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Musings

The Traveler: A Tale of A Double Standard

Megan Harrod

This is my fourth time trying to write this. FML.

BRIEF DISCLAIMER: I feel like I say this every time I write, but have patience with me with this one...it takes a while for me to get where I intended to go when I wrote this post title. Grab a glass of wine or something. You'll be glad you did, and it might make my writing sound even better than it is. 

I guess fourth time is a charm, right?! Normally I'd get really frustrated, but not today. Today I just took three deep breaths and smirked a bit. It's one of those kind of days. I'm sitting alone in a random sub-par Salzburg cafe in the smokey non-smoking section. Fabulous. Life on the road isn't always as glamorous as you all think. But, for some, rose-colored glasses are better - so I'll try to let you believe it's all unicorns and rainbows. At least for a little bit. Because, still, I love it. And, most of the time, I make it all about unicorns and rainbows...and most people just don't know how to do that. For me, it's natural. I don't know any other way.* 

I've been wanting to write this piece for quite some time now, but as with many things it wasn't meant to be translated from my brain to whatever typeface this is until now. Typically, at the end of the year I take time to reflect on lessons learned, but this year it will look a little different. It became more and more apparent, as time went by and life happened (aka Trump was elected President of the United States...which, by the way, still has me in disbelief), that these words were meant to be shared. So, share I will. And, let me tell youit feels good to finally have a moment of time to write for myself. 

SIDE NOTE: one of my goals in the new year is to set aside at least 30 minutes each day for myself to move, meditate, or write. 

It can be a bit hard to be on the road for the holidays, as a single human, far from your family. The holidays were something special this year. I spent Christmas Eve in Patsch with my American Downhiller family, and Christmas day was spent with Martina's family next door in Fulpmes. It was lovely and felt right. Santa even visited me in my room and stuffed my stocking with treats!! It was a small break before hitting the road for Semmering, Austria for more races, but it was refreshing. Now I'm in Salzburg for the new year, no idea where I'll end up tonight...maybe with my friend Amelie and maybe not. Let's just hope I survive the evening. Going with the flow, as always.

Jan. 1st: Okay, so 2016 continued to take the role of supreme teacher last night. Remember back in September when I used the line, "Ich bin immer allein und immer reisen?!" Well, that pretty much summed up my last few days. And, I just have to laugh. Post-Semmering, I had a fabulous time with friends in my Cesky Krumlov home before heading to Salzburg for New Year's celebrations. I had decided to forego trips to France and Switzerland in order to ring in the new year in Austria, but 2016 had other plans for me. As I was attempting to determine where and with whom I'd ring in the new year, I was sitting in my car both sobbing and laughing. Because, it was poetic after all. Ich bin immer allein. Remember?!

I took some deep breaths, remembering that these moments are moments to test all of the work I've done in the last 12 months. But, alas...sometimes,  you just need to fucking cry. So I cried. Then I drove to Obdach to spend New Year's Eve with my U.S. Ski Team family. You know what I learned again?! Expectations are the danger zone. Don't go there. Just don't do it. Lesson learned. Again. Along the entire 2 hour 45 minute drive, I was gifted the most stunning fireworks and shooting star show I could have imagined. And, the night was actually wonderful. 

Back in Salzburg and spending time with my mental coach and his family Bernie was a gift in and of itself. A nap this afternoon recharged my spirit, and here I am, sharing these words with you. That's a gift. So let's get to this whole "double standard" thing, shall we?! 

When I was living overseas this fall I was thinking a lot about how fucked up it is to be a solo female traveler, strong woman...and to combine that with your day job is even more misunderstood to conventional society. It was a mixture of things like the movie The Lobster, thoughts of my trip to India, and living solo in a small village in Austria that made the realization apparent for me. When you're a strong woman, men find it threatening. When you're a strong woman who travels freely and often independently, you're crazy. But when you're a strong woman who travels freely and often independently, doesn't call a single location "home," speaks your truth and holds others accountable to theirs, and you live out of a couple of backpacks and a duffle bag on the road in a male-dominated industry where the grey hairs make a majority of the decisions for a dying sport...well then, my friends, you're just a downright mystery who questions any man's perception of what "masculinity" means and you might as well be destined to a life alone. Immer allein. Because, mostly, it's not their fault that they can't understand you. You're odd. You're untouchable. A magical unicorn frolicking in a faraway, fairytale land...you're not even on the same planet. Writing that, I realize how challenging it would be to try to keep up with me, let alone understand me. I'm different. Defiant. And, I'm okay with that. Because it's who I am. 

I had a conversation recently with a male athlete on the team about the topic of the challenges of being a woman on the road vs. being a man, and he disagreed and didn't really get it. The fact is, it IS more challenging because we are misunderstood. There's a double standard not solely in the workplace, but even for female travelers on the road. The combo, though is nearly impossible. You can say whatever you want, but I know from experience how hard it is for the man to be the one at home while his girlfriend or wife is away. You have to be an incredibly strong, understanding, caring man to be in that situation. As men and women settle into conventional roles, men, on the other hand, are quite often the gender on the road with the female at home. It's more accepted. Less emasculating, I guess. What does that mean?! I guess I'm destined for singledom for a while...or at least until I find a special human. 

