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Travel Learning: Lesson 9 of 10

Lesson 9 of 10: Big happiness

Traveling brings new experiences in practically every moment. What we make of them is up to us. 

One of my favorite experiences is meeting amazing people, like this couple from South Korea. A story they shared with us about finding "big happiness" on the road gave me goose bumps because they're so right on. I asked them to tell you all about it. Please meet Jeon Taebyung and Woo Yeon.

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

Travel Learning: Lesson 6 of 10

It didn't take long for Katharine and I to be engulfed in an interesting conversation, high above San Miguel de Allende in their rooftop space.

Lesson 6 of 10: girlfriend talks are a need, not a want.

I didn’t appreciate the number of different people I talked with on a given day until we were on the road. I love conversing with all kinds of people. I miss learning about the lives of work colleagues, customers, friends, neighbors, women at the hairdressers, and cashiers at the grocery store. In Zacatecas, I quickly sank into a meaningful conversation about life choices with Anna at the hairdresser’s place and realized just how much I missed that kind of talk. We’re still connected online and our conversation has continued. Sadly, not much of this is happening these days.

All I have is Keith, unless we happen to meet other English-speaking folks or I learn a whole lot more Spanish. Keith has many, many traits I love but “talker” isn’t among them. Chatting with him is a far cry from talking with a girlfriend. I submit these true-life conversations as proof.

Dialogue with Keith:

Jalene: The essence of what I said was, “I feel like I’m obsessively thinking about the future, like what I’ll do for work after our 2-year trip.” In real life, Keith reminded me that it took me about ten sentences to say this and, I learned later, that I lost him somewhere along the way in my monologue.

Keith: Hmmmmm…

The end.

Conversation with my girlfriend Sandra:

Jalene: same as above

Sandra: This I know about you.

An impassioned conversation (back and forth!) ensued.

Keith and I have had a few good conversations about this and, of course, he isn’t doing anything wrong. However, I’ve learned substantially more about how we go about sharing thoughts and feelings. On a superficial level I knew this, but on this trip, it has sunk in deeper.

I fully appreciate that the kind of conversations I have with my girlfriends aren’t a want; they're a need. Once in a while, I need to be submerged in, as my friend Sandra calls it, girl-talk. Honestly, talking online doesn’t come close to the real thing. I miss them.

I’m grateful to have several fascinating, kick-ass girlfriends who are willing to call me on my shit and dive deep with me into meaning-of-life kinds of discussions. You know who you are and I love you! As I write about how much I miss you, this post has taken an unexpected twist.

Frankly, after Keith proofed my writing, he pointed out some “facts” from my memory that were wrong. We talked. I made changes based on both of our memories, and we agreed that although we have a different way of sharing our thoughts and feelings, we both want to have deeper conversations.

How about this for a new perspective and a new title? “Soul-filled Talks are a Need not a Want”

In the spirit of learning,

Jalene

P.S. Who knew that traveling would provoke this kind of learning!

P.P.S. - Keith here:  I think that Jalene sure has a great husband. How many others would allow her to use them as an example like this? My thought is that most would find this embarrassing (I do, to be honest), but Jalene is trying to make a point here about her needs. I’m glad she knows that my not being a stellar conversationalist is not a fault, just part of the way I am. Now, if only we could have these conversations in the garage about things such as transmission issues or tire selection…

Travel Learning: Lesson 4 of 10

This is how I cook when there's no table. Fun.

Lesson 4 of 10: Limitations bring freedom.

At home, Keith was the better cook and prepared most dinners since I had a long daily work commute. On the road, I’ve taken over the food buying, cooking, and clean up. The strange thing is, I like it. Somehow having extremely limited cooking tools and ingredients makes me a better cook. Perhaps expectations are low so exceeding them is easier? I don’t know. But I know the sense of freedom extends beyond our small but mighty traveling kitchen.

I have fewer things surrounding me than ever before, and yet I don’t miss them. At home, the list of stuff I wanted to buy never ended. It was a habit. I always needed something more, different, or better than what I had. In fact shopping for those things was one way I made myself feel better when I was down in the dumps. I got so excited when I found just the right thing, like scouring several online stores for the perfect waterproof, breathable, not too heavy, not too light, petite-sized jacket, when I already had one that did the job.

Out here, the needs I give most my focus are basic: decent food, pure water, a limited amount of clothing to keep me cool or warm, a clean place to sleep, and an electrical outlet once in a while to charge our equipment.

Physical objects can weigh us down. They reduce our options and make us feel like an overloaded burro when it comes time to take care of it all.

Having fewer material things to maintain gives me the precious gift of time. Here’s what it looks like: I read longer, choose whether I want to take a slow stroll or an exercise walk, chat with people I’m drawn to, wallow in cool websites that I’ve been meaning to explore, write more, let my mind meander wherever it chooses.

