The initial blush of excitement has faded.
In its place the question of “what have I gotten myself into” is answered only with a creeping chill of fear and dread. I’ve always thrown myself into the well headlong and waited to wonder what was at the bottom until I was halfway down. For a long time, being burned by that mentality has kept me from making such leaps of faith.
But I had to make one, and now reality is setting in. The slow, painful process of shedding your accumulated earthly belongings by choice is like molting off your identity. You know yourself by the things you choose to own, or want to own. When you let them go, in many ways you lose yourself. It’s disorienting and isn’t something to take lightly.
In essence, I am saying goodbye to Rachel, the homebody with her chickens and rabbits and gardens and passionate interests in agriculture and homey shit like cooking and putting up food and crochet. Adieu to the selectively social creature that loved to shop, go out for dinner or music, and loved her job behind the bar.
Keep in mind, I am trying to say goodbye to this person while simultaneously wrapping my brain around being the kind of person that lives in a 30-year old RV with her dog. I will not have a job for a while. I will not have a home aside from the one I will be driving.
Maybe the implications of this seem like they would be something I should have conquered emotionally before taking on the project…but would anyone take such a thing on if they thought it through first? I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t have, because I have passed up opportunities such as this before. It’s really rather unreasonable on many levels and may even speak to some textbook case of mental illness to forsake everything you own, everyone you know, everything you love and run away to Mexico.
And yet, I know the fear is fleeting and I will box up these belongings and pack them away re-discover happiness in simplicity and minimalism. And I will certainly be a better, stronger person because of it.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, i understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor. 13:11 KJV)
Maybe this is what growing up feels like.
It’s about damn time.
On December 8, 2014 I turned 30 years old. To celebrate, my best friend took me to Las Vegas and I left Alaska for the first time in four years.
In January 2015, I visited my family outside of Memphis, TN and left Alaska for the second time in four in years.
In February 2015, I flew to San Diego with my friend Phil and got on a Princess Cruise Liner and experienced Mexico for the first time ever. It was then that I left Alaska for the third time in four years and it was then that I decided I needed to leave her for a little bit longer.
I first came to Alaska as a 19 year old girl in 2004. I found a job in Denali on CoolWorks after many restless nights looking for a way to escape the sleepy Memphis suburbs in North Mississippi. It was a transitional summer for me in many ways and one of the most important summers of my life. I left Alaska at the end of that season, but I knew I’d be back.
Three years later after stints living in NYC and Molokai in Hawaii, my little sister called me up and asked for advice in finding a job in Alaska. I was working as a vet tech in Midtown Memphis at the time, engaged to a nice guy and settling in, by all accounts, for the business of real life and growing up, etc. When Hannah asked me about Denali, I knew it was time to go back. I knew that was my last chance to experience that place I loved so much before babies and marriage and career, so I packed up and Hannah, my father and I drove North to Alaska.
At some point that summer I knew I wouldn’t be going back to Memphis, and I didn’t.
Since then, I have lived in picturesque hippie ski town, Girdwood, and oddly sleepy former coal town, Sutton. I have spent most of my time in Anchorage, which many Alaskans refer to as being “close to Alaska.” I’m rather fond of it. I continued a career in journalism for a while, struggling through the deadlines and poor pay before finding my true calling as dive bar bartender at a sports lounge on the East Side.
I have built a tiny homestead on the more ghetto fringes of Downtown where at various times I have raised chickens and quail and rabbits and goats and lots and lots of plants. Through this venture, I somehow began to connect with the agriculture community of Alaska and followed an interest in animal husbandry and gardening and homesteading that I had harbored in varying degrees since early childhood.
I also found myself in an excellent position to fall in love with the outdoors in earnest and begin to fish, camp, kayak and hike when the weather was good. The rest of the time, I followed my old Memphis habits of earnest appreciation of good food, booze and music.
What I wasn’t able to do much of for the majority of my time here is leave.
Have you ever lived on an island? Where you’ve been down every road, and met every person you cared to meet, and watched every sunset and marveled over every vista…and just needed to get out? In the lower 48 you can do that relatively inexpensively. In Alaska, no quick get away can happen without a $600-$2000 plane ticket to kick it off.
So after experiencing the marvels of the Baja Peninsula and the, um…interesting travel means of cruising, I could not shake the need to see more.
The desert is calling and I must go, if you will.
Those who know me well know I can be singularly obsessive over things when I set my mind to something. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I buy a 1984 Toyota Dolphin mini motorhome, put notice in to move out of my house, and start charting the course between Anchorage, Alaska and Cabo San Lucas.
The road trip starts in August. The journey has already begun.