Summer Road Trip: A Search for Something

I don’t know what I’m doing. But there’s no need to be alarmed. It’s hardly my first time finding myself following a desire void of an actual plan. Heck, I’ve been making it up as I go for the last nine months, ever since I came back from Germany, and now, I’m venturing on the longest leg of this adventure.

I left on the first day of summer to travel across the second largest country in the world, my homeland, Canada. I packed my car, mounted my mountain bike, and grabbed Little Man. I made a stop in Vermont for a few days, and now I’m sitting at my stepdad’s kitchen table in St-Georges.

The last time I was here was for my mom’s funeral. It was tough driving up to the house knowing she wasn’t here. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with my dad, stepmom, and my brothers and sisters these last few months, and this should have been the summer I got to spend time with my mom, but she’s gone. It hurts. I can’t change things so no point having regrets, but I wish we would’ve had this time together. We had a fractured relationship however, it was made cleared to me at her funeral, by all those who attended, just how much she loved me.

She worried a lot about me and had a hard time understanding my life. I see that worry and concern now in my dad and stepmom’s eyes—I wish I had answers for them. I wish I had answers for myself. All I know is that I started something—two writing projects, the Chapters of My Life Series and The Hijacked Holiday and I’m going to finish them. I also promised myself I would keep traveling, so I’m doing this drive across Canada. That’s about all I know.

Over the next few days, I’ll pour over maps, buy camping gear, and come up with some sort of plan for the weeks ahead. I’ve never done anything like this before which is motivation and reason enough to do it, but I sense there’s something more compelling driving me (pun intended) forward.

I feel the closest to God when I’m on the road traveling and in nature. We’ll be getting a lot of quality time together in the weeks to come so perhaps His will for my life will finally come into focus.

When Are You Leaving?

In my mind, my departure date is set for 1 February.  In reality, it doesn’t look like I’m ready to go anywhere, any time soon. But I know it’s time to go. It’s cold in Massachusetts. I’m growing in my discontent and boredom, which is making me antsy and frustrated.

All of my belongings are already in storage…it should be as simple as buying a plane ticket, travel insurance, packing my backpacks and heading out. So what’s the hold up?

Once I leave, there are things I will never be returning to.

My mom has brain cancer.  She was operated back in June and it was removed, but unfortunately, she wasn’t able to complete all of her chemo therapy, and the cancer has been growing back. Once I leave, the reality is I probably won’t see her alive again. She isn’t coherent anymore and it’s hard to tell what she is and isn’t aware of.

A part of me is putting off leaving, because I’m putting off having my potentially last visit with my mom.

My dad and stepmom have bought a new house, so after I leave, I will never return to the house where I spent the latter part of my childhood. I left home at 17, so this house hasn’t been my home, that is until the last few months…none the less, it’s something else that will be gone whenever I return.

Parting with my Car

It doesn’t make much sense to keep my car since I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, or what I’ll do when I return. My car, while only an inanimate object, represents my time in Germany, and a short, but significant span of my life. Every time I drive it, it brings back wonderful memories. Letting go of the direct link to those memories…is proving to be more difficult than I’d anticipated.

Leaving Little Man Behind

My favorite time of the day is when Little Man has gone outside, been fed, and we get back into bed to cuddle, while the coffee is brewing. I don’t see it has a valid option to take Little Man with me on this trip.  I don’t know where all I’m going to go and he would likely end up being an inconvenience. He’ll be left in good hands while I’m gone, but the thought of leaving him is breaking my heart.  He’s been the one consistent source of love and joy in my life.

I want and need to get going on my adventure, but it’s an emotionally heavy step to take. I can deal with change and the unknown, but sometimes it takes a little more time to make peace with it all.

A Rant: Stop Being Boring

When did the statement “Let’s have some fun” come to only mean “Let’s have sex together, no strings attached?” What happened to actually being able to have fun…I mean fun that involves being active, physical, outdoor and taking risks, but doesn’t include sex? If you’re reading this, and you can’t think of anything that’s fun and doesn’t involved sex (and alcohol) – you lead an extremely limited and boring life. Why are most people so boring?!