I would have never imagined that less could give me so much more, that limitations could lead to a feeling of freedom.

In the spirit of learning,

Jalene

It's all in our heads (and hearts!).

It's day 50 of our "South on a Bike" trip (learn more about the adventure here) and I'm reflecting on questions we've been asked by the wide variety of people we've chatted with along the way. The most common question has been focused on how we managed to put our lives on hold and travel for 2 years. 

The difficult thing to describe is that it all starts on the inside. Before we started answering the questions for ourselves about "how" we could possibly do it, we had to know in our heads (and hearts!) that we truly wanted to do it. Once we knew that we truly wanted this, all the answers we needed came flowing in.

I'm going use this as an example to share a process I use to figure out what I truly want in my life.

Making the choice for this adventure began last New Year's Eve. Keith and I had dinner together and wrote what we wanted to bring into our lives during the coming year. It was an intimate, powerful conversation. I loved hearing Keith describe the items, feelings, and experiences he wanted to bring into his life and why they were important to him. 

The first of several items on my list, and the one most relevant to this trip was, "big bold visions and actions." No, I didn't write, "a 2-year motorcycle trip to the tip of South America," but what I wrote was more important because it was an overarching theme for application to any given area of my life. In this case, it formed the energetic underpinning for the decision to take the trip.

I've come to believe that when we decide what we want to do, a higher power (God/universe/call it what you will) helps us with how to do it.  Author Mike Dooley is known for reminding us to focus on what we want, rather than worrying about the "cursed how's."

My next step in this process was to create a Vision Board, which is a collection of images collaged together to represent what a person wants in his/her life. It's a method of connecting with our inner selves, to help us know how we want our lives to feel and what we want in our lives. As a result, the Vision Board guides us in making choices for what we bring into our lives. 

Here's how I go about making my Vision Boards. There are no rules so do what feels right for you.

  1. Find a secluded, quiet place where I won't be interrupted for as long as I wish to be there. This helps me sink into my core, to feel centered and grounded in my being, to know I can wander down any rabbit hole that calls to me.
  2. Flip through magazines and cut out images. If the image attracts me for any reason, I cut it out. I've learned that while I'm gathering images, they seem to have no connection or reason but, when I begin gluing them down, they all feel connected. It's magic.
  3. Augment found images with intentional images. If I feel like there's something missing from the images I've randomly collected, I search for additional images online. 
  4. Gather all the images together and glue them down. I like to use a tabloid size (11" x 17") hard card stock. The results always astonish me. Disparate images come together on the page to accurately represent the feelings, items, and experiences I want to bring into my life. Sometimes the images are more abstract and sometimes more literal, but in the end, they all make sense to me.
  5. Hang it where I can see it every day. I came up with a great trick for hanging my Vision Board on my bathroom mirror. I use duct tape to attach it to a hanger and voila, it's there to greet me every day.

Here's what mine looks like for 2015:

I find it empowering, and at times intimidating, to know that my choices shape my life. It sounds so simple and, yet, I think we all know it's far from it. Learning how to tap into my inner self, where my answers lie, has been a personal quest for at least 16 years. It seems all my thoughts wrap back around to this topic lately including writing a book about it! 

Changing Basic Happiness Needs

The further we travel from our "normal" lives, the more my needs change. In this video made in Wetampka, Alabama at my friend Wendy's place, I talk about just that. When I thought about it later, these "daily needs" are built on a foundation of love and connection with my family and friends. I'm grateful to have them in my life and it's super important to me that we stay connected during our time on the road.

Being Curious vs. Fixing It

Setting the Scene for this Self-Curiosity Blog

On August 10, 2015, my husband Keith and I took off on our motorcycles for a 2ish-year journey from Oregon to the tip of South America. During this time, I'm dedicating this blog to the inner journey that takes place as a result of our outer journey. 

Today is September 10, 2015 (day 31 on the road) and I'm sharing about the playful power of being curious.


I'm perched atop a fabulous yellow sofa in the home of Keith's cousin Connie, her sweetie Tommy, and her sons Ethan and Trevor. We've been in Indianapolis, Indiana for 2 days and are planning to begin meandering our way south in the morning. But first, I'd like to share how being curious totally changes my perspective.

Show Your True Colors

Jalene and Josh (son) at the Oregon Country Fair. I LOVE the cape and hat my son bought to express his true colors!

Jalene and Josh (son) at the Oregon Country Fair. I LOVE the cape and hat my son bought to express his true colors!

These are my magic overalls. When I wear them, I'm reminded of my wildly creative side. I move with a confident rhythm, think abstractly, feel like the woman I am inside. When I need to get my groove back, I wear these overalls. What do you do to get your groove back, to get in touch with who you are deep inside your core? How do you show your true colors to yourself and/or to the world? 

