Days 175-178: Reenergizing on the Road

After leaving Whistler, I drove to Vancouver, British Columbia to return some items I bought there that didn’t fit. They only have physical stores in Canada so I wanted to stop by on my way back to the U.S. The store hours were listed until 5:30 pm on Saturdays and I arrived at 5:32 pm because I had to fight Saturday Christmas festivity traffic.

img_0161

When I pulled up, the store was completely closed. It was clear they closed at 5:00 pm, which is supposed to be their weekday hours. I needed to keep heading south so I would have to mail my items back. I ended up learning a hard lessons about shipping to Canada; it cost me $47 to mail the package back!

I arrived at my friend Chanell’s house around 7:30 pm and she had a delicious dinner waiting for me in the crockpot. We talked about my time in Whistler and her pregnancy. We ended up staying up late talking as we tend to do.

The next morning, we went out for breakfast now that her morning sickness had improved a bit. I had a great time hanging out with her and couldn’t wait to meet her new daughter.

img_0165

After breakfast, I drove about five hours to Hood River, Oregon. It was raining and cool outside. I arrived at my friend Tracey’s house around 6:00 pm. Her newly remodeled kitchen was just about complete so she cooked up a wonderful dinner. I ate with her and her husband and stayed the night.

I felt so fortunate to have Chanell and Tracey in my life. I had stayed with both of them a few times as I drove to Canada and back twice. Each time, they cheerfully hosted me, offering me food, a bed, and friendship. I felt like they were my “Pacific Northwest family.” I am blessed to know them.

The following morning, Tracey and I went to a local cafe for breakfast and as usual, had a great conversation. I needed to continue my drive to make it to St. Louis, Missouri by Christmas. I drove three hours south to Bend, Oregon. I knew I needed to drive much further that day, but I stopped to eat a late lunch and look at places to stay.

My friend Bethany who lives there met me for an hour and we talked about her new house. Bethany, her husband, and two sons had just purchased a home a few miles outside of the city. It was on a large piece of land, so they were getting used to that and slowly moving in.

I booked a hotel in Burns, Oregon, which seemed like one of the only places to stop on my route to Idaho. The drive was dark and flat. I thought I was driving through a desert full of tumbleweeds until I stopped at a rest area. I got out of the car to use the restroom and it was freezing outside! There was snow on the grass and the wind was blowing ceaselessly. The sand and dirt I thought I was seeing was actually snow.

img_0175

I booked an old restored hotel on Airbnb – The Historic Central Hotel. The owner read my profile and saw that I had quit my job and was traveling.  She told me I was her hero and upgraded my room for free! She wanted to meet me, but when I arrived at 7:30 pm, nobody was there. I followed the instructions and used a code to get inside the lobby.

img_0187

The hotel was adorable, filled with history and remodeled with a slight modern barn feel. I carried my suitcase to the second floor and opened the door to my room. It was set up like a Bed and Breakfast. With my upgraded room, I had my own bathroom!

img_0177

img_0179

img_0180

I walked around the property checking out the pictures of the remodel that were hanging on the walls. I think there was only one other guest there at the time. I was exhausted from the drive and fell asleep on the bed right away. After an hour or so, I got up, took a shower, and went back to bed.

img_0178

img_0182

The next day I continued driving with the goal of making it to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where my Uncle Steve and his wife Sonia live. It was a six and a half hour drive.

img_0192

I drove through Oregon, passing farms and ranches. The ranches had large signs and entrances like I’ve seen in movies. The name of the family ranch would be posted on the large, wooden post before driving down the long gravel driveway to the house.

img_0196

img_0199

I had to drive through most of the state since Idaho Falls is near Wyoming. Idaho was beautiful and full of mountains, lakes, and more farms.

img_0200

img_0212

I drove through Boise, Idaho, which was a little out of the way, but I wanted to see the capital. I drove around for a bit, stopped to grab some lunch, and continued on.

img_0219

img_0221

As I drove, I had a lot of time to think about things. I was feeling down about relationships. As I reflected, I realized I often receive compliments from men, but it never materializes to an actual relationship. I’ve been told I’m intelligent, beautiful, fun, funny, and a great conversationalist.

img_0225

It makes me feel like I’m great….but not great enough to date. I’m either not enough or I’m too much. I am going to be me, even if I’m not enough or I’m too much for men. However, I was still feeling lonely and rejected. Maybe it was the online dating apps, but I was feeling like nobody wanted to actually date me. Nobody wanted to put in the effort. Nobody wanted to be exclusive with me.

img_0229

I talked with my friend Toni and then my friend Jimmy while I drove. I had been telling Jimmy for awhile that I didn’t want anything serious considering I was married for ten years and I just wanted to meet people to see what I wanted. However, now that it had been a year and a half, I was feeling like I actually did want a real relationship.

img_0231

Jimmy understood, but said it would be very difficult to date someone while traveling. He wanted to make sure I didn’t get my hopes up and I knew he was right. I tried the casual thing and I learned a lot about what I want and what I don’t want in a relationship. I still didn’t want the traditional relationship.

I’m afraid of getting bored. I was bored a lot in my marriage while my ex-husband was perfectly fine with the ways things were. I want an interesting relationship where we try new things and have adventures. I want to be surprised and I want to be spontaneous. I want the intimacy and the connection that comes along with an exclusive relationship. I was tired of meeting new people and I was tired of guys who weren’t interested in a relationship beyond casual dating.

img_0233

While talking with Jimmy, I got distracted in the dark and made a wrong turn. I ended up going 40 miles out of the way and had to turn around and go back another 40 miles. I didn’t arrive to my uncle’s house until 8:00 pm because of that mistake and I was in a new time zone, which was an hour ahead.

I ate some food and talked with my uncle Steve, his wife Sonia, and her mother, Effie. I had seen my uncle in Denver at the beginning of September for two cousins’ weddings, but I had never been to his house in Idaho. He’s only about 12 years older than me and he’s a funny, caring man.

My uncle Steve is a lead pastor of a small church. They told me about how the church is expanding and the impact they’ve seen God have on people there.

My uncle Steve and Sonia have such wonderful hearts. They talk about the Bible, God, and how we’re all just trying our best. It’s not about following religious principles and being legalistic in following God, it’s about having a relationship with God. They do a lot for people and are wonderful role models.

I told them about how I was feeling about relationships and I was feeling lonely and wanted a partner. They told me about their love story:

They were 32 years old and single. Steve was told by a friend that he wanted to introduce him to a fellow friend, Sonia. Sonia lived in India, where she grew up, and Steve was living in Omaha, Nebraska. They emailed each other for a year, but then it sort of fell off.

A few years later, Steve emailed her again. This time, he was more committed and she noticed something about him had changed. He was more engaged in their conversations. They emailed for a while and then in February 2007, Steve flew to India to met Sonia for the first time. While he was there, he also met a child that he had been sponsoring for years.

While in India, Steve proposed to Sonia. A few months later, Sonia flew to the U.S. to attend my wedding and meet some of our family. We all instantly fell in love with her and her mother. They were sweet, smart, and genuine. We happily welcomed them into our family.

About five months later, they married in India and a month after that, Sonia moved to the U.S. They’ve been married ever since. Steve and Sonia told me about their story because I never really knew how they met. They told me they got to know each other through email, which enabled them to get to know the others’ heart. They were able to focus on who they were.

They laughed. Sonia said, “I probably would have chosen someone shorter and he would have chosen someone taller, but God had a plan for us and his timing is perfect.” My uncle is 6’4” and towers over Sonia.

I loved hearing their story. It gave me hope that love can be unconventional and can be found in unexpected ways. Steve and Sonia are great together and compliment each other. They fell in love across the world from each one another.

I told them about my travels, the people I’d met, and how it felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing with my life. They agreed and said they felt I was in God’s path and that amazing things were in store for me.

They understood my desire to have a partner. Steve, Sonia, and Effie prayed with me and I could feel God’s presence. For me, God’s presence and the relationship we have with him is what is important. Not following some rule that the church put into place, created by man. Having this time with them encouraged me and lifted me up. It was just what I needed.

The next morning, Steve and Sonia went to work in their day jobs while I slept in. Effie made me some breakfast and amazing tea from India. I got to know her better as she told me about her life in India before moving to the U.S. a few years ago.

Effie grew up Catholic and converted to more of a nondenominational decades ago. She felt the call to evangelize in India because she witnessed so many people giving their lives to Jesus. She was so passionate while  talking about her calling and her desire to help the community. In the U.S., she said it’s much harder to evangelize because people are closed off and don’t want to talk about God. I felt for her because I could tell it bummed her out. She has such a heart for God and helps out so many people in the community in any way she can.

After breakfast, I drove to Target to get a case of water and continued my drive towards Denver to stay with some other family members. I was so happy to have stayed with my uncle Steve, Sonia, and Effie, even if it was for a short time. They’re the type of people who accept everyone and bring joy to those around them. They provided me with the support and encouragement I needed to keep my chin up.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
Thanks for reading! Hit the Like button or leave a comment!

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.

img_8484

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.

img_8510img_8512

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.

Post Edited by: Mandy Strider
Thanks for reading! Hit the Like button or leave a comment!

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.

img_4623

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.

img_4610

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.

img_4616
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.

img_4620

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.

img_4622

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.

 

img_4645

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 25: Driving to Whidbey Island, Washington

The drive from Portland, Oregon to Whidbey Island, Washington was full of bridges. The route took me through Seattle, during rush hour traffic. I gotta say, Seattle traffic is almost as bad as Los Angeles traffic. I hit traffic just south of the city in Tacoma, then again near the downtown Seattle area, and again just north of the city.

After being stuck in traffic for an eternity, I desperately needed to find a restroom and somewhere to eat. I was thankful to find a nearby Target, but panicked when I thought my car wouldn’t fit in the garage, so I eventually parked across the street in the bank parking lot. Praying I wouldn’t get a ticket or pee my pants, I raced through the structure until I finally arrived at Target.

Feeling much better after using the restroom, I got a sandwich to-go, and a few items I needed. My car was safe and sound, so I was relieved. I hit the road and ate on my drive. The GPS directed me to take the route that first went to Fidalgo Island and then crossed over to Whidbey Island. Once I left highway 5, the terrain turned to farmland. Then all of a sudden, I came across a huge bridge so I stopped just before it, took some pictures and started walking on it.

It turns out the bridge is called Deception Pass, a very popular tourist site that is on the National Register of Historic Places. I walked a little bit across the bridge on the narrow path. To my right was an insanely high drop to the swirling ocean below. To my left, cars raced on the other side of the wire handrail. Looking down at the swirling waters made me dizzy so I turned back to my car.

I continued on to Whidbey Island and arrived at my Airbnb in Oak Harbor around 8:30 pm. The Airbnb was a house in a residential neighborhood and I had a room with a shared bathroom, shared kitchen, and shared living space. Barry, the owner, met me and showed me around. Barry was in his late 50s, had gray hair with a gray mustache, and was around 5’9”.

Barry asked that I take my shoes off upon entering. We walked around the kitchen as he showed me where I could put food in the pantry and refrigerator. He rents out three of the five bedrooms on the second floor. Each room has a name assigned to it – my room was called “Sage”. He had designated space in the pantry and refrigerator for each room.

It wasn’t clear if Barry was married, divorced, or widowed. There was evidence of a wife, but he didn’t mention her and said “It’s just me here” and I wasn’t sure if he meant for good, or just at the moment. Barry said one of the other rooms was also rented out to a lady who was there for a family reunion but “she doesn’t sleep on the ground.” Apparently, they were all camping and she didn’t want to so she spent time with them all day and slept at Barry’s at night. Barry explained that she wouldn’t be home until around 11:00 pm.

Barry showed me the laundry area and one of the rooms upstairs that was not being rented out because he wants to repaint it and fix it up a little. For the time being, he placed an ironing board and a desk for shared use. Barry’s room was also upstairs but he had his own bathroom.

It was late so I decided I’d just do laundry, which was down stairs. It was a little awkward because Barry was at the computer down stairs so I kept passing him as I went to the laundry area. My bedroom door didn’t have a lock on it, so I had to trust  that he and nobody else would take my stuff.

Click here to see a 2 minute video of the drive from Portland to Whidbey Island.

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 19-21: Learning About Portland, Oregon

I often go on bike tours when I’m checking out a new city because bike tours are the perfect way to see the sights and learn about the city’s history. You go faster than walking but slower than a car. It’s the perfect speed. Plus, you get some exercise and can feel the breeze.

I started a bike tour in Portland at 9:00 am. There was a family of four (the kids were around 8-12), and a single female in her late 20s or early 30s. The kids immediately went up front near the tour guide. I stayed in the back and chatted a bit with the single female. She was from the San Francisco area and traveling alone. She figured Portland was an easy flight and she’d never been before.

We rode our bikes through the city, the old China town, under bridges, and even got to stop for 15 minutes to shop around a little. The tour guide recommended we check out Blue Star donuts during the stop so the family of four and myself headed there. While I liked Voodoo donuts, Blue Star donuts tasted higher end. They had artisan flavors that were really unique using quality ingredients. The price is high though – around $3.50 each.

On the bike tour, I learned things about the city – like why it’s called Stump Town. The city started as a port town and was growing so quickly that they had to cut down trees to make room. But they did a pretty crappy job and left the stumps of the trees around.

You might think the city is named Portland because of the port activity, but it’s actually because the two founders had an intense coin toss to determine who could name the city. One guy was from Boston, Massachusetts and the other was from Portland, Maine. They both wanted to name this new city after their hometowns. The guy that won the battle was from Portland, Maine so he named this city Portland as well. If that coin toss had gone the other direction, it would’ve been named Boston.

You can see the growth in Portland’s recent history by all of the high-rise condos that have gone up and are continuing to be built. They’re all close together, look modern, and have a clean look to them.

Homelessness is a big problem for the city and the homeless population is not all centralized like in L.A. Homeless people are scattered throughout the city and you can see them all the time.

Portland’s water supply was so bad way back in the day because the water from the local river was extremely polluted. Because the water made them sick, people mostly drank beer. People were always drunk, all day! Then in 1912, a businessman named Simon Benson came along and said that it was crazy and dangerous that everyone was drunk all the time. He particularly didn’t like that his workers were drunk at time lunch. To fix the problem, he gave the city $10,000 to install 20 bronze drinking fountains which gave the city fresh drinking water. You can still see them around the city today.

These are the reasons I love doing bike tours. I always learn so much history about a city in an entertaining way, that I feel connected to the place. Once the bike tour was finished, I checked out Powell Book Store. This famous bookstore is gigantic! It has multiple floors, old and new books, accessories, and has a really cool vibe. I spent a couple of hours there and bought a few books, including maps of Alaska and Canada in case I lost cell service and got lost on the next leg of my journey.

After the book store, I headed to the art museum because they had an exhibit called The Shape of Speed. The tour guide also told us that on Thursdays admission was only $5. When I went to the counter to buy my $5 ticket, I was informed the price of $5 only applied to the first Thursday of the month. Dang it. I ended up paying $20 to get in. But the series of cars on display was worth it. There was a car that looked like a version of the mini-van we know today.

The cars on display were so unique and unlike any cars I’ve seen. For example, there was an orange car that only had one wheel in the back instead of two. The back of it was narrow to accommodate only having one wheel. The plaque next to it read, “Only one prototype Airomobile was ever built. It was projected to sell for $550, when a new 1937 Ford Tudor sedan was $579. Lewis drove his three-wheeled car all over the United States to demonstrate it, completing 45,000 miles in less than a year, and averaging 43.6 mpg. But he failed to attract financial backing to put his curious car into production.”

Think about how crazy that is. If this car had gotten financial backing, this could be the style we drive around today. It made me realize that the only difference in a design being successful or not is what ends up being financially backed. All these unique artists competed and the designs that didn’t get financing disappeared. Just like that. These cars were works of art and it was an awesome experience to see them.

The next day, I went for a 6-mile hike in Forest Park. The park is only a ten-minute drive from downtown but it felt like I was deep in the forest. I only ran into a few people. This is one of the reasons I ended up really liking Portland – nature is right there and it feels secluded. The trees and greenery looked a lot like Olympic National Forest that I had hiked the week before.

The following day was a Saturday and I checked out the Saturday market – which is actually on Saturday and Sunday. It was neat to see all the little shops and booths but I’m trying really hard not to buy stuff. Souvenirs and trinkets just end up in a drawer somewhere and I’d rather have memories and picture to remember trips, not more stuff. I walked around but didn’t buy anything.

I looked on Facebook events a few days prior to see what was going on in the city for the weekend. I saw that Bill Burr was doing standup at the Keller Auditorium. His name sounded familiar so I googled him and watched a few videos. He seemed funny so I bought tickets.

I took an Uber pool to get to the theater. My driver’s name was Atnafu and he is from Ethiopia. He’s been in Portland for the last six years. He enjoys it there but said it can be hard with such rainy winters. We picked up another rider since it was an Uber pool. He is a drummer in his late 20s, from Austin, TX who plays at a piano bar. He wanted to check out Portland and asked several friends but they all backed out at the last-minute so he said, “Well, I’m going on my own then.” He had spent the last week exploring the city and was going to check out the local piano bar. Next, he said he’ll check out all the surrounding nature.

I liked that this was the second person I had met in a couple of days who was traveling alone. I wasn’t happy that they were alone, but I was happy that they didn’t let their friends stop them. Sometimes that happens. Friends bail or you don’t know anyone who can travel with you. Don’t let it stop you. Go anyway. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the experience and the people you’ll meet.

I arrived at the theater, grabbed a glass of wine, and got to my seat. Bill Burr put on a great show! The guy who did the intro for Bill was also really funny. I was getting used to going to events alone and this time it didn’t bother me. I like seeing comedy shows so that was my focus, not on being alone.

After the show, I took an Uber pool back to the hostel. I got into the front seat because there was a guy and girl in the backseat. The guy sounded like a surfer dude and had longish blonde/light brown hair. Here’s some of the conversation between these 20 somethings:

Guy: “Oh dang, I didn’t know we were picking someone up. I only did Uber pool once. I made a comment to the girl in the car about Africa being a country and she was like, ‘it’s a continent’ and I was like ‘damn, don’t be like that. I got sisters from Ethiopia.’ So I was ruined on Uber pool.”

Guy: “Whoa! What’s going on tonight? Where are all these people coming from? Dang, I have major FOMO (fear of missing out).”

Me: “Bill Burr was performing at the theater.”

Guy: “Oh, is that where you were?”

Me: “Yes, it was good.”

Guy to girl: “Dang, you should have gotten pizza. If I was high, I would’ve already had Dominos ordered.”

Guy realizes he’s more drunk than the girl.

Girl: “You had a lot more to drink than me.”

Guy to girl: “Yeah, I was keeping tabs. What? I was paying for the drinks. I had four and you only had one. Then I was like ‘Dang, am I too drunk?’”

Guy to girl: “Do you have at least 20 more minutes left in you before you fall asleep?”

Girl: “Yes”

Guy: “Can I stay the night?”

Girl: “Yes”

Guy: “I figured I could but thought it would be gentleman of me to ask. I talk a lot more than you when I’m drunk.”

We arrived at the girl’s place and the guy was on crutches, so he was struggling to get out of the car.

The driver and I laughed.

Driver: “Lol, they didn’t know I was picking someone else up. I usually drive before midnight. It’s a different crowd after midnight.”

Indeed it is.

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

Day 16: Arriving in Portland, Oregon

After backpacking in Olympic National Park, I left Tracey’s house in Hood River around 9:00 pm. Because I couldn’t check into the hostel in downtown Portland until the following day and I just needed a place to sleep for a night, I booked a motel in the suburbs of Portland.

I arrived at Rodeway Inn around 10:30 pm. I asked the woman at the front desk if there was a room on the lower level. Up to this point, almost all of the rooms I had received at motels had been on the second floor, with no elevator. I was really tired of carrying my luggage up all the stairs all the time. To my surprise, the woman said she could give me a slightly upgraded room, on the first floor, with no other rooms above it. Finally, my luck with motels was starting to turn around!

The room was nice, and had a newer white comforter/sheet on top. It was clean, large, and I didn’t have to go up the stairs. After not showering for four days while backpacking, I enjoyed the shower and headed to bed.

I slept in but went to get the free breakfast just before time ran out. The motel is near the airport so they cater to travelers leaving early for flights and only offer quick to-go items such as yogurt. It was free, so I took it.

The hostel in Portland made it clear that I couldn’t check in until 3:00 pm so I had some time to kill. I needed to do some laundry so I headed to a laundromat. The last time I used a laundromat was about ten years prior. They’ve moved up in the world and now offer the option to use a credit card (I realized this after I changed my $5 bill for quarters). It didn’t take long to wash and dry the one load of laundry I had. I bought a sandwich for lunch at the convenient store next to the laundromat. It was strange – folding my laundry and putting it back into a trash bag reminded me of simpler times in my life. A time where I was living in an apartment – a time before homeownership and other adulting responsibilities.

I still had some time to kill so I drove to Voodoo Donuts. I always heard they had amazing donuts and it’s the thing to do in Portland. To my surprise, there was no line where the barriers clearly helped guide customers. I walked right up to the counter and got a donut (or two…ok three, don’t judge). I ate a donut outside and took the other two with me to devour later.

I got to the hostel, which consisted of five old Victorian buildings. There was a hip café next to the front desk, a board game room with the only TV available (times for the world soccer cup were displayed for all to watch at early morning hours), and a courtyard outside to enjoy some live music once a week.

I attempted to check-in at 2:00 pm but they would not let me so I sat in my car until 3:00 pm. When I went back in at 3:00 pm, there was a line to check in. I was worried about people snoring so I booked a private room for nine nights. My room was in one of the buildings next store through the courtyard. I was lucky that I got my own bathroom, but this room was old, hot, and small. It was also right across the hall from the communal bathroom, across from the stairs leading upstairs to more rooms, and next to the kitchen. Needless to say, it was not a quiet room. The kitchen was nice and had plenty of seating. It had flags from multiple countries displayed, and felt inclusive.

It was hot with no air conditioning so I asked the front desk if they had a fan. They gave me an old, dirty box fan that shook when it was on the top speed. I took it since Portland was going through a heat wave.

Feeling extremely exhausted for some reason (maybe recovering from the backpacking trip), I took a good nap. I had to rest the fan on the luggage holder so it was at the level of the bed; the good thing about the fan being noisy on a high-speed was that it helped to block out other noises.

Hoping to meet other travelers, I ate at the café in the hostel (it’s also open to non-hostel guests). Unfortunately, everyone there was on a phone or a laptop. The digital age is killing personal contact. I purposely stayed in the hostel so that I’d meet travelers but it didn’t appear that would be happening.

I decided I needed to get out and walk around. I found a movie theater about a mile away so I could walk and not lose my parking spot. The walk through downtown was great – full of life, art, and friendly faces.

I got to Living Room Theaters and it only cost $6! Must have been because it was a Monday. When I walked inside, it looked like a bar – there were people sitting at the bar and at tables, drinking some wine and beer. The menu had items like kale and strawberry salads, and served popcorn in little white square dishes. Very upscale for $6. Of course, I spent twice that much on a glass of wine and a small popcorn.

The theater also offered free water with normal sized cups in the hallway (all theaters should be doing this!). I took advantage of this and headed to the theater with my wine, water, and popcorn. The seats were large and looked deceptively like recliners. The movie I saw was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. There was hardly anybody in the theater and it felt good to be there. I’m not sure why, but it made me feel comfortable. I hadn’t seen a movie in a theater in months. Traveling for the last two weeks was an adjustment. This felt like a regular life, and I needed that.

The movie ended close to 11:30 pm and I decided to walk back to the hostel and enjoy the night air. A piano sat outside on the sidewalk, decorated in art. Letters stamped on it read “Please play me!” and there was a young guy playing the piano while a young woman played the trumpet. I stood there and enjoyed the delightful free show with a couple of other people.

I passed a church that was housed in a beautiful building with closed doors. A man with long hair sat outside, legs crossed, facing the middle door. He sat right up against the door and even though he was across the street, I could feel his pain. I could only see his back, swaying back and forth. I wanted to help but didn’t know what to say or do. I wished the doors were open for him.

As I got closer to the hostel, a woman zipped by me on the street on an electric, standing scooter. There was a slight breeze on this Monday night, and Portland felt like a city that had character. I think I’ll enjoy it here.

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 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

Days 6-7: The City of Bend, Oregon

I loaded up my car so I could check out of the Airbnb by 11:00am, and on the way out, I stopped to talk with Victoria, the owner. She asked where I was going next and we talked a little about my next destinations. Then I told her I wanted to make a documentary about higher education and the lack of diversity in thought on college campuses.

Victoria told me that when she was in college many years ago she took a class about feminism and literature. She read a story and had to write a summary of her thoughts and opinions on it. She was surprised by the story and in her paper, she described her understanding of the piece. However, it did not fit the narrative that the professor was trying to promote, so the professor gave her a lower grade. Victoria was upset because she had always received good grades.

She talked to the professor and explained the assignment was her interpretation of the writing and that is how she read the piece. The professor refused to change her grade because it did not fit what she was “supposed to be learning” – the narrative that the professor was trying to push down their throats.

Victoria had been very surprised by this and it upset her. This happened a long time ago and I explained to her that it’s only gotten worse. We had a great discussion and I felt so much more energized. It made me feel more like myself. I enjoy deep discussions and debates and hearing how other people think. It reminded me who I am and what I’m good at.

I headed to Bend, Oregon which took just over three hours. On the drive there, I stopped in Eugene to have lunch and just outside of Eugene, I stopped at two covered bridges; my friend Tracey had told me that Eugene was known for its covered bridges. They were so beautiful and almost magical. There was nobody around so I was able to get out and walk around a bit to see the construction inside. The bridges looked like something from a fairytale. They had been around for over 100 years. I can’t even imagine what it took to build them but they were very well constructed (and reconstructed).

The drive to Bend was full of giant green pine trees and mountains. But when I arrived in Bend, it was much drier – similar to southern CA.

I checked in at the Sugarloaf Mountain Motel. The girl at the front desk had half of her face covered with her hair. Seriously, her hair was so side-swept that her right eye was completely covered. It made her look lazy and aloof. That and her sour attitude. I asked her if the room I was in was one of the remodeled rooms because what’s advertised is the remodeled rooms but on Trip Advisor, I saw rooms that had the old bedspreads (which I hate).

She very rudely said “I don’t know.”

“Ok, well, don’t you at least know which buildings are already remodeled?”

“No.”

“Ok, well if I get to my room and it’s the old style, can I switch it for a remodeled room?”

“No, we’re very full. Housekeeping is still cleaning rooms.”

“Well, it’s 4:30pm, I’m sure the rooms will be clean soon?”

“I would have to ask the head house keeper.”

“Ok…Please do that.”

The girl left the front desk for about 10 minutes while several bikers (as in full leather motorcycle guys with beards) and two families tried to check in, patiently waiting in line.

“The head housekeeper doesn’t have any other rooms clean.” Ugh.

I drove my car over to my room, which was on the second floor. Again, wishing I had someone to carry my luggage up the stairs, I opened the door and saw that the room had been remodeled. Listen lady, you could have just told me that! At least there weren’t men outside on the balcony drinking and smoking watching me unload.

I got comfortable and checked my matches on the dating app. There was a guy who liked me who had nothing but pictures of him with dead animals he’d killed while hunting. The profile picture was him with a giant moose. He was cute, but there is no way I could date a guy who hunts so frequently (or maybe at all). I love animals and killing them for sport is a big turn-off. I texted the profile picture to my cousin Misty and said, “He likes me. All three pics are of him killing animals. No thanks.” She wrote back, “No way”. I also had a 23-year-old like me (15 years younger than me).

The next morning, I took some time to research hikes nearby and then went for a run outside near the motel. My friend Sarah in Los Angeles had put me in touch with a friend of hers who lived in Bend, Bethany. Bethany let me know about a festival that was going on that evening.

I headed out around 7:00pm and the festival was celebrating the 25th anniversary of Deschutes Brewery. There were your typical food booths and lots of tents for beer and ciders. There were also tents for Kombucha and Hydroflask, which reminded me I was in Oregon.

I got some food and a couple of ciders, watched the sun set on the water, and stood around the stage listening to bands. The temperature was nice, the people friendly, and the music fun. I enjoyed it but wished I had someone to share it with.

Around 9:30pm, I headed to Worthy Brewing Company where I saw on Facebook events that they had an observatory on-site. When I arrived, I saw that it was a restaurant, brewery, and after going up a narrow spiral staircase, an observatory. I ordered a beer and looked through the telescope. The view to the stars was a bit disappointing because I couldn’t actually see much. But the view of Bend, with the setting sun illuminating the mountains, was gorgeous. The breeze was chilly but I hung out on the top by the observatory for a while drinking my beer and then went down to the second floor where there was an indoor/outdoor bar. I sat and ordered a beer, which was fun, but lonely. I looked forward to being able to go for a hike the following 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

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 3: Discovering Klamath Falls, Oregon

I checked into the Days Inn in Klamath Falls, OR (population 21,000) around 9:00pm and was given a room on the 2nd floor of the motel. I parked as close as I could but there wasn’t much parking near my room. I had to walk up the stairs of the building next to it and walk across to the building I was staying in. As I started unloading, I noticed a church group with lots of teenagers unloading their vans and trailers and having fun in the parking lot. It reminded me of going to church summer camp when I was in high school. It was always such a fun time and something I hadn’t thought about in a long time. As I started to head towards my room, I noticed 2 middle-aged men, shirtless, smoking weed, hanging out on the 2nd floor walkway, just watching the parking lot….one door away from mine.

Now, if you read my other posts, you’ll know this is the second night in a row that middle-aged men were just hanging out in front of motel rooms, drinking or smoking, being creepers. Men, let me tell you, this is not a turn on. You look like a creep and you make people feel uncomfortable when you stare at them while they unload their car. This is why I avoid eye contact. Just stop it.

I carried all my luggage up the hard, concrete stairs and into my room, wishing I had someone to carry all my stuff for me. I had to make about four trips again because of my poor packing and amount of stuff I didn’t want to leave in the car, like my electronics. The room was decent. It had two queen beds (which is always great when traveling alone because one bed ends up being the “sitting bed” for things like playing on my phone or watching tv, and the other is to sleep). The bathroom was clean and the motel had all the basic amenities.

I was able to get a restful sleep and woke up in the morning looking for a place to hike. I mean, that’s why I came to Klamath Falls. I discovered there wasn’t much directly in Klamath Falls, but within a 25-minute drive, I could hike just under ten miles on Spence Mountain. It had 1,558 elevation gain and had views of a lake. I wasn’t really wanting to hike that far, but my other options were to hike much smaller trails – around three miles. I figured I could handle ten miles.

I drove up the mountain past some farms and parked in the gravel parking lot. There were only two cars there and one guy was sitting in the back of his SUV eating some lunch. There was a couple finishing their hike and getting into the other car. It was around noon on a Tuesday so I figured maybe that’s why it was so empty? Either way, I’ll take it. I don’t like hiking heavily-trafficked trails.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt on the hike. It was hot but there was a cool breeze. About 10 minutes into hiking, the guy who had been eating his lunch passed me on a mountain bike. I didn’t see anybody else for the rest of the hike. It was really peaceful to have the trail to myself.

As I climbed and climbed, I discovered amazing views of a bright blue lake. It was so surreal because the lake was so large but also so isolated. I didn’t see any boats or any activity on the lake at all. That made it so much more peaceful. It was just me and the bugs buzzing in the trees. I finished the hike very tired and out of water.

On my way back to the motel, I passed a large tractor-trailer that had slid off the side of the narrow, curvy road that lined the lake. It had fallen into the ditch between the road the mountain and was tilted to the side – but the mountain stopped it from completely tipping over. Thankfully, he slid to the side of the mountain and not the lake. The local police were helping with the little bit of traffic because one lane was closed. As I passed on the curve, I could see men trying to lift all the bales of hay that had fallen off the flatbed truck. I felt sorry for the driver. How embarrassing and hopefully he doesn’t get fired (that’s a lot of work to get all that hay back on the truck). And I don’t even know how they were going to get the truck back on the road.

When I got back to town, I was hungry and thirsty but all of the fast food restaurants sounded like disgusting grease factories. I saw a grocery store and figured I could get some individual items to go. A friend once told me that if you’re ever considering moving to a new town and you want to know what the people there are like, go to the grocery store. Everyone needs to eat, so you see all the people in their natural environment. I looked around and the people seemed fine. It definitely had a small-town feel.

Famished, I grabbed several items that looked fresh: a sandwich, yogurt, peaches, grapes, assorted fruit, and Gatorade. The motel had a small fridge so I figured I could keep whatever I didn’t finish in there. I got back to the motel and ate at the desk, in my dusty socks and sweaty clothes.

Shortly after, my friend Debbie facetimed me. We agreed to facetime once a week so we don’t lose contact with each other. Talking to Debbie and going on the hike made me feel a little better. I was still feeling depressed from the days before, but hiking gave me some time to think about things and appreciate the landscape. She reminded me that I do have people who care about me.

The next morning, I checked out of the motel. I didn’t know where I was going next so I spent some time sitting in my car and looking online. I wanted to stop by Grants Pass as some friends had lived there for a few years, but it looked like Roseburg was a good place to check out. I found a room for 2 nights in an 1890 historic home on Airbnb. I figured I’d stay for 2 nights and then head up to see Eugene (a place I had heard about). It would be a 3-hour drive and I would drive through the forest.

Before leaving Klamath Falls, however, I wanted to stop by this little artisan café in the downtown area to get a late breakfast. The downtown was an old downtown with historic brick buildings. It was really cute but it only lasted a couple of blocks. I got a delicious breakfast sandwich and hit the road.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek