"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 26, 2013


I've just published a new blog post on my new website:  Time With My Shadow Side: Feeling My Feelings All the Way Through.

Make sure to transfer your readership and keep up with new posts by visiting the site and:

Hope to see you there!

Much love,

Thursday, January 24, 2013



Readers, I am counting on you to be my base of support for this new venture.  A baby website doesn't usually generate much traffic but this blog has 89 official followers, and an average of 300+ pageviews a day.  So if you all go over there within the next three days and do the super-simple-and-easy things listed below, our happy family will stay together, and my baby website will be a growing toddler in no time!

As soon as you click on the link and head to the new site, please do three things:

  1. Browse around and ENJOY!!
  2. Sign up for the email newsletter (it's only twice a month and will include stuff you won't find on the website).
  3. "Like" the Journey to Wildness Facebook page and follow me on twitter (if you're on those sites).    This will now be the only way for you to know when I put new posts up!  I will no longer be sending emails each time, like you have been used to here.  I will only announce it on the Journey to Wildness Facebook page and Twitter account.
If you are really super-duper excited or feeling especially supportive today, you could even go the extra mile and do a fourth thing.  You could recommend my page to three people you know.

Think about it - I bet you know at least three people at work, in your family, or in your social circles who would enjoy my writing and/or benefit from my Life Transformation Coaching services.  It just takes a quick, "Hey my friend/niece/former co-worker/ex-girlfriend/this-amazing-blogger-I've-been-reading just launched her new business, Journey to Wildness.  She's a great writer and life coach, and I thought you might enjoy being part of her new site."  Or something more authentically in your own words.  (God it's so awkward to promote yourself. . .)


Here it is: journeytowildness.com

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Met One of My Heros! And I'm in the Paper!

Last night, I went to see Chris Guillebau - published writer, world traveler (he's almost finished with his mission to visit every country in the world), and self-described challenger of the status-quo.  For the scads of people like me who are passionately pursuing self-employment, publishing, and a life of full-time travel, he is pretty much our god.

My heart sped up as he entered the room before the talk began.  I smoothed my shirt, sat up straight, and checked my bun for stray hairs that might need pinning.  Did I look professional enough?  Would he spot me and be able to tell how much potential I had?  I felt silly, like he was a movie star or a blind date.  For the role he had unknowingly played in my transformation over the past month, he was really so much more.

I had just finished reading his most recent book, The $100 Startup, which lit a fire so powerful underneath me that two weeks ago, I hired a web designer and began spending upwards of ten hours a day on the work of officially beginning my new career instead of just talking about it.

Waiting anxiously for the talk to begin, I spotted my friend, Laina, whom I had invited to join me.  She is in the process of starting her own business on holistic nutrition and had also recently finished his book.  I waved her over, and we pushed through the crowd of a couple hundred people to take seats in the second row.

As soon as we sat down, the woman in front of us turned around and said, "Hello.  I'm from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  Could I ask you two a few questions?"

"Yes!" I nearly shouted at her.  "Yes please do and I'll tell you my blog and you can put it in the paper! Will we be in the paper?  That would be great!"

She chuckled at me.  "Yes, probably.  Why did you come tonight?"

"Because Chris's book has taught me that anyone can start their own business and live the life of their dreams.  I left my previous career in educational administration last June.  Since then, I've been traveling the country, writing about it, and working up the guts to actually step into this new, self-employed career possibility."

"And what possibility is that?" She asked with one eye on me and one eye on the ipad upon which she was furiously typing notes.

"Well," I took a deep breath in and sat up straight, on the edge of my chair, "I am a professional writer and an online Life Transformation Coach.  I work for myself in a career that I believe really helps people, and I can travel anywhere I want while I do it."

That was the first time I had spoken it out loud, to another person, in the present, as though it already exists.  It was thrilling.  The vibrancy of it shot down my arms and legs and sent heat into my face.

Chris being inspiring last night in downtown Santa Cruz
Chris spoke of two pervasive narratives in our culture: the "Times are Hard" story, and the story of "Settling."  One speaks of the poor economy, high unemployment rate, and rising gas prices with its head hung low.  The other shrugs its shoulders and speaks of plugging along, doing the best you can with the job that pays the bills because well, that's just what you do and don't ask questions.

Then he said, "I propose a third narrative.  It's called Creative Self-Employment."  He went on to give several of the examples in his book (collected from over 1500 interviews conducted over three years) of regular people, without business degrees, doing work they love as their own boss.

I looked around the room and could feel the buzzing, collective energy.  I was in a place of people living in the third narrative.  This was a place full of hope, inspiration, and possibility.  This was the right place for me.

You can read the newspaper article here.

The photo of Laina and me, shot by the Sentinal's photographer.
It appears in the paper with the article.
I raised my hand to comment at one point in his talk, and then again to ask a question during the Q&A portion.  Chris learned a bit about my life each time (my ulterior motive, obviously).  The third time we interacted was when he signed my book after the talk ended.  He thanked me for my previous questions, and asked a bit more into my journey and my startup business.  I'm pretty sure we're BFF now.

At the after-party at the bar next door, I met several more inspiring people.  Candy is a traveling nurse.  Josh is a divinity school graduate building his business as a marriage and family counselor.  Katherine wants to rebuild Haiti's coffee economy by roasting and selling Haitian beans to American coffee shops.  Eric is building a business making home deliveries of his craft-brewed beer.  Dave installs solar panels on mobile homes.  We shared drinks, laughs, business cards, and a game of jenga.

When I finally arrived home, feeling the best kind of exhausted, I realized that I never looked at what Chris wrote when he signed my book.  I opened it to see:

"Melanie, you inspire me.  - Chris"
To show you and myself that I'm serious, you will not hear from me again on this blog until it is to give you the link to my new, published, ready-to-be-joined website.  It is my deep hope that every one of you will come along with me on this next step of my Journey to Wildness.

(Special thanks to my friend, David Crisis, who bought The $100 Startup for me as a gift in mutual entrepreneurship.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Strong Woman Campaign Feature

Today you can find me on one of my favorite blogger's sites, "The Fur Files."  Mandy is a blogger who shares her sense of humor about her kids, cats, and life as a strong woman on her daily blog.  I've been a reader for a few months now, and have especially enjoyed her Friday series called, "Where My Ladyz At?" which is part of her Strong Woman Campaign.

Today, the strong woman du jour is me!  Check it out:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Website is Almost Here!!

I have not been posting as often lately because all of my creative energies are going towards developing my BRAND NEW WEBSITE AND BLOG!

I've hired a web developer who specializes in working with travel bloggers.  I've been feeding him content and he's been making it all look purdy for me.  He is also pushing me to think about branding myself.  What do I actually offer the world?  What can people count on when they come to my site?  It's been a much more soul-searching process than I initially bargained for, and I'm so glad I took it on!

I'm buzzing with excitement to finally show it to you and unleash my powers on the world!  Mwahahahahahaha!

I hope that you will all follow me over to the new site and join my mailing list there so we can stay one, big happy family.  I'll make it super clear on how you can do that once it's time.

Stay tuned. . .

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why I Am Not Currently Homeless

"Where have you been staying?" is a question many confused friends and readers have asked me lately.  Let me tell you.  It's a great story that may even surpass all other stories of kindness you have read about on this blog.

In late November, I landed in Santa Cruz, California, because of spontaneously deciding to take a travel friend from Taos, New Mexico to Oakland, California.  Once here, my car broke down, I ran out of money, and I had no real ideas about where to go next.  All excellent reasons for me not to go anywhere.

While I waited for my car to be fixed and began looking for jobs, I hurriedly patched together a network of free places to sleep.  I housesat in a mansion, crashed in a new friend's mountain cabin, and then found Evan and Laina through couchsurfing.

Evan and Laina - the loving couple and my new friends
One night during my week-long stay on Evan and Laina's couch, they invited me over to Evan's mom and step-dad's house next door to make limoncello.

Making limoncello - a traditional, Italian, after-dinner liquor
While at Heidi and Mike's warm home, I discovered that they are also couch surfing hosts, with their own profile on couchsurfing.org and a spare guest room.  Hmmmmm. . .

