An Ode To Aunts - Part 1

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Dear Reader,

If you’ve been following closely you will know that in May I moved into a tiny cabin homestead on a 120 + acres of family forest property. If you’ve done your detective work and read between the lines, you will also know that my Great Aunt and Uncle live on the property as well.

While there is plenty of breathing room, and thousands of trees between our two homes, I do see them multiple times a week. I most often see my Aunt Patty in her bright pink button up work shirt and thick jeans — the perfect defenses for the deep brush full of sticker bushes and stinging nettle — her hair pulled back and her hands covered in dirt and motor oil. She always has a tool in hand, if she doesn’t ride in on the tractor for brush-hogging, she’s pushing the lawn mower or carrying the weed wacker.

Yep, you guessed it, this woman is a total badass.

The first day I stayed the night in my cabin as a home, she got held up because she was changing the tractor tire, all by herself. No sweat off her back, no need to ask for help, she knew exactly what she was doing.

Over the nearly 3 months I have lived on property she has taught me how to change the oil in my car — a skill no man has ever volunteered to teach me, perhaps because they didn’t want to spend the time, perhaps because they wanted to keep me dependent. With grease on her nose and a hard hat on her head, she’s led me out into the brush and revved up her chainsaw; with all the confidence in the world she’s handed the powerful machine over to me with the words: “Remember, you’re in control.” She’s dug out my garden with the tractor and taught me to hammer in fence posts (not an easy feet by the way).

This incredible woman has managed this 120 acre tree farm for the past 30 years, making executive decisions, doing the research, getting involved in Fish and Forestry, maintaining forest health and building a homestead for our family that will remain long into the future. She has done so all while fighting forest fires with the Forest Service, raising an amazing daughter and hosting Thanksgiving for our entire family every year.

She is fearless, she picks up mice by their tails and shoos bats from my cabin as I attempt to be as brave as her while cowering in the corner. But her strength has begun to transfer to me, with her support I have braved situations I never dreamed I would. I too have picked mice up by their tails and just last night scooped up my playful kitten Meadow who refused the kill the bat flying around the cabin and shooed it outside myself.

She harbors unending energy, and works out on the property until the sun goes down. And I am right there with her, the same blood running through our veins. I have a part of her inside me, and the more time I spend around her, the more motivation I feel. Now, after a day working in the National Forest I come home to rev up the lawn mower and mow the lawn until the bats come out. A weekend of adventure, gardening, hiking and volunteering feels almost unproductive, with the fire lit inside me to go-go-go. She is a powerhouse, and I have realized, that same powerhouse lives in me too (and I can keep going-going-going because I am finally living a life I love, inspired by her no doubt).

There was a time in my life I didn’t know the strength within me, I didn’t envision a life for myself where I changed my car’s oil, where I hiked trails solo, and dug my hands deep into the earth to work on the land I love. But all along, this path has been written in the sand. I come from a long line of badass, empowered and capable women! Each morning I wake up grateful to live on the land my Great Aunt Patty has maintained for our family and feel excited to see what wild adventure she’ll find for herself today.

Next week, I’ll write about my great-great Aunt who traveled the world, didn’t marry until she was ready and danced around the living room in a coconut bra at 80+ years old. I can’t wait for you to read her story too!

Here is to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them, and may we descend from them!

With lots of love,

Annalise

The Greater Truth

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Dear Reader,

Yesterday I stood in the middle of the National Forest, speaking with an incredible woman I’d met only minutes earlier. Here we were not more than 30 minutes into knowing each other and we were relaying our experiences with birth control, sex education, body image and high school friendships to one another.

Well, for those of you who know me, you’ll know that this conversation isn’t altogether abnormal. But I’ll often stick with small talk for the better part of an hour before dipping my toes into subjects such as these. However, in this instance they rose to the top of conversation organically.

We were not only standing in the middle of the national forest, we were standing in the middle of the national forest surrounded by nearly 40 incoming freshmen on the ropes course, girls staring at their thighs with audible groans of disgust, groups flocking together, while others stood on the outside, teeny tiny denim shorts and high pitched giggles all around. It took us both back 10 years.

Transported in time, I spoke about my love of middle school, my fond memories of the quirks and even challenges of going through puberty surrounded by 300 other kids who were changing in so many different and unfamiliar ways. I continued on to quietly admit that my time in high school was not remembered as fondly.

