Day 73: Misophonia, Glaciers, and a Familiar Face

I flew into Anchorage just after midnight and grabbed an Uber to my Airbnb. My driver was born and raised in Anchorage and said the “winters aren’t that bad.” He loves it there.

My Airbnb was in the basement level of a house and had its own entrance on the side. It was very dark as I carried my luggage down the wide steps that wrapped around the house. It was a little studio with a lot of space. It was much bigger than what I had experienced the previous few weeks. I was bummed I had only booked two days there.

Early the next morning, I took an Uber to Amanda’s house where my car was being kept. I briefly talked to Amanda, but had to leave to make my car appointment at the Subaru dealership to repair my window.

After waiting for two hours, the dealership told me they wouldn’t have the car finished by the time I needed to leave for the glacier tour I signed up for. I took their shuttle to the visitor center to meet the group.

The tour time was changed to an earlier time, which threw off my day, but they assured me I’d be back to the dealership by 6:00 pm to pick up my car. The tour guide, Bill, was originally from Minnesota. He was in his 60s, had a short white beard, and was wearing a beret and driving gloves. He talked in a tight, raspy voice that almost seemed fake.

Bill was on the phone with his boss about filling up the tour, so he accepted a walk-on guest for cash. It was clear that it was the end of the season because they combined the tours and only offered one that day. In our group, there was a guy in his early 30s from Rhode Island, a girl in her early 30s from San Francisco, two girls from Australia in their 20s, a woman in her 60s, and a girl in her late 20s that we picked up 40 minutes outside of Anchorage. I was really surprised to see so many single travelers.

We all got into the van to head towards the first stop: a glacier about an hour south of Anchorage. I sat in the front seat next to Bill. While I was happy to see the beautiful views on the clear day, Bill kept pointing his finger at things right in front of my face. He was also smacking gum, which was driving me insane. The woman in her 60s sitting behind me was also making some sort of strange noise, like she was sucking her spit through her teeth. I absolutely can’t stand noises like this. It invokes a rage inside of me and I’m unable to focus on anything else. It’s a thing, it’s called Misophonia.

Maybe it was the disgusting sounds, or the fact that the woman kept asking stupid questions while talking over Bill, but I was feeling annoyed by the tour. Bill was clearly not a tour guide, he was basically just a driver. I felt that I could have just driven myself to the glacier and the animal park where we were going. However, it was a beautiful day and I had the opportunity to see Turnagain Arm in clear skies and without having to focus on the road. We stopped a couple of times to see some amazing views.

Bill told us that when it’s low tide, the water sinks back so far that muddy quicksand appears, making the area look unfamiliar everyday. When I drove this road from Homer, it was indeed a completely different experience because it was cloudy and high tide.

We were running ahead of schedule so we stopped at a river where people can view salmon. There’s no fishing allowed so the salmon population can grow. I couldn’t believe how big the salmon were!

On the drive, Bill told us that Alaskans eat more ice cream per capita than anywhere else. Alaskans are proud of this – I had heard it from a few people. Bill told us that Alaskans also have more ATVs, planes, boats, and motorcycles than anywhere else.

We made a quick stop to eat lunch on our own at a cafe near the glacier. Shortly after, we were dropped off to board a boat to see the Portage Glacier.

The guide did a good job telling us about the glacier and the geography of the area. The boat crossed the lake full of melted glacier water and there were giant pieces floating around.

As we got closer to the glacier, it started to look bigger and bigger. It was white and blue with a streak of brown down it from all of the eroding debris that gets trapped.

The boat stopped a few times while we waited to see if a piece would break off into the water. While glaciers are melting globally, they are melting the fastest in Alaska.

We didn’t see any pieces break off, but it was a sight to see. It’s crazy to think that the water in the glacier has been frozen for so many years.

Once the boat returned to the dock, we boarded the van and were taken to a wildlife refuge, where we could explore on our own for an hour. It was a large property and I watched the bears feeding, wolves jumping on a roof, and other animals roaming around.

On the way back to Anchorage, the woman behind me opened a bag of Fritos for all of us to smell and of course chomped on them. We saw several police officers that had pulled over fellow travelers. Bill told us the police will pull people over if they’re holding up five or more vehicles because they’re going too slow. I had seen signs telling people to pull over if they’re holding up five cars – it’s the law. That road is a big tourist road and Bill was happy to see them pulling over tourists who were going too slow. Just then, we watched a police car turn on his lights to pull over another car. Bill told us Alaska was short on police, but 100 new recruits just finished training and they were hiring another 100.

