Tonight I sit outside of my yurt listening to The War on Drugs under mackerel skies brushed with pink and orange wisps of light. I’m finally home. For the first time in many weeks I am resting in a space that is conducive for peace and clarity from all that has come on in the past few months. I feel so much comforted being surrounded by redwood trees homing birds and squirrels with the only sounds coming from a pure and natural breath exhaled from the earth beneath my feet, aside from the intoxicating voice of Adam Granduciel. I feel like I have to pinch myself to keep myself aware of how crazy and amazing it is to be in such a perfect and beautiful space.
I honestly don’t know exactly where to start in regurgitating all that has happened in the past two weeks, but I thought that I would give it a shot in hopes to verbalize a story that I can express and pour out of my heart to continue finding power over all the fear that began to dominate and control my thoughts towards the end of my trip this summer. I suppose the best place to start is where I last left off.
On my last day in Europe, Ryan and I woke up in our home in Strasbourg with plans to continue hitching south into Switzerland and Italy before heading west back to Barcelona to catch our flights home. Immediately I began feeling the burning in my head and the cramping in my heart as we set out to find coffee before leaving the city. My anxiety was low, but the pain was severe and slowly I began to focus on my health more and more so that by the time Ryan and I left the city I was existing so deeply in my head that any word I spoke felt like something outside of me was speaking. Everything felt cloudy and hazy and my ability to enjoy the process of travel felt impossible.
Eventually we made our way out of the center of the city and caught a few hitches down to a gas station off the highway just outside of a town called Colmar. We walked into the gas station to look for water and to use the bathroom and when we came out I told Ryan that I needed a few minutes alone in hopes to pull myself together again and find strength to continue moving forward. I went and found a small quiet space behind the gas station and pulled my sleeping mat out to lay face down on and pray for peace in all that I was experiencing. My brain began to feel like it was catching fire and my breathing felt constricted like a knot that forms in your throat when you’re terrified. Within a few minutes I found myself in the heart of panic and felt myself losing control of my body and mind. Fear swept through every thought and controlled my mind causing me to question my sanity and what would happen to my body. I tried taking slow breathes and was able to call home and talk with my parents and tell them that I needed to get home before I lost myself completely. I knew at that moment that this was the end of my trip.
When I came out of panic I went and found Ryan and was clearly in a state of shock and fear. He knew that I was in a bad place and hugged me and asked what he could do, but by that point my decision was made and through broken words and heavy tears I told him I had to leave. He understood immediately and graciously walked with me inside to help me find a ride to Paris to catch a flight home. Within an hour I had found a ride and said a bitter goodbye to my best friend before heading north to Paris to conclude a never ending fight or flight, stress inducing summer.
I pulled into Paris around 11 pm and made my way through the confusing metro stations to find a hostel I had booked for myself close to the center of the city. Eventually I got to the hostel and found my room and passed out within minutes, thankfully. The next morning I woke up and headed to the airport to catch my flight. I have insane anxiety about flying, and clearly a lot of other things, so as I headed to the airport I felt my heart thundering and began creating a million hypotheticals of worst case situations rooted in fear. I found my seat on my plane and heard the pilot come over the speaker and tell us that the plane was having maintenance come out and fix a few loose screws, which perpetuated the anxiety, and that we would be delayed by thirty minutes sitting in the plane waiting to leave; hell. After a seemingly endless horrid situation the plane began to move and we took off. I felt a surprising peace come over me and spent most of the ride feeling relaxed and even slept for a few hours. After another flight out of Chicago, which also went smoothly, I found myself in Houston and walked out of the terminal to be greeted by my family and squeezed with love and affection. Everything felt like it was going to be ok for the first time in so long.
My parents took me home to shower and change before taking me out for dinner and spending the evening together in peace and harmony. The next day I was still having serious anxiety issues and found myself locked in a negative and dark headspace and went with my parents to the doctor to get checked up, but ended up going to the E.R. to have a thorough look at my heart and chest. The doctors had incredible patience with my endless questions and ended up telling me that my body was healthy and exactly what they would expect to see in a young man and basically that it was all in my head, which was slightly encouraging and mostly infuriating because I had been woken up in the middle of the night clutching my chest and feeling like my brain was being burned in a fire, but within a few hours of hearing this I began to notice my symptoms diminishing and my body beginning to find stability in my new reality back home in Houston. I’d love to say that this was all I needed to begin finding healing, but unfortunately the next few days brought on another massive event that would trigger severe anxiety and send me back into the loop of fear and hypothetical situations; Hurricane Harvey.
My parents live on a boat in Galveston Bay which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico about 25 miles south east of Houston proper. We began hearing about a hurricane that was coming to land south of us in a town called Rockport, Tx about 150 miles away from us. The fear was minuscule and I was even excited to get a good Texas thunderstorm that I had missed for so many years. As time went on we began to realize the grandeur of this storm. The night that it hit we took shelter in our boat and experienced heavy rain and some high winds, but nothing too dramatic. I felt safe and secure. The next day the storm sort of died down, but it was not done with our state. Bands from the hurricane were in motion to land on top of Houston in a few short hours and within a few hours we realized that the storm was heading right for the area our boat was docked. The winds picked up and the sky grew dark and the rain began to pound the earth with a thunderous slap that seemed to only grow stronger as the night grew dark. Somehow I was able to sleep for a few short hours before my phone rang with an alert that there was a tornado warning in our area. I popped up and looked out the window waiting to see the tornado come slamming into our harbor and ripping our boat to pieces. I didn’t have enough strength to fight the negative hypotheticals and every fifteen minutes was blasted with tornado warnings that seemed to never end. I was just waiting to get slammed.
Thankfully we never saw a tornado, but for the next three days we would be locked on our dock with a never ending downpour of rain and wind. The parking lot next to our home was submerged in four feet of water at one point and our dock had risen so high that every piece of tape my parents put on it to measure the storm were under water. We checked the news and saw that the storm decided to sit on top of Houston and dump every drop of water it contained before moving further east and ending its domination of our city. My anxiety had come back full force and I felt the pain in my chest again caused from insane stress and hyper focus on the situation I was in without any hope, faith or peace in what would happen. I ended up getting out and spent a night in my sisters home not far away to find out that my flight out of Texas was cancelled. Without much thought I decided to try and find flights out of other cities so I could get home to California and out of the insanity that seemed to be following me. I found a flight out of Dallas the next morning and was given an incredible ride from my Dad to the airport five hours away. I was going to make it to California sooner than I expected twice now and could not wait to be resting in the peace of the forest I get to call home.
My Dad and I found a hotel near the airport and were able to get a few hours of sleep in before I had to get to my flight. My anxiety about the flight was much less extreme than my anxiety from Paris to America, but I was still battling chest pain and worry. Within a few hours I landed in Oakland was picked up by a dear friend that I met on the Camino who I was able to hike with for a few days along with her boyfriend. Almost immediately I felt myself become overwhelmed at the reality that I had made it back home after so much worry that I would never see this land again. I had gone so deep in fear that I had convinced myself that I would never experience the peace and joy of my job in the redwoods again or see the people I love so dearly in those space. After a few hours of driving we ended up at my home where I was greeted by friends and people I work with and given hugs and love. My heart was soaring in joy and was finding insane peace coming out of a storm of anxiety and fear.
I have been home for three days now and every day feel myself becoming stronger and more stable in being able to rest in the reality that presents itself around me. I have fully moved into my yurt and built myself a peaceful nest to rest in and begin finding clarity from everything that had just gone down in the past few months. I am so lucky to be sitting under these clouds and finding answers from all the questions I have had about why I had gone through all that I had. I have never felt like so much had gone wrong in such a short amount of time before and knew that it was all for a reason and there were infinite lessons to be learned and growing to be experienced from it all in the end. After all that has gone down I am left with the most simple desire in life; to love myself and those around me. I have a million questions and a lot to still process, but I know my root and I know what I want more than I ever have before. I feel so lucky to be alive and to be experiencing life in the way that I am. I look forward to spending more time in peaceful spaces over the next few weeks and continuing this journey of uncovering all the lessons this summer put into my life. I look forward to the journey ahead of self discovery and hope to continue hiking in beautiful places in a new way that is conducive for peace and rest rather than stress and anxiety. My hiking life is not over, but I have turned away from control and choose to live a life in peace and faith in trusting the wind to blow me into spaces that cultivates and kindles a fire in my soul that lights a path to freedom and love in all that I experience and allow into my life. After all that has happened this summer, all that is left is love and for that, it was all worth it.