Tag Archives: writing

How to Settle

I’m not good at dating. I’m impatient and I’m bad at bullshit. If I had things my way, I’d skip straight past infatuation and dive right into the staying-home-in-sweatpants stage of the relationship. I want to settle.

The key word is want. I want to settle, but I’m just not sure I’m made for it.

I’m on the road again and it makes me feel like myself for the first time in months. Traveling is my drug and I never want to give it up.

#drinkingourwaytoDenver begins at Sierra Nevada Brewery

#drinkingourwaytoDenver begins at Sierra Nevada Brewery

I’d like to formally apologize for the seeming rootlessness of my life as documented via Instagram and Facebook. I do have a job and a home (of sorts) and sometimes responsibilities. It’s just that sometimes those responsibilities involve forsaking all other responsibilities in the name of travel.

On Thursday last, I and a boy band from Colorado took the world’s smallest commercial airplane from San Francisco to Chico, CA where Kristen collected me from Chico’s one-room airport and we headed straight for the Sierra Nevada Brewery to brainstorm possible road trip hashtags. #DrinkingourwaytoDenver was born over a brewery tour and the fact that we both enjoy a nice adult beverage (or two or three or five) at the end of a day.

On Friday, after ignoring several alarms and one shattered rear window later (Papa Dufour’s, not our’s), we hit the road. Some highlights of the long drive through NorCal, Nevada, and a portion of Utah include history lessons (Louisiana was purchased from France and the Alamo is a must-see in San Antonio), chats about nipples, and some very enthusiastic singing of the ‘America the Beautiful’ at the sight of some purple mountains majesty.


Those are some real, live purple mountains majesty. Ignore the fact that this picture seems to be taken out the driver’s side window while moving at high speeds.

By Friday night, we were in Park City, UT at Kristen’s uncle’s house. On a whim, I texted a friend from Montana who I knew spent winters in Utah working for Deer Valley. In a surprise turn of events, even though it was out of season, she was living there and we met Saturday morning for breakfast.

Later, as Kris drove me to the airport in Denver, I reflected on how grateful I was to have friends who travel. It’d been two years since I’d last seen Mel but it was like I’d only left Montana the day before (which sometimes it still feels like). In high school or college, you have friends based on proximity–class, extracurriculars, history–but as you get older and get to choose who you keep in your life and who you lose touch with, you realize that distance is irrelevant. If it’s meant to last, it’ll last. So seeing Mel, who from her tattoos to her kick ass, take-no-prisoners, suffer-no-fools attitude, inspired me all summer, after two years with all of my new tattoos and kick ass, take-no-prisoners, suffer-no-fools attitude I’ve been slowly and surely developing felt like coming full circle.

aspens in Utah

Hiking on a mountain in Utah. “Are these aspens?” “I don’t know but I still have reception; why don’t we look it up?” Conclusion: these are, in fact, aspens. 

If you didn’t know, I’m casually afraid of heights. I quantify my fear with ‘casually’ because it’s not something that gets brought up within the first five minutes (or sometimes the first five years) within meeting me. It’s something that I myself often forget, right up until I’m standing at the top of a turf-covered hill in shorts and sawed-off skis with my PE teacher holding a fire hose shouting, “Just go already!” And then I think, “Oh, right, I HATE heights.”

So as Kristen and I get on the ski lift to take us to the top of the mountain for our hike on Saturday, I mention, oh so casually, “By the way, I hate heights.”

What this really means is that she has to start talking me through the whole getting-off-the-lift process five minutes before we arrive because it bears repeating (“What do you mean I just stand up? What if I can’t? What do you mean I just walk off? What if I don’t? What if it knocks me over? What if I stand up too soon? What if I die?”) and it takes some convincing to get me to let go of the bar so that we can raise it in preparation for our descent.

And Kristen, the sweetheart, doesn’t even tell me to shut up (as I totally would’ve if I was in her situation) when, as she tries to convince me that the ski lift will slow down for me to step off the ski lift without having to jump and roll, as one would exit a moving vehicle, the ski lift fails to slow down and I start to, with a slowly increasing volume insist, “It’s not slowing down, Kristen, it’s not going to slow down. Kristen, it’s not slowing down. Oh God, Kristen, look, it isn’t slowing down. It isn’t going to slow down.”

Spoiler alert: it does slow down, we get off, the ski lift operator keeps from laughing until we’ve safely exited the platform, and then Kristen and I hike back down the mountain.

Utah, Ualright

Utah, Ualright. (See what I did there?!)

Over breakfast, Mel casually mentions that she has an extra room in her house for rent and she’d love to recommend me for a job at the resort where she works in the winters. Her offer sticks in my mind all through our hike, all along the drive through the rest of Utah and into Denver, on my flight to Texas, as I’m sitting here in my hometown’s public library writing this blog post.

And why shouldn’t I give up five months of my life to live in Utah and figure out how to function in snow? I stayed home from another year teaching abroad to give this whole “settling down” thing a try and, so far, it’s limped along with mixed reviews.

But–as when I wrapped up a summer in Montana, as when I contemplated a nannying gig in Italy or seven months teaching in France–I have to wonder where does it stop? If I keep saying yes to five months here and a summer there and another seven months somewhere new, at what point do I say no? Because when it’s Montana, Utah, France, Hawaii, why would I want to say no?

cloud shadows

“Do you ever think about cloud shadows and just how dang neat they are?” -an actual question asked by an actual person, i.e. me, quoted verbatim

I think, maybe like dating, I’m just not built for settling down. Some people are doctors and some are lawyers and some live in houses and some live out of their parents’ guest bedrooms in the middle months between seasonal jobs.

Maybe I’m asking for now, maybe I’m asking for future reference, but how do people do it? How do they settle? How do they silence that voice inside of them telling them that the next adventure is over that mountain, waiting in line with the taxis at a new airport, at the bottom of just one more beer at the next bar in an unexplored city’s downtown?

Because society needs travelers just as much as they need doctors and lawyers. Okay, maybe not just as much, but still, they’re pretty important. You need people to explore and to ask questions and to push boundaries and to boldly go where no human has gone before.

So maybe this is my part in the universe? Maybe this aversion to standing still is my lot in life and my cosmic purpose and all that jazz. Or maybe I’ll settle down tomorrow. Everything is uncertain but any and all suggestions and advice would be fully appreciated, from travelers and settlers alike.

beer in Denver

Cheers to the end of the road!

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Jefferson Memorial

It’s been over two months since Italy, a month since Iceland, and almost a year since I sat in this exact same room, in this exact same bed, in this exact same house, puzzling over how to make sense of new beginnings.

After school ended back in May, I walked out of Cura Valera for the last time and straight to the bus station. My principal Laura, the same one who’d picked me up from the bus station nine months earlier, was the same one who dropped me off. Once I got to Almeria I took my last taxi to 26 Paseo de Almeria and let myself in with the key under the mat. That’s when it hit me: this is it. No more Ex-Pat Thanksgiving, no more rounds of King’s Cup, no more tapas at Bambalina or Coke & Hope Floats (or was it Hope & Coke Floats?) on Sunday nights. I had twelve hours to say goodbye so I put my luggage down, pushed aside my early-onset homesickness, and forged out into the night. And at 9 AM the next morning, after two rounds of discotecas and a sunrise skinny dip in the Mediterranean, I boarded my last ALSA bus and began the journey home.

Fast forward three flights, two countries, four time zones, and one week later and I’m back on American soil. After a long metro ride with someone I can only assume was my future self (my future self told me I’m going to marry a Navy man and have three boys) I scarfed down some REAL AMERICAN PIZZA WITH RANCH AND A DR. PEPPER and crashed mega-hard (I say things like mega-hard now that I’m back in the US). In the morning, because I’m still in traveler-mode, I get up at 8, lace up my Chacos and hit the streets.

This is my sixth time in DC.  It strikes me with particular poignancy (or maybe this is just the jet lag) that my time in DC has come full circle. Once, six or seven years ago, I left home for the first time to spend nearly a month in DC. My first week was spent hiding in a basement, terrified of my own shadow, let alone those cast by some of the buildings. And then one day the Downeys took me to these botanical gardens in Virginia with a greenhouse full of lily pads bigger than my entire body. And just like that, I fell in love with adventuring and I fell in love with DC.

One day, I walked the monuments, from the capitol all the way down to Lincoln. I sat on the edge of the Lincoln Memorial and listened to kids recite “I Have a Dream” in childish unison and felt my feet hanging dozens of feet above the ground but felt surprisingly rooted in the magnitude of history and my place in it. And then, with one last monument to visit, I took a right instead of a left and landed up in Foggy Bottom and GWU rather than the tidal basin and the Jefferson Memorial. Each time I’ve come back, I’ve tried to squeeze it into my schedule and failed each time.

So, three more trips, six years, and so many countries, I’ve finally made it to the Jefferson Memorial. And I’ve been walking all morning trying to make sense of things and this is what I’ve got: some things take years to get to. Forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, a surprisingly illusive monument.


Some things take years to get to. At the Jefferson Memorial (FINALLY!).

When my dad was twenty, he and a buddy took a road trip out to California. Ever since I turned 18, I have been begging and planning and dreaming of the day when I would finally make what, to me, amounted to my coming-of-age pilgrimage to the Golden State. And tomorrow that pilgrimage begins; some things just take years to get to.

But I’ve come of age. I moved to Spain and I spent a week in Iceland and I finally saw the damn Jefferson Memorial (in real life, not just stills from Scandal). Why am I going? What am I going to do? How long am I going to be gone? All questions I’m looking forward to learning the answers to. I didn’t go looking for this adventure, I just kind of stumbled upon it by accident.

Back in May, I was sitting on a beach in Cabo de Gata with some friends on one of our last weekends together before our bus back to Almeria and I had to fight to keep from screaming, “BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?” I didn’t expect the answer to be Texas. I also didn’t expect the answer to be California. I don’t think that the answer is France (for now).

So by Saturday I’ll be the newest resident of San Francisco where I’ll be somewhat of a nanny, sort of a housekeeper, maybe an employee of a software company. I didn’t say anything sooner because I didn’t want to jinx it; not even 48 hours before I received the offer to move to California, I had just finished accepting an offer from the College Station Parks & Rec department to teach swimming lessons. My month back in Texas hasn’t gone slowly and now, without even planning for it, I’m leaving again.

Back in Spain, I wondered what would happen to The Accidental Adventurer. Not surprisingly, she’s accidentally stumbled upon another adventure. Tomorrow, I move to California.


Home is wherever I’m with you. At Houston Intercontinental Airport. 

Once when I was in college, on a school night, I drove down to Austin for a concert. At the concert, I stood so close to the speakers that the bass moved through me, shaking down my collar bones and shimmying up my spine until I couldn’t tell where my heartbeat ended and the music began. This past month, I’ve been driving all over Texas, from Shiner to Fort Worth and all around the hill country. And everywhere I go, I get the same breathless, lost-my-heartbeat feeling. And then I see it: my heartbeat, in the hills and the trees and the sunsets and the highways and the rivers and the weddings and the reunions and the families and the friends. How am I supposed to leave this? How am I supposed to leave the place that makes my heart beat?

I don’t have the answer to that one either. I just know that coming home wasn’t as hard as I expected. I just know that today I picked up my Heart of Texas charm from James Avery, freshly polished for new adventures. I just know that tomorrow a new adventure begins and I’m just as prepared for it as I was almost one year ago, when I sat in this same spot preparing to go to Spain.

It’s been a hell of a year, hasn’t it?


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Day 11

I wish that, when I started this blog, I would’ve written more. It started with the purest of intentions: just a thing to write a step-by-step itinerary of my travels in and around Europe to let my parents know that I was not starring in a real-life version of Taken (their personal nightmare. Liam Neeson, my father is not. He’s more of a MacGyver, with the balding good looks of Matthew McConaughey). And then my over-ambitious writer’s side took over.

Let’s really make it pop! I thought. Let’s give it some razzle dazzle, some pizzaz! (I really love words with double z’s, can’t you tell?) And the writing should be quality, too. There should be themes and symbolism and Instagram pictures! Who doesn’t look Instagram pictures? Every writer has the area where they excel; my strengths lie in research papers and (attempted) novel writing. A master of brevity, I am not.

So my blog posts became these big, hulking things that demanded at least six hours of sit-down-work-on time, plus a certain number of worthy Instagram photos needed to be accumulated. I wish that I would’ve just sat down and wrote more and let my voice develop with each post: good, bad, or ugly.

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“Not all who wander are lost…”

On my very first day in Huercal, my home for the next nine months, I got lost. I was trying to find the school where I would be teaching so that I could meet the principal. I followed the directions given to me by Google maps using the address sent to me by my new principal and I landed up maybe 20 minutes from where I was supposed to be: Huercal-Overa, the pueblo so tiny that Google Maps doesn’t even bother getting it right. It turns out that the street that I was on, Guillermo Reina, is actually 2 different streets. Let me repeat that: there are 2 different 35 Calle Guillermo Reinas in my town. I happened to stumble upon the one that was someone’s private residence.

So I decamped to the cafe across the street where I bought a croissant coated in sugar for 40 centimos and bummed off their wifi to try and communicate with my future employer. I waited for about an hour and finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, started and finished the short story Eve in Hollywood by Amor Towles, and began another, Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I bought a pizza baguette and gave up on hearing back from my principal (later, I found out that she came into the cafe only ten minutes after I had left. I was sitting underneath her apartment and she received my e-mail and stopped to pick me up on her way from lunch. The shop attendants informed her that, yes, there had been a blonde American waiting for some time but that, unfortunately, Laura had just missed me).

I strolled down the imposter Guillermo Reina and found a British goods shop where, miracle of miracles, they spoke English and sold Dr. Pepper. I kind of lurked by the pastry case just marveling in my good luck and letting the accents wash over me. I bought a bottle of water and a Dr. Pepper to go with my pizza, paid for my purchases, and left again.

Unknowingly, I found my way to the real Calle Guillermo Reina, passed the school that was, by now, baffled about how they lost one American girl in a town that only has 18,000 people (less than half of the total number of students at my alma mater and I still ran into a surprising number of familiar faces within the space of a day), and found a park. Or a zoo. After 4 months, I’m still unclear which it is. Locals just call it the park with the animals but it also involves pens and recently open a bar and I think they might be trying to add a water feature.

I found a park bench in the sun (I’m practically a lizard) and, in the space of a few hours, finished Where’d You Go Bernadette?devoured my pizza and sipped my blissful way through a Dr. Pepper that, after Shiner Bock, is the drink of my people. I still had a lot of problems: I had nowhere to live, I didn’t speak the language, all of the friends I had made over the last 3 weeks had scattered to the far reaches of Andalucia, and I had just finished an amazing novel and had nothing to read next. But, sitting there, lost in a foreign country, I realized that I could see myself living there (which was good because I really didn’t have much of a choice).

Four months later, I go to that park as often as I can. I’ve written odes to that park and the peacocks that sneak up behind me, investigate what I’m writing, then shuffle along, leaving me with an increased heart rate and a sense of blessing for my unconventional editors.


Is it a zoo? Is it a park? Is it a bar? The answer is yes to all of these things!

I’m not saying that I’m not lost. In fact, most of the time, I am. That probably defeats the purpose of the quote and the prompt but I embrace my lost-ness for the accidental adventure that it is. My favorite thing to do in a new city is set out with a vague idea of where I’m going and then get lost along the way. Some of my best finds, my best stories, my best memories, have come from this method. No good or interesting story started with, “So I had the whole thing planned out and then nothing went wrong.”

Is it still considered being lost if you willing lead yourself astray? Looking back, I don’t think that I was lost. Sure, I had no clue what street, what park, what place I was in, but I think I was where I was supposed to be. When I’m feeling lost, I walk back to the park and sit in the sunshine and drink a Dr. Pepper and remind myself of the time that I knew that it was all going to be okay.

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13 Miles Later

Whenever I have to plan a trip that involves more than a one-way flight home, I get anxious. I’m like that hobbit (dwarf? Troll?) who doesn’t want to leave New Zealand (this might actually be an incorrect metaphor; I never saw the movie). A better metaphor is that my life aspiration is to be a crotchety old grandpa. I love that I get to travel as much as I do and have these awesome adventures, but I am also really looking forward to the day when I can settle down and yell at kids to keep off of my lawn and read things like Nanotechnology for Dummies ’cause I got nothin’ but time.

Sometimes, my mind gets the better of me. It’s like when you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach and your eyes are bigger than your belly and you land up spending $300 on candy and ham and fresh-baked bread, only I’m doing my grocery shopping on Skyscanner, Renfe, and Alsa. I’ll be tumblrin’ along when I’ll come across a post-card quality photo of fog on a lake in the mountain of northern Italy and think, ‘Man, it’d sure be swell if I could go there.’ Some shoddily down research and a Skype call home to Mama (“Ma, I’m going to Italy? I think? I mean, is that crazy?”) later and I have a 30 € plane ticket to Milan and I’m familiarizing myself with Trenitalia’s website.

And then, two days before I depart for Ireland or England or Italy or Portugal, I start to think about all of the work it’s going to take to get there–a bus to Almeria, a different bus to Malaga, a train to the airport, a plane to my destination country, another bus from that airport into the city, a metro from the bus stop to the hostel–and I think, ‘Wouldn’t it just be better if I stay home?’

(The answer is, obviously, of course not, but, for the sake of the story, let’s pretend like this is an actual struggle and I really am contemplating giving up a week in Dublin to just stay home.)


Cabo de Gata coastline.

So you guys know by now that I don’t run. Despite the language barrier at my new gimnasio, I’m sure to let my instructor know how I feel about the more bouncy of our activities in Bodypump, like running in place or jumping jacks, by either making a really gross face in the mirror or just by not doing it. I’m not about that up-and-down, lots of fast-paced movement life BUT, put me on a treadmill set to a high incline and a low speed, and I can walk for days. This weekend I got to put that theory to test.

I live in, undoubtedly, one of the prettiest parts of Spain. Situated along the Mediterranean coast, we’ve got mountains, we’ve got beaches, we’ve got Moorish culture; it’s sort of like the Florida of Europe for those of you well-versed in the American culture of geriatric snowbirds. Andalucía is divided into 8 provinces and I live in the province of Almeria in a pueblo at the easternmost part of the easternmost province. The south of the province abuts the Mediterranean and houses the capital of the province, Almeria City, as well as Cabo de Gata National Park (traveler tip: it is not Cabo de Gato National Park as a gato is a cat and a gata, whatever it is, is not that).

My friend Kristen, blogger/marketing/tech-and-travel-savvy guru that she is, found the blog of a fellow Southern Spain adventurer where he regales his audience with the tale of the hike through Cabo de Gata.

(Before we get too deep into this, I’d like to make it clear that Cabo de Gata refers to three things: it is a pueblo, it is a beach, and it is also the name of the national park. All clear? Story time re-commence.)

Anyways, Kristen finds this blog post and expresses interest in hiking along the majestic coastline of Andalucía. As her fellow auxiliars, always up for new experiences, particularly ones off the beaten path, we are likewise intrigued by this opportunity to do some recreational hiking.

“It’s 4 miles,” Kristen tells us. “Easy peasy.” (She might not have said ‘easy peasy.’ When I retell stories I like to use super-hip slang like ‘swell,’ ‘hella fresh,’ and ‘easy peasy’ for dramatic, storytelling effect. Sorry for putting out-of-date, cheesy words in your mouth, Kris.)

She pulls out a map and points to the bus stop in Cabo de Gata, then wiggles her finger along the coastline. It is, on the map, a hop, skip, and a jump from Cabo de Gata (the city) to Cabo de Gata (the beach) and then straight through Cabo de Gata (the park) to reach San Jose. We’re set to arrive in Cabo de Gata by noon and to reach San Jose by 3 or 4.

