Faith Over Fear

Fear is a funny thing. It can be helpful, even necessary in certain situations. It’s a survival instinct that warns us when we’re in trouble. Merriam-Webster defines fear as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion cause by anticipation or awareness of danger.” Awareness of danger makes sense. If you see a momma bear charging at you, your fear kicks in as it should. This is a situation where fear is a highly useful survival instinct. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The anticipation of danger. This is where things get murkey.

Anticipating danger isn’t inherently negative. When you decide not to engage in risky behavior, you weigh the anticipation of danger against all possible outcomes. Jumping out of an airplane with no parachute or saftey equipment, you know that it’s dangerous. You would expect, anticipate at least an injury. And for most that’s enough to “nope” right out of the situation. But what happens when those alarm bells sound every day? When we are so convinced that danger is afoot that we forget to live? It becomes an endless cycle. Fear traps us, holds us back. Then we become more afraid. The big bad gets bigger and badder in our minds because we aren’t facing it. We forget. We hype it up to compensate, make a volcano out of a molehill.

This is not to be confused with anxiety disorder, a legitimate medical condition that persents with physical symptoms of fear (often panic attacks) and should be addressed with your doctor. No, what I’m talking about is a bit more generalized. Living in a constant state of fear and letting it hold you back. Making a conscious decision that yes, I could work on overcoming this and not have it be an issue any longer but choosing against it. Because it really can be as simple as that. We can decide not to let fear hold us back. We can choose to have faith. In ourselves, our loved ones, our fellow earthlings, and in the universe. We can learn, accept, and continue. The human brain is pretty amazing like that.

I know I have lived in fear for far too long, and I still do. It is something I am constantly working at because I am just so unbelievably tired of letting fear run my life. Plus, I hate being told what to do and to me it feels something like a foreign part of myself working against my own desires and telling me how to live my life. And so every day I try to make conscious decisions to work on things that scare me. To acknowledge and assess that fear, weigh the risk versus reward, and do what makes me happy. Every time I upload to this blog, I’m conquering fear. Even if it’s small. The internet is a scary place and posting my writing makes me feel intensely vulnerable and I have yet to become accustomed to those feelings. I used to be afraid to even call myself a writer. How could I identify as something I wasn’t even sure I really was? After all, I’ve never published anything and until very recently there were only about two people in the world that I would let read my writing (besides teachers amd even that scared me.) But writing makes me happy. It’s who I am and who I long to be. Fear has held me back from that. Fear of judgment, fear of failure. Just plain fear. I anticipate danger at every turn. But you know what? It gets better. Each time I face it, it gets a little smaller. A little easier. It becomes more and more manageable with every exposure. And that knowledge alone makes it continually easier to keep facing fears and to keep having faith.

Becoming an Actual Travel Blog

Hello everyone! It has been an exciting couple of weeks around here. Last Sunday I went to St. Augustine with my family for Father’s Day. We all had a great time eating and drinking our way through the nations oldest city. When I got home, I need to switch my propane tanks. One was empty and I was starting to get tired of taking cold showers so it was time to switch over to the second tank. When I opened up the cover, I discovered it was being used as a home by a brown widow spider and her eggs. A friend of mine relocated mother and egg sack to a more spider friendly location. We learned that they are not as dangerous to humans as the black widow but saw nothing about dogs so I am happy to know they have a new home far away from Bronson.

Thursday I was given two tickets for a Jumbo Shrimp game by one of our vendors at work. Yay for job perks! So Friday my best friend Melody and I spent the day texting baseball, shrimp, and beer emojis back and forth to each other, eagerly waiting for the game and subsequent firework display.

Melody and I also started planning a trip for my birthday. Originally, the idea was to take the train to Savannah after work on a Saturday, stay a couple days, and take the train home the following Monday. This way it would be cheap and I wouldn’t have to take any time off of work but would still get to say I went on vacation. I really just wanted to ride the train anyway, and I’ve never been to Savannah.

But I’ve also never been to Seattle! And that is now where we have decided to go. After looking up flights and learning that they aren’t nearly as bad as we thought, we decided it was totally doable to save up and spend a few days visiting my brother in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle has been on my list for several years and I haven’t seen my brother in what seems like forever so this trip is extra exciting. And traveling with my best friend is always a blast. We already have a two page long list of things we want to do there.

That’s all still a few months away, though. So for now, I’m still enjoying the RV life. In fact, I think it might about time to go fishing now. Thanks to everyone for your support and I hope you all have a beautiful evening!