The woman I spoke with turned to me with a furrowed brow and asked, “Why?”

With a bit of trepidation, I admitted that I had challenging time with the group of friends, who at the time I viewed as “mean girls.” Admittedly, a label I do not care for, nor one I would use to describe them looking back. But at the time, I was wrapped up in the drama and trauma.

Realistically, these young women were toiling mainly with misunderstanding, with societal ideas of sexuality, with expectations of what it meant to be a woman, and a roadmap of appropriate girlfriend behavior shaped by dramatic movies and shows. After all, my high school days were the height of the phrase, “Hey Bitch.” We were not necessarily taught to treat one another with respect. Instead, we were pinned against each other, constantly comparing bodies, boyfriends, clothes etc, we understood that boys fought with fists, and girls fought with words. And fight my friends did.

Long story short, after going through a break up my sophomore year of high school I received attention from my male peers I wasn’t use to. During the course of my last relationship I had stopped wearing blue eye shadow and sat at many Bare Minerals makeup counters, I’d invested in the most padded push up bra’s one could find at Victoria Secret, (and wholly wow, from a woman who has not worn a bra in years now, I must say, my breasts appeared double the size that they actually are), and I’d made a lot of male friends, being in a relationship and all. All of sudden, these guys were asking me to come over to their houses alone, their friends were taking me out on dates, and to be honest I liked the attention. It validated everything I knew about worth, beauty and importance (needless to say, I learned some pretty flawed lessons back in the day).

I ended up casually seeing a few guys, which mostly amounted to holding hands and watching Jersey Shore, maybe a make out session before heading home. But just as these boys started pressuring me for more, my once close-knit group of girlfriends caught wind of the attention I was being given and as I said before, fought back. Hard.

I was pelted with words like: “Slut” and “Whore” with phrases like, “they only like her for her ass” and met with a complete stone wall from friendships I once held dear, and to be completely honest, truly needed.

As the insults and labels rolled in, I felt progressively more alone, and the only people willing to give me attention were the boys around me. The same boys who had sat nicely across from me at the Cheesecake Factory or helped me with algebra were now pushing. Pushing me to take off my clothes, to ease their blue balls, to fuck them when it was the last thing I felt comfortable doing.

But after hearing these girls whispered words, after reading the insults on their phones, after hearing the gossip circulate around the school, I did the only thing I could figure out how to do. I pulled an “Easy-A.”

If they coined me a slut, a slut I would be. And so I found myself beneath an older man, who begged and pleaded, who claimed I owed him, who was only worried about his own pleasure. I found myself naked in the middle of a park with a college co-worker, wondering if this was just a one night stand, or could it maybe be more? And when I felt violated, when I felt unsafe and unsure, I had no one to turn to, because my previous support team had turned me away long ago.

Eventually, I learned a little (not a lot, that didn’t come until college) more about consent, I made peace with the fact that these girls opinions of me did not define my reality, and I turned to my mom and childhood friend for support.

When I received an apology from one of these girls a year later (a grown woman now, who I deeply love and respect, and appreciate reflecting and connecting with), I began to realize that these girl’s actions were out of their control. They were taught about feminism in the same way I was they (as a dirty word), they were made to believe that strong women were villains, that sexual women were whores, and that all women must compete with one another.

Standing in the woods, in deep conversation and resonance with a incredibly rad woman I had known for only a short time, I remembered the greater truth. A truth that can overpower the fucked up lessons we learned in our youth. A truth that, women need each other, we are our greatest support systems, one another’s biggest allies. We are all the more powerful united, and when we do the work to love and embrace ourselves, we are better able to fully love and embrace one another.

Moments later, as our current day conversation quieted, and the same girl who have been disgusted by her thighs moments earlier climbed up the gigantic wooden ladder and beamed with pride for those very thighs accomplishments, as her female peers below cheered her on, I felt a rush of hope. Hope that the younger generations are transitioning into self-love and community support, into “Hey Queen,” and out of “Hey Bitch.”

I see the change, slowly but surely, and I try valiantly to do the work every day to bring awareness to all generations of women, that we are all uniquely valuable and we have the power to build one another up.

May you build yourself and the other ladies in your life up. May you come together and dismantle the lessons you learned long ago, may you teach one another new lessons, and may you bask in the blissful light each one of you radiates.

