Unplugged: Getting Off the Grid

Serenic Connection
Serenic Connection

It’s a pretty normal week day as I stroll into work.  I make my way to my office and plop down in my chair.  Now, I’m typically a wake up and go kind of person so I have not caught up with the world yet.  I start going through my phone.  I quickly check the news and see if anything big has happened overnight.  Then I make my way to Instagram and Facebook.  I scroll a bit and check the notifications.  In the past few months my job has evolved on the digital marketing side, from overhauling the website, to collecting more and more content (photos, interviews, videos, stories, etc.), to constantly updating our digital mediums.  Point being, I have became even more in tune with the digital world then I already was personally.  Ok, I’m done with the phone so I log into my computer and open the web browser.  This is where the click happens, not the click I make with my mouse but the click in my head.  The very first thing I click is the Facebook bookmark.  I ask myself in this moment, “What is wrong with me?” I just looked at Facebook on my phone and here I am looking at again on my computer.  I was not happy with myself.  I had grown into a habit that was taking me from reality.  I was being possessed.  It was sickening.  I needed to do something to get back in touch so the next thing I did was do one of the things I have come to know best.

I knew the fix I was proposing in my head had to be done right, no shortcuts. I like to think I blaze my own trail despite others most of the time but I know I at times can have a small case of FOMO (fear of missing out) so simply locking myself in a basement is not going to work.  However, in order to not sell this short I had to truly go off the grid.  Some things had to come together.  I needed the right people and I needed to do something that exercised my mind.  Who can I get in touch with?  What can I do that will immerse me and take me off the grid mentally?  Now, this is November so it’s late in the year and it’s already been a monumental year for me, especially when it comes to getting around the world, but if you know me you know I always like to go out with a bang.  It’s got to be a fantastic finish!  It’s just my nature.  I’ve tested myself so much this year so I had to do something that ended it on a high note, put a stamp on it.  How am I going to accomplish this?  My first thought is that somewhere new is a requirement.  That means I suppose I better hop in one of those tin cans that fly high in the sky, naturally.  This is the basis of how I planned to disconnect, to unplug.  Picture an old tube TV shutting down.  The top and bottom collapses into a white horizontal line and then flashes to a ball in the middle and the screen goes black.  This is what I was seeking.  It was the only way.


Note:  Before I go forward I want to point out that not everyone has the opportunity or means to try to find clarity, purpose, or whatever else the same way I have been able to.  Sure I have worked a ton of hours and given up a lot of pastimes to seek these new opportunities but I have been very fortunate over the last year to pursue my travel dreams and I have been blessed with flexibility as well as great family and friends.  That is rare.  I am privileged and thankful and I don’t take it for granted.  Life can change in the blink of an eye which is why I give my best to take advantage of it in the ways I love.  So this is my story filled with my realizations, moments, feelings, and understandings in my own unique way of finding them.


Forewarning this is going to seem like a travel journal, better yet, an adventure journal.  Remember adventure can be a relative term in how you look at it.  For me, it’s all about my discoveries on my journey; mentally, physically, and spiritually.

 

So, here is where the story begins…

This is how it all came together.  Less than a month before it all took place my mind is playing travel agent.  It’s like, “where can I go fiscally reasonable and who do I know?”  Traveling doesn’t have to be that expensive and there are a lot of good hacks out there.  I can share those another time.  Just ask.  Initially I wanted to leave the country but that is a pretty bold task.  That didn’t work but nevertheless it came together in the most unique way.  First, I reached out to my friend Heather who lives in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Backstory:  Heather and I met six years ago in a Seattle pub.  My buddy and I were on a massive west coast road trip and after perusing around Seattle we realized we had not eaten so we meandered around and found this place at about 11 PM called the Blarney Stone (maybe it’s coincidence that legend says the Blarney Stone is supposed to give the gift of eloquence as I tell this story).  Bad news.  The grill was closed,  but Heather was gracious enough to offer us some chips and salsa and of course the “liquid meal” was on tap. We ended up chatting for a few hours about our journey and the area and then exchanged information.  We stayed in touch via Facebook, the biggest platform to connect people.  Now isn’t that interesting how a story built on disconnecting is pieced together with a friendship found through connecting on Facebook?

Anyways, every year she would invite me to this massive Labor Day weekend party she hosted near her home in Seattle; dance floor, live music, pig roast, etc.  I could never make it work.  Her and her husband even stayed in my apartment in Colorado Springs while they were traveling through when I was in London.  We hadn’t seen each other since that night at the pub.  I think that is what was so special about the unconventional friendship.  She got it.  I got it.  You make friendships, you foster them in different ways and they open doors, or dreams.

Now for the last three years she has been living in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We’d talk from time to time about a visit but never made it past talk.  Now, with my upcoming opportunity to use some flex time at work I asked her if the time around Thanksgiving would work.  She replies that she will make it work.  “Come on down.”  This was totally rad because she was in her first semester back in school in a very, very long time and she was working her ass off.  As I write this I still can’t believe she was cool enough to let a random pub encounter/Facebook friend stay on her couch for a few days, let alone share her world and community.  Just like that a trip had aligned and it was to an awesome destination!

Wait, did I just book a trip to go stay with someone I hadn’t seen in six years, in which was only for 2-3 hours?  Um…yep.  I would say it’s rare that I ever get 100% in right away on a trip but even if I’m 60% it might as well be 100% because in my mind I’m like f#*@ it.  Let’s do it!  I know not everyone can do that but it really has done some extraordinary things for me and taken me to some fascinating places.  While this trip was in the making to be pretty random and off the cuff I knew if it was awkward I have become pretty adept at making the best of it.  Least of all, I learn from it.

That’s only half of it!  It doesn’t stop there.  I was going to the Caribbean, first time ever, and going somewhere that is part of me, being near water.  Water is calming for me.  It’s therapeutic and it soothes my mind.  It’s like it removes any weight on my shoulders and makes hours feel like minutes.  It provides freedom and dials in the moment for me.  That’s only one half though.  The other half is the mountains and hills.  This is where I become the renegade, the adventurer.  Where water may placate my mind, the mountains activate it.  Both recharge it in different ways.  I love exploring new terrain and views.  Making the journey to a viewpoint, especially off the beaten path, invigorates me.  I feel like I’m in a time way before me.

This where the next part comes in.  I have two friends who are possibly the most free spirited people I know, Heather and Ben.  Ben and I met ten years ago working a summer maintenance job in my hometown.  Man did we have fun together at that job with all of our mischief.  Ben grew up about 20 minutes from me.  We probably crossed paths many times before but never knew it.  We’d work together again the next summer at the same job but if I have to give a ton of credit for getting me on my track in life I have to give it to him.  He was from a town smaller than me and he was going to study at the University of Hawaii.  He showed me the world isn’t flat.  It doesn’t drop off at the edge of town.  He opened my mind to possibility, not just dreaming possibility but doing possibility.  I changed my major from pre-medicine to sports management, business, and psychology that following semester and here I am, making my world a little bit bigger.  Ben and I probably see each other once or twice a year but we pick up right where we leave off and have the most fun possible with our shenanigans.