Way Out Here

It’s been a little over a month since Bronson and I moved into Walden and I think we have settled in pretty nicely. There is still a lot to buy and a lot to do and so, so much still needs organizing but we aren’t letting that stop us from enjoying our new life. If I’m not at work, I try to be home as much as possible and I try to give Bronson tons of attention. When the weather is decent enough (or at least not a monsoon or a sneak peak of the first walk on the sun) we are outside. Bronson loves outside, even more so now that it is where he really has his space to move around. The camper is pretty small and not the best place for him to pace about. So I try to let him out as much as possible and burn off some of that goofy dog energy.

Living out here has been such a blessing. There are immediate financial benefits, my bills have been cut almost in half and the amount of stress that relieves cannot be overstated. I can finally start getting out of debt and maybe even start saving money! It’s so exciting, I can almost taste the financial stability.

My neighbors out here are the nicest, friendliest people I have ever had the pleasure of living near. Yesterday I was outside with Bronson and a neighbor walked up with a big bag of dog food. She asked if my dog would eat it and explained how she was given it by a friend whose dog didn’t like it and that her dog wasn’t a fan either. Well, I looked at the bag and it was the exact food I recently switched Bronson to! The timing was perfect, too. I was going to have to pick up another bag the next day anyway. She saved me a trip and about $60. My dad has a couple of friends living out here, too, and they have been so wonderful. As a newbie, I have basically no clue what I’m doing. They have always been ready and willing to lend a hand every single time I need it. I am so grateful to have them nearby while I get the hang of this whole full time RV thing.

I’ve also discovered a love of fishing, particularly night fishing. I think I’ve gone just about every night this past week and most days that I can as well. I haven’t caught anything yet but it’s fun and peaceful and relaxing just the same. I had what seemed like a pretty good size fish hooked the other night but after fighting with him for a good little bit the line just snapped. I have since been informed by a coworker that I should not have locked the line. It created too much tension and not enough slack and caused the line to break. Call that a lesson learned!

Living in Florida in the summer means tons of rain and pop-up thunderstorms. I don’t like to leave my awning out during storms because I’m kind of oriented exactly right to get some really nice gusts of wind right through here like a tunnel and it likes to make the awning dance, even in good weather. So when it storms, my whole deck gets wet, including Bronson’s ramp and the steps. And the wood right next to them. I am now a proud member of the “fell out of my RV and busted my butt” club! The best part is, I had barely finished telling Bronson it was wet, be careful when it happened. Apparently I need to follow my own advice. And get better flip flops.

It sure has been an interesting month. Can’t wait to see what the next one brings!

Two Weeks From Everywhere

Hello, lovely people! I have officially been living in my camper, Walden, for two weeks. It still feels a bit like a dream. Every time I come home or sit outside or even just sitting inside with the windows open, enjoying the breeze, I can’t help but smile. This is mine. This is my dream coming true right in front of me. It’s some crazy good motivation to keep working. I can almost taste the fruits of my labor.

The past two weeks have been an adjustment period for Bronson but I am proud to say he is doing just fine. It took him a while to figure out his ramp. He didn’t like it at first and wouldn’t use it unless he was walked up it. He tried to forgo the ramp at first and just hop straight in the trailer. It didn’t work out to well and he hurt his back leg. He struggled to get around for a couple of days wasn’t a big fan of eating his food or drinking water. I had to hand feed him one day and then the next several he would eat or drink but only outside. Treats were still fair game though! He has since healed, gone back to his normal eating and drinking habits, and mastered his ramp like and old pro. The ability of dogs to adapt will never cease to amaze me.

My dad and my stepmom came out to see Walden in all his glory for Mother’s Day. My dad brought over a little table top grill and made hamburgers. They even left me the grill! Some neighbors were having a cookout as well, so it kind of felt like a block party. Everyone here has been amazingly friendly, kind, and helpful. This is a wonderful community and I feel so grateful to be a part of it.

I had a raccoon show up at my door this week. He seems to be a bit of a fixture around the park, so I’ll probably be naming him soon. I’ve also become a regular of the ferry, even broke down and bought a coupon book. It’s a pretty good deal if you’re going to be taking the ferry multiple times a day. There’s been a lot of buying things for Walden going on. Amazon and Dollar Tree should know me pretty well right about now. My favorite recent purchase has to be between the outdoor chairs and the spare tire cover. On the one hand the chairs because they make it far more comfortable to sit outside for hours. But the spare tire cover has a wolf on it so really, it’s anyone’s game at this point.

See why I love taking the ferry to work?

The First Night

We officially made it through the first night in the camper! It was quite an eventful one. After getting the majority of my things moved, we put one car load away and decided to go to dinner. Which was delicious, by the way. Plams Fish Camp is definitely a place to hit in Jacksonville. We grabbed some beer at a nearby gas station and headed back to finish unloading.

