She captivates you. She fills you up and she frustrates you. How does she do that? How is something so beautiful so infuriating simultaneously? How can she be both at the same time? It’s too intense sometimes, the range of emotions. Her touch lingers on your skin long after she removes her fingers from your thigh. And those eyes! Those eyes that say so much pain still exists in the world, but that shine with a brightness that knows how to heal it.
I finally finished my full cave diving course with IANTD (The International Association of Nitrox and Technical Diving). Cave diving is part of the reason I came to Mexico a year ago and it took me awhile, and a bit of money, to finish this course. It is my first step into technical diving and now means that I can guide the caverns here as a guide to recreational scuba divers. What I do already, as a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, allows me to teach all levels of recreational scuba diving from Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Divemaster, Assistant Instructor, Specialities and training new PADI Instructors under a Course Director. As much as I love working as a PADI Instructor, cave diving was something I did for me. I started diving when I was 12 years old and have somewhere around 3,500 dives. I’ve always wanted to cave dive and have seen technical diving as a new challenge. It was a way to fall in love with diving all over again.
I’ve been living out of my backpack essentially for 4.5 years now, never really settling for longer than 6 months to a year in 1 place. In the last 6 months I’ve been hopping about much more than usual, living out of my backpack on a sailboat, back and forth to Mexico to visit my partner, traveling around the US in my van, sleeping on people’s couches and in their spare rooms, camping and visiting friends and family. I’ve had a great time but I’m happy to be settled in Playa del Carmen, Mexico again for another 5 months at least. I can unpack for awhile and nest a little, which always feels good.
Last night we fought
How can we not fight?
When there’s so much love there
that it yanks me out of my comfort zone,
when every inch of my being couldn’t
love you any more
than I already do.
When we fight and I scream
because I’m overwhelmed
we don’t understand eachother.
We are so stubborn
the two of us,
that it could shake worlds apart
like I’m being torn from my own body.
Loving you is
all of the emotions I’ve ever had
coming to me all at once.
And when I collapse
on the sidewalk
in your arms,
it’s not because I’m angry.
i’m not used to
not being in control
of my emotions.
You leave me speechless.
When we misunderstand eachother
my soul breaks with
Because it is so important to me,
to be understood.
That when we’re not,
it tears us apart
like the universe
is eating us whole.
Understanding will take us time.
But I can promise you
that I’ll fight alongside you.
Because we’re warriors baby,
and nothing is more tragic
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I haven’t had a long term relationship in over 5 years. Of course I’ve dated and had a few flings that lasted more than a month, but I’ve spent the last 4.5 years traveling the world solo. I’ve always been against long distance relationships because I had a strong belief that it probably wouldn’t work out, would end in heartbreak, and wasn’t worth my time. It definitely takes a special kind of person to travel the world with and I would guess that most couples wouldn’t come home together if asked to embark on a round-the-world trip. I read an article once that said, if you were engaged to some one, instead of spending the money on the ceremony and a blowout wedding, use it towards a trip around the world together, and if you arrive home, months later, together, at the same airport, then you know you’ll be able to get through anything together. I’m all in favor of that idea.
Flash forward to present day and I am 6 months in to the happiest relationship of my life. I have finally found someone I can travel with, that values and respects my independence, constantly encouraging me to do whatever I want and follow through on my pre-him travel plans. But as luck would have it, I met him towards the end of my 7 months in Mexico. When I went to work in the Caribbean for 2 months, we stayed in constant contact and I returned to Mexico for 3 weeks to visit him afterwards. I then surprised him another 2 months later for 5 days in Playa del Carmen and will return to Mexico to work another season in mid November. This time we have decided to live together and are trying to save money to head to Indonesia or Australia this spring. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this amazing human by my side in the future, and I can’t tell you it’s been easy because it hasn’t. We had to learn to deal with the distance and build our relationship despite it. Neither of us compromises well normally, but as our love grew so did a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s necessary freedom. So, I may not know a lot and I’m definitely still learning. But when it comes to long distance relationships, this is what I can tell you.
You will fight, but don’t hang up the phone angry. We both voiced early in the relationship how hard it was to be upset with each other when our only means of communication is a telephone. It’s bound to happen that things will get heated, but make a pact to refuse to hang up the phone angry, even if that means saying, “I’m a little upset right now and don’t think it’s a good time to talk about this, can we please discuss it later?” If you are on the receiving end of this, even if you are a lets-fix-this-in-the-moment person like me, you’ll have to learn to respect your partner’s need for thought and take a step back. We have hung up angry before but one of us has always called back within 5 minutes, in a much calmer tone.
