I’ll start by saying that I am enthusiastic about life and seeing the world, and I am a person that can be characterized by sarcasm mixed with general optimism and a touch of existential doubt.  Things that I enjoy include the sound of a bell pepper being pulled apart, kale, prime numbers, dandelions, noun-adjective alliteration and sledding down hills.  Fall is my favorite season, and I don’t enjoy beverages that are so hot that they burn my tongue.  I’m fairly certain that human beings have gone completely bonkers in the last couple hundred years, and evidence for this is that on beverages that might burn your tongue there can typically be found a label that reads: Caution, hot.

Although I once rejected “Computer World,” as I call it, I have joined the likes of bloggers worldwide, as a means of keeping my friends and family updated with my whereabouts, adventures and musings for the next couple of years.

Here is a little background info on me, the author of this silly blog:

During high school, I went to a boarding school in California called The Thacher School, and I picked this school primarily because it had a strong academic program and also an amazing outdoor program.  Each fall and spring, all students took a week off from school and went on camping trips.  I was able to hike in the high Sierras, kayak in Baja, and camp in Yosemite.  After high school, I went to American University in Washington, DC, and  studied Psychology.  I knew I was interested in how the brain works and in the study of human behavior, but I was unsure of how I wanted to pursue this interest.  Through really a matter of luck, I got an internship at the Center for Autism and PDD and was trained in ABA therapy for young children with autism.  I fell in love with children with autism; they are unique and intelligent, with a language of their own that is a challenge to decipher.  I was restless in college, and although I loved living in Washington, DC, I wanted to get back to the outdoors and adventure some more.  After my second year,  I decided just before the fall semester began that I wanted to do something else. I jumped on to one of the last spots on a NOLS semester in the Brazilian Amazon, filed for a leave of absence with my university, and went to the Amazon.

Playing with local children, in a small village in the Amazon

I spent 3 months with a group of 11 others, canooing 500km down a tributary to the Amazon, three weeks backpacking through dense jungle, two weeks on a “cultural immersion,” where I lived with an indigenous family, and three weeks hiking in the high grassland mountains in southwestern Brazil’s cerrado.  Pictured above are some of the children I lived and fished with during the cultural section, while living on my own with a family in the Amazon.

The Amazon was one of the most incredible places I have ever seen.  Each day, I swam with piranas, river dolphins, and caimen, and at night, I fell asleep to the sound of red howler monkeys, tree frogs, and crazy insects.  Some nights, I awoke to the sounds of my expedition-mates, screaming in terror as leaf-cutter ants had chewed through their hammock strings and were attacking their bare bodies.  It was an experience of a lifetime, but I can’t quite say I would ever go back.  Bullet ants, snarly jungle vines, and Africanized killer bees are only fun the first time you experience them :)

After the Amazon, I wasn’t ready to return home just yet.  I took a bus to Sao Paulo, and Couchsurfed for the first time ever.  I  stayed at different people’s homes for a total of two months, in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero, and learned what it’s like to travel alone.

Couchsurfing in Sao Paulo, Brazil

I discovered that Couchsurfing is an amazing way to meet people and learn about a place through the eyes of those that live there.  I met some really amazing people, was exposed to a couple of outrageous places that I never would have been to otherwise.  It is a wonderful way to meet friends to travel with from all around the world.

After Brazil, I went back to DC and finished my last semester at American University.  I was even more inspired for adventure by this point, and on July 21st, 2009, just two weeks after finishing my last undergraduate class, I started walking from the tallest mountain in Maine, Mount Katahdin, along the Appalachian Trail.  This trail is a 2,178-mile footpath that stretches from Maine to Georgia.  On December 21st, I reached the end of the trail, after 5 months of walking and camping, by myself.  This experience completely changed my perspective on my life.  Over the course of 5 months, living out of a backpack, and in the woods, I was able to really learn about myself and how I am when I am truly alone.  My trailname became “Miss Step*” because I could be found fumbling and missing my footing at any given moment.  I began to love being alone, and realized that traveling alone is a privilege, and an opportunity to be celebrated by those who have the chance.  I learned not to take myself too seriously, or life too seriously for that matter, because when it came down to it the only things that really mattered in life were the weather, companionship, and food.  And what else really does matter?  By the end of the trail, I met four of the best friends I will ever have in my life.  We hiked the last 500 miles together, and have stayed close ever since.

In Georgia, after hiking 2,000 miles from Maine

After finishing the trail, I had no idea what to do.  But it didn’t bother me, really.  I felt like I could live anywhere or do anything, and frankly I had come to realize that life isn’t about what you “do,” so to speak.  I chose to move to Cape Cod, MA, quite randomly, where I got a job working as a therapist again for children with autism.  I had never lived by the beach, and I visited Cape Cod in the winter just after finishing the trail, and was enamored by its snow-dusted quaint and quiet towns, not to mention, children with autism.

At “The Knob” on Cape Cod, Massachusetts

I liked living by the ocean for once, and I was able to be close to the friends I had made on the trail.  But I quickly learned that although Cape Cod was beautiful and peaceful, it wasn’t the best place for a young person to move to all alone.  It was hard to make friends that shared my interests, and I never felt like it was quite the right place for me.  I worked hard, completed a Master of Education degree at the University of Massachusetts, and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).  This will enable me to, one day, write behavior plans for children with special needs, and supervise the kind of therapy I had been implementing for the past five years.  I say one day because for now, I want to put my career goals aside, explore the world, and return to them when I have all this itchy-feet-business out of my system.  Maybe in 10 years?

After two and a half years on the Cape, I donated the majority of my things, sold my car, computer, and anything else of value, and packed what was left of my things into my backpack.  This was how I had once felt so free, on the Appalachian Trail: living out of just a backpack.  I wanted that again.  So if it didn’t fit in my backpack, it didn’t make the cut.  I got on a plane to Bozeman, Montana, and started my life as I know it.

Near Grand Teton National Park

I spent the summer waitressing at Yellowstone National Park, and it was an incredible experience.  Being able to call a national park your home is unique and I loved every minute of it…except the working for Xanterra part…

So I traveled throughout SE Asia for 6 months.  I ended up in France, because there’s cheese there.  And wine.  And then I went back to Cape Cod to explore the art of loving someone.  After 5 months of that, I packed up again and went to Honduras to become a dive instructor.  Ah, yes.  I discovered scuba diving in Thailand and decided to do that.  I have no solid plans beyond the general concept of being off in the world; the only plan I will stick to is letting go and exploring other cultures and ways of living.

For a more detailed background on, you can read a post I wrote in a more reflective moment.

And that’s that!  For now, I am in Little Cayman Island diving every day and pretending to be a sea-slug.

2 Responses to About

  1. Tabs

    I love you.

  2. becky gallagher

    amazing blog lisa! great writing, lovely pics! keep up the good stuff

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