My true colors are speaking strongly now because I'm going through a transition process that's bringing up feelings about who I am and what's important to me. Keith (my husband) and I made the bold decision to quit our jobs and ride our motorcycles from Canada to the tip of South America. (I'll share more about how we arrived at this choice in another post.)

I've been vacillating between, "Holy moly! I'm so excited to go I want to take off right now!" to "Holy crap! How am I going to get all the work done at work and at home to get ready to go?" The result has been a pretty heavy load of stress, mixed with the exhilaration of starting a new adventure in life, and another thing that's tough to describe but I'm going to give it a go. 

I feel like, if I'm finally traveling at the age of 51 which I have wanted to do since I was 17, what else have I really wanted to do but haven't done, yet? My most recent answer was, "Red. I've always wanted to be a red head." I researched becoming a red head online and the one thing that stuck with me is, "do not do this at home, go to a professional." Thanks to Jessica at Fine Line Hair Design, I am now a red head and TOTALLY love it. There's magic in being who you truly want to be.

How will I express my true colors next? I don't know but I know I love this trend. How about you? What have you always wanted to do but haven't done, yet?

Adventurously yours,

Jalene

Fear as a Guide

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You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt

Why is it that our inner voice tells us things we often deny before we finally admit that that voice not only scares the hell out of us but simultaneously excites us? It’s big. It requires change. It commands you to leap out of your comfort zone. I’m not talking about something harmful or illegal, but rather something that takes guts to do. Something that is fear-inducing.

I’m always in awe at the complexity of our inner selves. Living consciously is more satisfying but definitely not easier. When you fear what your inner self is guiding you toward, consider these thoughts.

  • Confirm that it’s your inner wisdom speaking and not some other voice, such as society saying you should have a high-paying, stressful job that doesn’t excite you.
  • Remember a time when what you are doing now sounded scary. Appreciate that all new experiences come with a dose of fear.
  • Your wise inner self won’t pressure you into making irrational, terrifying changes.
  • After looking at the situation from different angles, if you feel strongly that the guidance is from your wise, calm, inner self and you’re still afraid, it may be time to accept the fear and do it anyway.

I ask myself these questions when I feel afraid: “Is this the wrong thing to do? Or is this the right thing to do and I’m just scared to do it?” When I answer these questions in my mind, I pay attention to how I feel the answers in my body. I know it’s the right thing to do when I feel butterflies of excitement in my belly. It’s time to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Get Curious

Write in your journal using the prompts below or respond to them in a visual way such as painting or cutting images from magazines.

I am afraid to know...

(Blank) scares me because...

If I could orchestrate my dream outcome, it would look like...

My dream outcome would feel like...

Go Deeper

What did you learn about your interaction with fear?

What situation terrifies and exhilarates you now?

How might that fear be guiding you toward something exciting and worthwhile?

Hiding from Inner Pain

I like to feel happy. When pain or depression or unhappy feelings creep in, I don’t like it one bit. Intellectually, I know it’s important to feel all the feelings on the spectrum from sadness to happiness and everything in between but it doesn't come naturally to me.

For me, moving from denial to acceptance of painful feelings takes some inner work with a heavy dose of self-compassion, awareness and an open mind toward learning. I know I’m in denial when I feel a frantic need to make myself feel better through numbing activities like over-consumption of food, alcohol, shopping, or a fixation on unnecessary household projects.

Here is what I’ve learned (so far) about moving from denial to acceptance of painful feelings.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in “Peace of Mind,” says that if we don’t recognize the painful feeling, it will persist. “We can learn how to handle a painful feeling, a painful emotion whenever it begins to manifest.” Try this. Deeply breathe into your belly while doing this exercise.

“Breathing in, I know you are there my pain.

Breathing out, I will take good care of you.

Breathing in, I embrace my painful feeling.

Breathing out, I calm my painful feeling.”

I found this helpful in grounding myself so I could begin to recognize the pain. Here are some other ways I’ve discovered to move through a dark time like this.

  • Give yourself what you need. I usually need time alone to retreat into my cave aka escape pod.
  • Write. Let out all the feelings that are swirling around inside you. Recently, I wrote specifically about where my life is incongruent. In other words, where was I saying one thing yet doing something different?
  • Make art. It doesn’t matter whether it’s beautiful or ugly. The creative process can be healing and revealing.
  • Go to a special place for you. I like to take a slow, non-exercise oriented, walk with absolutely no purpose but to be outside.

Be brave and experience your painful feelings rather than hiding them from yourself with fake happiness. Know that moving through the process from denial to acceptance will lead to a more full spectrum, wholehearted life. Remember, this too shall pass and fun will most assuredly come again.

Love from your partner in courage,

Jalene