I Found a Life Worth Living as a Full-Time Traveler. 3 Years Later, Didn't Fathom That.

Three years… it has been THREE YEARS since I started this journey of being a full-time traveler. I began traveling in January 2013 and after a couple months with a home base in Phoenix, I decided to let all of the material things go. That’s when I really started living. On May 1, 2013, a day I call The Launch, I left my normal life behind for a different kind of normal, a different kind of life. A new normal I never knew would ignite my soul, scare me senseless, and make me feel more alive and creative than I could ever imagine. I Found a Life Worth Living as a Full-Time Traveler… three years later, didn’t fathom that.

My first year can be summed up with one word: Pain.

Both physical and emotional pain were the cornerstones of that first year on the road. Just 19 days into what I thought would only be an 8-month adventure, I tore my Achilles Tendon running the Portland Half Marathon. That was by far the most extreme physical pain I have ever experienced in my life. The recovery would take close to two years for me to be able to walk without wincing every step.

That first year I also camped over 100 days in national parks across the U.S. I didn’t even know how to setup a tent, when I left Phoenix! Building my own shelter and fire every day grounded me and gave me a type of self-confidence I never knew existed. I could survive in this world all on my own. Not that I want to live a solitary life, but knowing I could take care of myself in the middle of nowhere was more liberating than I can express.

 

That first year I cried almost every day. I cried for the loss of my business, my marriage, friendships, and for the loss of myself. {Read: We Built a Dream 10 years Ago & Catholic Charities Destroyed It to get caught up}

I was drowning in depression. I couldn’t see a way out. So I traveled. I woke up most days without a plan, I just drove. I rarely had a reservation at a campground or a hotel, I figured things would work out or they wouldn’t. I rolled the dice and let life play itself out. I didn’t publish a lot of my writings of that first year. That time was for me and I was too raw to share it with others.

I went back to Phoenix for the Holidays in 2013. I had ran 10 half marathons in that year and had interviewed craft breweries throughout the U.S. I knew after I ran the Las Vegas Half Marathon, my 10th half, that I would never run long distances again. My legs were shot and the pain was just too much. I could barely walk at this point. You see, I would run in a lot of pain thinking that this was what everyone expected of me. I didn’t listen to my body when it was screaming for me to stop. That was an extremely painful lesson to learn.

My second year can be summed up with one word too: Alaska!

A few days after I turned 40, I drove away from Phoenix in my Toyota Scion tC for the adventure of a lifetime… Alaska! I stopped in San Francisco for a month to see the man I was dating before I ventured up north. While in San Francisco, my laptop was stolen. That laptop held my finished manuscript for Unstoppable: Girl On The Run. I was devastated as only three pages somehow backed up correctly on my external hard drive. I cried buckets of tears over the book I had spent the last few months writing in Mexico.

What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of love and encouragement from brands and friends alike. This was the second time my car had been broken into, and this time, the break-in broke my heart. I left San Francisco with a new MacBook (I was a Windows girl) and kissed that man goodbye. I had planned to be in Alaska for six weeks and then would come back to the city by the bay to live. Destiny sure had a different path for me to follow.

It took me nine days to drive from Seattle to the Alaska border on the AlCan. Nine days of no cell service, no WiFi, just me and my thoughts. I’m a deeply introspective person and relished this alone time. In Canada, I saw my first glacier – Bear Glacier. Coincidentally, just yards away were a couple black bears on a date! I stepped foot on Alaska soil in Hyder, Alaska which was down in Southeastern Alaska. I still had days to go to get to Anchorage.

I remember like it was yesterday, the moment I crossed from Canada into Alaska. It was around 6:00pm and the sun was shining brightly, with a crisp chill to the air. I saw this massive brown bear on the side of the road eating flowers. I couldn’t believe Alaska had sent out a Welcome Committee! I stayed in my car, grabbed my Canon T5i, and snapped pictures of the big guy for over 20 minutes. He looked at me and just kept on eating the berries and flowers on the side of the road! I was in Animal Happy Heaven!

The next morning I drove into Anchorage. During this drive I couldn’t look left or right without seeing a glacier, without seeing more beauty than I ever thought imaginable. I thought mountains in Colorado were big, they are baby mountains compared to the mountains in Alaska! After hitting a Taco Bell and Starbucks in Anchorage (don’t judge), I continued on down to Seward.

Hugging the curves of Turnagain Arm, I stopped at Beluga Point to hopefully spot my favorite whale. This young girl told me I had to come back in a few months as the Belugas aren’t there in June. I was sad as I thought, dang it… I won’t be here in a few months. An hour or so later, I saw this epically blue river and I had to pull over. I had seen glacier rivers like this in the movies, but here I was in real life, looking at an ice blue I never knew existed.

As I took in that water, I looked up to see a Bald Eagle flying overhead. Off in the distance were bowl glaciers on the top of the mountains. I wept happy tears. My eyes wouldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t fathom anything more beautiful, more peaceful, than what I was witnessing. I felt like I was home. In one moment I knew that Alaska would be my forever home. A sense of calm and then excitement washed over me. I’ve searched my whole life to feel like I belonged and in one moment on the side of the Seward Highway, I felt like my life had led me here… I knew in my heart that I was forever changed. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life.

Over the next year I would spend time throughout Alaska in Seward, Homer, Soldotna, Kenai, Anchorage, New River, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali, and finally, Fairbanks. I would meet people who would welcome me in and accept me for who I was. They didn’t try to change me to fit in, they loved me for my differences.

The story I won’t tell is about that guy in San Francisco. After a painful phone call, I knew I wasn’t going back there. I made the decision to stay in Alaska for the winter in 2014. I was so dang scared of the cold and snow! But you know what? I loved it even though I was a wimp about it. I had never really experienced winter before and now I long for those dark, cold Northern Lights filled nights.

That winter I rented two different places for a few months each. I wondered if that meant I had to turn in my full-time traveler card. Most full-time travelers put down stakes for a couple months at a time. I didn’t know that, I just was trying to live my life one day at a time in my own way. I felt very guilty though for staying put. It was a weird feeling.

 

My third year can be summed up with one phrase: Just Be You

In May of 2015, that SF guy called and asked me to come for a visit. So I did in July. The timing was wrong, so very wrong. I came back again to Alaska broken hearted. I had been too scared to camp around Alaska up to this point because of the wildlife. I took my broken heart and headed out into Alaska to heal again, one campsite at a time.

I made my way up to Fairbanks and decided I needed a shower and a soft bed for the night. I checked into Mount Aurora Lodge and found what I like to call, my Fairbanks Family. Writing in front of their wood fireplace I stopped crying, started laughing again, and realized no matter where I was in Alaska, I felt like I was home.

After Fairbanks, I camped in my dream location… Denali National Park. While I was cooking on the open fire that I built, a big bull moose walked casually by my car. I wasn’t fast enough to snap a pic. I was listening to Miranda Lambert’s Airstream Song, and just started dancing around my campsite without a care in the world. I had found my own kind of happiness.

In October 2015, I received the call a lot of bloggers hope for. It was Southwest Airlines and they wanted me on their Inaugural Flight to Costa Rica! I jumped at the chance even though it was just a week away. My plan was to stay down in the Lower 48 through the Holidays and come back up in February.

Funny thing about life, it doesn't always go as planned. I flew to Indiana instead. I came to Indiana to help my uncle with Vernon’s Ale House. I also got on that plane because I was so unhealthy and felt like my allergy to soy would kill me sooner rather than later. I was in Indiana far longer than I would ever have imagined. {Read: Why I Put My Life on Hold to be a Small Town Bartender}

I love Indiana and my family there, but I was ready to go home. I wanted to make Alaska my permanent home base that I would then travel out of. 

SO yes, it has been an interesting three years full-time traveling. Three years without having a permanent mailing address. Three years of driving well over 100,000 miles in my car, ten thousand flights miles, and now I can add sea miles thanks to the epic cruise to the Dominican Republic with Fathom Travel.

The best part though of being a solo female traveler over 40? The friendships I have made in each and every state. I don’t feel alone anymore, I have you all with me.

Year one was painful, but I learned to stand on my own two feet again. Year two was filled with wonder, where I learned you are never to old to follow a new dream. Year three was about just being me. I tapped into all the things that make me the woman before you – a traveler, a craft beer enthusiast, a wanderer, an optimistic, a true romantic, a dreamer, a lover, an independent soul, a deep thinker, an adventurer, an organic gardener, an athlete and everything in between.

Thank you for following my journey these last few years. Thank you for reading my stories and encouraging me to keep going. When I was at my lowest, when I wanted to give up, when I felt like a failure… you were there. YOU lifted me up. You helped save me from myself.

This post was originally published on KristiTrimmer.com.

 

 

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