When I was growing up we didn't go on a lot of vacations. My dad had multiple sclerosis (MS), worked a very demanding job as a CFO for a Fortune 500 company, and my mom held that whole ship together... so travel just didn't happen a whole lot. I dreamt of being wisked away and traveling the world most of the first eighteen years of my life.So when I left my howetown and went to college, I went and I never looked back. Ever since that time oh so many years ago, I have dedicated myself to saying "Yes!" to travel whenever it presented itself to me. Russia, Africa, Peru, Europe, anywhere I could get I got. Travel and adventire are a foundation of what Girlchef is about, so this is a space for discovering and sharing that.
I first took Girlchef full time in 2004. I was 34 years old, living in a tiny town in Kansas, with a boyfriend who I knew I really didn't care for very much. My business had no money, and no plan. I had it in my mind that I was going to take a trip... a long trip, and figure that all out. I embarked on a month long tour of a variety of state and national parks. Starting in Omaha I wound my way through the Lewis & Clark trail, down the California coast, and then back east through Zion and the other "red" parks. In every park I developed spice blends unique to that place. It was the first time I really tackled place based food and cooking, and it was a revelation.
I was terrified to take this trip - a single woman traveling alone, no real itinerary, camping alone in whatever state or national park I came upon. It was a call. I needed to go. The first night I camped alone was amazing; I felt such an incredible sense of liberation. No one was trying to kill me. As I continued to travel I found that over and over. If anything, I was a mild curiosity - this blonde chic in her truck turned mobile tent. In the Badlands I was adopted by a biker gang there for Sturgis. They took me to the back country camping site where I woke up with a bison sound asleep next to my Honda Element. Bison appeared again when they surrounded my truck in Yellowstone and quietly accompanied me for several miles down the road... close enough to touch.
So many times on that trip I took risks I shouldn't have... I hiked Grinnell Glacier with one bottle of water in my bag, and nothing else. Oblivious to bears and every other danger. I entered Death Valley through a back entrance, not knowing the park was closed because it was the flooding season. On Glass Beach I wandered into a cove when the tide was comng in, and nearly didn't make it out. They say God looks out for drunks and fools. At least I had those two things going for me.
What I learned on that trip still resounds in me today. The immense beauty and diversity of this country astounded me. The wildness of it, but also the welcoming. Not just the people welcomed me, but the animals - the goats who trapsed up the slopes of Geyser National Park, and all thoe bison! I learned how to be alone, and I learned how to adventure. Stop at every roadside spot. Eat that thing on the menu you've never heard of. Talk to the stranger at the bar.
That period in my life was the beginning of a deep sorrow that would push me to the brink of myself in the years to come, but on this trip I learned that I could find solace in natural places. The trees in Olympia National Park listened to me cry, and they lent solace in the slowly moving shadows of sunlight as the days moved into night. Perhaps the most imporatnt thing I learned on that trip was to get lost, without neccessarily knowing how to get found again, because lost is a place; and sometimes lost is the best place you can find yourself.