For a little backstory, I had been staying at my sister’s house while waiting for my spot to open up and had a few things stored in her garage. Here was my first bad decision; I was storing a couple delivery bags full of food in said garage. Unthinking, we loaded them up in my boyfriends car and brought it over. The Panera bag seemed fine, I unpacked it and then folded it and put it away without any incident. But then we brought in the Postmates bag. In it comes and we set it on the floor by the sofa, where my dog was hanging out. I looked over and words decided they no longer existed in my brain. My poor boyfriend had no idea why I was freaking out, until I finally remembered how to speak and began yelling “snake! snake!” at him. There was one crawling out of the bag of food. Randall sprang into action and got Bronson out of harms way first. He picked up my 45-pound pit mix with one arm and threw him safely onto the bed. Then he grabbed the bag and threw it out the door. The snake slithered away. We went out to get the bag and saw buried down inside was another snake. That was more than enough reason for us to zip up the bag and take it to the dumpster. We didn’t want to leave it just sitting outside to attract more animals and we figured the snake, which we later determined to be harmless, could find his way out to freedom. So after a long day of work, moving, and snake wrangling, we decided it was time to shower and relax.

What was supposed to be a quick shower turned into me standing around naked and waiting for the water to warm up for half an hour. Since we’re new to this and I remember almost nothing from the walk-through, I took to Facebook for help. I’m in an RV group that my dad added me to, specifically for tips and helping fellow RVer’s. They were super helpful but I couldn’t even find the switch for the water heater. My dad saw the post and called. With him on the phone we eventually figured out which switch was for the water heater. Dad hung up, Randall and I thought we were victorious, and we flipped the switch. I was so ready for a warm shower at this point.

Victory was short lived. Not five minutes after turning on the electric side of the water heater, we blew power to the camper. The TV, AC, fridge, and microwave all went out. We flipped the breakers in the little fuse box inside the camper a couple of times but it had no effect. So we call my dad again. He says it sounds like a main breaker was tripped and directed us to the box outside that our camper is plugged in to. Randall heads over with a flashlight as it’s about midnight now and very, very dark out. Meanwhile, I went in to try and switch the fridge over to propane to keep what little food we have cold. Like my leftovers from our amazing dinner! It never did ignite and we still have to figure that one out. Eventually, after flipping the 30 amp breaker that we’re using several times, the power finally came back on. We were just about to give up and settle in for a very warm night, which probably would have made the lack of hot water more desirable. Still, we didn’t want to chance it and decided not to run much power for the rest of the night.

I must admit that during all this I had some serious doubts about getting into this lifestyle. It was frustrating and a learning experience but now we know we really can count on the RV community. Between the helpful folks on Facebook and our neighbors, our family, and even our landlord, nothing will be a problem for long. I think the universe was testing us and I’m glad it did. Because even given our hectic moments for our first night as full-timers, that’s what they were: moments. And I’ll take them if it means I get to live like this.

Bronson is adjusting to camper life just fine

Lessons Learned From My Dog

Welcome back, my lovely friends! Today I want to tell you guys more about one of my favorite subjects; my dog Bronson. I believe I’ve mentioned him once or twice before but I think it’s high time he got his own post.

Bronson is my super sweet three-legged dog, or tripod/tripawed. He was a rescue, adopted out of the Humane Society shortly after his surgery. His rescuer and I became involved and moved in together. When we broke up, he was unable to take Bronson with him so he let me keep him. Since then, we have bonded like I never have with a dog before. He is a sweet boy and a grumpy old man and, as cliché as it may sound, he is the light of my life. He sparks all that Marie Kondo-style joy with that precious face of his every time he looks at me. I’ve learned so much from him and not just about how to care for an animal with three legs, though I have learned quite a bit about that as well. No, the biggest lessons I’ve this wonder-pup has taught me apply to life more than just pet care.

Lesson 1: Paitence

This is maybe the most valuable lesson Bronson has taught me. I’ve never had much of it before but when you have a handicapped senior dog in your care, you have to develop some. You can’t rush your tripawed. When he needs a break, I let him take all the time he needs. Sometimes he came be a little stiff and slow getting going in the morning or after a nap, so I’ve learned to make allowances for that. I get up a little earlier so I don’t have to rush him before I go to work.

