Roadtrip

Shaping Sapiens: My New Podcast Series!

Shaping Sapiens Album Cover Art

It is with great pride and a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hair grease, that I am pleased to officially announce the launch of my new podcast series: Shaping Sapiens! Currently available on Soundcloud, YouTube, and this RSS feed. And coming (very) soon to iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and TuneIn, and other podcasts stations near you.

I won’t promise it’ll be great. I won’t promise it’ll be the podcast to end all podcasts. But, I CAN promise it will be real. As real as I can possibly be, featuring some of the greatest humans to walk the planet. If you’ve liked anything I’ve written, or like me even just a little, then you may like “Shaping Sapiens.”

Every once in a while, you come across a person who has a story that is so extraordinary, it feels like they’ve lived a life destined to become an Academy Award-winning movie. Last September, I had the honor of hearing Barbara Abelhauser tell her story at Fresh Ground Stories in Seattle and, immediately, HAD to meet her afterwards. Lucky for me, she became my friend, and it was because of her encouragement and trusting spirit that this podcast is even a thing. Thanks for being my first story, Barbara, and thank you for showing me how a life lived outside the ordinary is a life that is always worth pursuing. Her story is featured as the very special, very first episode: “Comfort Zone.” Now available for your listening pleasure at ShapingSapiens.com.

To find out more about Barbara, follow her blog, The View from a Drawbridge.

Thank you for joining me here, friends. And I hope you’ll join me on this new storytelling adventure, too. This is me, doing my part, to make America Great Again.

love, Love, LOVE. Always.

Amelia

In Spite of Fear

Amelia with Paris keychain

As many of you know, I gave a talk this past weekend in NYC about my travels this year. (It was dubbed a “smasheroo” – something I am so honored by and so grateful to everyone that attended and all of you who wished me luck beforehand.) I spoke about my roadtrip in South America, my roadtrip across the U.S., and my recent travels in Northwestern Europe. I spoke about bravery, about risk-taking, about dreams, goals, and about the courage it takes to carry on despite setbacks and the fears that threaten to paralyze us from moving forward.

I spoke Saturday night, barely 24 hours after the Paris attacks, and underneath my spoken words ran a deep tremble in my bones. How could I be standing in front of a crowd talking about my incredible, wonderful year of adventures when such a terrible tragedy had just taken place? Even though I dedicated my presentation to Paris and Beirut at the top of the hour, my spirit was not relieved.

I WAS JUST THERE, I thought. I was just THERE walking those SAME streets… Walking into those same cafes…

That could have been me.

Then, my mind reviewed all the other “could haves” that could have happened this year…

Missing my train from Germany back to Brussels, because of radical right-wingers protesting the influx of Syrian refugees.

Driving through Roseburg, Oregon, a month before the shootings at Umpqua Community College took place.

Leaving the Oakland apartment I was staying in two days before a drive-by took place.

Being at Harbin Hot Springs in California three weeks before it was completely devoured by a wildfire.

Surviving Pike’s Peak in Colorado after a near-death experience of terrifying altitude sickness.

Escaping an Argentinean policeman with rape in his eyes when he saw my friend and I with our hand-painted van trying to park next to a supermarket for the night.

Escaping another man who propositioned me at a gas station in Rock Springs, Wyoming, after seeing I was traveling alone.

Then, I had to stop, because the list could keep going. I HAD to stop, because when I looked at this list… I realized with great clarity: not once did I not keep going. I had to get on that next train. I had to get down from that mountain. I had to leave that gas station. I had to come to New York to do that presentation.

There was no other way.

A friend of mine once shared a passage Charlotte Delbo, an Auschwitz survivor, wrote. It went something along the lines of: “I implore you do something, anything to justify your existence. Learn a dance step, pick up a paint brush, anything at all…because it would be all too senseless for so many to have died while you live doing nothing with your life.”

So, go to Disney World! Drive to that audition! Write that message to that old high school lover you just found on Facebook! Have that baby! Go to the gym! Eat that cheesecake! Submit that book! Post that video! Talk to that cute guy at the coffee house! Buy that expensive couch! Give to that charity! Adopt that elephant! Say “I love you!” Climb that Great Wall! Call that person you haven’t spoken to in years!

STEP OUT OF YOUR FRONT DOOR.

Because fear and darkness lose every time you carry on.

It does not mean that we forget. It does not mean that we ignore. It simply means: honor life by living your own.

Brilliantly.
Beautifully.
Unequivocally.
With kindness for all.

