Monday, January 31, 2011

Ever wonder what it takes to make a change? Any change really, whether it be from a small detail to the very large variety. As it turns out, an awful lot! This was the epiphany I had yesterday while out on a long walk. 

Radical change. 

It starts with an idea. One Person. A someone out there questioning why something is the way it is, or has become, and deciding "no, something should change". Something could be different.  Then, they set out to make that difference happen. No problem right? In theory no, but then you begin to put the change in motion and what you find is a challenge like no other!

For every one person out there wanting to move to the beat of another drum, there are thousands of others who are set to remain as is. Maybe even fearful.  Why is that I wonder? I feel that everywhere I look, there are signs saying in one way of another "change is good". But if change is so good, why then are we so resistant when it tries to weasel its way into our lives? 

Over the years, moving about, I have watched as the ideals of community have morphed and changed. These days, we are more focused on our television sets, or our computers as a means to socialize and be with people, rather than to host get-togethers, or invite company over and visit. I think about this often. For me, this is a change that I cannot embrace.  My hope and passion in life is to build community. To return to those olden day norms where the kitchen table was the principal place for gatherings, hours whiled away over nourishing, hearty foods and drinks, while sharing in ideas, dreams, laughter and above all the company of others. Doesn't it seem strange being a part of a community is no longer an essential part of our day to day meanderings?

Since moving out here to Bozeman, my goal has been to bring people in. To make friends, put down roots, and to get the elemental foundations in place in order to make a community.  What I have found, is that this is no easy task. The idea around quality time is a commitment, like a steep hill, that few are willing to climb, merely for the sake of what might be found while reaching the top. The unknown. We are held back by what we don't know, and it can be scary. But sometimes, it is taking that small step into the void that will illuminate those unknowns into something far greater than what we could ever expect. Let us not be afraid of all those unknowns.  This is the change that I want to create. To rebuild communities wherever I go. To shed some light and company into our ever growing isolation.  Isn't it strange that the closer we move to our neighbours, the farther away we actually are? Do you know who you live beside? 

Looking at history and our past, it is clear that any sort of change takes a lot of work.  One needs to be persistent, patient, and not flow into the grain, but continue to push against it. To not lose heart when the road gets tough, instead continue to rise up!  

In November, I hosted my first soup party, an idea that came from a dear friend of mine. For one small idea, of serving soup, tons of people from all wakes and walks of life, gathered in one small apartment looking for the nourishment that comes from being with others. We arrived as strangers,  but with warm soup in our bellies, we departed as friends, as the light filled our beings for being able to join in something beyond the self. So powerful! Humans have the capacity to ignite the darkest of moments with a kind word and curiosity. As I held my first gathering, there was a small handful of folks who came, and what I realized that night is that these gatherings have nothing to do with how many people attend.  Sure, maybe it was a small, but the evening was delightful, with great company and small enough to allow for those meaningful conversations to take place. What is important is to relish and appreciate those who do come to visit, and to make the most of that time. 

 One thing that I hope to take with me, is to make sure that no matter what I am doing, I am doing it for the right reasons. What are my motivations, and what do I want to achieve from this? I want to know fully and understand what it is that I am hoping to create by doing something.  All the while, continuing to keep coming up with new ways and opportunities to design a welcoming community. One way in doing so, is by opening my home and my heart to those around me. 

Next week, I will host my second community gathering, and am looking forward to spending another evening filled with friends. Ingredients will be bought to cook something scrumptious, invitations will be passed out and Thursday will come to share the evening with those who I have gotten to know over the past few months. 

As I wrap this up, I would like to say how impressive it is to know there are all these radicals out there in the world, who are fighting for what they believe in.  Those who are stepping up, whether they be voicing their passions or silently making a difference. My hat goes off to them!  The 'how' doesn't so much matter, what is important, is that there are folks out there who are wanting to do more in the world than just sit idly by. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is change. It takes time, courage and a strong person who is willing to keep going, no matter if they are supported or not. Isn't that incredible? What makes these people who they are? What makes us, the rest of the world so afraid of changes? Of being open? Of questioning or speaking up? And can we embrace those fears with grace while taking a step forward into the unknown?

Friday, January 28, 2011

And thus the planning of my first adventure begins!

