San Fran, CA – 2019 (SFO)

fullsizeoutput_d8b7.jpegHave you seen Ellen lately? This is her back in June – perfectly packed – at ease on our BART commute to Union Square for a 46 hour stint in San Francisco.

This picture is so rich to me. And perhaps I am reflecting on her because I have been in her room doing some deep “have you really been dusting” cleaning. Her room got to the point last week that it was just time to be rearranged, re-thought, evolved.

I sit (absolutely covered in dust) with a Starburst wrapper stuck on the bottom of my bare left foot and am in awe of how I am more in love with my oldest child than ever.

As I prepare to bring a bin up to start gathering up her nursery items, her kid room items, and leave it minimal – cool – updated, I realize the extent to which she and I have a decade behind us. For the most part, I know when and where she got things. I know the sentimental value behind the items in her room from her mom: items I made her because I love the little things like her sense of time and her feet.

For example, I printed this picture of her feet (one arch folded over the other, the way they still end up when she sleeps curled up on her belly) which were soles up at me while I was driving her and her sister across the country. It was taken in our van, she was dozing in the front seat in such a way that her perfect feet were nestled next to the road atlas. I decoupaged the picture onto a little box that now stores her guitar picks.

Ellen and travel just go together. (Along with her need for sleep.)

As I round out my thirties, I realize just how much the hard parts of my life are more easily navigated when I use what comes easy to me or how they are more fun and enriching when I incorporate what I love; what “just goes with” who I am.

Likewise, I recognize the effort in the ease. I hope she learns this relationship between easy and hard things early. How the surrender and the edge work together. Yet sometimes I think she already knows on a deeper level how to let go and be in the still moments that come.

Still moments like when you are waiting for when the BART will finally take off through the painted neighborhoods, to the heart of San Francisco. A city that provides a shared pulse for me and Ellen.

San Fran gets her the same way it gets me. It is a pure kind of connection that puts a person at ease before ever having arrived.

That’s it for now. #backtocleaning #sanfrancisco

The Evolved Road Trip: 7 Steps to Take

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About two weeks ago, I decided that it was about time I start planning and getting excited about a trip. My daughters and I went on an epic road trip a couple years back and MONTHS went into that planning. My atlas was on the nightstand all the way leading up to our departure and I would pick a leg of the trip and go through it in my mind. As the trip came and went, I found myself wildly connected to the intention behind each of the places that were picked – explored – enjoyed – and slept in.

So. We are doing it. We are taking a trip next summer and as I find myself thrilled I have an active trip to which I can apply my imagination and resourcefulness, I figure I will offer here what I have found to be key steps in the magic making.

1. Pick Your Destination Based on Your Vibe

Our trip is going to be rooted in Sacramento, to visit my oldest cousin and just get that Northern California vibe right into our bones.

And that’s just it – the vibe – the last time we traveled like this, the destination was Sedona, AZ. And that was to connect with a place my Grandmother always visited.

For me and many others, travel plants seeds or gives you the sun and the water to grow. I feel like I always come back different. So picking your destination based on what you want more of in your life, or where you want to be reinforced, is a wise choice.

2. Planning Your Anchors

After deciding to drive instead of fly (that was a family vote), I plugged in the start and end point into Google Maps and looked at the immediate option presented back to me.

From there, I ask myself:

a – Who could I see (friends, family)

b – What could I see (National Parks, Botanical Gardens, Cool Cities)

c – How could this be ridiculously just awesome (Take yourself out of the straight shot mentality.)

From there, I play around with the route like it was a story. I move the line around, trying to find the anchors of the road trip. Obviously, checking with people you want to see or stay with to make sure they are around.  To me – this part is the most creative part of the planning.

Also, here is kind of a practical hint when planning: think of drives you are familiar with in order to prep how you can mentally do the trip. For me, it’s 3.5 hours to Kansas City and 5 hours to Chicago. As I am planning the legs of the trip, I think “that’s to KC and back” or “thats to Chi Town and back and then back to Chi Town”. Then, I plan my stops in those increments. Secondary hint: I don’t do more than one 15 hour leg in a journey. Unless it’s totally necessary. (And I have an audio book.) Highly recommending David Whyte’s Poetry of Self Compassion for early morning departures when kids are sleeping. It’s life changing. I promise. It’s got that prayer flag, fresh coffee, open road vibe.

3. Give Your Family Options

On our last trip, I let the girls pick our route home after providing them three options. (North through Utah? Garden of the Gods? Or back the way we came?) For this trip, however, I picked the route because – let’s face it – we are going to drive to Sacramento and hit at least four National Parks, I just needed to be the boss. But, their options will come in in terms of what bucket list things they want to hit. For Ellen, it is parasailing.

Cue a pin of parasailing in Lake Tahoe.

4. Search Terms to Use When Googling Lodging

Don’t get me wrong, I spend *plenty* of time on sites like hotel.com. But here are some of the best search terms I have found to get you those memorable places to stay.

Best Place to Stay, Inn, Boutique, Ranch, Historic, Bed and Breakfast, Gardens, Organic, Good Nights Sleep, Host, View, Traditional, Comfortable, Beautiful, Stars, Spa

If you didn’t already know this, you can search in a formula. So just pick some words that relate to your vibe set in #1 and use plus signs in your search. For example,

Yellowstone + Best Place to Stay + Stars + Good Nights Sleep + Spa

5. Sketching the Budget

Before you jump off this post because those search terms sound expensive (and, guess what, they are), let me offer you a few pieces of advice.

