Why I Travel

I travel to feel.

To feel the pulse of a community. To feel the exhilaration of uncertainty. To feel the gentle kiss of loneliness and the bittersweet caress of goodbyes.

 (Crystal Street)

I travel to taste.

To taste the joy of a chance meeting. To taste the beauty of local cuisine. To taste the sweetness of serendipity.

www.crystalstreet.net (Crystal Street)

I travel to explore.

To explore my boundless mind. To explore the fears I cling to as a lifeboat in an ocean of uncertainty and a world I don’t understand. To explore the tiny fibers of humanity that bind the least among us to the fiercest.

 (Crystal Street)

I travel to love.

To love the life I choose not to “vacate” but to experience. To love the person I evolve into with each journey. To love the ones who wait for my return.

www.crystalstreet.net (Crystal Street)

I travel to learn.

To learn the sorrow of war. To learn the ecstasy of triumph. To learn the value of truly living.

 (Crystal Street)

I travel to see.

To see things beyond my comprehension. To see innocence in the eyes of a child living under occupation. To see wisdom etched on the faces of my elders.

www.crystalstreet.net (Crystal Street)

I travel to be.

To be an engaged and enlightened citizen. To be a better human. To be true to my soul.

 (Crystal Street)

I travel to be in this world.

Thanks for traveling so many miles with me, dear reader!

The Wolves Kissing Your Cheeks

Today was one of those lovely days where I had big thoughts on my mind- big, life altering thoughts. The type of meandering of the mind where I was contemplating all that I am, all that I’ve created.

I wrote a letter to my private email peeps on the TinyLetter, stating why I had been silent for so many weeks and contemplating the type of words that might best fit their needs and the next step in my journey as a nomad.

I left my RV, stepped out into the desert sun and went for a long walk. Across town- and really, I use the word “Town” loosely- there’s a lovely lady with a small bus converted to an espresso producing thing of beauty and I had a craving for that bitter liquid gold. And she truly knows her shit! Finding espresso in this one-horse town that doesn’t come from a packet- or McDonald’s- is not a common occurrence.

 (Crystal Street)

Donna & the Espresso Bus

I let all the thoughts that I’d just put in my letter run through my brain a I walked through the desert wash that runs under I-10 and ends up at the big swap meet in town. I tried to find the people I encountered on this walk charming. I didn’t find them charming- I found them old, white, very large and consuming mad amounts of cheap shit made in China and shoving deep fried snickers wrapped in bacon into their grills. I tried to remain open- truly, I did- yet the specter of judgement and anger started to creep in.

Seriously, chocolate covered bacon and deep fried Snickers live here.

Why do all these people need to consume all this cheap crap? Why does this town even have giant swap meets that sell all this garbage? When did this town go from selling and trading real gemstones and minerals, filled with miners and prospectors, to buying and selling plastic back-scratchers, twirling iridescent yard art and fried Twinkies?

Why, people, why?

 (Crystal Street)

I made it to my espresso oasis and the owner greeted me with her warm smile and invited me into her bus. I then struck up a conversation with a photographer- or ex photographer. He was a paparazzi photographer and photojournalist from the 80s/90s and made alot of money doing so.

“I drove a Lexus. The women, the people, they all looked at me different, because of my car!” Or his exclamation went something like that. He was blown away at the life he used to live, a life filled with Los Angeles’ wild times and high-end luxuries. He had the Beverly Hills home, he had the girlfriend and he rubbed elbows with the stars.

And then he left it all. All of it.

He hopped on a bicycle and headed for a cross-country journey to NYC. He had plans to start a studio out there, continue his work and branch out after a few months of reflection and soul searching. Instead, he ended up taking a drastic left turn in Washington state, literally, and hopped a ferry to Alaska- or something like that.

He then went on to describe his wilderness experiences. He lived off the land, went from riches to nothing, and one day found himself woken up by wolves.

That’s right- wolves.

“I had wolves licking my face and my sleeping bag. And I was too tired to do anything about it. Wolves!” Now, I’m assuming there might have been embellishment in his story a little, but still, his come to Jesus moment involved wolves in Alaska.

That’s kinda cool.

