“She’s a searcher of her own soul; a seeker of her own joy; a discoverer of her own light;
finally, a friend to her own heart.” -S.C. Lourie
We continue with Bianca’s journey...finding her authentic self through travel.
I always knew I’d love Washington, but I don’t think I was prepared to immediately feel at home somewhere I’d never been.
Before we made our way to Bellingham, we stopped at Pike Place Market, my friend insisting that it was absolutely crucial to go here while in Seattle. Talk about sensory overload! The old brick streets were packed with people, meandering in and out of shops, carrying everything from bright bouquets wrapped in paper to giant framed paintings and antiques. We stopped for coffee, Mediterranean food, books, flowers, pastries… everything!
My amazing hosts took me on another mini adventure - to the San Juan Islands via ferry, a brand new experience that brought out my inner child. I was so giddy and excited to be on the boat, to stand outside and have the wind whip my face and hair. I loved the way the water rocked us and how no matter where we were, the mountains were always visible.
Once on island, we walked a beautiful sea side trail only to come out and be greeted by the sight of Orcas swimming right up against the shore line. I forgot where I was, completely mesmerized by the whales… the mountains… the trees…
The magic of this place certainly had me feeling like I had butterflies in my stomach. I was seriously falling in love with Washington, and I’d only been in the state for less than a day.
I felt like I was starting to wake up.
New York -> Adirondacks, Saranac Lake
Washington left me feeling like anything was possible. Less than a week after coming home, I had started making plans with a group of close girlfriends involving a road trip to upstate New York. We had two goals in mind: camping in the Adirondacks + kayaking. We decided on Saranac Lake, a mystical little town that allows you to reserve camp sites located on various islands within the lake.
We packed everything up and made the nine-hour trip to our destination, only managing to get lost once. Eventually arriving at the lake, we loaded up our supplies and took off for Eagle Island right before sunset.
Kayaking is an activity that deeply resonates with my soul. I was completely at peace, surrounded by friends, paddling to our mysterious home for the next week. The island was so surreal... enchanting and welcoming, yet quiet and isolated. There was a small cliff that jutted out from the side of the island, perfect for lying out on and watching the stars. We pitched our tents, crashed for the night and woke up to the most amazing sunrise over the lake. We spent the next few days napping in our hammocks, swimming in the lake, exploring the waters in our kayaks, and day hiking around the island.
Yes, I was most definitely awakening from a fog!
It was the most perfect group of people to have gone with. Each of us realized that we were going through the same situation… separation, a search for growth, and a hunger for new experiences. While we were all in a state of internal isolation, we found comfort knowing that this was an okay thing to do. It was okay to take time for ourselves, to find ourselves, to purposefully remove ourselves from contentment to allow room for self-awareness.
Virginia -> Shenandoah National Park
My next adventure came into being a few weeks after coming back from New York. Two of my Eagle Island friends and I planned a seemingly easy and uneventful back packing trip in Shenandoah National Park.
This trip turned out to be one of the most impactful camping trips of my life.
The day before we left, I decided it was absolutely necessary for me to cut all my hair off… not 2007 Brittney Spears, but pretty dang short. I had spent most of my life being told that my impulsive nature was a bad thing, my adventurousness was going to get me in trouble, or that I needed to be more level headed and grounded. After my recent trips and spending so much time by myself, I started questioning everything I had believed about myself for the first time in my life.
Was it really who I was or was it a projection of everyone else’s opinion of me?
Was I truly reckless and impulsive, or was I passionate and spontaneous?
I started to see myself in a new light and it was empowering. I decided my life didn’t have room for anything less than what I wanted. I realized I had all of the control; no one else would ever be able to influence how I felt about myself. Creating a customized life to meet my needs and standards had nothing to do with anyone else. I became my own best friend, completely supportive and nonjudgmental.
So I cut off all of my hair off.
