I returned back to Los Angeles last Friday. I am currently staying in my Van Nuys home. I will take this situation day by day. I still will pursue house sitting in the Palisades, but I believe now I have a base.
This short 2-week adventure changed me in ways I could never have imagined. I was invited up to a friend's home for a week and then had to vacate upon her return to the Palisades. She is an inspiring woman; and just being with her taught me so much about the independent spirit and strength. She's known tougher times than anyone can imagine, and the story of her survival and faith in her own inner resources was just the medicine I needed.
Once leaving her home, I had to figure out where to go next. I decided perhaps I was meant to make a life in a new region, and so I set my sights on a community near the Santa Rosa area involved in community resilience activities. My friend and I went online and found a hostel in Point Reyes I could stay. The price was cheap, and I could bring in my own food in their communal kitchen. I would be safe with a warm bed.
I loved the hostel. It was clean, small, and comfortable. I put myself up in the woman's dorm that had plenty of bunkbeds. The staff was friendly, and the environment had a family feeling to it. There was a "no alcohol" policy that I appreciated. I was in no mood to be among partying travelers. I needed a quiet spot to think. Also, the age range went from early twenties to senior citizens. I loved the diversity of ages. However, there was expensive paid internet service and no cell signal. This was problematic as I needed to begin to make new connections as well as having an emotional need to maintain communication with folks back home. Therefore, after the first night I ventured to another hostel in Sausalito with free Wi-Fi.
The Sausalito hostel was much larger and not quite as cozy as the other, but it was still safe and friendly. I was moved by the view of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. I had never been in this particular area on my past trips to San Francisco. The beauty was on the same level as many of the gorgeous places in the Palisades. I was mesmerized by the sun shimmering on the deep blue water. One traveler told me the view never gets old, and I was in total agreement.
I spent several days in the hostel, trying to make those connections but didn't get very far. Mostly I took little hikes to a beautiful lagoon on the hostel grounds and got to know some travelers with inspiring stories of their own. Life in the Palisades is very insulated, and we really don't know what's going on "out there," but this trip provided much insight about that.
One of the first travelers I met was a man from Seal Beach. He kindly took me on a walk to a cove for an awesome sunset the first evening. He was leaving the next day for North Dakota. His story was a tough one. He was a computer programmer who had worked for Intel for many years. He always felt secure in his job and did well. He owned a condo and enjoyed a life of wealth. Then he got laid off and found himself unable to find a job for quite some time. He lost his condominium and nearly everything, but he toughed it out.
When I met him, he had just finished off a contract with a Northern California web company. Because rents were so high in the area, and the pay was so low, he decided to live in the hostels to keep a roof over his head. These hostels allow a 14-day stay maximum at each facility, so he moved from hostel to hostel in the area for some time. He said he met some awesome and interesting people and enjoyed the experience.
During this time a job opportunity came in with Halliburton in North Dakota. It paid well enough. He had a certain amount of trepidation about the job given his love of the planet and the harm their fracking activity was causing, but he was tired of being jobless and wanted to have some cash. He said North Dakota is rolling in money, one of the few places that is, and he was looking forward to see the end of his financial struggle. I was sorry to say good-bye to him the next day, but happy that he saw some relief in sight even though he was morally conflicted about this move.
I met another woman from Germany. My guess is she was in her forties. She was taking a bike trip on her own that started in Alaska and ended in Baja California. She saved money for years for this big trip, and she was having the time of her life. She was resourceful and energetic, staying in hostels, camping, and living as tightly as possible. The last morning she was there, I watched her pack with interest--curious what she considered necessities on such a trip. She had everything she needed to withstand the cold of Alaska and the variety of weather patterns. I was amazed.
One other person I got to know was a woman from San Jose. This was not a pleasure trip for her. A month ago her daughter had given birth to a brain dead baby who was in the process of dying. Rather than do the drive from her home to San Franciso everyday to see the infant, she decided to stay in the hostel across the bridge as a kind of respite. She would sleep in late, then visit the baby, then return that night to her hostel bed. She appreciated the anonymity of hostel life and being away from her everyday world to process the heartbreak she was enduring. Getting into conversations with happy travelers took her mind off what she was going through and gave her additional perspective.
We sat down one morning, and she went through the entire story with me about the baby. The baby was born perfectly healthy, but because of one medical error after another was kept in the birth canal too long and drowned. The grandmother was there at the birth and watched the whole painful saga and tried to intervene many times, but was powerless to be heard. Her daughter and the father of the baby kept telling her, "They are experts. They know what they are doing," but she knew better, and it pained her to be so right.
She was both angry and distraught while she talked about how the baby's heart was so strong and kept beating while its tiny little body was withering away. I held her in my arms for a very long time. I had never encountered such an outpouring of grief before, and I was surprised at my ability to hold myself present for her. We also talked about what a wake-up call this was for her. She found herself questioning how she was living, putting off things she wished she wouldn't and realizing how precious life is and that maybe she should begin to seize it now.
I did not know it at the time, but everyone I encountered from my Palisadian friend to the grief-stricken grandmother provided a shining example of inspiration to me that I desperately needed, and for some reason I feel forever changed. Having a warm bed is nothing to scoff at even if it's just a bunk in a large dorm room. Many don't have that or are close to losing one. Just as the man from Seal Beach, I met others who were staying in hostels to avoid homelessness. Hostels are a temporary solution, but a solution just the same. I wonder if homeless shelters offer the safety and warm feeling these hostels do?
So while sleeping on my husband's couch in the living room, I am very appreciative of being here and his attitude that I will always be family to him. Because of my experience on the road, something has healed in me. I see life in a completely different way that has transformed our relationship, and because of that, perhaps being here may no longer be the cage it used to be. He appreciates my journey and doesn't judge me. Who could ask for anything more than having a roof over your head in an environment with warm acceptance of who you are?
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