Days 130-133: Getting Settled in Whistler, Canada

On Halloween morning, I left Vancouver, Washington and drove about four hours to Mount Vernon, Washington to stay the night with my friend Chanell. I arrived in the early evening and enjoyed a delicious crockpot meal that Chanell had prepared. Her adorable children, ages 1 and 3, had carved some pumpkins that were proudly displayed on the front porch.

Once it got dark outside, I tagged along with Chanell, her husband Matt, and the kids to go trick-or-treating. I absolutely love taking kids trick-or-treating. I love the costumes, the fun vibes, and the excitement as kids gather more and more candy. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me and my siblings trick-or-treating, and I was determined to get as much candy as possible. I used a pillow case and because I’m a saver, I would slowly eat my candy over the next year.

It was a foggy night outside, which created the perfect ambiance. Once we were finished and the kids went to bed, Chanell and I stayed up late talking. We talked about how she was doing during her current pregnancy, and what books she was reading. She had a lofty goal of reading two books a month and was on track to achieve it.

After enjoying a relaxing breakfast at Chanell’s house, I continued my drive north towards Whistler, British Columbia. The U.S. and Canada border is only about an hour and a half north of Mount Vernon. I arrived fairly quickly, but I always worry about getting through. The intimidating police officers and border security scare me.

I pulled up to the booth when it was my turn and a young, blonde, girl with a French accent sternly started asking me questions:

Where are you staying?

For how long?

Why did you drive instead of fly?

Do you have friends here?

I was surprised by some of her questions, like asking why I drove my car, because I hadn’t been asked them before. Just then, she received a phone call and closed her window to talk on the phone. I started to worry. Were they calling her because there was a problem?

Thankfully, she opened her window, handed me my passport, and said I was free to go. I drove past high rises in Vancouver and then hit the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler. Whistler is about an hour and a half north of Vancouver and it’s a very scenic drive. It was raining and foggy, however, so I couldn’t see much.

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I arrived at my Airbnb at 4:00 pm, which was a small, recently remodeled condo. It had been remodeled in gray and white with all things IKEA. Lisa, the owner, met me there to let me inside and show me around. I had booked the place for the month, so I’d be there for a while.

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Airbnb on a clear day

Lisa was in her 40s, thin with long blonde hair, pretty and spunky. She was from Melbourne, Australia and said, “I came here 25 years ago for a three month holiday and then I never left.” That seemed to be the story with most of the people in Whistler. We couldn’t get the cable to work and we played around with several wires. Eventually, her friend got on the phone for assistance and we got it to work.

The place was beautiful, but small. It was a studio and the couch converted into the bed. Lisa knew I would be doing a lot of writing so she got me a small wooden folding table and chairs. There was also a great reading nook with windows looking out to the driveway below and a view of gorgeous trees.

I unloaded several bags from my car and then drove to the market to get some groceries. As I walked around the produce section, I noticed several attractive, single men in their late 20s to late 30s. I was pleasantly surprised and thought this could be a great place to be.

The food was extremely expensive and my total came to $275! Thankfully, that was only $209 US dollars. I had to buy things like salt and pepper since the condo was new and didn’t have anything. I loaded my car in the pouring rain. I had a hard time making my way back the few miles in the dark with such little light pollution. I pulled up to the front door and carried all of my bags down to the first floor. Then I had to move my car to the parking lot around a second building and down a hill. I thought, “I’m prepared for a winter in the mountains, right?”

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It was raining the following day and was perfect weather to stay indoors and write. I unpacked some clothes and got settled. It was the first time in four months I could unpack. While the rain was nice writing weather, I was anxiously waiting for the snow. I had a goal of writing while I was cozied up inside my little apartment, watching the snow fall.

The next day I went to a small gym, the Whistler Athletic Club, that was a 15 minute walk down the road. I was able to do a free workout to try it out. It was small and not the nicest, but it had the machines I like to use. At $68 a month, it was also the cheapest.

I spent the day writing and listening to music because that’s part of my process. At 10:15 pm, I heard a knock on my door. I was still in my workout clothes and answered the door.

A short man about 5’7” in his 40s who looked like a serial killer was standing there. He introduced himself as Kelly who was staying in unit 109 for the month while he was there for work. He was doing laundry and accidentally locked his phone inside the room. The laundry room uses a passcode, and everyone has their own code. Kelly told me he knocked on my door because he could hear my music, so he figured I was still awake.

I was slightly worried since he seemed a little strange, but I gave him the paper with my code. He came back a few minutes later and said it didn’t work. He couldn’t message the owner because he didn’t have his phone. I took the paper with my code and followed him to the laundry room. The room is at the other end of the long, windy hallway. I thought, “Is this guy trying to lure me away so he can kill me?”

I tried the code and it wouldn’t work. I texted the maintenance guy since his number was listed on my paper. While we waited for a reply, Kelly told me he’s from Calgary and he was hired as a consultant for a car repair shop that wasn’t doing well. He mentioned that he lived in the U.S. for seven years in many different states. Kelly liked the U.S., but said he doesn’t want to live there. He pointed out that Americans say “uh-huh” all the time, so I pointed out that Canadians say “eh?” all the time.

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Kelly went on, “Here’s the difference in Americans and Canadians: If an American doesn’t like you, they’ll tell you. If a Canadian doesn’t like you, they’ll tell everyone else.” I told Kelly about my drive to Alaska from California. He responded, “People tell me that California has more people than all of Canada, and I’m like ‘You think that’s a good thing!?’”

I had messaged the owner of my unit and she provided another code for me to try. It also didn’t work. Then I noticed the sign on the door listed the hours until 10:00 pm. I told Kelly it’s probably not working because it’s past 10:00 pm. On the way back to my unit, I stopped by Kelly’s unit, where he had left the door open. He ran inside to grab paper and write down the new code we were provided. He messed up the number and said, “Sorry, I have brain damage.”

I went back to my unit and locked the door. I like helping people, but something seemed off about him. I found out from the maintenance guy the following morning that the door codes stop working after 10:00 pm, which is what I had suspected. I had only been there a few days, but it already felt like my own little apartment, dealing with everyday issues like laundry.

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Days 103-104: Feeling Strange

Tracey was in the middle of remodeling her kitchen and the construction guys showed up in the morning. Since she did not have a working kitchen, Tracey and I went to town to eat a delicious breakfast. Hood River is a cute town in a gorge about 45 minutes east of Portland. We took our time enjoying breakfast and then I loaded my car and hit the road.

The first part of the drive was scenic as it climbed up and down the mountains in Oregon. However, once I was past the mountains, the drive was flat and boring. I was trying to make it to Redding, California because my friend who I was staying with in Long Beach asked that I make it there by the following day. It was seven hours of drive time to make it to Redding and I didn’t arrive until late evening.

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I had a hard time not falling asleep during the long drive. It was strange considering I had just driven thousands of miles and didn’t get tired more than once or twice. But driving to Alaska was exciting and new things were in store everyday. Now, I was going back to what was familiar.