<3,
A

Skipping Stones

Skipping Stone

Last Thursday night, I had the honor of speaking at Fresh Ground Stories​ here in Seattle. The theme was “Comfort Zone,” and to prepare for the event, I DID NOT PREPARE A DAMN THING. I got up to the mic without knowing what I was going to say, hoping divine inspiration would cut me a break and take pity on my blind willingness to challenge myself as a storyteller. As I gathered my nerves and opened my mouth, I could feel all the stories in my head lining up at my mind’s door, clamoring to be heard. This is the story that shoved its way out:

People have asked me, “What is the most surprising thing about your journey so far?” And, the truth is: I am amazed by the kindness of strangers, and perhaps by my own ability to trust them back, as well. No matter where I’ve stopped along the way, unfailingly, there are always people who are ready and willing to help out in any way that they can.

After I came back from South America in April of this year, I quickly realized Austin was no longer the right place for me — a feeling that totally jolted me. But, I trusted it, and within a few weeks, I sold all my things, and packed up my car and headed west. I made my way across west Texas, following the Rockies up through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Canada, then over to Seattle, and down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco and Los Angeles, before making my way back up to the Pacific Northwest, which is where I’ve been playing for the past few weeks.

When I reached Glacier National Park in Montana, I came upon a lake as clear and still as glass. As I took in the majesty of the place, I noticed some splashing and ripples on the other end. Curious, I followed the shoreline. A family of four was there: a mom, dad, and their two young daughters. They were skipping stones. I laughed and smiled, and asked if they could teach me. The girls said, “Sure!” and handed me a stone. “It’s all in the wrist,” they said, “And when you pick out a stone, make sure it is light and as smooth as possible. Then, just flick!”

I took a breath, feeling the weight of the stone in my hand and set up my wrist to flick like they instructed. Then, FLICK — *pat*pat* — my stone skipped twice before gliding underneath the surface. INCREDIBLE! I had never skipped a stone in my entire life! I picked up another. AGAIN! Another successful double skip.

Sharing in my delight, the mom asked me about my journey, and I relayed my story. Seemingly impressed, she asked if I had anywhere to stay that night. I told her no. I had been in the practice of just allowing the Universe to take care of me and steer me in whatever direction it felt I should go. “Something will show up,” I shrugged.

After a beat, she said, “Well, we’re staying at the KOA down the road, and we paid for a tent space, but we’re not using it, because we’re in our RV. You’re welcome to pitch your tent there. We’re also having tacos for dinner and a chocolate mousse cake I’ve been letting thaw out all day. You’re welcome to join us!”

I stared in disbelief. In the past, I probably would have declined such a grand invitation, not wanting to impose. But, before I knew it, I heard myself saying, “Yes, I would love that,” the words rolling out of my mouth freed from somewhere deep inside my being.

“Great!” she said, “We’ll be eating around 7:30. But, don’t have too high expectations on the tacos. We’re from Minnesota. ”

I laughed and thanked her, and told them I’d meet them there. I hung back after they headed back down the trail, watching the lake once more turned to glass. I left the park within the hour and made my way to the KOA, thanking my absolute lucky stars.

We ate dinner and played games. Apparently, one of the daughters was usually a quiet gal, but for whatever reason she really opened up around me and told me all about her love of mermaids. She even had a real mermaid tail attached to a slip-on spandex suit, which she promptly put on and demonstrated how to swim in it. I laughed until my belly ached. I hadn’t had that much fun in such a long time. I forgot how much I loved playing games and sharing in that young schoolgirl mindset.

As the night began to wind down, the dad asked me how big my tent was. I told him it was a small two-person tent. “Perfect,” he said. “That should fit just right outside in that gravelly area next to the RV.” I nodded, ready to make my way back to my car to start setting up. “You’re welcome to set it up out there,” he continued, “Or, if you’d like, you can stay inside with us.”

I stared again in disbelief, a smile spreading across my face. I thought of all the yes’s and no’s I had ever uttered in my life that led me to be so lucky in that moment. Where would I have been instead had I not said yes that night? Where would I have been had I not said yes to to Mechi​ and our South American roadtrip earlier this year?

Who knows. It didn’t matter.

“Yes,” I said at last, “I would absolutely love that.”

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

Amelia holding a skipping stone

I Live Here

Sunset in San Ramon, CA

Found an incredible spot to watch the sunset this evening, overlooking the mountainside of the San Ramon valley. Amber waves of grain rolled out before me. The bay clouds unfolded over the peaks like rich cumulus cotton. I even heard eagles cry.

Yes, I was living in an American anthem.

And I remembered a story Abraham once told about Jerry and Esther Hicks. They were on vacation somewhere – Mexico, probably – and Esther was in love with it. Overcome by the beauty of the place and the strong desire to stay there forever, she asked Jerry, “Can’t we just live here?” After a beat, Jerry responded, “But, we are. We are living here.”

I’ve thought about that story a lot over my travels. But, I still constantly question the journey: When will I settle down? When will I find my new nest? Where will I finally LIVE?!

