Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman is one of the books I’m currently reading. I take it in small doses, trying to fully ingest and understand the complex messages woven throughout it’s plot. I definitely recommend it.
As I was reading the other day, I copied some quotes that really hit home with me. Below are the quotes, followed by anecdotes and explanations of how I apply those quotes to my own life and personal experiences. Through thees anecdotes, much more of my own personal story comes out. Be prepared for another infamous Laura Rico blog novel:
“…that barking dog inside me wouldn’t let up.”
Just the night before I read this I was trying to explain the same sentiment to the Bruja. “When things happen and my mind kicks into overdrive, overanalyzing – wanting to fly with thoughts that I know are not of any value – I feel I truly am getting better at recognizing that and confronting my mind; telling it to quiet down, accept what is, and peacefully move forward with a clear understanding and acceptance of what is. But lately, I feel I can calm my mind yet it’s my heart that’s not leaving me in peace.” Something is nagging at me. I don’t know what it is… And, since it’s my heart, I’m eager to figure this out. While I recognize the mind can fly with nonsense, the heart is what I listen to. It’s my elected guide. There’s a thorn pricking me in the heart. It doesn’t hurt. It pricks just enough to let me know it’s there. I feel it’s trying to tell me I’m supposed to be doing something… but I don’t know what that “something” is.
“It was if I’d been wandering, lost in a forest, then stumbled back onto the path.”
When I went back to the States for two months this last December, I felt lost. Lost deep in the forest. I didn’t know which direction to go. My heart told me it was not time for me to stop my global “pilgrimage” but money and lack of work was trying to convince me otherwise. I went so far as the unthinkable, I started applying for big, serious full-time jobs. Jobs that would lock me into place. Jobs that would *violently pluck me from my global pilgrimage, and place me back into a world I that I no longer knew. Gasp! I applied for about 10 positions before I stopped and said ‘No. This isn’t what’s next for me. I know it.’ Even though I have a solid portfolio, with prior international clients such as John Deere, New Holland, Monsanto, Pepsi and the Indy Racing League, nothing bit anyway. Okay, life’s reassuring me. This is not what’s next for me. But I was feeling extremely frustrated. At age 21, I mused, I was offered a job where I’d earn $60,000 a year. Seriously, no joke. And now, I can’t scrape together a $1,000 a month?
I was a hair breadth’s away from taking that job. I mean, what 21-year-old wouldn’t take a $60,000 job? The offer is unheard of… turning it down would be insane! My current client at the time had an event for me to cover in Germany. Because I had some free time after the event, I had been planning to backpack Europe. I asked the client to reserve my return flight from the event for three additional weeks later. My actual idea was to travel even longer, using Couchsurfing along the way, but I had never backpacked Europe before, so I set this flight up as a kind of “safety flight,” a way home should I need it. Until then, my only experience abroad had been a family-stay in Bergamo, Italy arranged by my university as I studied Italian one July. All this was in place when negotiations for the $60,000 job started. As I began considering the position, I stuck to the idea of at least the three weeks of travel, explaining to the company representatives that my start date would be after the already scheduled return flight from Europe. The company said they had no problem with that. Yet, as thing progressed, and we were about to close the deal, the representatives began asking me if I might be able to start working in Europe while I was there. Or, if they paid to change my flight, would I be willing to come back early and get started. WAA WAA WAA. A huge, red warning flag went off in my head. ‘I was honest and clear with them from the start,’ I rationed. ‘These few weeks would be my last weeks of true freedom to travel like I’ve always dreamed of for the next several years and they want it to cut it short??! They want to take that from me??! When I’m just about to dedicate at least a couple years to their company??!’ That’s when it clicked. It would be like that while I worked for them. The company would come first, no matter what. My own needs, things that would give me refreshing breaths of rejuvenating air that would ultimately then lead me to do a better job for them, would constantly be denied, forced to the back burner. I had solid work as it was with my current client, work that sent me traveling around the U.S. and now abroad even. I wasn’t making $60G, but for the way I lived I was making much more than enough. And, I was working the equivalent of two weeks out of every month. I had two weeks of freedom every month! Enough money to pay my living costs and then some to travel on and two weeks of freedom each month? I was in a very strong position… so I did the unthinkable: I turned down the $60G job, at the ripe, young age of 21. What happened next is, well, when life truly started revealing it’s magic to me. Since then I’ve traveled to more than 22 countries in Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America. One year alone I hit 12 countries. Can you imagine? Many of my experiences have been blogged, but much has been left out. Yet now, more than ever, I feel it’s time to start telling it all. The magic and the “locura de Laura”.