Not too long after I confirm with Heather I am on a  phone call with Ben catching up.  We are discussing a pending visit I had been promising for months.  Ben took a contract job earlier this year and moved to North Carolina with his girlfriend Sarah.  I love North Carolina (no not just because of the Tar Heels) so the trip was inevitable.  Little did I know it would come together with this one.  He starts going off about the Appalachian Trail and camping and hiking.  Instantly my mind fires.  I’m like, “I can be in the mountains, camping, and isolated from the world.”  You can’t find a better way to check off the criteria for disconnecting and going off the grid than that.  I knew I had to make this all come together.  You know that thing that plays into everything in life, timing?  This couldn’t have been timed better.  The route to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands went through Charlotte and it was the best price.  It was right near Ben and Sarah.  Boom!  I set up a 3-way trip and the wheels were in motion.  Sea and mountains, awesome friends, and two spots that took me off the grid.  So with about two weeks before I become the jetsetter my boss has come to call me, I book it.  It’s all very random.  It’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.  It’s not the typical or traditional but I love it.  Some may ask, why?  I ask, why not?

That was quite a long backstory but I think it’s just as important to the idea and what I was trying to accomplish because I always do believe the people are what make it happen.  Giving the story behind our friendships paints the picture of who they are and how they helped me. Being disconnected for me means equally being connected with the people, whether it be the friendships or the acquaintances.  That means getting intertwined with the human connection behind it all.  Ben, Heather, and Sarah are all part of what made my experience of unplugging what it is, not just the opportunity they provided.


All set.  It’s time.  Time to unhook.  In order to reconnect there had to be a disconnect.  At this point I can taste it.  I simply knew that this plan was going to get me in touch with reality and it was invigorating because the connection I could sense deep down was not going to be gained through my phone, but through the real world around me.  The day had come.  Just a day after I had been running around trying to get in touch with different family members for Thanksgiving.  Now I was seeking to get out of touch.

First things first.  I had to delete temptation.  I deleted the apps I click at habit; facebook, snapchat, and instagram, all gone.  “If I don’t see it, I don’t know it” is my thought.  Next I turn off all notifications.  No sports updates.  No emails.  No calls.  No text messages.  No nothing.  Lastly, I made a couple rules, at least through the first part of the trip.  While I claim my phone was shutting off, technically it was not because I made the exception it was in airplane mode so I could still use the camera and maybe for taking notes.  My first rule was that I would send one text and that was to my brother on his birthday.  The other rule was that I could only have a maximum of 5 minutes of screen time a day.  That meant most photo or note review would be when the trip commenced.  Those rules seemed fair.  Other than that d-i-s-c-o-n-n-e-c-t-e-d.  I’m so used to having my phone in my hand and checking it so deleting the apps was huge in letting me let it go.  If there wasn’t a notification I wasn’t checking.  Out of sight, out of mind.

After a delay and an extra flight I was finally ready.  I had one more flight to go and I would be in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I had to make my final confirmation.  I was even ready to step back 20 years or so and plan a pick-up solely based on flight information.  I messaged Ben with my flight information and told him I was shutting my phone off.  I was set to rely on trust and remove the instant confirmation we as society have found as second nature.  It’s like when we arrive at someone’s house and say “I’m here” in a text message.  That was out of the equation and I was prepared to roll the dice like people used to.  Our connection was still days away but I thought to myself I’m either all-in or not at all.  He confirmed and we were set.  I boarded that flight and the moment was there.  Time to take off and time to swipe right.

This next part is one of the moments I’m going to call ‘Tuning In’.  I made it a priority to pack a notebook so I could find some time to write, straight up pen and paper.  This is where people used to turn the dial on the radio to hear the live message because these moments were written in real time.

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Tuning In

Wheels are up.  There, I did it.  I swiped right.  I swiped right for pure beauty, for something the eyes could only capture in that moment.  So translucent.  So vibrant.  So transiently magnificent.  No, I didn’t swipe right for a person.  I swiped right to turn off my phone and look right out the window.  My eyes filled with awe as I recognized the astonishing color in the sky while the plane pierced through the clouds.  I’d seen so many of these before but this one in this very moment stood toe-to-toe with them.  “Give me that horizon.”  It’s a saying my buddy Erik and I used to say when we got in the car for a road trip and nothing but open road ahead of us.  Well, in this instance that horizon represented a sky representing the day coming to an end and the night setting in.  As the plane found openings in the clouds I could see the city lighting up for the evening.  It’s own beauty contrasting the skyline against the coastline with the sky giving some silhouette of it all.  Above the majestic horizon beating a deep reddish orange against the dark landscape line.  The color so saturated throughout the sky.  My eyes rise as the orange transitions into yellow, still thick, and into light blue and then into the night sky where the stars are rearing into view.  But, between that yellow and blue lies the haze of green often missed amongst the sunsets.  However, this one is so full that its rarity gives the full depth to it all.  To cap it off, now above the clouds, the edges of them all showing their soft and fluffy nature.  I’m caught.  There is nothing between my eyes and my gaze at this moment.

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Touchdown!  One last thing to check off.  I had to play one song to get this all started.  “Wild Again” by Starship just had to be played.  A few years ago I messaged Heather that she had to see the movie Cocktail because it reminded me of her, a bartender who moves to the Caribbean.  That’s the movie nerd in me.  So I blasted that on my iPod while the plane taxied in.  Seemed right, right?

Ok, my feet were officially in the Caribbean.  The best part, I would have no reception anyways (Verizon doesn’t work in the VIs).  Initially my thought was how am I going to connect with Heather.  I had to wait a bit and it’s dark.  I’m in a place I had never been and honestly had no idea what to expect.  Here is where I’m going to drop my first travel tip on you.  The best thing you can lose when traveling is perfection because it never works in the way you envisioned.  Adapt that and you are golden because often the imperfections become perfect.  Think back to a great trip you have been on.  I can bet some of the memories you share are always the hiccups or detours you faced and now laugh about.  I know I for one love that part of it all.  Here I am waiting for someone’s voice I hadn’t heard in six years about to pick me up, anticipating that moment.  Weird huh?  The moment came.  Heather picked me up and instantly we both laugh at how crazy this all is.  She anticipated it the best way possible in my book.  She pulls out two craft beers and points out there is no open container law in the Virgin Islands and then cracks them open with the door latch inside the door.  One bottle breaks.  Oh well, we still have one.  I’m not condoning drinking and driving but in this case a celebratory drink is imperfectly perfect.