Maybe this all sounds like a mental shit storm to you, but all of these thoughts were swirling in my head as Donald Trumpa man who talks about and treats women like they truly are the weaker sexwas elected president. What a sick joke that I still can't believe is our reality. So I'll just leave that there and share two storiesone positive and one kind of shittyabout what it's like to be a woman in this male dominated world...just in case there are humans out there who still don't get it and need to be convinced. I'm sharing these stories because they each provided me with memorable learning opportunities in 2016.  

The new ink.

The new ink.

KIA KAHA
First, a tale of strength. During my trip to New Zealand, I traveled to a small village with my friend Giulia named Moeraki to visit the boulders and have lunch at "Fleur's Place"...a warmly-lit, lovely little restaurant owned by a crazy-white-haired woman named Fleur, where messages in black Sharpie marker decorated the walls, the seafood soup was salty and delicious and the pinot noir was perfect for my palate. Fleur was there that day, and she inspired me. We sat down and she shared tales of starting businesses solo, as a divorced, single mother with passion and a vision. In the most simple way possible, she told me about overcoming the challenges you face as a female entrepreneur in a man's world. As she shared these stories with a tear in her eye, she simply said, "It's hard to do what you want to do in life...but you just have to be strong and keep moving forward." I bought a book of hers, and in it she wrote "KIA KAHA"a Moari phrase that means "stay strong" and is scattered throughout the lives of Kiwis, found in literature, music and has been written on shop front windows as a symbol of strength in tough times, like post-earthquake in 2011. She inspired me that day, teaching me lessons she doesn't even realize. Because, it is hard to do what you want to do in life, and be what you want to be and who you want to be...and society doesn't support that if it's different. When I went to Prague this fall, I got the words "Kia Kaha" in her handwriting tattooed on my left arm. I haven't shared it publicly until now, and a lot of people have asked me what it says. I joke, telling them it's Kim Kardashian's signature. At the same time, I got my favorite punctuation mark, an ellipsis, tattooed on my left ring finger. Because, after all, there's more to the story...

Anyway, Fleur reminded me to not compromise who I am for anyone or anything...and as I travel down this crazy road with a one-way ticket on La Tour de Insanity, that's an invaluable lesson. Now it's a lesson that will travel with me forever, in ink. Cheers to Fleur and the strong women in my life who encourage me to continue to move forward down this path as ME and no one else.

THE GREY HAIRS
In October we kicked off the start to the 50th year of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup season. You might call me a feminist (which I am, by the way), but in 50 years, I have to say not too much has changed with FIS in terms of the presence of females in this male-dominated industry. Okay, yesSarah Lewis is a woman, and there are women here and there, but the ski industry is still run by the "grey hairs," as I lovingly refer to them...and, unfortunately, they're still the ones at the helm making decisions for a dying sport. And this rant leads me to a story as I attempt to illustrate what it sometimes feels like to be a female in this world: invisible. Which, for those of you who aren't English buffs, is quite the opposite of invincible. In a room full of men involved with communications and media, I raised my hand to give my two cents on a topic for which I was well-versed, being one of few Millennial humans in the room and likely the only one that had worked in the digital agency realm. I was overlooked. Ignored, in fact. For the next five minutes I kept my hand raised patiently as I listened to old men, satisfied with the sound of their voices, droning on about bullshit saying everything and nothing at all. Like politicians. Finally, I put my hand down.

You know what it feels like to be completely ignored? Really shitty, actually. Because the fact remains that if you're one of few women in a room, you have to be ultra-mindful of what you say. If you interrupt and don't raise you're hand, you're abrasive, bitchy and loud. But, if you wait, you'll never get called upon. At times, it's even jarring to hear the sound of your voice. While men can open their mouths and share stupidity with confidence and still be heard, women are not even considered. And this isn't the first time it's happened, unfortunately. The only woman at a spring meeting full of coaches, I spoke up about a pre-Olympic event and was told..."it's a good thing we can plan our training camps around your partying in LA, Megan," through a laugh. Yes, sure, because I party for a living and can't wait to go to LA and spend four straight days in a conference room for athlete interviews. Once, a serviceman (wax technician) told me, "you're not smart." And though I'd like to roll my eyes and say "You're an idiot," instead I just laugh and keep my mouth shut. Because if I'm really being honest with myselfI don't care what they think and I'll never be able to teach them anything. So I smile. I smile a lot. Laugh, wink, hug. All of these things are kind of coping mechanisms for women in this world. This world where a disgusting man can say "grab them by the pussy" when referring to women, and yet still be elected as President of the United States. And you tell me we've made great strides...that there's no double standard in this industry, or on the road as a traveler, or in business. Whether you realize it or not, we've got a long way to go, my friends.