Text every day. You might not be able to realistically pick up the phone every day and have a conversation, but make the small things count. Make a point to message a good morning and good night text, it’ll go a long way. My partner and I don’t talk but twice a week probably, sometimes less, but we aren’t the type of people that need constant contact. But with me traveling around, I sometimes wouldn’t call when I said I would and would go over a week without picking up the phone which made tensions run high and ensured that our first conversation in an extended period of time was a fight. Things happen, we are all human, but showing your partner you care throughout the day, and messaging if you can’t follow through on that call isn’t too hard. After all, we know how frustrating it is when we can’t get ahold of friends for days, imagine your significant other across the world. This also goes along with snapchats, inside jokes, or whatever makes the two of you, “you”.
Include your partner in your decisions. This may be harder for some than others. For example, I’ve gotten so used to being alone and making decisions without taking another into consideration that I still do this sometimes. Even though they may seem small and insignificant to your “separate” lives while you’re away, those little or big decisions still affect your future. I know things can get busy, but take the time to update and check in with your partner. After all, they do know you better than anyone, so make a priority for them to be at your side emotionally even if they aren’t physically.
Respect each other’s freedom. Freedom is the very reason we are most often single. And freedom from the mundane is why most of us travel. So finding a relationship with a freedom lover can be a bit tricky. I can tell you from experience that if I’ve felt smothered in the past, I would just end it because I wasn’t willing to compromise. One of the first things Victor told me is that you should love someone so that the person you love feels free. It was then that I knew I could build a future with this person. He encouraged me to fulfill my travel plans that I had before I met him, but made me promise that the next plan I made would include the two of us. Because he respected my freedom, I felt free in our relationship. I’m also notoriously bad at staying in touch, being a kinda “out of sight, out of mind” type of person. Although it took a few months and we’re both still learning, we don’t need to talk constantly or tell each other ever detail of our daily lives, but we do need to respect that we’re both still individuals living separate lives for the time being. The most beautiful relationships I’ve seen are people who push their partner’s to be the best version of themselves. Because we both want each other to succeed, we push one another to work towards our goals instead of smothering them.
Don’t play the insecurity card. We all get a little insecure sometimes, we’re human. And being in a long distance relationship usually plays towards those insecurities because we aren’t around to constantly reassure our partner, which can make us start questioning the other person’s integrity. Let me stop you there, don’t. Just don’t. Jealousy is a weak emotion. If you are feeling jealous that your partner isn’t able to talk to you as much as possible, or unsure about his new friend who happens to be a girl, then these things are on you. If you chose to be in a long distance relationship with someone, then you must trust this person. If you don’t, then that is something you have to deal with. You are not your partner’s life coach, nor should you waste your time constantly reassuring someone that you love that they are important to you and have a place in your life. I will do this from time to time because it happens, but I definitely wouldn’t deal with it regularly and you shouldn’t either. Don’t be one of those people.
Respect each other’s cultures. More than likely, if you met abroad, your partner is from another country and probably speaks another language as a first language, which means dating looks a lot different in other countries then it does in America. When you get in your first fight it’ll probably be due to a language barrier or cultural misunderstanding. Trust me, I know. And it can be really frustrating trying to understand someone else’s upbringing, culture and language. But talk calmly to each other and don’t take things too personally. We tend to think of these fights as an attack on our country or language when really it’s just due to ignorance that the other doesn’t understand. Be patient with each other when these things happen and take your time explaining instead of getting frustrated. You may quickly realize that the two of you just think completely different on something, that’s okay, respect the other’s opinion and move on. This won’t be the last time that happens when you love someone from another country, so learn to move past it.
I know there’s a lot of skepticism about long term relationships and I can’t guarantee you they will work out. My partner and I just dealt with his visa getting denied to visit me in the US, so I am now making my way back to Mexico. We are trying to head towards Australia next year where Americans can get working holiday visas and Mexican nationals cannot, another hurdle we’ll have to overcome together. But the world is a big place and there are lots of places we can fit in it, together. I can’t tell you if your relationship is right or wrong, or if mine will work out either. But if you feel strongly enough about another person, with the right amount of luck and a lot of respect it could go farther than you think. Good luck!