When I discovered that the guy who asked me out was significantly younger than me, one of the first thing that came to mind was “he should be a lot of fun.” I expected him to be full of life, charisma, and ready to have adventures.  I thought maybe he might come across a little immature, but I could deal with that, it would more than likely be entertaining. Yea. No. Not so much. He was entirely too serious and quite frankly…boring. Didn’t see that one coming.

He was interested in “hanging out” which in today’s speak apparently means hooking-up. As I’ve written in another post, he definitely tempted me.  He might have lacked charisma but stamina, that he had. He might not have known how to feed my mind or entertain me, but how to manhandle me and bring me physical pleasure…sure, he had those skills. But even if I’d thrown my spiritual convictions aside, no way was that anywhere near enough to make it worth my time.

You Bore Me

I don’t know when things, places and people started putting me to sleep. It is however, getting worse. Maybe I’m getting ADD…but I don’t think that’s what it is. I can sit alone and stare at a blank wall, while entertaining myself with my thoughts. The problem is people are leading sad existence and getting boring.

I’m an introvert, so I love being alone, and I rather be alone than bored with someone else. To make it worth spending time with someone, I need stimulation. The intellectual, emotional, or physical type. I’m a bit of a thrill seeker…so the more adventurous our time together, the better. I also love to learn and experience new things. I come prepared to contribute with stories, wit, trash talk and whatever else that can add spice to our time together. I’ll definitely put some effort into making things entertaining…but I can’t combat lame and boring alone.

Stop Being Lame and Boring

Have some interests, passions, and hobbies. Be able to share what they are, and why they make you feel alive! Have stories to tell, embellish them if you have to.  If you don’t have a few cool stories to tell – get off your ass and go get some!

Open yourself up to new experiences.  Be willing to explore and be spontaneous.  Have a list of things you want to try, so when someone comes along and says “Let’s do something crazy!” You’ve got something crazy you want to try out.

When someone says “that’s on my bucket list” – take them to do it, if you can!  What better way to make a good impression and have fun than by helping someone create new memories.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. Open up, loosened up, and get the most out of getting to know someone new.

And by the way, people who complain, are negative and gossip – are the most boring people of them all!

Having fun isn’t brain surgery and when you meet someone who wants to have fun, is up for just about anything and seeking some thrills…get a clue!

I hate it when my life gets boring.  It depresses me. I grow frustrated and antsy…so how do you put up with it?

Why is it so hard to find people to add some flavor and excitement to my life? Where are the fun people?

Germany, I Love You

When I left New Orleans to come to Germany, I felt like perhaps I’d finally reached a point in my life when I would meet someone and fall in love again.

Turns out I was right. I found myself in a European love affair that not only allowed me to be myself, but also to shine, flourish, grow, prosper and fully embrace life. I fell in love with Germany.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Germany, I love you

Mine was a love that blossomed the more I learned about you, the more I realized how much we have in common. You don’t believe much in small talk, you let people go about their business, but like me, you seek real and meaningful connections. You want people to be on time, mean what they say, obey the law, and display good orderly conduct. We totally see eye to eye.

Triberg is located directly on the Black Forest railway line and is famous for Germany's highest waterfalls,
Triberg is located directly on the Black Forest railway line and is famous for Germany’s highest waterfalls,

Living for you is about enjoying life, while being proficient and efficient at what you do. You strike a wonderful balance I needed in my life.

I couldn’t understand much of anything you had to say when you did speak to me, but I didn’t care…you gave me ample opportunities to spend quality time alone in nature.

Biking around Lake Konstanz
Biking around Lake Konstanz

Over time I witnessed how beautiful, special, and diverse you are. You opened my eyes to what you had to offer and the potential that existed in me. I loved exploring your cities, quaint villages with cobblestone streets, magnificent castles and the beauty of the Black Forest. You welcomed me to get to know your neighbors and explore a plethora of activities I’d always wanted to try out; kayaking, canyoning, white water rafting, hiking, climbing and so much more.