Lesson 2: Enjoy your time outdoors

Appreciate being out in nature, it’s healing and therapeutic. Bronson absolutely loves to be outside, even if he’s just standing there. The first time or two that I took him to the park, all he did was sniff things and stand around. He loves to feel a good breeze. He’ll just stand there with his head up when the wind blows, looking all serene and peaceful and happy. Tail wagging and the trademark pittie smile. Then he gets back to sniffing, the happiest dog in the universe. He’s gotten more playful but he’ll still stop and feel the wind on his face. It confused me at first but now I know: standing in a nice, strong breeze makes you feel at peace with the world.

Lesson 3: Never give up

Bronson has the kind of perseverance and tenacity that most humans only dream of. This dog has never left anything keep him down. When he falls, he gets right back up. When he struggles to get on the sofa or the bed, he just keeps trying. Sometimes he needs to regroup. He’ll walk away with a grunt, shake it off and try again. Sometimes he needs some gentle words of encouragement but he always, always keeps going.

Lesson 4: Stop and smell the roses

And the grass. And the dirt. And leaves. And just about everything. This may fit in with patience or appreciating nature but it still feels important. Sometimes you just need to take a little time to stop and sniff a flower.

Lesson 5: Drink water

Drink all the water. Bronson loves his water. Well, he loves to drink his water. He’s not a big fan of swimming or baths. But he drinks water like it’s going out of style. He even does a little happy dance when I fill his dish. So get excited about it and drink your water, just like Bronson.

Lesson 6: Don’t be afraid to ask for snuggles

Sometimes we all just need to be loved on, to be touched or pet or hugged. Physical contact is important to our emotional well-being. Bronson knows this and frequently reminds me by hitting me with his butt. When he feels like he hasn’t gotten enough love and attention, he has no qualms about asking for some. This is something I have generally struggled with but Bronson has taught me that it’s okay to make your needs know, especially to your loved ones.

Bronson on a car ride
Bronson on a car ride

Random Ramblings and Unnecessary Updates

Hello and welcome to another episode of “I haven’t planned this out at all, I just sat down at my computer and started typing so I hope it doesn’t suck!” I feel like most bloggers, or writers in general really, at least plan out what they are writing. They probably even write a rough draft first. That’s never really been my style though. I was always that kid that just started writing. Mind maps and flow charts and all that other planning stuff never really worked for me. Which is pretty interesting in itself because in the rest of my life I’m an extreme planner. (My bullet journal is my most prized possession.) But when it comes to writing, I rarely plan anything out. Sometimes it works out great but sometimes this is what happens. It’s pretty fun for me either way so I hope it’s not too annoying for you cool cats.

I’m still working on getting a regular posting schedule worked out. I have a full-time job now, with a set schedule and everything, so I’m going to try and make Mondays the Blogging Day.

You may remember in my last post I was excitedly awaiting spring break to go camping with my best friend. Well, this week is spring break here but Melody and I are unfortunately still in civilization. The good news is we found jobs and can now pay our bills again! The bad news is we found jobs and now we have to be responsible and show up for work again. So no camping for us this week. I do have another plan up my sleeve but it’s a surprise and she reads this so you guys will just have to wait, too.

Now, as you may know, I started this blog with the intention of documenting and sharing my journey into van life. As you also may know, things change and ideas evolve and so my van life dreams keep evolving, too. It started with a lifetime desire to go live in the woods. Then my dad suggested I get a camper and travel and the whole idea really took off. That’s when I really started to research it, and found out about #vanlife and fell in love. Then my boyfriend told me he wasn’t interested in living life on the road in such a small space and the first adjustment was made. Since I was going to be alone, I figured a van was safer than a trailer. If something happened, I could just hop in the drivers seat and go. But in the course of all my planning and attempting to save, real life has pretty consistently gotten in my way. My financial situation isn’t the greatest. My lease is up next month and I can’t afford to renew as they are significantly raising the prices. And I’m already barely scraping by. Moving is difficult too, especially on your own. I don’t have the money for a security deposit or first and last months rent. I can’t afford a pet deposit and that’s if i can even find another place that allows my dog. ( I’ve already been denied an apartment once because he looked too much like a pit bull.) And of course I am no where near being ready to start van life. I don’t even have a van yet. I was going to temporarily stay with a friend but his mom wasn’t thrilled about the idea.

Luckily, I have a wonderful family and amazing parents. My dad has always been there for me, even when he hasn’t always fully approved of me decisions. But one thing he has always lived by and passed on to me was the philosophy that God helps those that help themselves. And when he sees someone struggling but trying their best, he steps in. Now that I think about it, it’s not a surprise at all that he was sorted into Hufflepuff. My dad approached me about a week or so ago now with another idea. He and my stepmom want to help me get a trailer! Something small, not too expensive or extravagant, but something that will be a good home for me for many years to come. I can then make payments to them instead of some soulless corporation that has no problem taking my house if I’m a day late with my payment. And I can get into it much, much sooner. I’ll still be in Jacksonville, I don’t have a car that can pull a trailer yet, but my dad has also offered to help me move my trailer when we need to until I get a better towing vehicle. In the meantime, I’ll be saving a ton of money since the most expensive campground around here is still about half the cost of my current apartment. And they’ll even let me bring my dog.