We proceed to do a little catching up on the past six years on our way to a local spot that many of Heather’s friends are at.  A band is in town for the weekend.  She is very excited to see them perform and for good reason.  They were very good!  Beebs and Her Moneymakers is a group composed of guitars, drums, a sax, a trumpet, and a flute.  There is just something special about hearing live music in a tropical location.  It triggers something inside you.  Meanwhile, I’m meeting friends of Heather’s left and right.  She is like a celebrity.  Every person is excited to see her.  This is my first realization of how special this place is.  It reaffirms my perception of her character.  I didn’t make a mistake by coming to visit.  Also, I’ve barely been on the ground for a few hours and I catch myself doing something I am terrible at typically.  I’m remembering everyone’s name.  That just never happens for me.  Maybe it’s an ability to hang onto a thought longer now that I know my phone is off.  My phone is not even a thought in my head.  As I’m meeting these new people I’m noticing the connections.  There really is no agenda.  I’m truly in the moment.  I’m learning a little bit about their story.  I’m learning things about the Islands.  One guy teaches me the extra piece to the traditional handshake that is common in the VIs.  It’s the one where you shake and then slide into locking fingertips and then giving a fist pound but at the end you pound the clenched fist on your heart.  I could tell in that moment that the people of this place are passionate and caring.  I was this outsider visiting yet they were all so friendly and warm towards me.  I was already blown away and it all just started.

Later in the night I’m having a conversation with one of Heather’s dearest friend’s, Patrick.  We are talking about the water a bit.  He is the captain of a boat.  Of course I’m going to be drawn into that conversation.  To be the captain of a boat is a dream aspiration of mine.  Then Heather disappears to mingle with some other friends and we keep talking.  At this point I’ve told him the crazy story of how I came to be there.  I could tell when Heather introduced me to him that he means a lot to her.  He is always there for her.  Let’s face it, anytime someone blazes their own trail they still need great people around them.  I know there have been many of them on my own trail.  Then he goes on to tell me all these great things about Heather.  I instantly knew that Pat was a true real friend who gave a damn and was the kind of friend everyone needs.  Heather is blessed to have that friendship.

This is the first night and my awareness is already taking in so many deeper observations.  I’m loving it.  I’m seeing things that challenge me to grow and testing my perceptions and forming new thoughts.  I’ve done some pretty big trips this year already, Thailand and South America.  I can recall having many moments that brought out many thoughts and feelings but were never explored enough, mainly due to the distractions and progressive nature of those travels.  This trip was finally doing what I was seeking.  I may be someone who looks at the connection of it all more than others but don’t get me wrong, I do make sure to just have fun as well.  To me, if I can have fun and find some deeper conscientiousness to it all then it’s going to be more vivid later, I’ll learn something, and I’ll truly appreciate everything about it.

The night commences with a drive up to the viewpoint on St. Thomas.  First off, this isn’t some romantic moment in the sense of Heather and I.  It is however romantic in an idealistic way.  Here we are with the cool night air overlooking the bay with the city below us.  It’s that viewpoint you see in the movies.  Heather is a friend of mine, that’s it, but it doesn’t mean one can’t appreciate good meaningful conversation together.  In this instance what is more conducive to a one-on-one talk about life and our first full chance to catch up on the last six years?  What better way to bring it all full circle? Because that moment was so vivid I believe my memory of it will be vivid.


First full day off the grid.

I’m not sure you can fully describe it in its purest form.  A lot of times when you go places the place is prepared for you to experience this sense of calmness and serenity.  Waking up this morning was the at home feeling you get waking up at a good friend’s.  The catch, however, is as I peel my eyelids from my eyes and look out the screen window I see my friend gazing out on the veranda, coffee in hand, at the vast view of the tropical paradise.  She has seen it so many times but it still catches her.  The feeling is so fresh.  It’s surreal.  I didn’t expect to 20161126_123413520_iOSwelcome the day feeling so comfortable.  It’s whispering breeze sets in as I climb into the hammock on the breathtaking overlook.  This recipe is perfect to months of work and business.  Maybe it’s the unique circumstances that placed me in this moment.  That definitely is an element that makes it special.  Heather and her roommate, Jessie, blended hospitality that is so heartwarming and reassuring.  I’m in a new place but it feels so peaceful.

You know the Folger’s commercials where you’d see the person bringing the cup to their face and instantly feeling a sense of relaxation as they let out a smile or the Coke ones where the person would crack the Coke can open and then take a drink and let out a deep exhale?  To sum up the start of the morning, that’s how it felt…  Then it got rolling.  Heather had to work so I was on my own.  I got some suggestions but from there it was using my experience and interactions to explore the day.  I hopped on the local shuttle/taxi called the Safari to head to Red Hook.  It was there that I would catch the ferry to St. John.  St. John is an island that is 60 percent National Park.  I know my plan was to hit up a National Park on the North Carolina part of my trip but this was unexpected and exciting.  I arrived and first things first, I needed some food. Plus, I was in the Caribbean so a little rum wasn’t a bad way to start the day, right?  I ate and chatted with some locals.  One man and I got to talking about Tim Duncan and his childhood on the islands which was a very cool perspective to me.  We both delighted in our passion for the game of basketball.  He proceeded to ask me about my background and shared his position with the economic development of the islands which turned into discussion on Olympic development.  You know I was very intrigued now.  This was the most unexpected encounter for the day and a very inspiring start.

From there I headed out to do some hiking.  It is a Saturday but I was visiting at the perfect time.  The busy season had not yet hit so the trail was quite quiet.  That’s fine.  I absolutely love that!  When I’m on a path or find one that not many have been on the kid inside me comes alive.  I’m exploring.  I’m observing.  Everything is new and raw.  It’s that feeling of discovery that you know is rare.  The excitement, curiosity, and uncertainty makes you feel like you are on a quest just like in the fables you’d read and hear about as a kid, even if it’s just a short day hike.  There are little quests in and of that.  In my head I’m wandering down the trail and thinking who I may meet, what angle or perspective may I see that no one else has, or what great thought may form as I have plenty of time to ponder.  With just my notebook and my camera I feel like I have the mediums to capture just what I want on this little adventure.  It was all I needed.

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Tuning In

I’ve been sitting on this park bench at the top of the viewpoint overlooking the bay.  Not a soul has joined me for the last half hour.  The view is stunning.  It goes for miles overlooking all the nearby islands.  I already used my camera to capture different shots.  Much like any other photographer I know I still didn’t capture the shot that says the true story, but I sure do love having my camera with me.  I’m sure all the little gecko/salamander creatures enjoyed the spotlight time I gave them.  The hermit crabs not so much.  The moment up here takes me back to my youth.  As I gaze and contemplate I hear all the boats going in and out of the bay.  It’s that distant noise that reminds me of being on the farm and laying in the grass on a summer day with the faded sound of my dad in the tractor out in the field.  There is a strong breeze from the Tradewinds brushing the trees and it tickles my ears.  I remember thinking as a kid in those moments as the wind blew around me and the sun’s soft warmth snuck through the trees that there really can’t be much better in life.  The setting is different but trade the boats for tractors and the sea for fields and it’s relative.  Now, with paradise in focus, that bliss and ecstasy has stood the test of time, still not much better.

