According to my Facebook wall the end of the year is nearing…it’s full of photo collages + links to everyone’s “Year in Review”. Just for funsies I dug through a bunch of weird ads to offer up my life to an app so I could see my year in review, according to Facebook. As the screen blinked “analyzing” I got excited…maybe Facebook would remind me of some crazy day I completely forgot about. I wanted to relive that moment! Instead, it gave me a lot of selfies and nothing I had the chance to forget about it. The selfies probably say more about me than I care to admit but I was far more disappointed by how much this silly FB app missed…so I’m making my own little recap of 2015, based on the moments that were really important to me.
I’ve done a LOT with my year and while this post may flirt with that fine, gray line between “blogging” and “narcissism” I refuse to be sorry for that. I want to remember every life changing moment of 2015…and I want to tell the world that taking those terrifying leaps of faith just might be worth it. Without further ado or excuse making, here’s what I did with my version of 2015…
Shaved my Head
Last January I let a morning of “ugh, I wish I could just shave my head” escalate into a shiny bald head. Not everyone supported my decision to go from a “basic blonde” to “the bald girl” but I regret none of it. Aside from my mom’s deep now-what-did-you-do sigh I truly did not care about anyone’s opinion. Heck, I got opinions from four people before I tied up a few ponytails and took a scissors to my own hair. Four people. Everyone one of them were completely supportive and who needs more than four friends anyway? [full disclosure: three of them were co-workers who really liked to see what they could talk me into…I don’t think they thought I’d actually do it!]
When I showed up at work, friend get-togethers and social events after I shaved my head most people didn’t know what to do with me. The day after I shaved my head I had a meeting with the president of the company I worked for…he said nothing. To me. Instead he asked my team if I was okay. I’m not sure if he thought I was sick or had a gone off the deep end, but I was entertained. He wasn’t the last person to handle me with kid gloves because of my lacking hair…and the sympathetic reactions of people kind of forced me to change how I presented myself in social settings.
Rather than just stand to the side and wait for people to talk to me I had to be more forward. If I was the quiet girl in the corner people jumped to the “sick” conclusion but if I was outgoing and chatty they were much more receptive and even asked questions about the why/how of my bald head. Even now, as it’s growing out, I’ve managed to maintain my outgoing take on life — the months of forced socializing with a bald head made me realize how harmless it is to be the person making the first move.
I kept my head shiny bald/fuzzy for a few months before I started to grow it out. It’s now an odd pixie length and I keep telling myself I have to grow it at least 8 inches so I can make another donation when I chop it all off again…sorry Mom!
Traveled to Patagonia
I don’t think Logan knew what she was getting into when she sent that first “hey, want to go to Patagonia?!” email in late 2014 but I’m really glad she let me tag along for her adventure! Like everyone else on the planet “travel more” was always on my to do list but things like work schedules, student loans and other predictable excuses kept me from going for it.
When Logan gave me the perfect excuse to tiptoe into the world of travel I consulted a few friends and always finished the discussion with “well, why not?”. [it should be noted, many of these friends were the same ones that supported the chopping of my long, blonde hair…I may have selected them for these discussions based upon their enabling responses earlier in the year] My job was not excited about giving me the time off work but they claimed to support adventure so it wasn’t long before they ran out of excuses, plus…I worked overtime in the weeks leading up to my two week vacation doing 98% of my job before I even left the country.
Our trip to Chile + Torres del Paine was pretty straightforward and not unlike that of many tourists in the area — we stayed in mostly English speaking hostels, we stuck to the standard loop around the TDP National Park and we didn’t venture too far from our comfort zones. However, we also met some pretty incredible people — namely Sebastian + Bernie, two locals who took me out in Santiago on my way back to the States and Katie, an American who had left home for 2+ years just to travel. We still keep in touch, though primarily through double-taps and likes on social media. Regardless, they helped expand the edges of my comfort zone and made it easier for future “well, why not?” life choices…they are good people and the world is full of amazing, good people like them!
Quit My Stable Job
That trip to Patagonia did more than just change my perspective on world travel…it also used up ALL of my vacations days literally two days after they regenerated on my hire-versary. Oops. In reality, it was a blessing in disguise. I had only been working at this job for a year but I was already getting frustrated with the corporate red tape that kept the social team corralled into an archaic way of thinking…I knew I’d eventually need to move on so there was no way I was missing out on a trip to South America in the name of dwindling vacation time.
I figured I’d just hang onto my job until I needed more vacation time [namely, the Columbia Sportswear trip to the UTMB race in France in late August] then call it quits on the job. I didn’t last that long. While trying to figure out what to do with my life I started looking at Wilderness First Responder certifications and stumbled upon the Front Range Community College EMT program…it had a MTWR 9a-3p schedule that my office job did not approve of. Good-bye stable job!
...nothing to do with quitting my job, but life’s more fun when you have free time for snowmen in the Utah desert!
It wasn’t a financially responsible decision but it felt right. I wanted to do something new with my life…I was bored and burned out with social marketing. I’m not quite irresponsible enough to commit to a life of complete unemployment so I interviewed for and got a job at Ibotta, a web app company that is growing like crazy. My job there isn’t glamorous but it’s straightforward, remote and at a company that employs some awesome people.
Moved into my Forester
When I made the decision to quit my full time job I started crunching numbers…and adding up the “available credit” on all my credit cards. I didn’t like the numbers, something needed to change. I considered selling my car but all the miles I racked up driving from Denver to Cheyenne [roughly 1,000 miles/week for 4 months] really killed the value of my poor Forster. Besides, I love my Forester! A lot.
Rather than sell my car at a loss I decided to move into it and ditch the $700 a month I spent on rent/utilities at a house in Fort Collins. It made sense to me — rather than drive to/from Fort Collins from work/class everyday I’d save time, mileage, gas and rent money. And if people can flaunt their #vanlife all over the internet without getting kidnapped I could probably quietly move into my car without anything bad happening, right?
My poor mother was less than ecstatic about this little idea of mine. Her now-what-did-you-do sigh became “can we talk in a few days, I need to think” pleads that definitely had undertones of “maybe she’ll come to her senses”. But she knew I’d ditched those “senses” long ago and eventually she came to terms with my crazy. I explained what I was doing to stay safe + hygienic and she started to wrap her mind around it. I don’t think she’ll ever endorse it but she copes with it quite well considering her first reaction.
I spent 4 months living in my Forester without doing any fancy #vanlife modifications to it. I dropped down one back seat and stacked a few sleeping pads with a pillow + down comforter to create my bed. A collapsible cooler acted as my fridge + cupboard for all my food. My clothes were all tucked into a single three-drawer plastic drawer that had been living in my closet for years. Extra running/camping gear was stashed in the roof box atop my car.
Laundry was done every week or two at a friend’s house or laundromat and showers were taken at a local climbing gym where I often met friends before they headed into their 9-5 office jobs. I became a regular at a coffee shop near campus and popped in shortly after they opened most mornings to get my daily dose of caffeine, brush my teeth and study my heart out. It worked. I actually miss the simplicity of it. I think it’s a safe bet that I’ll be returning to my own version of #vanlife this summer…again, sorry Mom!
Side Note: My 2013 Forester XT is currently being rented through Turo, a website that brings car owners and travelers together. It’s similar to renting a standard rental car but you’re working directly with an individual through a company that handles all the liability. Plus, it let’s people rent a Subaru, something you cannot do through any big name car rental company in Colorado. If you’re in need of an AWD mountain vehicle while you’re visiting Colorado let me know — my Forester would love to come on an adventure with you! Details: Heidi’s Forester on Turo #shamelessplug
Became a Certified EMT
My excuse for quitting my full-time, stable job was to become an EMT…which is exactly what I did. I put more time + effort into a 10 week community college course than I have ever put into any aspect of my education, ever. I spent hours upon hours reading my ENTIRE 3,000+ page textbook. I highlighted things, I created flashcards, I forced my friends to act as patients…for weeks! With no medical background I was probably one of the least qualified individuals in my class but I survived, learning a TON along the way.
I am really proud of what I did during my EMT training and I passed my NREMT exam in August on my first try. I earned that certificate far more than I earned any aspect of my business degree. I am also rather ashamed that I’m not using that education right now. In my defense, I am taking some Wilderness EMS courses this winter…at the very least I’ll be prepared for some winter adventuring and glacier crossing. Yes, there are non-EMT motives behind these classes…
Lived in Europe
The biggest adventure of my year was probably my trip to Europe. I spent three months essentially living in Europe, primarily Switzerland. It all started when Columbia Sportswear sent out a “would you be interested in running the OCC race” email in 2014. Um, yes, please. I opted to add an extra week on the end of the Columbia trip…then escalated that to a 89 day trip [just within the parameters of the 90-day visitors visa]. When I left Denver in late August I had exactly one week of that 90 days planned…the week Columbia was handling for us. After that it was all plan-as-I-go, I wasn’t even sure if I’d return on the flight I had booked in November. I was going to let life happen.
Honestly, I expected to have a much more nomadic adventure in Switzerland but I really fell in love with Chalet Martin and kind of forgot to leave [check their IG feed, you’ll understand why I didn’t want to leave]! After a week with Columbia, a week trekking in the mountains and a week staying with a friend in Zurich I headed to Chalet Martin in Gryon, Swtizerland for three weeks as a Workaway’er [the volunteer part of the Workaway volunteer exchange program where my work at the hostel earned me a free place to stay]. I told them I’d stay for the three weeks they required from their volunteers…two days later I decided to stick around to help out for their October holiday. Eight weeks later I forced myself out of the country to play my tourist card in Austria and the Czech Republic.
[catch up on all the random European travel stories here: Life in Switzerland]
My time in Europe changed how I look at the world and what I expect from myself and the people around me. I become a much more relaxed person and forgot to care what other people thought of me + my life decisions. I also got a new perspective on what’s important in life. Sure, I love a lot of the things that make life easier [smart phones, dryers, dishwashers] but I have also come to miss the simplicity of face-to-face conversations, hang dried clothes and post-dinner conversation over a soapy sink of dirty dishes. Not to mention the calm peace that comes with a 2 hours hike to/from the market.
As I write this I realize I need to make some adjustments to my American life…like buying a drying rack and walking down to the grocery store simply because I can! The red wigglers worms in the mail are another step in the right direction, under-the-sink-composting will start next week!
Of course, Europe taught me more than just how dependant my life has become on all the gadgets and cars and electricity…it also made me realize how skewed first impressions can be and stirred up a desire to judge less, question more and learn another language [or three]. I’m going back…next October.
Moved to Summit County, Colorado
A few weeks before my flight back to the States I surprised myself by having a game plan for an entire 6 months. On a whim I applied for a few hospitality jobs in Summit County and had my game face [voice?] on for all my phone interviews. After nearly two weeks filled with power tools, friends, family and Thanksgiving-style overeating I dove right into the reality of adulthood in Summit County.
I essentially moved in with Robb, a friend in Silverthorne who had spent the summer storing + whoring out my gear while I lived in my car, the day before I started my job at Vail Resorts. Since then my days + weeks have been full of work with only a few hours spent using my season pass…but daily treks out the backdoor with Robb’s dog, Max, to tromp through the knee-waist deep snow have gotten me my mountain fix.
Let Myself Love
On a much more personal level the biggest accomplishment of my 2015 was within myself…I finally gave myself permission to love. Truly love, across the board. Sure, I’ve been saying “I love you” to various people my entire life but I’ve never really let myself feel the giddy excitement, terror and panic of actual love. Everything that happened throughout my year gave me the confidence to love, simply for the sake of loving. It’s been an experience…and it’s been so incredible empowering! I let myself love me, even when I suck at life. I let myself love others, even when it gave them the power to crush my heart. I let myself love life, even when it could all disappear in a moment.
Ultimately, letting the barriers around my love dissolve has led to a whole new level of happy. I know I’ve been saying “I’m happy” a lot lately, but it’s true. My life is nothing like what I expected it to be and I’m shocked I’m loving this crazy life as much as I do…I think it really is the freedom that comes with sharing love that makes me this happy. Who cares if I might lose everything tomorrow or in three seconds…the only shame is in not using and sharing everything I have right now, just in case I do lose it.
…and there you have it, my 2015 in a 2,500+ word nutshell. It’s been one helluva year and I cannot wait to see what 2016 has to offer. It might be more, it might be less but it will be something and I’m sure I can find a way to make it something worth sharing + loving.