Whenever I have two days off in a row, which is rare, I leave town. I woke up Tuesday morning – unsure of where I’d end up. With a recent sprained ankle places weren’t as intriguing as usual.
Vacation and days off mean socks and sandals and oversized sweaters. It means I’ll be consuming entirely too much coffee and beer. It means I will be alone. I don’t know what it is – but something about running away to place where no one knows me is intriguing. I am forced to decide who I am when preconceived opinions of me aren’t influencing my behavior. It forces me to slow down and to think about my life, something I don’t do often. Isn’t it just easier to run away from your thoughts with a fast paced life, always filling time with something other than how you feel?
I hopped in the car and decided I would head for Bend. Typically going to Bend means climbing and hiking and sleeping at the Bivy in Smith Rock. With my bruised ankle these options didn’t quite seem possible. This trip would be one without plans, stopping when I saw something beautiful, wandering in little shops, meeting strangers. I had absolutely no agenda. I remembered that a few months back a customer had told me about a new hostel in Bend. She said it was an incredible place to stay, the guys were cool, and she told me it was something I had to do. I decided to book a room, unsure of what to really expect.
I stopped for coffee in Boring, Oregon. The cafe was situated inside of a plant nursery and I spent entirely too long wandering around looking at the plants that I’d someday end up killing. The drive to Bend is always so surreal. This time though, cars were covered in ashes and the sky was filled with smoke (along with my lungs because I don’t have AC and it was freaking hot out.) I saw a glimpse of Mount Hood – my favorite part of the drive.
I stopped at Smith Rock on the way over. Though I knew I wouldn’t be able to climb, I still wanted to catch a glimpse of some talented people on the walls. There is something about Smith Rock that makes you want to stay a long time. Limping around got old very quick, so I headed back out on the road.
I arrived in Bend and headed to Thump Coffee. My friend Erin (a coffee nerd) told me I needed to check it out. It measured up to my standard of a dang good americano. I wrote in my journal and read Chasing Francis. After awhile, I wandered around downtown and stopped in some local boutiques. My favorite was one that only held products that had a cause they gave back to. I loved the concept and all of the products were well crafted.
I headed to the hostel Bunk+Brew to check into my bunk. It’s located in a historic building a couple of blocks from downtown. Two young guys started it earlier this year – and they are doing a dang good job. Upon check in I was given a beer and we wandered through the hostel. The backyard is set up with hammocks, a fire place, and yard games. They have a shuttle to Smith Rock for climbers. This was a great place. I sat outside and finished my book before decided to socialize. I met three guys who were on the Pacific Crest Trail. I was immediately inspired and tried to figure out how to nonchalantly ask them a million questions about the trail. Another guy, Manuel was a german traveling from BC. He just finished getting a PHD in engineering and was traveling for awhile. We ended up heading out together to grab a beer with the intention of making it back for a pub crawl with everyone at the hostel.
We headed to 10 Barrel and chatted for awhile, I told him all the lovely things about Montana and encouraged him to make that a part of his road trip. We ordered two different beers and swapped back and forth. German people are great. We parted ways once we finished and planned to meet back up later in the evening. I headed to a couple of other breweries then went back to the hostel.
Later in the evening a group of 13 of us headed out for a pub crawl. The owners of the hostel had it down to a science. The first place we’d go was $3 beers, the next was $2 beers, then $1 well drinks, and finally a bar that was buy one get one. Brilliant. I don’t go out a lot, – typically just a beer with a friend or I drink coffee while everyone else drinks but I figured why not join them.
It turned out to be such a fun night. I learned all about these strangers lives and we shared stories of travels and life. We ended up back at the hostel very late – and decided it would be a great idea to play jenga for an hour.
I woke up at 6am and couldn’t fall back asleep so I headed downstairs assuming most people would still be in bed. The guys who were hiking the trail were up and making breakfast. I grabbed a cup of coffee and joined them at the table. This was my opportunity to ask all of the questions. They shared the things that scared them and the hard parts of the hike. They were all hiking about 25 miles a day at this point but had to skip part of the trail due to the fire. It was amazing to hear them chat about their different experiences. None of these guys were hiking together but had ran into each other on the trail. They’d be continuing on alone. I will do the PCT someday, hopefully soon – but in any regard, I am doing it.
The house slowly began to wake up and sleepy faces wandered down the stairs. I prefer to just listen in the morning. I don’t love conversation. I believe mornings are for coffee and books and nothing else. But I listened to the chatter all around me and realized that this was an atmosphere in which I thrive. I’m not sure what it is – but I can tend to be fairly awkward in social situations. I think a lot of people in my life would disagree but its because I’ve crossed that barrier with them. When there is a gap to be filled I am good at filling it, but when there are strong personalities and leaders I tend to sit back and allow them to drive the conversation. I’m not sure why – I am interested in peoples lives and stories and I would love to hear more, but so often I feel awkward and don’t interact fully. I feel like I am missing out of viable opportunities to hear people’s stories.
This morning I headed to the river and took a walk, coffee in hand of course. I reflected on these things. The uncertainties in who I am and what my goals are were hard to think about. I know I need to leave more space for myself, but I just keep filling my time. Later, I drove to Sisters but I took a back road. The sky still covered in smoke but the trees and fields looked beautiful, a blanket of gray behind them. I pulled over on the side of the road, a quote from the book I had just read – Chasing Francis, came into my head. “Tell your story with all of its shadows and fog, so people can understand their own.” I think trials in life are a beautiful opportunity that we so frequently mask. Its an opportunity to help someone who is hiding their brokenness, to help someone overcome their fears, to help someone learn to love themselves. Yet we mask it away – afraid of what people will think.
If there’s one thing this little getaway has encouraged me to do is to unfilter my life. To show people the raw version of myself, and to encourage others to do the same. By asking questions and revealing the brokenness I’ve faced and overcome, I have the opportunity to help others – we all do.
My little trip isn’t over yet. Actually only halfway through. Who knows where I will end up today.
Spraining my ankle has forced me to slow down. A typical trip to Bend would consist of hiking along and maybe finding strangers to climb with. So cheers to new friends and having time to reflect on life.