Kristen, Kellie, Colin, Macy, Sarah, and Laurel did an abbreviated version of this hike back in the fall when they traveled (and got lost; honestly, this should have been foreshadowing) from San Jose to Playa de Monsul. Their expertise covered the latter half of the journey and I myself had made the trek from Cabo de Gata (the town), along Cabo de Gata (the beach), and up to the Mirador de las Sirenas in a car with my parents when they visited in December. Together, we covered the first and last third of the journey with some vague notions of what the middle held for us.

I’ll spare you the gory details—the trekking along the beach, the first mountain with the one-lane road and the sheer drop on the other side of a barely-there guardrail, busting out I’ll Make a Man Out of You at the front of the pack with Kellie and Macy, some frolicking around the mirador (breathtaking views)—and cut straight to the Big Climb.


This is the frolicking part of the journey.


Me, frolicking, on the far left about 2/3 up.


There are switchbacks up this mountain and, at the very top, a gap wide enough for a road to pass through and take us to the other side with the promised land of beaches and a downhill slope. We are maybe a quarter of the way up, all of us puzzling what those white specks on that cliff up there might be (MOUNTAIN GOATS!!) and why the hell is this taking so damn long, when Kristen does some fancy tippy-tapping on her iPhone and informs the group that this is not actually a 4-mile hike but a 12-mile hike. We have only gone 6 miles; we have another 7 to go.


At the top of Realization Mountain.

Needless to say, we make it up the mountain. We make it down the mountain. We slay a dragon and fight some trolls and trek through a valley and see the same car full of attractive Spaniards that passed us on our first mountain (“Venga! Venga!”) and consider stopping to die on the side of the road. We make it to San Jose where our friend Christina, the dear, has been waiting for us since 3 p.m.—it is now 6:30—and has called the hostel where we’d planned on staying, which was closed for the winter, and gotten the proprietor to open it up for a group of 8 weary, foot-and-heart sore Americans and one kid from New Zealand (guys! I learned so much about New Zealand on this hike!).


It eventually flattened out so that’s nice, I guess.

And it wouldn’t be an ex-pat backpacking trip if we didn’t find the nearest convenience store and stock up on the essentials like giant bottles of water, shampoo and conditioner for much-needed and not-anticipated showers, and an 8-pack of Heineken each.

Alas, our plans for debauchery and drinking were not to be. Sunburn and surprise 13-mile hikes strike again! After dinner in town, we pulled three extra mattresses into a 6-person room and barely made it through our first beer before drifting off like a pack of babes, all tuckered out by some sun and a few sips of beer.


Tuckered out babes.

At some point in my younger, formative years, I came up with this theory that, if you don’t move, if you hold your breath and do the right thing like go to work and study hard in school and stay at home on Saturday nights, nothing bad can happen to you. Routine is safe, change is scary, and normal is aspirational. I even went through a phase my sophomore year of college where I was literally too scared to leave my dorm room.

But bad things happen everywhere. They happen when you’re standing still and holding your breath, they happen when you’re walking down the street and when you’re exploring new countries. They happen to good people and bad people and scared people and brave people and people who definitely don’t deserve it. Bad things happen every day.

Sometimes the bad thing that happens is standing still and missing out on the potential to push yourself. Ever since that semester of Multiple Phone Calls Home a Day While Crying & Binge Watching Grey’s Anatomy While Knitting (lots of crying, all the Grey’s Anatomy), I push myself. I push myself past what is comfortable and what is familiar because bad things happen. And you can’t hide from that. But when you embrace it, when you charge on regardless, you find that it’s worth it. There is always another mountain. There are always another seven miles.

But there are eight other people on this mountain with me. At the end of the hike, we make it to the beach in San Jose to watch the sunset and collapse on a blanket that Kristen was wise enough to think of bringing. We all throw our goods into a pile in the middle—potato chips, tostadas, strawberries, cheese, oranges and apples and granola bars, chocolate chip cookies—and have a feast. We stay out until the sun is gone and the wind picks up and people are starting to complain of cold. We limp up to the hostel (after a pit stop for necessary goods) and we run around the empty hostel like kids left unsupervised for the first time. And we are happy.

Bad things happen. Good things happen, too. And good things can be scary. Staying still seems safe. If you stay still, nothing can happen, good or bad. I’d like to take my chances with normal, to stand still and enjoy life on a routine, but, at the end of the day, I’m more scared of what happens if I don’t get on that bus/train/plane/horse/scooter/bike/various other modes of transportation, than what happens if I do.

post trip

Post-trek, re-fueling exhaustion.

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The Manifesto

I wrote this nearly three years ago, pounded it on my keyboard in less than 10 minutes. It came so quickly because this is truly, intrinsically, passionately how I feel in my gut, in my heart, in my fingertips and earlobes and veins and teeth and eyelashes. It was and is and will always be (forever and ever amen) my personal manifesto. If you like this and want more writing like it, direct your attention to my other blog Stay Hungry Stay Foolish.

I want to write until my fingers break and my wrists erode with arthritis. And when they cut off my hands up to my forearms because they’ve been broken down by my writing, I want to write with my toes.

I want to write until I’m breathless, read until I’m blind, and dream until my mind decays with old age.

I want to tell stories, wild, marvelous stories, with heroes and adventure and loyalty and courage and love and heartbreak and beautiful things like horses and mountains and forests so deep that the light through the canopy of leaves is the single most amazing shade of green you’ve never seen.

I want my stories to read like New Orleans, so spicy and full of flavor it makes your eyes water and your nose run and your ears smoke and your cheeks flush and your eyebrows raise and your teeth chatter and your tongue tingle and your taste buds begging for more. All flash and color but mournful and sweet, like chocolate and kerosene, like violins and electric guitars.

I have hundred of stories inside me, sitting in a small cavity on the right side of my torso, between my lungs and my heart, positioned just so that every time I take a breath and my heart pumps more blood, I remember the purpose that God gave me: to tell stories.

I want to take these stories that I have sitting in a small cavity on the right side of my torso between my lungs and my heart and I want to unravel them. Every story is completely written but I just don’t know it yet. My task is to unravel the tangled mess and tell the story.

I want to write pages and pages of crinkled white notebook paper, stained with lines and loops and dots and markings in black ink to form words that will last much longer than my life.

But mostly I just want to have the courage to take these words that I’ve spent my whole life learning and loving and string them into the most powerful sentences, saying and meaning the things that no one else in the world has the courage or the strength to say or mean: I love you. We will fight. You are beautiful. Believe. Broken or beaten, it makes no difference. Stay. Have courage.


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The Hemingway Diaries

I think it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed with the ex-pats of Paris in the 20s. It started with Midnight in Paris, was fueled by Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, and was brought to fruition by The Paris Wife. I’ve read a few of the actual works from that period but what I’m more interested in, what I’ve always been more interested in, are the people behind the story.

I was riding the bus the other day and I started thinking about Zelda Fitzgerald and I started tearing up. And then I realized how incredibly absurd that is and I pulled myself together. It was the most pathetic, indiscriminate thing in the world: I am crying on a bus, in the south of Spain, over a woman I’ve never met, have no connection to, who died over 65 years ago.

Maybe it’s because it’s F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s birthday today (which I didn’t know until after I got home). Maybe it’s because I’m really really homesick (I’m not and I don’t know why Zelda Fitzgerald would be the thing to make me cry). Maybe it’s because I’m scared that the lessons of her life apply to me personally. Maybe it’s because I’m an ex-pat myself (albeit only for a bit).

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The road ends and then there are mountains. I keep getting lost and finding myself at the edge of town.

In the morning, I sit at the bus station and eat oranges. I’ve long since thought that oranges to be the most literary and romantic of all the fruit ever since I learned what a vignette was in 11th grade English when we read Ode to an Orange. I think I’m more taken by the act of peeling and eating the orange than I am by the actual taste of the orange. Even now I feel ulcers forming at the back of my mouth from the citric acid, caused by eating oranges for five straight mornings at the bus station just for the romance of it.

I like the involvement of the process, the chalky residue and sticky fingers that signify a job well done. I feel like a surgeon, sitting in the crisp air of mountain morning, fingers moving deftly to separate skin from pulp. Strawberries, peaches, grapes all come prepared for the teeth. Bananas might as well come with their own pair of safety scissors for following the dotted line practically inscribed upon the peel.

But oranges: dig in with one thumb, deep but not too much so that you end up knuckle-deep in the meat of the fruit. Then push, gliding fingers with the slightest, lightest of pressures until the peel gives way. I drop orange peelings amidst stamped out cigarette butts, eating them like they’re killing me.

Once, in college, the night before I woke up with the flu, I ate half a dozen oranges. I knew I was coming down with something but I didn’t know it’d be that bad. For the rest of the week I’d look at my trashcan and see orange peels buried among the ever-growing detritus of used Kleenex and empty medicine wrappers. The oranges hadn’t saved me but, then, a metaphor for a life raft doesn’t keep you from drowning.

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Breathtakingly blue.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my problems lie in an excess of wanting. To travel, to read, to write, to love. So I spend too much money on books, I leave home, I have more ideas for novels that I can ever hope to have come to fruition, I fall for the wrong people. And I do it over and over again because I want more. But more than I want more, I want the one thing that people always want when it is intrinsically against their nature: I want enough.

After reading The Paris Wife about Hadley Hemingway, and Z about Zelda Fitzgerald, I’m enchanted by these women. How do I be one of them and yet avoid their mistakes? I wanted a love like my parents because it is not tragic. It is ordinary and that is exceptional and they are happy. And yet, as much as I want that to be enough, something inside says that I want more.

I want my trip to mean something so badly that it hurts. Not in a romantic, relationship way like everyone keeps telling me is going to happen, but in a I-learn-or-do-something-no-one-ever-expected, creative work sort of way. I don’t want it to be enough that I say I went to Spain; I want to prove it. Hemingway proved he went to Spain by writing about it.

I want to be Hadley and Hemingway. I want to be the lover and the writer.

I am troubled by an excess of wanting.

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Home, for the next 8 months.

I keep a list of the things that, if someone were to ask me to write about my time in Spain, I never want to forget. Scenes that could be turned into vignettes, souvenirs that only I can create and disperse, more unique than noodle art and more authentic than flamenco costumes.

I’d write about the man at the kabob shop in Vera, the way he shaved and clipped the meat with the precision of a barber.

I’d write about the view from my bed in my Spanish piso, the way the cotton sheets are worn so thin they’re softer than silk. I’d write about my curtains, the way they’re only a hair thicker than my sheets and how they flap and blow in a languid, untroubled manner, causing my neighbors to say, “That’s the American’s apartment, the one who’s in love with her curtains.”

I’d write about being on a train in the south of Spain at sunrise, how everything looks exactly like you’d imagine for a train in the south of Spain at sunrise to look. I’d write about wanting to live on a train in the south of Spain at sunrise forever; there’s so much space, both physically (you could practically do a tango in the bathroom alone) and in terms of possibility.

I’d write about Elizabeth, the British woman recovering from a stroke who spent 7 years in Morocco, living in a house with her musician husband, Collin, within sight of the Straight of Gibraltar and listening to her stories of meeting the king of Morocco.

I’d write about making friends with the little Spanish girl who lives in the ground floor apartment of my building, listening to her parents read her bedtime stories and telling her to go to sleep when she sticks her head out of her bedroom window and waves up to us.

I’d write about the park, with the peacocks that sit and watch me read my book or write in my notebook as I eat pipas and drink cola and make me feel like Flannery O’Connor.

I’d write about eating oranges at a bus station in the morning.

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Writing in Spain.

This is actually why I came to Spain. I tell some people that it’s because I wanted to travel, I tell others that it’s because I didn’t want to join the Peace Corps. I tell myself that it’s because I wanted to write. I wanted to isolate myself, force myself to give up all other distractions (like friends, Hulu, and English). I know myself: I write when I’m miserable. I put myself into exile in the hopes that it’d make me a better person and, more importantly, a better writer.

So here’s to the next 8 months.


The view from the end of the world, or so it seems.

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