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My campfire failed. I’ll blame it on the wood, and the lack of good fire-starting paper. Is it symbolic? I’ve undertaken this wild adventure and the first six weeks have been a whirlwind. I’ve traveled from Virginia to Tennessee to Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. And I saw friends and hung out with family. Most of my journeys led me to familiar faces. But now I am alone. Well, me and the three cats.
My goal is to light the fire within. To find out who I really am, deep down inside. To marvel in nature. To explore my spirit. To become my own best friend. To emerge a better human being. It might take more time than I anticipated to get this fire going. But I have to be confident that once I catch a good flame, I’ll build the most marvelous enduring fire ever! Right now, there are a couple of things getting in my way.
The last few days have been exhausting. I spent too much time on the road, with an overnight stop to rest. Tomorrow I head out again and will be spending a night at a winery before moving on to Geneva State Park in Ohio. I’ll be there for five nights.
The odd thing is, I have gotten more comfortable behind the wheel of my RV. I can hitch up pretty easily and the driving isn’t bad. But there’s a certain amount of anxiety as I follow my GPS, hoping it will navigate me to the correct location and I’ll be able to find the campground entrance. The stress of relocating every week (or less) is diminishing the experience. And travel days are consumed by taking down and setting up camp, a major task for one person. So I’ll be slowing down.
As I write, I am surrounded by campers who have arrived with their spouses, children, and dogs in tow. I am the odd one out. Some of them probably wish they were me, hanging out alone in my own little world; not having to please anyone else or deal with temper tantrums and complaints. But after spending some quality time with my sister and my mother, I am feeling lonely. Sad. A little depressed.
Long before I traded in the house for an RV, I had become tired of the isolation I felt as I worked on launching my business from the dining room table. I looked out at the same suburban street day after day. I worked on creating products for a business that has yet to take off. My breaks were to the local deli and the convenience store. My diet suffered, and I felt trapped in my own house. I had to break away. And despite the dangers of coronavirus and the complications of travel, here I am. Living the dream.
Now it’s time to figure out how to shape reality into the dream. Dumping the black and grey tank provide doses of the new reality, as does driving a beast that might get eight miles to the gallon. That’s just part of the chores (and expenses) of my RV life. There’s a well-known saying – “Wherever you go, there you are.” And that’s true. I have my share of bad habits and vices, and if I let them win me over in these new surroundings, I will have lost the game. At my core, I am a planner. So now is the time for a plan that will help me light the fire within.
I cancelled my visit to Acadia National Park and extended my stay in Vermont. This way I can regroup and spend more time building a routine while enjoying mountain hikes. And I’m taking actions to start the day off right, be healthier, connect with people, and build a community. Of course, some of my efforts are made more difficult by the surging number of COVID-19 cases and corresponding efforts to address the pandemic.
I’ve let the cats rule my morning. Weather permitting, I make a cup of tea and open the bedroom window so that the cats can walk down the tunnel into the catio. And they have to be monitored – especially as Coco briefly escaped! This morning I changed things around, hiking up and down the dunes to see the stormy waves crash along the shore of Indiana Dunes State Park. And I realized that the early morning time should be my time. The cats have adapted to this new life quite well, and they can manage a later start time to their catio adventures.
The amount of time each person spends on the six elements is personal. Since I want to be outside in the mornings and get in better physical shape, I’ll prioritize walking or biking when possible. And I will return to my Qi Gong practice (I follow a video by Lee Holden) and explore online yoga programs (Yoga with Adrienne is popular). In terms of reading, I’ve selected the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness (affiliate link). Since I spend most of my working hours writing, I’ll just dig out my bullet journal (affiliate link) and lay out the day’s activities. The gaps in my routine are affirmations and visualization. I need to work on both.
I began this journey as an obese woman. One of my biggest goals is to become a “normal”-sized woman and to be fit and active. I began writing this blog post three states ago, and I’m happy to report that I am now tucked away in the Green Mountains of Vermont. In Indiana, I completed the 3-Dune Challenge. In Ohio, I rode my bike into town and hiked in the local parks. And now, I have been hiking my butt off in Vermont, discovering that nearly every trail involves a major ascent to the vista point. I can now comfortably fit into my size Large t-shirts. Small gains.
But challenges remain on the food front. My exhausting hikes are frequently followed by a shower and a visit to the restaurant across the road. I do my fair share of intermittent fasting, so the impact of a restaurant meal is minimized. Still, I haven’t succeeded in finding some easy “go to” meals that I can make in the RV. Too often, my salad kits end up in the garbage as the fresh date expires; and some days, I grab trail mix or a protein shake to satisfy my hunger. So the eating routine (or lack thereof) remains a work in progress.
My extended stay in Vermont affords me the opportunity to meet people with similar interests. But I have to make the effort. I belong to several Facebook groups and reached out to see if there were any Vermonters who were up for a socially-distanced hike. While there’s the potential for disaster – I could be meeting a deranged psychopath – odds are I’ll meet a cool person and enjoy the company. Earlier this week I had a delightful (and strenuous) hike with a fellow financial coach. Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting a Sister-on-the-Fly for a hike. I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people, and I’m okay with taking small risks to address loneliness.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me they admire me for being so brave for setting out on this mission on my own. Truthfully, it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I awaken in the middle of the night, only comforted by a cuddling cat, and I remind myself of my 2020 motto: Be brave. Being a “gutsy woman” doesn’t come natural to most of us. We have to build our confidence and our courage and then just do it. But here’s the kicker. It can feel very lonely to be a gutsy woman. With that realization, came the desire to build a community of gutsy women.
There are many women just like me. We are taking calculated risks to be true to ourselves and to get more out of life. We are adventurers, explorers, seekers, and trailblazers. I’m betting I’m not the only gutsy woman out there who seeks a community. A place where we can express our dreams out loud, find supportive voices, and discover resources that inspire confidence and courage. So I’m pleased to announce the creation of the GUTSY WOMEN CLUB! I’m excited about building the community – look for a September 1 launch. You are welcome to join early and watch me build it. And if you are a gutsy woman, or gutsy woman “wannabe,” I’d love to hear your ideas for ways we can inspire and connect.
Dr. Brenda is a financial coach, educator, researcher, and sociologist. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she is the founder of the Gutsy Women Club. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at DreamBigMoneyAcademy.com.
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