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I was standing in water with a stranger from Paraguay who was quickly becoming my friend over blueberry ice cream and travel stories when peppers started coming my way. Reds, greens, big ones, small ones floating along the river. Too fast to be rescued as they bobbed along. “There’s one!” I grabbed it and held it like a precious jewel. Yes, I had a treasure in my hand, a bright green pepper. I was determined to catch another. “Don’t do it. You can’t get it. Your going to slip,” she said. But I was determined, and that is how I lost my pink flip flops in the river floating along with the reds and the greens far far away.

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I walk along side a world I do not feel I fit into. Sometimes I think I am a foreigner in my own body. I have never really melded in quite right, a little too much or too little this or that. I live in a world of utopian ideals which when burst too many times lead me to be a bit grouchy at the world retreating within my shell to regroup. “Why don’t you just cooperate?!” I often cry out in frustration shaking my fist at an unknown source. I find the most peace in watching trees, and I feel like they are my friends waiting for me to die some day so I can nourish their roots and become part of them growing towards the sun. Human life seems small and unimportant to me when I look at myself as separate from everything in the world, but when I start to see my connection to the trees, birds, nature, the universe, I begin to feel an important part of a beautiful whole.

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(Photo borrowed from Naomi Hattaway)

When you are a traveler you do become a bit of a foreigner to those who choose to stay put either in the places you came from or those you go to. You are a rebel to the normal flow of things. You can connect, but you will soon also detach, and when you settle, you will be changed from the person you were, a foreigner in your own home town or to the place you end up. I recently read a blog post by Naomi Hattaway titled I Am a Triangle and Other Thoughts on Repatriation about ex-patriots and travelers being triangles in a world of circles and squares. It clicked with me this idea of me being a triangle. I like all the different shapes we make, the characteristics that make us each unique.

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I enjoyed the company of interesting, thoughtful people from all over the globe this week opening my mind to new reflections and perspectives and reminding me to enjoy simple things like walking barefoot with a pepper in my hand. One of the most enjoyable moments for me was sitting over a homemade dinner with three girls from such different cultural backgrounds from me, from Paraguay, China, and the southern United States, which might as well be a different country when comparing it to the United State’s northwest where I grew up. Each of these girls were so beautiful and thoughtful, and they shared a night with me that reminded me why change is good. Opening up to change is learning at light speed, and as an old couchsurfing friend used to say, “Beth Ann, you are on the fast train.” So here I go again…I am hopping on the train.

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Well I am back in Honduras and adjusting to life in my home again. I was so thrilled to see the little garden we planted before I left is already taking off. I ate some delicious cilantro from it today with my tamale. Can’t wait until all the other vegetables are ready. I have started eating daily flax seed in an attempt to make my hair grow. More than a half a year after chopping it all off, it seems to have only grown an inch at most. One of these days I will have long luscious locks again. We have adopted another dog, but ours is a unique relationship. Eduardo Piñera is a street dog like Diego, and is well known in Copán because of his sweet nature. For some reason, he has especially taken a liking to Kristen and I, and he sometimes will follow us back home to grab a bite to eat and lounge around or cuddle with us. He is truly a sweetheart, and one of the most loving dogs I have met. That said, he has been in the streets for some time, and his preference is to come and go walking with us in the streets when we leave and often times getting distracted by the lovely lady dogs. He is not permanently with us, but he is a new addition to our little family.

It always takes me about a week to settle back into my somewhat routine. I say somewhat because I don’t really have anyone holding me accountable to a routine. That said, I feel like I am going crazy without making one for myself as I end up feeling rather unproductive. I realize being productive has a lot to do with happiness. Feeling a sense of purpose and accomplishment helps push people to the next life lesson, and I need to be always learning and changing to feel truly satisfied in my own life.

I am not sure what the upcoming year will hold for me. This past one has been such an adventure and growing process. So many people have passed into and out of my life, some have stuck around and all have taught me things. I feel a confidence and pride in who I am and what I do, and I think when it all comes down to it, that is really what I was looking for. So what do I do next? I suppose the primary thing I have learned is that what brings me more happiness than anything is feeling free and that freedom is where my willow tree roots lie. For the longest time, I thought I had to lay down roots in the ground, I had to be still and stay in one spot to truly find happiness. But that has not been the case, and I think I will always be a wanderer, and that is okay although it doesn’t fit the social norm. It may feel lonely occasionally without those roots, but the truth is birds of a feather flock together. And while we may not have roots, I think that those of us who wander are never alone because we find each other. Thanks to technology, I can also keep in touch with those I love and take them wherever I go.

Being here in Honduras, I have given myself more titles than just nurse. So often people get stuck in their job roles, and I really don’t think it is healthy, at least not for me. I enjoy doing different types of work, paid or unpaid, and in the end, using all my talents creatively makes me a better nurse. I find it funny that I went to school to be a nurse, a job that makes quadruple what I make as a writer per hour, but I find more satisfaction volunteering as a nurse and getting paid hardly anything to write. To some it may sound bizarre, but for me, happiness trumps any pay check I made working as a nurse in an American health-care system. A beautiful gift is realizing that I don’t have to give up nursing to be a writer or vice-versa, and actually that the two seem to go quite nicely hand in hand. The truth is life is going very well, and while I have many ideas and goals for the future, I am pretty sure when the time comes to make any kind of decision it will all be rather clear so why not just enjoy the ride?

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Before I left for Honduras, my niece copied the following poem on paper for me and said,”Auntie, this is a poem about you.” I found it tucked away in my journal today and felt gratitude in reading it as warmth filtered through my window during the afternoon light. I wanted to share it with all my fellow friends who are wanderers, the people I have met through random encounters and couch surfing who for a moment painted the world for me in a different shade than I would have picked. I have learned so much from you all and your adventures and continue to.

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Where Sunshine Fairies Go

The sunshine fairies cannot rest,
When evening bells are rung.
Nor can they sleep in flowers,
When bedtime songs are sung.

They are such busy fairies.
Their work in never done.
For all around and round the world,
They travel with the sun.

And while you’re soundly sleeping,
They do the best they can,
Of painting cherry blossoms,
In faraway Japan,
The poppy fields of China,
With blossoms bright and gay,
They color on their way.

And all the happy children,
In islands of the sea,
Know little Ray O’sunshine,
Who plays with you and me.

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More confused than ever about what I should be doing and where I should be…everyone keeps asking what are my plans…maybe I just don’t have any, and I don’t want to…at least the more people ask me, the less I know…wander forever…is that an option? I feel like in life we all get so caught up in what we should be doing. But I realize that everything we do is based out of fear of death, our one inevitable truth. Every day is based in this fear. We are running out of time to love, to work, to travel, to have children, to get that item we always wanted. We need them now because tomorrow we might not be here. We need to have everything perfect and in its place, as it should be, don’t want to miss out. Death is looming in our future, and we want to live life to its fullest before death captures us. I think if I could embrace death though, I could then embrace life…living would not be avoidance of death but acceptance of its part in living. By inviting death in, perhaps we would all begin to live.

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Resistance: You would think after three months of traveling, the leaving part would be easier, but I still find it difficult. I want to stay in Belgrade, and the resistance to leave has never been stronger. As I looked to the rivers from the top of Kalemegdan Fortress, snow all around me, everything screamed inside of me to stay there. Just a week ago, my desire to go home, see family and friends again was overwhelming, but now that I have bought a return ticket, I feel panicky. I want to stay here. I ache to remain, but I look back at my whole trip and know that I felt this in every place I have been to a certain extent, and if I hadn’t moved forward, I wouldn’t have found myself in Serbia. Continuing on my journey allowed me to meet new people, gain deeper perspective. Yet, I feel a sense of exhaustion. When can I be still? When will I feel satisfied that my current location is where I can lay down roots? I thought I wanted to be in Oregon again for so many reasons, but the reality of going back is terrifying. I want to jump off this plane right now, to forget I spent money on any tickets and become anonymous in this city that feels so like home to me. How can one’s identity be so torn between two continents? I have felt a foreigner in the USA ever since I knew other countries existed. The feeling has only become stronger as I have aged. How does one ease the restlessness of wanderlust? It is all-consuming at times, this desire to be somewhere else. If I lived in Serbia, would I begin to feel it in a month, two months? Inevitably it would return, this desire to be free is so intense. But this plane is taking me somewhere else, to Rome, my first foreign destination so many years ago, and from there, home. Normally, I would rejoice to return to this city I always come back to, but it means the end of my journey, and I cannot bear the thought of return now that it is concrete. This conflict within me feels like insanity at times. There is a part of me that always saw myself traveling with someone, a person who was as free as me, but grounded me in their constant presence while exploring, an adventurer who suffered from wanderlust as I do, that could understand it and encourage it while giving me the companionship and understanding I miss when I leave those I love behind. I realize I am in the same state as before my trip with these feelings of being caged. I am a bird who thinks it should be a tree.

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Seeing Rome through another’s eyes is the new perspective I need right now. It feels like I am seeing Rome for the first time as well. Her child-like delight becomes my own. It was meant to be, my returning to this place. No matter how many times I come, it still feels like exactly where I am supposed to be. I end up here every time I come to Europe whether I intend to or not. It was the first foreign city I ever went to, and it holds a special place in my heart. When I think about my return here, the phrase “All roads lead to Rome” comes to mind. How true this is for me. Perhaps, here I will find what I am looking for.

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I came to Rome to meet with another couch surfer who has also been traveling around Europe, to swap stories and experiences. Sadly, the fates did not feel our time to come together was now, but I am sure we will meet some day. I connected instead with a girl around my age at the hostel I stayed at, who also has been traveling for some time by herself. In many ways, it was even better to exchange travel stories and experiences with another female than with the man I had intended to meet with. Women share things that men cannot always understand. She helped ease my sadness after leaving Belgrade and was a beautiful presence to explore ancient ruins with. I also ran into a man from Egypt and spent the day with him walking to the Pantheon and happened upon Trevi Fountain with wishes to return to Rome again.

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While here, I was able to catch up with an old friend from high school wandering through the Christmas market in Piazza Navona in the rain, reminiscing about the past and catching up to the present. Two hours felt much too short to discuss the six years since we last saw each other. Every time I have come and seen her, it has been like time hasn’t past, and we can enjoy each other’s company. Our life in high school was so long ago.

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My last two nights were spent in the company of four guys and two girls I met through couch surfing. They wanted to give me an Italian experience and made me a homemade carbonara, gluten-free pasta meal, introduced me to several traditional games, bought me my first cannoli-one of the best pastries I have ever had (French bakeries watch out!), took me to Trastevere for limoncello and to beautiful lookouts from Pincian Hill above the Piazza del Popolo. They kept me giggling and having fun with their juggling and Zoolander photo shoots. I tried to teach them hacky sack and American slang and failed miserably, as I am not so talented at either myself, but I did teach them “Jebiga!,” so at least they learned how to say fuck in Serbian. I really enjoyed my last European experience; I didn’t have time to be sad about leaving; I could only think about how lucky I was to be with such beautiful people for two days. I love this city so much. Ciao bella!…until we meet again.

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I am intrigued at how much changes and yet is the same. We have four seasons of change, but they repeat themselves. We fight wars; we make peace, and then we do it all over again. In the book When the Past is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships, which is by David Richo, life is described as a spiral. We are either spiraling down, spiraling up, or circling the drain. We relive past experiences in current ones to try to fix what we could not in the last. Sometimes we just repeat, never seeing the pattern or perhaps ignoring it. In other cases, we may see but can spend a whole life-time trying to change.

I am about to embark on a travel adventure to see if a different environment can help me gain perspective. People can get so caught up in the routines of life that they are oblivious as they circle the  drain or spiral down. The routine allows for a numbing of the conscience that does not require much thought or self-reflection. I was so stuck in a life of “what I should be doing” instead of really living. But it is never too late to follow childhood dreams.

When I was little, I used to tell my parents I was going to be a traveling missionary and ride a donkey around the world. Although the dream has transformed as I have, it is still there. Today, it takes the shape of living a minimalist existence while exchanging life’s lessons with strangers, using nursing skills to help other’s find beauty in suffering, and sharing what I have learned through writing. Life is too short not to follow my dream, not the medias’, not my families’ or friends’, and not even “the dream” that comes from my own expectations of self and society, but my own dream, without expectations and knowing that it is mine.

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