Rumbles

Tonight Rick and I sit quietly in the low light of our living room as thunder rumbles outside. Inside my head, rumbles are also rolling around – thoughts of our changing lives and what is to come. As I look over at Rick I observe the home we’re making together. We have put quite a bit of time into making our place represent us – our travels and stories up to this point. Behind Rick above our couch I see two colorful paintings of girls riding bicycles that I bought during my travels in Vietnam. On the adjacent wall is an aboriginal painting we bought at Uluru in the Red Center of Australia. On the walls behind me are old maps of Brisbane with its winding river meandering through . If I look closely I can see our old street and it makes me smile. We have felted wall hangings from Inuit communities on the Hudson Bay, sand prints from Myanmar, Peruvian weavings, mate bowls from Argentina. Our house is a collection of the things that are beautiful and meaningful to us.

I wonder at times how to maintain this lifestyle with a baby on the way. Can we still be simple? Can we maintain what we have? Earlier tonight we got into a discussion over gear – for babies. We are not big believers in gearing up excessively, and we truly want to maintain as much simplicity in our lives as possible, even with the obvious fact that babies necessitate that we give up a bit of this. I have a personal vendetta against strollers of all varieties, and I think after years of my stroller rage Rick may have gotten on board with me. We can both agree that there is at least one piece of baby gear we would like to live without. But, truly, how much else can you do without? Especially as a working mom? How does one maintain as much simplicity in his or her life as possible, while still accommodating the needs of a baby and a career?

I find myself contemplating how my life will work in 6 months or so, when in the midst of the holiday season a new life enters the mix. As I look around now I have a husband who is a joy, and my puppy who makes me smile endlessly. We have a good little thing going, so how will we fit baby Frankie (this is what we are calling it for lack of a better name) fit into the mix? How will I balance work and my desire to be a mom? How will Rick transition into teaching with the added stress of a newborn? There are many moving pieces.

I feel like I am constantly reining myself in and reminding myself that people have been doing this for thousands of years and I will do the same. We will make it all work. And I know that stressors aside, once I look at Baby Frankie I will be smitten and will do what is needed to make life work for him or her.

Pregnancy Reflections

It feels nice to be out of the first trimester and to have the ability to share more openly my thoughts and reflections on the changes in my life and the being that is rapidly expanding my waistline. I have been so heartened by all the expressions of happiness and kind words people have shared with Rick and I. It has helped me to focus on the excitement rather than the myriad changes happening in my body and in my life going forward. I have a really hard time keeping my ongoing inner monologue to myself, and it is a major relief to share the news that Rick and I are expecting with our friends after weeks of awkwardly sipping pomegranate juice instead of wine and secretly drinking virgin margaritas while we’ve been out. I’m so thankful that I didn’t suffer from severe morning sickness or skin issues – things that would have made it more obvious that something was happening. We flew under the radar for the most part, so it’s been very fun to surprise friends and family with our news.

As far as how I have felt, I have had it pretty easy with only minor queasiness at the thought of certain foods (often my favorites like eggs and salads!), and a bit of early dizziness and fatigue. Aside from basically wanting to eat exclusively toast and cheese for three months straight and being a bit tired, I think I did pretty well. Right now, however, is possibly one of the weirdest stages of pregnancy. Some days I definitely have a belly, but others it really isn’t noticeable. Most of my pants fit, but they are certainly getting snug, and a few of the tighter pairs require a belly band – if I can get into them at all. I feel like more than my belly, my thighs and hips are rounding out – not to mention other parts of me! I am trying to embrace this new curvier version of myself, but it is a struggle at times. Rick helps keep it in perspective by asking me regularly if his ass looks fat or some other obnoxious question to remind me that of course my body is changing and I should just embrace it. It is a bit of a learning curve though. I have a lot of clothing, particularly for work, that is very tight through the torso. Needless to say, I am rapidly trying to adjust my wardrobe to accommodate the fact that many of my work clothes no longer fit, and they certainly don’t do much to disguise my growing bump. Each morning is a new challenge, but I am trying to look at it with gratitude and a sense of adventure. It will almost be a relief when I am just obviously pregnant and not in this strange limbo phase. ūüôā

Catching Up and Slowing Down

It’s been 10 days since I last posted anything here. ¬†A lot has happened! ¬†We made it back from Colombia without too much incident. ¬†We re-established our home base in Milwaukee – though not either one of our ideals, it’s not bad either. ¬†My dad is an amazing chef so I eat like a queen here, my parent’s house is wonderful – each morning I wake up to an ever-changing view of Lake Michigan, there’s a great yoga studio down the road, I get to cuddle with my favorite pup, and I have lots of quality time with my family. ¬†It’s hard to complain about all that wonderful stuff, but Rick and I must certainly admit that we want our own space as soon as possible. ¬†We had such a wonderful routine back in Australia, and since coming to the United States stability in the patterns and timing of our lives has been such a rarity that it’s been hard to really feel like ourselves. ¬†Couple that with having our belongings scattered across at least three, though possibly four states and you can begin to understand why we feel an urgency to establish our lives in one place soon.