I said goodbye to him this morning
under hushed voices,
as if it means more that way.
I said goodbye to him
like I say goodbye to everyone.
But he isn’t everyone.
I know that.
It’s just that I’ve gotten too good
Maybe I taught him to be good
at them too.
Because there isn’t a me,
without an eventual goodbye.
Goodbye is a part of my life.
And I made it a part of his.
There was a time
where it hurt.
So I learned to protect myself
because my lifestyle is completely
conducive to goodbyes.
I had to learn to be strong.
I would always promise
that I’d come say hello and goodbye
to your face,
but eventually there was always
An avoidance of goodbye.
So, I hate goodbyes.
I had to learn to be
good at them instead.
smile on my face,
a promise of another meeting.
My dad always said,
“long hellos, short goodbyes”
and I’d constantly remind myself
how small the world is.
And how much of it I would travel
to never have to say goodbye to people,
to say hello again.
I said goodbye to him today
but I smiled.
Because this time,
I know it’s, “see you later”.
It’s been 3 weeks now since I left on my first big road trip with my 1983 VW Westfalia, which I have lovingly decided to call Mosey. Mosey seems like a great name because so far, she isn’t in a rush, and doesn’t want to be. It fits. And if you remember, I learned how to drive a manual 6 days before I took off on my cross country road trip because, you know, why not? So we are currently sitting in Portland, Oregon and I just dropped Mosey off at the auto detailers. She is in desperate need of a full inside/outside detail after coming off the Playa from Burning Man. The extremely fine dust from the desert finds its way into everything, and I still keep finding it in various places despite having done all the laundry and de-dusting all except Mosey.
My journey started out in my hometown of Crosslake, MN after spending a few weeks visiting and catching up with family as it had been a year since I was home. I was heading towards Reno to pick up a friend of mine who was flying from Brazil post Olympics and joining me for Burning Man. I gave myself 5 days to get there just incase something went wrong. I also didn’t want to drive at night because I still wasn’t the most experienced stick driver. I wanted to avoid putting myself in a situation where I would be stressed so ample time seemed necessary and would allow me to go at my own pace. To avoid climbing mountains as much as possible, I opted for a longer route which put me through North Dakota, Montana and down into Utah. I cruised flawlessly to Dickinson, North Dakota the first night and popped up the Westy top to sleep. I woke up freezing in 35 degree weather on the border of ND/Montana. The next night I stopped in a small town just before leaving Montana and slept again. Day 3 put me cruising into Salt Lake City around 9 PM and I was planning on climbing up to Park City to stay with a friend for the night. About 70 miles out I was cruising down the freeway and I started to feel this light shaking coming from the back of the van, so I pulled over on the next side road and when I was coming to a stop all the lights were up on the dashboard and the oil light was flashing. It was almost 9 PM at this point and I decided to check the oil like my dad had taught me, but I was frustrated and I couldn’t get a read on it. I added a little bit more just to be safe then called my Dad.
As I’m problem solving with him and our voices are raised 2 small kittens come out of nowhere and are meowing and following me around. You know me and kittens… so the conversation is going something like this,
“Yea, I know dad, but what if I added TOO MUCH oil”
“Lauryn, listen to me, let the van cool down before you check the dipstick again… Lauryn, are you there…?”
“OMG DAD, THERE ARE 2 BABY KITTENS RIGHT HERE! awww, they’re in the middle of nowhere, Dad SeRiOuSlY…”
“Lauryn, forget about the damn kittens, I don’t want you in the middle of nowhere stranded so talk to me.”
“Yea dad, okay but what if something happens to them? How did they get here!?”
“Lauryn, focus for me, okay?”
“Yea, yea, okay… awww they are following me!”
You get the picture, right? So this went on for about an hour and involved the van deciding it no longer wanted to start. Once Dad calmed down, I calmed down because we feed off each other like that, and I decided to limp it to the next town. Because my phone wouldn’t pull up GPS on data, my dad walked me through options as I drove. It was driving fine once I got into 4th gear on the freeway but it didn’t like to shift and wanted to turn off in 1st and shake violently between gears. I thought it was going to spontaneously combust and all I kept thinking about was if anything was worth grabbing as I exited quickly. Maybe my passport because I’m attached to it, water might be a necessity to survive… wait, WHY am I surviving?
As I pull off on what promises to be a large Chevron Travel Plaza where I can sleep for the night and see how she runs in the morning, I am instantly greeted by slow moving traffic due to a county fair that’s happening. I started laughing like a crazy person thinking to myself, “you’ve got to be kidding me” as I’m stuck in stop and go traffic and road blocks diverting me elsewhere with a van that doesn’t want to shift gears and oil lights that keep flashing while I look like I’m either drunk, confused, or terrible at driving a stick. One or 2 of those may have been true regardless… Needless to say, I make it back onto the freeway heading for the next exit and as I’m putting my signal on to exit all the lights go out and I realize I’m losing power quickly, as I now have no signal lights or headlights. GREATTTTT. But I made it to a gas station, popped the top off, and slept it off until I could call AAA in the morning and arrange a tow to a place I’d found in Salt Lake City that works on old VW’s. I spoke with a guy named Wayne who came highly reviewed online. He told me he’d be able to look at it by the end of the day but was closed on weekends and couldn’t guarantee anything. But he was friendly and the best bet I’d had after calling about 15 places that morning. I ended up getting a good recommendation for a tow in this family owned business called Archibald Trucking. They picked me up promptly, a father and son, and we talked the whole 60 miles to Salt Lake about life, traveling, and speaking different languages. As Mosey was being loaded onto the tow truck I was snapping a photo with my phone and it dropped, smashed on the gravel, and then refused to even turn on. I immediately just laughed and wondered if this entire day was going to continue like this. I now had no wheels, or house, or phone- yahoo! The Archibald men let me borrow their phone to call my father and let him know what was going on. These guys turned a bad situation around, I’ll definitely tell you that much! Great service and great guys.
Once I got to Wayne at Wayne’s Vee Double U Repair, we unloaded Mosey and I signed the payment receipt for the Archibald’s. They told me that Wayne mentioned to them that he was going to turn me down for today but since I’m pretty cute, he went ahead with it anyways! I guess sometimes you can’t argue with that! Wayne, being a charmer and a lifesaver that day got me back on the road within 4 hours. After I spoke with him, I took a taxi to the nearest T-Mobile, got myself a new phone and a friend in the manager who insisted I send him Burning Man photos and gave me massive discounts on accessories. Once I got back to Wayne and he told me it was only the ignition coil, for less than 200 dollars and a new bumper sticker sporting Wayne’s business and a promise to send photos of Mosey at Burning Man, with the sticker, I was on my way again! These guys were all lifesavers that day. I gave Wayne a big hug and he waved to me in the rearview as I peeled out of the parking lot.
The rest of the trip to Reno went off without a hitch. I picked up Marko, thrift store shopped, got last minute stuff and prepared to hit the road, driving over night into Black Rock City. Marko had it in his mind that he wanted to dye his hair platinum blonde and the owner of Junkee (the best thrift store ever!) overheard us and offered to do it for us, in her amazing apartment, right upstairs. So we dyed Marko’s hair until midnight and then embarked for the Playa.
When Burning Man was over Mosey started right up and we made it through a 8 hour Exodus until we hit the pavement, then another 3 to Reno afterwards where we stopped at the GSR Hotel to unwind, shower, and enjoy a pool party for a few days. I planned on getting a full service and detail for Mosey when BM was over but didn’t want to stay in Reno any longer. I was craving nature and water. I hit the road for Lake Tahoe to visit some friends and pulled up to my friend Brian’s house at about 5 PM. I got a good night sleep and woke up in the morning with plans to drop off all my laundry at the laundromat in town, which conveniently had a self service car wash right across from it. I was parked on a very steep incline outside Brian’s and when Mosey fired on and I put her into reverse we were almost out of the driveway when I put her into 1st gear she shut off then refused to even turn over. Okay, strike 2, here we go! I got her into the shop for a detail and a diagnostic Friday morning but they didn’t have a chance to look at her then and I got her back Monday at the end of the day. The guys were awesome, it was only some sparks and wires, and she was running great. As I thanked them and pulled out, 5 minutes down the road at an intersection she died and wouldn’t turn on. I called them back, Justin came out and got her started to head back to the shop once again. Turns out the battery (good ole’ Walmart Special) from 2014 was not hacking it anymore so we replaced it with a good battery and I made it overnight to Portland, Oregon.
But of course, NOT without a hitch! The navigation app Waze decided I was going to avoid highway 5 almost entirely for 700 miles, take only backroads, in the middle of the night, and continuously climb elevations up to 7,000 feet while avoiding small foxes and rabbits like I was playing one of those weird arcade games where animals come out of no where. On these older vehicles, there are actually no dashboard lights so driving in the evening is tricky anyways. I keep a small flashlight next to me to check speed and sometimes use Waze as a backup since it’ll tell me my speed on the app itself. About 300 miles in my data kicked off and no longer worked so I resort to pulling over and consulting my atlas under flashlight, on the side of the road. Because my data wasn’t working, I was also forced to listen to all of 3 radio stations available for about 4 hours- country or overly religious channels. After getting angry about my options in music, I eventually decided silence was better. Then came a series of tumbleweeds which made me think every single one was an animal that I might kill or visa versa, so now the full moon was paying tricks on my eyes, my data wasn’t working, and then lo and behold the speedometer has decided it doesn’t want to work either! So now I’m tired and decide to roll down the window so the moving air can keep me awake, and the handle breaks off! SERIOUSLY!?! I think I now officially started cackling like a crazy witch at this point. I had to use a screwdriver to control the window manually for the rest of the journey. But I made it around 1 PM the next day!
Whew, alas, here I am enjoying a wonderful breakfast and surviving in vegan heaven, or Portland. I have spent the last 2 nights with my best friend and am flying back to Minneapolis tomorrow morning. My grandpa passed at 93 years old 2 months ago and his memorial service is this Saturday. We have lots of family and friends flying in and my parents were starting to worry that I might not make it back in time if something happens with Mosey and I on the way. Since I can keep Mosey safely with my friend, Marti, I will fly back home for the weekend and then come back here afterwards to continue my journey when I don’t have a deadline. Because Mosey doesn’t do deadlines, she Mosies, such is our journey…
I have had so much fun driving her around and have decided that this type of journey is different than any one I’ve ever taken. I talk to her, scream when we hit checkpoints, get lots of laughs as I bump the sound system and scream at the top of my lungs at stop lights, and get praised at gas stations for taking the journey in the first place. People love it, I love it. The breakdowns are going to happen, regardless. So I guess being stranded in various places teaches you patience and understanding. So much already and more to come! Thank you everyone for your supportive texts, snaps, videos, and karma. I LOVE YOU! If you are in Minneapolis, let’s try to see each other Monday night before I fly back!
Lauryn & Mosey
I’m sick of people telling me they are jealous of me or how “lucky” I am. I mean, it’s nice to know that I’m doing something worthy of being jealous of but I’ve always felt that jealousy is a weak emotion. I think that one of humanity’s biggest weaknesses is our inability to be happy for other people when they are successful. Secretly, we always want them to fail. Somehow it makes us feel as if we’re falling short of something or not living up to our potential. It’s this feeling of inadequacy, of constantly comparing ourselves to others, that doesn’t allow us to feel inspired by people who live their dreams. It’s that constant competition that our school system and society instills in us from a young age. Instead of judging ourselves against other people, we need to start realizing that everyone is different, has different skill sets and things to offer. People are simply good at different things. I’ve always been a quick learner but I’m a mediocre athlete and a terrible artist. I can’t play an instrument to save my life but I’m not a bad singer. But I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that it’s okay to do things because I enjoy them, not because I’m the best at them, or even good for that matter. I love to “try” to draw. I enjoy playing the ukulele in an extremely mediocre way because it’s fun. Jealousy stems from our inability to be happy for what others have and there is a strong difference between being envious and being jealous.
I’m not saying that everyone is jealous of travelers. I know that it may look like my life is carefree and simple but in all honesty, it takes a lot of work. Of course the payoff is rewarding and what you see on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat is mostly the positive picturesque side of my life, but it takes a lot of planning to get to where I am. A lot of time behind a computer writing, organizing, searching for airline tickets, signing up for frequent flier programs, rewards programs, and researching my next destination. It can be a lot of risk to travel as a female and sometimes I feel really lonely. I’ve had complete meltdowns in between destinations due to the simplest of things and other times been faced with extremely uncomfortable, awkward or unfortunate situations and smiled through it with complete ease. Traveling isn’t for the faint of heart but I can promise you it’ll teach you something. I can promise you that you’ll learn who you are; that you’ll grow to learn and respect other languages, cultures, opinions and ways of life. It’ll humble you and show you to check your privilege. Traveling taught me how lucky I am. I was aware of the privilege and opportunity I was given from birth but until I really started traveling did I realize where my place was in the world.
Yes, I was born with opportunity. I was born with a safety net to fall back on and the means to chase my dreams. But let me tell you something, most Americans are, compared to the rest of the world! I have met people who traveled from California to Vietnam and survived for months off less than 300 USD, that went from France to Thailand, got jobs, worked on farms, and worked hard off less than 600 USD. When people assume that they need 3,000-6,000 dollars to comfortably go on holiday, I would tell them they are crazy. Most of my friends assume traveling is expensive but it’s not. I don’t have equity, mortgages, houses, vehicles (until lately), furniture, animals, children, big screen televisions or the most expensive phone. What I want you to understand about that is that these things are choices! I don’t want children or a house, so I chose not to have them. I am not knocking anyone for wanting those things, I have best friends who raise amazing humans and are wonderful mothers and they love it! It is their choice, and what I want is for people to understand that everybody has choices, maybe not the same opportunities but we make choices every day that get us to where we are. It doesn’t matter how glamorous your life is or how “inspiring” your Instagram page looks. What matters is that you wake up every day and you love what you do and acknowledge your strengths. Stop comparing yourself to other people!
The one thing I had going that many don’t is that my grandparents paid for university. I was the first one in my family to graduate from college and as long as I maintained A’s, they supported me. I was able to save money to travel that way. But what I have now is experiences. I have a backpack and a scuba dive bag to my name. I feel safe and most happy when my life fits into 2 bags. Selling my house and my furniture was one of the most liberating feelings of my life. The big screen television you just bought for $3,000 could cover my travels for shy of 3 months. Let’s face it, your excuses on why you “can’t” travel are only that, excuses. I understand that you have children but I’ve met wonderful middle income families that travel with their kids. I’m sure it isn’t easy but it depends on how much it’s worth to you. I made traveling my priority and because of that I’m here. Stop telling me that you can’t and admit that you won’t. Admit that you’re scared, admit that if you took time off your job you’ve worked so hard at you might lose your position, admit that it would be too much effort to try and navigate the world with children in tow. Stop telling me you are jealous of me. Instead, tell me you’re envious, inspired, or happy. Say things like, “good for you”. Own up to your strengths and be happy with the life you’ve built. That’s what I want.
Yes I am blessed. I’m not “lucky.” I didn’t fall into this lifestyle, I knew what I wanted when I was 12 years old and I did everything I could to make it happen. I had a lot of support, a lot of opportunity, but it wasn’t “luck” that got me here. Stop putting that on me. Stop asking me to carry around the guilt of your jealousy. I am so honored that you are inspired. I hope that my lifestyle makes you want to try something new or chase your dreams! All I can ask of myself is to be authentic and honest. I fail a lot, I can promise you that. If I wasn’t scared to fail, if I wasn’t scared to try, I’d never know and you know what I hate more then failing? Wondering. Wondering, “what if” I had tried this, done that, voiced this? Wondering sucks. I refuse to fall guilty to it. But I also refuse to carry the fact that your jealousy should somehow belittle my lifestyle. Everyone has the hand they’re dealt. I had mine and if I’d felt that I needed to live up to societies standards of what “happiness” looks like, as something that’s always in the future and never in the present, I wouldn’t be writing you this. Experience is my priority, travel is my lifestyle. So please, be inspired, but don’t be jealous. It’s weak and you’re better than that. Find your bliss and live your truth. You’re worth it. You are not a tree, and if you don’t like where you are or who you are, rewrite your story. You owe it to yourself.
I started traveling around and going to music festivals after my freshman year of college. I spent a couple weeks every summer working for a patron transport service and driving around music festivals in a decked out 6 seater golf car shuttling festival kids to and from campsites and music stages. It was cash in hand, fun, and I never left a festival. In between I’d road trip around and the States and enjoyed my fair share of music and national park hopping over my college years. The travel bug bit me even harder when I graduated from University and decided to move overseas over 4 years ago. One of my best friends sent me an email 4 years before, after her first Burning Man experience; she was over the moon, it had changed her life, and she was absolutely set on the fact that we had to experience it someday together. I’d always heard about Burning Man, but the commitment was strenuous, the planning was stressful, it wasn’t cheap, and since it was always at the end of the summer, I never had the money to make it. After I came back 2 years ago for my first knee surgery, I decided that I’d spent enough of my years at regular music festivals, and decided it would be a great opportunity to join Mallory and make “the Burn” happen.
I made it to Reno, the closest big city outside Burning Man’s Black Rock City Desert in NW Nevada on Monday this week after a 8 hour exodus and the 3.5 hour push to Reno itself. I had spent my 3rd year in a row and survived Burning Man for another year. That’s what it is, it’s surviving. It’s a constant surrender to the uncomfortable. Nothing lives in this inhospitable and uninhabitable desert and it isn’t supposed to. We aren’t either. I’d spent 2 weeks there each year before and 8 days this year. Burners will tell you how healing and magical “the playa” is. Each year about 65,000 people flock to form a temporary city with a fully equipped hospital, tons of art, DJ sets, and spend the week biking around, attending workshops, looking at art, watching it burn, all while completely covered in dust that finds its way into everything. And they love it! We love it! It is a beautiful place with magical sunrises and sunsets, amazing people, interactive light up art, and it’s own culture. Burning Man is unlike any other festival I have ever attended. The entire concept is built around a gifting society, which means no money is accepted. The only things you can purchase on the playa are ice (because it’s a desert) and coffee because, well, it’s coffee. This means everything needs to be carried in and carried out. No exceptions. You cannot ash on the playa nor can you poor water onto it. Once you are in, you’re there, and the only cars allowed to move after arriving are art cars or “mutant vehicles” which resemble giant octopus, boeing 747’s and flame throwing ships that drive around the desert playing great music and throwing surprise dance parties in the middle of dust storms at 5 am.
Burning man has 10 other principles other than gifting which include things like radical self reliance, participation and community responsibility. It is a great place to explore all different kinds of workshops and try new things, they even have a skydiving camp where I would love to check out the view next year once I have my 100 jumps in. Every year a temple is built where people put letters to loved ones they have lost, momentos, items that remind them of great memories and on Sunday night it is burnt down while 65,000 people watch in absolute meditative silence. It is emotional and the love that goes into decorating its walls is heart wrenching and tear jerking whether or not you leave anything inside. The whole Burning Man concept centers around the burning of “the man” on Saturday night which is a completely different scene than the temple burn. People dance and art cars play music, fireworks go off and the man lifts his arms in a massive display before he eventually falls to the cheers of thousands of people. The concept of “sticking it to the man” started with a small group of friends in San Francisco in the early 80’s that built a wooden man and burned it down on a beach as a type of symbolism towards the rejection of modern society. After a few years the gatherings got a little bigger then local authorities would like and they were encouraged to find a new location. Since then Burning Man has found it’s home in the Native American owned land of NW Nevada.
The last 3 years have all been completely different burns for me. The first year I tragically fell out of our art car which was shaped like a fish and retore my ACL 4 months after my original surgery. Needless to say I was grounded at camp for a few days with a bum knee and spent a lot more time in my immediate vicinity. Last year I was able to get out at night and enjoy the art during the evening. I spent hours biking around the playa and experienced more of a night burn, typically sticking close to camp to help out during the day. This year our camp downsized from 50 to 18 and we were all able to benefit from a smaller camp size with less obligations. It was absolutely amazing to have the time for exploration and new experiences. Every year is different and always turns out to be exactly what I needed it to be. It took me months to process my first year and I know many people who get really discouraged and depressed after they rejoin the “default world” post Burn. I am happy and blessed to be writing this from Lake Tahoe as I decompress and process exactly what I gained from this year’s Burning Man. It truly is unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I love the planning, the challenge, the extreme highs and lows, and the growth that comes along with it. I’ve met amazing Burner family and am so in awe of the time and effort people put into these art installations year after year, just to build it and burn it down. It makes you realize the impermanence in everything, and helps you appreciate each day and the people and places in front of you. It transforms everything into such a simplistic worldview. If you’ve ever considered Burning Man, I can’t promise you it’ll be easy, but as cliche as it sounds, I can promise you that it’ll be worth it. Whether you do it once or keep going back year after year, it can offer everyone something.