Schwabisch Hall
Schwabisch Hall

You said go for it, bike all you want, drive as fast as you want and be who you want to be!

People said you were going to be cloudy and wet, but I remember plenty of beautiful and wonderful spring, summer and fall days that made me want to just sit and bask in their perfection.

Heidelberg is a city situated on the River Neckar in south-west Germany.
Heidelberg is a city situated on the River Neckar in south-west Germany.

You threw some awesome Christmas and Easter Markets, Spring and Fall Fests and all kind of sporting events to allow me to get out and mingle.

Esslingen Christmas Market
Esslingen Christmas Market

I did not take advantage of the beers you had to offer, nor were your schnitzels for me, but I did grow to love your bratwurst.

They say when you know, you know – I know that I love you, and I already miss you very much. There is still so much I didn’t get to see, taste and experience – I hope I’ll be seeing you again soon!

How About You?

Have you ever had a love affair with a place you lived or visited? How did you maintain your love affair after you left? Feel free to comment below or contact Ann’s Adventure Tour Writer and Blogger here.

Turning 38

I sit at breakfast in a hotel in Brussels looking out the window into a park. It’s overcast, windy and chilly out…a clear sign summer has past. I’m supposed to be on a bus to Luxembourg, but after a morning in a tour bus yesterday, where I fell asleep…I decided to skip today’s trip. I shouldn’t have come to Brussels. I did so out of an imaginary obligation to check it off my list. And quite frankly, this city deserves better than that. Instead, I should have gone back to the mountains or to the beach…a place where I could have begun to get rejuvenated…I feel drained and tired.

As I keep creeping my way closer to 40, I would prefer to turn a year older at a time when I feel full of zest and energy…that way, I can say I don’t feel my age, and mean it. Unfortunately, right now, I’m feeling the additional year.

It hasn’t quite been the kind of summer to remember I’d originally imagined. I’d planned for a summer full of adventures and outdoor escapades. A summer that was supposed to leave me with rosy cheeks, windblown hair, sun bathed skin, and a toned physique from all the biking, hiking, swimming and all sorts of other activities. It was a summer designed to leave me feeling alive! I had some those experiences (which I still need to write about), but work and life got in the way to my perfectly fantasized summer to commemorate the last of my time in Germany/Europe.

In late June, I found out my mom had brain cancer. It’s not something I want to write about just yet, but this event did lead to an unexpected trip to Canada to celebrate her 70th birthday. I don’t think she’ll make it another year, so I’m glad I was able to be there with her, my two brothers and their families and my stepdad, who is taking incredible care of her, to celebrate the occasion.

While in Canada, I received a call that crushed my heart to pieces. One of my Marines committed suicide. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to hear such horrible news and return back to such a dreadful new reality. The last couple of weeks were spent making sure his affairs were taken care of, caring for the other Marines, and planning his Remembrance Service. He will never be forgotten and I hope and pray I never lose anyone else to suicide ever again. A stark thing for me to say…as I have struggled for years with my own intents, until I let God into my life, which is something I’ll be writing about this upcoming year.

Meanwhile, the clock has been ticking, and my remaining days in Germany are dwindling down. This brings more heart breaks and saddens me greatly; Germany and Europe have been very good to me and for me. There’s however little time for grieving, as I have much to do in order to be ready to return to the States. It was inevitable for the toll of all the stress and emotions of the last few weeks to catch up to me and leave me feeling the way I do. I often forget I’m only human.

In the midst of all of this, I’ve also needed to spend some time thinking about my future and what my plans are for…if not the rest of my life, at least the next year.

The Next Year

Because I’m either crazy, selfish, or careless – all three, or none of those, my plan for the next year is to take the year off and focus mostly – entirely on writing. I have two stories I want to tell and hopefully complete, if not both, definitely at least one of them. One is nonfiction, based on my walk of faith, and the other is fiction, a Christian based romance novel. Neither of those books will write themselves without making writing them a priority.