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From the mid-day hike to the local brewery to the ferry roundabout with Heather to the late night on the islands, the day was fulfilling and complete.  I did so many of my favorite things and once again met a bunch more fun people.  The more I look at my progression through life I always come back to some of the same things and it’s exactly those, finding the things you love to do and the people that make it enjoyable.  Sometimes those change and are hard to figure out but once you know yourself it comes together and damn, it become one wild ride.  In my case, I’m with people I don’t even know but I’ve also realized that meeting those people is one of my favorite things to do.  They show me new things and they show me more about the world and myself.  There was relating with Cus because he noticed my shirt said Bayside Tigers and instantly we got storytelling about our childhood crush on Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell.  Then there was seeing Alyssia again for the second night and receiving the most welcoming hug I had received in my life from someone I met so recently.  It was so fuzzy and I instantly felt like I was accepted into this new place, less than 24 hours there.  That was the Island’s greatness right there.  There was John from England and I hashing out our affinity for travel quests.  To top it off there was Renee and Janis at the same local spot as us that night.  They were two fellow Minnesotans who shared the same flight hiccups as me the day before.  Here we are running into each other again.  We chatted quite a bit and simply shared that “Minnesota Nice” company.  By the end of the night Heather and I are inviting them on our boat trip.  The connections in life that come together are little miracles.  I truly believe that.  Today encapsulated this trip for me so far for that reason.  I wouldn’t be in the Virgin Islands right then if it weren’t for that very reason.  So to sum up the day and shutting my life off to the rest of the world, the “in the moment” feeling was at it’s peak and heightened on this day.  I didn’t think about anything else going on except what was in front of my face.  It was freeing.  It was refreshing.  Once again I was remembering all the new faces.  For someone who is so connected all the time, whether it be with people or happenings of the world, it felt like I was being re-tuned by disconnecting.  The best part was that I was just getting started.


The morning came way too fast.  I was a little tired.  However, that was nothing a little caffeine couldn’t fix.  Something I’ve noticed when I’m away is that I’m a lot more willing to try things or have things I don’t typically have on a daily basis.  When I saw Jana order an iced chai tea I decided that would be my pick-me-up too.  That was also the start of a fix that would go the course of the trip and beyond.  I mean, what better time to start something new.  Now anytime I drink chai tea I’m going to think of that day and this trip.  From there it was time to get my “Captain Ron” on!  I always loved that movie as a kid.  I even busted out my 80’s wig a couple years ago and went as him for Halloween (believe it or not but there were actually a couple people who caught on who I was).  I may have not been going on a sail boat nor was I the captain but today was the boat trip day on the Caribbean!  Major props to Heather for organizing the trip and taking a full day off.  It was another example of the rockstar she is.  She is taking the day off from work when she has a huge paper due because she wanted to be the greatest host (award earned).  I actually think she needed the trip to recharge as well.

The eight of us headed out on the sea as the Captain Alex fired up the twin engines.  An immediate sensation filled me.  The wind at my face as we ventured out into the open water.  It was soothing and therapeutic.  I grew up on the lakes of Minnesota and always longed for friends to take me out on their boats and now my dream of doing it in Caribbean like I fantasized was reality.  Being on the water is invigorating and refreshing.  I would look at the horizon worry-free and see the sea’s compassionate and enchanting nature.  She is magical and mysterious but if you don’t respect her she is unforgiving and undefeated.  Today she was what you envision.  Then I would look at Heather standing with her hair in the wind and

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Heather

notice that, while I had these feelings and this state of being at peace, she had it at another level.  It had become part of her and was like her soul was at peace.  It took her to a place she belonged.  You could just see it.  She had been away too long and needed to be connected with the sea again.  It was exciting to witness.  I was envious yet thankful to experience a portion of that feeling.  We navigated around the U.S. Virgin Islands as Alex and Heather pointed out facts and experiences and made our way to the British Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, in between simply enjoying the ride, the music being played only amplified the good vibes and from time to time some of us would dance a bit.  I had just met all these people and it was like we were all friends.  My favorite was Josh and I dancing at the front of the boat as Alex navigated the waves.  Such a good time.  There was so much joy shared by everyone on the boat.  You could tell everyone was trying to soak it all in yet we all knew no matter how hard we tried it wasn’t possible.  Other than capturing a few pictures and videos I was simply loving how much my awareness was heightened.  I wasn’t trying to get it on Snapchat or posting on Instagram or Facebook.

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I didn’t know the difference between the places that were all slated to go for the day so it was all going to be great in my book but Heather and Alex had a plan in place and I think it’d be quite hard to beat.  The first stop featured an island with wondrous coral just below the surface.  This was the time I had been excited for.  I had packed my underwater housing for my camera and that meant the moment to test my new 35mm lens underwater was here.  The dsc09072.jpglast time I was able to do this was scuba diving but I was still a rookie with my camera and trying to balance the nuances of diving at the same time.  Now I was more in tune with my camera and ready to capture what was beneath the surface.  The day couldn’t have been any better.  With the sun out and sapphire blue waters, the coral was vivid in color and the fish were abundant, ranging in all colors.  I strolled around with my snorkel, hovering in and out and above coral, avoiding scrapes and startling fish.  I even tried a couple free dives (That art definitely needs work).  Snap after snap I tried to encapsulate the beauty that was in front of my eyes but I couldn’t do anything near justice.  My admiration for underwater photographers is still very high.  As if photography above the surface is a challenge in so many ways, photography below the surface is on a whole other level (catch how I just played that? Ha).  It still brought out the kid in me.  I could have been there for hours but there was still a lot on deck for the day.