I’ve been wanting an old VW van for years now. Two summers ago I started looking online a bit more seriously but of course it was still just out of curiosity. I had been entertaining the idea of having one so that when I came back to the US to visit I would have something to live in and travel in. Flash forward to March and I get a message saying that my dad and a buddy of his had purchased a mint condition ’83 Westy from Colorado. My dad’s friend Peter mostly wanted it for tailgating U of M football games seasonally and my dad just thought it was a fun thing to have. I almost lost my mind when I got the photos and saw the new purchase! Since I now had free reign to use it as long as Peter wasn’t needing it I decided that I would drive her around when I came back towards the end of the summer.
I found out about 2 months before I got back stateside that it was a manual. Something my father failed to mention in the beginning, surely on purpose because there is no way he could forget that I still couldn’t drive one because he tried to teach me when I was 15. He came home from work one day and said, “meet me in the car in 10 minutes”. When I opened the driver’s side door he was sitting in the passenger seat with a full face snowmobile helmet on. Haha, really funny Dad! I probably stalled it about 5 times just leaving the driveway and about 8 miles down the road stalled it out on a left hand turn, got stuck in the middle of the road, panicked when the cars lined up, and bailed into the backseat in a fit of tears and stubborn teenage hormones. Dad had to get out of the car, walk around to the drivers seat, the whole while wearing that ridiculous helmet and waving at the traffic apologetically. I refused to ever try again because it was “too hard” and I “wanted an automatic”. Today I would kill for that Subaru Outback, but 15 year old me thought differently.
So what’s a girl to do when she gets her dream van at the age of 28 but it happens to be a manual? Well put her pride away, laugh, and get behind the wheel obviously! Then naturally a week later take it across the country to Burning Man in Nevada! Nothing forces you to learn quickly like a cross country roadtrip! So I’m back in the States, finally stumbled across some BM tickets, and now have 3 days until I embark. My boyfriend taught me how to drive a 6 speed jeep deep in the jungle of Mexico, so I was a little bit familiar and knew the basics already. But nothing had prepared me for this old lady! She’s a finicky 4 speed with gears that can be very tricky to drive, let alone find! As my father told me, “if you can drive this thing, you can drive anything”. I have spent the last few days practicing on hills, taking mom to lunch, driving to friend’s houses, and just generally driving around trying to get comfortable. I’ve learned that I tend to drop the clutch much too fast, which has gotten some laughs and cheers when pulling out of busy gas stations with 2 hops and a peel out before we start rolling. I’ve been laughing uncontrollably when I have to wave people around me because I can’t find first gear and it’s still revving itself in neutral. Oops!
I spent yesterday driving around with a girlfriend who knows how to drive a stick and learned living in a busy city. It was raining out and we spent the whole day doing laps through town and parking in my parents or my brother’s driveways. We would just hang out in the van, laugh, and talk about all the things we could do to it. I’ve got a solid list going to get her Burning Man ready and it all hit me yesterday how absolutely amazing and in love with the van I am. I’m still trying to come up with a name for her but we are convinced it’ll come when ready! I’m doing the drive out by myself and since I don’t want to drive at night, and am trying to avoid the majority of mountains (although I will have to cross the Rockies at some point, regardless) I’m feeling comfortable with my planning and giving myself ample time to get to Reno where I’ll pick up my buddy from the airport. I have friends along the way to stay with and can pull over and sleep in the bed anytime I need to. It’s beginning to feel like home and I haven’t stopped smiling for the last 2 days!
Today we take the first big haul 45 minutes out of town to Brainerd, MN to stock up at Fleet Farm and Home Depot. The girls have been helping me come up with a list of “van necessities” along with totes to get organized. So we are going shopping and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of laughs along the way in stop and go traffic as I maneuver the van around town less than flawlessly. Wish me luck!
Since I’ve been back in the States I stopped in San Diego for 5 days to visit my sister then flew back into Minneapolis where my parents picked me up and we spent 5 days in northern Wisconsin at the cabin on Lake Superior. It was such a nice way to unwind. Now I’ve been back in my hometown for the past 10 days catching up with family and friends and now packing for Burning Man. It’s gonna be an adventure, I’ll tell you that much! Don’t forget to follow me on instagram @theramblingmermaid and snapchat at smilelotsplz. I will keep you up to date on all the funny things that are going on, as well as my progress on the van! Much love.