And I realized as I sat on top of the windy hillside: I live here. I am LIVING here. In California! Amazing.

My address doesn’t matter.

Because in every moment, wherever I lay my head, wherever my car is parked, wherever I take a breath, I am living.

America, America,
God has surely shed his grace on thee.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

The Beauty Crusader

The Beauty Crusader

Life on the road can be isolating as much as it is liberating. As much as I equally want to be a hermit, no longer caring about what I look like, I still want to engage with others and care about what I look like. It’s so easy to hide away under layers of clothes to hide an expanding waistline or put on a hat to cover a gradually-growing untamable mane.

It is a constant exercise in confidence-building and self-esteem. (WHICH I’M SUPER DUPER GOOD AT, BY THE WAY. Not.)

When I woke this morning after quickly putting on some pants and a hat to cover up my bed (er, car) head, and the new flannel men’s shirt I got from Goodwill yesterday, I made my way to the restroom area of the RV park. As I rounded the corner, a young boy about 10 or 11 emerged, his blonde hair freshly tussled, donning reddish-pink goggles with his towel cooly slung over his shoulder. I quickly crossed my arms over my chest, because I wasn’t wearing a bra (I’m liberated, remember? 😉 ), and I offered him a small smile before looking past him to find the bathroom.

“Good morning!” he proclaimed, surprising me with his bright and cheerful tone. I replied, matching his cheeriness — my uneasiness instantly erased.

As we passed each other, he turned around and said to me, “You know, you’re looking really beautiful this morning.” My spirit soared. I brightened even more. “Thank you!” I beamed back.

OMG WHO IS THIS KID AND WHERE CAN I THANK HIS PARENTS?! 😀

It is moments like this morning when I reminded of what it means to be really beautiful. It’s not about what you wear, (ahem: AMELIA), and it’s not about what you look like, or even how you sometimes feel, remember? Beauty exists, because YOU exist. And of course, it helps when others see it, too.

As I sat and made my breakfast, I kept on the lookout for him. Soon, I spotted him riding his mountain bike through the RV park, red goggles in place — a masked crusader of light and beauty streaming through the forest of campers. I shouted to him, “Hello!” He turned to find me and shouted back, “Hello!” And after a beat and without pausing to slow his steed, he said, “My parents need soda!” I smiled. “Ok!” I said. Then he was gone, off to sweeten and save the world one more time.

Thank you, masked crusader. Saluting you from campsite #33.

Amelia

Road Angels

Carine and AmeliaInspirational Female Figure of the Day: The incredible seventeen-year-old, Carine Ferraz.

A couple weeks ago as Mechi and I approached Salvador, Bahia with only 360 kilometers left of our 5,000 km journey, our roadship, Carlotta, finally gave out one last time. Out of all the places we could have broken down at along the last hours of the route, we broke down in an oasis. A posada in the middle of the Brazilian landscape, one that was completely obscured by the thick vegetation with only a simple cheeky road sign “Be curious! Come see us!” to indicate anything existed beyond the forest wall.

They also advertised free internet. THUS why we stopped.

After all the mountains, steep inclines, insane 18-wheeler drivers, and impromptu trips to the mechanic for many (many) other fixings… a final short cobbly hill was her demise, rupturing her front left wheel well cylinder.

Like I said, OUT OF ALL THE PLACES WE COULD HAVE BROKEN DOWN AT…the Universe conspired us to stop there. We arrived right as they were setting up the lunch buffet… a spectacular display of a variety of Brazilian cuisine. We felt like queens that forgot they were queens until we bowed down to the great, big Universe for reminding us that we were. Even though we were covered in grime, smelled like strays, and wore 3-day old clothing.

Trying not to freak out, as it was the day before Easter and I had only 2 days to catch my flight back to the U.S., we just tried to be patient, allow ourselves to be with the moment and trust that everything would work out. (THIS IS VERY HARD TO DO BTW.)

A mechanic was called. He came. Took Carlotta apart. And said: “I will either come back, call you, or you’ll call me, or I won’t come back at all.” He didn’t come back, and we couldn’t get in touch with him.

Commence Not Freaking Out Freaking Out.

It was also the full moon. Coincidence? Me thinks not.

Then that evening, Carine came along with her friend, Mateus Gonçalves. And they helped ease our (my) troubled brains. They explained that I could get a bus from the nearby town to Salvador, and Carine said her boyfriend could give me a ride!

Not only did her boyfriend (who looked like a young Brazilian version of Channing Tatum) give me a ride the next afternoon, but Carine WENT WITH ME, took me to the bank so I could get out more monies, sat with me as I waited for the bus, and helped carry my backpack until I was safely onboard.

There were many, many road angels along the way. But, she took the halo cake. I am forever grateful for her generosity.

