The concept of choosing one thing, as in — one project, one focus, one goal — has shown up in two ways this week and it has me re-thinking my thinking.
The phrase "heart above head" came up in yoga recently. Our instructor Gabe (short for Gabrielle) extolled the physical virtues of placing our hearts above our heads and then, she wondered out loud about allowing our hearts to guide us in our lives more often.
When was the last time you followed your heart's lead?
It may not be an easy change in leadership. My brain is johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to chiming in on everything. My heart, on the other hand, is harder for me to hear most of the time. Connecting with my heart's voice takes conscious effort. The interaction goes something like this:
Me: Place my hand on my heart to bring my attention inward. Heart, what do you have to share with me?
Heart: Shhhh...quiet your mind. Let go of all those racing thoughts for a moment. They'll be there for you to pick up again. Breathe. Soften the muscles in your face. Listen with all you senses. I may speak through physical sensations, quietly with words, visually through images, or with a sense of intuitive knowing. I am always here for you.
How could you make a decision you're facing with your heart above your head?
In the spirit of learning,
“How does it feel to return home?” After traveling in Latin America on our motorcycles for nearly two years, my husband and I hear some version of that question often. Appreciating that we’re still in the homecoming process, I’m going to take a crack at describing what it looks like and how it feels in this blog series exploring my relationships, house, and work.
This is the first post in a blog series about returning home and relationships.
Missing my family and friends was the #1 challenge during the trip. I was anxious to reconnect with everyone as quickly as possible! I yearned for those genuine conversations with another human being who knew me, rather than the strangers we met along the way (even though they were amazing people!). Knowing a bit of a person’s history, brings a sense of connection that’s missing from the passing curiosity of meeting a new person. When we know each other, we can appreciate the meaning behind the stories we share, like reading an ongoing book rather than starting over at chapter one. I liked meeting new people, don’t get me wrong but I was out of whack. My life was 100% meeting new people and 0% being with people I know, like, or love. I felt a sense of frantic, desperateness for real connection with my peeps.
The trickiest factor in coordinating get-togethers was that we didn’t have a home base or a set schedule. After arriving in LA with our motorcycles on February 23rd, we bounced around until moving into a home of our own just before the 4th of July. (I’ll talk more about that in the “house” part of this series.)
Reconnecting with Family
Visiting both our families was awesome and strange. We kind of didn’t know what to do with each other. My mom and I saw each other for the first time when she picked me up at the Boise airport. Our eyes met, I noticed an odd look in her eye. There was a bit of an awkward pause then she said something like, “It’s so strange to see you in person!” We went through some version of that experience in nearly every reconnection scenario.
We gathered for family dinners and did out best to catch-up on the seemingly little things that went unsaid in the months of online conversations. It felt like our epic adventure was an elephant in the room. Keith and I didn’t know how to talk about our trip, hadn’t condensed the photos enough to share. Our families didn’t know where to begin with questions. They had mostly seen our Facebook posts and read our blogs so they didn’t know what they didn’t know. That’s not the scenario I expected.
In my coming home fantasy, I dreamed of juicy, long conversations snuggled in a warm, comfortable, living room with the familiar smells of my families’ homes. We’d have a cup of morning coffee or a glass of evening red wine and seriously catch up on everything that we didn’t feel compelled to say online. The reality was that most of them didn’t have time for this kind of connection. They had lives to live, jobs to do, routines to tend to, kids to run around. Our love for each other is absolutely not in question. Scheduling was the tricky part.
The other expectation I brought to these family gatherings was my new belief in Latin American style family values. I’ll give you of sense of what I mean. We stayed in an Airbnb in Quito, Ecuador with Felipe & Mila for a month. At first, we were complete strangers, but they quickly introduced us to their friends at a local restaurant, and invited us up for meals. We soon met both of their parents over dinner and drinks. One Saturday we were welcomed into the larger family. They invited us to go along to a family gathering at property owned Mila’s family, out in the country. I learned that they do this regularly, at least once a month. Plus, Felipe has lunch with his parents a couple times a week, and they live next door to Mila’s parents. I was surprised to hear they spent so much time with family. I admired them. They had real relationships with their families. I could feel their comfort with each other. They didn’t wait for holidays to get together, being with family was an everyday part of their lives.