When you are planning a road trip, you have some flexibility. Use it to pivot your anchor places on off days, so if there is a really awesome place to stay – maybe try to hit it on a weekday when rates are lower.

Think about how much you’ll be driving that day and when you are departing the next day. If I am going to do a 15 hour leg, I splurge on a really good bed at a place I know is clean that has a farm to table breakfast or something of the sort. Those terms and those expectations are what landed me here on my way to Arizona. (PS: It’s heaven).

If you are departing early and don’t have the morning to max your time relaxing at breakfast, taking some laps in the pool and letting your kids burn some energy, then don’t splurge. Look for a more functional place with a good quality standard and helpful reviews. If you see a review that it was dirty, weird or questionable – I don’t care how many other good reviews I see, I don’t stay there. No. Freaking. Way. It’s just not worth not being able to sleep when you’re driving that much.

6. Giving Your Trip Purpose: A Mission Statement 

On our first trip, it was about a year after my divorce. I wanted to “see under the hood” of my kids by getting them on a different back drop. We did no phones or video games in the car. More on that in Planning the Drive. But my Trip to Love, was all about giving myself to them FULLY present and see how they were and stepping into any kind of faulty wiring that I noticed.

This year, the current name of the trip is “Witness the Lit-Ness” (named by my teenager). I am pretty sure this trip is all about us straight up kicking it. My kids and I strike our own chords wherever we go, so I’m pretty excited about this trip being rooted in being comfortable with yourself, willing to go on an adventure, and being kind to people we see and meet along the way.

Oh – but I also plan on teaching them some basic feminine, minimalist style tricks. More on that in a future post. Basically – I want to teach my kids how to wear no makeup, a white tee shirt and jeans like an Italian super model.

7. Planning the Drive

This is the best best best part of the trip to me. It encompasses the following:

Picking what you want your car to sound, smell and feel like. Our trip to AZ, we had audiobooks, whiteboards, crosswords, maps with stickers to mark new states. We had playlists and water bottles (limiting trash, always) and – of course – essential snacks. (More on that in a future post as well).

Planning mile markers. I spend months looking at my atlas before bed, praying about certain parts of our trip. I’ll look at one leg and find my mental increment (see #2) and then search all the towns off the interstate at that increment for “best tea” or “best breakfast” or “best coffee” or “best yoga” << where there is good yoga, there is usually good other things. Based on where I am in my drive, I may search for juiceries or college campuses. (<< PS: Student Centers can be GEMS with bowling, cool gear for your trip and used books!) Last trip, I used my atlas to look for things about 15 minutes off the interstate and found the Amarillo Museum of Art which was a) beautiful b) just a different type of place to stretch the legs and c) really great for about 20 vinyasas and some backbends before finishing the drive.

I also use mile markers to plan gifts for the girls. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I reach out to friends and family to write them notes, wrap up a little gift or whatever for them to open when we get to certain places in between our stops. This builds excitement. And, honestly? Last trip, I talked about the trip so much to people while shopping that even my local shops put things in bags for the girls – lotions, kleenexes, headbands. I mean, how cute is that? People are nice when you open the door.

Okay – so – now I am even more super pumped about our trip, Witness the Lit-Ness. I am strongly considering the budget for this trip. I am still on the fence about the vehicle I am going to drive on this trip. I am considering a camera. And I am thinking about how to include you all in this adventure. I mean.

Mt. Rushmore

Yellowstone

Sacramento

Lake Tahoe

San Francisco

Yosemite

Moab

Denver

Kansas City

Home.

You know you want to come along with us!

Talk to you later!

erin

PS — THIS IS THE BEST ATLAS

This One Night in California.

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Last week, I left my little annex apartment in a South Californian valley town at dusk with a blanket and a hoodie, a flashlight and my iPhone. I hiked to a clearing in front of the garden and spread out to watch the end of the sunset.

I had gone inside to prepare some dinner right when it started, but the amber behind the dark scale of the hillside would not leave my mind and I had to go see it some more.

The moon!

Of course I was nudged and so convinced to go back out! Somewhere in me knew I didn’t want me to miss the moon.

(I feel I could paint this sunset into a picture because of how it felt.

I have never been a painter… this is new.)

Then, I noticed a star. And then another star. And then another star.

Star. Star.

Star. Star. Star.

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And I didn’t leave. Hungry as I was, I laid there watching every star come out as the sun made it’s final tuck low past the horizon, dunked behind the ocean that was on the other side of my sight.

Never in my life have I watched all the stars come out. Every time I thought of my dinner, I still stayed. So patiently.

I was mesmerized – absolutely mesmerized and entertained.

And still. I was STILL.

Some constellations I knew, but I had this deep sense of desire that my mind would just open and I could understand the stars, see all the patterns, know the stories. A language I knew in my bones but wanted words. I felt this sensation rise to the top of my brain. But I didn’t pull out a constellation map, I didn’t Google anything. I just looked and was open, calm.

Needless to say, I slept well that night.

The process of staying still when your mind thinks of the next things to do is a very important part of yoga; a very important part of life. Guiding the self in a manner which is still – not busy – I have found offers deeper release of tension in the physical body.

Now that I am back home, I am committed to maintaining this posture of freedom and calm.  By finding something to engage me that requires me to do nothing but sit and look. I think it is easy to want to develop thought in these moments. To think you can understand something about yourself in these moments. Or receive revelation. Truly, I think it is likely that you can make connections and evolve through a practice like this.

However, emptying the mind and clearing the thought – these are the things of value in stillness. This is an established theme in my life and that I am taking to all my practice – as a student and as a teacher.

Have a great holiday weekend :) Find something to stare at and settle into … erin