In my last post, I announced that I am taking some time for myself to live my best life: to travel, write and explore! I’ll be heading back to South America soon, but first I wanted to spend the two best months of the year in my favorite place of all: the mountains and coast of the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Thanks to some great friends who keep a box of camping supplies for me, I was easily able to fly in, rent a car and head off into the wilds for weeks of camping, hiking and fun. During this time, I revisited areas of my younger years- memorable hikes or projects I had completed decades ago when working for various organizations. But I also visited places that have been on my bucket list for years. I am so lucky to still be able to walk the miles, climb into the high mountains and be immersed in these stunning landscapes. Here’s a glimpse at why the great-big-beautiful Northwest is so special to me!

And then there are my friends. I have the best friends, inviting me in to reconnect with their families, stay awhile and cheer all my next adventures. There were so many I visited, so many more I forgot to take pictures of (my 54th Street Neighbors and my Earl Boyles teacher friends!), and even others with whom I just didn’t have time to connect. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for being the wind beneath my wings!

Another reason for coming to the Pacific Northwest this summer was to celebrate a family wedding with Wandells from all over the country! We spent a week visiting the Oregon Coast and the California Coast Redwoods. Congratulations Jordan and Taylor! Thank you for inspiring some great family fun in one of the places I call home.

In many respects, I used this west-coast trip to try-out my equipment, hone down my necessities to lighten my pack and continue to map out a South American itinerary for travel and volunteering. Planning for the next part of my adventure has been so much more than just buying a one-way ticket. For example, some of the tasks I have been juggling include finding volunteer opportunities, contacting the hosts, committing to an itinerary and calendar of travel, buying travel insurance, buying onward plane tickets to show to immigration upon entry (which I plan to immediately cancel), researching COVID restrictions, researching visas, and reserving accommodations, campsites, treks and tours where I have to pre-book. I’ve also decided to join a language school for the first two weeks in Buenos Aires and so I needed to register, take a Spanish Placement Test, find nearby accommodations and transport from the airport. It’s been a lot.

During this time of preparation, I started to call this future adventure a “Gap Year” or “Sabbatical”- in case my bank account and my energy level don’t last a whole year. While the name is pure semantics, I think the reason for it is really important to note. A friend recently recommended a podcast about this very thing and I’ve been binge-listening to it on my travels around the west. It’s called “B[older]”, formerly, “Gap Year For Grown-ups”, where very interesting people are discussing the importance of taking time to take stock, re-evaluate and perhaps re-invent ourselves during our years of “middlescence” – our middle years. It’s a time to start living more intentionally and re-align ourselves with our true purpose. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around that.

The reality is that I am made of wonderlust. I always crave to see what’s around the next corner. That said, I like the idea of finding a place to stay for awhile, to settle in, and become a part of a community. I love to make cross-cultural connections, to push myself to learn and grow in new ways, to teach and share what I can with others, and write about these experiences. I think this is my purpose. I’m not sure if I’ve found the perfect community for me yet, so, in the meantime, I’m going to keep traveling, living and collecting stories on the way!

Next stop- the land of my dreams: Argentina, Chile and Patagonia!

I’m so exhilarated by the immensity of it all. In all of my previous travels, I’ve had a school, a job, or a host family waiting for me at the other end. This is the first time I’m completely on my own. I don’t know what’s going to happen, or where I’ll end up afterwards. But I’m determined to live fully and intentionally in the arena of my life, and it sure will be fun to find out!

Stay tuned …. there’s so much more to come!