Still without the funds to afford my own apartment (and unsure if that's what I even wanted), constantly looking for new hosts each week was taking more time and energy than it was worth.  Not to mention all the packing and re-packing of my things, and then trying to keep my pile of stuff tidy in the corner of someone's living room.

I took a bold step and asked Heidi and Mike if I might be able to stay with them for the remaining two weeks in December.  They immediately agreed, and I gratefully moved my things in to my own room.

This shot of their entryway perfectly displays the palpable love in this house
Heidi is the picture of strength, grace, and wisdom.  She runs her own daycare in their home, including making fresh, healthy meals for the children each day.  My favorite part about her?  She is on her THIRD MARRIAGE, and it's a beautiful one.  She and Mike have been married for 15 years and are still as in love as star-struck high school kids.  Happy third marriages are possible!  Yay!

Heidi firing her Creme Brûlée during a dinner party one night

Mike owns his own construction business.  He also umpires for the local Little League.  In fact, he is the head umpire for all of Santa Cruz county, which means he organizes the schedule and orders the gear for all of the other umpires - an entirely voluntary effort.  In his spare time, he brews his own beer and plays poker with the boys each week.  He is a kind and benevolent soul.
Mike as Santa for the kids in his family on Christmas Eve
Brewing day in the backyard
Staying here has been a blessing beyond even my ability to put into words.  The practicalities of a warm bed, shower, and full-stocked kitchen are only the surface of the gifts I've received here.  Heidi and Mike have become like surrogate parents to me, often listening to my daily stories and helping me think through my next steps in life.

Sometimes I walk into the kitchen to Mike saying, "We left you a bowl of homemade clam chowder on the stove," or Heidi saying, "I made you an extra waffle for breakfast."  One night, I came home from work to a huge dinner party of their friends from France.  I was immediately given a plate of lamb shank, au gratin potatoes, and brussels sprouts.  I ate with a smile while I watched their clown-friend teach one of the children how to juggle with clementines, and I felt warm all over.

After dinner juggling lesson
On Christmas morning, there was a stocking filled and hanging by the fireplace for me.  

Towards the end of December, Heidi says to me, "You know, if you can't find a place by January, you're more than welcome to stay here through the month."  So stay I did.  They have refused to accept any money from me.  This is my final week in their home.  Next week, I will move on to another housesitting gig, and then, quite possibly, my own apartment.

Thank you, Heidi and Mike.  Thank you for showing me, once again, that the world is a good and generous place to be.  People like you give me hope for our interconnected lives.  You have blessed me beyond what I ever could have expected, and I intend to pay every bit of it forward, in your name.
Supporting me at the karaoke contest last weekend

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sick Karaoke

After three days sick in bed, the night of the karaoke contest arrived.  My voice was not at its best.  The evil cold/flu monster had stolen my full range, so I called last minute and changed my song from Dixie Chicks to Etta James.  At least I could try and take advantage of the jazzy scratch in my throat, right?

I really wasn't up to doing this, but $300 was at stake for the winner!!  That's enough to fly to Hawaii!  That's enough to buy groceries for a month!  That's enough to get divorced!  

My adopted family came to support me (the amazing couch surfing hosts with whom I've been staying for a month), which was really the most fun part for me.  We all had a blast together.

My California parents

The rest of the fam. (Sorry for crappy lighting.)

I downed a hot lemon tea with a shot of whiskey before I got on stage.  I hadn't practiced at all - not that day, not that week.  I knew I probably only had one run of the song in me before my voice gave out altogether, and I wanted to save it for the only time it mattered.  But I had sung this song plenty of times before.  I'd be fine, right??

Well - there's really no way to say this humbly.  I killed it.  I owned that song like it was my frickin-frackin job.  You betta' believe I made it to the finals on February 9th.

I should totally get bonus points for standing up for that long at a time while my brain was pounding against the inside of my skull and I was about to break out into a coughing fit with every inhale.  They don't teach you that kind of stage presence in acting school.

Don't worry - I paid for it the next day.  I'm back in bed and even worse off than before.  TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Help Please! Short Survey

Hello my beautiful readers!  I am excited to say that I am going professional!  I have hired a web designer to make Journey to Wildness its own, brand-spaking new site with a better blog and an option to hire me as a life coach!

As the designer and I make decisions about how to market my gifts and attract those who might best benefit, I could really use your help.  Please take a few minutes to complete this short, 5-question survey.  Your anonymous, honest answers will be a great help to me as I seek to reduce suffering and create greater possibility for others!  (Also, you don't even have to answer all five questions - only the ones you have answers for.)

Thank you deeply for your support over the past year and a half since I've started this site, and thank you for your time now as I take it to the next step.

In grateful partnership,


To thank you for your time,
here is an embarrassing throwback photo
of me at summer camp in 4th grade

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Snotty-Headed Thoughts

I'm super sick.  I'm snotty and achey and my head is floating somewhere out by Venus.  But I can't let my readers down by going too long without a post.  So this is going to be the most rambly ridiculousness you may have ever read on this blog.  There is no common thread.  Don't try to find one.

Besides being sick, my poison oak is spreading.  It began as two tiny dots on my left wrist when I returned home from Big Sur, and now it's on both wrists and forearms, and has somehow mysteriously managed to find its way to my left buttcheek.  The biggest splotch is down there, starting as a few red bumps on the hip area and descending into a full-on globular alien-like mass.  You're welcome for that visual.

Two days ago, I stupidly grabbed a cookie sheet that had just come out of the oven with my right hand.  I clamped right down on that sucker and picked it all the way up off of the counter, then shrieked and dropped it crashing onto the floor.  So the skin on all of the fingertips on my right hand is peeling off now in scaly bits.

In short, I'm the sexiest mutha you've ever seen.  I can't keep the boys away with my oozing poison sores, flaking skin, and snotty, snotty head.  Mmmmmm.

In other news, I'm signed up to perform in a karaoke contest this Saturday.  (I hope I'm better by then!  If not, I'm prepared to break all of my natural, homeopathic philosophies and stuff dayquil and afrin in every orifice in my body until I'm fake-better for just long enough to sing.)  If I'm chosen from the ten singers in this round, I'll join the other finalists for one more night of competition on February 9th.  First prize is $300, second is $200, and first is $100.  Snot or no snot, that money is mine, biatch.

Let's see, what else. . . oh!  I am making new friends left and right.  It seems everyone has returned from their holiday family shin-digs and is actually available to hang out now.  (Note to self: if possible, do not travel over the holidays again.  Remember how much it sucks.)

So yeah, I went to a game night with some folks I met through Couchsurfing.  They were all wicked smart and we played an in-depth role-playing board game that took place in a haunted house.  It was awesome to release my inner game nerd for the night.  I'm usually the last person at a game night with stamina to play (I could literally play board games until the sun comes up), but this time, everyone else hung right in there with me.  They meet a couple times a month.  Oh yeah, baby.  I'm in.

Also, remember the room in the apartment that I didn't get because I was "too positive and well-adjusted?"  Well one of the guys who lives there is from PA and I totally clicked with him and his girlfriend (who is an acupuncturist) that night.  I was their first choice to get the room.  So anyhooooo, he - Erik is his name - has been my angel this week.  Not only did he invite me over to play music with him (which I did and it was awesome), he hooked me up with a possible apartment through his girlfriend (it's one block from the beach - you can see the ocean from the front yard), and he's also trying to help me find a better-paying job.  Holla!

So I'm still thinking about hopping off to southeast Asia - or more likely, Hawaii (plane tickets are only $300 and I can work-trade somewhere to stay and eat for freeeeee) - just for the last three weeks in February before I start paying rent here and having a life and all that.  Maybe.  Possibly.  Or maybe not.  I'm super sure that I'm on the fence about it.

And perhaps finally (thank God this wonkified blog post is about to be over, right?), I've been putting a lot of energy into developing myself as a one-woman small business.  With part of the amazing gift I received from a friend, I've hired someone to make a new website for me.  Also, I'm reading The $100 Start-Up, which was another gift from a friend, and it's totally psyching me up to think I can do this.  I can be a full-time writer and life coach and be my own boss and be location-independent and make lots of beautiful money.

The end.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Oops. A Funny Story.

To counter the intensity and unusual amount of negativity in the last post and its subsequent comments, I have a funny story for you.