With love,

Annalise

Choosing Yourself

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Dear Reader,

Today I find myself in a mountain brewery, a glass of lemongrass ginger cider to my left and a boisterous crowd of people to my right. However, the crowd to my right does not belong to me. Quite the contrary in fact, I sit alone at the bar, without conversation or companionship, writing away, just as I planned.

Years ago, stepping foot into this brewery alone would have left me feeling lonely, longing for someone to love me, and full of anxiety and fear of judgement.

After years of wandering solo, of anchoring into my autonomy and company, and developing a deep and honest love for myself I find great joy in sitting here, surrounded by people, but still very much alone.

In fact, I look forward to a weekend of solo time, of garden watering, dandelion pulling, succulent planting, a weekend of singing and dancing, taco eating and cider drinking, picture painting, uke practicing and word writing. I look forward to diving into these activities solo.

While I take great joy in being alone, I will undoubtedly have moments throughout my days of longing for a hug, of wishing for someone to reassure a worry, and perhaps for another to laugh with me under the Spring sun.

In these moments of fleeting loneliness I will remind myself of a poem I once wrote:


Sage reminds me

of a man

I once loved.

Sheets strewn,

windows clouded,

breath easy,

and catching,

all at once.

Hours escaping,

lost in the folds

of our skin.

Now my hours are,

all mine.

My breath still catches,

when I smell him

on clouds of sage,

when I long for arms,

wrapped tightly,

around my body.

But these moments are rare now.

My breath catches more often,

when bird calls fill my ears,

and warm air,

hot like breath,

kisses the sweat

off my neck,

as evening bugs

dance to the music

of my echoing voice.

In these moments,

my feet beg me to move,

deeper into the moment,

into the field before me,

into the wild freedom.

And with my blessing,

they take off running.

They do not belong,

wrapped around another,

encased in sheets,

held down by weight

not belonging to them.

They belong to the world,

to me,

to freedom,

and joy.


The journey of choosing myself, of choosing autonomy and turning away from romance has not been easy, it has been fraught with second guessing, with loss of tender love, and with many moments of loneliness. But in these moments I take the time to listen to myself, to ask myself what truly makes me feel loved, fulfilled, valued and seen. And often I can give myself the answers to these questions. I am able to learn the needs I can fill and those I need help filling. I am able to truly see and understand the complex, strong, unique and beautiful individual I am.

Choosing myself has meant turning away love from others, but it has also meant welcoming in unmatched love from myself. And as I learn how to choose myself, I learn how to carry self-care, self-love and the ability to truly listen to my needs into a romantic partnership somewhere down the line.

But for now, you can find me dancing in fields, pounding keyboard keys and smiling as crowds of people erupt into laughter from the corner of the bar.

May you all choose yourself first, whether you’re in partnership or not, you are your one true life partner.

Sending big hugs,

Annalise

Body Hair - A Reclamation

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Dear Reader,

I had a whole post planned for today, written in my head, a beautiful poem ready to share. But as it often does, the universe threw a wrench in my plans.

While driving down to the local library (my digital stomping ground), the voices of Kristen and Caroline from Unladylike (a super rad feminist podcast) filled my car. While their voices often ignite inspiration within me, another voice, a guest’s voice, sent chills up my spine, tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my arms.

This voice belonged to an 11 year old Vera, a patron of a public 5th grade classroom chalk full of judgements, opinions, and popularity contests, all to do with body hair.

This sweet little girl spoke of the 95% of her peers who shaved their nearly hairless legs and armpits, so they, “wouldn’t be gross and sloppy” and more importantly, “so they could get boyfriends and be popular.”

I remember this mentality all too well. I remember commercials with sun-kissed, hairless models who promised me ease and joy if I too could be hairless.

I remember being sent home with a pink razor, shaving cream and deodorant in 5th grade.

I remember the all encompassing fear of my peers, boys and girls alike, being repulsed by my body hair or smell.

And I most definitely remember the shame that came when I entered my teenage years, the inability to raise my hand if even a day of grow out lived there, and the apologies that tumbled from my mouth if a boyfriend undressed me and I hadn’t showered or shaved.

I lived in the beliefs of my own 5th grade classroom for years. Beliefs much like those Vera from Unladylike is learning now.

Beliefs like: I will be surpassed in beauty and popularity by every other girl if I don’t shave and smell like a rose. I will be rejected as sloppy and gross. And my relationship status relies largely on my hairless body.