And we talked for quite awhile about living a simple lifestyle. He spoke so warmly about his life now, his bicycling and his big old Buick. He lived in RVs, camped, lived off the land, gardening, whatever he felt like. He had the luxury of time and he walked away from a life in Beverly Hills to do it.

We warmly spoke of living in Airstreams, yurts, campers, tents, tipis and both knew about the adventures of Dick Proenneke. He understood my desire to live in an RV better than I did.

This truly spun my wheels for the rest of the day. Even if the wolf thing was an exaggeration, it’s still an interesting visual. He knew something wasn’t right with his life. He knew that the shiny car he drove and the perception of the people who saw him in the car didn’t belong to him. This did not fit. It wasn’t his true self. Now, even with the struggles and trials that a life off the radar- off the grid- can provide, he had peace. He had laughter. And he was happy.

I contemplated this as I walked back to my RV- aka The Writer’s Cave- and truly put somethings of my own life into a better perspective. While I’ve never had the Beverly Hills lifestyle or salary from my work to reflect that level of external validation- I’ve never needed to escape into the wilderness and have wolves like my cheeks to wake me up to an authentic existence.

I know, shocking revelation for a person who, I’d like to think, has a rather high level of self-awareness.

I began to revisit my Airstream Daydreams this evening. In fact, while walking back from my lovely barista, I saw a tiny canned ham trailer for sale. I stuck my head in and glanced at the set up. Now, it’s about one step above living like a nun, but it was cute and had the essentials. It started spinning my wheels even faster.

Maybe I could live in an Airstream, and live off the land and not be considered the next Ted Kazinsky.

Maybe I can have a vegetable garden and live on the cheap and not have to adhere to the standard urban lifestyle- farm removed from my food and its source.

Maybe I can create a bubble to live within that protects me from the suburban lifestyle I’ve spent my adult life avoiding and still not isolate myself from community and people. I do like people- most of the time- even if I am silently cursing them for not seeing how their actions are enforcing the ills of our society.

Maybe I can live on my own terms, in my own manner. Well, duh, of course I can.

For those of you who have never lived out West or spent more than the occasional week vacation out there- the difference is strong and it’s distinct. And the East Coast has a very different mentality, one that puts me on edge and shocks my energy in ways that takes me days- or weeks to recover.

Like geography.

So, anyway, my point being here, do we really need the wolves to kiss our cheeks in order to open our eyes to the life we’re living and how far removed it may be from our true selves? Can we not incorporate a life that reflects our real desires- not the need to fit in to other people’s myths or society’s narratives?

And can I maybe stop trying to fit into the narratives that exist and just be my fine, freaky self if I so desire? Do I need to wait for the wolves to knock on my door before I just accept that I find RVs more charming than homes with foundations? Do I need to have the external validation of others to feel like my desire to figure out how to live totally off-grid is more than a fad or an attempt in rebellion- or total insanity?

Can I finally make peace with the fact that I simply do not have the desire to make a million dollars with my photography and play the game that I know I’m totally capable of- and sometimes get excited about- but know that the things I’ll have to sacrifice to reach that scale are too sacred to leave exposed and unprotected while undertaking such an endeavor?

Maybe my chance meeting with the former photographer was more than coincidence. Maybe he was my message and his story was validation from the Universe that I’m doing just fine.

And no, there will not be wolves kissing my cheeks anytime soon.

The Blank Page

How many brilliant ideas began with a large sheet of white paper, a pen and a quiet moment?

The latest blank page and inspiration for this essay.

In my world of digital existence, where all the work I once loved was produced on purely analog devices and craft based production methods, the beauty of a blank page and a pen is simply divine.

The blank page represents possibility.

The blank page gives space for ideas to find a home- to come into existence.

The blank page allows the mind to run free and wild, with no constraints or lines to follow.

And an entire book of large, blank, white, beautiful pages represents many serendipitous moments where the daemon can enter my world safely- with all the subtle nuances and innuendos that it brings into my creative world.

The possibility of the blank journal is endless. It’s been with me since childhood. When the world crumbles around me and I’m left wallowing in the desolate spaces of a beaten heart and an exhausted soul, the blank pages offer a space of solace and the opportunity to grown from the sorrow.

