"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Saturday, January 5, 2013

To My Heckler:

I received this comment on a recent post:

"Having your mommy and daddy and friends give you money is not the same as saving money. Running from things as soon as they get hard is not the same as being brave or adventurous." - Anonymous

As a reflex, I deleted it instead of allowing it to be published publicly on the blog.  Then I re-thought my decision.  The Quakers say that there is that of god in everyone, so we should listen to all perspectives with an open mind, even the ones that aren't initially pleasant to our ears.

Anonymous, are you reading, beloved?  This one's for you, dear.  I genuinely welcome your perspective.  There is room for you in my world.  I ask that you openly share your identity, and that before you respond, you read and consider the below clarifications.  Let's be sure we're dealing with factual information first.


Yes, saving earnings and receiving gifts are two different ways of acquiring money.  You are correct about that.  Do you have a story that one is better than the other?

As for me on this trip (which is what I assume you're referring to), I got from Maryland to California over three months entirely on my own savings.  I did not go into debt even one cent.  I feel pretty good about that.  I have also had many welcoming, free places to stay through couch surfing, and many meals cooked for me, without which, I could not have made it so far.  To all my angels along the way, I am humbled and grateful.  It is my assessment that I have done no wrong in accepting those kindnesses.  I hope that if you travel, the same would be extended to you.

When I arrived in Santa Cruz, I got two jobs and saved a couple more thousand dollars on my "own" (but really, nothing is done on our own).  I also received two unrequested gifts of cash from friends, and a small Christmas gift of cash from my 87 year-old grandmother and my parents.  I suppose to be completely authentic, I could give those gifts of cash back.  Is that what you are suggesting I do, Anonymous?  Is that what you do with gifts you receive?

"Mommy and Daddy"

My father is a dedicated, blue-collar worker who has put in a minimum of 40 hours a week my entire life at the same job, at times taking on second and third jobs at Walmart or the local bowling alley to make ends meet for our family.  He still, at age 63, is working overtime and cannot afford to retire, despite the arthritis that is creeping quickly into his hands and making his job quite painful.

My mother is disabled and hasn't worked for my whole life.  

I began working at age 14.  I put myself through college and graduate school.  I don't ask my parents for money because I know they can't give it.  They give me a warm, loving place to come home to and gifts much more valuable than money.  So this trip is certainly not being funded by mommy and daddy.


As for running from things when they get hard, that's a great question - no sarcasm.  It is an accusation that many folks who choose to live in one place make against many folks who choose to be nomadic.  Every traveler I've met has been accused of the same thing at some point.  I've asked myself numerous times along my various journeys if I am, in fact, running from something rather than to greater possibility.  I don't think I ever come up with a good answer.  More accurately, I think the answer changes by the day.

I suppose I'm doing the best I can with the situations that present themselves to me.  If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that I don't always do it "right."  I want to be courageous, but sometimes I'm scared.  I want to commit to things, but sometimes I run.

But then sometimes, I DO do it "right."  Sometimes I see both the easy way out and the hard way through and I stare my fear right in the face and jump in.  I suppose everyone has times of each.  I assume you do as well, Anonymous, since you're wrapped in the same human skin as me.  Would you like to share a story with us of a time when you felt courageous?  My readers and I would welcome the chance to applaud you.  Courage comes in many forms.

More Thoughts?

Most importantly, what is your name, Anonymous?  Where can we find your blog?  What wisdom to you have to share with my readers and I about saving money and being brave?

Readers, do you have additional thoughts for our anonymous commenter?

"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."


  1. It is interesting to me to hear someone opine negatively on the nature of courage anonymously.

    Thank you for showing me/us how you respond to this, Melanie. I struggle with these kinds of "naysayer" remarks and it is very helpful to me to see your process, your take.

    Thank you, Anonymous, for inspiring this post. And thank you, Melanie, for living your life in a way that inspires others.


    1. And thank YOU, Melissa, for reading and responding to so many posts.

      I'm definitely still a beginner at responding to "naysayers." Before choosing this response, I stewed in the feelings of shame and anger that initially came up. I let myself write a draft of this post to get out my uncensored reaction, but not publish it. Then I meditated, and I made myself wait 24 hours before posting it. I edited it three more times before final publication, doing my best to only convey genuine compassion and remove all traces of opposition or passive-aggressive energy.

      I have to remember that I probably had such a strong reaction because part of what Anonymous said is true. I've become humble enough in my 30 years of glorious mistakes to fully admit that I don't always know what I'm doing. Starting from a place of humility leaves me without much to defend. Only my ego is at stake for damage, and I hate that little fucker anyway. He causes me nothing but trouble.

