Buckle Back Up

When I was a kid, okay, far into my teenage years, I went to summer camp. YMCA Camp Jewel: Ranch Camp for two weeks with my best friend, Kallie, whom I’ve known since I was four. She’s one of those friends that I don’t remember not knowing—just for that reason alone she’s a keeper. But she’s pretty funny, weird and goofy too, so it works out well.

            Anyway, every year her Mom would drive us to the first day of camp and would slow the car wayyyy down so we could read the signs as we approached the entrance:


“Slow down”

“You’re moving way to fast”

“We’ve got to make”

“These moments last.”


Each line was on a different sign that was separated by about 30 feet. Kallie and I would literally be unbuckled trying to scoot the car faster so we could meet our councilor, bunkmates, and our horse for the next two weeks. (Mind you, we were really cool 15 year-olds.) Her Mom would be creeping along, going on and on about the signs, and how these next two weeks are going to “fly by,” blah blah blah get us to summer camp freedom!!

I get it now. I still find myself on the edge of my seat trying to scoot myself through to the next adventure, but now I’m consciously telling myself to slow [the effffff] down. I could get even more cliché and remind you (while reminding myself,) that “Life is a journey not a destination.” but that would be lame and predictable and typical expat-traveler talk.

As I wrap up my time in Kamphang Phet, Thailand and embark on a solo backpacking trip through Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia I’m scared that I’m going to rush through it. That I’m going to be riding a motorbike up a mountain and be wondering what the beach is going to look like next week. Or be lying on the beach and thinking about my friends that I cannot wait to see when I land in Oregon in May—

My goal, my one and only goal for traveling these upcoming months is to slow down. I can talk a good talk about doing this, but I know that I will struggle. I know that this idea of taking it all in, not looking so far ahead that I forget where I am, is going to be extremely difficult for me. But this is a challenge that I’ve put myself in and will learn to sit back in my seat and read each sign, sing the song, look at the mountains and notice the sand between my toes.

Ass Crack Hour Before Dawn

I currently started waking up at 3:55am twice a week. Why the hell would you do that? You ask? Well, the YMCA in my town opens at 5am and I hold the key to turn on the lights and treadmills at 4:30am. It’s cold and foggy and nothing but 7-11 is open that early, or late, depending on how you look at it.  In the past if I was awake at 3:55am it’s because I had yet to go to bed, now I’m responsible for the opening shift twice a week! Coffee makes me less of a zombie, people watching keeps me going until noon every Monday and Wednesday.

I have been living in the Pacific North West for just over two months now. When I arrived I was in awe at all of the beautiful people here. Young, thirty-ish couples and families buying organic food at the Co-op, older people hiking further than me in the park, kids biking and walking to school with out complaint. This part of the country is just healthier than the east coast and the mid west.

Working at the Y has opened my eyes to the true effect of the PSW or at least the attitude of the people here. First I’ll describe my job after I turn on the lights and the machines at the ungodly hour of 4:30. I then unlock the doors at 5 and let the masses in! And by masses I mean the 60+ year olds waiting outside in the dark. The majority of people waiting for my turn of the key are retired men and women that are used to being up at the ass crack hour BEFORE dawn. These people greet me with my name, a smile and the weather report and then go on their way through the door to swim, lift and elipt the morning away before the sun peaks his head above the mountains.

I’m forced to think about my family back in the eastern part of the country while I’m meeting all these people out west. I see elderly men and women the same age or older than my grandparents looking young and sprightly! Up early, being social and active. I compare and contrast the 50 some things to my parents who are both active, but live further east. My mother in the Midwest with stresses of Yacht Club meetings, Christmas parties and her marketing job; working out and being outside become low man on the totem pole when life gets thrown at her. My Dad who is a recent Colorado resident has stresses of a new job, moving, meeting people; he’s bombarded all day and going for a hike isn’t high up on priorities.

As the morning carries on the age group varies to young high school boys, to 40 some business people, to octogenarians that resemble people my parent’s age! There’s a woman that comes every time I work and when she scans her membership card I have to double check every time, her age claims she’s 94—she looks about 62, a 62 year old that looks good!

I scare myself some times. As I’m sitting at the desk trying to keep my eyes open and brain active beautiful men and women come in and I play a game with myself. The game is ‘guess their age!’ Most of time I find myself oddly attracted to the men that look 30 but are actually 45 year olds that just look so youthful, (don’t worry Mother, I’m not going there.)

I can only attribute this amazing beauty and youthful look to the air, the mountains and the amazingly active lifestyle people in the PNW maintain all their lives. I think people here in Oregon make vitamin D intake precedence. Sunshine is not a luxury but a necessity in their daily lives.

Seeing these people and constantly being surprised by their age is inspiring me to explore, constantly push myself physically, mentally and hope that when I’m 34 I’ll look 24, when I’m 64 I’ll look 56, when I’m 86 I’ll look 72! We can only hope, right?