MEET RACHEL

A TRAVELER WHO ROAD TRIPS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES TO HEAL FROM SEPARATION, DIVORCE AND LOSS 

 Photo by Amanda Fine

Photo by Amanda Fine

ON LIFE CHANGING POST DIVORCE AND LOSS:

"The biggest transition I’ve been through happened over the last two years. In that span of time, I left my husband of ten years, subsequently finalized our divorce, and then my dad passed away about a month later due to his three year battle with cancer. My heart's devastation was a profound earth-shattering experience for me. I had feelings of grief I never knew before.

A desire to get away and be alone formed within me. As a visual artist, I craved natural wonders. I figured those larger-than-life landscapes might be big enough to hold the pain I was in. I had to know they were real, so I set out on a road trip across the United States. Over the course of my journey, I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in years and picked up a host of new ones, saw all fifty states, many of our National Parks, and put over 100,000 miles on my car."

 Photo by Taylor Auriel

Photo by Taylor Auriel

ON GROWING PAINS AND FINDING HER NEW NORMAL:

"Living out of my car for the better part of a year was definitely an experience that was out of my comfort zone. My home on wheels was a white 2010 Toyota Prius that was originally my father's. He gave it to me once he became too weak to drive. After my dad passed away, I kept the passenger seat open for him, taking his spirit along for the ride.

I went through some harsh growing pains with my new normal. Having met my ex-husband when I was a teenager, I had never been on my own before, let alone travel great distances by myself. I had such a fear of the world that it couldn’t fully reveal all the possibilities it held. I locked my car door even when walking to the picnic bench at my campsite!

"DURING THAT TIME OF SOLITUDE, I LEARNED TO LOVE, FORGIVE, AND BE KIND TO MYSELF, COMPLETELY AND UNASHAMEDLY."

Slowly, over time, I began to lean into the discomfort and trust that the Universe would protect me in the changing surroundings I found myself in. During that time of solitude, I learned to love, forgive, and be kind to myself, completely and unashamedly. Since I never stayed in one place long enough to be able to receive or give to a relationship, I had to learn to be all of those things for myself."

 Photo by Rachel’s Mom

Photo by Rachel’s Mom

ON BEING VULNERABLE AND ACCEPTING HELP & SUPPORT:

"It took great vulnerability for me to reach out for help from friends and family members while on the road. I had always been self-reliant and great at giving of myself to others when they needed it. Being on the receiving end with meals, a place to stay, clothing, guidance, and other forms of help was much harder. In those moments I had to let my pride fall away and simply be thankful.

I was raw and hurting when I walked back into each of their lives as I dotted my way across the country. Since I opened up about my deepest darkest feelings, my loved ones were open with me about their struggles and shortcomings too. I learned time and time again that I may have been driving alone, but I was not on a solo road trip. I had mountains of supporters who were cheering me on, sometimes even holding my hand. They became my teachers and were with me the whole way.

"IT TOOK GREAT VULNERABILITY FOR ME TO REACH OUT FOR HELP FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS WHILE ON THE ROAD... I WAS RAW AND HURTING WHEN I WALKED BACK INTO EACH OF THEIR LIVES... I LEARNED TIME AND TIME AGAIN THAT I MAY HAVE BEEN DRIVING ALONE, BUT I WAS NOT ON A SOLO ROAD TRIP."

The biggest leap of faith for me right now is the book I’m writing about my trip. The process leaves me completely exposed, “Here I am!” resounding loud through every pore. Even though my old friend, self-doubt, makes an appearance once in a while, I push those messages to the side. If my words can affect someone else in a positive way I feel like what I went through serves a greater purpose."

 Photo by Sarah Weisfeld

Photo by Sarah Weisfeld

ON THE LESSON SHE LEARNED AFTER FINALLY LETTING GO:

"My most recent emotional fall was over a new relationship I held onto for a bit too long. When it was good, it was so good that it covered the times that weren’t. Once I finally realized we were done, I was crushed. Yet another chance at intimacy bit the dust.

After seeing him the last time, I found a bird frozen in the yard after an ice storm. As I picked up and held it, I looked over its intricate markings and the colors that moved through each feather. For me, it became a symbol of our love. It had been beautiful for a time and I was grateful for it, but it came to an end as well. I buried the bird ceremoniously; my feelings with it.

"AFTER LETTING THE NEW MAN IN MY LIFE GO, I FINALLY HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD THE LESSON THAT WAS TRYING TO GET THROUGH: THERE ARE BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS IN LIFE. REGARDLESS OF WHAT STAGE I'M IN, I AM ENOUGH."

It’s really hard for me to let go. I prefer to cling to the broken shards that are left, rather than see something come to an end. After letting the new man in my life go, I finally heard and understood the lesson that was trying to get through: there are beginnings and endings in life. Regardless of what stage I’m in, I am enough."

ON LITERALLY BURNING FEAR OUT OF HER LIFE:

"I took part in my first "burning bowl ceremony" this past New Year's. We were told to think of something that was no longer serving us. Something we’d like to rid ourselves of in 2018. The first and only word that came to mind was FEAR, as I wrote it out in all caps, my hand shaking, making each line squiggly. I was one of the last people to burn my piece of paper in the bowl. That one word summed up so many of the words spoken around that room of people.