Oddly, we had not anticipated that we would be mentally ready to settle as quickly as it’s happened. ¬†Our initial plan had been to bike tour through Cuba for a month, then travel in Colombia, Bolivia, and possibly Brazil for another two months or more before we settled back to real life. ¬†We nipped that plan in the bud about a month and a half ago somewhere in Nebraska in a fit of really wanting to be together and to start a home. ¬†And I think we are both thrilled with that decision to this day, ¬†though it would be nice to just move forward with the settling part.

Here I feel compelled to make a note on traveling. ¬†I love traveling and experiencing different cultures and parts of the world. ¬†I think it’s valuable and enriching, and I encourage everyone to make time to venture out of his or her homeland and to see life in other places – see what people do for fun, for work, for food, and then come back home and try to feel ungrateful for what you have. ¬†It’s hard. ¬†We have it really good – at least in the US. ¬†We also have what I consider a responsibility, to be aware and cognizant of our privilege and of the realities – political, physical, and psychological, of life in other parts of the world.

With that preamble out of the way, I want to discuss my experience traveling in Colombia now that I have had some time to digest it. ¬†To preface this, we undertook our travel with the understanding that we wouldn’t be spending all our time actively being tourists – much of our time was spent engaging in other activities we deemed crucial to the larger picture – e.g, applying to jobs, attending spanish school for two weeks, and participating in yoga teacher training. ¬†We kept ourselves fairly busy with that, but still made time to get out and see Colombia as we moved through it. ¬†It was a different style of travel than I’m used to.

This style of travel had some significant drawbacks in my mind.  In having to be fully engaged with the real world (in the US) as we traveled, it was somewhat difficult to put ourselves mentally into travel mode and embrace some of the joie de vivre that typically accompanies adventures abroad.  I felt I was doing a constant dance between investing serious time and mental energy in tasks like homework, yoga, and job applications and trying to become fully immersed in Colombian culture.  Our travel constraints also often revolved around things like whether we had decent internet at our hostels, our ability to make phone calls, and our ability to be within walking distance of the activities we chose Рwhich admittedly put us in both very heavily touristed areas (in Cartagena) or (in the case of Bogotá) very hip, nice neighborhoods that might not reflect the greater whole of the city.

Altogether, both Rick and I came away from our travels feeling less like we just came off a long and exciting vacation, and more like we just came off a month of existing much the same way we have been in the US, traveling from place to place and living our lives Рalbeit more foreign places.  We felt somewhat less like we let go and engaged with the culture and more like we were simply two Americans living abroad Рmuch as we had been in Australia.

Unlike the dreamlike travel experiences I have had in the past in places like Bali, Morocco, or Vietnam Рexperiences where I felt fully immersed in a new place, senses stimulated and constantly taking in new and wonderful vignettes or different cultures Рmy travels in Colombia tread a thin line between of being amidst a completely foreign culture yet entirely connected to a familiar one.  Mentally we were in neither place.  That made the experience, in some ways, less fulfilling than some of my previous travel.

I have to say that I don’t in any way regret our travel style – it was exactly what we needed and allowed us to achieve many diverse goals all at once. ¬†But, I do think that perhaps in trying to do as much as we did, we may have slightly diminished the overall experience. ¬†Plus, there is the simple fact that when travel is no longer a vacation from real life, but simply real life taking place outside of its normal parameters, some of the magic and sense of wonder is removed.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to note all this. ¬†I loved our time traveling and don’t regret any of it. ¬†But, I think sometimes travel can be overly romanticized. ¬†There is an important line between travel as an escape from your typical life and travel on a long-term itinerary with a mixture of goals, budgets, and restraints. Though both have their merits, I have to say that I may not be cut out to be a long-term traveler. ¬†When traveling for long periods of time I feel constantly a stranger visiting places where people see me as an outsider. ¬†I feel a lack of purpose at times, and I desire greater engagement with the places I move through. ¬†I marvel at the mental and physical endurance it takes to travel for months at a time – both for the ongoing lack of stability, and for the feelings of constantly being without a community. ¬†Perhaps it’s my rootlessness speaking right now. ¬†It’s hard for me to separate my deep desire to invest myself in a place and community for the long-term, ¬†from my feelings of itineracy while traveling. ¬†They say that all who wander are not lost¬†– and I’ve long thought that true, but when you are constantly moving it’s hard to invest in finding yourself and your purpose. ¬† ¬†I want to be invested. ¬†Perhaps I can thank my last trip for confirming to me just how deep-seated this desire is.

Manizales, El Jardin Secreto, and‚Ķ Montana?

As I write this, there are two puppies curled up on the floor near me, Rick is sitting in hammock a few feet from me, and I’m overlooking a lush, green mountainside that falls away into a valley punctuated by a muddy, boulder-strewn river. ¬†Just setting the scene here. ¬†I almost hate to write this knowing that many of my friends and family are hiding out from the cold weather. ¬†We, on the other hand, are taking a little break from the afternoon heat.

We are about twenty minutes from the city of Manizales, near the coffee-growing zone, at a hostel called the Jardin Secreto. ¬†Unlike most of our previous places, this is actually not owned by locals. ¬†That part is unfortunate. ¬†We practice our Spanish a bit less here than when we stayed in the city of Manizales with the adorable Maria Teresa of the Palogrande hostel – she and I sat and chatted over coffee for a few hours, which was so wonderful for my Spanish and great fun to learn about the city from a local! ¬†But, there are trade-offs, the couple that owns this place is American (from Portland) the woman is a yoga teacher in the Anusara tradition, and she’s into Ayurveda – so I’ve found my little happy place. ¬†Needless to say we have been here a night and already extended our stay for several more. ¬†There is something about the lushness, the cool nights, the pungent smells of dirt and manure, and the myriad flowers in every shape and size – it’s a just a hard place to leave.

Today we toured a sustainable coffee farm, which was great. ¬†Lots and lots of good coffee, and some great food too. ¬†Tomorrow we’ll head up to the mountains to trek to Los Nevados – hopefully approaching something like 15,800 feet of elevation! ¬†The day after we will check out some thermal springs, before heading to Bogota where I’ll be beginning my yoga teacher training with BJ Galvan. ¬†I’m really excited!¬†The fact that I’m able to continue my training with a teacher who I have worked with in Australia is wonderful. ¬†And, the fact that we could combine our travel here and my teacher training (after having to drop out of the training I had planned to do in Australia so that we could move home and get married) is a huge blessing. ¬†I can’t wait! ¬†I’m also thrilled at the opportunity to do some of it in Spanish. ¬†What fun!

I have to say that this trip has strengthened my confidence in my speaking immensely. I have always been able understand Spanish fairly well (having taken it from age four through high school certainly helped with that), but my speaking has really come back to me with two weeks of Spanish school. ¬†It’s wonderful and fun to feel relatively sure of myself as I speak, and to be very sure of what I’m hearing. ¬†It’s been nearly 13 years since I last spoke Spanish regularly – it’s incredible what the brain keeps hidden away. ūüôā

Anyway, in case you’re wondering how Manizales, the Jardin Secreto, and Montana are at all related, I guess I can fill in a few details. As we have been traveling, Rick and I have been dedicating a fair amount of time to job applications and figuring out some of the details of our future. ¬†While there are challenges to doing this abroad (namely horrendous Internet in Cartagena, and the fact that we are often on the move) it’s actually been pretty effective. ¬†Up until we left for Medellin I was cranking out a few applications a day – mostly to locations throughout Montana and Colorado. Rick has been doing much of the same, though his path is a bit more reliant on where I go so I’ve been leading the charge.

Having completed our tour of the US cities we were considering calling home just over a month ago now, we determined that we loved the sunshine and ruggedness of the Rockies and probably wanted to make those mountains our home. ¬†Though we have both spent lots of time in Denver, and though Rick owns a house there, we are both drawn to a rural lifestyle. ¬†Montana has been calling to us both now for a long time, and it might just end up being our final destination for several reasons. ¬†I’ve always wanted to live there, and have taken every chance I’ve had to visit. ¬†Rick too has felt the draw to Montana. ¬†He was a ski bum at Big Sky and has spent quite a bit of time in and around Bozeman. ¬†And, just a few summers ago Rick and I biked from Missoula to Seattle, seeing some of the best of the west along the way. ¬†That part of the country holds a chunk of both of our hearts and I think we’d like to try making a go of settling down there and bringing up a family – with the majority of our time spent out in the woods.

There is something about the idea of a more rural life that I love. ¬†I am a social person and I love and feed off the energy I get from other people. ¬†Unfortunately, sometimes I feel as though it takes me away from my own priorities and goals. ¬†I found that to a certain extent, the relative isolation of our lives in Australia (in the sense that we didn’t have a huge social network) allowed us to grow individually and together in some really special ways. ¬†I felt like it allowed me to spend time focusing on things I enjoy and want to do more of – like yoga, art, and writing. ¬†Rick, though in very different ways, sees the appeal of a rural lifestyle. ¬†We both want to improve our ability to live self-sufficiently and be close to nature. ¬†Rick loves the idea of being able to leave the house to go trail running, a luxury that might even draw me back into the runners fold. We also both love that in Montana we can have mountains, water, and sunshine. ¬†I guess I’m greedy, but I just want it all – and I’m willing to give up living in a larger city to have it. ¬†Plus, we both love the winters and the potential of amazing backcountry skiing, great resorts, and opportunities to Nordic ski too.

We have a few irons in the fire for jobs in Montana, but we are more and more convinced that even if we don’t have a specific job to walk into, we might make our way to Montana anyway. We aren’t ruling out other parts of the West. ¬†I certainly love the idea of being close to our friends in Colorado, or somehow finding work we love in Jackson Hole or Boise, but when we consider all the options, we still end up with Montana at the top of our lists. ¬†No final decisions have been made yet, but so far this is where are hearts are leading us.