Wild & Free

Let these words sit and marinate, I’ll come back to them: “And then there was me. The Mother. The Artist. The little girl who filled notebooks with trees and rivers and thickets rich with treasure. I knew, deep in my deepest place of Knowing, that the only place my soul would ever feel secure, free from danger or threat, was exploring, with abandon, the wild and beautiful unknown”.
I confessed to a friend the other day that despite having done all I have in life, I’m still not sure I did enough prior to settling into motherhood. And the list of what I have done is long and diverse. I’ve rode elephants in Thailand and camels in Egypt, seen the Taj Mahal, spent a summer in France as an au pair for a family I still visit in London, I’ve camped on several different beaches in Mexico, got engaged in the Dominican Republic, seen the pyramids and King Tut’s tomb, drank mint tea in Casablanca, and even made my way to Cuba which is technically illegal.
I read this article that outlined three reasons to travel while you’re young. And I realized two things: I’m no longer young and, as aforementioned, I’m not sure I traveled enough while I was young.
When you’re young, you don’t quite grasp the freedom in doing what you want. You think of yourself as an individual entity and it’s hard to foresee a time in the future that your life is no longer your own. A time that, despite not being a prisoner, is nonetheless no longer about you and how you want to spend your day.
Sometimes I ask Willy if he’d be willing to pack up and travel around in an RV for a year. He doesn’t take me entirely seriously and I can’t say I’m entirely serious either, but it’s important (to me) to plant that seed and let it sit in the event that one day I may grow some hairy nuts and chose to water that seed. I don’t want to appear to come out of left field, so I plant seeds. A little virtual garden of dreams.
I do this because I’m still attached to my memories of traveling from my youth. I still feel their impact. I still feel their importance. I still feel the fire that these experiences ignited in my soul. I recognize how traveling changed me. Molded me. Defined me. And I want, so bad, to raise my youngins with the same “go, see, do” mentality.
The words above were written by Michelle Gardella as a feature on Artifact Uprising. Her story left me with a lump in my throat. Sometimes this life I live feels so right; I love my family deeply, with my whole heart. We have a home that’s small but big enough for us. We have successful careers in that we watch the dollars we spend, but not the pennies. And yet, at times, I feel like I am playing a role; like I’m acting out the American dream- the house, the kids, the dog, the careers- but my soul knows that it’s not entirely me. It’s part of me, but not all of me. The other part of me knows that the only way to live is wild and free; with dirt under my nails and ever changing scenery. I think we all long for some of this; I long for it so deeply that I can only assume it’s human nature.
It’s the practical versus emotional debate and it’s a heavy one. My practical side tells me I’m doing fantastic; it tells me my ducks are pretty well lined up, it tells me to keep planning and putting away for the future, it reminds me to stay frugal and yells at me to stop thinking so much when I’m driving on those long stretches of road with the windows down and the music up and the kids peacefully gazing out the window. My emotional side tells me that fire is still ignited for a reason; it tells me that ducks belong in a pond or the sky, not in a line; it tells me that there are many ways to live our lives, and it begs me to redefine the word “success”.
THIS is who I am. I feel like every post needs this post as a preface so I can be fully understood. Michelle’s words really got under my skin like an annoying bug bite that I’m constantly feeling the urge to itch.
I go on with the norm from day to day because the norm is my life right now. I have a family to care for and consider. And the ambiguity in how an alternative life would workout keeps that fire at just a flicker, a small flame that bends and twists with the wind but never fully goes out.
Dear Hooper & Van, never stay stagnant. Even while you’re sitting in one place, may your soul be jumping.
Side note: The photo above was taken in Baja, Mexico in 2006. I was with Janet and we rang in the new year at a hole in the wall bar filled with locals. It was a few weeks after my first date with Willy and I remember missing him. Our tent was just out of frame, right there on the sandy beach.
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3 Responses

  • I have to think everyone struggles with this in some capacity. I don’t have kids because I’m afraid of losing freedom, essentially. Like you said: “When you’re young, you don’t quite grasp the freedom in doing what you want. You think of yourself as an individual entity and it’s hard to foresee a time in the future that your life is no longer your own.” I fear my life not being my own. Then again, I think of THAT being somehow liberating too…because when you commit yourself to other humans, you forget your own stupid worries and you grow. I guess what I’m saying is that we all wonder how it would be to do things differently. There are so many ways to live a life. SO MANY. It really depends on what’s in your heart and what’s best for your family, ultimately. Everyone balances practicalities with fantasies. It’s part of being alive.

  • I LOVE this post, Ashley. Oh, my how I can relate 100%. Just change the names and adventures around and it’s as if I wrote it. I tell Josh the same thing. I want to just get an RV and spend a month on the road. It’s been my dream to do that for a while now and saving money to do that big adventure, which I hope we’ll do sooner than later.


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