Back to being lost in the forest. It’s been more than two years since I last worked with that client I mentioned above. I’m so grateful for the time I worked with them. They represented a crucial bridge for me, one that enabled me to truly make the switch and adopt this crazy, nomadic life I now live. Eventually, we had to separate though. Even though the relationship I had with them offered an unimaginably amazing flexibility, I felt working with them was still holding me back from reaching yet a more profound magic in this life. A magic I felt from the inside out that I was meant to experience and know. I had saved up a little more than $10,000 in just three months. That was plenty for me to travel on for awhile. I made it 8 months, exploring/living in Honduras, Guatemala and Spain before I started getting worried about the funds. And in Spain my Nikon D50 finally corroded enough on the inside – thanks to my adventures across humid terrain and over sand dunes – and it died. In February of 2008, I went back the U.S. thinking to get a job there. On day two, I knew I couldn’t stay in the States. Please don’t misinterpret my sentiments. It’s not that I can’t stand the U.S. I just can’t stand to be where I know I’m not supposed to be and with every fiber of my body I knew I was not supposed to be staying in the States. So, with a 0% offer on a credit card, I did something I swore I would never do and accrued my first credit card debt in order to by a new pro camera – Nikon D300, this one would be more weather proof! With just $1,000 cash to my name and a shiny new deficit, I flew back to Honduras with the ultimate plan to make my way back to La Antigua, Guatemala. I was nervous but confident I would find solid enough work. I mean, hadn’t I already been offered a $60K job. Didn’t I just save up $10,000 in three months? It will all work it this time too… I’m sure of it!
One month in Honduras before I made it to Guate. Somehow, and I don’t know how, I still had much of my $1,000. But arriving in Guate, it was now my computer that died a horrible death. A sinking feeling in my stomach. But, I had no choice but to go into more credit card debt. Another 0% credit card offer. Yes, I agree. Credit card debt IS the devil. But, I felt I had no choice. I needed both a professional camera and computer to do my work.
Honestly though, in Guatemala, I never had any real solid work. It was frustrating. A local magazine paid me less than what a local shoe shiner could make, even though I had the most articles published in the magazine each month and I was the ONLY writer who would do Spanish interviews and translate them to turn an English written article. I got burned on so many projects, where I’d start the work and never get paid or get constantly prodded and pushed to do more work than was agreed upon in the contract for no additional money. The experience was a great learning lesson about the realities of trying to work in developing countries to say the least. ‘I’m a serious professional!’ I would bemoan. ‘What is going on??’ Again, it was an extremely frustrating time for me. Yet, somehow the months piled up – 7 to be exact – and in the midst of all that, the experiences, life lessons and magic that happened… wow… I’m still talking incessantly about it. Everyone here in Mexico says I’m obsessed with Guatemala, that I’m really Guatemalan, not a Gringa. I say I’m “mundana,” or “from the world.” I don’t like to define myself by one place, I say. Either way, Guatemala and my time there seems to have affected me most profoundly yet.
Anyway, I made it seven months mostly thanks to amazing people who provided much of my living needs in exchange for ‘keeping me around.’ I’m most humbled by the abundant generosity I received while there. The few paying projects I did manage to scrounge up, would never have been enough to make it seven months in Guatemala. Yet, somehow I was there for seven gloriously transformative months.
The time will come to share everything about Guatemala, but not yet. I’m still not ready to share all that yet.
So finally, we come full circle back to my two months where I find myself yet again in the States. Yet again, I feel I’m not supposed to stay. The failing attempt to find a “real” job confirms that. The failure stung. The frustration continues. And again, the call to hit the road turns from a nagging sensation into one that burns. ‘But how??!!!’ I kept questioning the burn. ‘No solid work. No money. Lots of debt!’ Yet, I know better than to ask ‘how.’ I’ve already learned, time and time again, that life really does deliver in the most mysterious ways. It’s foolish to ask ‘how’ because often we haven’t learned enough to even imagine the ‘how’ that life will use to deliver our needs. I knew this, but I couldn’t seem to truly embody it, in the moment, with all the frustration I was feeling. So, I turned to the great ones and plunged myself into some inspiring quotes I had stockpiled along my journeys. My spirit and faith largely rejuvenated, the next day life started working its mysterious magic… yet again.
Thursday night was salsa night at a local club in downtown Kansas City. I was eager to go so I convinced an old friend from college to go with me. There, we met to Mexicans from Chihuahua. One was a marine and lived in KC, the other was his younger brother, my age, who was visiting. I ended up including the younger brother on various day and night outings with other friends for the remainder of his stay in KC. In return, he fed me the bug to go to Chihuahua. “The Copper Canyon,” he explained, “is just the kind of thing you’d love. National Geographic style. It’s bigger than the Grand Canyon.”
My heart jumped. But, my mind nagged ‘you’ve got zilch. No cash. No job. Silly, foolish Laura.’
I investigated anyway. That’s when I started reading about the Rarámuri and then the oh-so-elusive Caballo Blanco, the strange Gringo that organized an ultra marathon at the bottom of these canyons; giving foreigners who dared trek there the chance to run with the mystical Rarámuri. Ooooo… I was getting seriously hooked: venturing deep into the remote canyons of Northwestern Mexico to encounter a remarkably preserved indigenous culture with what was described as a near god-like ability to run?! This is one adventure with my name written all over it! I read on and Caballo’s real name was revealed: Micah True. Gasp! My heart skipped a beat. ‘I have emails from Micah in my inbox as we speak!’ I marveled. An ultra athlete friend of mine (who I met through Couchsurfing btw) started organizing an ultra marathon in Nicaragua two years ago. Both years, I’ve written articles about the race, Fuego y Agua, to help him promote the project. Thus, I was in the Fuego y Agua email list serve… and so was Micah. (No need to change Micah/Caballo’s name – he already has.) I petitioned my friend to send an email officially introducing us online. The next thing I knew, I was back on the bus… headed to Mexico. I mean, since I made ZILCH for an entire year, I did get some tax money back. Not much… but something to go on. Wink. Wink.
Honestly, it’s been tough to admit all this, where I’m at financially and with work. I’m always the one that’s had the early success, that’s had it all together. Well… right now… I admit finally, pubically on this blog… that I don’t. For more than two years now, I haven’t had any real solid work. For a while that was purposeful, as I was simply traveling around using my $10K. But for about a year and a half, it’s all been a huge struggle. And yet, I still keep giving away lots of my work for free. That’s another theme I’ll be tackling soon…
And here we are… in Northwestern Mexico. I have some large gaps still to fill… Anyway, when I read this quote the other day – you know the one above that inspired this entire monologue – it hit home. I was lost in the forest yet again, while back in the States. Now, I feel I’ve somehow stumbled back onto the path. And life is carrying me forward even if I still have no idea where the path is headed. I don’t have much by the way of funds. But hey, just as I so assuredly profess to so many I encounter along the way, “You can do it! Don’t get caught up in the ‘hows.’ Just start by putting one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, you’ll be amazed by what dreams and desires you’ve achieved and by how far you’ve gone!”
That faith is fueled by the next quote that I wish to share:
“When one is willing and eager the gods join in.”
Immensely reassuring and comforting. Not to say the ‘gods’ will make it easy on you. Shortly after reading such inspiring words I was startled by the next message that hit home:
“What is to give light must endure burning.” (~Viktor Frankl)
Ouch. But true. I’ve learned that time and time again. My experiences with the Niño-Hombre represent the most recent example where I poignantly felt that “burn” while “giving the light.” Story to come soon…
But first, more comforting words after learning I’m doomed to burn:
“To a starving man, God is bread.” (~Ghandi)
Then some thought-provoking words:
“Healing is a matter of time, but sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”
Finally, some direct instructions:
“a barefoot walk in the surf.”
I can’t express how much I’ve been longing for the sea lately. On several occasions while here in Chihuahua, I’ve explained to others that one doesn’t need another person to find romance in life. “Go to the sea,” I tell them. “Feel the suave caress of the ocean breeze on your cheek, the playfully tickling massage the sand gives to your bare feet, the warming glow from the sun. Listen to the soothing crash of the waves. Taste the sweet, cool kiss from a coconut. Now tell me, that’s not romance.” I need to get to the sea. I need that ‘barefoot walk in the surf.’