I pulled into my Motel 6 in the dark and when I jerked my hard, plastic suitcase out of the trunk, one of the wheels broke off. The suitcase had been irritating me for months because I had to completely open both sides to get into my suitcase (the zipper was split right in the middle of the case). That made it difficult or impossible to fully open it when I was in small rooms.

I had to carry my suitcase up a flight of stairs and then drag it across the floor to my room. I showered and went to bed. I figured I would get a new bag when I went to Long Beach.

The next morning, I left early because I needed to make it to Long Beach and it would be just over eight hours of drive time. The drive was occasionally beautiful during the first hour or so. But then I hit central California – flat, dry farmland. I saw a lot of billboards displaying information about the water crisis. Most of the signs talked about how the farmers need the water to grow the food, food the entire U.S. eats. According to the OC Register, “California produces 13% of the total cash agricultural receipts for the U.S., it is the sole producer (99% or more) for the following crops: Almonds, Figs, Olives, Peaches, Artichokes, Kiwifruit, Dates, Pomegranates, Raisins, Sweet Rice, Pistachios, Plums, and Walnuts.”

California produces a lot of food. There are a lot of problems with the California water supply. Like laws that go back to the 1800s when things were very different. I remember seeing a documentary about the water rights years ago and they talked with a farmer. He said if he chooses to plant a more drought tolerant food and doesn’t use that much water, the state will limit his water usage going forward, preventing him from growing different crops that might require more water. Because of this, farmers waste water so they won’t be restricted in the future.

There is a great article describing the problems with the California water crisis and the debate over the use for farmers (who use 80% of the water) and environmentalists who want to save the salmon.

In the article, the author, Jeff Pawlak states, “The river diversion debate symbolizes the coastal-rural tension of California politics; highly represented urban liberals versus disenfranchised inland conservatives (I’m generalizing, but it is mostly accurate). This is largely visible when you drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles down Route 5. Once you leave the progressive bubble of San Francisco — dotted by rainbow LBGT flags and Bernie or Hillary bumper stickers — the entire highway is filled with billboards protesting the state government’s “water grabs” or warning of an artificially created dust bowl (or during the 2016 election — Trump-Pence campaign signs). Reduced water diversions may in fact damage their livelihoods, and they are angry about it.”

I appreciate the article because he talks about other ways to help solve the problem: “Unacceptable levels of treated water leak out of California pipes every year (known as non-revenue water) — as much as 10–25% annually. While the farmers and the environmentalists fight about the river water use, this is a problem that is rarely discussed. If we addressed our leak issues, there would be considerably more freshwater available for all uses.”

He concludes the article with, “We cannot simply regulate our way out of a water crisis. California’s water situation demands technological innovation that makes life possible for both the farmers and the fish.”

As I continued driving through the flat, windy central part of the state, I thought about going back to Long Beach. I planned to be there for just over two weeks to take care of doctor appointments and see some friends. Going back made me think about my ex-husband.

Aaron was in denial that our marriage was falling apart, even when we were separated for six months. When I told him I was going to file for divorce, he finally realized the severity of the situation. He cried for the first time in all of the separation. It wasn’t until he was leaving the house, knowing the next time he’d be back would be to sort out who got what, that he broke down. We hugged and I felt so much pain and cried with him. I worried that he wouldn’t be okay and that it was all my fault because I was ending it.

The guilt plagued me. I tried hard to remind myself that the marriage ended because of his lies and ambivalence. Over the next few months, we met over dinners to discuss how things would be divided, how we would file taxes, etc. We were still getting along and in April 2017, I asked him if he planned on dating. The papers were signed and we were just waiting for it to be legal (it takes six months in California). He adamantly told me he had no desire to date – he’d have a puppy before he had a girlfriend. I asked if he planned on going on dating apps and he said no, but he was happy we could talk openly about it.

A month later, Aaron joined Tinder and started dating the first girl he matched with. He lied to me about it, reminding me that it was a good decision to end the marriage. Within two months of dating (three weeks after our divorce was final), he moved in with her. On their one year anniversary, he proposed to her in Spain. It was a strange feeling knowing that he could be so good at convincing me that I was destroying him, making me feel so guilty that he’d never be okay without me, only to be perfectly fine within a few short weeks.

I learned how cruel and deceptive people can be. Everyone told me, “Men just move on quicker.” I disagree with that statement and I hate when people normalize it. It’s not healthy to leave a 12-year relationship, one that you say you don’t want to lose because that person is the love of your life, and within such a short amount of time, fall in love with someone else. To me, that means he doesn’t understand what love is. I know people move on at different speeds, but every expert would agree that you need to heal and grieve when a long-term relationship ends.

Aaron and his new fiancé lived one mile away from me in Lakewood and days before I left, I ran into them at the grocery store. There was hardly anybody there, but Aaron quickly walked away and pretended not to see me. I was in shock and kept walking. We hadn’t talked in a year. It’s such a weird feeling knowing that I spent more than a decade with this person who now pretends not to see me. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but it makes it very hard to trust people or to believe things are more than just temporary.

I worried about how I’d feel staying only a few miles away from where I used to live. I had been traveling for more than three and a half months. I felt different and things in my life were different. I no longer had a place to live or a job. Staying with a friend made me feel like I was still on the road, but going to familiar doctor appointments and seeing friends made things feel like old times.

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Once I hit the northern part of Los Angeles, the insane traffic began. It reminded me of one of the reasons I never wanted to live there again. I sat in stop-and-go traffic for two hours to get to Long Beach. I missed my open roads. It was bizarre to be excited to be “home,” but also sad to be back.

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Day 62: Sadness in Anchorage

I checked into my Airbnb around 10:00 pm and followed the directions to get inside. I climbed the stairs outside and took my shoes off at the landing. The house had three stories: the top floor where the owners live, the lower level with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom, and the basement level floor with two more rented rooms and a shared bathroom.

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I got settled into my room and went to sleep feeling happy and content. The few days prior to arriving in Anchorage were wonderful, fun, encouraging, and beautiful. They were also tiring. I didn’t get much sleep and I was starting to get a cold. I took some cold medicine and tried to let myself sleep in the next day, but I still woke up after about seven hours. I laid around and got some things done like writing reviews of my recent Airbnb stays.

After a few hours, I headed to Target to do some shopping. I talked with my sister while sipping on my Starbucks latte. For the first time in a long time, it felt like a regular day that I would have experienced before I started traveling.

After Target, I headed to Subway to grab a sandwich. The music playing was a country song I had heard many times on the radio station in Fairbanks. It goes “sunrise, sunburn, sunset, repeat.” It was so noticeable to me because you never hear country music playing in Los Angeles. But I had heard this song so much in the last week, I actually recognized it.

I got back to my room at the Airbnb, ate, and watched Like Father on my iPad mini. A guy I had matched with on Tinder messaged me and asked if I like to watch volleyball because there was a game that night and the following night at the University (my profile mentions volleyball). I asked what time the games were and he said 7:30 pm. I thought about it for awhile because I needed to pay bills and catch up on some work, like writing. I finally showered and messaged him around 6:30 pm asking if he still wanted to go to the game that night. He wrote back around 7:15 pm saying “Oh, I’m sorry Christy! I was just telling you about the game. I came over to my buddies to help him move.” He continued to message, trying to get to know me.

What the heck?! Who does that? I felt like an idiot for thinking he was asking me out. My face literally got flush with embarrassment. But then I got irritated wondering why he would ask me if I liked watching volleyball and then give me the details as far as days and times, but not actually ask me out. That’s pretty crappy. I didn’t respond to his other messages.

My parents called and I talked with them for awhile about their current trip in Colorado. I briefly mentioned that I was on a dating site. My dad started into a rant about what I need to look for in men worth marrying. This really frustrated me. I told my dad I do not plan on getting married again. It cost me significantly, both emotionally and financially, to get out of my marriage. Nobody can ensure their partner will actually be a decent person for decades. My dad was not happy about this and the whole conversation left me feeling incredibly judged and alone.

I want a life partner. I want someone who loves me for me. Not for the person they think I am or for the person they wish I was. I want someone who sees me. My ex-husband never saw me. He didn’t notice anything about me. He didn’t love me. I want someone who actually remembers things about me, asks about my day, asks about things that make me who I am.

I was feeling incredibly lonely. Not just lonely, but completely alone. It’s the feeling that I am not “number one” to anybody. Not a single person in this world puts me first. I am nobody’s “person.” Friends, family – they all have a number one. I am not it. I am somewhere on the list, but will never be number one. There was a pain in my heart knowing I was down on every single list.

I felt sad. And then I felt frustrated. I don’t want to get married again and people can’t seem to understand that, especially my parents. I do want a partner. But there are no guarantees in life. If that person is not who they led me to believe or they change drastically into a terrible person, I want the freedom to get out easily without losing all of my money.

Marriage is one thing in life you cannot control. You can work so hard, do all the right things, and it can still fail. You cannot force your partner to invest in the relationship, and if they don’t, you have two choices. Your first choice is to stay in the marriage, unhappily and hope it gets better. A lot of people do this. I see people all the time who are unhappily married. Your second option is to get a divorce. That’s it. There is not a third option.

This is a bad deal in my eyes. I feel that when people are married, they know they can slack off and their spouse will not divorce them for little things like forgetting a birthday or not helping out around the house. The thing is, all those little things add up. That’s what makes or breaks a relationship. If you’re just dating, people know it’s easier for their partner to end it so they’re more likely to keep investing and be a good partner. Because if not, your partner could easily end it. But with marriage, there’s no such thing as an easy ending.

I was frustrated with the fact that I could have a few amazing days and suddenly feel so sad and lonely. My Myers Briggs personality says my personality type is the type most at home in a relationship and always looking for that life-long partner. It feels like a curse. I am independent and I would rather be alone than be with the wrong person. But yet, I still want that partnership. I want the love, the intimacy, and the adventure. And I don’t have it.

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Day 61: Alyeska Resort

It was a cold, rainy day when I left Homer, Alaska. I was headed to my next Airbnb in Anchorage. The owner said I couldn’t check-in until late that evening and Jerry (my previous host) recommended that I stop at the Alyeska Resort on my way there.

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The bright red fireweed blazed on the side of the road as the clouds hovered among the mountains. I had to pull over a couple of times to soak in the beautiful scenery.

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The Alyeska Resort is a ski resort in Girdwood, a small city about 45 minutes southeast of Anchorage. Being late August, it was pretty dead at the bottom of the mountain. The girl behind the ticket counter told me the tram ticket to get to the top of the mountain would cost $30. Jerry told me to try a famous drink from the restaurant, Seven Glaciers, which was at the top. It’s a AAA, four diamond award-winning restaurant. I had come this far, so I paid the $30 and headed to the top.

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There is a small museum at the top in a circular building and it was closing soon, so I went there first. It displayed photos of when the ski resort was first built and information about the early years of the city.

I walked around a little bit and enjoyed the sprinkling rain. The empty ski lifts disappearing into the fog gave the mountain an eerie feel. The green foliage was so bright it didn’t even look real.

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I walked to the front desk of the fancy restaurant feeling underdressed. The hostess asked if I had a reservation and I told her I did not. She said she had a seat available at the bar and I was happy with that.

The view from my chair was incredible! I asked the bartender about the secret drink Jerry told me about – a drink he couldn’t stop talking about. It’s called the Fizz and they limit how many drinks people can have because of its high alcohol content. The bartender explained that there is only one bartender who makes it, it’s a secret receipt, and he only makes it in the winter.

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I ordered dinner and a different drink, and started talking with the guy next to me. Mike and his friend worked at the restaurant and were there on their day off because they had a wine tasting event. He looked to be around my age and was balding.

Mike asked me what I was doing there and I told I had quit my corporate job, sold my house, and was traveling. He raised his glass to mine and said, “Cheers to midlife crises!” Mike moved to Anchorage two and a half years prior and recently moved to Girdwood. He grew up in various places, but spent a while in Portland before moving to Anchorage.

Mike moved to Alaska to be closer to his sister who lived there with her young children. He wanted to be a “super uncle” and be there for them while they were young. He wasn’t sure if he’d have children down the road.

Mike was very talkative and told me all of this within ten minutes of me meeting him. He got up to use the restroom and told me, “I’ll be right back”. Apparently, we were friends now.

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The bartender was James. Before moving to Alaska three years prior, he lived in Texas, Florida, and New York. He spent six years in the military previously and said he loves Alaska because he can get away from society within an hour.

James used to work at a local distillery, but it went under so he recently got the job at the restaurant. The upcoming winter would be his first ski season there and people told him it will get very busy then.

The restaurant is called Seven Glaciers because you can see seven glaciers through the 360° windows. With the clouds looming around, I could only see three. I didn’t mind though, I was enjoying the cold, wet vibe.

The dinner was incredible and worthy of the reputation. I decided to treat myself to dessert and ordered another drink.

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Mike and his friend left and a couple sat in their seats – Sue and her husband Dave. They appeared to be in their 50s and had a classy edge to them. Sue had spikey salt and pepper hair, and Dave had long gray hair in a ponytail.

Sue sells Rodan and Fields (a skincare company) and we bonded over their products because I use them. Sue also writes for a local newspaper about local events happening, musicians, and artists. They moved to Anchorage 12 years prior for Dave’s job in the oil industry. He knew of the company I worked for previously and said when he started there, the first thing he was introduced to was our signature “Big Yellow Book” filled with industrial supplies.

Sue and Dave were at the restaurant celebrating their anniversary and they seemed happily in love and flirtatious. We talked about all sorts of things, but then they mentioned the bar in Dawson City that has the drink with a toe inside. I laughed so hard because another couple had told me about that bar and the story of the toe-laden drink. Sue told me how a few of the toes have been lost/stolen/drank over the years so they’ve had to get new ones. The toe sits inside the glass and your lips have to touch it. So gross!

Sue and Dave were a blast to talk with and their energy was so much fun. They were encouraging of me traveling on my own and seemed genuinely happy that I was on this adventure. Their table was ready so they left and shortly after I decided to leave and make my way to Anchorage before it got too late. While I was waiting at the top for the tram, the guy in his 20s working it got off when it arrived and said he’d be right back.

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Five minutes later, he came running back to take me and two other people to the bottom. He said to me, “Dave and Sue told me to tell you to be proud.” I explained to him that it was regarding my travel adventures. He told me that they all play in a band together sometimes and he ran inside to get a key from them. He had recently bought a 1965 Dodge truck for $500 site unseen. It had a wooden camper on top of it, and it had been sitting at Dave and Sue’s condo in Girdwood. The side mirror fell off on the highway, the windshield wiper fell off at some point, and when he opened the driver’s side door, the handle fell off! He said he could get inside by crawling in from in the passenger side. He said, “Maybe I’ll put it on Airbnb!”

This guy was enthusiastic and told me how he’d love to just travel in it, but he has things tying him down. He planned to use the truck for local trips instead. We arrived at the bottom of the mountain and as we said our goodbyes, he high-fived me and said, “Good luck with your trip!”

I got into my car feeling amazing. I had just finished a wonderful trip in Homer and my time at the restaurant kept up the positive momentum. Dave and Sue were so fun and unique. I felt so honored that they mentioned me to their friend and said I should feel proud. They made me feel confident and supported, even though we had only met briefly. I couldn’t wait for what else was in store for me.

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Day 32: Train Ride to Portland

I had another appointment in Portland for the nasal balloon clearing, but rather than spend time in traffic and spend money on gas, I took the train. I love taking trains in Europe because they are so fun! They have giant windows to see the scenery, little restaurants, and are usually pretty comfortable. Trains are not nearly as common in the US, but I figured it must still be a fun experience. Plus, it would give me time to write on my blog.

Arriving to the train station by Uber, I got my seat assignment at the counter and headed to the train. My seat was on the aisle and the large middle-aged woman in the window seat was not happy when she realized I needed to sit down and she’d have to move all of her stuff that was occupying my seat. She huffed and puffed as she slowly started to move stuff.

This did not seem like a woman I wanted to sit next to and I had about five minutes before the train would leave, so I went back out to the counter and asked for another seat. They gave me a window seat several rows away from that woman, which was fine with me.

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Shortly after the train took off, the café opened for breakfast. The café was about six cars away from mine so I headed there, with my purse and laptop bag in tow. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and a coffee, and a long line formed behind me.

The employee who got my food was frantically getting everything together in the tiny space. While my credit card was processing, I took off the coffee cup lid in anticipation of putting cream and sugar in it. But then the employee grabbed it to put it in a little holder with my sandwich and hot coffee spilled everywhere, including on my sandwich.

Looking at the angry faces of the people waiting in line, I assured the employee she didn’t need to make me another sandwich; the plastic wrap blocked most of the coffee. She said, “Are you sure? I can make you another one.” I responded, “Not a problem. I shouldn’t have taken of the lid. I’m sorry.”

Embarrassed, I carried my little cardboard box with my items, bumping into people with my laptop bag and purse as I squeezed by them to the car with tables.

After eating my sandwich, I pulled out my laptop to start writing. I like to listen to music while I write so I reached for headphones for my iPhone and then remembered that the iPhone 8 plus doesn’t have a normal headphone jack. Curse you iPhone and your stupid headphone jack! I thought. Desperate to have some music, I used my laptop (which has a normal headphone jack) but doesn’t have a lot of music on it.

The train ride was great! The large windows showed the countryside, including passing some beautiful lakes. Just after four hours or so, we arrived in Portland. I started walking to the hostel I had stayed at the week before to see if a package was delivered there after I left.

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The heat was unbearable – 92 degrees with a real feel of 97 degrees. On the way, I decided to call my doctor to have them track the shipment. It turned out that it hadn’t even shipped. I asked them to cancel the order and stopped walking towards the hostel.

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Sidewalk Views in Portland

I still had a couple of hours to kill before my appointment, so I found a restaurant/bar called Cider Bite. It has a lot of ciders, which I love. I patiently waited for them to open at 4:00pm and walked in as soon as they opened the doors.

It was a small, narrow place. I headed towards the back, by the bar, and sat at a table while the waitress told me about the flights they offer. Sitting at the bar was another female, in her 30s. I thought, Another single female, really? You go girl. Everywhere I went, if someone was alone, it was a male. Every. Single. Time. I wondered what her story was, why she was alone.

Across from my table, a man filled out an application while another man in his late 30s was explaining the position to him. Then the man walked to the bar and started talking with the bartender/waitress about getting some things done around the place. I figured he must be the owner. There was nobody else in the place – probably because it was 4:00 pm.

I ordered a flight of ciders and a tuna sandwich. About 40 minutes later, a man showed up, kissed the woman at the bar, and sat next to her. Oh man, she wasn’t solo after all. She was just waiting for someone to arrive.

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I finished eating and asked for the bill and the owner brought the machine for me to pay. I gave him my card and we started talking, and talking, and talking some more. I told him I had been traveling and was actually staying in Seattle, but came back to Portland for a day for an appointment.

We talked about Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles. The man talked about the droughts and how absurd it is that Las Vegas keeps growing, even though they don’t have any water. Then he bashed southern California for its water usage. I explained to him that while I agree that southern California is becoming unlivable (um, that’s why I sold my house), the state also has ridiculous policies making things worse – like not building a new reservoir in decades, even though the population has grown substantially over that same time period.

We agreed that the American dream is dying. Many places have become so unaffordable, people are working to just pay rent. He said he’s thought about selling his condo in Portland because the housing market was doing so well, but then he’d have nowhere to live. I replied, “You could live nowhere, like me.”

The man asked how I liked Portland and I told him I really liked it – it has character. Seattle felt more like a min-Los Angeles. He said he didn’t care much for California – Los Angeles has a stereotype of the “blonde bimbos” and San Francisco has a stereotype that everyone works in Tech.  Slightly offended, I said, “Yeah, everywhere has a stereotype. Take Portland for example, there’s the stereotype that everyone is a weird hippy.”

I was really enjoying our conversation but my anxiety was setting in as I didn’t know the time and was afraid I’d be late for my appointment. I didn’t want to look at the time and give the impression I wasn’t interested in talking with him. I mean, he was also pretty attractive and around my age.

Finally, I looked at my phone to see the time and realized I had about five minutes to get to my appointment, 15 minutes away. I grabbed my purse and stood up and said I needed to be somewhere. We agreed it was great talking to each other and I gave him my card.

I ordered an Uber and realized we had talked for about 40 minutes! But it was ok. That is the main reason I like traveling – meeting new people.

Thankfully I was still able to get to my appointment and the doctor was running late anyway. The student doctor took all my vitals and he was fascinated by my slow heartbeat. He asked if he could use the stethoscope to listen and I said sure. He said, “Wow, I keep questioning whether I’m even hearing it. It’s so faint.”

My train back to Seattle was leaving soon and it was the last train that evening. The student doctor said they might have to reschedule because the procedure will take some time. I pleaded with them to hurry and do it because I had come all the way from Seattle and needed to catch that train.

The doctor came in, did the procedure, and I rushed out the door to get a Lyft. The Lyft driver took a route that the GPS did not suggest and took us right through downtown. My anxiety increased with each red light we hit – which was basically every light.

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I jumped out of the Lyft, ran into the train station and the overhead announcement said, “30 seconds to last boarding on the 408 to Seattle.” I ran to the podium to check-in and get my seat assignment. As I was pulling up the email with the confirmation number, a man in his 40s, about 5’9” with dark blonde hair, raced up next to me.

The employee asked, “Are you two together?”

Man in an English accent, “Well, not yet.”

We all laughed.

Man, “Sorry, that was totally inappropriate.”

The employee found the man’s seat assignment and said, “Business Class, here you go.”

Me, “Oh, I’m coach.”

Employee, “Well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

We both raced off to our trains – me in coach and him in business class. I sighed to

myself, I used to be able to afford business class.

 

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Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 30: Sightseeing in Seattle, WA

Visiting a city like Seattle means going to a lot of tourist sites. The city felt like a mini-Los Angeles due to the amount of people there. Being the largest city in the state of Washington and in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has a population of 725,000 people. The metro area, however, has 3.87 million. As one of the fastest growing cities, it’s the 15th largest city in the US.

In addition to the amount of people located there, the city has a lot of tourist attractions – such as The Public Market, the original Starbucks, and the Aquarium. They also offer harbor boat tours. You can buy a “city pass” and get a discounted price for the top attractions.

I headed downtown, after making a quick stop at a park that Aaron (the guy I had met the day before) told me about. Parking in downtown proved to be as bad as most major cities in the US. The parking garages were around $25. Now that I’m unemployed, that seemed too expensive, so I searched and searched for parking. In addition, the garages had low clearances around 6’8”. With my roof-top cargo unit on top, I was pretty sure my car wouldn’t fit. I think I needed around two more inches.

I eventually found parking on the street, but it had a three-hour time limit. I walked to the original Starbucks, but there was a line of about 70 people. It was hot outside and standing in line didn’t seem worth it. I continued on and made it to the Aquarium.

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My friend Trudy who lives in St. Louis was visiting the aquarium with her family that day. I joined them as we watched the seals, fish, and penguins swim around. It was nice seeing her kids’ reactions to each exhibit.

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After the aquarium, I walked back to my car to put more money into the meter, then walked to the Public Market. This is the famous outdoor market that you probably think of when you think about Seattle. Opening in 1907, it’s one of the oldest public farmers’ markets in the US. I walked around and resisted the temptation to buy anything. Getting into minimalism and not having a house to go back to help with the desire not to purchase anything.

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Living up to its reputation, I watched vendors do a little show where they threw fish to each other. The overall atmosphere was great – although hot. I ate a fresh-caught salmon sandwich at a bar stool at one of the vendors and people-watched.

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On my way back to the car, I stopped back at the original Starbucks. This time the line only had about 25 people so I joined them. However, the line slowly moved as I continued to bake in the sun. After what felt like an eternity, I made it to the inside of the store – which only made me angry. The line was worse inside because people were all spread out and others waiting for drinks. I saw the merchandise on the wall that customers could buy to prove they had made it to the original Starbucks. I took a picture of a plaque, realized I didn’t need a souvenir, and I’d only end up ordering a regular Starbucks drink, and left.

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Minimalism teaches people how not to consume just because society expects you to. The reality is that if I bought a souvenir cup, it would have sat in one of my bags, making it even harder for me to carry everything around. It’s also not something that would bring me joy, so I passed.

I’m not against buying souvenirs, by the way. But when I cleaned out my house, I saw a box full of little souvenirs from when I went to Europe. I bought limited items while there, but still ended up with a box of stuff – sitting in my closet. Considering I no longer have a closet, I’m trying really hard to resist buying those things that are “so cute!” or the things that are “a unique representation of that city.” Honestly, most souvenirs are made in China and aren’t actually made locally. Anyway, in my attempt to reduce my consumption, I walked away from that Starbucks empty-handed – and it felt good.

I put more money into the parking meter where I parked, calculating how much I paid in that stupid machine (in an attempt to not pay $25 for parking). I think I ended up paying around $18. I absolutely hate paying for parking because it feels like such a waste of money. The bigger issue, however, was the low clearance of the garages. I decided that I’d take an Uber Pool next time I came downtown.

The city pass that I purchased included a harbor cruise so I walked down to the dock to board. I sat on the top and enjoyed the breeze. The hour-long cruise showed off all of the high-rises and the Space Needle.

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I learned a little more about the city, see the giant barges up close in the port, and watch as the sun started to set behind the ocean. It was a perfect way to end the day.

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Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

 

 

Days 22-24: Summary of Portland, Oregon

I spent that Sunday writing for my blog and hanging out at the hostel. The day after that I went to The Grotto. It’s a Catholic place for peace, prayer, and reflection. Being a Monday, the place was mostly empty. There is an elevator on the side of the steep mountain that takes you to the top. I wandered the property, admired the grounds, and sat in silence and said some prayers to God.

After the Grotto, I met my friend Justin again at the hostel. We walked down to a restaurant and sat on the rooftop patio. The entire week that I was in Portland it was blazing hot. It reached 100 degrees one day. The patio was nice, but there wasn’t a breeze so I started to sweat. We had a couple of beers and some pizza. We had a great time talking about politics and life. Justin’s girlfriend got off work and joined us later but we had already finished eating. We stuck around a little while longer so she could also eat some food. They told me about their recent camping experience and showed me the battle wounds from the mosquitos that attacked them.

After dinner, Justin walked back with me to the hostel so he could get his bike that he left there. We talked about the new movie that was in theaters, Leave No Trace. The movie is based in Forest Park (where I hiked a few days before) and it was filmed there. I decided to go see the movie at a local artsy theatre near the hostel.

I bought my ticket at the window outside and the guy selling the ticket was really friendly and we chatted briefly. I went to the concession stand and ordered some milk duds and a cider.

The guy behind the counter said, “You want to pull out your cavities huh?”

I laughed, “They force me to eat slowly.”

He said, “I like your necklace. It goes really well with your shirt.”

I responded, “Why, thank you. This is the shirt I always wear it with.”

Every single time I wear that shirt and necklace together, I get a compliment about the necklace, mostly from men. Those small interactions made me feel so good. I sat in the theater waiting for the movie to start and thought to myself, “I’m back. This is the Christy that I know – the Christy that has friendly conversation with strangers.” It had been a rocky few weeks as I tried to find my place in my new world of traveling. Something kept being off. I didn’t feel like myself most of the time. This made me feel like me. I felt happy to hang out with a friend, happy to see a movie, and my energy was positive – inviting others to talk to me.

Around noon the next day, I headed to my car, which was parked across the street from the hostel, in hopes of doing more sightseeing. When I closed my door, I felt a draft. I turned around and discovered that my rear passenger window was smashed! I got out and looked around and the glass was shattered inside the car and on the pavement. I’d never had my car broken into before and it felt horrible. I was worried about what was taken because I still had some bags, including my checkbook, in the trunk that was only covered with the trunk cover.

Thankfully, it appeared everything was still there. I was so furious because the hostel warned me about car break-ins in the area. It’s a nice area, but the homeless problem is bad in Portland and so are car break-ins. The hostel employees recommended that I empty my car so I had taken out almost everything. I figured the stuff in my trunk was covered. In the back seat, I only had a case of water bottles, and a bag full of books. I put a black picnic blanket over the books that sat on the floor behind the driver’s seat because the blanket blended in with my upholstery.

Unfortunately, that made it look like I was hiding something. It appears the criminal lifted up the blanket, saw it was books, and took off (likely disappointed). I’m assuming my alarm scared them off as well.

I had no idea how long the window had been broken and it felt like such a violation. I’m super diligent about locking my doors and not leaving valuables in my car or in plain sight. I go out of my way to try to make sure this doesn’t happen.

I called the police but was on hold for over 15 minutes. While I waited, I saw there was a form you can fill out online so I started to complete it. When a guy finally answered, he said he could send an officer out but it would take about an hour. I asked if there was a difference in filling out the report online and the guy said no but if there is video footage, the officer would review the footage with me to see if I could identify the person. Considering I don’t live in Portland, I knew I wouldn’t be able to identify anyone, and there likely wasn’t any footage.

I filled out the report online even though I know the police were not actually going to look for the criminal. It’s not a top priority for them. I still filed a report because I wanted their crime stats to reflect the terrible amount of break-ins.

I called my car insurance company and they put me on a three-way call with a local glass repair shop. The cost to replace the window was $255 and my deductible was $500 so I decided not to go through insurance. Thankfully, the local repair shop ordered my window in the last-minute for a same-day repair. I ate lunch and an hour later, took my car to the shop.

There was a middle-aged guy getting his window repaired from an attempted break-in. He travels between Portland and Seattle a lot for work and said this is the second time this has happened to him in three years in Portland. This time his car was parked in a parking garage. I figured the window repair shops must make a killing there because of all of the break-ins. However, the woman at the shop said business hadn’t been as good this year. I wondered, “What if window repair shops are the ones breaking windows, or hiring people to break windows? That’s how they get all their customers.” I know, I’m a conspiracy theorist. But it is unfortunate that when crime is high, their business is doing well.

While we waited for our cars to be repaired, the guy told me about Portland and Seattle. He said in Seattle, the homelessness problem has gotten so bad that the city spends 50 million dollars a year to combat the problem. Recently, the city asked for another 50 million from taxpayers. The citizens pushed back and asked how the city was spending the money. They finally put together some data and said they helped 5,000 people. But the guy in the shop told me that’s too much money to help only 5,000 people. Plus, the city didn’t say how many of those 5,000 people relapsed back into homelessness. The problem is that their programs require that people stay off drugs and alcohol. If people don’t abide by that, they go back on the streets.

It was frustrating to hear that car break-ins are the norm in Portland. It felt like the police don’t care and just accept that it’s going to happen. I got my window repaired but the fear that my car would get broken into has made me paranoid since. I also started to notice shattered glass on the side of the street and on sidewalks. That’s how often it happens.

Since my day was ruined for sightseeing, I decided to take care of errands. I went to the post office to mail a book back to a friend, and went to Chase to see what sort of options they have available for investing. I met a banker named Michelle. She is in her late 20s to early 30s. She was beautiful with long black hair that had big curls, her nails were done, and she was nicely dressed. After quickly discussing my options (which were really to find somewhere else to invest) we talked about life. I told her about my travels and selling my house. She told me that she was divorced and has a little girl around five years old. Her daughter told her recently that she was boring. We laughed at the bluntness of children. After that comment, Michelle started doing little trips with her daughter and going on adventures.

Michelle and I also talked about dating. She had been dating a guy and she was afraid he’ll want to move in. She said, “I’m perfectly happy living apart. I realized it’s so much easier to clean up after just me and my daughter. Not having a messy husband to clean up after is nice.” We talked about how we’d both prefer not to be married again. She very much enjoys having a partner, but also having her own space. It was nice talking to her and having some “girl talk”.

That evening I decided to try ice cream from Salt and Straw. I tried to go a few days prior but the line was too long. I got lucky and the line was only about 15 people long this time. On the walk there, I passed a homeless man. He was thin with a white beard, sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk. He had lots of change sitting in front of him, sorted in stacks (pennies together, nickels together, etc). He asked for change and I said I didn’t have any.

I kept thinking about that man as I waited in the ice cream line. How he valued every penny he had, all sorted and stacked in front of him. I couldn’t get him out of my head. I’m always torn when it comes to giving to homeless people but if I’m feeling like I should give, then I do. I think it’s God’s nudge to help the person. I decided that since I broke a $10 bill for the ice cream, I’d give him $3. I saw a video recently about homeless people and most of them said they just want to be seen – to be noticed as a human being. Someone looking them in the eye was a big deal. I walked back by the man, looked him in the eye, and gave him the $3. He looked up at me with sweet, kind, and surprised eyes. He said “Thank you” and I kept on walking.

The following day I had to check out of the hostel but I drove to the arboretum before leaving town. I had wanted to see all the trees there but the day before was ruined. Since I had checked out of the hostel, my car was full of all of my stuff, including my expensive electronics. When I parked my car, there was a sign warning me about leaving valuables in the car. I only walked around the arboretum for about 20 minutes and I couldn’t enjoy it. All I could think about was what if someone broke into my car, my brand new, very expensive laptop and all my electronics (like my camcorder) were on the backseat because my trunk was full. If someone broke the window again, they could easily get those items. I went back to the car and decided the arboretum would have wait until another day.

I made one final stop on the way out of Portland, the Pittock Mansion. Again, there was a sign about taking valuable out of your car.

Thankfully, I found a parking spot near the front entrance and felt that if I hurried through, I could see the outside of the mansion quickly and get back to my car. I was lucky and the guy working there let me see the inside of the ground keeper’s quarters, even though I didn’t have a ticket. I saw an amazing view of the city and then headed back to my car.

All was safe and sound and I decided to hit the road and head to Whidbey Island, WA. I really enjoyed my time in Portland but it was time to keep heading north.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 8: Friends in Bend

The nice thing about staying in motels or hotels vs Airbnb’s is that they usually offer breakfast. I enjoyed a pretty typical American continental breakfast and headed towards a hiking trail I had found on an app, AllTrails.

The trail was a 30-minute drive west of Bend. I pulled down the gravel road and remembered it was a Saturday because the small parking lot was full of cars. Cars also lined the sides of the road, parking wherever they could find enough space halfway into the shrubs and halfway into the road.

I found a spot on the side of the road and headed towards the trailhead. There were a few different trails so at least it wasn’t crazy crowded on each trail. Originally, I had wanted to go all the way to the top, where there is a lake called “unnamed lake”. The pictures online looked amazing but the road that takes you closer was shut down because it wasn’t maintained. That means you have to hike even further. It would definitely be an all-day affair and pretty exhausting. I wasn’t sure I was prepared for that so I stuck to about 6 miles.

Right away, the trail took me to a beautiful lake. An older couple asked that I take their picture so I obliged. I noticed they were mostly just walking from their car to this point of the lake to take a picture. It was only about a 15-minute walk from the parking lot and there were picnic tables under the trees.

I continued on the trail around the lake and was surrounded by orange butterflies everywhere. They were sitting on the trail, swirling around the trail, and swirling around me. They were so peaceful but sometimes it was hard to walk down the path because they didn’t want to move.

As I circled around the lake, I saw lots of people where the trees opened up. They had blankets and were lounging and eating. This is definitely why it was so crowded in the parking lot. It’s an easy hike to get to the end of the lake and people just chill there. To continue on the trail, however, there were wooden boards on the ground because it was swampy. A couple of times I had to maneuver around and sort of sank a little in the mud.

Once I made it around the lake, I hiked up the side of the mountain a little so I got more of a workout.

I went back to the motel and showered so I could meet Sarah’s friend, Bethany. My friend Sarah had put us in touch through Instagram and we agreed to meet up that evening. I met Bethany, her husband, and their two children (around ages three and five). We met at a really cool place that has food trucks, some picnic tables, and an indoor/outdoor bar.

It was great meeting Bethany and her family. We ordered some beer and sat outside in the warm sun. Bethany is someone I would totally be friends with back home. She was nice, smart, friendly, and loves the outdoors. Her husband is a nurse at the local hospital and Bethany is able to work from home. Her husband’s family lives in Bend and her mom recently moved up there too. They described Bend as a great place to live but housing is pretty expensive. This is partly because the city put in restrictions for building more houses. They don’t want it to become too big and ruin the reason many people like living there – its proximity to nature. Jobs are sometimes hard to come by there too.

Bethany’s two little boys played around the area and played with some of the outdoor games that were provided. We grabbed some food from the trucks and continued to hang out. It’s funny, I had just met these people, but they felt like people I had been friends with for a long time. I was very grateful that Sarah introduced us. Until this point, I had been completely alone in my travels and hadn’t really met anybody. Hanging out with them drinking some beer made me feel like me again. I needed that comfort and I’m incredibly grateful they were willing to meet up with a complete stranger.

The next morning, I met my friend Mandy for breakfast. I had originally met Mandy two years prior while on a training hike in Orange County, CA. I had my huge backpack on because it was my last hike before leaving to hike the John Muir Trail. Mandy also had a big backpack because she was training for the Trans Catalina Trail. She was so friendly and we had hiked together for about 20 minutes – until she had to take a different route. I friended her on Facebook after that and we had only interacted through Facebook in the last two years.

Mandy had recently finished school as an x-ray technician and moved to Bend after hearing about how beautiful it was. I met Mandy at a local café in Bend and we got in a long line to order some food. We were catching up about my trip and why I had decided to do this. When we got to the register to order our food, Mandy told the woman behind the register that I quit my job and I’m traveling the world. I was surprised at how excited the woman was and said that was her dream. I handed her the business card I created with my blog information and said “If you’d like to follow along, here you go?” I was surprised by her enthusiasm, “Yes, absolutely, I want to follow along.” That really pumped me up.

As Mandy and I caught up over breakfast, I told her how surprised I was that Oregon so far was very rural and did not seem like the stories you hear on the news about Portland. It seemed more like rural towns in the Midwest. She said that’s because Portland and Eugene are liberal but most of the state outside of those two cities is conservative. Mandy told me that when her new landlord saw her girlfriend come over, they suddenly started to say there were rules for how often she can have guests over. I felt bad for her. She’s one of the nicest people I know so to have people treat her poorly because of her sexual orientation made me frustrated.

During breakfast, Mandy told me that she had planned a 4-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Forest with a friend from Orange County. Her friend was flying in and they were going to drive up to the rainforest. She had it all mapped out and would hike about 16 miles to the Enchanted Valley and 16 miles back. She invited me to come along. I was torn because on one hand, I did have all of my backpacking gear and I wanted to see the forests in Washington state. On the other hand, I would have to go to Washington and then backtrack to Oregon to see Portland. I had also just booked the hostel in Portland for a week since they were filling up as this was their busy season. I wanted to stay somewhere for at least a week because staying 2 nights in places was exhausting. By the time I unloaded and got settled and then also researched what to do, there just wasn’t enough time to see the place. I wanted to feel a little more settled. I would need to move my reservation at the hostel if I went with them so I told Mandy I’d think about it and get back to her. After breakfast, she headed to work and I headed to Hood River.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 4: Alone in Roseburg, Oregon

The drive from Klamath Falls to Roseburg took around three hours and winded through the tree-filled mountains. There were barely any cars on the road so I was able to drive in peace, not worrying that I was driving too slow around the corners and hills.

I stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and a guy came running out to pump my gas. This was the strangest thing to experience in Oregon. It’s against the law to pump your own gas. I felt so awkward handing him my credit card and just hanging out while he started to pump my gas so I ran to the restroom.

I arrived in Roseburg, OR (population 22,000) around 4:00pm. I was staying at an Airbnb in a historic house built in 1890. The hosts were a lesbian couple in their 50’s-60’s and they rent the two bedrooms on the top floor. There was a bathroom upstairs between the two rooms but the shower was downstairs. I arrived and met Victoria, who was a cheerful woman with short grey curly hair. She was friendly and showed me around a little.

We had to walk through the living room to get to the stairs, which was closed off by a wooden sliding door. We walked up the old, creaky stairs and down the hallway with a railing overlooking the stairs. My room was on the left and had slanted ceilings since it was more like the attic. The room was large and I helped Victoria put on clean sheets. There was a coffee pot, an AC unit in the window, two closets, and a little table with two chairs.

As I brought in my largest suitcase first, Victoria’s partner said “Wow, that’s a large suitcase”. Embarrassed, I tried my best to carry it up the narrow stairway without bumping into the walls. I still hadn’t sorted through my luggage, so it took around four trips again to carry it all up.

I turned on the AC since all the luggage had made me sweat and I opened up my Coffee Meets Bagel dating app. I had been on the app the year before for a few months but deactivated my account 6 months prior because it was making me feel bad about myself. Guys would connect with me and either not communicate at all or would chit-chat through the app for a couple of days and disappear. Now that I was traveling and feeling lonely, I decided that maybe I could meet someone along my travels. At the very least, it could be an adventure. I had set my location to Portland, OR hoping that there would be more people there and I’d be there in about a week.

I was pleasantly surprised by the matches and the number of guys who had “liked” me. I was always told dating in Los Angeles is terrible and it’s true. You see, guys are surrounded by beautiful models and actresses. Their standards for perfection are ridiculous and they always think there must be someone even better out there. Last year, Coffee Meets Bagel listed four cities with top awards, like ‘’the chattiest city” and “the friendliest city”. Los Angeles received the “pickiest city” award. Literally. More people passed on profiles than any other city. The city of models got passed on the most. The perception that “there’s always someone better” is strong and alive in Los Angeles.

Back to my Portland picks. I connected with a few guys and was hopeful that maybe I could meet someone. Then it was time to get dinner. Victoria gave me a few recommendations and I chose a Greek restaurant. I was seated near the kitchen and noticed a large family group of about 15 people in the middle of the restaurant. To the sides of the room were two males, sitting alone. Once again, I get strange looks since I’m always the only female eating alone.

It’s funny because when I was in college, I once went to a Denny’s alone late at night. This was in a small town in Missouri in 1999. I was terrified going in alone but I wanted somewhere to journal and get a quick bit to eat. I had to give myself a pep talk before convincing myself it was ok to go in alone. It went something like this, “You can do this. Nobody will even notice you. Why do we live in a society that makes it socially unacceptable to eat alone at a restaurant? We need to break this perception. It’s fine. You can do this.” No joke, I literally pumped myself up in the car and finally worked up the courage to go inside.

When I was 23 and had just moved to California, I wanted to go see a movie but I had nobody to go with me. I had to do a similar pump-up conversation about how it’s ridiculous that we can’t feel comfortable going to a movie alone. I sat in the theater, waiting for it to begin, desperately hoping the movie would start soon because I felt so exposed sitting alone with the lights on. This was before smart phones, so there was nothing to distract me. I was so embarrassed that I would keep looking at my phone to “see if I got a message from my friend about where I was sitting” and would look at people coming in the theater. You know, to “see if my friend would see where I’m sitting”. It was very hard to sit there, alone, as groups of friends filled the theater. Then the movie started and the theater got dark, which made me forget I was alone.

Last year I traveled to Scandinavia by myself and felt completely comfortable eating alone, doing tours alone, and discovering new things alone. I actually came to love it. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t feel embarrassed most of the time (no need for pep talks) but that was partly because it was overseas. For some reason, it felt easier since obviously I would never see those people again. And Scandinavia felt more cosmopolitan and open to things like women traveling alone.

In the United States, I still sometimes struggle being alone. I don’t need pep talks because I focus more on the enjoyment of what I’m partaking in. But sometimes I feel like people are staring at me, or I get bored not being able to have a conversation with someone. But overall, it’s freeing to do things on your own. If you’re on the fence, I encourage you to try it. Even if you need to give yourself a pep talk.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 2: Driving to Klamath Falls, Oregon

I left Merced, CA and headed to Sacramento, CA. I’ve only driven through Sacramento once before and never stopped. I wanted to see a little bit of the city so I decided to stop for lunch. I found a place on Yelp that had good reviews in the downtown area. When I walked in, it was like walking into a familiar place – a place that has quality food, is a little pricey, and cares about customer satisfaction. It felt like my previous life, the life before crappy 2-star hotels.

I sat at the bar, a few bar stools away from a guy who was around my age. Across the bar was another guy, but he was about 15 years older. Why is it that every time there is a someone eating alone, it’s a male? I purposely sat somewhat close to the guy around my age because I thought maybe we would strike up conversation. We glanced at each other but then returned to doing our own thing. When people first glance at me, I get the sense that they think “Is she alone? WHY is she alone?”. They look at me with this peculiar look. The bartender did it too. But after her peculiar look, she looked happy to see me alone. I get this from women fairly often. It’s like a “Yeah, you’re doing this alone! Go you!”. I always appreciate those looks.

It was close to 2:00pm so it wasn’t very crowded, but I could tell this was a place that was a popping during peak hours. I ordered a pizza that had shrimp on it, and a glass of white wine. It was so delicious and made me feel more comfortable, like my old self because I was used to eating in nicer places with quality ingredients. It’s funny, in general, I’m a very frugal person. When I make an expensive purchase, I do a lot of research to make sure I’m getting a good deal. I’m not afraid of asking for a discount or using coupons. I don’t spend money on things I think are frivolous. But there are certain things, like quality food, that I’ve become accustomed to. Sure, my bill was $28 for lunch (with tip), but I justified it because it was quality food and wine, filled me up, and in that moment, I needed it for my sanity – to feel like me again.

After lunch, I continued to head towards Klamath Falls, OR. When I had installed the roof-top cargo to my car days before, the guy who helped me told me about Klamath Falls and said it had great hiking. I didn’t know anything else about it. I had never been north of Sacramento before (on the west coast).

As I drove through northern California, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! There are mountains, giant green trees, and crystal blue lakes! The drive was so breathtaking, I forgot how long I had been driving.

I came across a small town called Weed. As I passed through Weed, I saw a little souvenir shop that was capitalizing on their town’s name. Smart.

Just as I passed through Weed at the base of Mt. Shasta, I saw a sign for a Living Memorial Sculpture park. The sign came out of nowhere as I was started to climb up a large mountain. There were virtually no cars around and it was 6:30pm. I pulled my car over and decided to go check it out so I flipped a U-turn. After all, isn’t that what random road-tripping is all about? Stopping spontaneously at places you see signs for?

I pulled into the gravel parking lot and there weren’t any cars around. Well, there was one empty car, under a tree off to the side. I parked my car and walked over to a monument. It had an American flag on top with lots of names of veterans. Then I saw a little wooden sign post with some fliers near the entrance to the large parking lot so I drove over to grab one. This sculpture garden is “A place to remember. A place to Mend” and said “Dedicated to Veterans of all conflicts”.

To get to the sculptures, you drive your car down a one-lane gravel road. I parked my car when I got to a circle, which had 6 different little trails you walk down to see each sculpture. I was literally the only person around and the sun was brightly shining down, starting to set. There was a postcard perfect snow-capped mountain in the background.

I walked to each sculpture and there was a beauty in the emotions that each one displayed. This artist has a way of invoking emotion through tall, sharp, metal. The tragedy of war is seen through the sculptures, and it made me feel for the soul of the solider and their families.

The artist is Dennis Smith, a Vietnam War Marine Corps sergeant. He has said, “Each sculpture has personal meaning for me in terms of life experience and personal incidents. Through the arts we have the means to peacefully consider violence and to ask questions as well as to offer possible solutions.”

Here are a few of my favorites.

“The Greatest Generation”

“Those Left Behind”

“The Why Group”

“Korean War Veteran”

“All Wounded Warriors”

“Coming Home”

After spending some time gazing at these beautiful, emotional sculptures, I continued driving to Klammath Falls, OR. I crossed over to the Oregon border and arrived to the Days Inn around 8:00pm. I checked in for 2 nights and it felt good to rest for a bit and to plan for my next few days.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek