“Happiness only real when shared.” —Christopher McCandless

slideshowChristopher McCandless made a damn good point. It’s important for us to find what charges us in this life and to do it. However, it isn’t only for our own satisfaction, but also for the benefit of others. I feel that even if we’re able to conquer whatever it is that we’re good at or makes us happy, ultimately that gift of enjoyment or happiness is fully functional and at best charged when it’s shared with someone outside of ourselves.

I do usually love going into the backcountry alone. Whenever I feel like I’ve got my head buried too deep in an over-civilized existence, being up in the mountains always enlightens me with the necessary perspective to pull my head out. I always seem to return back to the periphery when I come back out. Being out in the wild seems to naturally reconnect me to my original humanness. And, for some reason, if ever I’m feeling alone or isolated in my day-to-day life, coming back from the mountains helps me to reconnect with the people around me by helping to erase the things we sometimes create that inadvertently separate us. I NEVER feel alone when I come back to the city after solo adventuring.

But, back to happiness being real only when shared. 

I’ve had a taste of this concept before while being outside alone, but just recently I felt it the most. My trip to the Wallowas was probably the newest and more exploratory solo trip I’ve taken into the outdoors. I got to see a mountain range that, until recently, I didn’t even know existed. It was all unfamiliar to me, even a bit scary at times. I spent 3 nights in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, alone. It was beautiful out there. I’m always amazed how different places (even if they’re not too far away from each other) differ in their environments. What I love the most is that these differences are created in nature, and not by us humans.

I had many hours to myself in this place over the course of 4 days. When I was on the go, moving from one place to the next, I never felt alone. Probably because my brain was occupied by constant activity. Each evening after I finished with the day’s explorations, I would setup camp and get settled. It’s always easiest for me to be still and not engage in any activity in an effort to occupy my mind when I’m outside. You could say that it’s meditative for me to sit outside alone, in the center of nature’s rhythmic existence. I sat in my camp for hours each night just being present, letting my senses take everything in. I would hear 7 different types of birds signing. They didn’t sing alone or all at once. Their individual songs were like 7 different pieces of a puzzle coming together, that made one exquisite song. They needed each other to create it. They would do this over and over and over again, it was a rhythm that created a whole. I would watch the clouds above me dance, and then I’d see how their movement affected everything below them and around me. The change in light changed everything, and in turn changed my perspective. All of these things were such a graceful reminder that nothing in this universe is separate. Every. Single. Thing…is absolutely connected.

Even though I enjoyed these experiences and needed the solitude, I found myself feeling lonely in these times of stillness from time to time. Let’s also identify here, that alone and lonely have two completely different meanings altogether. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean I am lonely. I’m naturally an introvert, and so I tend to crawl back into my shell anyway to recharge. I do love being around people and of course need them in my life, but I have no problem with being alone, too. Being outside always delivers some of the happiest experiences for me, so I was wondering, ‘why do I feel lonely?’ I was experiencing all of these things that I love so much, and I’ve worked hard to get here. And I wasn’t sure why I felt lonely. Sometimes when I felt happiness soar, it was like it reached a ceiling. Kind of like a high that only had so much momentum.

Then it dawned on me: Happiness needs to be shared. 

Have you ever spoken to someone in an effort to share an experience (happy or sad), and if they’re perceptive or empathetic enough to what you are saying, your feelings become more real, too? I have. It’s like that moment of sharing allows the experience to be amplified. It’s the BEST when I can share something exciting with another person, and to be able to watch them light up, too. It reminds me that we are not separate, and I can almost see myself in them. It’s like those birds. Two or more experiences contribute to a whole and make it evolve into something bigger and more powerful.

As I pondered this, I considered my other upcoming plans to solo adventure over the coming months. I currently have the gift of time and am able to take longer trips and many mid-week adventures. The majority of the people in my life that I share these experiences with are on different time, so I know that many of my trips will still be taken alone. So, how can I make those solo experiences more real? It’s by simply sharing them. I love photographing what I see, and LOVE sharing them with people I meet along the way and the people I love when I come back to the city. I’m experimenting with making some videos of my trips, which I’ve never done, but am so very excited to share in hopes that it will help other people light up, too. And I have this blog that I get to write this stuff in (which I’m grateful that you are reading!) All of these things—they make my happiness bigger.

And so, I believe that meaningful experiences must be shared. Whether it’s something we learn, or simply the feeling of experiencing something beautiful, good or bad. When we keep these things bottled up inside of us, that’s as far as they can go. They end there, but they are meant to be evolved by being shared with someone else. Someone who will make happiness more real.

Making Headway


It has been one week since I lifted half of the weight of my life-changing efforts by quitting my job. The day after my last at work began with a yoga class on Saturday morning. I was already starting to reel with what now remains from my decision to leave, and the uncertainty of what’s to come. As I arrived home after class, I walked by the tall stalks of bamboo in my front yard. I looked down at my feet, and what do I find? A freshly sprouted bamboo shoot! It looked strong and healthy, and must’ve been a good 3-4 inches tall. From the looks of the disturbed, wet bark surrounding the shoot, it must have come up rapidly overnight. It made me instantly so happy to see — almost giddy with excitement!

I planted a couple bamboo families out there 3 years ago in an effort to landscape my front yard. In that time, a few new sprouts have come up, but not much has ever come of them (which is odd, considering that typically you have to try and prevent the rapid spread of these tenacious things). Either they have died on their own or grown thin/not very tall. Most often, though, squirrels have gotten to the tasty little bits, eating away at them on the first day of their contact with the sunlight.

If you know me at all, you’re most likely aware that I’m not great with maintaining plants. I relish at taking care of and nurturing people and animals, but for some reason prefer seeing plants grow naturally wild. Seeing new plant life is always interesting, but it has never made me this giddy. I wondered if it would get eaten by the little critters again. But above all, I was actually excited to see this new growth in the midst of the fear and silent chaos that lived inside my head. For whatever reason, this tiny act of nature gave me hope in trusting again. Trusting my gut and my heart in these big decisions that I recently made for myself, regardless of what’s to come in the unknown.

My time remaining in this big house has come down to 12 days, and the bamboo will no longer belong to me (not that they have ever REALLY belonged to me, anyway). I won’t get to take them with me when I leave, but watching this one grow to an impressive 2 feet in height over the last week has been like witnessing a parallel life form. Like a little plant-friend living and growing right beside me. I really have no idea what will happen tomorrow, next week…next year. However, I can already feel the current shift and expansion happening in my life. Parts of it are scary as hell, because often I feel like I’m walking around in the dark. My brain likes to create the future, before any future has had a any chance to form, simply based on what it has only experienced in the past. It tries to cling. Meanwhile, I’m trying to listen to the intuition in the middle of all of that, whose silent whisper has so much more volume in its power than it does in its appearance. It’s so hard to hear, because the voices that surround it that scream “what if?!” are so much louder in comparison!

The work I’ve been doing over the recent months to prepare for my next life adventures has rewarded me with one giant lesson: The changes we wish to see and the experiences we hope to nurture are only possible if we create the necessary space for them. Somehow, we can’t move forward without getting rid of some things first (beliefs that no longer serve, possessions we no longer need, desires that are unfulfilled, etc). It’s like our brain is a room, with four walls that can only contain so many things. If it’s full to the brim with junk that we don’t use, how can we possibly furnish it with the things needed to create a different space? Once we get rid of those things, THEN we can bring in the new.

What has been most interesting to me, is how we experience seeing this “room” in the new. It’s the same exact room, but our perception and how we experience it is MUCH different.

I’ve been experiencing the whole last week just like this. My job occupied such a big portion of my life and my identity. Since I have made such a big change with that part of my life-pie, it has changed how I look at and experience the rest of it. The way it feels to experience simple things: walking through my front door, the way it feels to lay in my bed, to drive to or walk into the grocery store. To walk my dog or to give her a hug. It all occupies space in my life, just as it did before I made such a big change, but it all feels so different. It’s like I’m experiencing it under a certain layer of consciousness that has been peeled away.

So, I’ve made this headway. I’ve still got a lot to do to move out of this house in the next couple of weeks. I’m so very unfamiliar with the new experiences that are around the corner for me. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve got more time to spend on the emotional roller coaster of all of this. But, I’m learning how to trust that it’s all for the better. It’s so very necessary for the growth of what’s to come.

Call Mom and Cook for People

I guess this all started back in November with a list. If you looked through my drawers at home, you’d probably find all kinds of quirky scribbles and notes-to-self. Sometimes they’re a list of things to do, other times they’re mental “Aha!” lists. This one was kind of a hybrid. You could say that my growing aversion to all things too familiar and expired was responsible for it. I came across it in my notebook several times for months–and each time, I snickered at it and wondered how drunk I must have been to write such a ludicrous thing: QUIT JOB AND GO BACKPACKING.

Quit my amazing job and become a dirt bag? Haha! Adults don’t that. The job that taught me about All Things Outside to begin with. My very comfortable career, the one that hardly felt like a job at all, where I got paid to be creative and inspire other people to do the things that I myself love so much. The place where I got to spend time with some of my best friends (family, really) every day. The job that has heavily defined my identity as I know it for the last 10 years.

If there’s one thing I’d share about what I’ve learned so far from my experiences, it’s that life is meant to evolve. Things change, and we like to think that we have control over where our life-boat goes. The reality is that we only have control over which direction we’d like to steer our little boat. Where it takes us along the way and what’s in its path is a mystery to us. The waves change seemingly without much pattern, we have the freedom to choose how we want to navigate and which direction to go next. When things change (for better or for worse), we can choose to stay still (whether it serves us or not), or we can choose to do something different.

This is where evolution happens.

If we don’t allow ourselves to evolve, the human race is in trouble. It’s incredibly difficult to allow evolution to happen sometimes, because we all suffer from a very strong desire to attach to things that naturally change. It’s one of our defining characteristics of being human! We have zero control over the rhythm and cadence at which these changes occur. But when we hold on tight to things that no longer serve us, it’s like we’ve got a death grip on the bumper of a very fast-moving vehicle: it’ll just drag us through rough terrain and tear us up. Or, maybe we’ll find a nice nook to tuck ourselves into to protect from the resistance. But when we do these things, we hold ourselves back greatly.

I recently learned how long I held onto a part of my life that stopped serving me a long time ago. That lesson greeted me in the ending of my 8-year relationship a year ago. I attempted to keep something the same, because I didn’t want to admit to myself that it had changed. I mistakenly understood this change as failure. I thought that by forcing myself to hold on, I could go back to how it once was. But this never works! Not for long, anyway, it doesn’t last. In fact, it blew up in my face, just like anything under pressure does after a while. It is unsustainable. The blow came in the form of a heart-ache that I had never experienced before, and it hurt me so much that I had no choice but to completely disengage in any effort to fight it anymore. I had no appetite for anything.

And holy shit, did it hurt. I didn’t know that pain in my physical heart was possible like that.

But then, the silver lining came. I broke open. And what happens when we break open? Life returns. If we are REALLY honest with ourselves and curious about this opening, magnificent things take place. Again, we evolve.

As I started to heal and come back to life, I found myself surrounded by other new budding life. Things that were completely new to me. And things that I had uncovered that I unknowingly shoved deep down inside myself in an effort to keep other things the same due to the fear of uncertainty. Isn’t it funny how we do that? I noticed things that fed my heart and naturally evolved every cell of my being, with such little effort! I learned how wonderful this life really is, and how incredibly fortunate I am to have it, with all the “good” and “bad” all wrapped up into this gift. I realized that I never wanted to fight the things that are meant to evolve me, because it’s a huge waste of time and very pointless battle.

A couple months ago, I read an article that gave me the worst of the chills. I cried, hard enough to surprise myself. There are 20 million people on our planet who are starving, and we are in our largest humanitarian crisis since 1945. How have we allowed this to happen? After I read it, I felt like I suddenly got sick with no warning, or something. I was so sad and baffled at how much the world is suffering, it made me extremely upset. So many of us are drowning in our own comfort. And this is not evolution.

I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Knowing full well that I don’t know what else will change around me, how and when, I suddenly knew I couldn’t waste time not entertaining the things that my heart desired. That little itch that I had inserted into my list turned into something I couldn’t hide in a drawer anymore. It did its thing in my head, and it evolved into reality. I finally decided to give that voice a listen, and allow myself to give something new a go.

So, I’m leaving the comforts of both my job and my home, and I’m going outside for a little while (at least). I want to document how my heart sees the mountains and the perspective that they offer, with the hope of inspiring someone else to do whatever brings them to life. (and because if I spend another day sitting in 2+ hours of traffic for my commute, I am going to lose my shit). Where will it take me? I have no idea! But so far, I’m finding that turning off the engine in my little boat and learning how to use my sails is a beautiful thing. I love the feeling of experiencing discovery, because it shapes the evolution of me.

Now, I know I’m just one little nugget out of 7.5 billion. I’m fully aware that my singular contribution can’t change the world. However, I do believe we are in the midst of a significant global shift. The ONLY useful thing that any of us can do to aid in the evolution of our species and see our planet flourish is to listen to the voice inside that calls us to do what individually charges us. The work it takes to get us there isn’t necessarily comfortable, but it creates and fuels an internal light to burn very bright, bright enough for others to see. I can often see it when I look into people’s eyes. This is what each of us are here for, and it’s to serve the greater good. We can’t help but be instinctively drawn to the energy of a person who lives their truth, and it’s like a magnet to our own inspiration.

Evolution begins in YOU. And in me.

You have something inside of you that makes your life YOURS. We all do. It’s unique for all of us, and it’s meant to be shared to feed the progression of us as a whole. Sometimes we think that by allowing ourselves to do what we really love, we’re being selfish. But I actually believe that it’s one of the most generous things we can do for the people around us.

So, do you know what burns your fire bright? If not, can you find its twinkle? Can you nurture it and allow it to grow? And will you let other people see it in your eyes? If you know what it is, and you aren’t chasing after it, you are wasting time.

Whatever it is, it’s so contagious. The world needs it.