REMEMBER: KIA KAHA.

On Being a Woman...
Why is it, when I am in Rome,
I’d give an eye to be at home,
But when on native earth I be,
My soul is sick for Italy?

And why with you, my love, my lord,
Am I spectacularly bored,
Yet do you up and leave me- then
I scream to have you back again?
— Dorothy Parker

 

Thank you, 2016, for being the best teacher I've had yet...for teaching me the importance of silence, knowing your audience and meeting them with the appropriate energy level, heartbreak, that humans move at different paces and patience is a good thing, meditation, love, loss, moving slowly, not everything has to be on social media for it to be real, not being invited to things is ok, Maui is always a good idea after the season and it's okay to not want to talk to anyone, time spent with nature, impermanence, living a diverse and curious life with many interests is the only way for me to live, if you're happy - there will always be people that want to bring you down and it's often because they're missing something in their life, when given the opportunity to stand in front of a room of humans and share someone's art that you believe in, even if you're terrified - always say "yes", living alone in a small Austrian village and sucking at a new language, and more. Happy 2017...I look forward to learning from you, too. 

A big thanks to each and every one of you for following me as I travel on this journey. When I get a moment to write, it's a gift...and it's even more of a gift when you read my writing. Thank you for your encouragement and love, always. 

Love, 
Me

*The Real Truth
I was thinking the other day about how bizarrely misunderstood I am and how bizarrely misunderstood my role often is. I wasn't going to bring this up today, but I feel compelled to, so I will. I was on a hike with a colleague who told me that one of our other colleagues said he'd love my job because "all I do is party and go to the best locations." Fair enough, but sometimes perception is not reality. It's actually partially true. I'm lucky to travel to the most amazingly beautiful destinations, as are we all in this industry. However, I'm more boring than most people think, and I often am awake until the wee hours of the morning working. Most people don't see that, though...and they don't have to. Heck, I figure if I do my job good enough for them to think that, then that's a compliment. SO, thank you all. Life is a big party, after all. Right?!

Dating is so weird.

Megan Harrod

If we have no peace it’s because we’ve forgotten that we belong to each other.
— Mother Theresa

What if each of us opened our hearts just a little more to everyone around us? If we looked inward before reacting? If we thought of others before we thought of our own personal gain? Have you ever wondered about what might happen if you told the person you loved how you really feel, and where it might take your relationship?

According to my last post, this post was supposed to be entitled "Ich bin immer allein und immer reisen." I lied. I'll talk about loneliness here as well, but I decided to focus on connection, love, and how extremely bizarre it is to date in the 21st century. Because, come on, you know it's fucking bizarre too. Tinder, Bumble, Snapchat, iMessaging...all of it is so, so strange. We hide behind a language called "emoji," fear eye contact and confrontation, and seemingly have lost the ability to communicate face-to-face...never mind the notion of letter writing.

We anxiously attempt to discern what it meant when he or she sent us the hugging emoticon or—OMG!—the kissy face emoticon. We ask our friends for their opinions. The situation amplifies with long distance relationships. With constant excitement comes endless confusion. WHAT THE FUCK is wrong with us?! A friend of mine told me, "At a deeper layer, these silly pictures that appear in our keyboards now have become straight-up lexicon. In one sense, it's really nice and fun that we have them. When it comes to love, I would rather read or hear one 'I love you' over 1000 kissy-face emojis." Amen, brother. Amen. Similarly, if away from the human I'm dating, I'd rather receive one phone call a week than daily, empty text messages. Been there, done that. Never again. Express yourself, people. know it's not easy for everyone, but just try. Raised with smart phones glued to their hands, Gen Z barely knows how to handwrite at all. A 21-year-old kid recently asked me what a postcard was and how it works. I wish I was joking. Our parents and grandparents must think our generation is so flawed and so lost. I don't blame them for their lack of understanding. Modern relationships are flawed, we are lost, and dating is weird.

I'm going to be a bit random and all over the place here, but I've had a lot of these thoughts occupying my brain and in the spirit of speaking my truth, I'll let it out. The catalyst for this diarrhea-esque thought stream was actually an ad that popped up and caught my eye before Jai Wolf's Indian Summer (great song, btw) played on YouTube the other day. Being a former student of both advertising and human behavior, my eye is keen to advertising that evokes emotion.

In this case, Julius Meinl is launching an initiative called, "Meet with a Poem"—a global experiment to rewrite the way we show our feelings, challenging people in more than 10 countries to show their feelings again. A recent study shows that 1 in 5 people didn’t tell their partner “I love you” in over a year. When did this happen? When did we forget that the way to really bond with each other passes through our hearts? Here's the piece, and yes—I am confirming what you're suspecting—I did cry as I watched it:

First of all my mind goes, "Wait,what the fuck?! You think you're in love but you've never said it?" Then I think about the commonality of the "it's complicated" answer in regards to relationships...of course relationships are complicated and it's difficult - it wouldn't be worth doing if it wasn't this way. In many ways, love is complicated...but it's also pretty simple. It's a feeling. When you're there, you know it. Warmth. Butterflies. Tingles. It's sharing this feelings through words that is often the challenge. But this commercial...what a beautiful, raw portrait of how a simple, but meaningful interaction can shift the state of a relationship...how being intentional with your words with the willingness to dare to be vulnerable can make an impact.

Consider this thought:
What if, for once, we said the things we’ve never said?

There are two choices in life—we can choose to love or we can choose to be fearful. Love is definitely more challenge, but it's always more rewarding...and after all, true love is not binding, instead it is the most free feeling in the world.

When we love someone we say we're "in love" or "falling in love." So, in this sense, love is a place—a space—that we fall into completely in mind, body and spirit with someone else. But, it's extremely rare to be fully present in all of these things with someone else who is fully present in all three at the same time. In that sense, love ebbs and love flows. It's imperfect, but if you can find a flow with another human and connect with respect, patience and humility, I believe it's the most incredible gift this Universe can give us (other than filet mignon and unicorns, of course). This goes for both intimate relationships as well as relationships with family and friends.

This idea of being present and "showing up" is poignant in modern society, where instant gratification rules a culture with extreme attention deficit issues. In order to love and be loved, you have to want to show up relentlessly and without pride. The real relationships in my life are the ones who are there no matter what or when, and fully. The pressure to be connected to technology is bigger than ever, and often we—as humans—fall into a dangerous pattern of attempting to fill the connection void in our life with meaningless virtual interactions. Problem is, it's a temporary fix. I too am guilty of this fix. The noise is overwhelming, and so we find ourselves retreating to solitude to unplug and get away from it all. Don't get me wrong, technology is not all bad...it's just a matter of how we use it and I believe we have to be intentional to ensure we don't replace human connection with it, but instead use it as a means to enhance human connection.

Because, after all, we as humans are meant to connect. I recently reflected on this with a friend as I sit here in this small Austrian village with only my thoughts to accompany me. When you're in a relationship, you are comforted by the fact that you have one human thinking of you before thinking of anything else. As someone who has been in long term relationships, I've experienced this feeling and then found it to be the biggest challenge when transitioning to single life. That loss is hard and humbling. It's a great lesson, and when you get to the other side it's also somewhat of a freeing feeling, but it's still a challenging adjustment. I wrote to her,

Have you ever thought about whether or not anyone is thinking of you? If I just stopped posting and writing and reaching out to people, would anyone even notice? Not like a morbid thought...just a real reflection - like the realization that when you don’t have someone to share your life with you don’t have anyone thinking of you more than anyone else in their world. When you’re an independent, strong, confident, nomadic gypsy woman like I am, I sometimes feel like everyone just expects that I’m ok and trusts that I’ll be ok. They don’t forget...they just necessarily think about it. But with my strength comes sensitivity. I’m human. I yearn for real, meaningful connections, but yet I don’t want to compromise my independence and values in order to love someone and live cohesively with them. Do we live our lives to find love and then when we have it, it’s not enough?

On top of that, as a single human, you're all of a sudden seemingly invisible to others because you're not in a relationship. They forget to invite you to gatherings unless you're right in front of them. Does society cast us aside because we value individuality? Watch the film, Lobster...an eclectic, slightly dark but true depiction of the way in which our culture views singledom. Jesus Christ. What an odd world we live in.

I strongly recommend reading Sebastian Junger's TRIBE: On Homecoming and Belonging. Seriously. Just buy it now and get it over with.

-5 MIN PAUSE FOR YOU TO BUY THE BOOK-

You're welcome. You'll be happy you just did that. The literature is fascinating, and discusses the principle that we, as humans, have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding—"Tribes." This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival. Have you ever thought about that? Something called the "self-determination theory" which "holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered 'intrinsic' to human happiness and far outweigh 'extrinsic' values such as beauty, money and status." However, in our modern society, we often place more value on extrinsic values...quick fixes that lead to unhappiness, depression, and other issues.

What if we operated on the three pillars of self-determination—autonomy, competence, and community—what would happen then?

The economic and marketing forces of modern society have engineered an environment that maximize[s] consumption at the long-term cost of well-being...In effect, humans have dragged a body with a long hominid history into an overfed, malnourished, sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived, competitive, inequitable, and socially-isolating environment with dire consequences.
— An excerpt from the 2012 Journal of Affective Disorders featured in Junger's TRIBE

My God, is that not the truth?! Can I please escape back to tribal society, where life was simple and enjoyable?

Yesterday as I drove to Salzburg, I listened to Lewis Howes' podcast with Glennon Doyle called, "Become a Love Warrior In and Out of Marriage". In the podcast, she discusses the notion of authenticity and pain, noting that you can either be "shiny and admired or real and loved." The pain that comes from being real and loved is not the same pain that comes from hiding in the face of fear. It's not withering. Because, when you hide, you'll never fully realize who you are. Being real and loved is badass and freeing.

Why is it so hard to share our feelings? Afraid to be real? Afraid to be vulnerable? For me, this idea is so foreign it actually has taken me some tough lessons to reach a point of understanding it. For that, I am thankful...I am thankful the idea is foreign because it means I grew up in a loving household with a family who wasn't afraid to show affection. I think we're afraid to let love in because we fear loss more than love itself. But, what if we were to shift our mindset about loss and introduce the notion of impermanence into our relationships? Would it be less scary to give more of ourselves if we realized that impermanence exists in all aspects of life and removed expectation from the relationship equation? If we calibrated our energy with others' and were able to meet them in a safe place, would they be more willing to be vulnerable?

It's often said that we're more apt to regret the things we don't say than the things we do say. Cliche, but true. I'm thankful I've been able to choose my words carefully and mindfully and have stared fear in the face and still have chosen to love rather than to hide.

Well you only need the light when it’s burning low / Only miss the sun when it starts to snow / Only know you love her when you let her go

Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low / Only hate the road when you’re missing home / Only know you love her when you let her go / And you let her go
— Passenger, Let her Go

So, as I navigate the single life and maneuver dating in the 21st century while continuing to attempt to foster meaningful, authentic relationships and human connection...I'll remember the importance of one simple principle: being present (aka) showing the fuck up.

If you're thinking about someone, let them know...most doors aren't open forever, and you never know what kind of positive affect you can have if you don't say anything at all.

With love,

Me

So there I was, surrounded by 7 naked men...

Megan Harrod

Don't get your hopes up. They were all over 60 and we were sitting in the Kräutersauna at the Stubay in Telfes. You know what they say...when in Austria. So, here I am. here and now. That's all there is. Right? But before that is all there was, there were a few crazy weeks...and I'm finally winding down and relaxing from all of the travel.

One month ago I reluctantly departed from New Zealand for Park City, Utah. That was on August 24th. This is how the next two weeks unfolded...and believe me, I get exhausted just reliving these moments through writing:

8/24: Arrive in Park City, run errands and unsuccessfully attempt to get passport with "new" name expedited followed by crashing in bed for 11 hours.
8/25: More errands. Meetings. Hang with friends. Sleep for only 1 hour and have more-than-slight jetlag trauma.
8/26: Jetlag trauma unfolds into slight mental breakdown. SOS calls to mom and Keely. Feel better. Pack for Jackson.
8/27: Can't sleep. My body doesn't know what the hell to do. Wake up at 4am. Peace out of Park City for Jackson, WY. Shenanigans soon ensue with Keely. Meet new friends at the Local, stay out way later than expected. Naturally.
8/28: More Jackson time. Hiking, hanging, swimming in alpine lakes, loving life.
8/29: Back to PC. More passport adventures. More meetings. Over to SLC to hang with my dear friend Ana. Drink wine and hot tub and discuss love, relationships, the meaning of life and more until 2am. Sleep for two hours.
8/30: Awake at 4am to travel to Minneapolis for home adventures. With two phones that don't function and no GPS, attempt to make my way into Mpls to visit the government center and get more name change documents for passport. Overnight deliver documents to SLC in hopes my passport won't cost 500 dollars to expedite. See sister and her bf.
8/31-9/2: Hang with friends in hour blocks throughout the day, go to The Firm, get my hair done with Micah, work out with Spencer and Katya, drinks with Aaron, McRally and the GlamDolls reunion with a special guest appearance by Keely and including PorchWine, Dave Samuels, Michelle Quinn, the Birds of Prey crew and their childrens, Jared, Jes, Julie, Doug Melroe, Helling, etc. Saw most of the humans I wanted to see and was reminded how much Minneapolis is home. There, I can be myself.
9/2-9/4: Drive to Indiana with the sis to see the whole fam...which was so amazing. Loved catching up with all my mom, aunts, uncles, grandma, cousins, etc. What a gift! Swing by Chi town on the way home to visit with Elisse and Maysen...YAY!
9/4-9/5: Back home in Wisconsin with the pops and mom and sis. Easy living on the farm with walks, garden time, pool time. Hang with an old friend Keri for a sweet catch up.
9/6: Awake at 3:30am to fly back to SLC. Arrive and attempt, once more, to figure out passport situation. Give up and decide to change my name back on my ticket. Better luck next time. More meetings at Center of Excellence. Catch up with Justin, then pack for the Euro adventures the next morning. Stay at Chelsea's for the night, laugh, cuddle Babs, go to sleep.

Speaking of sleep, I'm tired. I need a coffee break.

