I Wanna Get Better Wednesday, Dec 3 2014 

Two nights before I turned twenty-four I curled up on my bed, put on my dream glasses, and wrote a bucket list. For many years it was posted on this blog and I even managed to cross a few items off of it. When I took everything down to reinvent this blog, and start fresh, I knew that revamping the bucket list was also inevitably going to happen.

In twelve days I will turn twenty-eight, and recently my bucket list has been on my mind. I’m tired of saying I want to do things and then pushing them off. I can’t guarantee that having them written down again will somehow magically make me less of a procrastinator, but I do know how much I love crossing things off a to-do list. I also know that I want a different kind of list than the last one. It fit who I was at twenty-four, but not who I am now. We change as we grow, and I want a list that represents the person I am today.

The girl I was at twenty-four wanted romance, adventure, and to find a way to be happy with herself; and her list reflected that. It was a good list for me at that age, and I respect the items I had on it; but it can be better. I still want adventure and most of my list will include places I want to visit, as well as a few challenges for myself thrown in. It will not however include romance. Maybe because my heart is still a little bruised, but also because I don’t think you find love by putting it a list. I think sometimes it happens in life, and sometimes it doesn’t, and I want to live a beautiful life that makes me smile, whether or not I have somebody by my side.

So here it is, not written in stone, and always open to my own editing, but I think I made a good point almost four years ago:  I’m not getting any younger, and I can’t expect to whittle away at a list that I haven’t written…

Making Ordinary Moonlight’s Life Extraordinary

* Follow up my 5k by running a 10k and a half marathon

* Write and publish a novel (even if I have to do it myself)

* Take a solo road trip every year

* Live in a foreign country

* Save an animal from the shelter

*  Mush a dog sled

* Sleep in a castle

* Drive Route 66

* Attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and ride in one of the hot air balloons

* Visit the following places: Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Venice, Spain, London, Washington D.C, New York

* Travel through all fifty states

*Learn to speak another language fluently

* Adventure through my gorgeous state of Montana taking photos – specifically beautiful old barns

*Take a photography course

*Throw a dart at the map and travel to wherever it lands

*Take a cooking class in Italy

*Send a message in a bottle

*Build a tree house

*Take a picture every day for an entire year

*Learn to play guitar

*Visit a volcano

*See the Northern Lights

*Stand on top of a mountain

*Attend Mardi Gras

*Race a sports car on a real race track

*Send in a postcard to the Postsecret project

*Hike most of the Glacier National Park trails

*Stay the night in a haunted hotel

*Go rock-climbing

*Drive down the California coast without a care in the world in a car with a convertible top

*Visit Niagara Falls

*Go on a roller coaster road trip – hitting the biggest, fastest, scariest, and everything in-between

*Change a life

*Dance under the stars to ‘Moon River’

*Plan an epic road-trip with friends

*Learn how to surf

*Stand in Times Square as the New Year’s Eve ball drops

*Get a tattoo

*Go to the airport and take the first plane out of town

*Visit the Smithsonian

*Buy myself something gorgeous from Tiffany & Co.

*Learn how to ballroom dance

*Take a horseback ride along the beach

*Go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade & The Rose Bowl Parade

*Go skinny-dipping

*Ride an elephant

*Learn how to make macaroons

*Plant a garden

*Dance in the rain

*See a play on Broadway

*Eat a Voodoo doughnut in Portland, OR

*Return to Europe with my best friend to celebrate a significant birthday

*Take my Mom on the vacation of her dreams

*Learn to knit

*Go scuba-diving

*Open my very own bakery

It’s not complete, and probably never will be. For every item I manage to cross off I am sure I will manage to add two more in its place. That’s the beauty of my bucket list – it’s a place to compile all the big and small dreams I hope to achieve before I kick the bucket. I don’t care if they are cheesy and sometimes ridiculous – they are things I want to do.

Because in the end, all I really want is to build a beautiful life full of endless adventure and incredible memories.

I think this is a good place to start…

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Roll Me Away Friday, Sep 26 2014 

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It was an early Saturday morning, on what had amounted to just a few hours of sleep, and an iced mocha was glued to my hand. The roads were clear, the sun was shining, and Cher’s ‘Just Like Jesse James’ was blasting from my stereo. In that moment I felt more free and happy than I had in years.

That was the day I started my solo seventeen day road trip journey.

The day I started to pick up all the broken pieces and put myself back together.

I don’t think even I realized how stressed and unhappy I was when I started that journey. I had spent months feeling beaten, personally and professionally. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and I couldn’t see an end in sight.

Until I placed myself behind the wheel, cranked the tunes, and let myself get lost in the journey.

I realize that it sounds bleak, like I was teetering on the edge, about ready to crash. Maybe I was. At that point I was still working in a job that was slowly crushing my soul. I spent day after day pouring every ounce of myself into that company, and it was never good enough. There was never a day when I was thanked, just meeting after meeting where my nose was rubbed into every single mistake I made, no matter how small or insignificant.

That doesn’t even touch the giant emotional baggage I had been storing away for months. Pushing it all into little corners of my mind, refusing to deal with how hurt, betrayed, and angry I was feeling.

That beautiful day in May was the beginning of something amazing though.

My solo road trip would take me from my home base in Montana to Oregon for a few days with my old roommate. Following that I would stay a few days in Las Vegas before heading to California to visit my Grandpa and then on to see the best friend in San Diego. My journey home would take me back to Vegas, a night’s stay in Utah, and then finishing my trip with my family in Bozeman for a corvette show.

I was thrilled with my plans, and spent months counting down the days until I could make it happen. I found that people fell into one of two groups when they heard my plans. The first group was flabbergasted with my plans. They couldn’t understand why I would essentially want to spend seventeen days traveling by myself. What if I got hurt? What about all the crazy people in this world? How would I be safe by myself? The second group was envious. They understood why this sounded like the ultimate dream vacation to me.

I don’t know that I could explain the allure to somebody who thinks this kind of trip sounds awful. I think a large part of it has to do with my lifestyle. I crave independence and moments alone to do my heavy thinking. When I am upset I drive. Aimlessly throughout the valley, with nothing but the blaring stereo for company, and it soothes me. I have spent 99% of my adult life by myself. I make all of the important decisions for my life, and while I have a sounding board that helps, I wake up every morning and go to bed every night by myself.

At the end of the day, I have learned that the only person I can count on 100% of the time is me.

Why wouldn’t my ultimate road trip vacation include that?

A trip where I was making all the decisions, every step of the way. I decided what time to get up and start my days, what I would eat, and what detours were worth my time and energy. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have not done half the things I did on that trip if I had been with somebody else. On my way home I took what ended up being a seven hour detour to see the Grand Canyon.

Just because I could.

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I’m not saying solo road trips are for everyone, but for me, it was the one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. I loved getting to visit my family and friends and making them apart of this incredible, epic journey. I was invigorated by the long hours of driving and the amazingly beautiful things I got to experience and see along the way. My camera was thoroughly exhausted by the time I got home. Most of all though, I was thankful for the thinking time, and the issues that I forced myself to mentally work through on those well traveled roads.

I forced myself to appreciate my better qualities, to recognize that while I have as many faults as the next person; I will never stop being a loyal friend to the people I love. I realized that the palm reader I met a few years ago is correct, I cannot change people, I can only change my expectations, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have come to accept that I am the type of person who forgives instead of holding grudges – no matter how awful or painful the circumstances were.

Most of all though, I realized that at the end of the day I may only have myself, but that woman is pretty damn incredible. She is strong, brave, witty, smart,willing to take risks, and cares with every fiber of her being for the people in her life, no matter what mistakes they have made

What can I say, I found myself on the beaten roads somewhere between here and California.

I wonder what I’ll find next year*…

*Definitely making that a yearly tradition. Probably for a shorter journey, but a solo road trip journey all the same.
**Photo Credit: Yours truly – Middle of nowhere Arizona and North Rim Grand Canyon National Park