Vera has a mother who does not shave and promotes body positivity. And while Vera herself spoke of inner-beauty as paramount, she still takes scissors to the blonde peach fuzz that grows upon her arms. She is still conscious of being in the 5% of girls who do not shave. And my guess is, the peer pressure will get to her, the fear of being “sloppy and gross” will get to her, and she too, will remove the forests that prosper naturally on her body.

I definitely caved to the pressure. For years, I Naired, plucked and shaved. For years I let fear guide my decisions about my body hair. And for years I apologized, again and again for stubble, for grow out, for the way I smelled, looked or tasted, fearful that other women covered up their natural bodies better.

But a few years ago I hopped on a plane to Europe, a new college graduate, away from the peer pressure of my youth. I lived out of a backpack for 3 months, I smelled like sweat and pheromones no matter how much deodarant I slathered on, and I carried around a razor that eventually dulled and rusted. And all of a sudden my habits of poking and prodding my body faded, they became unreachable, and moreover unnecessary.

And one day, I looked in the mirror at a month of dark grow out and thought, “Damn, this is what I look like. This is what my body does on its own. And holy shit, I’m actually so sexy.”

I’d never even had the opportunity to look at my body with hair. I’d never stepped outside of the fear and shame long enough to take a peek at myself unshaved. And inturn, I’d never had the opportunity to realize how beautiful, sexy and strong my hair made me feel.

So, when I arrived back to the USA I let my hair continue to grow.

And here’s the deal, in my adulthood, when most folks I surround myself with have fully stepped into their sexuality and at least partially stepped into self love, I have never once had a man turn away from me, or call me gross for the way I looked or smelled. I have never derobed and seen a shocked face before me. I have never raised my arm to grab a book off the top shelf and watched people turn away in disgust.

Yes, there is still judgement, there are still folks who live in the beliefs of their 5th grade classrooms. But they are fewer and farther between, they are not hugely included in my environment, and truthfully, they don’t matter.

Because as Vera said, whether or not she believes it yet, “If people abandon you for your body hair, they were never that great friends or partners to begin with.”

So however you wear your hair, make sure it’s right for YOU, and rock on with your bad self!

Lots of love,

Annalise

Motherhood

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Dear Reader,

In honor of Mother’s Day I am sharing a video I recorded about motherhood. I am not personally a mother, and believe it or, that is exactly what this post is about: my choice to postpone bearing babies.

I sit in my tiny-cabin, on a remote piece of land, tucked in the midst of hundreds of miles of National Forest land. I am alone here, absent of a partner, children, or even fur babies (however, a cat is soon to come). I have created a life full of independence, adventure, dance, travel and time connecting with nature. I wake up every morning and breath in the smell of pine trees and rich soil. I go to bed each night gazing at stars unpolluted by light. I am happy here, and each day I sink further in.

However, this is not the life I pictured for myself, long ago. In fact, this is not even the life I pictured for myself a few years ago. Instead, I thought I would be married and trying for a baby. After all, my mom was pregnant by 25, and I have always been good at caring for others. So why not? Why wouldn’t I follow in her foot steps?

Well ya’ll, it turns out we all have our unique paths, each perfectly valid and beautiful. But my path is my own, and I have molded it unexpected ways, thrown in u-turns, and sharp lefts where clear rights once laid.

As a result, this Mother’s Day, I found myself pulled in two different directions. Watch the video below to find out more — and please folks, share your own stories with me!

So here’s to the women waiting to be mothers, the women who don’t want to wait but can’t conceive, the women without wombs, the single-mothers, and the stay at home moms, to the women who chose to terminate pregnancies, the women who gave their children to other mothers, and to the mother’s who lost their babies. Here’s to every mother in between. Thank you for your choices, they are powerful and unique. I honor them and I honor you.

With love,

Annalise

Rerouting and Rerooting

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Dear Reader,

After 7 months of car-living, national park exploring, river showering, budget airline hopping and answering to absolutely no one but myself, I have returned home to the land of my youth.

Washington State welcomed me back a little over 30 days ago. And to be honest, it was a rocky welcome, full of awkward reintroductions to a life I once found familiar, way too many questions, and an absolute overload of people, tasks and buildings.

And quite frankly, I only made it harder for myself.

