Escaping Normal

Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled . . . And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

The road to Taos & the Chama River

With many hardships of the pandemic still looming, I think I’d be right in saying a great many of us would like to escape our new normal. Would you agree?

I recently watched Into the Wild, which is based on a true story. I had never seen a preview or read the book, but fell in love with “Society” & a couple other songs from the soundtrack, sung by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and knew I had to see the film. A Rolling Stone journalist wrote that the songs temper the romance of absolute freedom with an eerie foreboding. Such a perfect description.

Another view of the Rio Chama

The movie, written and directed by Sean Penn, documents the cross-country journey of a young Emory University graduate, Christopher McCandless, after having given up most of his savings, credit cards, and other worldly possessions. During his travels, his heart is flung wide open by beauty, freedom, and some of the colorful characters he meets. Spoiler alert – the movie does not have a happy ending. But if you have ever escaped, or longed to escape, what society considers normal, the spirit of the movie will move you.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage. – Anaïs Nin

Before I left my home in South Florida, I was feeling lost and desperately wanting to escape. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, but I knew it was something and somewhere else. I had lost the job that was my primary source of income. My 5-year romantic relationship had ended. My best friend (of over 15 years) and I had stopped talking, and other friendships had dissolved. My favorite (husband & wife) ministers were moving over a thousand miles away. I shared with a Buddhist Monk energy healer that I felt the cornerstones of my life had collapsed. He suggested that these painful changes were preparing me for a huge shift in my life’s trajectory. He couldn’t have been more accurate.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, just north of Taos

There is a universal, intelligent life force that exists within . . . as a deep wisdom, an inner knowing. We can access (it) through our intuition, an inner sense that tells us what feels right and true for us at any given moment. – Shakti Gawain

Because the idea of traveling had always appealed to me, (and frankly, I didn’t know what else to do) I decided to sell my home and almost everything I owned and hit the road. Once I made that decision, however, I was terrified. I couldn’t even talk about it without crying. I knew in my heart that it was right, but I wrestled with fearful thoughts most days and nights until I left. Thankfully, once I embarked, a sense of freedom and happiness came over me almost immediately. The spirit of travel was revealed to me, and love seemed to ooze back into my life.

The untamed beauty of Northern New Mexico

On this path let the heart be your guide
for the body is hesitant and full of fear
. – Rumi

My first extended stay was in Taos, New Mexico. I had read about the wild beauty of Taos Mountain, sagebrush, buttes, and canyons, and I longed to see them for myself. Staying at a hostel, I met a group of people of various ages and backgrounds who felt like family after just a couple weeks. That group included a Vietnam Vet from New York who listened to a lot of Grateful Dead. There was a girl from Oregon who was taking a break from college. I met a 30-something guy who lived in a tepee nearby and traveled by bicycle. I shared a dorm room with a beautiful young lady from Texas who, like me, was taking a much-needed break from life in general. (I’m happy to say we are still friends today.) And, there was an Asian gal who had fled San Diego after learning her boyfriend had cheated & smashing his car windows. Like a family, we all shared food, rides, ideas, stories, and music. During the day, we explored Taos Ski Valley, the Rio Grande Gorge & the Mesa; drove the Turquoise Trail & visited Durango; and checked out art galleries, unique shops, & the farmers market. In the evening, after sharing meals, we would sit around a fire pit, stare into the mesmerizing flames & savor the sweet smell of the smoke while listening to someone play guitar. It was a soothing balm for my sad, weary soul.

The Mesa, thick with delightfully-scented sagebrush

For three years, I would continue my journey on the road, staying in community, with friends & family, in hostels, and in my tent. I drove great distances all over the country and hiked hundreds of miles. I fell in love with Nature and shot thousands of photos. I saw animals in their natural habitat, many of them up close. I learned to love the ascent of a mountain and appreciate geography and topography in general. I met lovely people. I learned to cook new foods. And when my big road trip was over, I felt wholly rehabilitated.

I resonate strongly with Christopher McCandless’ story. The beauty, education, hospitality, and healing I experienced from my extended travels permeated every aspect of my being and changed me forever. Escaping the normal life I once had was the best decision I could have ever made.

The Mother Road

Blessings for Escaping Normal,


The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.

39 thoughts on “Escaping Normal

  1. Thanks, Lisa. Your photos and story remind me how much I miss the southwest. One day I will return.
    Love to you! Hollace


  2. Beautiful post…I loved it! Brought back some precious memories and tears to my eyes. Happy tears though….of sitting by the camp fire with the smell of juniper in the air, adventures with new friends and the profound sense of blessings for having found a lifetime friend.. that would be you my beautiful friend Lisa….keep writing … warms my soul!


  3. Dear Lisa, what an absolutely beautiful reflection. I really appreciate your writing style; succinct, vulnerable and offering a window into your embodied experience.
    And your photography is wonderful as well, but no mystery there, it is New Mexico after all!


  4. This journey in your life is one that I know without any doubts whatsoever was the GREATEST thing you EVER did for yourself! Somehow, someway YOU were able to reach deep into your soul to find the COURAGE and DETERMINATION to leave what you once thought was your happy place in order to find your TRUE SELF. This journey led you to find a different kind of love, joy, peace and happiness through the beauty of nature. So “many of us” want that same “love, joy, peace and happiness in our lives” but just have not been able to find the courage within ourselves to do so. Many Blessings to you always…….


  5. Hey Lisa,
    Here I go again hoping this comment will post. What a wonderful journey of moving on from many doors that closed, hitting the road with your favorite music and opening to the silver linings of the pandemic. Love your determination and trust of your inner self. Love these beautiful pictures to go with your heartfelt words. LMK if you get this… ❤️ Cindy

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ‘Escaping Normal’ for me was retiring from work at 65. Now I’m 70 and I’m trying to work out what it is that I really need to do before my time here is over! I shouldn’t say too much now but reading your post has made me realise how much life I have missed. This is not an obstacle and I’m still searching for answers, but not by dropping everything.

        Liked by 1 person

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