Last week, I took a spontaneous, two-day trip to Big Sur to ring in the new year with a beautiful bang.  After an amazing day of hiking and beach combing, I began to search for a place to sleep in my station wagon for the night, off of Route 1.  I pulled in to a campground, took one look at the fee ($22!) and pulled right back out.

Just down the road, there was another small turn-off that led through an open gate, down a grassy road, and to a perfectly secluded spot.  I could vaguely see the outline of a building behind the tall grasses in which I was parked, but no one seemed to be around.  I slid quietly in and began setting up my bed and cooking my dinner.

I ate my rehydrated potatoes with broccoli & cheese while sitting on the hood of my car, watching the stars come out one by one.  Then I brushed my teeth and cozied in to my sleeping bag in the car to read.  I fell asleep to the sound of the crashing waves just over the road behind me.

The next morning, I awoke to see that the building was a school.  I had parked in some grasses behind their school garden.  It was January 2nd, so school was still not back in session.  I went through my usual camping morning routine - ate breakfast, drank coffee, got dressed, brushed my teeth, dug a poop hole, etc.  Then I threw everything into the back of the station wagon and excitedly began to drive back to Route 1 for my second day of adventures.

When I got back to the beginning of the road, I stopped my car abruptly.  The gate was locked.  I was locked in.  And no one would be coming to the school today.


I turned off the car and paced the length of the property, searching for any possible alternate path out.  Most of the perimeter was blocked either by a stone wall, a huge tree trunk, or a bank way too steep to drive over.  They had done a good job ensuring that the gate was the only way in and out.

My best bet was a still-quite-steep slope down through a daffodil patch.

I got back into the car and drove slowly through the grassy yard.  At the edge of the bank, I took a deep breath, prayed to any gods that might be listening to please keep my car from flipping over, and drove straight down through the daffodils (don't worry, I hate myself for it).

Just when I was about to put my tires onto Route 1 and be home free, a car came around the corner.  It was the sheriff.  He snapped his head around to look at the girl driving through the garden bank out of the closed school and stopped his car just up the road.

Double crap.

I pulled on to the road and behind his car.  I figured I'd just save us all the drama of a chase.  I'd accept my fate straight away.  He turned his car around and pulled up next to me so his driver's window was next to mine.  We both rolled down our windows.

"What was that about?" he asked incredulously.

"I'm so embarrassed." I put my face into my hands.

"What were you doing in the school?  And why were you driving over the flower bank?"

"I slept in my car on the edge of their property last night because I needed a free, safe place to park.  The gate was open when I got there, but someone must have locked it during the night."

He tried to hide his chuckle from me by putting his closed fist over his lips.  It didn't work.

"I'm sorry," I said.  "I feel terrible for putting tire marks in that flower bed.  I didn't mean any harm by camping there.  I just can't afford a $22 fee at the campground."

"You know," he said with a grin, "you can camp for free all along the forest road just a half a mile north."

"No," I replied flatly.  "I didn't know that.  Oops."

He laughed without trying to hide it now.  "Well I can't even give you a ticket for anything.  You didn't technically do anything illegal - "

"Just rude," I interrupted.  He nodded with a smile.

"I'm just glad you weren't robbing the school."


"Well just keep the free camping in mind next time you're in Big Sur.  And enjoy the rest of your trip." And he drove off, still laughing at me.


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."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Outsmarting Loneliness in Big Sur

Part One, in which I decide to take a spontaneous adventure

About 10pm on New Year's Eve, I realized three things:

  1. I had the next two days in a row off from the coffee shop.
  2. The weather was going to be sunny and in the 60's.
  3. I needed to get out of my lonely, sad headspace and start this year with some beauty.
Time to check out Big Sur.

I wished that I could be going with another person, or several.  My energy for solo adventuring is waning by the day.  But if I had waited for someone else to come along on any one of my amazing adventures over the past five years, I never would have gone.  So I put on my big girl pants, like I always do, and headed out alone.  Again.

The instant I hit the sight of the mountains jutting straight out of the ocean, I forgot about anything other than WOW.

My first stop along Rt. 1

Welcome to Big Sur
Yet, that bastard, Loneliness, didn't take long to find me again.  I soon discovered that the eight-mile bluff hike I had planned to take was inaccessible due to a washed out bridge at the beginning.  No problem, I thought.  I've waded across rivers before.

I took my pants off, put on my water shoes, and used my pole to navigate to the middle of the river - at which point the water (which was now past my waist and getting my shirt wet) became a powerful current.  I couldn't hold myself up and almost lost my pole.  I gave up and turned around.

I tried this three more times at three different points on the river with the same result each time.  As I sat on the bank putting all of my clothes back on, an adorable frickin' couple arrived on the scene.  With a bit of struggle, they crossed the river.  Together.  Holding on to each other for support.

I held back tears as I laced my boots.  Screw this trail, I thought.  I'll just find another one.

Back in my car, fighting self-pity, I remembered my recent practice of feeling my feelings.  Not being ashamed of them, covering them up, running from them, or judging myself for them.  Just feeling them.  So before I drove to the next state park in search of a new trail, I sent up a prayer.

"Universe/god person, I'm feeling lonely.  I notice that."

"Ok, good job, Melanie," the universe responded.

"Thanks.  I'm going to go ahead and ask you that I please not have to be alone on this whole trip.  It'd be great to meet some people.  Could you arrange that?"

"Sure thing."

"Thanks.  Oh - and one more thing that would make me feel better, " I added as an afterthought, "I'd like to see a whale."

"Just one?" the universe asked with a wink.

Part Two, in which I hike through my loneliness

Ewoldsen trail is a five mile loop that wanders through the redwoods and up a mountain to a lookout over the ocean.  At the trailhead, I met a couple from Pennsylvania, with whom I hiked the whole thing.

Ewoldsen Trail

View from the top (I'm in the corner looking pensive)
While we were eating lunch at the top, I spotted a tall spurt of white water out on the ocean, and then a smooth, dark body cresting the surface.  "A WHALE!" I shouted.  "Look!  A whale!"

My hiking companions confirmed my discovery.  Before we left the lookout, I had seen no fewer than eleven different whales.

View on the way back down

My PA hiking buddies

Loving the forest twilight

Part Three, in which I chill with seals, whales, and surfers

The next morning, I sent up another prayer.  "Thanks for a great day yesterday, universe.  Thanks for the whales, and the company on the hike."

"You're welcome."

"Sorry to be picky, but, it's just that, well -"

"What? What would you like now?"

"Maybe some company that's not a couple?  You know how being with a couple sometimes makes being alone feel even more alone-y?  Maybe I could meet a solo traveler today or something."

"Ask and you shall receive."

So after a morning of elephant seal-watching:

Caption contest!  Write your caption for this photo in the comments.
trekking to the end of a peninsula for some meditation:

secluded path to the peninsula

. . . and jade-hunting in a hidden cove:

The path down to the jade cove was so steep someone had set up rope rappels
I decided to reward all my exercise with some relaxation on the breathtaking Sand Dollar Beach.  When I parked my car, I noticed that in front me was a truck with the first solo traveler I had seen!  Unfortunately, he was getting in to his truck, not coming out.  We said mutual hellos and I went down to the beach alone.

Soon after, Mr. Solo Traveler walked by me on the beach and said, "Hi again.  You haven't seen any eyeglasses lying around here have you?"

I helped him look for his glasses.  When we found them, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a beer.  "Want a beer?" he offered.

Mr. Solo Traveler - my answer to prayer - was also a surfer, a musician and a gymnast.  We spent the rest of the day on the beach watching the surfers, singing songs, and doing silly antics as the sun slowly sank below the horizon.

Tuning up for some Paul Simon

Mr. Solo Traveler doing a backflip

. . . and a one-armed handstand

And me preparing for my olympic-quality cartwheel
While overall, I'm still lonely and no amount of beautiful sights can take the place of another living, breathing, loving human - all three of my prayers were answered.  And I spent the first two days of 2013 in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  For those things, I am grateful.  

Oh, and the whales?  By the end of my trip I had seen a total of 24.

Goodbye, Big Sur
p.s. Don't forget to enter your caption for the seal photo in the comments!

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