The next stop was a place called Saba Rock.  Located not far from Richard Branson’s private island was this very small island that featured a restaurant and that was it.  It was our destination for lunch.  Naturally, we all had to share the moment in our journey with a beverage before perusing around to the lounge side of the island where some lounge chairs and a hammock were located.  If there was a moment in the day where everyone on the boat became connected I think this was it.  We all got comfortable for a minute and gazed at the sea and horizon in front of us.  All of us strangers taking a few moments to connect.  Sean and I were on very similar trips.  He was visiting Chris who was pretty new to the VIs.  We were first

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Renee, Janis, and I

timers to the islands trying to absorb it all.  Renee, Janis, and I were so excited for this opportunity that of course we had to get a Minnesota hammock picture together.  After finishing our lunch we hopped back on the boat and headed to The Baths.  The Baths are a magnificent spot located in the British Virgin Islands featuring large boulders that harbor pools of water from the sea.  Alex anchored and we all jumped in to swim to the shore.  The Baths were quite remarkable and something I had never experienced before.  There were some trails and ropes to help navigate between rocks with little inlets like rooms here and there.  In one big room was the spot where the famous Tyra15230596_10210228626543390_4252475796845384919_n Banks Sports Illustrated shot was taken.  Of course, all the girls had to get their picture taken there.  This was officially me checking off visiting another country on the trip.  Honestly, I had no idea it was coming so it was a pleasant surprise and actually helped me achieve my original goal.  That also meant I had to collect my traditional sand from the beach so I climbed into some brush to find an empty bottle.  Disgusting how people litter like that but at least I could collect now.

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The Baths, British Virgin Islands

Onward we went to our last stop, the Willy T.  The Willy T was a floating bar located in the bay of one of the islands.  We boarded the double decker boat for a few minutes.  There is a tradition when boarding the Willy T and that is once you finish your business you are suppose to jump off from the second deck.   There are also some other schenanigans to the tradition but I’m going to leave that out.  However, with no real countdown to the jump the six of us participating were not in unison on our jump but our amazing photographers on the boat caught one of the most hilarious jump pics.  As the trickle effect went from left to right, basically each jumping after one another, Renee somehow ended up sideways.  Thanks Renee.  That was too funny!  I swear we relived the jump from the pictures for a good five to ten minutes.  It was one of the peak highlights from the day.  As we headed back, the aura of the day was in full force.  The music was playing and making each final moment on the boat that much more exciting and unforgettable as we darted across the sea.  There was “Closer” by Halsey and the Chainsmokers which had a great vibe and then there was “On the Safari”, an island remake off the “Bugatti” by Ace Hood which brought laughs even for the non-locals.  My favorite was when Alex put on “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.  I’ll forever remember all of us dancing and every lyric resonating.  At this moment the sun was setting.  It was perfect.  The feeling was electric.  As Justin says, “got that good song in my feet…got this feeling in my body!”

The day would end at a spot called Island Beach Pub that I swear has some of the best pizza I’ve ever had.  Well,  that could just be because we were on the boat all day.  We tried to soak in a few more of moments of the experience of the day.  It meant spending some more time with Jana and Josh who are simply some of the best people I met on the trip.  They have such a great relationship and I truly enjoyed experiencing the day with them.  I also got to know Chris and Sean a little more and have some toasts to seal the day.


It’s my last day and at this point in the trip I’ve experienced more than I had even asked for.  I thought maybe I could get some diving in but if I didn’t I was still content because of what I experienced snorkeling the day before.  I pondered skydiving because I always said I would do it again in a beautiful place.  Naw, I’ll save that for a time where I can go with someone.  There were many options but the day started in a way that restricted most ideas.  I woke up to pouring rain.  You know those days where it’s raining and you don’t feel guilty about staying in and relaxing?  This was one of those days but it was in the sense that almost everyone wants their rainy day to be.  On this day I woke up hearing the rain fall off the roof of the patio and yet it was so tranquil, even with the occasional roosters crowing.  The screen door open and letting in the breeze.  I had no guilt.  Actually I loved it.  It was the kind of day I think I longed for.  Heather was gone for the morning at work but her roommate Jessie was home and major credit to her for being so gracious with a stranger occupying her living room couch.  She is pretty awesome.  She hooked me up with the Netflix.  So while I stared the door and admired the rain coming down as it washed away the horizon I relaxed for a few hours watching a photography documentary called Painting with Light (Have an affinity for travel or photography?  I highly recommend it.).

Serenic ConnectionIt’s probably not how you envision spending your time when you go to an island destination but imagine the view from the picture above and everything I just described.  You would probably feel completely at peace too.  I spent the day reading and writing.  At one point Jessie was painting, (a remarkable painter I might add), Heather diligently trying to finish her paper, and I was drawing the view from the couch.  Jessie had asked if I had any talents and I said I liked to draw and use pastels sometime so she got me some paper and away I went.  20161128_223403320_iOSI had always wanted to find time on my trips to draw but they’ve all been so fast paced that there was no time.  I was so thankful for this time at their place because I got lost in it all.  The sun was setting and Angus Stone radio was playing on Pandora, perfect vibes for the setting.  I didn’t share the actual photo from my couch viewpoint on this because I wanted to leave that for Heather and Jessie.  That’s their spot and I wanted to leave it with them so I’ll let the vision of it all be my skewed version of it.

The evening consisted of Jessie displaying another one of her talents by cooking a delicious dinner and then all of us joining together at the table and sharing childhood memories of hiding food from our parents so they thought we ate it.  It brought some good laughs on a dreary day and for Heather I’m sure

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Heather and I

much relief since she beat herself up all weekend mentally with the paper she completed.  Heather decided this year to pursue a nursing degree so she can get into travel nursing.  It was a decision that she made for herself and solely for her.  Our friendship may not have had any depth before my visit and we still do live different lives but I was very proud of her.  The rest of the night we spent drinking tea and sitting on the counter-tops conversing.  I really appreciated these last moments discussing life paths and transitions, sharing ideas and dreams, and talking about relationships and friendships.  It was open and honest and I was thankful.  It was like two friends just sharing experiences.  It was exactly how the weekend started and a great way to end it.  I was so grateful for Heather to share some experiences and share her friends and community with me.

While the goal of my trip was to unplug digitally I think this substance I was taking in from every interaction, every observation, and every feeling was what the reality of unplugging was showing me.  I was unplugging the misconceptions in my head and setting myself up to go forward with a better understanding of myself.  I was still at a point of taking it all in and digesting it at this point and still had another dimension left on my journey.

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The Caribbean

This day marked the end of my stay in the Virgin Islands.  The water portion of my journey was wrapping up and it was time to get lost in the mountains.  There was one final and very fitting end to it all.  Just as I met Heather six years ago when she was my server in Seattle I joined her at her place of work before setting out for my flight and she was my server again.  The better part this time, I actually got to eat!  From there, off I went.  It was time to test that confirmation I made with Ben before I turned my phone off.



I arrived in Charlotte a little earlier than expected and I was still ready not to turn my phone on.  I wanted to truly test if we could go back a decade or two like people used to arrange pick-ups.  I made my way to the baggage claim and stepped outside the doors to the curb where pick-ups were.  As quick as I realized that I had no idea what Ben was driving I felt a tap on my right shoulder and as soon as I looked right Ben appeared on my left.  It was impeccable timing!  I’m thinking, “this dude never fails me.”  This next escapade could not have started better.  It worked!  It just took trusting the process and really if anyone could remember or figure out how arrange a pick-up that way it was Ben.  He was simply someone who is basically always disconnected.  It was another reason why it was great that I was visiting him on this endeavor.

Alright, so at this point I’m obviously excited and having a good time with friends and going to some pretty spectacular places so who wouldn’t be able to easily disconnect, right?  I don’t think anyone would have trouble with that.  I mean, in those circumstances it doesn’t take much to change attention from a screen to my environment and who and what are in it.  Everything was the recipe for enjoying myself.  I had the ingredients to enjoy myself and the fact that I didn’t know what else was going on in the world catered that.  The vital piece of this part of the journey, however, was not that I was simply in a good spot or doing fun things.  It was the willingness to absorb everything around me and to focus.  The biggest thing that I was soon to discover was in the essence of conversation between Ben, Sarah, and I.  It was in the sharing of observations, opinions, facts, joys, suggestions, plans, ideas, etc.  The concentrated attention to one another opened up thoughts and brought laughter that filled hours in what felt like minutes.

So, in that regard the best thing for good friends to do when getting together is of course do late night pizza and chat until the wee hours of the night, oh, and perhaps smoke a couple stogies.  I still lay claim to never puffing a cigarette but cigars are for special occasions and every time Ben and I get together it is just that because it typically only happens once or twice a year.  It’s tradition.  It was only the first night and we couldn’t help ourselves but find conversation that lasted us for hours.  It was like we were a bunch of college kids arriving somewhere on spring break with a week ahead yet the excitement engulfs them and the first night turns into the biggest night of the trip.  Ok, it wasn’t a rage like that but there was a lot of anticipation so the night got late quick.

What I realized that first night though was that even though I had known Ben for almost ten years the depth of our conversation was about to go to a whole other level.  We were about to dive into philosophy, psychology, sociology, and probably some other ‘ologies and ‘sophies.  One thing I’ve noticed with my own mind as I’ve progressed in my twenties is how stimulating this stuff has become for me.  I have an unquenchable curiosity to learn more about these things and hear others’ perspectives and form my own views.  Naturally, I could easily hash this out for hours.  Ben showed me new perspectives and helped me realize some things that he hadn’t enlightened me to know he had in him.  It was the first night and despite our talk continuously flowing and finding new branches to discuss I could tell the next five days would be filled with as much substance as the first few hours.


My first full day in North Carolina would be spent entirely in Winston-Salem.  What the absolutely beautiful thing about this entire trip for me was that every day had a different rhythm and balance to it.  What I mean by that is one day I could be on-the-go, another day I could be strolling at whatever pace I wanted, another day I could be lounging and soaking it in, and another day could be a laid back and go-with-the-flow day.  This day was the latter, which if embraced for everything it is, is just right for that time.  When Ben and I discussed my visit we had big ideas of camping and hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail.  Well, within the weeks since a fire ban was issued due to rising forest fires so camping in December, even in North Carolina was not what we were prepared for.  I let that expectation go and trusted that we would make the week something great in every way, even the littlest ways.  How about a little jump into the apartment pool at the end of November?  For some reason it was still open, so naturally, why not jump in to refresh for the day?  Ben suggests it and I go with the flow.  It was worth it.

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Malia, Minne, Ben, and I

The greatness of the week, however, came in the way of two giants, a Doberman Shepherd and a Great Dane named Malia and Minne, respectively.  In the last year and a half Ben and Sarah acquired two massive dogs.  Of course these two shared a lot of energy and had to have some of that energy released so our first mission of the day was to take them to the dog park.  Watching those two run free among all the other dogs and show their personalities was a joyful sight.  They were so different from each other yet lived together with great friendship.  It was neat to see how their personalities resembled their owners as well, Malia is more independent and to herself like Ben and Minne is more social and connected to the other dogs like Sarah.  I have to wonder if I’d pick up on these observations or not if I was connected.  Observing these two man’s-best-friend behemoths for the week was a study in itself, with their interactions often being as entertaining as the ones between Ben, Sarah, and I.

I haven’t given Sarah enough exposure for as much as she meant to this trip yet but it was equally as important as Ben’s.  Sarah has a really interesting upbringing that brought her from South Africa, to Canada, and since meeting Ben, to the U.S.

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Sarah

I met Sarah about three or so years ago and it has been a real joy to see how her and Ben’s relationship has progressed.  She is the ying to Ben’s yang.  Now, here I was in between the two and able to be the outside party through interactions between us all, but the best part was what I learned about myself through this.  Sarah brought challenging thoughts to the table just like Ben and another perspective, often times one they had already discussed without me, but one that got my mind firing in another direction as well.

Aside from the intellectual discovery, what was a lot of fun for me hanging out with Sarah throughout the week was her interest in the camera; what it could do, what it could capture, testing it to its limits, and also her ambition to find creativity in it all.  She was truly a child with a camera in her hand and I could relate to that same feeling.  An idea sparks in your head and immediately you are like, ‘how can I do that’.  Her angles and viewpoints were a pleasure to witness and sparked my passion to do the same.  It was fun to be the subject on the other side of the lens for once too and to also share ideas and learn what she knows.  We weren’t even to the point of witnessing the beautiful landscapes yet but seeing her work at the dog park and later at the bar was intriguing.  She has natural talent and good knowledge of the camera and timing.  She has the ability of capturing two dudes playing ping pong and letting her stills tell a story.  I believe a true photographer not only has “the eye” for it but has the ability to make the camera an extension of them self.  She’s finding that.  It’s something I’m trying to develop so to see that process in someone else is fascinating!

The day featured a casual enjoyment around Winston-Salem before once again ending with Ben and I sitting on his balcony talking for hours.  It was night two of Ben and Chad hashing out the problems of the world and our own enlightenment.  This evening truly showed me why Ben and I connect so well.  We have a tremendous amount of respect for each other.  That is a very valuable thing in a friendship that tests time and distance without the skip of a beat and it can’t be undervalued.  We are different in many ways but that was the beauty of it.  Once again I come back to the idea of connecting, the theme of this whole thing.  We both connect with people similarly and fairly easily but he can let it go past the encounter, whereas I often keep it going over time and foster friendships.  I admire the heck out of how he does it and continues on his journey.  I respect it and he respects how I stay connected to people.  The best part is he doesn’t tell me I need to do it his way but shows me a world other than the one I know.  I then have the choice of accepting his perspective to create my own or not.  There is no force behind each others’ views.  Even better, we’ll often get into discussion and get thrown off about something and start laughing.  I’m realizing in these moments that deep intellectual conversation to stimulate the mind balanced by the joy in shallow laughter is replenishing to the soul in so many ways.  Night two is commenced and I am truly gaining everything I sought.


This next day was the one that truly connected the three of us.  It finally involved what we each love, nature.  First things first, Malia and Minne needed their walk, we needed our tea (addicted now), and some good breakfast.  Ben was on chef duty and got us all ready for our adventure.  He even spoiled the pooches with some meat mix from the crock-pot.  Lucky dogs.  It was a team effort that day.

So, there is one fundamental rule for hopping in a car and heading off for an adventure and that is good classic music.  That is my rule at least and Ben and Sarah naturally catered to it.  I think they have an old soul like me.  Johnny Cash it was.  We were headed to the mountains.  Linville Falls was our destination. It’s a peaceful and small place with only a few businesses around the winding turns of the mountains.  It was just right.

We arrived at roadside inn in the afternoon, just a couple hours before sunset.  While we weren’t tenting it up on the trail in the mountains, this was a pretty rad spot to stay for the night.  DSC09304I was still away from it all and with good people, the most important thing.  I knew I’d get the chance for that adventure at some other point.  Expectations always have to be tapered.  The only expectation I had at this point was enjoying the beauty of it all.  Once we settled in we headed for the viewpoint.  Along the way we stopped at a trail that took us to a beautiful waterfall.  Then we jumped back in the car and proceeded on.  However, this stop the dogs and their wild spirits had to wait in the car.  Ben, Sarah, and I headed down the trail to the viewpoint, not a soul around.  There it was, the Linville Falls Gorge.  Breathtaking!  It was just us viewing the vast landscape as the sun slipped down onto the horizon.  20170201_172430000_iOSYou know those moments that simply have to be lived to get all the feels of them?  This was one of them.  I couldn’t help but dial into the beauty of the colors of the sky and the nature around me.  Of course we had to have a toast together at this climactic moment in our day.  The Virgin Island rum I had brought back made it along for the ride.  It was like we came prepared knowing there would be this binding moment among us.

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We gazed at the sky as the sun’s light trickled out of sight and thousands of stars slowly started appearing as though someone above had a pin and they were randomly plotting them.  DSC09373Even as the cool night air set in on this final November day we were each very in tune to each passing minute.  We searched our knowledge of constellations and tried to piece the stars together.  We enjoyed every last moment of our spot alone in the wilderness until finally caving to the finality of the day.

Well, the day may be over but we knew the night was just beginning.  The biggest thing, however, was that while our excitement and lack of diligence to our basic need of hunger meant we had forgot about getting food.  Now we were up in the mountains and all of the restaurants were closed for the evening.  That left us one option, the gas station.  While we did have a warm room and were not roughing it we were still limited so we became resourceful.  I truly enjoyed this part because it was a moment where you just go with it.  We bought Ramen from the gas station and even though we didn’t have a microwave we found another way to make it, a coffee pot.  It worked quite well.  Ramen seems like an ideal mountain escapade, right?  It was like a small food pack that one would boil over the fire.  In our case, the fire was a coffee pot.  I was proud of the team.

Once again, here we were.  Sarah faded in front of the TV but Ben and I had much more to discuss.  It was a cold evening with a breeze but we found some chairs outside that we moved to the edge of the building to block the wind.  It seems we always have to have our late night discussions outside.  We once even debated life in his parent’s hot tub when it was –9 degrees out.  I think this was the night where so much came together from this grand quest of mine.  We would go on to discuss things ranging from relativity to relationships to pride to what it means to be a romantic.  In each of these topics I learned more about myself and about Ben.  It was so candid and open.  Ben doesn’t spend a lot of his free time on the internet but rather in books.  He reads a lot and it is something I am very envious about because I want to be able to do it more but find trouble with the way I’m wired to spend a lot of time doing it.  If only I could use half of the reading time I spend online and put to use in books.  This is where I began to understand his perspective of the world comes from his insight gained from books.  I wanted to tap into that and created goals to achieve this in my head once this was all over.  We discussed these topics and he challenged me on them.  I challenged him.  We talked about what we viewed as our purpose in life.  He revealed different points I hadn’t thought about before and opened my mind to be more conscientious about them, whether it be my own pride or things in my relationships with people.  I’m sure he gained some more understanding as well.

What I enjoyed most through our conversation was our understanding of being a romantic.  I had never embraced that term.  I had been called it by a friend but was limited to the romantic sense of love with another.  This entire expedition of mine was exactly that.  It was romantic.  I had an idea in my head of what was to be gained, whether it be the experience or enlightenment.  I was pursuing an ideal I had.  It was the one created from a movie about the Caribbean and trying to experience that.  It was seeking the sunset to feel the “magic” of it.  Is it really that magic or just a moment in the universe.  Somewhere in my life the sunset was put on pedestal as a beautiful thing.  This was the absolutely beautiful part about this new knowledge of romanticism.  There was nothing wrong with.  Now I knew what it meant and could embrace it.  Ben shared that he chases romantic ideals as well.  He chases the moments.  This was unplugging in its truest sense.  I was unplugging by letting my mind be open to new growth.

Finally, the night air made us surrender.  We went in and decided we must continue to test our mind but in a different way, by playing Scrabble.  A board game is probably one of most common activities to do on a trip with friends or family, at least it was before the age of cell phones.  Seems fitting.


Nothing makes for a southern style breakfast without some grits.  The day had to begin with some nourishment and that meant a trip to a local diner for some grits and the typical breakfast fixings.  Today was going to be the part of the trip where the idea of being free was as close as it could be.  We were now headed down to the river in the gorge.  We found a spot where we again were secluded from all other humans.  It was a little bit of a hike down to the river but the dogs sure loved it.  They wandered and smelled about everything they could find. It became clear to me along this hike while we all brought out our immaturity through different topics, all in good fun of course, that friendship was as essential to it all as much as being away.  We laughed and laughed and as I’ve noticed with Ben and I we are always chuckling, even to dumb things that aren’t really that funny.

We got to the river and rounded the bend where we came upon some falls.  I had mentioned before how this setting brings out the renegade in me, well, this was the moment.  DSC09466Keep in mind that it is December 1st.  Sure, I am not in Minnesota but water is not warm in North Carolina at this time of year either, especially at elevation and shadowed by mountains.  I decided that I would throw out the idea to Ben that we should cross the river (where it was shallow) and climb this giant boulder above the falls.  He doesn’t back down and immediately proceeded forward.  After I took off my shoes and rolled up my pants I could feel the hundreds of knives piercing my feet.  It was frigid.  Soon they numbed up though and I forgot the pain.  We climbed the boulder and simply enjoyed the view.  DSC09490We were in the middle of the river with falls below us and a perspective of the river as it pushed into the distance in front of us and narrowed in our sight.  I thought to myself, “How many have truly done what we are doing right now?”  Those kind of thoughts always catch me.  Who knows,  the river could often be much more rapid making reaching that rock impossible.  It’s fun to wonder that sometimes.  Meanwhile, Sarah watched us and got some fun pictures of our bro moment.

From there we pushed on up the river.  Minne wasn’t too enthused to get in the river as she perused alongside it, but Malia was in the water every chance she could get.  It was amazing the tolerance she had to withstand the cold water.  Each of us watched her in astonishment.  That also meant the next big idea was soon to come.  There was a spot in the river that kind of pooled so Ben proposed that we should jump in.  If I jump in he will jump in.  Of course I’m going to be like “why not?”  I mean, I am on vacation and that means I have to take on all challenges.  We stripped down to our skivvies and timed a jump together to break in December with a polar plunge.  Sarah had her camera ready.  The reactions she caught were priceless.  Not only did we jump in once but part of the challenge was swimming across to a rock bed, which meant then swimming back because we were in such shock once we got there we climbed out.  We danced around in disbelief before mustering enough courage to go again.  As much as it sucked I don’t regret it one bit because it was an experience to remember.  The experience when two homies jumped into a river in the middle of nowhere in the winter for the hell of it.  I think it was a moment that reconnected us to our youth.  The mentality you have growing up.  I value that and think you have to continue to harbor some of that zeal as you get older.  You have to maintain some of the the Peter Pan and Neverland in you.

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As we strolled down the river I had another realization from my experience.  I was daydreaming a lot more.  I don’t think I daydream much anymore with having technology at my fingertips.  I occupy time I used to daydream with constant exploring on my phone.  That’s not healthy.  I was so excited by the thoughts that were now fluttering through my head as I enjoyed the sound of the river.  It was a discovery that I hoped to open up to more upon returning home.  I think half of dreams are discovered through daydreaming.

Being along the river was something that I could tell Ben and Sarah felt intertwined with as well.  They were sharing many of the same thoughts about the experience.  Our spirits were on the same page.  I also think this day was the true fulfilment for my journey.  I had reached everything I had manifested for this trip and everything else was the icing on the cake.20161202_201636160_iOS

Once returning to the car we began to make our way to Asheville.  Along the way we jammed out to old country tunes and the one that couldn’t have been more fitting with the sense of being free was “I Should Have Been A Cowboy” by Toby Keith.  This was the song that went on to define the trip.  It was the song I will always here and associate with my time there.  Ben and I sang it word for word as though we were back with our parents in the car in the 90s.  The five of us were set for the road together.  We could sing together one moment and we could be completely quiet together the next.  Our chemistry as friends couldn’t have been more evident than when we were the only ones in the speakeasy brewery that night simply dancing amongst each other as though there was no one else there.

Our streak ended that night.  There was no late night discussion.  I think it all finally caught up to us.  We all headed to bed early.

The next couple days had many more small times that were very connecting.  There was little book store with books stacked to the ceiling where I bought the classic, Sidhartha.  There was Ben playing “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty and “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon on his ukelele.  There was more time observing the dogs.  It was all part of what made this whole thing so special.  We even were able to have incredible timing with our hometown Minnesota Timberwolves playing the Charlotte Hornets.  What are the chances of that game happening while I’m there and then us attending and witnessing Minnesota win in overtime.  The point being, so much came together in so many fun ways and amongst it all I gained more understanding.

That was the part that put it all together.  No matter the activity I was in touch with not just myself but those around me and my environment.  My awareness for all was at a peak.  I was able to flee from the constraints of time as well, not being able to get away from a day inevitably ending but to not have to worry about time was actually a freedom.  It was a freedom from pressure and really, by being able to let go it actually worked in a natural way that probably maximized the days in healthy ways.  Is it something for every day?  Maybe but that’s something for a different time.  In this case it was incredibly conducive to the whole experiment.  However, the time of my stay did come and the time to step back into my day-to-day had come.  My energy was completely renewed.  I could feel it.

My journey, my quest, my endeavor, my adventure, or whatever else I may have described this undertaking as was over.  It was a trip by physical standards but was much more than that.  I chose to unplug from the life I was living, the one of being ultra-connected all the time.  I did so by escaping.  I put myself in new territory and territory I had not been in for a long, long time.  I was trying to channel a time when the world wasn’t at my fingertips.  I wanted the real world to become present again.  That was a world that I hadn’t been a part of since I was a kid.  That world was no longer comfortable because it was so lost.  Traveling helped to find that world again because it pushed me face challenges.  I took it a step further and removed the medium that makes traveling easier, my phone.  Many of my securities were vacant.

When I started this idea in my head I knew what I wanted to do but I really had no idea what it would do to me.  I honestly thought it would release me from the temptations of knowing all that is going on but I didn’t know it would actually make me more coherent to all that is going on.  What I mean is it opened my mind in ways that were being blocked by my technology connectivity.  As much as my generation and the next is stimulated with millions of kinds of information all the time, we are still human and our capabilities are a work-in-progress.  By removing myself from some of that stimulation I was able to dive down deeper into other areas that simply couldn’t be reached easily otherwise, at least not very quickly.

One of the big things gained by my unplugging adventure was my confidence by taking leaps of faith.  It was visiting a friend I had met once only once on a distant island I knew nothing about. It was trusting the process rather than taking the easy route such as when Ben picked me up.  This was just all just a few puzzle pieces in the overall growth I experienced when the entire puzzle became complete.

At the beginning I mentioned going out on the year with a bang.  When it started that bang was in the form of a destination.  I was using the privileges I have in my life to distance myself to new places to disconnect.  That really wasn’t the bang, however.  The real bang was the journey and the knowledge and the insight gained during the nine days.  I shut my phone off and untethered myself from it which was the biggest part of the growth.  It put me in touch with an ability to absorb everything around me, with my friends and to understand and connect with them, with personal discovery, and finally, my adaptation to take the new enlightenment and go forward living in a more moderate and healthy way.

My absorbtion of everything going on around me was at a peak level, whether it be relating an experience or letting time slow and soaking each moment in.  Then there is the part that is at the core of who I am and that is the friendships.  The opportunity to meet new acquaintances and friends and foster the relationships of the other ones was pure and meaningful.  While the basis of unplugged is disconnecting it is in reality about connecting and the connection to each person.  To have friends like Ben and Sarah come in the form of a couple that have the most unique ability to make me feel at home yet challenge me and then a friend like Heather who opens her world to me and shows one of the most opening acts of hospitality to her home that I have ever been a part of.  It’s truly the greatness of each one of them and with them they brought forth an abundance of discovery for me.

Now as I finish this, these ideas have been fluttering in my mind for a few months and allowed me time to plug back in but in a way that will be more beneficial for me.  Not only for the health of taking things from the trip and adding them to my daily life but also the limitation I can now knowingly give myself to allow other development.  Being unplugged was an awakening and one that gives me a sense of understanding to be present in my interactions more, to be aware of the life and environment around me, and to continue to find ways to expand my intellectual capabilities.  To unplug I had to plug back in and because of it the battery is now full.

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