9/7: Wake up early, pack, leave for Europe.
9/8: Arrive in Munich, take bags to Moevenparty. Have breakfast and eat lots of sausage and semmel rolls. Overpriced taxi to train station. 5 hour train ride to Vienna to pick up Audi. Schnitzel and sleep in Vienna.
9/9: Awake in the hostel at 3:30 to leave for Vienna airport. Pick up car from Toni. Drive to Rijeka, Croatia for Ana's amazing wedding.
9/9-9/11: Wedding festivities in Rijeka. Incredibly beautiful. So much fun.
9/11: Off to Telfes, home for a few weeks, to start Deutsch lessons in Innsbruck. Ich spreche kein Deutsch. Ich mochte helfen.

McRally and the Glam Dolls awkward family photo with Lupie cameo.

McRally and the Glam Dolls awkward family photo with Lupie cameo.

Hanging with mom and pops in Lake Geneva.

Hanging with mom and pops in Lake Geneva.

Some good family time on the lake.

Some good family time on the lake.

3/4 of the World Cup sushi crew...missing Janica!

3/4 of the World Cup sushi crew...missing Janica!

A stunning, fairy tale castle wedding celebration in Rijeka, Croatia. 

A stunning, fairy tale castle wedding celebration in Rijeka, Croatia. 

The next weekend I travel to Krumlov to visit Carolyn and Prague to see my brother and his wife, Barbara and Chicks and Czechs. Snag two tattoos in the process. A lovely, though insane, whirlwind of wonderment and wandering. Vagablonde, indeed. So you can see why I'm finally winding down now. I had thought about jetting to Amsterdam this weekend, but decided to stay in Telfes and enjoy the downtime. If there is something I'm addicted to, it's movement. Sometimes I scare even myself. I have been meditating every day for the last couple of months, which definitely grounds me, and writing helps as well...but I'm still a bit unsettled.

Where does this come from? When I was in New Zealand, a few friends commented on my energy level and how it's hard for many individuals to relate to me because I'm so high all of the time. I thought a lot about that. It's true. I recently came across the following words, "You will be too much for some people...those aren't really your people." I believe that to be true in part, but I've learned the importance of meeting people with an energy level which they can easily consume rather than bringing constant energy to every situation and expecting for that energy to be welcomed by all. With this approach, even though we might be different, we can still find a connection. And I love connection. Expectations, on the other hand, will get you into trouble. They'll fuck your mind. I don't like being mind-fucked. As my good friend Bernie says, "steady on."

My Telfes home for the month: Ferienappartment Pircher-Maes. It's lovely, quiet, spacious...and the Haus Frau Carole is wonderful.

My Telfes home for the month: Ferienappartment Pircher-Maes. It's lovely, quiet, spacious...and the Haus Frau Carole is wonderful.

When I arrived to Europe Bernie also said to me, "Welcome home." That made me smile. Because, after all, this is a home to me. Even if it feels foreign and uncomfortable at times. I listened to a song recently and the words said, "I don't know where I'm going to rest my head tonight..." Sometimes that's how I feel. I awake often with ceiling fright...not knowing where I am.

The view from the Pfarrachalm hut yesterday...

The view from the Pfarrachalm hut yesterday...

I've wandered the town and explored the mountains and I'm becoming more comfortable with sitting naked in a sauna, eating dinner with a towel around me in a restaurant and walking through the Kneippgang. Even though I don't know what I'm doing and don't know what's going on around me, I pretend. I came to start learning German lessons in a three-week course in Innsbruck before the season kicks off in Soelden, and even though ich verstehe nicht most of the time, I'm still enjoying it and I've been reminded how much learning a language helps a traveler to understand culture. My favorite words are "elf" (eleven), "schmetterling" (butterfly), "wandern" (to hike), "Schwiegerdrache" (a reference to an awful mother-in-law) and "Umarmung" (hug). Oftentimes I just say, "Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch" because I guess I can't say "Ich spreche kein Deutsch" anymore. 

Most of the time, I'm alone here. Quite often in the winter I am traveling from venue to venue alone as well. Loneliness is a weird thing. I love being alone, but being lonely is something altogether different. It's a state of mind, though, and with training, the mind can be taught to shift. I'm working to find the depth of gratitude in this solo space and treasure the time alone before the season kicks off. My days look like this: wake up, go to German class where all that is spoken is German, go home, work and sit in apartment by myself, hike or move body, make dinner. Rinse, repeat. It's kind of simple, which I'm not used to. This week I even had a hospital adventure, staying true to my habit of exploring foreign healthcare systems. I had to drop my pants to my ankles with the nurse in front of the 26-year-old male doctor (who looked sechzehn at most) and his male colleague while she put a catheter in me. That was different.

I think I started to go a little crazy, craving a meaningful conversation in English. It's strange being in such a stunning, romantic place where all I want to do is adventure, giggle, have awkward naked sauna moments and drink wine with a buddy, but I'm learning to find romance in this space and date myself. No, not like that, you pervs...really just to honor myself and love myself and enjoy my time solo as I shift from being lonely to enjoying being alone. I'll write more musings on this topic soon. It might be called, "Ich bin immer allein und immer reisen."

A "thank you", from the bottom of my heart, to friends and family around the world who remind me how loved I am and how blessed I am to have you in my life. Even though I don't always see you, I feel you with me. My time in both my Midwest and Prague homes recently was so special and taught me that there are people who understand and love and don't judge me, and those are the ones who deserve my big energy...that it's not for everyone and shall be reserved for the special ones. That's not sad...it's a beautiful thing.

Tschüss bis später...off to the mountain tops!

Me

 

Here we are. Here + now. That's all there is.

Megan Harrod

For the first time ever, I think, I feel good right where I am. I have a sneaky suspicion I've written that before, but this time I mean it. REALLY, I do. Working with both the men and women's teams, I often feel torn between two locations and two groups, yearning to experience everything...usually making it difficult to experience anything fully at all. Stuck between two worlds without the ability to live or immerse myself into the moment. Slowly, but surely, I'm learning the arts of patience and being present. It's not easy for me. But I'm trying. And that's really all we can do, right? The best we can do.

There's something about New Zealand that's...different for me. Everywhere I look, I'm in awe. The landscape is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Canterbury Plains reminds me of my Wisconsin home - vibrant green, rolling hills and a lot of dairy farms. The first three bus drivers I had on this trip each became my buddy and all spoke of the "sophisticated irrigation systems derived from the United States" among other fascinating (or so they thought) farming tidbits. Other fun facts they taught me: New Zealand's population of humans is 4 million versus their population of 35 million sheep. Don't for a moment think you'll find Merino wool cheaper here. That shit's expensive. There's an absolutely DIVINE black merino wool jacket in Tarras that is flirting with me hard. It's 575 NZ dollars, so I'm playing hard to get like never before.

I've often stumbled upon places that have inspired me, but then there are the few magic places that touch my soul and affect me in a deeper, more meaningful way. Valencia, Spain. Lahinch, Ireland. Cuzco, Peru. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. Gryon, Switzerland. And now, New Zealand. The spots that cause your soul to stir and make you think twice about how you fit into this world. The ones that you walk away from, changed...wondering when you'll go back. Or even move there.

Honestly, I might move here. I'm not kidding. 

Life is simple here. Wifi is hard to come by. I like it. Let me be clear: it makes getting anything done near-impossible and more than slightly frustrating, but at the same time it's a gentle reminder to appreciate the moment and the magic surrounding you. Here we are. Here + now. That’s all there is. Patience is a virtue.

In one day of driving around the South Island you go from green rolling hills and farmland to a scene from The Chronicles of Narnia where everything is covered in white and ice crystals, sparkling in the sunshine and beyond to the coast, where the foliage is entirely different and sometimes absurd to my eye. Of course, I ought to mention some sort of Lord of the Rings reference here, though I never actually saw any of the films, so I am not sure I’d do it justice. Let me just say that, in this land, you kind of feel like you’re endlessly looking for the Ring. Whatever that even means.

Oh the places you’ll go…

Hanmer Springs, north of Christchurch. Go there. It’s worth it. A small village with hot springs that’ll lift your spirits. Arrowtown and I fell fast and hard in love…yeah, I could move to that spot and start a little bed and breakfast/café/hostel in a heartbeat. Queenstown is rad too, but Arrowtown – DAYUM! Your sleepy little disposition…your cafes, wine bars, The Blue Door. Yep. I like you. The little fishing village of Moeraki introduced a character named “Fleur” of the famous “Fleur’s Place” and I: she shared her wisdom with me along with some Maori phrases. "KIA KAHA," she told me. Keep the strength. “It’s hard to do what you want in life. Our society doesn’t support it and make it easy. So I encourage you to fill your life with people that inspire you. Don’t let them take your soul.” As she told me these things, her eyes filled with tears that clung on to the edge of her eyelids, never spilling over. A storied soul hers was. The sweet sounds of waves crashing against rock at Tunnel Beach and the two German boys in their van with their surfboards strapped to the top and boardshorts drying out the window. Cromwell and all of its sweet fruit...behold Mt. Difficulty Winery and "Roaring Meg" pinot noir. Could this place be any more forward about how we're meant for each other? Ohau's sparkle. Ohau I love everything about that place. A liftie named "SHINE" who reminded each and every one of us that we're all brothers and sisters. "Blissed and blessed," he'd say as he calmly welcomed us onto the chairlift like each lift ride was a spiritual journey to Shangri La with Shine as our travel guide. "Moondust" he said in fascination when he asked me "What do you like to be called?" Now, Tekapo, where the lake is turquoise and I hope the hot springs heal me. Every spot tells a story and I don't want the story to end.