I’m once more venturing out without much of a plan or safety net. It would be a lie to say it didn’t end well last time I took this kind of leap. Sure, as far as the world could see – it didn’t end well. I lost everything and found no success, but the events of my last go at following my heart into my entrepreneurial endeavors ended with me on my knees giving my life to Christ, which was the best thing to ever happen in my life.

In my fantasy world, 3-5 years from now, I’m Battalion Commander of 6th Communication Battalion, on the New York Bestsellers list, and pending a movie deal for one of my books. It’s what I’ve been day dreaming about lately. I’m not holding too tightly to this dream…it’s at God’s feet in case he wants to sweep it away for something else He has planned for me.

I understand the odds are stacked against me. I know I probably have even slimmer odds of making it as a writer, then I did making it as an entrepreneur, and I’ve been there, I know the tough, hard, difficult, and sucky road that likely awaits me – but I also know there are no other roads I want to take a this point in my life. I want a “career” path, a career title, besides being a Marine, which is supposed to be a part time gig. I have to give it all I’ve got, and find out if being a writer is something God has planned for me.

There’s nothing easy about writing, I know this. I’ve sat in front of a blank screen with the cursor blinking at me. I know while these stories seem to be battling me to get out right now, once I’m ready to write them…a vast deserted quiet will likely befall the voice currently narrating the stories. Even if all goes silent, I will do what writers do, I will write.

Traveling to New Distant Lands

Initially, I’m moving back in with my parents for a few months. Putting it out there, going to be 38 and moving in to an apartment in my parent’s house. I haven’t spent any significant time with my family for 20 years, so it will be good for me to spend three months with them – to get to know them better, and for them to get to know me better. Depending on the situation with my mom, I’ll likely spend some time in Canada as well.

In January of 2016, the plan is to head to Guatemala for a few months and write there. Escape the Massachusetts winter and explore Central America. This is a loose plan I’ll solidify while I’m in MA, and I actually have time to look more into my options. I’ll also need to take a trip down to New Orleans to get my things left in storage there over the last two years.

All and all next year, if it goes as desired, I’ll make it to Peru, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador.  Writing about it all is part of the deal!

Along with the traveling, I want to keep hiking, biking and having outdoor adventures. I don’t want to return to the life I had before coming to Germany.

Spiritual Growth

I’ve fallen behind on the Bible in a year program I started, but I’m still at it and determined to become more familiar with the Word of God. It just might take me a bit more than a year. My faith and knowledge of God has increased every year since turning my life over to Him. I want to keep this very good thing going. Since my writing will be focused on Him and what He has so far done in my life that ought to help to keep Him the center of my life. I want to more easily be able to share my testimony, and openly speak about Him to the people in my life, and new people I encounter. It doesn’t stop me from sharing, but I don’t like the way I talk about it now.

I’ve been praying to be more opened, to more easily share who I am with others, and let people into my life. I’ve also prayed to be more giving and generous.

Love and Relationship

I’ve been single for over five years and haven’t even been dating. I thought I would find love in Europe, which I did, with Germany, but not a man. My future is filled with unknowns and with me not staying put anywhere for any significant amount of time, so it’s not looking good this year either. Also, at this point, I don’t even know anymore what kind of man would win my heart.

I’m still so determined to find my place in the professional world. I don’t feel whole and that’s not a gap for a man to fill. It’s a gap for my purpose on earth to fill. This whole department is without a doubt all in God’s hands.

At some point, He will bringing it all together. May be this year and may be not. I’ll definitely keep leaning on Him for strength and help to continue the mighty fight against the fleshly demons that are hard at work attacking me often.

Being 38   

I expect it to be an amazing year. It won’t be without challenges and hardship, but those will only lead to new discoveries and blessings. I’ll keep living a life that’s God led, God filled and God driven. It’s the only way I know not to go wrong. Tomorrow He could change every single written word and intentions I have for my 38th year on earth – and if so, I will shift to where He tells me to go.