  2. Hi Melanie,

    Was that the complete comment left by anonymous? If so, the intention is quite clear. Say something factual (of course there are differences in each of his comparisons) while implying that you are doing or have benefited from the less worthy of each option -- at least in the commenter's view.

    In short, nonsense.

    Even if you hadn't rebutted his or her suppositions in this post, this appears to be a comment rooted in frustration. Who does not accept what is gifted?

    How can anyone know if you are an adventurer or a runner? Why would it matter? Am I "running away" from my problems when I sit down to write, or is it okay because I maintain a residence? We run toward and away from things all of the time, in one way of another. Life is fluid. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference. Sometimes, the difference is merely semantic.

    Generally, I accept that some people feel the need to be anonymous. There are some good reasons for this, such as a blog that I read where the writer hasn't yet decided to come out of the closet publicly. However, I think that those who comment anonymously seldom do so out of that kind of necessity.

    I arrived via your link on Susie's blog. It's nice to meet you.

    1. Hi Ray. Welcome to my blog! Thanks so much for stopping by.

      Yes, this was the whole comment as posted by Anonymous. I didn't change it at all.

      I like your point about how sometimes we can't tell the difference between running from and running to things. I have often thought I was in the process of running from something, only to find that it was the other way around - and vice versa - or both at the same time!

      As for why this commenter chose anonymity, I get it. They probably weren't bargaining for this level of response. I also understand that the nature of the life I'm living at this point - transient, "unstable," day-to-day - strikes right at the heart of what we Americans are taught to hold most dear: hard work and discipline. I've gotten this reaction more than once from people who are offended by my lifestyle. It is why I wanted to take the chance to address the criticism here.

      On another note, if you enjoy my blog and would like to receive email updates when new posts go up, just click the blue "Join this site" button on the righthand side. Plus it helps me as I build my writing career!

      Blessings to you, Ray.

    2. Hi Melanie,

      I'm an RSS Reader type of guy, (it's so convenient) so your posts are being deliver there. I subscribed when I left my comment the other day. Cheers!

    3. Perfect, thanks! Glad to have you along.

  3. Everyone's running from something even if they aren't physically moving from place to place. I've known people who literally run, people who drink, people who work, and people who eat. There is nothing inherently wrong with running, it is something that everyone, traveler and non-traveler alike, does. We all have our 'demons' and have to deal with them in our own way. I know that when I moved to Germany, people, probably many of them, saw it as running away. But, especially now looking back, it wasn't running away from something. I found myself running toward the unknown, running towards the things I'd dreamed of and many things that I couldn't possibly have dreamed up. Life is an amazing, rocky ride. I'm glad to have you out there, thinking so much like I do. Don't let naysayers get you down. They, in the act of slandering you, are running from some fear of their own.

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I agree that it's quite comforting to have met you and so many other solo, traveling women. In the end, I don't know why you travel or whether you're running away from something. But I do know that it's really none of my business. If I don't have it all together all the time, why would I expect you to? And why would I anoint myself your judge? All I can assume is that you are on your perfect path, getting from birth to death in the best way that you know how. And that Anonymous is doing the same. I have given up the business of searching for reasons behind others' behavior. It doesn't really matter, in the end. What does matter is that I loved them.

  4. Well, first, because I am a believer in reincarnation, so things like money get complicated. When someone gives you money, they may be clearing a debt from another life. (I may be wayyyy too out there for anonymous, but as I do believe in reincarnation, there's very little that I take at face value around this sort of thing.)At the very least they are building positive karma if they are helping me when I need it, just as I build positive karma when I do it for someone else. In the end, we're all truly dependant upon each other. It's just more obvious in some ways and less in others.

    I think, and I am old, so I have been around awhile, that in life we all end up needing a hand at one time and being the hand at another time. So it all evens out. Whether it's money, a couch to sleep on, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to laugh with, whatever it is, we all take turns with it. And while I may sleep on A's couch, down the road, B may sleep on mine. I guess I just take it for granted that the universe is unfolding as it should, as long as we are living in accordance with out own values. (Not someone else's. They get to be in charge of what they do. But not what I do.)

    As to running toward or away, I have always been nomadic, my entire adult life. I have both reaped the benefits of that and paid the price of it. For me I don't believe it was either toward or away. Instead, I was learning, gathering experiences and deepening who I am so I would be prepared to spend the last 1/3 - 1/2 of my life (hey, maybe I'll live to be 100) writing and utilizing those experiences. I knew that that was what I was doing from a very young age. Sometimes being broke has dictated some of my choices as far as where I've gone, but they've always been interesting. I didn't know completely why I needed to do that (although now I do) but I knew I needed to do it. And while I am definitely ready to grow some roots now, I am glad that I did what I did.

    1. I appreciate this perspective as well, Em. You're right - it doesn't have to be either running to or away. It could be a third option, which is simply following the threads in front of you. I do have a tendency to over think things. :)

      And yes - holla for karma!!

  5. Hi Melanie--

    This is Hilary and I wrote the comment that seems to have created quite a stir. Firstly, I meant no criticism to your parents, that was directed at you. You stated that you quit your job cleaning some farm even though you were broke and living off the generosity of others, only to find out that your parents and grandma gave you money. So, if you had blown through what you had saved up for this trip(as you indicated) and now are getting through the month on money from "mommy and daddy and friends," then the money you have for airline tickets is hardly saved money, but you getting by on money you've received from others and not having to pay rent.

    As for running away when things get hard, you have demonstrated that in your posts. For example, one day Taos is the most amazing place and "where you are supposed to be." A few days later, things weren't as beautiful and easy as you wanted so you instantly bailed. Again, with the job on the farm in Santa Cruz, while the guy sounded like a scary jerk, it didn't sound like you were in danger since others were there. It just sound like it sucked and was hard, so you bailed even though you needed a gig.

    Although I don't know you well, over the past 8 years or so I have seen you deeply passionate and fully committed to a person or idea or place one day, only to turn around the next day and go to the complete opposite extreme. That is why I read between the lines in some of your posts. Perhaps this manic bouncing between extremes is something you and the doctor in your head should have a session about. While traveling on is not the same as running, I have to question your reasons for moving on on some occasions (that's where the running comes in). Although I have been in the same place for the last 10 years so that my son can finish up school in a stable location, lord knows I have had more than my share of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure, travel, and experience. Sometimes things have been great and all came together and sometimes things have been hard. That's life.

    A question your post made me ask myself is, "Why do I read your blog?" It is not for positive reasons, so I'm going to stop. That being said, I wish you well in your travels and hope you find some sort of center.

    1. Hilary. Wow. Hi.

      I am sorry that you have experienced suffering in the presence of my writing.
      Please forgive me.
      Thank you for your honesty and courage to post your name.
      I love you.

    2. Why should anyone stick it out at some random place where things were not only not what you hoped they'd be, but where you're anxious for your safety? Whose value system is that? I say proudly reject and wipe your hands of that value system.

      As someone with a history of mental health issues, my first priority in finding a place to stay is somewhere I *feel* safe.

      As someone who has been raped and mugged, I take a very hard stand against the opinion to ignore your instincts about danger ... "since others were there." (Why do cops tell you to yell fire instead of rape? Because most people won't come to help in that scenario.)

      The first rule of self-defense is trust your instincts.

      The first rule of mental health is find/create a safe space.

      Do not let anyone -- however well intentioned -- make you hesitate on listening to your gut when it comes to your safety. Go into debt, ask for help, beg, whatever it takes ... before you compromise your physical or mental security.

    3. Hi Melanie! I recognize your response to Hilary as ho'oponopono. How fabulous that you know about that form of self-healing. What a beautiful response you gave to her at first as Anonymous and here after she came out. I'm so inspired that you took your time with the very attacking comments and found the teachings of them. Thank you for your blog; I have always been inspired by your writing. I'm so psyched to hear that you're writing a book too! Fabulous, Melanie! Lots of love, Leanne

    4. Thank you, Leanne! Yes, the Hawaiian healing words of "I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you" have transformed my life. They are teaching me to take full responsibility for how my life shows up and waste no time in blame. I'm glad it served you, and I'm grateful for the support of my writing! Lots of love right back to you.

  6. I have a sneaking suspicion that we all know who your heckler is. He is hurt and doesn't know how to deal with his emotions.

    Remember the words of Marshall Rosenberg, author of Non-Violent Communication "Violence in any form (including verbal) is a tragic expression of an unmet need."

    Now ask yourself... for what reason did I write a blog post defending against his words when I could have been compiling the book proposal? :)

    My how times have changed for us all old friend. Keep writing!

    1. Nope! Not the husband this time. And not even the distant, crazy uncle who occasionally sends me hateful messages about how much he disagrees with my life. It was an old teacher from my past, here to help me learn more lessons of humility and vulnerability. Surprise!

      But on the positive side, a friend just joked with me through text that I now officially have a hater. Guess that makes me a real writer! So on to that book proposal then. . .

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  8. All you can do is tell your story with honesty and vulnerability. Nobody wants to read a blog by a perfect person. A good story is the struggle, the mistakes ... the things we can see that the protagonist can't. I don't read your blog to see how to do it right. I read your blog to see what happens next, to see you fail and change and grow. And every reader is going to be turned on or off or inspired by different, often opposite, things. I'm not going to quit my job and couch surf across the country. For me on my journey, that would be a step backwards. For me, that would be Peter Pan syndrome ... But I've been thinking I might offer up my couch to strangers.

    1. Thanks. That's how I feel as well. Crazy that you said this stuff, actually, because I just returned home from a seminar where two of the things you say here came up.

      First, when the presenter began sharing his story and got really vulnerable with us, I turned to my friend and said, "NOW I like him." I needed to see the cracks where the light shines through him before I could trust that he is human like me. Why would I deny my readers that same gift?

      Second, he mentioned the Peter Pan syndrome, which I had never heard referred to before - at least not with that name. I do often ask myself if I have that. I think if I continue flitting from one thing to the next for a long time, I might enter that territory. For now, I'm saying that this trip across country was the break I needed from the intensity of building a career that I wasn't really sure I wanted. The breath that allowed me to welcome something new in. I'm feeling the need to put down roots and commit to some things after my six months of flitting.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts. Care to reveal your name? I'm always curious if I know the anonymous commenters.

    2. You do know me. I'm part of the "mommy and daddy and friends" (and I worried that giving you money might make others have this reaction, but more on my motives in a minute). I don't like putting my name on public spaces. I always argue for an anonymous option for social media stuff, because many people like me won't speak up if we have to put our names on something public, even when we intend only good. Of course, I also hate comments on most media because 90% just seem negative and inflammatory. It's a negative world out there in cyber space.

      To me, Peter Pan syndrome is about refusing to grow up and stagnating, whatever that means in your life. Peter Pan put down roots. He just put them down in a fairy tale land where he never had to face change and grow. Sometimes, being a tree is a good metaphor for what we need to do. Sometimes, we need to be the wildlife -- we need to see the change of seasons, our changing needs, the changing sustenance... and migrate.

      I traveled solo for 12 months, partly working my way along and partly on Daddy's dime -- the life insurance I got when he died. How I funded the tough moments when jobs fell through or I just wanted to afford a particular experience didn't keep it from being the most important growing year of my life... I needed to jump off the train I was on and reevaluate where I wanted to go. I was fortunate enough (in one sense) to have a financial safety net to help me do that. The need to get off the train you're on can strike at any age. I'm on the right train. If I jumped off now, it would just be for the thrill, a desire to go back and feel the excitement of the leap. That's why I say it would be Peter Pan syndrome for me.

      But any time you jump off the train, you scare people. Any time you break the social code, that ingrained American value system -- the one that says you go to college, get a career, get married, buy a house, have kids... stick it out, work hard, be stable and make it work regardless of whether you're happy -- people are going to resent and be angry at you, especially those who have sacrificed something to follow that code (even if for them it was the right decision). Some may think these feelings are about you, but usually they're not.

      I might argue the opposite of your critic's point. If you are anything like me, the problem isn't that I can't commit and stick it out. I tend to dive in too soon -- before I've seen the flaws. And let's be honest, lack of money or social expectations or biological clocks make us all feel like we HAVE to find what we're looking for -- and find it fast. But the more desperate you are for water, the more likely you are to believe a mirage. Some pools may seem beautiful and enticing and the perfect temperature on the surface, and you just can't help but get excited and dive in. But below the surface, it's freezing. Should you stay in and get hypothermia because you chose to dive in? No. You misjudged the setting. Get out and get moving before you freeze to death.

      And maybe it's your personality to need change and new stimulation to be happy. Embrace it as a strength and find a lifestyle that caters to it.

      Imho, if you're not happy where you are, sometimes the best thing you can do is run -- run fast and far until you feel free. And then slow down and take your time finding what's right for you. I have had the luxury of being able to do that. And to speak to Em's point, I want to pay that forward. That's about me. Not you.

    3. You are my hero in so many ways. Thank you for beautifully articulating this point in a way I've never been able to. I want to read YOUR blog!

      And thank you, once again, for the financial gift. I have just put some of it to excellent use by hiring someone to build a new website for me. I wouldn't have had that chunk of change to invest in my new career without your generosity.

      Here's to running full force towards the right train.

  9. Hi Melanie,

    this conversation inspired me in so many ways. One way is just to admit that I'm always moving, always doing something,sometimes running. I've experienced that kind of running insult lately. But you've showed me what I can't put into words, even as an aspiring writer. Thank you.

    1. Hi! Thanks. I'm so glad you found inspiration in it. I did as well - sometimes it can come in the most surprising places if we are open. And I'm so glad you've found me here online! It's always great to connect with other writers. (May I humbly suggest a language upgrade for you from "aspiring writer" to "talented writer?" If not now, when? :)

      I'm sure you already know this, but my new online home is www.journeytowildness.com. I hope you'll head over and sign up for the newsletter so we can stay in touch. Much love, peace, and courage to you.