Sometimes You Just Need a Little Mother Nature

Hello friends! (Hi, Mom!) It has been far too long since I’ve visited. With all the tediousness of life and the mundane, day to day living I haven’t felt like I even really had anything to write about. Van life is still closer to a dream than reality, although baby steps are being made and I am very excited about even the smallest progress in that area. I had intended my next post to be about my travel dreams and all the places I hope to visit. But then something rather unpleasant happened.

Now, this is not my story to tell so I will only give the necessary details. My best friend needs me. She and I have known each other for somewhere around 15 years and in that time, we have been closer than any two humans have the right to be. If you believe in soul mates, she is mine. I love her like family and feel insanely protective of her. Unfortunately, my dear best friend is going through a rough time. One of those rough times where you start to question all your life choices that led to this very moment and wonder about your very existence. The kind of rough time that, for all the pain, you come out better and stronger from the experience. And I know she will.

So we have decided that some serious best friend time is just what the doctor ordered! We were reminiscing about our trip to Asheville, NC a few years ago and wanted to recapture that. We started planning another grand trip to some other random location. It was great fun until reality hit. We (mostly me) didn’t have the funds for that kind of trip, especially as soon as we hope to go. Alright well, next idea. We take a train trip someplace close and stay one night and ride back the next day. Well, no, that was still pretty expensive and not enough actual trip time for the money. Next.

Luckily, we love the planning almost as much as the trip itself because we were brainstorming ideas for quite some time. I just kept thinking how great it would be if I was van life ready, we could just take off and go wherever, camping in the car at night after our daily adventures.

Wait a minute! Camping! Somehow we hadn’t had the idea to camp yet. I knew from my van life research that there are many places you can camp for free, like National Forests. So the decision was made, we are going camping! We did decide against the free camping route however, opting instead for a local park. With less drive time we get more time out camping and even with the cost of the campsite, it works out to be less expensive as well. Plus, Hanna Park has everything we could want. Beach, woods, lakes all in one convenient location, which means one less decision for us. You can even rent beach cruisers, mountain bikes, kayaks and all kinds of fun outdoor adventure gear.

We plan on making this trip like a healing retreat. Both of us need some time in nature to ground ourselves. We have a few plans for that, meditating on the beach in the morning and drinking tea by the campfire at night. If anyone has any more suggestions for things we can do to make this a retreat-like as possible, please leave a comment below! We would love to hear your ideas.

The Oak King and the Holly King

Happy Yule, everyone!

Today is the winter solstice. So today, I wanted to tell one of my favorite winter stories, the legend of the Oak King and the Holly King. There are a few different versions of this Pagan folk story, all with their own little differences, but I want to share the story my mom originally told me when I was a little one.

On the longest night of the year, the Holly King and the Oak King battle once more. They fight for the favor of the goddess and control of the Wheel of the Year. Now, it’s important to know that the two kings are brothers, twins. They are two sides of the same coin, two aspects of the Horned God. They are two sides of a whole and without one, the other could not exist. They battle twice a year, once at Yule and once at Beltane. The Holly King is the ruler of the winter. He is the Dark Lord, ruling over the dark half of the year. He represents new beginnings and change, inner knowledge and mysteries. As winter begins, the Holly King defeats his brother and rules the Earth until the summer solstice.

 “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” — John Steinbeck

A Perfect Winter Day in Florida

One of my main goals with this blog is to keep it as open and honest as possible. So, even though I am no where near hitting the road yet, I think I still have plenty to talk about. I spend most of my time these days doing “research” for van life. This is better known as watching YouTube videos about van life all day. I had planned on doing laundry today but it was raining and I didn’t feel like walking down to the laundry room. That’s not to say the day was wasted by any means. It was one of those days where everything felt extraordinarily comfortable so between that and the rainy, cool weather I was pretty much in heaven. My dog, Bronson, seemed to be okay with the lazy day as well. He was able to go on walks in between bands of rain and because I wanted to make sure he was able to go enough, I took him out every time there was a break in the rain. So he got to go on quite a few more walks than normal today. Not that either of us really minded, it was kind of beautiful out. But this is my favorite kind of weather. 

“Never get so busy living that you forget to have a life.” -Dolly Parton