Bill dropped me off at the Subaru dealership at 5:45 pm, just in time to pick up my car before they closed. I drove to downtown Anchorage to meet a friend, Amy, who lives there. She was at a storytelling networking event and welcomed me there. This was a group of people who shared their stories as a form of art.

I enjoyed some appetizers while meeting people who had previously shared their stories. One guy worked at Enron and told a story about espionage. Another guy, Eric, worked at AIG during the collapse and moved to Los Angeles to change careers. He was working as an unpaid intern for a movie studio when he decided to sue them because of their unfair practices. They were basically working people full time for free and calling it an internship. Eric won the case against them, but it lost on appeal. However, movie studios now pay for internships out of fear of lawsuits.

Eric went on to law school and became a lawyer. He was supposed to be in Anchorage for a one-year contract, but now he works for the ACLU and has been in Anchorage for three years. They all joke that Anchorage has a way of pulling people into staying longer.

I also met a woman who had told a story about her divorce and sexual discoveries after it. I wished I had been there when they had originally told their stories, but I was happy I got to hear the summaries.

Once the networking event was over, Amy and I went to another restaurant for dinner on the rooftop. It had been 60℉ that day, but as the sun set it started to feel much colder. The sunset was incredible and I was happy that this was how I was spending my last night in Anchorage.

Amy and I used to work together many years ago. She sat across from me in another department and we had some mutual friends. She left the company long before I did, but through Facebook I was able to get to know her better. It was awesome to catch up in person.

After being married for 13 years, Amy got a divorce. It had been three years since the divorce and we bonded over our similarities. Amy is really smart, thoughtful, and friendly. She moved to Anchorage because that is where her ex-husband is from. She’s stayed because it’s grown on her.

It was late and getting cold, so I took Amy home and then went back to my Airbnb to rest. I am so thankful to know people who live all over the world. It’s really encouraging to see a friendly, familiar face in an unfamiliar land.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider

Days 26-27: Friends on Whidbey Island, Washington

The main reason I decided to stay on Whidbey Island is because my friend Trudy (who lives in Missouri) was vacationing there with her husband, three kids, mom, and sister. Yes, I crashed their family vacation. They rented a cabin off the bay in Coupeville (in Puget Sound), about 25 minutes from where I was staying in Oak Harbor.

Trudy is a couple of years older than me and we’ve been friends for about 22 years. I met her when I was 16 and started my first job – the packaging department of a baby photo company. We interviewed the same day and I remember thinking that she seemed so cool – too cool for me. This was in the mid-1990s and Trudy was wearing overalls, had a short haircut, and was sort of punk rock. I was a very regular teenager and not at all cool.

Trudy and I started work at the same time and ended up becoming friends. Trudy always said what was on her mind, sometimes to a fault. I have always admired her for that. She doesn’t care what others think about her – she does her own thing. Meeting Trudy at age 16 helped shape me by making me feel accepted, and making me ‘try’ to not care what people think of me. We’ve continued to be friends through all these years, which I’m very grateful for. But I will say, she’s really not all that cool after all (love you Trudy!😉).

When I arrived at the cabin Trudy’s family was renting, her kids were looking for clams, and Trudy and her sister, Katie, were kayaking. Her mom and step-dad had some friends over who lived nearby so I was able to tell everyone about my travels.

We spent the afternoon walking along the beach and looking for clams spitting water as the tide receded. Since beginning my trip, this was the first day that it was cloudy and cool, and I was eager to wear a jacket for the first time in months.

Trudy, her daughter Fiona, and myself went to the little nearby grocery store  to get some food. While at the 4-way stop outside of the market, a deer pranced through the intersection as the cars all waited for him to pass. It was pretty funny seeing a deer just like that, right outside the market.

I’ve known Fiona since she was born and now she’s 14 years old. She’s grown to be such a cool, smart, sweet, and fun person. We both enjoy sweets so she was my collaborator to get some desserts into the cart. We laughed and giggled because Trudy eats pretty healthy. It definitely makes me feel old knowing I first met Trudy when she was 18. And here I was, having a blast with her 14-year-old daughter. It’s funny how time works.