We arrived at the park and began our hike. About 30 minutes in, we see two black bear cubs on the trail… I’ve never seen a bear while hiking, let alone two cubs standing in the middle of the path. A few minutes further down, we see their mother off to the left of the trail. As we’re making our way downhill about an hour later, we look up and see ANOTHER black bear standing on a ledge a few yards away. At this point, we’re all excited at having seen 4 bears not even half way through our hike and begin speculating on what kind of spiritual significance this may have.
As I mentioned before, the three of us were going through very similar situations. As we had come to share our stories and experiences with each other, we voiced a collective agreement that maybe the universe was trying to offer up some important life lessons. Needless to say, we all began to pay very close attention to every detail along our journey.
We continued hiking downhill, our trail steadily becoming steeper as we went. Next thing I know, I’m sliding on gravel and loose dirt, trapping my foot under a root and falling hands and knees first into a huge rock protruding out of the trail. I rolled to the side and looked down at a huge gash directly under my right knee, (later I’d find out that I had fractured my tibial plateau). I had collected a good amount of dirt and gravel in the gash and was worried about it becoming infected overnight, so I had taken my knife (stop reading if you’re squeamish) and peeled/cut back the flap that was torn, trying to flush the wound out with water. I soaked up as much of the blood as I could with gauze, wrapped it up and we continued on.
We began to reach the end of our hike, getting close to the camp site. We should have run into a few big streams at that point, but instead we encountered huge, empty, stone covered river beads where the water should’ve been. By then, the sun had gone down, my leg was becoming a problem, we were worried about the lack of water and we still hadn’t found the campsite. We decided to stop for the day, but couldn’t find ground that wasn’t covered with huge rocks. We gave up on the idea of sleeping in tents and set up our hammocks.
In the morning, during our individual roaming’s, one friend came back to where we had camped looking completely exasperated. She told us that she had found the original camp site we couldn’t find the night before, less than a five-minute walk from where we were. We all just looked at each other and started cracking up. It was so ridiculous; we had come so far, only to give up so close to our destination. We added that to our list of lessons from the universe… …
You never know how close you are to achieving your goals, so never EVER give up.
Our hike back consisted of an increasingly steep incline, as we had spent our previous day hiking completely downhill. I was struggling pretty hard with my busted knee, let alone climbing uphill the entire way back. Just when I thought the trail couldn’t get any steeper, it would. My knee was completely saturated in blood and sweat. There wasn’t much I could do about it since we were practically climbing up a never ending staircase, with no place to stop.
All I could do was continue climbing, keep putting one foot in front of the other until we found a place to stop. It felt like hours had gone by before we finally reached the top. I leaned against a tree, about to unwrap my bandage, when we heard the clap of thunder way too close for comfort. Less than ten minutes later, the sky opens up - torrential down pour style. We were jogging up the path, which was beginning to turn into a stream, trying to get out of the rain as fast as we could. All I could think about were all of those empty river beds and how they must have been filling up rapidly. We were getting completely soaked through, rain hitting us at every angle. The trail had flooded so high that it was up to our shins. Even with rain jackets and pack covers, every bit of us and our belongings were soaked through. We finally got back to the car, and wouldn’t you know… it stopped raining.
As we were leaving the park, driving down Skyline Drive, we saw our last black bear of the trip… totaling to 5 bears! We discussed every aspect of our adventure on our way home, each of us feeling as if we had undergone a life changing experience. I look back on it now and I’m still amazed by the number of symbolic occurrences within such a short time frame. The universe gave me a gift when I had fallen. It taught me that I was so much stronger than I had ever believed myself to be. I realized I had all of the inner strength necessary to accomplish any obstacle, big or small. No one from my past knew what they were talking about when they had labeled me as fearful, weak, lazy or unmotivated. I had just kicked the trail’s butt with a messed up leg, pushing myself every step of the way.
I was hungry for the next adventure, excited for new lessons and whatever the universe had planned.