I appreciate all the love, support and encouragement of my family, friends and readers. There’s much content coming your way in the upcoming year! Thank you for sticking by me!

Twenty Years Ago on this Day

It was 20 years ago on this day that I stepped on the yellow footprints at Parris Island, South Carolina and began my journey as a U.S. Marine. I was 17, and only 2 months into my summer as a high school graduate. I had enlisted on my 17th birthday, but the decision to become a Marine had been made a few years before then. I wanted a challenge and adventure. I wanted out of the small town U.S. I was living in and my home life. I didn’t think college was going to be all that different from High School, nor did I actually know what I wanted to be. I graduated top 10 in my class, I was class President and had plenty of other accolades and accomplishments for a well-padded college application…I was just not interested in college.

The Marine Corps offered opportunities to travel to distant lands, to push me to my limits, and to fast forward me into full adulthood. Boot camp proved to be a disappointment, and the follow-on years, less than exciting. My biggest challenge was overcoming being bored to death by my mindless job…working in an office, on a computer, at a desk. Of course, I made the best of it by setting goals for myself, making the best impact I could, and getting myself commissioned.

In October of 1999, I found myself once again doing a sea bag drag while getting screamed at, but this time it was at Officer Candidate School, in Quantico. I entered a whole new world on December 10th, 1999, when I pinned 2ndlt on my collar. A world that would challenge me immensely and reward me with the opportunity to lead some incredible Marines. However, in July of 2005, after returning from Iraq…I took off the uniform. After a hard but incredible tour in Okinawa, I was not able to adjust to what was next in my career. As a mid-level Captain, I was told it was time to learn how to become a good staff officer which interested me – not at all. I escaped to Iraq, but came back and got out to embark on the next phase of my life, and a whole new set of challenges.

Almost three years went by during which I had nothing to do with the Marine Corps. I was struggling to make it as an entrepreneur; I was hooking and jabbing in whole new ways. I overcame so much in my time in the Corps, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do. I only had to try harder and be more persistent. Turns out, that wasn’t enough. My business failures lead me to losing everything. So in 2008, I turned back to the family and organization that had taken me in at 17. It took no time at all for me to get snapped back in. I considered my return to the Marine Corps a temporary solution to get back on my feet. For the Lord, it was part of the plan to bring me to my knees and to finish what He’d started.

Now, seven years later, with the last three years spent back on Active Duty, and experiencing a complete change of heart about my future in the Corps, I celebrate my 20 years anniversary, knowing I am committed to giving it a few more years.

The older I get, the more significant milestones have become in my life. They’re a reflection on what I figured I would have accomplished at this point, and who I would have become. I didn’t join the Marine Corps with the intentions of making a career out of it. I believed in the saying “If it’s not fun anymore, it’s time to get out”. When it stopped being fun, I got out. I left the Marine Corps with no intentions of coming back. I had entrepreneurial blood in my veins, so I figured by now I would have been a successful entrepreneur, living a completely different life.

Not so, instead, I kept finding myself back to the Marine Corps. Each time I came back, I was reminded why I go out. But each time I came back, I was also embraced by amazing Marines and friends…by my second family. Each time I came back, I returned to a place where I knew I felt at home. God ensured each time I came back, I was in an environment that continued to help me grow, prosper and provided me reassurance I make a difference in the world.

In 51 days, I will get on a plane, return to the States and no longer get up at 0535 to get ready to go to work to lead and serve Marines. I will endure an emotional tsunami of leaving my Marine Corps family and a place (Germany) I have absolutely loved calling home. I will leave with 20 years under my belt and with some tough tasks I need to accomplish in order to reach my next set of goals in the Marine Corps. I will leave still knowing getting off active duty was the right decision, but knowing being a Marine, leading Marines and being part of the Marine Corps has been and will continue to be a very large part of my life. It took almost 20 years for me to get it – being a Marine and leading Marines has always been part of God’s plan for my life.