheeks

Every year somehow it comes to me at the end of the year – a perfect summary of what the previous year meant to me.

And this year, has been something totally a new – a year of ending friendships and beginning new ones, nine trips, 24 books, countless miles run, staring a new degree… A year of ending therapy and beginning a new chapter…

“2015 brought an experience of being loved like I have never permitted before… By priceless friends, little ones, my family, my students, my God and, surprisingly enough, myself.”

A year ago I sat in St. Peter’s Square in Rome – it was a glorious day. I sat there with a brand new journal – “dreams” etched on the front in gold. And this year has been a year of dreams…

2016 – what will you bring? Resolutions yet to be defined…

Meeting new people perhaps?

Opening up to new possibilities with a budding relationship?

Qualify for Boston?

Explorations in my career field?

But above all a new adventure with myself…

As I drove through the streets of Chicago tonight everything was drab

grey

dark

winter in the big city

And then I turned down a side street

And the lights bending over the road mirrored the branches of the trees

Branches laden with snow

White snow

Clean

Magical

New beginnings