It has been a week... to say the least!
A comprehensive high-level recap:
1. We headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park on 6/23! We arrived at our campsite supes late! 11PM
2. The park was beautiful but mostly still closed because of snow!
3. We drove to Redwood National Park. Stayed in a woman's front lawn as a part of her Airbnb. They were really nice and introduced us to their many many farm animals, including a pig named Lashes <3.
4. Redwood was chill but the highlight was Mango being able to run around off leash by the water for a little bit!
5. We drove to Oregon! Crater Lake baby!
6. SO MANY DAMN MOSQUITOES
7. We thought about quitting or at least cutting the trip short. We didn't do it.
8. We saw the lake. I teared up.
9. We dropped Mango off at a boarder so we could hike intense park trails. The trails were mostly closed due to snow.
10. We listened to Bon Iver while driving through the park. I teared up more.
11. We picked up Mango and left Crater Lake for Eugene. We showered and did laundry wow!
12. We camped by Salem. Best camp site yet (aka less mosquitoes)
13. We arrived in Portland. Enjoyed walking around the arts district. Mostly enjoyed the internet.
14. Writing this blog post in our Airbnb. Hello welcome to the present.
Let's break it down
I expected a rollercoaster of emotions. I really did. But the amount I would feel in a given day, hour, minute, has been more than I was prepared for. I need to break it down.
It has been challenging with Mango. Michael and I have been reflecting on how vanlife would be a lot simpler if we didn't have her to think about. Maybe we would sleep in a tent more, maybe go on more challenging trails, definitely find more availability with the places we could stay because right now it is the constant "pets allowed" filtering that is driving our options from triple digits to single.
While she was away at the boarder's, we could sleep when we liked, get up when we liked. We did not need to worry about being woken up at 3 in the morning because she suddenly needed to poo. We would not need to actually walk her at that un-godly hour for 30-40 min. just for her to "make". Alls to say that while we love her and were obsessed with her well-being while she was away at the boarder's, it would be a lot simpler, less anxiety-inducing, and, dare I say, more adventurous?
I will say that while she has her moments of being stressed and very pent up from being stuck in a van all day, she has been adjusting to this nomadic lifestyle quite well. She mostly sleeps when she is supposed to, stays in the van quietly when we need her to, and overall has been enjoying being out in nature along with us. We often catch her lying down in a patch of grass next to our van, contently staring at the various life forms crawling all around her or just taking a quick snooze while we bustle around her.
We've also created a greater bond. She has always been kind of independent. Even as a 10 week old pup, she didn't whine too much, she loved her own space and was naturally not a cuddler. She preferred sleeping on the floor than in my lap. Vanlife kind of changed that for her. Not to say she loves cuddles but she definitely asks to be around us more. She stays up front when we drive, lays her head on the passenger side chair for head rubs and generally allows us to handle her how we like. She is more willing to let us into her face to give her kiss attacks and has been good at sticking by our side when off leash.
I feel closer to her than I've ever been and I see her blossoming into a really sweet and loving dog. I'm excited to see how she does in the different destinations we have planned and pumped to see her growth through this journey along with ours.
Thoughts.. Musings, if you will
I am a girl that comes from a very racially diverse part of America. Edison New Jersey is this little slice of Central yes-it-exists Jersey, that serves a large immigrant population. Mostly from Asia. And while New Jersey has its own, in my opinion, very interesting demographic, being the most densely populated state, one can see people from all walks of life.
I have also always lived in areas like this. From Astoria, NY; Oakland, CA; and San Francisco, diversity was always kind of a thing I took for granted.
Where we have been driving, on the other hand, is not as densely populated. There are probably more cattle than people in certain areas that we've driven through - DEFINITELY more mosquitoes. In other words, I felt like a fish out of water. And not because I felt like anyone was staring or pointing, but because I had never felt my own race more. I am Asian and not just Asian. I am Asian-American, an even rarer breed. I've caught myself projecting my own prejudices onto the strangers I see and while I am always proven wrong, by a nice smile or glance, I can't help but feel this way.
Perhaps it is because in the ever-divided media that we consume, it has naturally engrained prejudices about people because of how they dress, how they carry themselves, or even how they talk, but we (the left) are not innocent in placing our own demographically-charged prejudices on other people. People we don't even know. People we will never get to know if we keep our guard up and continue to judge on the sidelines.
On one of the nights at Crater Lake, while Michael and I relaxed inside the Lodge, a beautiful 19th century hotel overlooking the Lake, a pair of late 60 to early 70 year old sisters struck up a conversation with us, and while we had a lovely conversation about who we were, what their life was like and generally their views on things, they were careful not to "offend us" and to stay "politically correct." They mentioned our people as "millennials" and "the left" and briefly spoke on their upbringing and their beliefs, again careful with the words they chose. There was a wall. Not a physical wall, like the one promised on our southern border, but a sort of emotional wall? I mean, to be polite there are always some topics that are off color like, don't ask someone how much they make, or what their age is etc., but I feel with the recent climate of things, more and more things are becoming taboo to speak of.
So how do we continue to connect to one another? How do we identify our humanity through all of this bullshit that we find ourselves wading in? Are we truly living in a such a divided nation that finding commonality with your fellow human is so hard? I honestly don't believe that that is the nation we live in. I have seen so much good and love from the people I have also chosen to vilify in my own head. I am certain that we can instead find why people are the way they are, not to judge or berate them for their beliefs but to understand how they formed those beliefs. What commonality can we find in those experiences? and can we change and mold our own beliefs together? Maybe that's just the hippie in me talking, but we can't all be so different from each other. It's just not possible.
p.s. Shoot, I promised Michael that this wouldn't be a politically charged blog but damn, I really can't help it. Ooops :P
p.p.s. Here are some more photos :)