Two years ago on May 1, 2013, I left Phoenix with a car packed full of hopes, dreams, and a scared and somewhat broken woman. That day will forever be etched into my mind as I said goodbye to a life I had built for 14 years in Phoenix. I knew I would never call this desert home again, although I would be back as often as I could to see friends and family. I think those closest to me also knew I was about to embark on a journey that would forever change me as a person.
A few minutes before I drove away on the adventure of a lifetime.
I didn’t know how to put up a tent, jump a battery without help, or what made me happy anymore. I had been running for a little over a year, lost a lot of weight, found that being healthy made me happy and I wanted to help others find that too.
I was also exploring this new world of craft beer. I had always been a wine lover and loved good beer (not piss water). A good friend of mine introduced me to home brewing and awesome microbeers (as craft beer used to be called). I was on the hunt to find and talk with craft breweries and winemakers as I ran in half marathons around the US.
Just enjoying a little stout in Maine, nothing to see here. 🙂
You all know by now that I was seriously injured in the Portland Half Marathon. Everything in my life changed that day. I lost faith in my trip, I lost faith in following my dreams, I lost faith in myself. Over the next year I did a lot of rehab so I could walk again. It was the old saying – I had to put one foot in front of the other and just go. That was also what I had to do mentally.
Here’s the story of why I have a Love-Hate Relationship with Portland
In 2013, I ran 10 half marathons (6 of those after I tore the Achilles) across 38 states and was on the road for 202 days, camping for 100 of them. I saw the wonders of Yellowstone National Park, felt my heart leap from the beauty of Glacier National Park in Montana, and soak up the culture of New York.
I cried more in 2013 than I had in all of my 30s. Through those tears and emotional lows, I found my voice again, I reignited the strength that had been pushed down, and realized that no one was in charge of my life but me. If I wasn’t happy with MY life I was the ONLY one to blame. I blamed myself a lot that year for all my failures. It took my friends and family to point out all of my successes. It is so easy to forget about those. I still struggle with feeling like I have failed at life.
In 2013 I learned who I was again. I stopped living a life based in fear. I started living. Really, truly, living.
Read last year’s Post: One Year Ago Today, I Changed My Life
In 2014 I decided I wanted to keep traveling. At this point there were only two states I had yet to check off – Alaska and North Dakota. With Alaska being the 49th State added to the Union, I thought it was appropriate that it be the 49th State that I visited!
I started my trek up the West Coast on 4/10/14, a week after celebrating my 40th birthday in Phoenix. I stopped for a month in San Francisco. I was dating someone there at the time and planned to come back to SF to live after being in Alaska for 6 weeks.
I celebrated my 40th in Phoenix, San Francisco, and out at Half Moon Bay. So much love!
On May 1, 2014, exactly one year since being on the road, my car was broken into again – 1st time was in Vancouver, Canada the previous year. Not only were all my electronics stolen including my brand new laptop, cameras, chargers, everything… but something that was far more valuable… my manuscript for Unstoppable: Girl On The Run.
I had some amazing friends and companies that came together to give me gear to get back on my way to Alaska. I am eternally grateful for their generosity. I found myself though leaving San Francisco with a broken spirit. I cried everyday for the next six weeks. I’ve struggled with rewriting that book this last year, but slowly but surely it is coming along.
Never owned a Mac before…
So many people were worried about me driving to Alaska solo. I was too. Driving up through California, Oregon, Washington, and then a week in Canada with no WiFi or cell service. Driving the AlCan is not for the faint of heart!
Sunset in Astoria, Oregon. Breathtaking!
As I write this, I can still close my eyes and remember that day when I saw my first black bear just outside of Stewart, Canada. A minute later I would see my first glacier – Bear Glacier. The ice was a blue color that I had never seen before. I got out of my car and just stood there staring at it. To think that this had been here for thousands upon thousands of years was insane to me. Beautifully insane.
That night I drove into Hyder, Alaska. You can only go a couple miles as it does not connect to the main part of AK. It would be quite a few more days before I crossed from Canada into Alaska… June 4, 2014 to be exact.
This last year in Alaska has had its ups and downs. I’ve never been anywhere more beautiful and breathtaking in my life. I have never felt more alive and at home as I have looking at her beauty. I never in a million years would have thought that I would still be here almost a year later.
I’m no longer the broken girl who left Phoenix two years ago today. I’m also nowhere I thought I would be in my life. I was so much more financially secure in my 30s than I am in my 40s, which is completely backwards. I was way more book smart in my 20s, but thankfully, more heart smart in my 40s.
Alaska is my muse. I write more here than I have anywhere else. I have written some deeply authentic pieces as well as those that are sold to others. All I want to do is write. Oh, and take photos! I wouldn’t call myself a photographer yet, but I am working on it!
I still struggle with my weight, especially with not running like I used to. I have a hard time dating here too. I’m following my other passions though – writing about Alaska beer, getting out into nature, gardening again, and hanging out with friends and family as often as I can.
I will be traveling throughout Alaska over the next three months. I’ve also booked quite a bit of travel for later this year. This girl is not done traveling!
I’m not broken anymore, as I have found my strength. I might not be loved by a man, but I love myself.
Gert Chalfin says
Wow! This is such a compelling write-up. I am sure there must be a great book coming out – one that lets everyone know your back story. Though I agree that the “now” is more important than anything else. You have a lot of courage! Go girl!