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Trip Planning

I'm coming home

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I'm coming home

In just under a week I'll be on a plane back to the U.S., ending one of the most incredible years of my life. Trying to sort out a year of memories and experiences is futile, but here are a few things I've already realized: 

The people were even better. I got to meet some of the most playful and generous people on this planet. In the midst of reading about all that is going on in Paris, Beirut, Nepal, and Syria, despite all of the horrific things that have happened, I am still convinced that this world is full of good people. People whose kindness and compassion blew me away. I was given the benefit of a doubt from Vietnamese who suffered in the war. I was invited into someone's home that was the size of my bedroom growing up. I was given couches, equipment, food, directions, hugs, and so much encouragement from strangers. People are incredible and I can only hope to pay it forward someday when I have a home. 

The adventures were way bigger. Last week I ran with (okay, away from) a bull with flaming horns in Spain. I will never forget what it felt like to trek with a 15 kilo pack to 5,416 meters, or to wake up on a mountain in the Austrian Alps the morning of my birthday. I got to climb the longest routes of my life in the Dolomites and Arco, care for 433 wild dogs in Thailand, swim in waterfalls in Laos, jump off a moving train in Prague, compete and actually place in a climbing competition in Kathmandu, trek in the Laotian jungle, the high Tatras, the Alps, and the Himalayas, and volunteer with the most inspiring organization I've seen in a long time in Nepal. 

And the hard times were worse than I imagined. I struggled with being developing country sick, injured, exhausted, more lonely than I've ever felt in my life, and injured again. I've had bed bugs, wiped out on my motorbike, almost drowned in a tunnel in Vietnam, fainted a few times, had a lung infection (maybe altitude sickness, actually?) at altitude, left my purse on a train, slept on the sidewalk, cried every time my tendinitis kept me from climbing, unknowingly hosted generations of lice in my hair for a month, and shit my pants in public...twice. 

Even though there are always going to be more places I want to explore, I couldn't be more ready to see my family and friends again. Truthfully, I can't wait to settle down and have things like a toothbrush cup, mugs, books, a dresser, a bike, a garden, and heaps of chipotle. America, you're beautiful. 

I don't know what's next or where's next yet and that scares me. So don't ask about that yet, just for now join me in saying, holy shit this happened. Thank you for believing that it would happen and for encouraging me along the way. Thank you, thank you, a million times, thank you.

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Travel Fails: every ounce counts

This was bound to happen, I guess. At some point every traveler has to fess up and admit it, on the internet for everyone to see: I overpacked

A few weeks before I left on this trip I packed up both of my bags, hoisted them on my shoulders and walked from my apartment to downtown Minneapolis to meet a friend for lunch. When I saw him, I was more than a little cocky about how ‘easy’ and ‘light’ my bags were. Three miles and a little bit of sweat later I practically floated into my apartment, a-glow from how low-maintenance and non-materialistic I am.  

What. a. joke. 

It turns out walking in flat, air-conditioned skyways, fully hydrated isn’t a great way to test your pack weight when preparing to travel around SE Asia. Minor obstacles like, oh I don’t know, stairs and 95-degree heat are things I didn’t think about. Its funny how scrambling up sloping rock covered in leaves and gravel, the hot sun beating down on you and your two stupid backpacks made you get real honest about exactly how minimalistic you actually are. 53 lbs is about half my weight, so by the time Rolf tucked my overweight arse under a boulder to get us some water, I’m openly berating myself for bringing five tank tops, two dresses, two toothbrushes, HAIR PRODUCT, two bras, etc. That junk lasted until the next time we had to carry it, at which point I was giving clothes and toiletries away like Oprah. 

See ya never, junk.

You know what else was a huge mistake? Reading the RTW travel checklists of non-climbers, because most of them don’t factor in the 29lb buddha belly bag full of climbing gear. I learned the hard way that the trade off for getting to climb around the world is that I have to pare down on other luxuries. I mean, in the end, I’ll take my frizzy hair and smelly clothes any day, because I get to see views of the world only available to climbers, and climb on long, beautiful limestone. So I’ll keep tossing the extra weight in exchange for the beauty I get to see from up high. 

I thought I was different, a minimalist, an experienced backpacker. Nope, just another shlep learning how much she doesn’t need. 

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thanks to you

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thanks to you

i'm the Seattle airport now, ready for my first flight, standby baby. and now I have a little time to sit and think. about what? 

about you. about sweet, thoughtful, endlessly giving you. 

you threw me going away parties and happy hours (who the junk gets more than one of those?)  
you gave me kind cards and lightweight gifts (you thoughtful people you). 
you lent me your car, your couch, your bed, your pro deal.
even gave me the space above your garage for me to store my stuff.
then lets not forget about the phone calls, text messages, hugs and conversations all encouraging me to go, go, go.

chase this dream. you're finally doing it, this dream you've been telling me about forever. do it! believe me, you won't regret it. man, I wish I could go too. I'm going to live vicariously through you so take lots of pictures. be present. oh but be safe. and wear a helmet. will you have a phone? no? insurance? ok, good. don't talk to weird people. say yes to everything. try everything. but don't drink everything. I'd love to follow your blog. maybe we can meet up? yeah, I'd love that too. 

I'm chasing this dream, but I'm certainly not alone. my two friends Rolf and David have quit their jobs too and I'm meeting up with about a half dozen other friends throughout the trip. that doesn't just happen. people don't just get this kind of support so I want you to know that I feel it. all the warmth, the love, the kind thoughts and prayers. I am wrapped up in all of it and this trip will be incredible because of the love I'm being sent with.

love you back,
Elizabeth

ps: this is happening! Seattle > Tokyo > Bangkok

 

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in 23 days

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in 23 days

I'm freaking out. my brain can only handle so much, so it keeps oscillating back and forth between disbelief, excitement, and sheer panic. in 23 days my whole world is going to change. here are a few changes I can't stop daydreaming about: 

  • being outside. all the damn time.
  • exploring and pushing my comfort zone.
  • climbing some of the best rock in the world.
  • hanging out with some pretty amazing people.
  • not being inside. I really can't say this enough. 
  • sunshine. no one appreciates that like a Minnesotan in December.
  • paring my possessions to two backpacks.
  • living in bungalow. 
  • not looking at a spreadsheet. 
  • deep water soloing. 
  • the himalayas. I mean, holy crap, the himalayas.
  • slowing down and just being present.

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just a typical Tuesday

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just a typical Tuesday

oh you know, just on the phone with Blue Cross, trying to squeeze out coverage for 90 more Malaria pills. as you do.

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