"SETTING ASIDE MY FEAR AND WALKING CONFIDENTLY TOWARD WHERE MY HEART LEADS IS AN EXERCISE IN BRAVERY THAT I SEEM TO FACE EVERY SINGLE DAY. I WOULD RATHER LIVE THROUGH THE FEAR AND FACE IT HEAD ON, THAN TO WITHER AWAY WHEN IT COMES KNOCKING."

I believe when we set that kind of intention, mine being to do away with fear, we’re given more opportunities to practice. This interview, Real Talk, to be fully real, takes extreme bravery for me. Setting aside my fear and walking confidently toward where my heart leads is an exercise in bravery that I seem to face every single day. I would rather live through the fear and face it head on, than to wither away when it comes knocking. I’ve spent the better part of my life living that way. Now that I’ve made the shift, I can never go back."

 Photo by Jud Davis

Photo by Jud Davis

ON LEARNING TO LET GO to free herself of her past:

"My most recent lesson in letting go was for my travel companion, Maude, a name that my friend aptly gave her meaning “powerful battler.” She was the car that made my trip possible. She was my home. Together we saw 49 states. She had to wait in Portland, Oregon during my trip to Hawaii. She got me all the way to Alaska and back last Summer. The three cracks in her windshield were my trophies from the drive through Canada, the first time I was out of the country by myself.

Within her walls, I cried, screamed, sang, danced, slept, ate, laughed, and worked through every imaginable facet of my grief. She became my friend through both the darkest and brightest seasons I’ve ever known. Our adventure together took us to the absolute edge of what we were capable of.

"WITHIN HER WALLS (HER CAR MAUDE), I CRIED, SCREAMED, SANG, DANCED, SLEPT, ATE, LAUGHED, AND WORKED THROUGH EVERY IMAGINABLE FACET OF MY GRIEF. SHE BECAME MY FRIEND THROUGH BOTH THE DARKEST AND BRIGHTEST SEASONS I'VE EVER KNOWN."

In the process of healing my heart, hers finally gave out. Her heart, her engine, cracked right down the middle. The day I collected my belongings from her, I had to let go of the final physical piece that connected me to the loss of my marriage, my dad, and my past self. She lived a full life and provided the wings to my freedom. In the end, I was ready to let her go."

 Photo by Derrick Richardson

Photo by Derrick Richardson

ON OVERCOMING FEAR BY TAKING CONTROL OF HER LIFE:

"I’m currently living in my parents' old house, while it sits on the market. It’s emptied of all furniture, so I can set up my yoga mat anywhere and have dance parties at all hours of the night. I can create, take photographs, and write all day.

What scares me at times is the life to come after this. For a while I let my thoughts run away with me and I would dwell on all the possible “what if’s” that the future could hold. It will be the first time I put down roots, since I uprooted myself two years ago. I’m scared to commit to a place, a person, a job, a new life. What if that blows up too?

"Whatever comes next is the continuation of the choose-my-own-adventure life I've been living. I've taken the wheel and have seen what I'm made of. So really, there's nothing to be scared of."

I recently had a flip in consciousness and decided to actively make the choice to accept the changing winds in my life. Let them swirl around and move. I know who I am in the middle of it and I can trust myself and my decisions. Whatever comes next is the continuation of the choose-my-own-adventure life I’ve been living. I’ve taken the wheel and have seen what I’m made of. So really, there’s nothing to be scared of."

 Photo by a fellow tourist

Photo by a fellow tourist

ON NEVER STOPPING TO SOUL SEARCH:

"I’ve tapped into some amazing healing therapies in the past few years. I picked up new art forms through my friends like glassblowing, making dreamcatchers, and most recently experimenting with kombucha and kimchi. I also dove into my yoga practice and it has revitalized my energy, healed my body, and nurtured my soul.

I opened myself to a whole new world of experiences. Within the past two years I had a life-changing reiki session, participated in moon circles, gong baths, constellation ceremonies, had tarot card and spirit animal readings, learned how to meditate, undergone crystal therapies, got into conventional therapy, went on a women’s retreat, channeled and chanted for the first time, and have pushed my physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies to the edge in the desert, on backwood trails through forests, and on the freeways of America. 

"EACH NEW EXPERIENCE HELPED ME SHED ANOTHER LAYER, REVEALING AN EVEN TRUER VERSION OF MYSELF. IF I CAN PASS ON ONE THING, IT'S NEVER STOP SEARCHING."

All of it led me to where I am today. Each new experience helped me shed another layer, revealing an even truer version of myself. If I can pass on one thing, it’s never stop searching."

"LET ME BE LOVE TO THE WORLD":

"I happen upon new mantras daily. I actively look for them. Whether it be through a stunning image with a quote on social media, a fortune cookie, a line in a book or blog, or a message from a friend, they come to me in all manner of ways. When I find one, I use it in meditation or even just think on it while I’m doing everyday activities.

One that I come back to often when setting my intention for a yoga practice or meditation session is, “Let me be love to the world.” I ask God, the Universe, and all powers that be to walk in front of and all around me. To please, show me what I’m meant to see. Help me to bring light and loving-kindness to everyone and everything that crosses my path, for I know it is all divinely laid out."


CHECK OUT RACHEL'S ROAD TRIP PLAYLIST