The few, the proud...the watering crew at Ohau...Graham, me, JJ and PK (Sasha took the photo and Alberto had already skedaddled). Craig groomed the surface and made the magic happen!

The few, the proud...the watering crew at Ohau...Graham, me, JJ and PK (Sasha took the photo and Alberto had already skedaddled). Craig groomed the surface and made the magic happen!

Moeraki Boulders, me and the sea... (PC: the lovely Giulia)

Moeraki Boulders, me and the sea... (PC: the lovely Giulia)

Fleur, sitting in her lovely Place, writing a message about strength to me in her book/Moeraki village.

Fleur, sitting in her lovely Place, writing a message about strength to me in her book/Moeraki village.

I found a pinot noir called "Roaring Meg"...it was love at first sight. And obviously made a trip to Mt. Difficulty winery to check out the origin of this unruly noir. (PC: Resi, my forever adventure buddy)

I found a pinot noir called "Roaring Meg"...it was love at first sight. And obviously made a trip to Mt. Difficulty winery to check out the origin of this unruly noir. (PC: Resi, my forever adventure buddy)

A stroll through Hooker Valley to check out Aorki/Mt. Cook. "Aoraki" means "cloud piercer" in Maori. (PC: My favorite Austrian, Martina)

A stroll through Hooker Valley to check out Aorki/Mt. Cook. "Aoraki" means "cloud piercer" in Maori. (PC: My favorite Austrian, Martina)

Sir Edmond Hillary prepared to summit Mt. Everest on the peak in front of me in this picture, underneath the sun's rays (Aoraki/Mount Cook). (PC: Ehole)

Sir Edmond Hillary prepared to summit Mt. Everest on the peak in front of me in this picture, underneath the sun's rays (Aoraki/Mount Cook). (PC: Ehole)

Shine on me, shine through me. (PC: Martina)

Shine on me, shine through me. (PC: Martina)

OHAU I LOVE TO SKI!

OHAU I LOVE TO SKI!

A quick stop in Wanaka for a ginger tea and the view. (PC: Resi)

A quick stop in Wanaka for a ginger tea and the view. (PC: Resi)

For a moment, I need to tell you about the people here. I feel compelled to share that if I could concoct a place that's the polar opposite of India it would be New Zealand. When I was waiting for my bus at the bus station, I left my bags sitting outside to go get a coffee and I didn't even worry about it. New Zealand is untouched. Authentic. Raw. Safe. If there's one place to hitchhike, it's here. I haven't done it yet, but I plan to before I leave. Everyone is so nice.

As we're getting chai in Tarras, a well-dressed, sophisticated elderly couple was staring at my Teeki moon cycle leggings...normally I'd think they were judging me, but no...they caught me catching them looking at me and they said, "Is that your skin or the fabric? Those leggings are very cool...they suit you." Seriously, New Zealand?! Your people are like Iceland meets England...your style classic and practical. Merino wool, cozy sweaters, leggings, legwarmers...simple colorblocking timeless beauty. And your babies...your babies are so rad. All the children are so behaved and so well-dressed. I've made friends with the kids everywhere I've gone. Classic...put me at the kid's table!

Though I've seen and experienced a lot, and love this country, a bug acquired in Ohau that was traveling around the lodge has slowed me down the last several days. Undoubtedly it has to do with the 11-hour on-hill watering day at Ohau (left at 6am and arrived back in Arrowtown at midnight), but I don't mind...it was well worth it and the surface was supreme for the athletes. It also gave me even more of an incredible appreciation for the work the coaches do and the labor of love they deliver daily. It's hard for me to be sick, though. I'm not used to it and I'm incredibly stubborn and impatient. It started with a migraine that turned into a sore throat and cough. I haven't been on the mountain in four days and I'm getting antsy. Yet another reminder to move slowly. I feel like I'm constantly learning. I've been meditating consistently for the last two months now (Headspace App - I highly recommend it) and it's made a considerable difference in my life. Ironically, right now I'm going through the Patience series. Fitting.

It's easy for my mind to wander to people, places and experiences, but I'm learning to accept my wandering mind and spirit and be where I am. I read this somewhere, and it resonated with me:

You will never be completely at home again. Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.

I don't know who said it, but I might as well have. Everywhere I look I see spectacular spectacles I want to share with certain souls in my life. The near-full moon rising over Lake Tekapo as I soak in the hot pools. The sparkle of the ice crystals near a little abandoned hut in Hooker Valley. The feeling of the sunshine on my face as I hike up to the ridgeline at Ohau for the view and the turns. The warmth that envelops you when you walk through The Blue Door. The stars...there are SO many and they are so bright. There are only a few that can appreciate this beauty as much as I do, but I am the only one that will appreciate this beauty like I do. So, I'm learning to quiet my mind, find simplicity and appreciate the sights for myself first, as they are gifts for me before anyone else. This is a good lesson to learn, and to share with others.

Here we are. Here + now. That's all there is.