The house had a fire pit with some chairs on the sand. Trudy and I sat on the chair (without a fire) and caught up on life. I told her how it was hard traveling alone but it started to get better once I was able to meet up with friends. I couldn’t help but cry a little as I told her about it. But spending time with friends, like Trudy, was really helping.

For dinner, Trudy’s husband cooked up the clams that they all found during the day and made a soup. I gotta admit, the clams were chewy and I don’t think I’ll eat clams again. After dinner, we all played a dice game. It was so much fun! First off, I love board games. I will play anytime someone suggests it. I used to beg my family to play with me when I was a kid. Second, this was a new game for me and it was so much fun to compete with all the family members, even the kids. It was a late night and it all felt so fulfilling. Being around good people, laughing, and getting to know each other better is what life is all about.

The next day I went hiking. The trail started at the lower, north side of Deception Pass. Starting the trail was a little annoying as there were a fair number of tourists taking pictures and having picnics at the tables.

Thankfully, as I continued on the five or so mile hike, I left the tourists behind. I crossed a couple of beaches and made my way around two different parts of land that were almost like islands.

At one point, I got to the top of a ridge and nobody was around. Normally, I’d take a quick break by sitting on a rock and eating a snack. But I remembered that I had a folding chair in my backpack that I had never used. I pulled it out, sat down, and enjoyed a snack in the blazing sunshine. It was warm with a cool breeze. The sun felt so good as it reflected off the ocean. I closed my eyes and soaked up that sun for about an hour.

After the hike, I showered, ate some dinner, and headed back to Trudy’s cabin. It was evening time and the sun was starting to set. At one point, her 12-year old son Vaughn came running inside and said the little boat they used to catch clams, was floating away. Michael, Trudy’s husband, ran outside, jumped into a kayak and started chasing the boat that was indeed floating away. Vaughn also jumped into a Kayak and they frantically went paddling after it.

The tide changes a lot in the evening and they had been out crab fishing earlier in the day and didn’t pull it up far enough from the rising tide.

Apparently, the tide started to take the boat away and it was probably half a mile away – down the beach and a little out towards the open ocean. Michael caught the boat and pulled it to the shore down the beach so he could jump into the boat to paddle it back. Vaughn paddled the kayak back. But then poor Vaughn had to walk back down the beach to get the other kayak.

The whole event was hilarious! We were all really grateful Vaughn noticed the boat disappearing before it was really gone!

That evening, Michael cooked the crabs and they were delicious! The fresh caught crab melted in my mouth after it was dipped in butter.

The next morning, I went to check out of my Airbnb and as I was bringing my bags down to the foyer, Barry (my host) said “Christy, come look at the deer.” Sure enough, in his backyard was a deer and her baby eating the fruit from his trees! It was so cute to watch them enjoy the food and then just jump over the short wooden fence into the next yard.

This whole time I wondered if Barry was divorced, widowed, or married. But then his wife was there, in a robe! We said hello and she talked about a restaurant they own that she couldn’t wait to get rid of and fully retire. I’m not sure where she was for the three days I was there, but it was nice meeting her. She also gave me some great tips of things to see in Seattle. She used to work there four days a week and then live in Oak Harbor the other three days a week.

Before heading out to Seattle, I stopped by to see Trudy and her family for a couple of hours. On one hand, I felt bad that I intruded on their family vacation. On the other hand, I had such a fun time and it felt like quality family time that I really needed.

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

Days 17-18: Discovering Portland, Oregon

I purposely booked nine nights in Portland so that I could take my time exploring the city, get some writing done, and not have to pack/unpack every one-two nights. I needed to get my tire looked at since it kept losing air so I took it to Costco. For $10, they repaired it and removed a hard piece of plastic. While I waited for it to be repaired, I ate at the food court and noticed they had acai berry bowls available and Al Pastor Salads – both items I had not seen at Costco before. You can tell a lot about a city by what the restaurants (including fast food) serve. They cater to their markets.

Around 4:30 pm, my friend Justin met me at the hostel to hang out. I met Justin while hiking the John Muir Trail two years prior; he was the first person I had met on the trail. During the second night of hiking, I was exhausted, and I didn’t know where to set up my tent. He helped me pick out a spot and we chatted the following morning as well. We stayed in touch, messaging every several months or so.

Around 40 years old, thin and fit, with ear-length dark hair (with some grey hair starting to show), Justin is attractive and has a good heart. He works as an engineer and used to be a director at his company until he decided he preferred to have more time outside of work. Years ago, he spent time biking through different countries and camping. He’s a rare mix of business and outdoorsy. Justin has been in Portland for about 13 years and is originally from Pennsylvania. He came to Portland for grad school and stayed. Overall, he enjoys it, but he has to get out of the city every winter for a few weeks and go somewhere that has sun and no rain.

He arrived at the hostel in shorts and a t-shirt, holding a refillable water bottle. He suggested we walk around the city a bit and explore. Justin mentioned there was a rose garden not too far away and we could walk through some trails to get there.

As we walked through the northwest corner of the city towards the park, we caught up on our lives and my recent travels. When we got to the park, the trail was uphill, including many stairs that were covered in trees. It was very hot outside and I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Regretting my decision not to wear shorts, I started sweating right away.

We climbed the stairs and my heart was racing. I have bradycardia, which is a slow heartbeat. I’ve seen a cardiologist a couple of times because it’s usually in the low 40’s (during a 24-hour heart monitor test, it dropped to 38 while I was at work). They determined I have a murmur and it skips, but they can’t do anything to speed up my heart, except put in a pacemaker – and I’m too young for that. For the most part, it’s fine. But when I go up stairs or climb a mountain, my heart starts racing and it gets hard to breathe. It’s like my body doesn’t know what to do with a fast heartbeat. It’s frustrating because I start to breathe heavily, making me look out of shape. I do a lot of cardio to try to help with it but haven’t been able to fix it.

It’s embarrassing and I tried my best to not appear like I was dying. After too many stairs to count, Justin and I arrived at the International Rose Test Garden. It was absolutely worth the climb. Row after row of roses in all colors and sizes were lined up. Justin said we could check out any rose we wanted and we browsed along as we continued to talk – smelling some along the way.

After checking out the rose garden, we headed back towards the downtown area. There is a section of town were food trucks are always ready to serve. We checked out the whole square block and I decided on getting a gyro wrap and Justin got some vegetarian Greek food. We took our food and walked a couple of blocks to a city park. It had a water fountain, tables and chairs, and was pretty much all concrete (except the trees giving some shade).

Justin and I found a table, ate our food, and chatted about the dating scene. Justin and his girlfriend met online three years ago and dated for about six months but then broke up for a while. They started dating again and he recently moved in with her. I told him about my woes of online dating – how guys would match with me and then not message. That in L.A., guys always think they can get someone better because it’s the city of models and actresses. And then there’s the ghosting phenomenon where guys just simply disappear for no reason at all. Justin said when he went on a date with a woman and didn’t feel the chemistry, he’d always tell her instead of ghosting. This confirmed my belief that he’s a good guy. His advice to me for online dating was to be picky and only go on dates with guys who I really liked. The thing is, I think my problem has been that I’m too picky.

We headed back to the hostel around 8:00 pm and continued to have great conversation. Justin had to get home so he headed home after we got back to the hostel. I really enjoyed hanging out with him. It was also nice to have someone show me around the city as a local.

The next day I had an appointment at The National University of Natural Medicine (it is a school of naturopathic medicine) for a nasal balloon clearing. My doctor in L.A. had recommended I go there because my allergies are always so stuffed and I have a deviated septum. My ENT doctor wanted to do surgery to correct the deviated septum but I thought trying this might help clear everything out.

When I arrived at the center, I had to fill out all sorts of paperwork and insurance information. When I left my job, my health insurance ended when I was no longer an employee. With Cobra, you can elect to keep your same insurance plan for up to 18 months, if you pay the premium. I was very lucky to have an employer who paid my premiums 100% so I didn’t even know what the cost was. When I left the company, I found out it would be over $500 a month to keep my plan. I decided to keep it through the end of the year since I had already paid so much into the deductibles. You have 60 days to enroll into the program and I was waiting to receive all the forms in the mail to my parents’ house. During those 60 days, once they receive payment, the insurance plan will continue uninterrupted. However, at that very moment, I was in the beginning of the 60-day window. I knew the insurance would be retroactive and there wouldn’t be a gap in insurance but I was afraid they’d run the card and find out it had technically been cancelled. Thankfully, they accepted my card for the time being.

The naturopathic college has students learning as they practice medicine. A young girl grabbed me from the lobby and did a thorough exam, following everything she was taught. I wasn’t prepared for such thoroughness as I thought this would just be a quick exam. The good news is that I no longer had a job to get back to, so I wasn’t stressed about the time. Normally when I’d go to doctor appointments, the anxiety would set in because I usually needed to get back to work and every minute sitting there waiting on the doctor caused stress. But not working any longer made me much more relaxed.

The student doctor did all her tests and questioned herself when she took my heart rate – 42. When she put it into the computer system, it was flagged with an exclamation mark. This always forces me to explain my slow heart beat and that I’ve seen a cardiologist multiple times and it’s fine.

The doctor came in and went over all the things I could do to improve my allergies to pollen and then said he might not do the procedure because of my deviated septum. What?! I was devastated. I came all that way and was very hopeful for some relief. He was also concerned that my eye doctor had wanted me to follow-up with a neurologist about my blurry vision and fuzzy optical nerves in my eyes, which I had yet to do. I basically pleaded with him to do the procedure and assured him I was fine. He said he’d try to do the side with the deviated septum first because if it was too restricted, he wouldn’t be able to continue.

I laid on the table and he put a device up my nostril and it went through. Then came the part where he shoots a balloon thing up my nose. He described the pressure like going into the deep end of the pool quickly. It lasts about 2 seconds, is painful, and does indeed feel like going into the deep end of the pool. I held my breath and it hurt. It immediately made my eyes water. Now I know why he gave me tissues before we started.

The doctor did the left nostril and it went in perfectly. Then he had to do three different cavities in each nostril. It was a total of four painful shots up the nose on each side. Each time I had to hold my breath, experienced two seconds of pain, and then my eyes watered. On the third one, my ears popped.

Once we were finished, the doctor said, “Good job. You know, doctors are now doing this procedure and putting people under anesthesia.” I can see why. It hurt! But it didn’t last long and my nose was clearer. The doctor said it would be clear that day, but tomorrow would likely get clogged again and then get better a few days later. However, patients need to do this procedure two-three times, spread out over a few weeks. What?! I thought this was a “one and done” type of thing. I told him I would only be in Portland for another week but he was out-of-town the following week. I agreed to come back in two weeks since I’d be in Seattle and it wouldn’t be too far away. As for the third time coming in, that would have to wait until further notice.

I got back to the hostel and watched some episodes of the Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu on my ipad mini. Through the thin wall I could hear a few guys talking in the kitchen. One guy had a southern accent and two guys had Indian accents. Here are parts of the conversation I could hear:

Indian accent: “Do you want a beer?”

Southern accent: “No thanks. 1 beer turns into 15. I can never have just 1.”

Indian accent: “Why are you in Portland?”

Southern accent: “I’m here with my business partner for a seminar.”

Indian accent: “Oh, we’re just here for fun. How old are you?”

Southern accent: “I’m 23. You?”

Indian accent: “Guess”

Southern accent: “24?”

(Laughing)

Indian accent: “No, I’m 32 and have my PHD!”

A little later…

Indian accent: “I also do standup comedy. I’m still trying to find that one perfect white racist joke.”

Shortly after, they all decided to play a card game that was on the bookcase in the kitchen. It made me laugh that I could hear their conversation word for word and they had no idea.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Days 9-11: Hood River, Oregon

After breakfast in Bend, I headed to Hood River, Oregon. I kept seeing these adorable little huts with drive-through lanes, called Dutch Bros Coffee. One of the huts was across the street from my motel and I stopped in the day before. During that trip, I ordered a delicious blended coffee drink and the guy gave me a stamp card and stamped all the little coffees so my next coffee would be free. On my way to Hood River, I saw another hut and stopped for my free coffee. They have genius marketing because the cute little design made me want coffee every time I saw one.

Full of green trees, mountains, and blue sky, the three-hour drive was beautiful…until I climbed to the top of the mountain. Suddenly, the sky turned cloudy and ominous. I stopped at this look-out point to take a picture and it was so cold and windy that I hurried and took my picture and ran back to the car!

Once I got to Hood River, it was warmer again – probably in the low 80s. It was quite nice outside. Hood River is a mountain town through a gorge, about an hour outside of Portland. It has about 7,700 people and about 30 minutes east of there is The Dalles, with a population of 15,500. I booked a motel in The Dalles since they had cheaper options, but my friend Tracey had just moved to Hood River so I headed there first.

I arrived in Hood River around 3:00 pm and went straight to Tracey’s house. Tracey used to be a Vice President at the company I worked for, had recently retired, and moved to Hood River. We had the same last day at the company and I had made a video for her retirement to celebrate all of her contributions. She and her husband were settling into their new home and I was their first visitor!

Tracey showed me around her new house and the charming backyard that was surrounded by trees. We had a snack and caught up on both of our recent adventures. Then we went for a walk around her neighborhood. The neighborhood is on top of a hill with great views down to the gorge. We walked down a gravel walking path near her house and passed farms with cows and farms with berries. It was peaceful, quiet, and it felt good to get some fresh air.

I look up to Tracey. She’s a great role model because she’s intelligent, hardworking, and curious. She had only been in Hood River for a couple of weeks and had already volunteered for a local organization and found all sorts of local hikes. Her capacity for work is truly astonishing.

For dinner, Tracey and her husband (Farron) took me to a nice restaurant by the river. It was the first time I had quality food at a nice restaurant for quite some time. We had a really fun time with great discussions. After dinner, I headed to The Dalles to check into my motel.

It was dark when I arrived to Motel 6 and the lobby was small. I asked if there was a room on the first floor and was told no, there was nothing available so I’d have to be on the second floor. The woman instructed me to park on the other side of the building, towards the back because there was a door and steps there, which were closer to my room. I followed her instructions but my keycard wouldn’t open the door. Frustrated, I dragged my suitcase and bags all the way to the door in the middle of the motel. That door wasn’t even locked so I went inside and first went to the lobby. The woman who helped me was on the phone so another woman assisted me.

Me: “My keycard wouldn’t open the back door so before I go all the way upstairs to my room, can you make sure I have a key that works?”

The woman: “Oh, that back door is persnickety. Guests tell us that sometimes it works, but only after they try it over and over. And other times it just doesn’t work at all.”

Me: “Persnickety. Really? Well you should tell that to her (glare at the other woman) because she specifically told me to park by that door so now I have to lug all my luggage around.”

Woman: “Sorry about that.”

Huffing and puffing, I reluctantly made multiple trips to carry my luggage to my room. A sign by the broken door read “Do not prop door open.” Really? Well if your door worked, people wouldn’t have to prop it open. And why does it matter? Considering your middle door doesn’t even lock. Things like this really irritate me.

When I got to my room, I realized it was decent and would do just fine for a few nights. There was a mini-fridge, which is always nice to have.

The next morning, I researched some hikes nearby and found one called Eightmile Loop Trail, which was actually 7 miles long. It also had over 1,200 feet elevation gain and was listed as only lightly trafficked.

I headed out and drove to the east and then south for about 45 minutes. The east side of the mountains were dry with yellow fields of dead grass. Occasionally, I spotted farms, with their giant rolling sprinklers painting the fields bright green. It looked like puzzle pieces because if it wasn’t being watered, it was dry and dead.

I arrived at the trailhead and there was a man about to start mountain biking and shortly after, a woman also showed up to mountain bike. The trail was a loop and started off covered in trees so there was a lot of shade. It was very green and lush, which I was happy about since the drive had been dry. There were wild flowers along the trail and it mostly climbed for the first five miles. The trail was well maintained but narrow and had a couple small bridges to cross over streams.

After about five miles, the trees cleared to this breathtaking view that extended for miles. It was incredible to see the thousands of pine trees that rolled over the mountains. To the east in the far distance, I could see where the land turned to more of a desert. This happens because the mountains are so high up, they gather all the moisture (which creates all the greenery) but then after the weather passes the mountains, there’s no precipitation left (so you end up with more of a desert environment).

After taking in the amazing view, I headed down the tree-covered trail towards the finish. All of a sudden, I saw a deer about 30 feet in front of me, on the trail. He just sort of looked at me for a minute and then slowly walked to the side and started eating some flowers.

I got back to my car and headed back to the motel, but I decided to take the route that heads west so I could go through Hood River on my way back. Unfortunately, I didn’t have cell service. I knew I needed to turn right from the trail head and thought it would be straight forward on how to get there. I was wrong. The road suddenly turned into gravel, was surrounded by trees, and nobody was around. After 30 minutes of this, the road split into 3 options. I couldn’t tell which way I should take and started to feel a little panicked as it was around 6:30pm and the sun was getting close to setting behind the mountain.

