My crazy-awesome adventurous life!

Things are crazier than usual.

I’ve been traveling full-time for exactly 4 years now. It’s as if I ran straight off the stage at college graduation and into a vagabond gypsy van, chock full of the interesting characters I’d eventually meet on my travels, beckoning me to caravan along.

As it goes with traveling, once you catch the bug, it’s hard to shake it.

Since leaving my home of Chicago land about 4 years ago to broaden my horizons, I’ve visited and called the following places home: Philadelphia, PA, Australia, Hawaii (Big Island and Maui), Wyoming, San Diego and Temecula, Denver, Cortez (Colorado) and now back semi full circle to Wyoming. What a whirlwind of adventures!

Before I started traveling, I became obsessed with the idea of living a wild life. I ached to know what it was like to scrape by. I needed to live by the seat of my pants. I had to be taken aback by the magnificent scenery of my dreams.

I haven’t lived anywhere longer than 3 months in 4 years. When I say things are crazier than usual, the past year, I’ve been moving about every 1-2 months. I travel seasonably because I have to connect to this Earth and its scenery. It’s who I am and why I am.

Every time I go home and reconnect with old friends, they can’t believe that I’ve just blown into town or even have the freedom to come and go so naturally. I cherish the time I get to spend with close friends because it reminds me of where I come from and the person I used to be. Often, though, I feel ashamed to “boast” about my experiences, embarrassed by what they probably don’t or can’t say: I’m not capable of sitting still.

And they’re right. I opened a can of worms that first time I packed my car and headed east. Now I’m addicted, possibly for life. I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way!

So here I am, raising my dog in a studio motel in Jackson, Wyoming, surrounded by incredible mountains and the charm only the west could provide. My boyfriend is just as crazy as me, lustful over any experience that is new, thrilling, wild or adventurous.

I just spoke with a writing mentor who is full of awe about my integrity and reminded me that it used to be acceptable for society to “get by” together in an insane world. Then America became money-hungry, brand hungry.

My writing career is finally starting to take shape. I’m going to be published in Mabuhay Magazine, the in-flight publication for Philippine Airlines. My dreams are coming to fruition. I can’t give up on my dreams of becoming real, old-fashioned travel writer.

The reason why I travel is the reason why I write: to share my experiences of this crazy world with others so they might just get up to some living themselves.

I’m done trying to box myself into a social media channel, tirelessly self-promoting and getting drowned out by stupid filtration systems that optimize more “relevant” (read: marketable) content. For so long I felt little value as a writer because I couldn’t get 10,000 twitter followers or a million blog subscribers. What I realize now is that that’s not my dream at all. That’s the dream of some profiteering dream-killer who wants to sell his ideas as my own.

I’ve gone rogue more than once and I’m finally giving up on the idea of writing engaging content for Buzz feed. I feel liberated. It’s like skipping all the neon flashy lights of New York City’s Time’s Square. Instead, I’ll be ducking in and out of dodgy Ramen noodle shops in Chinatown, feeling a sense of exhilaration only I could create.

And so, while I wrestle with what it means to live a normal life, which I’m sure is true of all of us, I’m not going to be afraid or embarrassed of who I am, my writing style or my lifestyle choices. We need more people to stand up to the man and live their lives the way they were always meant to. Mine happens to take the shape of a traveling waitressing act with a cute man and a mangy dog, but it’s mine and it’s perfect.

 

Exploring the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

I wake up in Portland city’s confines early in the morning and not surprisingly, it’s raining. The weather doesn’t deter my good mood, because today I’m going to explore the Columbia River Gorge National Recreation area. Nothing makes moss look a little greener than a light mist in the air.

The day starts with a walk around Laurelhurst Park in an ironically named part of the city for such an overcast day, Sunnyside. My couchsurfing host Tom and his shepherd dog Sadie are enjoying an off leash walk while I meander around the lake snapping pictures of ducks and flowers. The park is painfully beautiful, green and lush. It’s hard to hate the cold in the late winter air and the precipitation when you see how enchanted a simple tree can look in the temperate rain forest.

Portland

Flowers along the walk at Laurelhurst Park in Sunnyside

My travel companion for the day and good friend Jeff lives in Vancouver, Washington, just over the Oregon border. He picks me up and we’re off.

This is my first visit to the Pacific Northwest and I’m charmed at the scenery. Because of Oregon’s geographic location, snow, especially near Portland rarely falls. This day in March, the peaks of the gorge are dusted lightly with snow, making for a dramatic contrast to the gray sky.

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The Columbia River Gorge view from Chanticleer Point

Our first stop heading east of the Columbia River Highway is Chanticleer Point which gives us our first vista of the gorge including the iconic Crown Point.

I pause to read about the gorge’s geological history and learn that molten basalt from cracks near the Idaho border shifted the Columbia River Gorge north to its current location. Due to some melting ice dams in Montana during the last Ice Age, water surged over the top of Crown Point, cutting through layers of stone quickly, thus creating the greatest concentration of high waterfalls in North America.

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This particularly piqued my interest. Not only was this initial vista impressive, but there were endless waterfalls along our drive to discover. Not a shabby afternoon for a girl from the flat Midwest.

We drive further and enter Guy W. Talbot State Park and I’m astounded by the sheer height of the surrounding trees. Because of the lush landscape, I am immediately reminded of fairy tales of my youth, half-expecting a fairy to grace us with its presence. This place is amazing.

After parking, we follow the paved path from the park for a short quarter-mile hike down to Latourell Falls, sometimes referred to as the lower falls. We access it after crossing a bridge which dates back to 1914 and was constructed with special lightweight materials because of the unstable, wet soil.

As we approach Latourell Falls, the mist from the falling water graces my face and gives me a chill. I’m not slighted or annoyed, but rather, exhilarated. The waterfall is pounding with an intensity I can only harvest respect for. I inch my way toward it, being careful to watch my step over the slippery rock. I finally get close enough to feel the earth rumbling beneath my feet and its power rocks me to my core.

Jeff enjoying the front-row view of Latourell Falls

Jeff enjoying the front-row view of Latourell Falls

We get back in the car and drive down the winding, old highway bursting with basalt lava flows, giant ferns and amazing twists, turns and curves. I love this drive; it’s nothing short of magical.

Jeff and I continue onward to the double-tiered Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest fall at 620 feet. Sourced from the underground Larch Mountain springs, it’s good to visit year-round. It doesn’t dry up in the summer like many other waterfalls.

A gaggle of tourists funnel up and around Benson Footbridge which allows for a bird’s eye view of the lower cascade. The bridge was built in 1914 by Simon Benson who also was one of the original builders of the old Columbia Highway.

I take a moment to look out at the entirety of the gorge from the bridge. The colors are stunning and ethereal; the way the sun refracts on the gorge wall makes the hues vivid and impressive. I can hardly believe that where I stand is place of natural beauty. It almost seems like a scene I might have conjured up in a dream.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

All of the sights in the gorge are just a short 30 minute drive outside of Portland city proper, each stop along the way demanding proper attention.  Whether it was a short hike, a photo shoot or a stroll around to gain different perspectives of the forest, the Columbia River Gorge is a great place to visit any time of year.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

On the ride back to the city, Jeff and I talked at length about the Pacific Northwest and its unique geographic location. We pull off at Cascade Locks and check out the Bridge of the Gods which spans between Oregon and Washington State.

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

The view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

The scene is romantic: A light fog mists the air as we walk the grassy park near the water. Suddenly the Union Pacific rolls by and blasts its harsh horn into the twilight. It’s chilly, damp, austere. The sun begins to set and the scene is warm, the trees evergreen. The Pacific Northwest in late winter is melting, renewing itself for a new day and season.