A couple weeks ago, we took a group of students to the redwoods and guided them on an 11 mile hike where along the way we passed around 4 waterfalls. At one point we even hiked down steps that descended alongside the biggest cascade! I was awe stricken by the waterfalls, the giant trees, the ferns that decorated the forest floor (which did you know is called bracken?😳) and I felt so grateful to be able to show these students one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on🌲🌲 These students were some of the most dedicated, intelligent, determined young adults I had ever met and they inspired me and saddened me at the same time. These students had their sights set on schools like Yale, the cross country runners woke up at the break of dawn to run 16 miles before they would later embark on that 11 mile hike. Their dedication, their determination for their future is something to admire, yet at the same time I could see how society’s forward looking mind set had filtered into their every moment. The 11 mile hike became a race to the finish, to the point I could barely even keep up, and the waterfalls didn’t even encourage a second glance from the ‘finish line’ mentality🏅 I was once one of these students. I felt society’s pressure. I never stopped moving, playing sports, doing homework. I never stopped thinking about how every little thing would influence my future, what college I got into, even when the present passed me right by💨 Now, I stop, watch, listen to, play with the waterfalls. Now I am much happier✨ The students themselves did not sadden me, but society’s influence does. Setting your sights high for yourself is admirable. Believing you can be successful is inspiring. 24/7 dedication is incredible. I’m in no way saying that these things are bad, I’m in no way saying these ways of life are wrong. I’m saying that we as a society should find a balance and teach balance. That the future IS important, but the present is too. School for some IS important, but it isn’t everything, it’s not the only way. Pushing yourself IS important, but so is allowing yourself to slow down so you don’t push past the beautiful things in life. Balance IS important✨🍃⛰💫
Being in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, we were surrounded by so many giant, strong and powerful trees🌲Beings that make you feel grateful to feel small in this world🌎 We saw thousands of year old trees, we saw the biggest tree in the world and we also saw evidence of old logging, stumps that stood alone, missing a part of their whole. History told us a story of how people discovered these enormous, never before seen trees and wanted to share their discovery. Wanted to be the first to speak of these unheard of trees🌲🍃So in 1875, people cut down the trees to give proof of their existence. “At least three nearby sequoias died to prove that they lived.” And yet the slice of the trunk still went down in history as a California hoax… I love these trees, I love nature and it’s sad how often this tale happens, that something must die just to prove our own knowledge, support our ego, eradicate our fear of the unknown. It happens with species, animals, plants, phenomenon all over the world. We feel we need to completely understand or discover and then exhibit in order to respect the species, respect our own species’ knowledge capabilities. We say that language separates us from every other species and yet most never try to speak their obviously functioning language. Many never stop to think that their language could be more evolved, beyond our comprehension, a spot on perception of vibration, energy, sound smell and maybe we just aren’t there yet. Why do we need to know everything about something to give it value? Why do we have to see pictures of a species to respect their illusive existence? Why do we have to hurt animals to prove they feel? Why do we have to kill, to invade to prove they exist? Why do we have to kill to prove that WE exist, that we are superior?
I’d never seen my shadow cast like this before!🌒To the point where I was looking out from the top of a mountain to see my shadow doing the same. It was a neat perspective to see yourself standing on top of a mountain in that way. Knowing that because you were on top of the world, because you made it to that high point, the earth was able to capture you and show it to you. Not through a picture of yourself that you saw later, but right there in front of you, a tangible view of yourself, your imprint on the earth while you’re still present. It felt empowering⛰Standing there looking at the shape we created on the planet. Thinking about the shadow we cast on the earth, literally and metaphorically✨ I’ve been thinking about my shadow side a lot lately. The parts of ourself that we aren’t proud of, that we feel are hardest to love. Reactions and insecurities that our own personal histories have caused in us. I’ve felt some of mine rearing their head lately and it’s been a battle to keep them under control. To quiet the monkey mind, if you will🙊To accept that though these parts feel unloveable, they need the most love. We may feel they make us ugly, but they make us beautiful because they make us who we are. They may make us feel weak, but they really show the strength and power we have and have had to use to overcome the incidents that caused these insecurities in the first place💫We always see ourselves so differently from the way others see us. I am so lucky to say that now I have people in my life who make me feel that my shadow side is worthy and beautiful. And now it’s time for me to view it the same. We all see others as strong when they reveal their truths, when they have the courage to be raw and authentic, even when it’s with emotions that society may deem ‘negative.’ Now it’s time we start seeing ourselves the same. That our struggles make us strong, wise, beautiful, courageous and give us trials that, if we see them this way, we can turn them into a positive lesson and impart them on the world around us. We can cast our light if we accept our shadow✨💜🐾⚡️🌕
Besides gratitude, one of the biggest lessons I learned in China was about my ego, about accepting non negotiable things I have when it comes to my own happiness✨ The particular camp we were scheduled to work at was one that was completely unexpected (I haven’t posted any pictures). It was an environment that made me feel trapped, isolated and with a lack of freedom. These things were no one’s fault, they were not intentional. They were simply cultural differences, variances in ways of life🌎 But I learned that just because something is from a different culture and I want to do my best to understand, respect and accept different ways of life, they will not always align with me, and that’s okay. I was trying with all my might to stay and teach in an environment that was not conducive to my well being, just so I could say I did it. So I didn’t have to explain why I was leaving, so I didn’t feel like I was giving up🌻 These are all struggles I have always battled: perfectionism, fear of failure, belief that choosing yourself first means giving up instead of showing courage. But I had to reframe my perspective, understand that it is okay to choose myself. That if I know I’m not happy and will not be, it is okay, it is wise to make a change. And it is best for everyone if I do💫 Best for me, best for those whose energy is influenced by my own, and even best for the children. Because I want to be myself for the kids, for the world. I want them to have a role model who is inspired, excited about life, goofy, uninhibited, and if I can’t be those sides of me, if I can acknowledge my unhappiness and leave the situation, it’s not giving up, it’s choosing me, choosing my purpose of spreading light and it’s okay to do that. It’s okay, it’s good to recognize when you feel you’re not shining your light and bring yourself back to the spaces that help you shine it. That’s what we’re here to do⛰🦁🐞🍄☀️🌈
Going to China made me realize how I’ve been to some wonderful places in my travels🌎 Places that have opened my eyes to new ways of life I wanted to adopt, brought color to my vision of the world, gave me options of life I didn’t know I could live out. Travel always had me dreaming of leaving. Dreaming of where to go next, where to leave home for. China was the first experience I had with really missing home. China had its beautiful places. Its people, its temples, its gardens, its historical boats that had me dreaming of cruising down the Li River and China is also the biggest culture shock I’ve experienced yet. It expanded my mind in different ways than other countries have. Not of ways to live by, but in ways that made me grateful for how I don’t live, and for ways I do live in my home country. Like I said, the first experience that made me ache for home, that made me feel lucky to be where I’m from🏡But it is everything I needed✨ I needed to feel the gratitude for the country I call home. I needed to realize the intangible things we often take for granted. We all live differently in this world and I’ve always said that seeing the world through another culture is the best way to learn. It seems that this summer, my lesson was to learn to have more gratitude for what I was born into at home. I’m so grateful to have the freedom to go about life as I choose. To express that freedom physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I’m sitting at home, not taking off on a plane, or driving thousands of miles trying to find the ends of the earth, and I’ve never felt freer🌕💫🌻🌼
Just because I love to go on adventures doesn’t mean I don’t still get nervous some times. I’m all packed for China, I’ve got 6 weeks worth of clothes, shoes and things to keep me healthy, it’s my last full night with my little family and the nerves are starting to set in a bit! I’m more excited than anything but I’ll still miss my mom, miss my doggies, I know there will be major culture shock (which I welcome and seek out) and yet I know I’m meant to do this and I can’t wait for the experience/the chance to grow even more as a person. The things that make us nervous, the things that may scare us no matter how excited we are, are the things that get us out of our comfort zone and make us realize how unstoppable we truly are. How much power we have the potential to embrace. It doesn’t matter if your scared or fearful, we’re meant to be afraid sometimes because we’re human. What matters is that you still do things regardless of your fears. I tell this to the kids before they climb, I even tell this to myself before I climb, before I go into the deep ocean, before I open my heart or commit to being vulnerable with my soul. So yes, I am a little nervous about leaving my country and living in another for a little while, but there’s still no doubt in my mind that I am stoked to go and it’s going to be the most incredible summer. It’s the things that excite us and make us feel butterflies at the same time that make life so rewarding and fulfilling. Chase the things that you find beautiful, chase the waterfalls, but also chase your fears. Chase them when they go away and even when they don’t.
I’ve been on a lot of road trips and I was incredulous to find that the most dreamy one I have ever been on is in my very own state. California has so many different geographies and natural wonders that it keeps surprising me, wherever I go. A year and a half ago, my boyfriend and I went on a road trip up the 395 to stay at Silver Lake Campground just north of Mammoth. It was late April and we expected the flowers to be in bloom, the grass to be green. My friend had hand drawn us a map for the whole drive, every fascinating little stop to make. As my bf and I were just about it to make it to our first stop, Convict Lake, droplets started to splatter on our window a little too hard for it to be rain. Chris said it wasn’t snow and I quipped back: “well then it’s frozen rain!”
We then proceeded to get caught in my first snow storm. We couldn’t see on either side of the highway, surpassing the hot springs, not even seeing the lakes that flowed right up to the road. We took the exit for Convict Lake, a masterpiece of the mountains I couldn’t wait to see, and were surrounded by flurries of white snow flakes. The lake was nowhere to be seen, covered in a white fog, and I still couldn’t help but dance in my body and soul. I had never been in a winter wonderland, and here I was in one, in the middle of spring, with my favorite person. It felt like magic.
Getting back in the car, we followed the Jeep in front of us, putting our wheels in their tracks as my little hatchback wasn’t quite prepared for deep, freshly fallen snow. We pulled out and finally made it to Silver Lake, where it was only us and two other campers. I had no idea it was the very first day the campsite reopened and the little old couple that hosted the campground was there to welcome us and let us know of all that we could do to survive the snow, the little places to get warm and collect firewood. That night, we slept in a snow storm. We ate Indian food in the car with the heater running and when it was time to sleep we ran to the tent, which was surprisingly warm as it was insulated by all the snow that had fallen around us. We were in our own little igloo of warmth, hearing the wind long before we could feel it, lulled to sleep by the nearby waterfall made from the melting snow.
Our plan venturing to this part of Cali was to hike around the eastern outskirts of Yosemite, to find the 20 lakes basin and hike among the greenery. But things never go as planned and considering the overhaul of snow, we made alternative plans. Our campground was in a little loop called June Lake loop, where our lake neighbored that one and another one called Grant Lake. We packed up the car and drove, asking local friends we made in the coffee shop nearby about things to do. They sent us with maps and free coffee, saying they loved how friendly we were. We started to drive north about an hour and we stopped at Mono Lake, just outside of Lee Vining, where geographical oddities lined the shores. Called tufas, they stagger like high stalagmites, as if the heavens took sand and dropped it on top of itself, like when you’re trying to make a sand castle. The water was an aqua blue and the fresh air, since it was sunnier the following day, made it perfect to walk around the lake. We fell into the quicksand like mud, making it even more of an adventure.
A little further up the highway and off a winding dirt road decorated by green, flowered meadows, is an old ghost town called Bodie. We drove the bumpy dirt roads, listened to my favorite African band and Chris played his African drum along to the beat. It was a desolate old town. Wooden churches, apothecaries, little gas pumps used by the folks that worked in the mines throughout the area. Built in the mid 1860s, when gold was discovered in the area, it turned quickly from a town of a few hundred people to one of nearly 10,000, hosting a dangerous combination of 65 saloons, a red light district and the hunt for gold. It was incredible to see the remnants of a past civilization outlined by the Sierras. It’s own world back in the solitude of the mountains. We got in our own little snowball fight but otherwise tread gently on the grounds, hearing it was bad luck to take, even accidentally, something from this ghost of a town.
Another half an hour up the highway is a little town called Bridgeport. We drove there to find the hot springs that were supposed to be filled with cleansing, though stinky, sulfur. The town was made of one little strip. We stopped at a classic red and white burger joint for veggie sandwiches and the cashier was about 14, training what seemed to be a 12 year old. And it was the most delicious veggie burger I’ve ever had. We met an old lady in a tiny shop called This and That and she told us her life story with a parakeet on her shoulder. It might’ve even been him who told us how to get to the hot springs.
Just a couple miles southeast of Bridgeport is the turnout for Travertine Hot Springs. An oasis of pools that sits up on the hillside, overlooking the meadows and pastures, not to mention an incredible horizon filled by the snowy Sierra Nevadas. An upgrowth of the earth spills out hot water into three pools that fill from the last, offering three temperatures, though all hot, to heal your body and soul. There’s something kismet about our travels, how Chris and I always happen to get beautiful places to ourselves for a bit. A sort of well known hot spring, there were a few others, but everyone was friendly as they too are open to nature’s healing properties. We had about 20 minutes to ourselves and there was nothing like those few minutes. Hot springs will change and renew you.
We had one more night in Silver Lake and we used it exploring the little mountain town. Chris took me to a cozy, red cabin restaurant where on the table there was a bowl of fresh croutons waiting our arrival. We went to the June Lake Brewery and it was the most family friendly one I’ve ever been too. Nice young couples had their children and even their giant great danes or huskies inside the open air bar. Helpful young folks were celebrating their full day of volunteering to clean the lakes after the snow and rain storms. It was the first time I thought that maybe I could live in a little mountain town. Surrounded by young families, animal lovers, philanthropist and eco friendly hearts. I’d go back to that brewery just to experience that feeling of community we all at some point seek. The connection our roots need.
Nature is powerful and unpredictable. It is best to go with no expectations, but we usually always have some semblance of one, or some version of a plan of what we believe might happen. I never expected a snow storm, a hiking trip to turn more into a relaxing road trip. But I didn’t know it was exactly what I needed. The universe and the earth will always give you that, even if it’s hard. Your adventure in nature will always be what it’s meant to be for you. We have no control of what Mother Earth will offer us and if we accept what she sends us, we can learn the lessons from it. We can appreciate all beauty, even in forms we weren’t prepared for.
I got to survive a snow storm with my boyfriend. I got to watch him make fires while I made our tent a home. We got to see who we both were in times of unexpected trials. And we loved what we saw. We found places, broadened our exploration to landmarks we didn’t know existed. We listened to local’s advice and made new friends, we heard suggestions and advice from a friendly stranger instead of from an internet site. We became a part of a community for a day. Without the surprise snow storm, without the moments of nervousness from an unexpected twist, without the willingness to and necessity of changing our plans, we wouldn’t have been a part of an old timey community for a weekend. We may have been off in wild woods, which is always good, but sometimes wild hearts need moments to meet their neighbors in whichever place they call home for the day.