After sitting there for a minute, I decided turning left would be my best bet. I continued down the gravel road and started thinking what I would do if it got dark and I was still driving around on these roads. Would I turn around and try to backtrack? Wait, didn’t I make other turns? Would I remember where I turned?

After about another 10 minutes I saw a pickup truck coming from the opposite direction. I contemplated flagging him down and asking where I should go but I was too embarrassed. I continued on and the road turned back into pavement so I felt like I must be closer to a sign. To this point, there were no street signs or signs giving any directions. I pulled over when I saw an amazing view of Mount Hood to take a picture.

After another 10 minutes or so, I came to a road with a sign directing me to Hood River and I eventually regained cell service.

When I got back to the motel, I decided I would go on the 4-day backpacking trip with Mandy and her friend. I called the hostel in Portland to move my reservation and the guy said he would have to move people around and he’d email me in the morning to confirm if he was able to move it.

When I woke up, I had an email from the hostel saying they were able to move my reservation. I let Mandy know I would be joining her and then I spent the next several hours getting my supplies ready. I hadn’t done an overnight with just my backpack in about two years. I went to K-mart nearby and got some snacks and sorted through all my stuff.

It was the 4th of July and Tracey had invited me over for dinner with her and her husband. We hung out for a bit before enjoying some grilled burgers, potato salad, and vegetable salad. The food was so delicious and I was really enjoying having a home-cooked meal. And as always, great conversation.

Around 9:50pm, Tracey and I decided to drive around to see if we could find a spot on top of the mountain so we could see the fireworks. As we drove around the small-town streets, we could see people lined up everywhere – in parks, the sides of streets, the side of the road. We weren’t going to attempt to go to the bottom of the gorge where the majority of people were so we drove up a curvy road that went up the side of the mountain. Tracey found a place that she could park her car (on the side of the road) by slightly off-roading. There were lots of people who did the same thing along the road.

We got out of the car, crossed the street and had a beautiful view of the gorge. The fireworks started right away and we stood next to a couple of people, where the trees had a bit of a break so we could see the fireworks. It was so much fun! Occasionally a car drove by and we’d scoot closer to the grass; otherwise, we stood on the road. The show was great, there was a cool breeze, and it was just a fun outdoorsy environment.

After the firework show, I headed back to my motel to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the backpacking trip the next day.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 5: Depression in Roseburg, Oregon

The Airbnb owner, Victoria, had recommended that I check out this wildlife Safari nearby where animals roam, you can drive your car through, and the animals walk right up to your car. I arrived around 11:30am and was told it takes about an hour and a half to drive through. I also signed up for three expeditions: meeting the elephants, feeding the giraffe, and feeding the lions.

First, I drove through the park with my windows down. It was really neat to see animals roaming freely with the breeze rushing by. I was able to see all sorts of animals like zebras, bears, deer, buffalo, and ostriches. I fed deer through my car window after I purchased a cup of food for $5. The buffalo walked right up to my car, so much that I had to roll up my window.

After driving through the park, I ate in the café while I waited for my first expedition to start – meeting the elephants.  All throughout the day, feelings of sadness came and went. As I drove through the park, it seemed better because I tried very hard to enjoy the animals and the experience. But sitting alone in that café started to get to me. There weren’t many people there because it was already close to 2:00pm. I was sitting at a large, round table that could seat six people. I was in the corner, looking out the window. I felt so alone as I ate my burger, seeing all the families and couples. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and had to tell myself, “Get it together, Christy. You cannot cry while eating a burger in public. You’re at a really cool safari, enjoy it!”

After eating my burger, I rode in a bus down the hill to meet the elephants. There were lots of people and we were able to take a photo and touch an elephant’s trunk. After that, I went in an open-top bus to go feed the giraffes. This was really cool! We were able to hold out a piece of lettuce and the giraffe would poke his head inside and eat it right from our hands. This was a good distraction and for a brief period of time, I felt better.

The excursion for watching the lions feed wasn’t until 4:45pm and they were running late. I was sitting outside at the entrance, waiting for the tour guide to show up. I received a call from my doctor so I stepped away, down the sidewalk a bit. I had sent her an email earlier that day asking if any of the medications I was on had side effects because I was feeling extremely depressed and had been for days. I was on a few medications, trying to kill off some bacteria.

