motorcycle travel

Curiosity & Desire Retreat

Hola!

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:

  1. I set aside precious time and space for me.
  2. 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. 
  3. I gathered inspirational material such as poems and quotes.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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,

Jalene

I realized that you might like to read the poem so here's the full size image :)

The Dips

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: 

The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin

Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future by Peter M. Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers

The vast simplicity of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is one of my favorite spots.

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,

Jalene

What do failure and extraordinary have in common?

Peru's Colca Canyon wowed Keith and me. The canyon is known for its Condors, and as soon as we spotted our first ones, with their graceful, delicate gliding style, we wanted to stay longer in the expansive grandeur of the canyon. But, we couldn’t. For the first time in a year, we were on a schedule. We had tickets to Machu Picchu on a specific date the following week so, we set out to make the most of our time in the area.

With two different visions of how we wanted to explore the canyon, we decided to go our separate ways. Keith took off on a ride to the canyon bottom, and I hiked down to an oasis spot called Sangalle. Let’s just say, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Click on the video below and come along with me.

In the spirit of learning,

Jalene

Experience-ing

As we rode from Moyobamba to Yurimaguas in Peru, deeper into the hot, humid Amazon region, my helmet time was consumed with thoughts about the word experience. How is it that Keith and I can technically have the same experience and yet, come away with different interpretations? The answer came in the form of a poem that I tried to catch before it disappeared.

Experience-ing

 

A super-verb!

Containing within it,

our lives,

our stories.

During,

and after an experience,

our outer and inner worlds,

collide.

And, poof!

A new story is born.

New meaning is made,

to change our lives,

either,

in an un-detectably minor way,

or,

in an un-deniably major way.

 

Our experiences infuse meaning,

into our lives.

What you see,

what you notice,

what you pay attention to,

how you interpret, story-tell, make meaning,

of your experiences,

emphasizes shadow or light.

 

Like a star,

no two alike,

zillions of them,

illuminating and energizing our lives.

 

by Jalene Case, Yurimaguas, Peru, July 21, 2016

Stuck

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.

We may be stuck due to a package but we're not forced to stay in the same place. This is Quilatoa Lake high in the Andes of Ecuador.

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.

Chimborazo Volcano in Ecuador.

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,

Jalene

Appearance vs. Being

Nine months ago, my husband and I hopped on our motorcycles and embarked on a radical adventure. Nine months without going to a full time job, which I did for 34 years. Nine months without a remotely regular routine. Nine months of not seeing the person I was accustomed to seeing in the mirror. Who is this new woman's face and why does she wear the same old clothes day after day? 

I had to wrestle with the concept of appearance for a few months before I appreciated its meaning to me. I share my experience in this 3-minute video as I consider the affect our appearance has on our lives.

After you watch the video, here are some questions for you to ponder about your appearance.

At what age did you become aware of your appearance?

Do you recall a scene or something that someone said to you about your appearance that changed the way you thought about it? If so, how might this still be influencing your appearance today?

Complete this sentence: If I could experiment with changing my appearance, I would...

Being comfortable with our own appearance means letting go of comparing our current selves to our younger selves, to the media's portrayal of women, to other women, to what we think we 'should' look like or what we wish we looked like. To be sure, appearance plays a role in our lives but it need not be the starring role, that goes to how we show up in our lives. 

In the spirit of learning,

 

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry!

Near Palomino in northern Colombia.

“No matter where you go, there you are.”
— Confucius

We're a long ways from home, but that doesn't mean we've left behind our old habits and behaviors. Lately I've noticed how a sense of hurry-up! creeps into the most unexpected places, so I decided to learn more about it. I've also noticed that what's most fascinating on this trip are the faces, not the places. And that's what I'm sharing about in the video below.

In the spirit of learning,

Jalene


P.S. Here's a short tour of the artistic, funky hostel we're staying in.

Travel Learning: Lesson 10 of 10

The swimming hole.

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

A view from the isolated roadside. I love these Brahman cattle.

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?

My first glimpse of the swimming hole.

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,

Riverside writing.

that danger is nearby.

But sometimes,

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,

And yet sometimes, we have to feel the fear and do it anyway!

honor it,

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,

Jalene

P.S. In case you're wondering, "Yes, I went all the way into the water!"

Travel Learning: Lesson 8 of 10

Lesson 8 of 10: Travel changes relationships.

Even before we left our house, I knew that traveling would change me. How could it not? With so many new experiences every day, change is imminent. What I didn't know, didn't even consider in advance, is how travel would change our marriage. In this video, Keith and I share the changes we've noticed so far inside our relationship.

In the spirit of learning,

Jalene

Travel Learning: Lesson 7 of 10

Lesson 7 of 10: Unearthing My Voice

Chilly early morning writing in our campground outside Oaxaca.

All of my friends, family, acquaintances, and colleagues, as well as my work, play, and routines have been left behind. It feels like a massive spring-cleaning of my lifestyle. I vacillate from appreciating this experience as precious (most of the time) to feeling lonely and depressed (some of the time). It’s a time like no other in my life. With so much now shed from myself, if I pay attention, I have a chance to hear my own voice more clearly, and I wonder, “What do I have to say? How do I want to say it? What does my voice sound like?”

For 34 years, most of my writing has been based on the voice of organizations. I’m guessing you might know how that feels. Now I feel a strong urge to write unabashedly in my very own, personal, individual voice. (As I typed that last sentence, fear sensations rushed through my body!) Writing in someone else’s voice is like being fully clothed, protected from personal criticism. Writing in my personal voice, feels like I’m naked and vulnerable, with my thoughts, feelings, and ideas exposed.

So why would I focus on this when I could simply enjoy traveling? I trust that when I have a desire to do something and it sticks with me, it’s my wise inner voice urging me forward. And I know somehow it will connect to my future in a way that I can’t always see from where I am now.  

This time of being disconnected from familiar people and environments feels like a better time than any to experiment with my voice. Right now I’m using three ways to learn: writing and making videos for this blog, my daily journaling practice, and a book by Todd Henry that came to me a in an unexpected way. I love it when that happens. It feels special.

I’ve respected Jennifer Louden’s work for several years, through reading her online materials and taking a couple of her classes. (Learn more about her here.) I emailed her for the first time on a different topic, and within our exchange she suggested the book Louder than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice by Todd Henry. I’ve been slowly absorbing the work by reading the book and bringing the most real me I can muster to every single exercise the author offers.

I’m in that pubescent learning stage. This quote, from a book I loved reading, gets at what I’m moving through now.

“Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his *true* self and not from the self he thinks he *should* be. ” ~ Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A book about Art, Independence and Spirit.

In the spirit of learning,

Jalene