In 2004, I traveled across the Atlantic with my good friend Jessye.  For six weeks, we traveled around Europe, with over filled backpacks and a marginal plan.  Whilst, in Spain, standing at the train station in Leon, we stared at the schedule of trains departing, and decided, on a whim to just pick a place on the board and buy tickets.  Apparently, neither of us felt it necessary to look at a map of where our selected destination would take us, and for two starving students, maybe choosing one of the farthest points west wasn't necessarily the wisest of choices, but what we found there would certainly plant a seed. What was our destination, you may wonder? Santiago de Compostela. Ever heard of it? No? Neither had we, but that was about to change.
The train ride west was an unforgettable experience, passing through some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes, from open fields, to mountains, to small rural towns, then into larger ones.  The sights tickled my senses. I remember watching from the window, as we passed a small farm, with a long line of laundry that had been hung on a line. In a brief instant I watched as it gently waved in the wind, drying and warming in the afternoon sun. As we arrived in Santiago, we noticed a few travelers, with walking sticks and shells tied to their bags. No thought was given, until the next day, when again, we came across another group of people, with the same shells and walking sticks.  Then another group here, a few people there, and as we continued to walk around the streets, we realized they were everywhere! What did it mean?  Nosing about, the mystery was solved. All these people just finished hiking the camino, and had arrived in Santiago the final destination. Hmm. Seed planted. I wrote it in my journal, and we continued our own adventure. 
Flash forward a month or so, to my grandmother and I sitting over tea.  Me sharing my endless adventures of Europe.  Somewhere along the way, the conversation landed on the Camino, it was a brief mention, but had shared that the hike had interested me and I hoped to one day follow the pilgrimage trail.  As Christmas approached that year, my grandmother gave me a book on the Camino. The seed begins to grow a tiny root. Soon life began to swirl, the seed grew dormant, and other adventures took presidence, but the idea remained and lived. 
And here we are present time, almost seven years later. The time has come, the small seed has begun to grow.  This summer, July to be exact, I will embark on my first personal backpacking expedition on the Camino de Santiago. Though I have much to learn and to prepare, I feel that I am READY for this trip. And just a hunch, this will be my first of many to come. 
The planning began January 1st. Though July is seven months away, it seemed appropriate to start early, as I am starting from scratch. One thing I have gained in the last week, is the tremendous respect for adventure enthusiasts, for two reasons: the first, is that though an outdoor trip comes across as pretty simple, it's a pretty big process in planning. Whew!  Though I have planned many wilderness trips for Outward Bound, there has always been details taken care of or assisted by another, and there has been a formula of sorts to follow. This is a whole other ballpark to play in! (and I think I love it) Second, thank-you for going out into the world and doing what you do, being passionate, and making the outdoors your adventure!  It is remarkable how easy it is to get caught up in the town/city whirl and forget the the great wilds is out there ready to humble us, and teach us through its many beauties, challenges, set-backs and unexpected discoveries. 
Now. Here is my beginning. This is what I know so far. My 'big-picture' route. I will start in France, in a town called Le Puy and shall finish in Finisterre, also known as the end of the world. In total, the trip will be 1,000 miles. Why this route? You know, I can't rightly say.  It just felt right.  When I read about Le Puy being a starting point, the hairs on my arms raised, and being one to follow her feelings, I decided that that was the route I would take, and I am excited about it. Further research has led me to know that through this route, I will have the opportunity to experience more of the Pyrenees Mountains, an area of some steep trails, and challenges so I have read on several accounts. I say, bring on the challenge! This is said, mind you, not with a chump attitude, but with courage, that though the walking may be slow and I may question my sanity at times (but then don't we all?) I feel that the push and the many hurdles to overcome will be rewarding.

I have a stack of readings, that I am sure the library is happy to have off their shelves. Currently in my possession, I have their entire collection of books on the trail,  which is 3. But as I begin to read through, the one grand thought that keeps returning is, 'yeah, it's great to read all these other peoples experiences on the trail, but how do I plan/prepare for a trip like this?' So, my reading plans are about to shift. 

How DO you prepare for a long distance hiking trip? 
The list I've figured out so far is as follows: 
1. Physical Training: the art of how not to blow out my knees, or better yet, have my feet call it caputs
or even better yet, getting used to wearing my backpack, all day, every day over the span of......hmmm that would bring me to my next:
2. How long is this journey going to take me? How far can I walk on a daily basis? 
3. Lightweight backpacking: what does this mean and how can I make it happen?
4. Maps: let me look at a map that isn't a road map first of all, and then secondly, begin to map it all out in detail, right down to the day to day goals. 
5. Packing List: what do I bring? what should I just leave at home and do I really need the kitchen sink? Along the same lines falls the whole other category of food.  Both books I have read thus far, have eaten in the towns, but I do like the idea of cooking my own food from time to time. Hmm....what to do?
6. Booking the flight, which also means setting an exact date. So it's been a long time since booking an international flight. I don't even know where to begin, nor as to how much I should be spending. This would be a good time to have a friend or relative who knew something/ or someone in the airline industry that could cut me a sweet deal. 
7. Which brings me to BUDGET. How much is this trip going to cost in its total? Should I start looking for a second/third job now?
8. Learning Spanish may also come in handy.  Good news is, my spanish phrasebook is on its way, and soon I will be slipping spanish words and sentences into everyday conversation. I apologize in advance if I butcher this beautiful language. It is not my fault. I am better at French, although I bet there are french folk out there who also cringe when I try to speak it. Perhaps after a month in both countries, I will be fluent, and the cringing will cease?....maybe?
9. Traveling companion? Do I try and find someone or just let the adventure be mine to share with other pilgrims along the way?  The offer is out there but it is a commitment.
10. Oh, points of Interest. This is an adventure afterall! Not just an A-B hike and then homeward bound. Nay! This is the time to explore, to go off the beaten path to check out Salvador's house, wander into some old long-forgotten castle, or to just meander down a side street in one of the towns to check out a market. 

There's the plan so far, thought already I feel like I am forgetting to include some important key points, but those will come.  Like a jigsaw puzzle, I've got my edges all set, and the rest is laid out, now it is time to put the pieces together. But with any puzzle, it's going to take time, there are going to be pieces that fit, or don't quite fit and will need to be put down and returned to at a later time. All in all, I am liking this puzzle.  Every 1,000 pieces of it!