My doctor asked what was going on and I told her, “I’ve been feeling very depressed. Very depressed. I’m not usually like this. I’m usually the happy one. I’m usually the one who sees the good in things. I know I’m going through a lot of change right now but this feels extreme.” My doctor knew I had sold my house, quit my job, and was traveling. She said she knew I was going through a lot and asked more questions. I started to choke up and cry and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the tears.

She asked if I had any thoughts of hurting myself. I grew up with family members who struggled with depression and threatened suicide many times. When I was around eleven, my older brother was sent to the state hospital for threats of suicide. I remember seeing his pain and then seeing the look of terror when he spent 10 days in the facility. He was terrified being around mentally unstable people and pleaded with my mom to let him out as he sobbed in her arms. I know the answer to my doctor’s question is always “no” unless you want to be locked up so I said “no” through the tears.

My doctor told me there were two medications I was on that could possibly be causing depression. It usually manifests into anxiety but could be causing (or at least contributing to) depression so she told me to stop taking them.

I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t control my emotions. Embarrassed that I was crying in a parking lot at a safari, where I should be enjoying myself. Embarrassed that I needed help.

I ended the call and shortly after, the lion feeding expedition began. I got myself together and it was just me and a couple. We walked down and saw one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. Six or seven lions feeding on their dinner (parts of a horse) within about a foot, through cages. Their power is incredible. One lion looked up from his dinner and made eye contact with me, slightly lunged towards me, and gave a slight roar. I was paralyzed by his power and a shot of adrenaline rushed through my body.

After the safari, I went to a park near the Airbnb and ate some fruit. I sat at a table in the sun, with nobody around. I was exhausted and needed someone to talk to so I went back to the Airbnb and called my cousin, Misty. All of the depression hit me. I sobbed on the phone and told her how alone I felt, how the depression was crushing me. She listened and tried to help me see all the wonderful things going on in my life. And how things will get better. I kept telling her things won’t get better. I couldn’t see the light and couldn’t climb out of the depression. It was a dark hole. I didn’t feel like myself. My energy was off.

A few weeks earlier, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. I remember the shock of everyone as they seemed to have everything. A friend of mine, Dave Kooi, wrote a great piece on Facebook about the tragedy of people who seem to have everything we all want, but choose to end it all. He said the problem is we over-use the word “depressed”. He described all the scenarios we use it, like “I’m depressed about the cubs”, “I’m depressed a triathlon was canceled due to fires”. Because of this, the word “depression” can mean many different things.

Dave suggested we call this deep depression the Bourdain Syndrome and said “Because apparently it’s a condition in which you can be the coolest and most interesting man in the world – charismatic, talented, admired, charming, attractive – and have a life that everybody wants – yet still be dying on the inside. That’s a pretty awful and powerful condition. A brain turning on itself. And it’s a condition that’s certainly not on the happy-sad continuum. That should be clear enough now. It has nothing to do with that. It’s in a league of its own.”

I agree with Dave. I’ve had many friends and family members struggle with depression and there is no easy solution. I’ve known people who have committed suicide and threatened to commit suicide. It’s something much deeper than being sad. Prior to the last two years, I hadn’t struggled with depression, not much anyway. I am usually a light-hearted, happy person. Friends and strangers tell me this all the time. My energy is usually open, friendly, and fun.

Feeling this incredible darkness made me unable to feel anything else. I hated that I couldn’t stop it, that I couldn’t fix it. I hated not being in control. I felt alone, deeply alone. I couldn’t see a future where it would get better. It made me feel even worse knowing that I should be happy. I was living the dream, my dream, my “best life”. I was doing what most people dream about – I quit my job and was able to spend a long time traveling, just living and experiencing the world. Knowing I was expected to be unbelievably happy made me feel worse.

I never felt regretful of my decisions. It wasn’t that. It was a feeling of being unwanted, unloved, and alone. Misty kept reminding me that I had people who love me and it would get better. But I couldn’t stop sobbing. I wanted to feel like myself again. I was happy that the AC unit was loud and prayed that the owners of the Airbnb couldn’t hear me.

I got off the phone with Misty and wrote. I needed to post on my blog so I wrote the first post titled “Why am I doing this?”. It helped me to start writing. For me, writing has a way of helping me express what I’m feeling. Sometimes I struggle verbalizing my feelings and writing allows me to get it out without having to verbalize it. I went to bed and prayed to God that he would take away these feelings – to make me whole again.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek