On my mother's 83rd birthday; I was on a zoom call with her, her boyfriend, my sister and my sister's husband. I angled the screen so no one in the family would see my nose piercing. When I wore a fake nose piercing 30 years ago my mother dropped, sobbing to the floor in hysterics. I wore long sleeves to hide my tattoos. Whenever she sees another one on me, she freaks out for days.
BUT I forgot to change my pronouns, which were visible on the screen as she/they. That, was a mistake I will be paying for, mentally and emotionally, for a very long time.
My mother has some good qualities and I love her. I hope this doesn't end up as a rant because it's simply the truth. As much as I try not to talk about my family or point fingers on my podcast and blog, after what happened yesterday, I realized that other people may have similar issues and perhaps it would benefit you to hear you're not alone.
Everyone in my family, as far back as I know, has been or is actively an alcoholic. Most partake in other drugs too but when you're actively using, no matter what the substance, the dysfunction is all the same. Both my parents are abusers, addicts, rageaholics and completely unconscious about their behavior. As I've mentioned before, I'm in recovery for drugs and alcohol. I've been clean and sober for 12 years. I've worked with a therapist regularly for 20 years. I will never not be in therapy and that's because I'm an abuse survivor, but the abuse continues and as long as my mother lives or I keep her in my life, it will never stop.
I finally cut my father out of my life over 5 years ago. He was violent and physically abused me, as well as mentally and emotionally. But my mother, I manage. Or try to. Some of the time, I can but as I've learned, you can't control other people so more often than not, she rages.
When I'm alone with her or on the phone with her she is often nicer to me. When her boyfriend is around, he is her punching bag. But for some reason when it's me and my sister, she slips back into our childhood remembrance (thanks lizard brain) and I become the punching bag.
If you've lived with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde first of all, I'm so sorry. It's horrible, there are no two ways around that. Secondly, I can totally relate!
I currently keep most of my life under wraps from my mother, about 80% of it, maybe even 90%. She only knows a couple of things about me and even those couple of things were difficult for her to handle and accept.
I won't go into her extensive pathology but I will say that she still tries to control me and she doesn't accept me or truly know me.
So when she saw my pronouns yesterday on zoom she freaked out. Instead of politely asking about them, as a healthy person would do, she called me horrible, nasty names and ridiculed me–in front of the other 3 people on the call. She shamed me, made fun of me, laughed at me, snorted at me and rolled her eyes. When my sister tried to explain pronouns to her, she screamed "oh so this is the new thing for lesbians? that'll last five minutes and then it'll be something else."
When both my sister and I tried to explain gender fluidity and what being non-binary means and that it has nothing to do with lesbians (which is a dirty word to my mother), she waved her hand and dismissed us saying "I don't really care."
And that basically sums it up. She doesn't care. She doesn't care about other people's lives or their feelings. At least she's honest about that!
I survive the brunt of her abuse and I won't lie, it hurts like hell and it leaves scars. Deep, red, angry scars that burn and tear at my soul. Can I forgive her? Eventually. Do I forget? Never.
Does it reinforce my vigilance for self preservation? You betcha.
So what do we do when our family disrespects and shames us for who we truly are? I am 55 years old and decided to hide myself from them. Does it work all the time? Hell no but if I didn't, I'd have to cut them all out of my life and I'm not willing to do that right now though I may have to in the future.
Even before yesterday's family call, I had a really challenging week. I have been depressed and unmotivated. I run a writer's accountability zoom call. I've been hosting it, and paying for it, 7 days a week for over a year. There are several regulars and I considered them friends. They often talk about using drugs and alcohol. I usually don't say anything. I don't want to be a policeman or tell people what to do but the other day I jumped on and read some drug use talk. Because I was having a really rough week (and they were talking about my drug of choice that I quit 15 years ago), I got triggered. But instead of making an excuse or lying and leaving, I said something. I realized later I have become the "buzzkill" that I used to hate when I was using.
I know I can't control people but I also don't want to. I checked in with one person after I left and she said the others were surprised that I was upset and it came out the blue. I explained that I've talked to them about it at least a dozen times before but in retrospect I realize I should have just made an excuse and left instead of stating my truth.
And now I'm hurt because no one reached out and asked me if I was okay. When I hear that someone gets triggered from something I've said, I always follow up with them. But again, I can't control other people and I can't expect people who use (drugs/alcohol) to understand what it means for someone in recovery. I'm bringing this up because from where I stand, it's alienating and it's lonely. I'm not a person who gets lonely but it's the best way I can explain this feeling. I shared my truth, I removed myself from the situation, I called these people my friends, I shared all week that I was in pain and no one checked in which has been the story of my friendships this year. Not all, but most. A year ago I would have told you that I have at least five very close friends, people I called "best friends" who I thought were there for me no matter what and visa versa. Today I have two. But you know what? Two are more than enough and I'd rather have one or two genuine friends who offer unconditional love than a hundred friends who don't.
I feel it's important to talk about this. I didn't feel safe in my own zoom group anymore but not because they talk about using, because no one cared enough to follow up and ask me if I was okay.
I wasn't expecting an apology and I didn't even know I was expecting anyone to reach out until they didn't. What's funny/not funny is that it's been two weeks since I wrote this and I did cancel the zoom group, not just because of this incident though. I canceled mainly because I need my zoom room to be available for my own endeavors (ie: I used it today to record a snippet for an upcoming class I'm producing). But I checked in with one of the people in the group the other day about it, the one person I have considered my closest friend in the group and I mentioned I was having a really tough time. But instead of asking me about that or offering even one word of sympathy, they went on and on about their tough time. I offered them sympathy and then disengaged. Not everyone is capable of empathy and not everyone will offer what I'm looking for in friendship. What's important about that is that I recognize it and move on quickly, not a year later!
So I hope that by being honest about my feelings here it will encourage one of you to consider what another person may be going through and offer them love and support.
I am saying any of this to blame or tell others how to act or what to do. I can only take care of myself and if the way I need to that is by disengaging, then that's what I have to do for now. I know that in time I will find my tribe. I haven't yet and that's OK.
So if you can, reach out to someone in your life right now who may be suffering. Even a heart emoji or a quick text saying "I'm thinking about you", "I care" or "I love you" will touch their hearts and ease their pain in a deeper way than you can ever imagine!