When the world is abundant and filled with joy and laughter, the blank pages give me the space to express my gratitude- even if only to be embraced by myself and the Universe to which I send such sentiments.

When the future is cluttered with endless options and delicious decisions, the blank page gives me the empty vessel to create the structure I see in my mind.

It gives form to vision- a plan for my walking towards my dream.

My blank page in Paris, with a little fuel.

The blank page is so much more than just paper.

It is possibility.

It is creativity.

The blank page is hope. Understated and often overlooked.

Without the blank page- where would all the brilliant ideas of humanity have originated?

Without the blank page, the ideas that power our world might have simply existed in the minds of the creators- never to see the form and structure of an idea given to paper and surrendered to creation.

Isolation- An Unfortunate Side Effect of Modernity

An unfortunate side effect of our modern existence is the pure isolation we feel from one another- from our neighbors, from our community, from our loved ones- even from our own selves. As I watch the Occupations happening around the country- and the world- I’m reminded of the disconnect we often feel with those around us.

A woman takes a smoke break on the streets of Eugene, O.R.

How did this isolation occur?  When did we move away from the core aspects of community and engaged citizenry to the individualistic motivations of a person or a company striving to improve the bottom line- at the cost of anyone who might stand in the way?

Did we achieve this isolation by accident or was it a structured design to keep us all distracted and isolated from one another in an attempt to push through a more powerful agenda by our governments? Have we allowed ourselves to be removed from the lives of others because we fear what collective action might create or because we feel the need to protect ourselves from all the dangerous elements that live beyond our homes and our neighborhoods?

All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.       ~ Noam Chomsky

Social media has allowed us to collectively find like-minded people and communities to help alleviate this isolation- and now we see how this collaboration can manifest itself in collective action.

The Revolutions of our past were begun in pubs and churches- the places where people gathered and communed. The places where people furthered their ideas and their goals for a brighter and more enlightened society. The community gathering locations of our pasts- which, by design, are difficult to find in modern times- are the places where people connected and united in a common goal of searching for freedom and independence.

Freedom from tyranny. Freedom from oppression. Freedom to live as one saw fit, to build, to grow and to create.

Our forefathers had the sight and vision to recognize that some things- some basic human rights- are worth fighting for. But they found the connection and the common ground to move forward because they chose not to isolate themselves from their fellow neighbor or community.

I look at the modern society we live within and my heart breaks a little. I’ve spent so many years traveling about, seeking out community gathering spots around the world, that I’ve had the opportunity to see community in action on many levels. My heart breaks because there are truly very few community gathering locations- also known as “Third Places”- that allow people to speak freely and further ideas to better their communities and their futures.

Paris is filled with Third Places (as is most of Europe). Could contribute to their active engagement with revolution and the actions of their governments.

If we had been paying attention to one another and truly listening to the pain and struggle our neighbors were experiencing- with love and compassion instead of fear and judgement- might our country be in a different place at this moment?

If we had paid attention to our government and came together to stand against the blatant removal of our democratic rights, might we not be staring down the double barrel of a defunct government and economy- both on the brink of collapse?

If we had been paying attention over the past decade or so, might we have noticed the consolidation of our media, the selling of our political elections to the highest corporate bidder and the outsourcing of all our manufacturing jobs?

If we had been listening to the cries of the minority, might we have taken the actions necessary to preserve such an amazing country for our children and their children?

Yet, we retreat into our homes at night, watch the distractions delivered to us on the television and hope that someone, somewhere, is actually doing something to fix these problems. We judge the people taking to the streets in protest or we simply ignore the reality that we are part of the 99%, that we are effected by the actions of the Wall Street and government elite and that we can take action against it.

I say we, because I am just as guilty as the next person. While I’m pretty active in following the news, both alternative and corporate, and I pay close attention to the happenings in our world and the source of the angst I see around me, I am just as guilty as the next. I have yet to occupy anything. I retreat into a comfortable, quiet home in the evening and I spend my days working to make a living in this economy. I am part of the 99%, yet I’m not standing up for what I see is right, nor am I participating in a physical community to build something to help counter-balance the isolation I’m writing about.

Maybe this is a self-indictment, maybe this is my call to action, maybe this is the time in my life where I use this platform I’ve built to begin to truly look at the issues I spend so much time studying. If I’m to truly help rectify the ills I see everywhere I turn, should I not use this platform to do so.

This blog has been quiet the past few months as I wrestle with these realities and my role in the world. In shifting gears to a more settled and rooted existence, I’m faced with the reality of taking the past few years of nomadic minimalism and making them fit within my re-entering of the professional media world. Its a delicate balance of maintaining identity and embracing the antithesis of what I mentioned above- yet still play the professional game on a level that I see relevant to justify the effort.

And in doing so, I will be looking to engage in community. I will be looking to actively participate in the face of what is to come for our society.

We are faced with two choices at the precipice we stand before. We can either retreat and amplify our isolation- living in fear of what is to come as our society continues its slow (or rapid) decay.

Or we can choose to participate.

We can ride the waves of turmoil and unrest as our society redefines itself and aligns it’s priorities closer to the hearts of it’s people and not the Corporation, holding tightly to the collective community and building a better reality with the help of the people we hold dear- and the strangers we have yet to meet.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

~ Thomas Jefferson

Functioning Within the Cycle of Perpetual Change

How often in our modern society do we embrace the opportunities of change?

A street performer in Riva Del Garda, Italy makes his way towards his "office".

How often do we stand at the edge of a fire, embrace the heat and then leap through the flames to find the results of that change we are so desperately seeking? For some of us, this leap of complete faith in the potential outcome is a welcome yet uncomfortable occurrence. We recognize that the intensity of the discomfort now is a direct result of the potential of what lies on the other side.

Yet, this is not always the case. Most people fear change with an intensity that is manifested in the current state of our society. We’ve become so complacent and expectant of the amenities and social institutions that we are all engrained within, that the very thought of any upheaval to the expected routine brings about a desperate fear that has no remedy- besides maintaining the status quo.

We see this in our antiquated educational systems, designed for an era long before technology became mobile and knowledge instantly accessible. We see the fear of change in our political institutions to such a perverse degree that we’ll actually vote for the very person who would wish us dead or render us in utter poverty rather than elect a person who might bring about actual, tangible change- not merely use it as a slogan of propaganda. We see it in the demise of our very economic structures and our inability to force change to occur at all levels of the systems we’ve become enslaved to.

And we see it on the faces of the people we pass on the street everyday. This quiet desperation of the souls who need to change the patterns of their life, but do not have the knowledge or the will to do so. The status quo is much easier to maintain.

And we see the fear of change in our own eyes.

Even if we are an agent of change, we still feel the sharp sting of the unknown. We are blessed with the ability to recognize the source of our fear, and if we’re truly lucky, we’re able to act upon it.

If we lose the ability to change, as a collective whole and as enlightened individuals, we will never evolve into the people we are meant to become.

Our society will never fully embrace all of its potential. In our misery at maintaining the lives we’ve created and the societies we’ve built, we will act out upon one another with anger, resentment and fear. We will continue the paths of destruction that bring us a perverse sense of comfort.

We will continue to destroy the things we love most and the people we cherish through our inability and unwillingness to do the difficult work of changing the paths we are walking down.

Books for sale on the streets of Paris.

If we fail to enact change, we will continue to justify the deaths of others as benefiting the greater good. We will continue to look away as parents abuse their children, as people starve in the streets and children grow into adulthood having never seen what love actually looks like.

We will close our eyes as the world which was handed to us shrivels and dies a tragic death.

For to truly evolve, we must function within the cycle of perpetual change- individually and as a collective. We must have the ability to question our premises, understand the sources of our prejudices and judgements and look beyond the truths we thought were absolute and see what lies beneath.

We must have the strength and the wisdom to dissect the institutions we live within and the relationships we’ve cultivated and truly decide their value and whether or not they play any role in nourishing the person we’ve become.

If we are to evolve and embrace all the potential that lies before us, we must open our eyes to our reality and change it. Now. We must embrace change with all the respect and joy it deserves and step towards the vision of what lies beyond that radical change.