I’ve always been the type of person who commits 100%. When I left Washington to circle solo around the globe, I drove away from a life I wasn’t happy in and committed full out to life on the road, no looking back.

Similarly, when I returned home, I immediately unpacked my car, rifled through my storage unit and attempted to return to a life in Washington, without skipping a beat.

But it was too much. 7 months solo on the road had transformed me in beautiful and unexpected ways. I couldn’t return to my old life, old habits, or old routines. I’d left them behind for a reason.

Once I stopped pushing myself so hard, a few things fell into place.

For me, it’s been a rerouting and rerooting marriage.

Rerouting away from my old life in WA into a new existence here, filled with more autonomy, wilderness, adventure and independence — components I came to love on the road. And also rerouting away from the idea of 100% commitment and going all in. Instead, I’ve learned to slow my roll and ease back into rerooting. I’ve rerooted into the parts of home I truly love, my family and friends, the mountains and the sea.

This week I made a video for you all about this transition — because it is arguably easier to listen than to read… I know, I know, this pen and paper millennial is attempting to keep up with the times.

In this weeks video I speak in depth about my transition home and the important lessons I’ve learned. Wanderers often talk about leaving, and rarely talk about coming home. So today, I am bringing voice to the unspoken side of the journey:

If you have specific questions about transitioning to life at home (on the road, or anywhere in between) please message me here through my email forum or on social @empoweredwanderer.

Sending love and ease to all of you!

Happy Feminist Friday! I told myself this was a Feminist Friday post because it was on self-care, so do me a favor and let the category lines blur this week!

Xo,

Annalise

Evolution

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Dear Reader,

5 years ago, I sat in my college dorm room dreaming about marrying my high school sweetheart. I dreamt about the high paying job he would secure to support me, and about the children I would birth, love and devote my life to raising. I dreamt about a life revolving around a roll known well by women from generations before me. Wife. Mother. Carer of husband. Rearer of children. And when my mind wandered, it led me to a room off of the kitchen with plenty of light, and a desk where I could write. An after thought, a day dream within a dream, a hobby to keep me company while the kids were at school. But never a career or life fulfilling passion; just a little sliver of something for me in a sea of other’s needs, wants and achievements.

Not all marriages unfold in this way.

Not all wives are mothers.

Not all mothers are wives.

Not all women are either.

Not all relationships rest on a history of being claimed, relied upon and ridiculed.

But the way I dreamt it, the vision that evolved through books and movies, through constantly being told my worth was wrapped up in my ability to care for others — and boy did I have a knack for it — and a history of ownership and oppression, well, that vision had it all. A husband who earned the money, a million babies, and a wife who was buried by the life she was way too big for, but never had the freedom to reject.

But over the years, thanks to new books, an English literature major, discussions with powerful female professors and peers, and through reclamation of self and an identity outside “caretaker” my dream has evolved.

5 months ago I sat in a cabin in the French Alps, cooking atop a wooden stove, sparking candles for light, and dreaming about the glorious feeling of having an axe between my hands while I split firewood for my own remote homestead.

5 minutes ago, I checked the mousetrap, still empty after I found my first little guy last night; I gazed over at my bed, made just the way I like it, with my “I was not made to be subtle” painting hung beside it; and then peered out the window to find Luna, the car I lived in, on and off, for 7 months as I made a solo trek around the entire globe (to be fair I didn’t stop everywhere but I did make a complete circle). 

And now, I write to you from my couch, next to a fire burning in my heat stove, a pen in hand, light streaming in the window, free to write, unafraid of running out of time, of kiddos bursting in or a husband demanding dinner, living a dream that has evolved from a simple daydream buried within a web of misguided wants, and evolved into a life of joy in a cabin in the wild wilderness, a continuing solo adventure and a pen always in hand. 

I am free here. Untethered. Responsible only for myself, and my own care. Disposing of mice, shooing (to be clear, shooing not shooting) bats, and freeing spiders, hiking trails, writing poetry and continuing to evolve.

Who knows, maybe one day I will have babies and a long term partner and create a beautiful adventure with them. But never in the way I dreamt of long ago. Never in the absence of self-love, care and fulfillment. I am empowered, I am evolved and I am ever growing, just like the evergreens outside my window.

With love, and as promised consistent posts once again,

Annalise

Would It Be Okay?

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Dear Reader,

As the words tumbled out of my mouth a rush of panic washed over my body:

“Would it be okay, if we didn’t have sex tonight?”

What was I asking? Of course it would be okay.

It wasn’t a question, it was a god damn statement.

Why had I just asked a freaking question?

My head spun, I felt fear and frustration all at once.

I felt myself reverting back to a young teenager, afraid to disappoint, as if my consent was expected, and if I didn’t give it I would be punished, or worse, thrown away.

Why had my voice disappeared?

Was the assertion and agency I’d worked so hard to cultivate gone forever?

And then the soft response came, “Annalise, it really isn’t my decision. But I do think we should hold off for tonight.”

It. Really. Isn’t. My. Decision.

He was exactly right.

And I knew it.

I knew it the second the question left my lips.

It wasn’t his decision, it was my decision and my decision alone to give consent to touch, enter, or gaze upon, my body.

But some part of me, a young girl who learned that it was always her job to please a man, that her pleasure didn’t matter, and if she led a man down a path of expecting sex, she best deliver, needed reassurance.

And thank god she got it.

Because the response very easily could have looked liked so many I’ve received before:

“Oh baby, let’s just see what happens.”

“But you look so sexy, and you’ve got me so turned on.”

“Don’t do this to me!”

“Are you serious?! Why are we even here then?”

“If we keep going, I’m sure you’ll want it.”

I had put myself in a dangerous position by placing consent in a sexual partner’s hands, rather than in my own. I say this without blame or shame, I say this simply because it’s what happened. By asking a question, rather than asserting my needs, wants and lack of consent to proceed any further, I had buried my voice under the voice of another.

It was a wild moment for me, one I hadn’t experienced in years.

I’ve gone over it in my head a number of times, and over it verbally with the other party in this story who felt concerned when I asked rather than asserted my need to stop. And ya’ll, it is not until right now that I fully understand why I reverted so deeply back to some whack patterns.

After some back to back rejection and a span of feeling pretty lonely, I really wanted connection and care, and the part of me that learned that my worth was measured by the pleasure I could provide a partner felt great fear that I would be worthless, thrown away and ridiculed if I couldn’t deliver.

It’s outlandish right?

Well the haunting part for me is, it’s really not. It’s what I was taught, it’s what my friends and classmates were taught. Through the messages in videos, songs of our childhood and the lack of focus on female pleasure, consent and empowerment in our sexual education classes in school.

It’s all too common for women to put consent in a partners hands, it’s all too common for it to be ripped away from them.

It’s hard to advocate for yourself when for so many years you have been taught not to. For so many years you have been shamed for speaking out. And apparently, sometimes it’s hard even after years of learning new lessons and forming new, healthy and empowering patterns.

I feel grateful that I was in a safe situation, that I was met with support, love and a space to take back my agency. And I feel all too aware, that so many times before I was not, and I did things I didn’t want to do, unable to say no or speak up.

But as I reflect here’s what I know: the more we say no, the more we practice consent and reclaim our power, the more we realize our pleasure is absolutely essential and so is our comfort and safety. The more we step into ourselves and our voices and support one another in doing so, the easier making our voices heard becomes.

And when it’s hard, when we revert to the lessons a whole lifetime, a whole jacked up society and loads of traumatic experiences have drilled into us, if we can talk about that too, if we can take the shame away and come together to share and care for one another, then it all gets easier, it becomes a reflex to assert our wants and needs, rather than ask and hope we get the answer we’re looking for.

Our bodies are not question marks, they are exclamations all our own, and we choose what sentences they punctuate.

May you be easy with yourself, may you assert you wants and needs and take up space, may you know you are held and loved from afar no matter what!

With tender love,

Annalise

The Other Half

The Other Half - Exploring Empowerment and Fear

Dear Reader,

I write to you from Insomnia Coffee in Cannon Beach, OR. Everyone is outfitted in flannels and fleeces, sandy leather shoes and beanies or man-buns. I have definitely arrived home the Pacific Northwest, and I can’t help but smile as I look around.

This will be my last blog post as a full-time dirtbag for a few months (no, the posts won’t stop, nor will they get any less magical, they will simply shift into local wanderings and wonderings).

As you know, I am almost home to Washington state. I look forward to a Spring of log cabin hunkering and hiking, of flights to warmer states, and of mini road trips into Canada or the great the northwest — so I guess settling in for the season is a relative term for me, because clearly, I can’t go without wandering.

Nearly 7 months ago, I sat in this exact coffee shop, two days into my dirtbag journey. And today I am sitting here writing to you two days away from being home — how wild is that?! Talk about full circle.

My journey as a full-time solo female traveler began in this quirky beach town, and it is coming to a beautiful (and temporary) finale here as well.

I know this is exactly where I am meant to be, the perfect place to conclude this chapter.

I also suspect there are still a few lessons left for me to learn during this journey. And ya’ll, I see this beautiful space delivering them to me one by one. And of course, I want to share them with you!


This past week of wandering has been fraught with challenge. Although I would not categorize the challenge as insurmountable adversity, it has still thrown me for a loop.

Last Wednesday Luna, my traveling babe, broke down on the side of the highway. While she is now repaired and shining brighter than ever, in many ways her breakdown broke me.

Her breakdown reminded that while I had support from afar, that when shit goes sideways and you’re alone on the road, it’s solely up to you to fix it.

While many wanderers claim that their breakdowns and similar moments are beautiful because they reveal their true power and strength. I ultimately felt the opposite.

Yes, I proved to myself that I could handle unexpected challenges with a decent amount of grace and composure. I was reminded I could do it on my own, and negotiate and problem solve independently. But honestly (not to sound like an asshole) this powers and skill had been revealed to me long ago. Instead, the breakdown made me feel alone.

While I knew I could handle everything on my own, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to anymore. While being on my own was empowering, it was also lonely.


The next day, back on the road and bandaged up. We made our way to the California coast. Here, I wandered around a beautiful park, photographing wildlife and the ever-spanning Pacific. Still feeling lonely, but slowly regaining some peace.

And then all of a sudden a 70 year old stranger’s hand was on my ass. Okay, it didn’t happen that fast, there was a friendly conversation, a turn to walk the other way and then I was being groped. And with that, the peace beginning to seep back in was stolen.

I not only felt alone again, I felt violated and vulnerable.

I brushed off the touch, literally and emotionally. It wasn’t “that big of a deal” after all.


Later the same night I drove to four different hotel parking lots before settling on a safe place to sleep.

The next night I drove through three hotel parking lots and then onto a new city in the pitch black of night.

And then I booked a hotel room, hoping that four concrete walls would make me feel a little safer.

But instead, I sat rigid in bed with my bear spray and knife next to me, glancing frantically back and forth from the deadbolt, to the window where Luna could be seen.

I was afraid for my safety, and for Luna’s.

I’d rationalized and brushed off the fear all week, making excuses, naming the towns (and this hotel) as unsafe, and sketchy. Perhaps this was true, but it hit me all at once sitting in that hotel bed.

I felt unsafe because I had been violated.

I feared for Luna’s safety because she had broken down just days before.

The two experiences in tandem shook me, left me feeling alone and vulnerable.

And while, I often talk about time on the road as empowering, sometimes I also feel scared. And I think that’s important to write about too.

When Luna broke down, I wrote about radical acceptance, but that was only half of the story. This is the other half.

When that creepy old man grabbed my ass, I went on Instagram live and spoke about the importance of naming assault and inappropriate touch, but that was only half of the story. This is the other half.

Being a solo female wanderer has gifted me with so much. I have uncovered strength I never knew existed, I have handled difficult situations with grace, let go of massive amounts of anxiety, embraced health in a whole new way and taken the writing world by storm.

But, being a solo female wanderer has also opened up moments of fear, has given me time to navigate the difference between loneliness and being alone, and has presented some (manageably) scary moments.

And honestly, all of that is important. Often, I share less of the scary and more of the magical. But today I wanted to share both. Because both exist. Both have helped me to grow in different ways. And both have opened new doors.

You can be scared, you can be shaken, you can seek comfort and care and still be empowered. It is not a binary, you are allowed to exist in both camps all at once. I know I do.

And when I forget, when my empowerment feels fleeting, I am always met with reassurance.


And some of this reassurance came last night (I told you Cannon Beach still had lessons and magic to share with me, so here it comes).

As I walked back to Luna at dusk I saw shadows move in the distance. Instead of feeling the fear that has followed me all week, I felt excitement. I knew these shadows were harmless. Even more poignantly, I knew they were delivering a message to me.

I was the only soul in the parking lot, and without question I moved toward these shadows. And with each step I took the shadows transformed. A giant heard of Roosevelt Elk came to life in front of me.

I stood at a respectful distance away watching them. As they reached a nearby clearing they moved one by one down into the grass. They didn’t move haphazardly, they moved with intention, purpose and immense care for one another. As members of the pack moved into the clearing, two Elk stood aside letting them pass, surveying the surroundings. When the last two elk stood alone at the edge of the clearing they looked at one another and as the one on the inside stepped down into the clearing the final Elk stood watch, strong in the spirit of protection.

The whole scene struck me. I moved closer to watch them graze, and the leader looked over to me. With that I said thank you and walked back to Luna.

Last night, I slept peacefully through the night for the first time in over a week.

Last night I felt safe and held by something larger than myself.

And this morning, I hopped on my phone and read about Elk and their symbolism.

The first word that popped up? Empowerment.

In a time of fear and loneliness, in a time where my power had been brought into question, these Elk appeared to me.

They reawakened my power, they showed me what it’s like to feel protected and cared for, they reminded me of the communities that back me from a far, and they reminded me of the strength I hold within myself.


So today, sitting in this coffee shop, in the space where my journey began long ago, I feel grateful.

I feel grateful for the fear (not the actions that caused it, but for the feeling itself).

I feel grateful for the Elk and their empowerment.

And I feel grateful for everything in between — even the crazy annoying amount of people shuffling in and out these coffee shop doors haha (there’s no doubt that I feel happily alone far more than I feel lonely).

Wandering is always a bit wild. So, wherever and however you do it, I implore you to stay open. To remember you can exist in a multitude of feelings all at once, and some shadows lead to incredible light.

Sending you lots of love,

Annalise

Planet Fitness and Periods

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Dear Reader,

Here we go …

I’ve written about sex, about health education, about body hair and body love and now it’s time to round it all out with a good-old-fashioned “period talk.”

When I was in middle school I remember huddling up with my girlfriends to discuss code names for our periods. Yes code names. As if there weren’t already enough of those. You know, Aunt Flo, Shark Week or the infamous “that time of the month.”

But we wanted our own code name, so no one would know what we were talking about it.

In high school we’d maneuver tampons into our coat sleeves and Ugg boots and shuffle off to the restrooms in shame. Popping ibuprofen for the pain and cursing our bodies for their nature.

We are taught to feel shame for our flows, rather than honoring our bodies divine power. We are made to feel weak for bleeding when in reality it is one of great strengths. We have all heard the words, “Calm down, are you on your period or something?” As if our bodies betray us, as if they make us emotional, or unable to be calm.

But here’s the reality folks, I bleed every month and that is wildly incredible. The fact that my body syncs up with the moon, the fact that my cycle is 28 days to the day each and every month, the fact that I can tell when I’m ovulating, and that I can honor and love my period is insanely empowering.

However, occasionally, as a solo female traveler living out of my car, I go back to that pain and shame. I flow out of my empowerment, if you will. Because to be quite honest, bleeding is messy. And when you don’t have access to a shower every day you need to get creative with your hygiene.

While on the phone with my mom earlier this week, words came out of my mouth that I haven’t spoken in years: “My period is in the bane of my existence (when I’m on the road).” And as I said those words I felt ashamed, but not about my period, instead about my hateful words.

I love that I bleed. I love that each month I am reminded that my body is healthy, and that I will be able to carry a baby one day.

The part I don’t love, became clear as I spoke the words to my mom. Not having no access to a shower was the problem.

So, you’ll know the story if you read Wednesday’s post … I figured out how to honor my body and get myself a damn shower. I found a Planet Fitness, got a day pass, and washed the blood and dirt off my gloriously powerful body. And I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t bleeding.

So, in reality, being on my period is not only incredibly natural and beautiful, it gave me the gift of a shower.

On the more practical side, some things that work for myself and others are non-scented baby wipes for sticky situations, honoring your body and staying in one place on your heaviest days, showers at campsites and gyms that give day passes, drinking loads of water, avoiding tampons and switching to cups or period panties (less waste, no need to pack them out if you’re on remote land) and lots of undie changes whether they are period-proof or not.

So, to the folks who bleed, your cycle is beautiful, your body is powerful, and if you shift out of shame and into power I promise you, your period will repay you with gifts like Planet Fitness showers (or whatever tickles your peach).

Lots of love,

Annalise