Thanks for listening, it's greatly appreciated.
I'd love to hear what you're doing for self care, what you look for in friendships and how you show up as a good friend to others!
<I’m keeping this in first person, it’s mostly a transcript of Christina’s interview>
Christina Papavlasopoulos runs two travel related businesses geared toward women. The first is Shefari and the second is Myths and Muses. I recently spoke to Christina about her businesses, her challenges as an entrepreneur, the years she spent as a US expat in Greece and more travel fun! Here’s what she had to say!
Christina: Shefari is essentially the first marketplace for small group travel for women bringing together the best of the best in women’s travel.
The women's travel market is fragmented and we're trying to bring it together and put, all these great trips in one place so that women can find them and they can sort through them on our website. We have different categories and styles. So there's, she restores as more wellness.
There's she praises, which is spiritual. She discovers it's kinda more adventure. She indulges, lots of different things for different ladies.
Whoever you're working with figures out the daily itinerary and that, that kind of thing, like a tour. Some are more retreats, so there's a more transformational aspect to them. They can speak to women going through specific things. Some are focused on business. It depends, but the gist of it is that every single trip is a group tour, built around the essence of connecting women through that trip.
Unfortunately, by being a woman, anywhere you go in the world, even in your own city, there are certain safety precautions you should always take. But the good thing about the trips that we lead is we do try to have these journeys in places that women might not feel comfortable going to alone.
For example, in Egypt, although we tell everything through a very female lens and we try to incorporate as many female vendors as possible. We do have a male tour guide escorting us just for the safety for the translation, in certain countries it's more advantageous to go about it that way.
We partnered with solo female travelers club, it's a Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/solofemaletravelers
It's a community of over 75,000 women run by two fabulous ladies, Mar and Meg, and essentially, we created the first ever global survey for solo female travelers.
We had a little over 5,000 respondents from all over the world. And we asked everything, their preferences, what would they want the tour industry and the travel industry to know about what fears and motivations do they have, where do they want to go?
How do they want to do it? What really bothers them? So it was an awesome opportunity for us as a tour company and as a, focused marketplace to understand all of that behind it. And 72% said that safety was their main concern. Even housekeeping knocking on the door, they just want to know beforehand.
What surprised me is that's what held women back from traveling. I understand it's a concern, but it was noted as a reason why many don't travel and it's their biggest concern out of anything no matter where they go, even to countries that are maybe perhaps more friendly for solo female travelers.
Link to the survey: https://www.solofemaletravelers.club/2020-solo-female-travel-trends-statistics/
Everyone who worked on survey and everyone in the industry wants to take something this report and improve our offerings to solo female travelers, improve the tourism business at large.
But I think what the gals are gonna do at solo female travelers is they want to create some safety standards and some training. Whether that be hotels or destinations at large can develop some understanding of what the psychology of the solo female traveler is and help alleviate some of those safety concerns just by having the staff properly trained as an example. So they're building an initiative toward that, which I think is fantastic.
KA: I asked Christina what brought her to Greece, where she lived for years.
Christina: I really enjoyed traveling at a young age.I studied abroad in Italy. I did a study tour in London and Paris. I studied fashion and I had an opportunity to work for a wholesale company in Athens, Greece, and immediately jumped on it. I got my Rosetta stone. I tried to learn from my friends. So I very quickly as, as much as, a blonde American in Greece, not stick out, but I tried to acclimate as much as I could.
I learned, the ropes and the culture of living there. And I met my best friend and now business partner, Nektaria at that fashion company. And we realized very quickly, we had complimentary kind of skills and interests as both as a friendship and as a partnership. And we were passionate about the Greek culture and about traveling and about bringing women together which is how we contrived Shefari.
I think I've been to 11 Greek islands. When I talked to some of my Greek friends, they're like, you've been to more islands and I have, and it's just a little bit of that ex-pat mentality, right?
Like sometimes when you're visiting a place, you want to see as much as you can. Cause, it's a fleeting moment in your life. Whereas, the Greeks are like, Oh, I'll see it next year or next year. And a lot of Greeks vacation to their village or their hometown.
Whereas , we would pick a new destination each time. So it really got me to see all the Greek islands and It was just so beautiful. It made me all that more confident in the fact that I wanted to get into travel. And I wanted to share this with people. Everything from cultural things, I was learning to, the off the beaten path places I was going into.
KA: And do you have a favorite?
Christina: Oh, boy, that's a tough question. I have different favorites for different things depending on where I've gone and where it's for. I love islands like Naxos and Paros, which are lesser known Cycladic islands. I love the Island of Crete because there's literally something for everybody. It has amazing, city life and beautiful outdoor bars. They make great cocktails. It’s a really cool place, but then they have these villages where they have such unique cuisine and make their own cheeses and farms. And so there's so many things to see.
And I would say my favorite beaches in Greece are in Kefalonia. My good friend, Maria studied there and had a good, kind of social circle there. So we went there and the West side, I think has the most incredible water in pretty much all of the world, which is hard now because I live in Florida and everyone's "Oh, the beaches" and I'm like, you haven't seen anything.
KA: if you could give your 10 year old child self one piece of advice now, what would it be?
Christina: it's interesting that we go through this full circle experience. So I would say that if I were to tell my younger self some advice, it would be to really hold onto that unbridled imagination, because as we get older, we're told about limits, the way things are done, the way things need to be done.
We're given pretty restrictive ways of thinking. And I feel like entrepreneurship, which just, sparks and lights me up in so many different ways, is just someone trying to change the world in some way. And we're trying to undo that box that we've trapped our creativity in as an adult.
So it's returning to that childlike sense of, dream limitlessly and think of all the possibilities because if you're really going to succeed in something. I love Renee Mauborgne. The theory that is called blue ocean, where you think of everything that a business should be and strip away all the things that you're told it has to be. Instead of thinking about what the customer wants, you're creating a blue ocean, meaning you don't even have competitors because you're offering something so different and that's really hard to do in tourism.
An entrepreneur said something along the lines of, “if your dreams don't scare you, then you're not, they're not big enough”. (KA looked it up and it was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). And I've also heard people say, “if people aren't laughing at your dreams, they're not big enough”. Why do we get to such a limiting point that we laugh at someone's, big dreams?
I have a lot of friends, not just in travel, but across the board who have lost jobs <during the pandemic>. And I'm like, what if you started a podcast? Or what if you did this? Or that? <And they say> Yeah, no, that doesn't make money.
We immediately start with that limiting belief. Nope. Because it's never been done. That's not the way my industry does it. That's not the way I was taught to be successful. I think that if people can really just let their imagination run and see what's possible in the world, then there's still a whole lot of new, innovative companies to come about.
KA: THANK YOU CHRISTINA!
For links to more of what Christina talked about here please see the show notes page here.
If you haven't listened to the entire podcast episode and you want to, you can listen here or on your favorite podcast platform!
Thank you so much for reading and listening and following :)
While working for American Airlines, Jonathan realized he didn’t have enough time to fully enjoy each destination he traveled to. That’s when he decided to focus on people instead. Meeting and connecting with at least one person on his journeys blossomed into a philosophy.
Jonathan noticed that the more he listened and the more people he connected with that had different points of view and different values, the more he learned and the more he grew as a person.
He continued this practice until the Covid lockdown and then, instead of stopping, he decided to find people in his community to connect with. He began interviewing and active listening in earnest, driving twenty minutes to five hours in order to meet with people.
Jonathan took advantage of the division and polarization that people were feeling, attempting to fix as much as he could. This is his cause. Conversational Activism. He wants to face division head-on to right the wrong.
Jonathan realizes that the easy thing to do, when faced with someone who has a difference of opinion is to say: “They’re different from me. I disagree with them or they don’t see things how I see them. And that’s fine. Let’s just agree to disagree.” And he knows we’ve all heard that, but he thinks that’s wrong.
He thinks that’s the wrong approach. He started conversations as an activism because the only way that we can come together and the only way that we can fight this division that we have is by sitting down and actually having a conversation with those that we disagree with. Those that are different than us and talking, sitting down and talking to these people, not with the intent of arguing or debating, or even trying to change their minds or convince them otherwise. Not at all. The point of the conversation is to learn from them. Learn and listen with the intent to find something in common with them.
This is what he’s dedicated his life to. He’s not a journalist. He’s not a politician. He doesn’t work for any newspaper. None of this is his profession. He’s an aviation engineer, but that’s just the thing, that’s what qualifies him to do this. It’s that he doesn’t have an agenda. He considers himself a no-one. That’s what qualifies him to have these conversations, because if we really want to see change in unity, it’s not going to come from our leaders. It’s not going to come from the people on top. It’s going to come from you and me.
The people he listens to feel the way they do for a reason, and that’s valid. He listens to their journey. When was it that they made the decision about what they were going to stand for? When he finds that, he finds a reflection of himself.
Jonathan’s conversational activism began when a very close friend of his approached him one day before the election and said, “Hey, we’ve never talked about this but this is how I feel about what’s going on in the world today, revolving around the election and stuff.”
And Jonathan responded with, “okay, great!” And his friend was expecting him to react or something, because they were on opposite ends. But Jonathan told him that they were friends before he shared his opposing view, so why would anything be different after? It didn’t matter who each person voted for when they became friends, so why should it matter now?
On a smaller level, he compares the world’s division to that of a classroom, where you walk into the classroom and it’s divided. On one side, there is one group. And on the other side there is a different group. When you walk into the classroom, the environment is gravitating you to join one side. If we go to the left, we’ll be in that group. And we’ll have a support system because we have the people that are on that side, they’ll have our back and then we can attack the other side together. We can say whatever we want about the other side, because we don’t need to worry about them. We have our own support system. That’s the easy thing to do.
And that’s what Jonathan perceives the problem to be. Nowadays it’s so easy to say that HE believe this and they believe that. But he’s never been one to blame. He doesn’t point fingers at the media and claim it’s their fault, etc. Jonathan sees that a lot of the problems in the world are direct reflections of us. There’s not one person to blame, it’s all of us for jumping on one particular bandwagon.
The hardest thing to do is to actually sit there and listen to both sides, and try to comprehend, try to understand them. And it’s liberating. It’s liberating, and it’s true freedom to be able to decide for yourself, or just simply listen without the lens of “they are wrong and I am right”.
Really be who you want to be instead of representing just one side, which is polarizing.
So in his conversations the thing he looks for is the commonality. He tres to find something that they can both share. A passion, an interest…. whatever. Something that they can find in common. But if he can’t find that, he simply listens.
During most of the conversation, he is not talking at all. He’s just listening. They’re controlling the narrative. They’re the ones that are directing the conversation, and that’s fine. Usually it begins a little intense in the sense that they really want to throw their ideas on him, their opinions, and maybe they want to get a reaction out of him.
And as hard as it is, he doesn’t react because he’s there to listen. Jonathan doesn’t mince words. He’s the first to admit that it’s hard to just listen. Just listen and hold space for them and their views or even their anger. But he needs to stay true to that, to witnessing, otherwise it would compromise his mission. He’s not there to debate them, he’s there to listen. But he’s not there to compromise his own beliefs either.
The people he listens to feel the way they do for a reason, and that’s valid. That’s what he attempts to find. He listens to their journey, and listens to their life. What was it that led them to this point? What happened in their life for them to think the way that they do? Or when was it that they made the decision about who they’re going to be, and what they’re going to stand for? He tries to find that. And in doing so, he finds a reflection of himself because like you, like all of us, they’ve had to make that decision. At some point, we all had to make the decision as to what stance we want to have. What do we want to stand for? Or what don’t we want to stand for? Same idea. So he tries to find that. And when he does, he finds himself. At that moment, that’s where we can find the commonality.
When he finds that, he creates what he calls the “leaving the room effect”. In that moment he no longer sees them as someone different and they no longer see him as someone different, each person sees one another as the same. And that’s when the conversation is complete, no matter how long it takes.
So essentially when he leaves the room, he leaves that effect with them. They will still probably have different beliefs. Neither person changed their minds about anything, but they can look back and they can say, “you know what, Jonathan, he’s different, but I like him. He’s a good guy. He listened to me.” And that’s the moment where he creates change and impact. And essentially he can change the world with every conversation he has. If he focuses on that commonality and lets that be the narrative and nothing else.
Jonathan is dedicating his life to this because it’s going to take a lifetime of conversations to be able to do this. But, he’d rather create lasting impact and plant a seed then something that may be instantaneous. Instant results come from arguments and debate which can be an attack and the easy route. The hard thing is to have these conversations.
I’m (KA) going to assert my own “opinion” here as a fiction writer and past TV producer/writer. In fiction and storytelling we are trained to see things in black and white. There is always a hero who is fighting a villain. But what if we’ve taken that too far? What if we’ve looked for that in our personal lives too? That would mean that anyone who doesn’t believe what we believe is a villain. But in reality, life is not black and white and nothing is that simple.
Jonathan believes that division has always existed. But it’s become something that’s so much a part of our lives that it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid it. Harder not to indulge in it. He thinks that 2020 was not the result, but rather like the cherry on top.
But Jonathan firmly believes that there’s always hope. There’s always optimism. That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing. Because if all hope was lost, then there wouldn’t be a point.
And in healing our country, we have to treat it seriously. We have to treat it as an activism, because division is the second pandemic that we’re going through. It’s that big.
Find Jonathan here! Click on his linktree for all his info :)
This week I interviewed Ashley DeLuca whose story brought up so many nuggets surrounding our opportunities for growth.
She had a specific dream but her life took her elsewhere and instead of fighting it, she went with it. By turning her boat downstream, she discovered an entirely new life. One she still had to navigate but with a smaller map and compass.
She found herself in a new profession, quite by accident. And through the needs of her clients she discovered her niche, email marketing. But she wasn’t instantly good at it and I think this is a VERY important reminder! We can’t all be good at everything we try, most of us aren’t. It took Ashley two years to learn and become good at email marketing.
We can take this into every arena. When we try new things, we are developing new cognitive facets of our brains. And with every muscle, it will take work. This reminds me of everything I’ve ever tried. I sucked at it first but if I stuck with it, I always improved. Trapeze is my favorite example. I was terrified of heights, it hurt to even sit on the bar, let alone stand and do tricks but after several years of doing it, I started to feel like I belonged up there and now I wear it like a second skin. It was the same with acupuncture. I barely made it through the graduate program and even failed the California state board exam on my first go. I don’t excel in classroom settings or test taking. I excel in person-to-person treatments. I couldn’t grasp the concepts fully until they were real, in front of me and I could see them with my own eyes. Reading them in a book didn’t work for me. But I stuck it out. I kept studying, I retook and passed the exam on my second go around and I learned more by practicing the medicine than I ever did from reading the three dozen required books.
It’s this FAILURE on our way to SUCCESS that stops a lot of people in their tracks but it shouldn’t. It’s how we get to the success. We need to find what works for us and we need to keep trying.
Ashley also shows us how, turning our boat downstream, instead of fighting upstream, trying to row against the current, can bring us to a new and previously unforeseen place. A beautiful place. I wish I’d learned this particular lesson earlier in my life but it’s never too late!
I have been rowing upstream for forty years. It’s what I was used to. My life has never been easy. Easier than many, many people because I almost always had a roof over my head (except for a 3 month homeless stint after I left my ex-husband and had to couch surf) and mostly (not always) had food on my plate; except when I didn’t have enough money to eat anything except top ramen every few days, during a couple of college years.
But, my boat hits rapids on a regular basis. And now, for the first time in my life, at 54 years old, I’m turning my boat downstream. It’s scary as hell, I won’t lie. But it’s also super exciting.
I hope Ashley’s story encourages you to do the same. Let go of the reins, let go of the paddles, let go of the anchor or whatever fears are holding you back. Open your eyes, suck in a huge breath of fresh air and see where your boat takes you!
Community - what does it mean?
On the road, off the road, traversing the world…
I think the first question about community is: What Does Community Mean to You? Because it means something different to each person. Some people define it as a group of like-minded people (ie: writers, artists, rock climbers, etc.). Others define it as a group of close friends. Some define it as family. I have asked myself this question a lot recently.
I watched a couple of vanlife documentaries (links below). Two claimed the only downside (in the opinions of the people being interviewed) to vanlife was a lack of community.
One of the guys defined community as—when people in your neighborhood know your name. Like the local coffeeshop owners, etc. And when you frequent these places you’re able to talk to the people who work there. I definitely have that where I currently live. I know the names of the owners of all my local shops and even became friends with one. I really like them all as people, but it doesn’t amount to much more than small talk.
When I went to Barcelona in 2019 and spent 10 days there, the coffee shop employees at the local cafe also knew my name and made small talk with me. This is not the definition of community for me. I make friends easily so wherever I travel, if I frequent a place several times, I know the proprietor or employees. This is not something that anchors me to a particular town. Small talk, to me, can be shallow.
But when I went to Italy several years ago and sat in a cafe all day to work I befriended the owner (I didn't know he was the owner until a year later due to the language barrier) and the day after we met he took me on a trip, on the back of is moped, to an island! We're still friends, years later and I've gone back to visit him and spend more time on his favorite island. This, I now define as community!
When I lived in Sausalito for 7 years, before moving north-west, I had a small group of friends that would meet every single morning for coffee in a specific coffee shop. I knew that no matter the day, if I showed up, the same 4-7 people would be there and I fit right in. At the time I loved it and was sad to leave until I found out that they were gossiping about me behind my back. It was mostly men, just one woman and apparently they were talking about me inappropriately when I wasn’t there and spreading around some personal tidbits I had confided confidentially. This was the closest I’ve ever come to what I would define as “community” since my divorce 20 years ago, and blech! No thanks!
Back when I was married I had a pretty tight knit community and our house was the cool house, where everyone congregated and hung out and partied. But it wasn’t real. It was centered around using drugs. The “friends” came to our house because we had the good weed and I would cook dinner for all of them, and clean up after them. We also had all the video game systems and would sit around getting high and playing video games for hours. I’m clean and sober and divorced now so none of that happens anymore. I won’t lie though, I loved those nights. I really felt “part of” and I really felt close to those group of friends, who all abandoned me when I left my husband and quit smoking pot.
Since then I’ve developed some very strong friendships with people around the world and people from all walks of life. I don’t have a “community” in the typical sense of the word. I am not close to my family, and my friends don’t know each other. I have one close friend here, another there, etc. I talk to a few people daily but I hadn’t labeled that as my community—until now. These friends will stay my close friends no matter where I go in the world.
So it comes down to the definition. My past definition was a group of people who all know each other and include one another in events, gatherings, hangouts, dinners, etc. But now my definition has morphed.
Part of the reason I wanted to travel was to find a community of like-minded people. But now I realize that’s a myth (at least for me). A dream I can chase but never catch. I am part of several different “groups” that I identify with but I don’t feel like I “belong” to any of them. I feel like I’m on the fringe. Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous for example. When I attend the zoom meetings everyone knows one another and they talk and laugh together. I know many people in the program as I’ve been clean/sober for 12 years but I haven’t felt close to anyone in long time. I realize this is a me problem. And part of this problem, as I stated above, is that I like to go deep. I don’t care much for endless superficial conversations. I also look for commonalities beyond one specific thing such as being sober. Lastly, I have an issue with trust, another me problem, which manifests by me keeping people I don’t know well at a distance.
You know how “they” say: you find out who your true friends are when you’re the most in need. I’ve found that to be true over and over again in my life. Something recently happened to me and I desperately needed emotional support. Several people were there for me and after I recovered and told several more that I hadn’t labeled as close friends, they were there too. It’s interesting that some who I have always been there for and who I was counting on to be there for me, were not. This also helped shape and redefine my definition of community.
I totally get that not everyone can be available when their friends need them and that’s completely understandable. But unless they accept responsibility for their part and communicate, it’s just hurtful. I have a friend who I reached out to years ago in a time of need and she told me “I’m so sorry but I’m just not in the right place to be there for anyone right now. It’s not personal and I love you but I just can’t.” That’s communication. That’s genuine friendship. And, we’re still friends today.
So yes, I’ve redefined what community means for me. My community is growing, transforming and adapting. I think it always will. Currently it consists of people that truly care about me and are able to give, not just receive. Friends that span the globe. Some here in California, one in Ireland, another in Nevada, another in New Mexico and beyond. And these people will come with me on the road, not physically but they’ll be there. They will remain my confidantes, the people I call and turn to in times of need and visa versa. The ones who know I have their backs as much as they have mine. Communication, unconditional love, mutual respect and compassion. That’s how I now define community.
This year’s RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) and the Homes on Wheels Alliance offer some great classes (free) on YouTube
A couple of #vanlife documentaries I watched on YouTube:
The Reality of #vanlife: This one is super funny!
I Have a Problem with #vanlife: This isn’t a documentary, it's short and I found it helpful:
I haven’t watched this one yet but it looks good and focuses specifically on the #vanlife community. It’s “free” on Amazon Prime: The Meaning of Vanlife.
Here’s a list of eleven #vanlife documentaries, I haven’t watched them all so I can’t vouch for them all.
I got clean and sober in the summer of 2008.
Prior to 2008 I used all day, every day, for twenty years. I like to say it doesn’t matter what I used because an addict is an addict and we’re all the same. Twelve years later, I still believe this to be true. But I also heard someone share at a meeting years later saying her drug of choice was “s’more”. It didn’t matter what she was using or drinking, she just wanted some more of it. I like that description. When I share at 12 step meetings I tell people to insert their drug of choice (including alcohol) wherever I use the words “used” or any other word to indicate my use. That way no one is alienated.
After I made the decision to get clean and sober I went to twelve step meetings.
When I was nine months sober I traveled to China. I went with a group of about a dozen people that I knew from the master’s program I was attending. We studied medicine there. One friend of mine and I stayed at the same hostel and hung out together too much. It was not a good situation and I tried desperately to get away from her. She was a using addict with no respect for my sobriety. She used in front of me, even offering me alcohol, knowing full well I was in recovery. That’s the thing about addicts, they want you to use with them so they don’t have to look at their own addiction. I acted exactly the same when I was using. In retrospect I’m really glad I spent five weeks in China but I also think it was a mistake to go when I was so new to recovery.
There were two extremely difficult times in particular where I almost used but I didn’t. And if I had, that would have been okay too, it would have been part of my story and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have quit again.
What’s important for me, looking back, is knowing the people I surround myself with. The people I was with in China did not have my best interests at heart. The two people I ended up spending the most time with were hard core addicts. Neither of them gave two sh$ts about my sobriety. They were not supportive, understanding or helpful. Quite the opposite. So what I learned is that I can’t count on someone else to have my back unless they’re also clean and sober or respectful. If they’re not, I have to do this myself. Before I left for China I contacted NA (Narcotics Anonymous) world services and was given the liaison for English speakers in China. It could have been AA (Alcoholics Anonymous but at that time I was mainly going to NA meetings).
I contacted the liaison before I even set foot on that plane. He was my lifeline and he went out of his way to help me. After a close encounter on Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), I called him shaking and scared. He invited me to Shanghai. He met me at the train station and took me to a friend’s house, an American from the program who agreed to let me stay in his extra bedroom. The guys threw an impromptu meeting for me, inviting others over and I couldn’t be more grateful. They showed me around Shanghai and took me to daily meetings the entire time I was there. It was exactly what I needed. Freshly armed with my new support group I went back to Hangzhou with abandon. Three weeks later I decided to escape the two alcoholic “friends” and booked a ticket to Yangshuo, Guilin. They followed me there. In a restaurant one night they were double fisting beer in front of me and I fled, crying, to my hostel room. My solo room. This is important for sanity, age and sobriety. I was already too old, in my forties, to share a room with six bunk beds for $5 a night and sprung for the hefty $15 a night to have my own domicile. It was huge, it was glorious and most importantly, it was away from the alcoholics. My sanctuary. My refuge.
Because of that trip, I learned to travel smarter. For many years after that I traveled solo, I still do mostly. And whenever I land somewhere new, I look up the twelve step meetings and I go to them. Mostly I go to AA because there are more meetings options for AA.
I’ve been to meetings all around the world, both NA and AA. From Berlin to Venice, Italy. From Mexico to Canada. From Los Angeles to Miami to NYC to Maine to Alaska to Hawaii. Even in the Grand Caymans. And whenever I arrive, I know I’m home. The faces are different but the stories are the same. Familiar, heartbreaking, heartwarming and real. There’s instant camaraderie. I’ve been at several meetings where the people couldn’t be more different than me and it didn’t matter, I was accepted. This is what it’s truly like, to travel sober. I need that support group. Desperately. Because sobriety is one of the few things that I, a fiercely independent fifty something woman, cannot do alone.
On my next adventure, in my van, driving around the United States there may not be the opportunity to go to meetings in person. Not in the time of Covid. And if that’s the case, I’ll go to zoom meetings. It may not be the same but it’s definitely better than the alternative.
If you’re a sober traveler looking for support, please reach out, we need each other 🙂
I talk a little more about what it’s like traveling sober in this guest blog post…
Thank you for being on this adventure with me!
:) KA ©
I realize this title is dramatic and only partially accurate. To be more accurate, I'd have to remove the word "great".
I hope this reads more like an explanation rather than a rant!
I’ve had money on my mind a lot over the past several months and I’m finally ready to talk about it.
There are several points I want to hit on.
The cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and most of California.
Money as it pertains to living minimally/minimalism.
I’m a born and raised Californian but I’m being “pushed out” of California. Now, I know I could stay. No question. I could stay on the 24/7 work hamster wheel and keep earning enough to barely make ends meet. Working this schedule I earned (prior to Covid), low six figures. That seems like a LOT of money but it barely covered my overhead. And the more I made, the more I spent, mostly on taxes. Thanks exclusively to the last administration, my taxes were raised significantly and I was thrown into the 50% tax bracket. So for every dollar I netted, fifty cents went to the IRS. If my net was $100,000, I paid $50,000 to the IRS per year. Compound this with the high cost of health insurance, over $1,000 a month for the lowest coverage and the high cost of living in the bay area and well… it’s a recipe for disaster.
Just to give people an idea; I like to compare several financial expenses that change depending on where you live. I have pet insurance for my dog. I’ve been paying it for about five years and so far it hasn’t covered anything. The insurance costs $150 a month. But if I had a Texas address the exact same coverage would be $70 a month. When I called the company to ask why I thought they would tell me it was because veterinarians charge more in the bay area. But no, it’s because more people in my area have bought the pet insurance which raises the costs so that their claims can be covered. So I’m paying twice the amount as someone in Texas so I can pay for other people’s claims. I do also think the vets here are more expensive but I haven’t lived anywhere else yet so I’ve nothing to compare it to. My pup had to go to the vet twice this month so far. One was a standard check up that cost me $300. And last week he had an infection on his leg from a tiny wart he chewed off. This cost me $200. So this month alone my dog’s health coverage (and he’s worth every penny and more) was $650. (Vet + insurance that didn’t cover a dime of my out of pocket expenses).
Eating out. I happen to live in the most expensive county in Northern California. I originally moved here in 2004 from San Francisco where I lived for twenty years, because I was working here and didn’t have a car. The cost of my favorite Vietnamese dish here in Marin County, for lunch, is $20. The exact same dish in San Francisco is $10. Breakfast here in Marin, in my small town, is $60 for two people (without alcohol). Dinner for one person in my area is $50 (without alcohol). I will say that I am a bit of a food snob (AKA foodie) and I won’t eat fast food (unless it’s Amy’s organic LOL) but still! Come on! I was a food snob when I lived in SF proper too and I spent 1/3 to 1/2 per meal there. Here’s another great example, I met a friend for lunch yesterday and we each got a small take out caesar salad and a cup of tea. Mine alone was $25 for a tiny salad and a cup of peppermint tea.
Grocery Stores. Again, food snob, which plays in to this but my local health food grocery store is $150 for one and a half bags of groceries. $250 for 2 bags. These are regular sized paper grocery bags. When I shopped there regularly and bought food for just me or for me and a part time partner, I spent $200 to $250 per WEEK. When I went to other markets in my area, the costs were slightly lower, but not significantly.
Gas: I filled up my tank yesterday. Gas is currently $3.80 a gallon, which is “cheap” for California, it’s gone past $5.00 a gallon on several occasions. California has the highest taxes for gas in the entire country! It’s cheaper in Hawaii! It usually costs me $50 to fill up my tank but often times it’s even higher than that. According to a recent article: Currently, California state’s average cost for gas is $4.14 per gallon while the national average is $2.65 per gallon.
Rent: Monthly costs are $2,000 to $3,000 for a studio apartment. $1,500+ a month for a room rental in a house with other roommates. Enough said.
Gas and Electric: I have a unique circumstance. There is a hot water leak under my apartment but our Gas/Electric company won’t fix it. When it flooded my house once, they patched it. Prior to the leak my Gas/Electric was about $100 a month. Now it’s $300 a month and has been for 3 years. I have friends and neighbors with the same square footage and the same heating system and they pay $50 - $100 a month.
Our Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is completely corrupt. They are the reason we've had dozens of huge, devastating fires that have killed people and destroyed homes and forests. So instead of taking responsibility and fixing the issues they turn off our power whenever it's windy. In 2019 they turned off my power for a WEEK. In 2020 they turned off my power for 3 days. This is during the cold season and I have no heat plus I lost all my food in the freezer and fridge. I was unable to work when the power was out since I had no heat in my office and I'm a healthcare worker. I just got news that they're turning our power off again this week - IN JANUARY - when it's 40 degrees! And the power company is not responsible for this and they don't give a F!
These are just a few of the reasons why California is unaffordable. Sadly another issue is that people who purchased their homes here 40 years ago for $25K in San Jose are now selling those homes for 5.5 million (I am not making this up) and moving to other states where they spend 1.5 million on the most expensive homes they can find and it’s currently driving the housing costs up significantly in Washington, Idaho and Colorado (to name a few). People who owned expensive homes are also selling them to buy vans and retire. And while this is awesome for them, it’s driving the costs up for people who can’t afford to do this, like me. When I started looking at used vans, they were already going for more money than they were a year ago. And as soon as I called, they were sold. They all sold in under 24 hours for more than the asking price, including the one I ended up buying. I only got it because the deal fell through at the last minute and I raced over to buy it, paying $10K more than it’s actually worth.
Road Rage: I’m mentioning this here because it’s another symptom of the ongoing problem - the entitled rich taking over. I have nothing against the wealthy, I myself came from an upper middle class family, back when that class existed. What I can’t handle is anger, mean, entitled people! And sadly this often corresponds with how much money they make. I grew up around plenty of those people too. People here in Marin County California, try to run you off the road if you drive too slowly or if you try to merge or for no reason at all. I wish I was kidding but I’m not. Every day there are a myriad of complaints on NextDoor with people reporting aggressive/angry and dangerous drivers.
When I went out the other day I tried to merge, legally as my lane was ending, and a car sped up so that I couldn’t. When I merged behind them, they slammed on their brakes and sat blocking the intersection for about 15 seconds. I am so unfazed at this point that I didn’t even react. So they tried again as we entered the freeway, slamming on their brakes and blocking the entrance. I laughed because this is a regular occurrence in Marin. Several people reported last week that an aggressive female driver tried to run them off the road. Same lady, wearing the same sunglasses in the same car. The people she tried to run off the road all had kids in their cars :( She even drove into oncoming traffic to harass someone! There isn’t a single day that I don’t experience someone else’s road rage here. My theory is that all the money in the world and the biggest, most expensive house with all the servants you can afford and a brand new Tesla, Mercedes or Porsche can’t make you happy. These people are still miserable and angry.
So what’s the answer? Living minimally is one and obviously it’s the one I’m going for. As well as leaving California. I could keep working 60-80 hour weeks so I can afford my exorbitant overhead and life would go on the same way it’s been going for a decade+. But I’m tired. Tired of working 2 full time jobs. Tired of the rat race. Tired of making six figures and giving 1/2 of it to the IRS. You aren’t rewarded for working this much. It’s the 1% who get the tax cuts and rewards and it’s the 1% who keep making more money than they could ever possibly spend. I guess they’ll have to learn how to make their own coffee soon and live entitled lives with one another as neighbors. As for me… greener pastures and less expenses please!
I'm in complete overwhelm at this moment. I don't know why exactly. I look around at all my "stuff" and I just don't know what I'm going to do with it all. It's really freaking me out. There's so much! I'm planning on taking before and after videos and pics to show everyone via YouTube but even that feels like a really big task right now. On top of feeling overwhelmed I threw my back out again. I'm an insomniac normally but sleeping with back spasms is, of course, worse.
I know some days/weeks/months will just be hard. That's the way life is. I can always count on change and difficulty. Not in a bad way, just in a practical way.
I edited and posted my latest podcast today and interviewed another amazing person yesterday. I made a quick one-off sans interview about my love for circus, to hopefully inspire others.
I feel it's important to blog even when things are hard and they suck.
I have made lists about what items I wanted to keep in each part of my van but there's just too much and the thought of that overwhelms me too. There's not enough space in my van "garage" for everything I want to bring. There's much less space in my living area. Because of the fridge I chose and the small size of the van I am getting, there's not even enough space for more than one smallish ground level cabinet. This has me worried about where I'll put pots and pans and heavier items that I don't want to stuff overhead. I know that in the end, it's all going to work out, it has to, but right now I'm worrying.
Logically I get this is counter-productive and so I've decided not to think about what box I'm going to put where and figure the logistics out when I've packed up and am in the converted van.
I also had to rethink some important things like the fact that I should use glass in the van and need to find a way to lock up my knives—both in case of an accident.
Thanks to Jeff Wagg's Podcast, Built to Go, I watched the video of a camper van crashing at 35mph and it was not pretty. Drawers were torn open, and all the glass went flying up front and shattered. There were "crash-test dummy" kids in the seats behind the driver and they were pummeled with debris. I'm glad I watched it though. I already planned to keep my dog fastened in place in his dog bed* which I purchased after watching crash test videos with (stuffed toy) dogs! The one I bought fares really well but here are harness options for your pup.
But what about flying glass shards and pointy knives turned missiles!!?? YIKES!!! Yes my brain never stops! No wonder I'm an insomniac! I fear the off switch may be the long sleep and I don't like that option so I'm embracing my overthinking instead.
Regarding my overwhelm, today I thought it would be great to get my storage unit NOW and start piling items in it but I can't afford to pay for the space for 6 months. Should I pack things in boxes and pile them in the corner of my living room? No, I should figure out what I want to give away, which is what I've been doing, and keep parting with it. Back to the drawing board...
* I have one affiliate link above for the car (crash safe) doggie bed I use but you are not required to use my link. I appreciate it, if you choose to, I will earn a few cents :)
I hope my story will inspire you. I am in my fifties and have a myriad of injuries and body challenges but I still work out consistently. It took me forty years to discover something that lights my fire, something I am passionate about and, because it’s never too late, I use circus workouts to keep my body pain free!
My background is; I was a gymnast when I was young. From 2nd grade through 6th grade. It was my #1 passion at that time and it brought me tremendous joy. Plus, I was good at it. I excelled in tumbling but the uneven bars were my second favorite. I was good enough to be considered for the team that trains for the team that trains for the olympics. In 6th grade I was encouraged to start this extensive training and I jumped in quickly and happily.
Unfortunately, my parents were not on board and pulled me out of gymnastics to send me to a private school, complete with uniforms, where I knew no one. All my friends went to a public school for junior high (7th grade here in California) and I did not. This moment in my life crippled me. I was torn from my #1 passion, all my friends and those two things, coupled with my troubled and dysfunctional home life threw me into a self-destructive cycle of cutting, drug and alcohol abuse that I wasn't able to get out of until I was in my early forties. I don’t “blame” my parents. I made the bad decisions, which were the coping skills I learned and relied on. They were negative coping skills that had severely negative life impacts, but I learned from them and I became a stronger person.
In 2003/ish one of my friends introduced me to indoor rock climbing and I fell madly in love with it. This was the first “sport/workout” I’d ever liked since I had been pulled out of gymnastics. And I continued to do it for a little over five years. But the biggest problem with rock climbing is you need a partner, and those were difficult to find. In the end I had two people who would meet me and climb with me regularly, but then the gym in my area closed.
Fast forward to my recovery (from drugs and alcohol) in 2008, where I became awe stricken by the people I saw doing aerial silks. I used to go to burning man. I went for 7 years, not in a row, beginning in 1996. My last year, 2010, I volunteered as a ranger and was up in the early hours to cover my shifts. It was during one of these shifts that I met a silk aerial artist and stood in front of her with my jaw on the dusty playa floor.
“I’ve always wanted to do that,” I said.
“You can,” she said. “I was just like you a year ago.”
She encouraged me to call my local circus school when I returned home to San Francisco. She told me to start with a class called aerial conditioning. I did what she said and was delighted to find that classes had just begun. I enrolled and went to work with gusto. I had rediscovered my gymnast passion. I was 44 years old. I’m proud to say that I’ve been going to circus school regularly for the past 10 years. I started with conditioning and then took a class where you get to try all the apparatuses. I’ve now tried Chinese pole, aerial silks, hoop/lyra, straps, sling, and trapeze. I fell in love with the latter, trapeze. It was mainly because of the passion of my trapeze teacher who used to be a professional artist, and a gold medalist. I went from one class a week to three. There’s something completely zen about being suspended 30 feet in the air, and having to balance on a bar. When I’m up there, I feel completely in my body. I am focused. It’s important to say that I have always been afraid of heights, always. But I also love to push myself, past my fear, past my comfort zones. And eventually I became less afraid. Did the fear vanish completely? No, but it was no longer debilitating. If I look out, instead of straight down, it’s easier. And yes, I got to the point where I was able to do complicated and difficult tricks, high up in the air.
At one point, several years in, I was so comfortable that I was showing off and I hurt myself. The injury took me off the trapeze for a year. It was a hand injury (I tore the tendons in 2 fingers) and it was severe enough that those two fingers will never be the same, ever. But I can use them, they just don’t look pretty and my grip has been compromised. And… I did it to myself by not paying attention. Another learning experience. When I finally got past the beating myself up part, I went in another direction and began seriously studying handstands. I took handstand classes and threw myself into that discipline with the same gusto I’d thrown myself into trapeze. I even hurt myself in handstand class by staying in a handstand so long that my elbows collapsed and my chin met the floor. That was a fun bruise! Training on the floor was amazing. We trained all parts of our bodies. And the best part was that I had so much bonding time with one of my best friends, the phenomenal Karina - who you can learn about in podcast #9.
After a year of handstanding, I went back to trapeze and continued to do both. Once Covid hit, I had to quit going to the circus and for the first few months I was devastated. Training had become a huge part of my life. But not just any kind of training, EXTREME circus training.
I have to explain that I have no intention of ever performing, and I didn’t go into the circus with that intent. I started circus because of my gymnastic past. I was used to extreme training. I was used to pushing my body and testing my limits. I was used to teachers saying “there is no such word as can’t.” I was used to a certain level of pain and adrenaline and the intoxication that goes with it. I’ve tried many other disciplines over the years and none of them worked for me. I found yoga boring, I found running annoying, I don’t play sports because I’ve never been good at them and I’m not very competitive. That said, I do push myself to run several times a week because my dog loves it and I know it’s good for me but only once have I ever experienced that “runner’s high” people talk about. When I do circus though, I ALWAYS experience it!
It took a few months for my circus school to get on zoom and when they did, a teacher that an aerial artist friend of mine always talked about, had openings. This particular friend of mine is now in her 60’s but she spins and contorts and looks like someone in their 30’s! She is truly an inspiration. The teacher she spoke of is one of the top contortion teachers at the school and used to be a performer. Now, while in circus school, I sustained quite a few injuries. Most of them were negligence on my part, but one in particular happened from a teacher pushing me too hard. In both hips. In his defense, I let him. It happened about eight years ago and I am still suffering from it and perhaps always will. There are a lot of things I cannot do, stretching wise, because of the injuries. There is the herniated disk I got in graduate school, which hanging upside down on a trapeze “cured”. I also had two frozen shoulders, not one, but TWO and was able to get past those with EFT (emotional freedom technique/tapping, acupuncture and the most effective way, walking my hand up a wall while screaming in pain but not stopping!)
And those injuries, coupled with a pretty severe shoulder injury thanks to my father and a ganglion cyst in my wrist which means, no more handstands for me, and I’m bodily challenged to say the least. I’m also the kind of person who does what people say I can’t do. So when my trapeze teacher said, “you’ll never get your splits after you turn 50” I was like “challenge accepted”!
When I was in graduate school, I used to sit and study for ten hours at a time. It was during those five years that I developed sciatica down both my legs. I am also a person who pushes through and/or ignores my pain. So after a while I didn’t really notice it. Yes, it hurt 24/7 but honestly, I just learned to ignore it. Bored with being grounded and indoors, I decided to give contortion class a try and it was the best decision I’ve made, all of lockdown!
After the first class, my sciatica disappeared. I recently spoke to another one of my contortion teachers and she said the same thing happened to her!
If I skip a week, the sciatica returns. So of course, being a good addict, I’m not doing contortion classes three days a week for two hours at a time. Am I good? NO F-ing way! I’m the worst student in all my classes, by far. They can lift their legs (while standing) straight up over their heads. I can’t even lift mine half way up. Have I gotten my splits yet? Nope, I have not. But I am closer than I’ve ever been and I believe that with practice and discipline, I will get there.
I had also lost my backbends and can now do them again! Can I do complicated contortion routines? No, I cannot. But that doesn’t stop me from trying :)
When I developed the ganglion cyst and was no longer able to do handstands, yes I was upset but then I turned it around and began to work on my forearm stands instead.
I give myself daily challenges too. Right now I’m working on 10 assisted pull ups and 10 push-ups, 6 days a week. I do believe that giving my body one day off is important for recovery.
The bottom line is for you to find what you love and do that. If you love yoga, yes! Do it! If you love spinning or riding your bike outside, do it! If you love dancing, do it! There are so many options! And I’ve tried them all. I wanted to love yoga and hooping and cycling and spinning, but I just didn’t. When you find something that lights you up, you will push yourself to do it and maybe it’s something unconventional and different like circus.
When I move into my van, I’m having a pull-up bar installed because, personally, I love doing pull-ups. I’m also having a roof rack that will have a pull out bar in the back from which I will hang my sling. I do have my own trapeze, but using it while in the van may not be practical, though I may try! Therefore, I’m now taking sling classes because whatever I do and wherever I go, I am clear that circus will need to stay a part of my life. I am also designing the van to have enough floor space to continue doing contortion, or my version anyway, which is extreme stretching :)
Just because I won’t be stationary, that doesn’t mean I have to give up doing anything that lights me up! My passions are a part of me
~ Kimberly Anne ©
I also recorded a podcast about my aerial journey :) Listen HERE!
The pics below are all from the past few months of contortion training!
Hi, I'm Kimberly Anne! (aka K.A.)
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