I’m also happy to report that Mechi and Carlotta finally made it to Salvador on the back of a tow truck.

Where there is a will, there’s a way. And the Universe will send help, always.

Muita, muito obrigada, minha amiga.

Photo credit: Carine Ferraz

When Mustangs Reincarnate

Me and Jessie in Costa Rica

It is said that everyone you meet is a mirror of you — a reflection of some part of your unique majestic makeup. Some will show your flaws; others will show your beauty. And, if you’re lucky, a rare few may even show you your wild buckin’ heart.

In 2008, I left to study abroad in Costa Rica for three months, never imagining I’d end up finding a job and staying there for four more. It changed me at a molecular level. I went in one person and came out somebody totally different. Sure, living in the flora and fauna of present-day jurassic park had a lot to do with it, but in reality, it was the people. Especially, this woman.

Jess is the reincarnation of a wild mustang in human form. She was the first to show me that it was ok to wander away from the group. That it was ok to stop in the middle of the trail — night or day — and look up for hours. That it was ok to not know what you were doing, but to do it anyway. That it was ok to ask questions. That it was ok not to wear makeup or deodorant or high heels. That it was ok to fall, as long as you got back up, no matter how much time it took.

She was the first badass I met in my entire life.

She made riding a horse bare-back look easy (she had never even ridden a horse before Costa Rica!). She could walk for hours, never complaining, even leading the pack for a 10 mile hike through the rain, mud, and horse flies of the jungle. She adopted shoes she found on the road, and would say, “Oh, GREAT! I can use these!” often fixing them with duct tape and proudly wearing them way past their expiration date. She even learned to climb trees with a machete hanging from her belt, so she could bring back mangoes and avocados for us to share. She is my opposite in so many ways, but my twin in so many others.

Most of all, she taught me to laugh in the face of life, and to follow my dreams mercilessly. I know that when I look back at the narrative of my life, my heart will sing knowing it was her who first taught me to be wild.

Happy birthday, gemela.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

Lunch on the Redwood Highway

Car parked off the Redwood Highway in California. Overlooking a hidden valley inhabited by honeybees and pine.

This is the spot I stopped to have lunch at on my trip up the Pacific Coast back in August. I was en route to visit the Redwood National Park that day. (Oh, Mazda3, how I loved you so!) The following journal entry is taken from that moment. It’s also the first piece I chose to read at an open-mic night after five years of stepping away from the stage.

8/20/13

Just had lunch off the side of the highway on a little turnout that’s so beautiful and comes up so quick, you’ll miss it if you’re not looking out for it. Luckily, it was waiting for me. The honey bees, the pines, and I all dined together. They were very pleasant company.

A thought occurred to me as I was eating: one day my children may read my journal. Actually, this thought had been forming in the back of my mind and nudging at me since I started this trip. So, now I realize that I must acknowledge you, my children. You are nowhere near being born yet. I haven’t even met your father. I’m writing to you now as Amelia, a 25-year-old free spirit traveling up the Pacific Coast along the Redwood Highway.

I want you to know how much I love you, and I don’t even know you yet. I want you to know how much I love life. I want you to know how amazing I think the world is – how beautiful and awesome it is. I want you to know that I am living my life to the fullest and how I am doing the very best I can to be a human being on this earth. I want you to know that even though you are not here with me now – I feel your presence. You’re whispering to me on the winds through the pines, embracing me through the warm sun on my neck. I feel you here, you familiar strangers.

The world is an incredible place. Eagles are soaring. Crows are laughing, and cars are passing by chasing their own destinations.

I want you to also know that I have a framed picture of Jesus with me. I printed him out at work on computer paper and put him in a light blue frame. He’s been traveling with me, too. I want you to know that my spiritual journey has been a long one – it has not always been easy to have Jesus in my life. Man-made religion corrupted him for me, and for many years, I did not wish to acknowledge his presence. It upset me to even say his name or hear other people talk about him. Now, I understand that it was not Jesus I was angry at but at the men and women who perverted his message and his teachings.

I am now working on my relationship with Christ. And he has been a very patient friend. I do love him so.

My hope for you, my children, is that you can know him, too, and form your own relationship with him, as well. Or with Buddha or Krishna or Muhammad or with whomever else you wish. Because it is through that relationship, dear ones, you will find God. Source. The Universe.

Christ is my guru, my friend, my teacher, and through his teachings I am learning to find peace and happiness in the world – and more importantly, within my Self.

I hope that wherever you are reading this that you know how much I loved you even before you were born. You are here with me now as I write these words, just as I am with you as you read them.

Back to the road. By the way, I just finished listening to the Forrest Gump soundtrack, and now I’ve started the America’s Greatest Hits album. Ventura Highway is your grandmother’s favorite song.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel