Displaying items by tag: travel

Tuesday, 21 June 2022 23:26

I Left my Heart in San Francisco

Day one

As soon as I stepped out into the 40-degree morning and saw my breath leave my body, I felt like I could live there. The plane ride from Jacksonville to San Francisco was one of the best I’ve experienced. Even in the days of mask wearing, the trip went off without many issues, despite having a 30-minute delay on the first flight from Jacksonville to Dallas.

The Lyft driver was a friendly fellow from India who chatted pleasantly as he drove me to the Hilton Hotel in Burlingame that first night. The check-in was quick and easy, and even when my room key didn’t work when I swiped it, the front desk attendant had it quickly taken care of. I would only be staying there one night and staying with a friend the rest of my time there.

Feeling groggy from being on Eastern Standard Time, I jotted down some notes in my travel journal as I sipped my coffee in the hotel lobby the next morning. My phone dinged a notification. Thinking it was a text message, I opened it only to be reminded of “three years ago” with a picture of my husband and I out on some trail.

Published in Travel

“Pre-Trip: Jacksonville”

I’ve always believed Christmas is a time to travel towards friends or family. It’s a time to surround yourself with loved ones next to blazing fires, sipping hot chocolate, while A Christmas Story plays on the television. It harkens delicious smells of roast turkeys and casseroles and the sweet aromas of pies for dessert. Just thinking of those things brings them to the center of your pre-frontal cortex, striking feelings of joy and excitement that race down to your core.

This is the picture so many of us have, myself included. I reflect back to the first Christmases after my mother died. They were ironically the most vivid. It seemed the adults wanted to make sure my siblings and I got everything we wanted, and so treated us like pampered royalty. Tons of boxes and bags in garish Christmas wrapping concealed the floor under the ornate trees at our house, Nan and Pap’s house, and Gram and Pappy’s place.

A massive turkey waited to be carved and served, while smaller dishes lined up in prostration around its succulent form. My whole family sat with expectant faces, taste buds ready to dig into the feast sprawled out before them.

Years later, by the time I got married, my own family’s traditions were slowly fading. My grandparents had passed on. My aunts were getting too old to host meals like they used to. But my husband’s family was bigger, younger, and still did all the Christmas traditions, so I was lucky enough to enjoy a few more years of the iconic Christmases.

That is until December of 2020, the year everyone’s Christmas changed, and mine even more so because it was the year my husband told me he was leaving me.

The pandemic was an unexpected monkey wrench in the world’s plans. Death, destruction, and the unknown hovered over everyone. In the midst of holiday pandemic plans, the fear, the loss, and the desperate hope for a better four years politically, I had lost everything in a different way.

I know loss of any kind is devasting. Loss of a parent or loved one. Loss of a friend or beloved animal. Loss of a marriage to the person you thought would be your partner forever. All loss resonates with us in similar ways. We feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. Our minds do not seem to function in the same way. Our bodies become tense and unfamiliar. We either cannot eat at all for the lump in our stomach, or suddenly depend on eating as a way to cope. My head knows all this and should have been prepared. But can we ever be completely prepared for the emotions and feelings associated with what is our loss, our life?

Months of pain, confusion, anger, blame, guilt, and tears brought me to my first Christmas holiday post-pandemic and post-divorce, alone and wondering who I was and who I was becoming.

I knew I could go home to the safety and security of my dad, my aunt, my sister, and brother. But there wasn’t much else. We would not have a typical Christmas celebration. There wasn’t a need for it anymore. We had no grandparents from the old generations and no children for the new. I would be going back for a visit, not a holiday gathering.

My ex-husband’s family was out of the question. Not one single person reached out to wish me a happy birthday in October let alone invite me to their Christmas meal. If my ex and his new partner were there, it would not have been a possibility anyway.

This realization led me to consider what I wanted to do for Christmas. Did I want to stay in a city in which I lived for almost 10 years, triggered by memories of my ex, or did I want to leave the bitter-sweetness of my adoptive home and explore uncharted territory? I chose the latter. I chose North Carolina.

The reasons were simple: North Carolina had both of my favorite things: mountains and beaches. The state was also conveniently half way between my home state of Pennsylvania and my current home, Florida. I considered living there, hoping for a magic message when I arrived, nudging me in the direction of this fresh start. I planned on spending two weeks exploring the areas of Asheville, Maggie Valley, Charlotte, and Oak Island.

Published in Travel
Monday, 24 January 2022 11:43

The Healing Journey

Do you ever notice when you are on a long car ride how it seems to take forever to get there, but on the way back, it seems a lot shorter? We can think of our inward journey in the same way.  

This last year I went through the most painful experience of my life: divorce. Even the word makes me wince with shame and reek with failure.

I had no idea who I was without my husband. I was alone. I had to search for my identity again. Who was I? Who did I want to be? Who could I become? Not realizing what it was at the time, I embarked on a personal journey, a spiritual one. I had no idea where I was going or what I would find when I got there.

And it took forever to get anywhere.

I poured over self-help books and articles, podcasts and interviews. The underlying theme of all of them: love yourself first.

One of the podcasts brought up important questions for anyone going through a tumultuous time or in the midst of a journey of self-discovery. The podcast asked some semi-obvious questions, yet made the listeners think deeper on the concepts. Some of the questions posed got personal and emotionally charged for me.

  1. Why do you want to be loved?
  2. Why don’t you want to be alone?
  3. When traveling, what are you running towards, not away from?

At first glance, the answers are obvious: why wouldn’t I want to be loved? Are you kidding? Everyone wants to be loved! No one wants to be alone!

But I went deeper. What is love to you? How does it make you feel? How do you react to someone you love or someone who loves you?

When I delved deep into this question, this is what I discovered:

I want to feel loved because it feels good. Love makes me feel worthy and valued. When I feel worthy and valued, I feel appreciated. I feel as though I have a purpose for being born. I am impacting people who love and care for me and return that love and care for them. I’m included in a tribe, a group, a social circle. I’m supported. I’m making a difference and giving back to those who gave to me. If I’m loved, then I’m not alone.

A good segue into the second question: why don’t you want to be alone? What happens if you are alone? How does being along make you feel?

My answer:

I don’t want to be alone because my thoughts turn dark, unsupportive, and unhealthy. My mind begins telling me untrue things: I’m unworthy, unloved, not good enough. Eventually, these thoughts rage so loud I begin believing them and would do anything to quell them. I don’t see an escape or hope for anything better.

When I’m with someone, they help stop the bombardment and help remind me that I am loved and supported and needed by someone. I think that is why many people have children. They want to feel like they are loved and needed. They have a purpose, a meaningful reason to be on earth. They are taking care of another life. Innocent. Defenseless. They will be loved by this mini person forever. It all goes back to feeling loved.

I’ve loved traveling ever since I was 16 and went on my first trip on a plane. When I am away from a place that hurts, brings stress, or makes me feel trapped, I feel free, liberated, my stressors vanish. All of my life I thought that must mean I was running away from my past or my current circumstances. But when the podcast put a different spin on it, this is what I realized:

I am running towards opportunities to heal, to start again, and to change my responses to things. I’m running towards a chance to overcome my fears and apprehensions. “Towards” means assurance that I can do anything I want and I am more capable than I give myself credit for.

It means discovering something new about myself, the place I’m in, or someone else. I’m running towards new lessons, new thoughts, new possibilities to expand my being by immersing myself in the place and drinking in all it has to offer.

It means finally leaving behind my past and old stories and wounds and creating something fresh, new, and just mine. Though I am an adult, my inner child may still feel abandoned, alone, or unloved. I run towards new discoveries about who I am as a woman, and who she can become.

When on a journey, we don’t need to know exactly what we are looking for, only that we are looking for something. And when we find it, we will know.

By answering these questions, I took control. I saw what I really needed to heal and what I had to do.

If we all can answer these questions on a deeper level, keep peeling away layers like an onion, then we will get to the heart of our healing.

This is something that won’t happen overnight. No journey, either literally or metaphorically, will be quick, easy, or always fun. We will inevitably ask, “Am I there yet?”

But once it’s over and we look back on where we just came from, we will see our unique path, the one we made for ourselves. We’ll realize the next one won’t be nearly as long.

Published in Travel
Monday, 27 September 2021 16:08

Healthy Snacks to Pack When Traveling

Summers and the holiday season are times for spending time with family and friends, and traveling to fun places. But on those long car rides, or even plane rides, what should you eat to prevent gorging on high-sugar, low-nutrient foods? I’ll give you my personal go-to’s when I travel long distances to avoid reaching for the quick, convenient snacks we might normally turn to.

I’ve always been a planner, and planning what goes into my body is no exception. Two times a year, I pack up my suitcase with clothes, my cat, and an arsenal of healthy options and drive 13 plus hours from the state of Florida to my home state of Pennsylvania. Along the way, I stop at gas stations primarily for bathroom breaks and refuel for myself and my car. But if you’ve ever browsed the gas station snack selection, most of the options include high-sugar, enriched carbs, and unhealthy fats that will have you feeling bloated, sluggish, and down-right sick for the remainder of your trip. What you need instead is protein packed, high-quality, and snacks with healthy fats to get you through to your ultimate destination.

Published in Travel

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