I can’t believe it’s been nearly 5 months since I left Oakland. And while I know there haven’t been a lot of posts in that time, I promise there has been a whole lot of living. I’ve survived living in a tiny house on wheels, visited many new places within a smallish geographical location, dealt with sickness, sadness, and homesickness, made new friends, fell in love with a city, fell in love with someone, had adventures and misadventures, and learned so much about myself in the process. I know I have a lot of stories to write, but the one I find myself writing now is what is happening at this moment.

Tomorrow, the Chinook and I are heading back to the Bay Area. If you read my guest post as part of Torre DeRoche’s Love and Travel Week on Almost Fearless, then you know I’m really missing loved ones.  So you can imagine that after all of this time, I’m so excited I don’t know how I’ll make it the 11+ hour drive without jumping out of my seat. But at the same time…

I’m scared

You see, the timing of this trip isn’t random.  On Tuesday, if everything goes well, and I want it to go well, a couple with a newborn baby will be handed the keys to the first house I ever co-owned. The house that I sank countless hours of sweat and love into (while documenting it all), made first-house memories in, and that I left thinking Francisco would be able to keep. Sure, I left our house willingly in January, but it’s so much harder to imagine neither of us being there anymore. And on Friday, I’ll sign what’s left to sign, and it will become the property of strangers on Tuesday.

I’m also saying another farewell to Francisco, and I don’t know when I’ll see him again. With the house being sold, he has decided to leave the Bay Area and travel as well. Unlike in so many instances where there’s an amicable split, we won’t be in the same town to get coffee every now and then or have one of us be in a static spot the other can visit. As much as I know our split was the right decision for both of us, and we’ve both moved on, ten years is still a really long time with someone, and I’ll miss him. In many ways I already do. In this time since I left, we’ve been in contact via email nearly every day, communicating about the house with our broker, and with that process coming to an end, I know that will too.

And then there’s my stuff. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that when I moved out, I left a lot of things behind, and then I further downsized before taking off in June. What is left, are either sentimental things I don’t want to part with, or things I didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with then. But now I think it’s time.

There are my rings- my 1920’s diamond engagement ring- the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen, the vintage ring box Francisco bought for it, and my 1920’s wedding band that are occupying space in a safe deposit box. It’s time to let them go to someone else now, and yet as certain as I am of that, I can’t imagine making it so.

And then there is my wedding dress. The one my former sister-in-law, a famous fashion designer, made especially for me. The one I flew to Buenos Aires alone to have made while I stayed with my in-laws and studied Spanish in the month leading up to our wedding. I can’t imagine ever wearing it again, so why keep it? And yet, I don’t know how I’ll hand it over to anyone.

I’m also clearing out my storage locker and loading the Chinook with the rest of what I own and bringing it back to Portland, where I can scan my photos, further downsize, process, and heal.

So, as excited and happy as I am to see those I love and miss so much, I’m just as scared to make this trip. It’s so strange to think that what I’m afraid to see for the first time in 5 months- Francisco, my house, and my things- I’m even more afraid to never see again. All I can do is muster all my emotional courage and take off with the intention of handling everything in the kindest, most genuine, honest way I know how, and to enjoy every minute with my friends. And who knows, maybe I’m stronger than I think.

Recently while on a walk at the Emeryville Marina with my friend Leslie and her son, my nearly three year-old friend Dean, the conversation turned, as it so often does, to travel.  Strolling by the boats, Leslie said, “What do you think Dean; what if you, Daddy and me got on a boat and sailed around the world?” Dean’s response, without missing a beat, “Let’s go!” In a second I was transported back in time to my little brother’s face staring up at me urging, “Yet’s go Yanna, yet’s go!” to whatever our next adventure was.  And just as quickly I was back, wondering when that beautiful sense of spontaneity begins to be tempered by practicality.

A few weeks later while visiting my family in Arizona, I spoke with my seven year-old nephew Ryan, my brother’s son. “So what do you think about going on an adventure with Auntie Lorna tomorrow while your parents are at work?” Without hesitation he replied, “Sure, ever been to Chicago?” I tried not to laugh, I really did, and I hated having to explain why this wasn’t a good plan. Why wasn’t it? It sounded good to me. It just wasn’t practical.  That night before he went to bed, I asked if he’d given any more thought to what he’d like to do. “Hollywood” he said matter-of-factly.

The truth is, I don’t want to say no to these suggestions. I don’t want to teach them why you can’t just hop on a plane, boat, train, bus, etcetera, to go somewhere you want to go. In fact, I want to meet them where they are, and have them remind me that I may be the one who’s got it wrong.

So what lessons am I going to take from these tiny teachers?

What Ryan and I settled on that day in Arizona was a trip to the Arizona Science Center.  To my amazement, he rode a bicycle forward and backward across a tightrope 2 stories-high, and lay on a bed of nails with only his head protected. 1. Adventures can be had right where you are. I’m making a local-centric wanted-to-but-never-did list and I’m going to start doing them before I take off so that even being at home is filled with adventure.

On another recent walk in the redwoods (or as Dean more accurately describes them the “greenwoods”) at Joaquin Miller Park we reached an impasse. Leslie asked Dean, the leader, if he’d like to take the path on the left or the one on the right. Dean’s answer was neither but straight ahead up a hill without a path.  When Leslie explained that we may want to choose one of the established paths so we wouldn’t get lost, Dean replied, “We won’t get lost, we’ll just use our ‘maginations!”  2. Trust your ability to be resourceful and take risks that ultimately make you bolder. I’m going to be sure, during my round the world trip that I’m more whimsical and spontaneous than I am calculated, planned out, and cautious. Where will I go first? Next? How long will I stay? Who knows! I’ll use my “magination.”

Finally, in the spirit of Ryan, Dean, and other pure adventurers like them, 3. Allow yourself to be “impractical” for an ultimate thrill. Someday, sooner than later, I’m going to show up at the airport, train station, or bus station without knowing where I’m going.  Sure, for those of us who aren’t millionaires, it may be too impractical to do all the time, but it can be done. And who knows, maybe I’ll end up in Chicago.

How about you? What adventures have you had in your own town? Ever take off spontaneously without a plan? What have the kids in your life taught you about travel? Tell us about it!

I just spent the last two days naked with a bunch of strangers…and it was great!
I’d been to Harbin Hot Springs plenty of times in the past. In fact it’s become the place Francisco and I go when we feel like we need at least two weeks off but don’t have two weeks to spare. Twenty-four hours at Harbin, an incredible natural springs resort just north of Calistoga, does the trick. We camp and spend a full day pampering ourselves in the warm, hot, and cold spring pools, sauna, and steam room, among mostly unclothed people (Harbin is clothing optional) and return home completely relaxed.

Harbin Hot Springs by Luiza Leite Photography (www.luizaleite.com)

But this time was going to be a little different. I was going by myself and to make it even more challenging I vowed that this time, rather than feeling it out (figuratively!) when I got there as to whether or not to wear my bikini, I would just suck it up and go au natural like most other guests.

Twice as much time there as usual, first time solo, and no…clothes.

Was I afraid of making an approximately 2-hour drive after dark by myself? Nope-been there. Of driving winding roads in rain and fog? Nope-done that. In fact, I’m the girl who moved 3000 miles away from home to live in my first apartment (in LA) without a financial safety net, who moved to NYC with $700 to my name, who flew to Paris alone, knowing no-one, and who has no problem being the center of attention. But here I was afraid to go from the comfort of two small pieces of fabric to no fabric at all in a place where it’s culturally appropriate, and where I’d done so before with a companion. Why? Because of the “what ifs.” “What if I get stared at?” “What if I run into someone I know and I’m naked?!” It’s amazing how much power we can give fear.

I procrastinated as long as I could and finally got to Harbin at 10pm. I checked into my room and almost convinced myself I should just get a good night’s sleep and start out tomorrow…but I didn’t. I got to the locker room next to the pools and was hoping it was empty- it wasn’t. And then I did what I’ve done so many times when I’m scared to do something.

I got sick of myself.

I got sick of hearing all the crap in my head that was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do, and as fast as I could I got, well…


Image used under Creative Commons: nUde? by 27147 Sippanont Samchai.

And you know what? Nothing happened. And before I knew it, the anxiety I felt when everyone looked up as I entered a new pool, the sauna, or the steam room dissolved, and I had an amazing time. By the end, I even talked to people in the dressing room, while waiting for the sauna, full-on nude, and it would only occur to me later how I hadn’t been uncomfortable at all.  I can’t believe it, but now it feels like much ado about nothing…and so liberating!

So what would I say to other frightened nudie newbies to Harbin (or elsewhere) who have decided to give it a go?

Section-2 Sign Project Clothes Optional by Ellen McCaskill

Arriving at night (instead of daylight!) can make it easier. Don’t feel bad about wanting to ease in.

Minimize the robing and disrobing between pools, sauna, etcetera- that just allows anxiety to come and go in cycles.  Instead, once you’re comfortable, just commit to it and resist the urge to cover and uncover.

It’s worth it! What’s more relaxing- a bath in the buff or a bath in a bathing suit? ☺

What do you think? Ready to travel to a clothing optional spot? Already a seasoned nudist with a favorite? Tell us about it!

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