In early July, I left my role as a manager at a tech startup in Seattle to go freelance and travel for a year. I’d been coming downtown to work at Seattle startups for 11 years, yearning for the day when I would take off and travel. Then, finally, around June 2015, I realized it was time.
Seattle was a wonderful place for me during my 20s and 30s – great jobs, friendships, relationships, family time, theater performance, music, the outdoors, and a lot of personal growth and healing. But, many of my friends have married and had kids so we don’t go out as much. The cost of living is skyrocketing and I find it disheartening. The pace, the density, the culture – it’s not the same. No more $500 per month apartments, moss-covered, one-story buildings downtown, and free parking after 5 pm.
I sold my condo, a cottage by Lake Washington I’d owned for 10 years. I whittled my life down to a section of a closet at my mom’s house (thanks, Mom!) and I’m now making my way south in my trusty 1998 Honda Civic.
My friend Colt has described this first trip of mine as a “journey of love” because I’m planning it around friendships – getting time with people I love to spend time with but have rarely had the time to see. And, I’m also going to national parks and pretty spots along the way. Here’s my update, one week in.
I arrived in Astoria with bloodshot eyes, exhausted from the many final tasks of leaving town. I teared up when I saw the “Welcome to Oregon” sign, feeling delirious and relieved.
Astoria’s windy, watery freshness felt like a reset button for my brain. I started at the Astoria Column with its 360 views, then drove across the Astoria-Megler bridge in the pouring rain to check out Lewis and Clark history on the Washington side.
My highlight was Station Camp, with its educational path telling the story of the Chinook people who lived on the land and traded with Chinese well before the area was “discovered.” I really loved the replica canoe. I sat in it and daydreamed for a while about the people who used to live on the coast.
I ate “the best burger in town,” according to my friend at the Astoria Column gift shop, at the Portway Tavern. Located near fishing docks, it has a trap door at one end of the bar where young men would be “Shanghai’ed” to work on ships heading east. My favorite pic from the docks was this “Fisherman’s Breakfast” promo. Check out the start and end time.
And, yes, I saw the Goonies house.
Portland was more about friendships and rest than sightseeing. I had my travel guitar re-strung and worked on. Bought new tires for my car. And slept a lot.
My favorite Portlandia moment was seeing a sign at a vintage clothing shop letting the men of Portland know, “It’s summer. You can trim your beard, now.”
I caught up with my friend Brooke for the first time in over 10 years. We worked together at Stanford Sierra Camp in 1999, where she ran the dining room and I was the volleyball instructor.
The next night, my dear friend, Lisa, and I went out to Porque No for yum-yum tacos, sangria, and tarot reading discussions.
I got to meet her hip, fixed-gear-bike-riding, gay, handsome friends who are dancers, artists, and health-food store, sample-hour aficionados. We talked a lot about how expensive Portland is becoming. To quote David, “Hey, let the people who built this amazing culture enjoy it. Just visit then go back to where you came from. You’re gonna f*&^ it up.” He was kind of kidding.
Eugene’s small-town, let’s-love-the-earth vibe makes for a mellow, sleepy energy. My friend Sarah took me for a hike up a local hill to see the sunset on Tuesday night then I ate WAY TOO MUCH delicious food at Tacovore. People, eat there. It’s cheap (compared to Seattle) and delicious.
I met the owner, who Sarah knows, and he had this immense humility as he sipped his microbrew and thanked me for my compliments. He’s an unusual and very successful business man. The Oregon I’ve seen, in general, has this non-aggressive vibe that feels different from other places in the U.S.
I worked at a coffee shop, toured the big, beautiful U of O campus, and sweated at Sweaty Ganesh Yoga. A highlight of my stay was the tiny home in the yard of the house Sarah rents. Built on a trailer, it was just like the one I saw built in this tiny house documentary. I didn’t get a chance to talk with the owner. Maybe on the way back.
Not much to say but, “Oh my heavens, what a natural wonder.” I’d been listening to a lecture on CD until, just before I pulled up to the lake, the Wailing Jenny’s came on in three-part harmony and I saw this huge lake cradled in a mountain. More teary eyes.
Crater Lake has been a bucket-list item for years. Thanks to a one solid hour of full-stop traffic delays and slowdowns, I missed my one-hour hike plan. But, I’ll be back.
Big Bend, California
I started my day today with fresh-picked apples and a walk through the woods just south of Mt. Shasta, then used a composting privy to do my business.
I’m visiting my friends Terri and Gary. I met them in Costa Rica in 2012 on a trip to the Osa Pennisula. We rode the same boat out of Sierpe to Poor Man’s Paradise on the south edge of the pennisula, where we saw morpho butterflies, sloths, and tapirs.
Terri and Gary live off the grid in a home they built, surrounded by gardens and fruit trees that feed them year round. They dehydrate their fruit in their greenhouse to conserve energy, succession-plant salad gardens throughout the year to always have fresh greens, and spend the rest of their time traveling the world. They’re an inspiration, living a life I’d love to create for myself.
Redwoods Are Next
I’m heading next to the Redwoods on the west coast of California. Feel free to send me your recommendations. The giants are calling…