I dreamed of having that kind of relationship with our families when we returned home. I count Keith and I fortunate to have such kind, loving, supportive families and, I want more of them. Yes, I appreciate that they didn’t have my Latin American family values transformation but I still want more of them!
In the spirit of learning,
P.S. I'm happy to share that the coaching aspect of my business is growing. If you, or someone you know, would like support in crossing the gap from where you are now in life to where you want to be, I'd love to help. Let's schedule a complimentary session and talk about it.
We’ve been asked versions of “What’s next? and “What’s it like coming home after being on the road for so long?” from lots of people. I’m ready to take a crack at sharing some answers!
Here’s the current status: After traveling for 562 days on our motorcycles, we returned to the U.S. on February 23rd. We’re still traveling as we visit family and friends, and doing our best at taking our time to consciously re-shape our lives.
What’s it like coming home after being on the road for so long?
We’re having strange experience after strange experience. The first one happened when we boarded the shuttle bus to take us from the LA airport to our hotel nearby. It was early evening and dark, the shuttle bus was full and loud, it seemed like every person on the bus was talking — and here’s the weird part — we understood them! We realized that for 19 months, the conversations surrounding us were simply white noise. We got used to ignoring everyone. We only paid close attention to what someone was saying in Spanish if we really needed to understand it. Later, when we arrived in the privacy of our hotel room, we talked about what an ass the guy behind us was being to the woman with him (presumably his wife), and that we wanted to turn off the volume on everyone.
Here's one of the next things I noticed. I felt like buying new stuff, and yet when I was shopping, I was repelled by the whole experience. Everything in the store seemed to be shouting, "Buy more, more, more!" I didn’t want to replace my holey underwear (4 pairs were such tough troopers the whole trip) or my hot pink lightweight, long-sleeved Icebreaker shirt (you know the one, you’ve seen it in many of my photos), or my secure, can’t-be-cut-with-knife, purse with the broken zipper (quite worthless when one’s purse gapes open all the time).
I’m slowly muddling through this process, surrendering to the need to replace unfixable stuff. However, I still needed that slightly broken stuff because we continued traveling for about a month in the U.S. We visited friends and family in the southwest as we gradually adjusted to our new “home” culture.
I arrived near our hometown on March 27th. Here’s my journal entry: “Holy shit, we’re home. No, we’re not home as in living in our home but we’re home as in being in the area we called home. It feels like a loop has been closed. I’m ready to trade my moto riding clothes for my fun, “old” clothes.”
And speaking of clothes…I thought I would hyperventilate when I started going through my clothes in storage! Since we’re still not living in one place, I had to select some (not all of them!) to take with me. My heart raced in anticipation. I climbed on and leaned over into all the boxes marked “Jalene’s Clothes.” I made piles of possibilities, oooo’d and ahhhhh’d when I found something I loved and had forgotten all about. I took them all to our friend’s house in which we were staying, tried them all on, laid out good combos, washed the mothball smell out of the chosen bunch, and returned the unlucky ones back to storage. I love having more clothing choices. Superficial? I think not. My moto rider, Tomboy look is fun and so is my creative, professional, spunky look. What I wear on the outside influences how I feel on the inside and how I’m showing up in the world. Does that make sense?
We continue to have strange and “first time since we’ve been back” experiences. It’s an adventure for sure.
We’re still in the process of deciding where we want to live. Most likely it will be in Oregon, within a day’s ride of our family located in Boise and Tacoma. It depends on where Keith’s work takes us. My work is no longer dependent on our location.
While we were traveling, I tapped into my mind and heart to decide what I wanted to do next. I knew that I wanted to combine my 35 years of work experience with my master’s degree in education and a lifetime of fascination with personal development. My choice to be a solopreneur, aka business of one, is feeling more than anything, like me. The best way I can think of describing it to you, is to share what I wrote on my website:
I help women who want to get their spine-tingling ideas done and are struggling with doing what it takes to make them happen. What does that look like?
It looks like kick-ass women who want to make a difference, want to grow personally and professionally, and dare to be all in.
It looks like us working together to develop your leadership style, energize you with self-care rituals, and accomplish your ideas that excite (and scare!) the hell out of you.
We start where you are now and work together to fulfill your desires in the areas that are most important to you. Is this you?
I'll be teaching, facilitating, and coaching with individuals and groups. Plus, I'm embarking on my certification as a professional coach and am in need of practice clients for the next six months. So far I have witnessed and led coaching sessions in which people make choices for actions that are life-changing. Seriously. I am in awe of coaching.
I would greatly appreciate you thinking about those friends and family members you believe could benefit from my services. My practice clients will be given a significantly reduced rate during my training and the first session is complimentary. Please send me their contact information or, give them mine: 541-272-2337, email@example.com.
So now, (in true solopreneur spirit!) I have a question for you. What’s next for you and how can I help you get there?
In the spirit of learning,
www.jalenecase.com | 541-272-2337 | firstname.lastname@example.org
As of today, we've been traveling for 481 days. It's hard for me to get my head around! I've had a job since I was 14 years old and we left on this trip when I was 52. I know how to do work. Traveling, on the other hand, has been a challenge in many unexpected ways. I have a doosey to share this time.
But first...the backstory...
We started our trip with a Horizons Unlimited Traveler's Meeting in Nakusp, BC in August 2015. Our plan was to attend another one in Argentina in December 2016. It was the perfect bookend to our trip and located on the way to our end goal of Ushuaia. When the time came, we found ourselves 750 miles away from the event. To make matters worse, the event was no longer "on the way" so it would need to be a round trip. That's 1500 miles out of our way for a 2-day campout with about 20-30 fellow travelers. I seriously hated to miss it but I didn't have it in me to do an extra 1500 miles.
New plan. Keith, and two men we met during our travels, rode together to the event while I stayed at "home" in Puerto Varas, Chile. After some pondering about what to do with 10 days dropped in my lap, I decided to design what I call my Curiosity & Desire Retreat, a combination of being an artist-in-residence and a woman on retreat.
Some of you will think this is cr-azy
and some of you will think it's co-ol!
Here's the thing...we're in the last phase of our trip and seriously talking about what going home will look like on multiple levels. There are big frickin' changes coming! This total break from traveling is a deep, expansive, juicy time for me to wonder and be curious about who I am now, and what I want next. Maybe you've had this feeling. We want to know what's next but can't quite put our finger it or, more likely, we know what it is but it scares the hell out of us, and we wish we wanted the safe, easy thing. That's where I am.
There are way too many details to share everything with you but I want to share the essence of it. I'm six days into it with another four to go. Its been strange not having Keith around all the time, humbling to flail between what I think I "should" do and what I "want" to do, frustrating not to see a clear path to my next phase, and freeing to play, learn, and wander down any rabbit hole I wish.
My goal is to answer the question of whether I want to pursue finding a job I love, or starting a business I love, when we return from our trip. The bonus question is, if I want to start a business, what would the focus be? To approach these questions from different perspectives, I built a structure to inspire wonder, thought, and creativity.
The basics of my Curiosity & Desire Retreat:
- I set aside precious time and space for me.
- I set up a written foundation for my time with what I want to do daily, how much time I will spend doing it, and a place for me to check off that I have done it, so I can celebrate with funky, happy-dance moves.
- I gathered inspirational material such as poems and quotes.
- I set the intention of listening to my body’s needs, my heart’s desires, and my mind’s knowledge + eating healthy, exercising, and resting + being willing to be surprised through showing up, wondering, being curious, and doing the work.
- During my Curiosity Retreat time, I'm working with a whopping 34 questions by hand-writing my answers in multi-colored markers, and taping them on the walls so I can see the themes and patterns emerging. I research topics of interest to learn more.
- During my Desire Retreat time, I do whatever I feel a desire to do. The photos at the bottom are some of my creative work. It's my first attempt at a mandala! Ha!
I made a one-minute video to show you my crazy, cozy, creative space.
If you feel like you're in transition and would like to talk with someone, I'd love to hear your story. Email me. I appreciate the work it takes to make our big choices in life, and know it can be a tough, lonely time. I don't have the answers however, I love meaningful conversations about struggles and possibilities, gremlins and muses, realities and dreams.
In the spirit of learning,
I realized that you might like to read the poem so here's the full size image :)
During a particularly deep "dip in our trip," I made this 2-minute video to share about it. (Pardon the occasional wind noise.) Little did I know, it was going to get a little deeper before I made my way out of it.
Here are the links to the books I mentioned in the video:
Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future by Peter M. Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers
Back to that dip I was talking about. It continued until we took a longer break in Santiago, and I dug deeper into my basic needs to understand why I was so off-kilter.
Like cream rising to the surface of fresh milk, letting go of everything I know to take this trip has allowed my needs to rise above my wants. By letting go of my house, job, friends, family, exercise routine, relaxation rituals, stores I like to shop in, restaurants I like to eat in, closet full of clothes and shoes, jewelry...you get the idea...I've had a chance to distinguish between my needs and wants in a new way.
Here's where I am now. I've let everything go. We're still traveling so I can't put my whole life back together again but, I can make choices about my basic needs. That's where I'm focused. I'm identifying my "minimum requirements for self care" (a term used by Jennifer Louden) so I feel like myself, comfortable in my own skin. Louden's writing prompts have helped me to get at the topic from some new angles.
For example, some of what I've learned is that time alone on the bike isn't enough for me. It was easy to get time to myself at home but on the road, I have to let Keith know that I need a few hours to myself with no interruptions. This is hugely important for my sanity and I wasn't giving it to myself! Another example is what I've started calling stretch projects, in which I challenge my mind or body or heart. The time I spent creating my ebook, Journaling Whys & Hows, fed my need to share about a topic that's super-important to me and to be visually creative. As a "thank you" for reading my blog, I'm giving it to you for free! Use the promo code thankyou.
I'm pretty sure I've made it through the dip in our trip. I've learned more about my basic needs, am in the midst of a 2-week (or more!) break in Santiago, Chile at an awesome hostel with other motorcycle riders, and Keith and I are laying out the next to last leg of our trip, which will take us to our goal of Ushuaia, Argentina. We haven't quite figured out the last leg involving how or when we go home, yet.
Whew. Who knew there would be so much to learn when we left our house 443 days ago!
In the spirit of learning,
We're 13 months into our adventure and I'd like to share with you how traveling is opening my heart in a new way.
I’ve been practicing a couple of new-to-me concepts, which are changing how I understand the people and places we’re visiting, and what I believe is possible for the future.
From our hotel balcony, I’ll share a bit of what I’m experiencing, and in the background you’ll hear sounds from the shores of Lake Titicaca and the small town of Copacabana, Bolivia. It's a touristy town near the border with Peru so don't be surprised if you hear a very recognizable song in the end :)
If your curious about the book, here's a link to it: Untethered Soul
From my heart to yours, I send you love.
In the spirit of learning,
When we left home just over a year ago, I did my best to pack everything I thought I'd need for two years of motorcycle travel. Some things I got right. Some things I shipped home, tossed, or gave away. And some things, I didn't realize how much I needed until I tried to live without them for several months. Strangely enough, roadside stretching, in the photo, is connected to one of those things.
In this video, I talk about the tools I've discovered that make travel way more fun. Surprisingly, they're more similar than different to life at home.
In the spirit of learning,
We arrived in Quito Ecuador on May 9th with a plan to stay for two weeks to do maintenance on the motorcycles, have our teeth cleaned, our riding boots re-soled, and pick up two packages that had been sent from the US to our friend’s mailing address in Quito. A straight-forward To Do List, right? Today is June 24th (46 days later!) and one of the packages, containing important stuff from home, STILL hasn’t been released from Customs.
Being stuck sucks. Waiting, uncertainty, and disappointment have led to feelings of boredom, anger, helplessness, depression, confusion, frustration, and (thankfully!) gratefulness for the people who try to help us.
I’m finally gaining some deeper perspective and want to share with you.
The thing is, this big adventure, this epic trip of a lifetime turns out to be a lot like “real” life. Shit happens and we have to deal with it. And in fact, dealing with it is tougher on the road because we have fewer resources. However, through darkness come opportunities for deeper learning. This, too, is like “real” life but it feels condensed out here, like a gourmet balsamic sauce simmered down for rich flavor.
Being forced to slow down has opened me in unexpected ways. I’ll do my best to describe what I mean.
Through a podcast, I discovered the book Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. It’s teaching me a new way of understanding who I am based on a different perspective about the two parts of our inner selves. Singer describes the observer (the true self), and the inner voice (the part created by outside influences). You know how it feels when you read something that resonates with you as true, and you can physically sense it in your body as you process the new material in your mind? It feels like that and it doesn’t stop there. I’m experimenting with what I’m learning to change how I re-center myself and meditate.
And, I’m learning how to reprogram my thoughts by using EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique). This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this method but it’s the first time I’ve truly worked with it. I figured after hearing about it a few times from different people, it’s time for me to pay attention. Since I’m a total newbie at it, I’ll share this definition from the internet to describe it: Tapping on ‘meridian points’ on the body, derived from acupuncture, can release ‘energy blockages’ that cause ‘negative emotions’. It seems like the perfect time to learn this technique.
I’ve found myself lost in thought about these two new-to-me concepts for big chunks of time because we’ve had ample unplanned time on our hands. I’ve also worked more on an ebook about the reasons and options for journaling, and discovered a writing group on Facebook, in which I’m receiving and giving feedback on projects.
During this time of feeling stuck, my friend Sandra asked if I would share what’s been challenging and what’s been great during our travels so far. (As of June 24th, we’ve been out here for 318 days.) Since I felt a bit on the gloomy side, I enthusiastically dove into the challenging stuff and effortlessly made a long list. Then, I tackled the great stuff list.
I noticed a few things after I finished the lists. First, it felt therapeutic to pour it all out onto the page. Second, I was surprised that although the “great” list was shorter, it felt bigger, more important, more life changing. Third, the two lists together could be titled What People Don’t Tell You About Long Term Travel Because You Wouldn’t Listen Anyway. If I had read these challenging items before we took off on this trip, I would have read them with my rosy colored glasses and plunged ahead anyway. Thank goodness.
Despite this frustrating time of stuck-ness, I’m grateful to be out here. I know I’m expanding my understanding of myself, my relationships, other cultures, what I want and don’t want in my life, and more importantly, I appreciate that I don’t know how it will all play out. This time of being confined by one lousy package is no fun. I won’t lie. But now, I wonder how this extraordinarily uncomfortable 46 days of waiting will influence my life?
Being stuck shows up in all of our lives, stuck in routine or habit, creatively stuck, stuck in a way of thinking or feeling. During those times we realize that the only control we have is over our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. This quote I read recently from Caroline Myss sums it up, “My job is to let this world transform me.”
In the spirit of learning,
Lesson 10 of 10: fear
From the moment we said aloud, "We're riding our motorcycles to the tip of South America," fear has never been far away.
Before we left, I was afraid of leaving my awesome job, having no income, renting out our house, and lots more. Almost every time we told someone of our plans, I could sense the fear in them. And now, it's there when we're choosing roads to ride, and places to eat, sleep, and visit. You name the decision, and I can describe a way that fear is influencing the outcome. Recently, it accompanied me to a swimming hole and I ended up writing a poem about it, which is not a normal occurrence for me.
Outside the tiny, mountain village of Santa Fe, Panama, I walked by myself from our hostel, to a swimming hole a mile or two away. I was scared during my walk. When I settled down on a rock, with my feet in the water, to write in my journal, this poem tumbled out.
Fear or Gremlin
I almost turned around,
almost thought I was going the wrong way,
almost didn’t see this river, swimming hole, Panamanian countryside.
I would have missed the cool sensation of dangling my feet in the water,
wondering if I should go all the way in,
wondering if the air is warm enough, and the water not too cold.
How many times has fear won?
Or, perhaps, fear has saved me.
It’s hard to know.
Hard to know when fear is warranted,
a savior, a signal, a true warning,
that danger is nearby.
times like this,
fear strikes falsely.
Fear blocks me from joy,
runs so quickly through my body that I freeze,
fills me with doubt and terrifying headlines.
I can’t banish fear,
anymore than a dieter can stop eating food.
How can fear become my ally?
What’s the difference between fear and my inner gremlins?
Fear isn’t always trying to stamp me down.
Perhaps that’s it.
Fear that’s holding me down,
isn’t fear at all.
It’s an inner gremlin dressed up as well-meaning fear.
Fear calmly says, “Stop for a moment. Let’s think about this.”
Fear works in facts and intuition.
Adrenalin-filled inner gremlins shout, “Oh shit! Did you hear that?!”
And, “that,” turns out to be a leaf falling to the ground.
Facts are useless to gremlins.
It’s time to forge a new relationship with fear,
to notice when fear is speaking,
and when inner gremlins are jumping up and down with declarations,
It’s time to respect fear,
even love it if I can.
After all, fear wants to keep me alive.
by Jalene Case
This poem was written on the banks of the Santa Maria River in Santa Fe, Panama.
In the spirit of learning,
P.S. In case you're wondering, "Yes, I went all the way into the water!"