Monday Mindfulness: Arkansas Sunset

Arkansas Sunset

I have not had much time during this past week to put together a post, so I’m keeping it simple. This picture is from my trip home to Arkansas earlier this year. In moments like the one captured in this photo, it is easy for me to remember to be fully aware of the moment, to slow down and focus and notice. It is much more difficult, but no less important, to also be aware in the less wonderful and beautiful moments. This past week, I have repeatedly wished the moments away as I studied and studied and then studied some more. This is a reminder to myself to be mindful even in life’s unpleasant or challenging moments.

That Time I Went to Oregon Part I

Words that have not, to my knowledge, been used to describe me: impulsive, irresponsible, relaxed, goes with the flow (yes, I realize that’s a phrase, not a word), rule-breaker. You get the idea. On that note, let me tell you about the craziest thing I have ever done.

I booked a trip to Oregon.

Let me pause while you wrap your mind around such wild and reckless behavior…

Okay, now that you have picked your jaw up off the floor, let me explain.  When I was growing up, I rarely got in trouble. I did not even do typical teenager things like break curfew because I DID NOT EVEN HAVE A CURFEW. My parents were so unconcerned that I would actually break a rule that they did not even bother to give me a curfew. I was that teenager.

As an adult, my rule abiding tendencies have generally continued. I get all sweaty and itchy if I even think about doing something wrong or unpredictable. Which is why my recent behavior, you know the whole Oregon thing, is utterly shocking. At least for me.

Rather than fully explain the “wrong” and irresponsible portion of the equation, suffice it to say that I purchased a plane ticket to Oregon approximately 100 hours before I left. All it took was a text from a friend suggesting that I join her on her trip to Oregon and I was headed down a path that will almost certainly lead to desolation and despair. Or, at the very least, to me moving halfway across the country. Which is, according to some members of my family, practically the same thing.

See how excited I am about breaking the rules. Oregon, here I come!
See how excited I am about being irresponsible. Oregon, here I come!

My first stop in Oregon was, where else, Portland. Given that my image of Portland was derived from a strange mix of Grimm and Portlandia, my expectations were high. And Portland did not disappoint. Well, I sadly did not meet any vegetarian werewolves, but I was otherwise not disappointed. Actually, my tour guide had been in an episode of Grimm. But I’m jumping ahead.

Given that it was my first visit to Portland and I just had a few hours to spend, I began my day with the well-known Voodoo Doughnut.

Voodoo Donut

Voodoo Donut

Voodoo Donut

Cliché perhaps, but the peach fritter I ordered was wonderful. Things to know – the selection of doughnuts is, ummm, interesting and they only accept cash. Obviously not wanting to take my rebellious behavior too far, I think I must have subconsciously ordered the tamest item on the menu. Oh, and seating is nonexistent inside (although there is a bar where you can stand) so you might end up eating the fried deliciousness sitting outside in the rain. Not that I speak from experience.

Look at that face - only a trip and a really good fritter could make me look that happy while sitting in the rain.
Only being on a trip and eating a really good fritter could make me look that happy while sitting in the rain.
This thing was seriously bigger than my face...
This thing was seriously bigger than my face…

After the all-important combination of sugar and coffee, I was ready for the walking tour I booked with Portland Walking Tours.

Trying to momentarily hide from the rain. Before walking in the rain for two more hours.
Trying to momentarily hide from the rain. Before walking in the rain for two more hours.

The Best of Portland Walking Tour was the perfect way to get an overview of Portland. I even got the full Portland experience when it rained the entire tour. The tour began in Pioneer Square and ended at the waterfront. In between, my guide David provided a fantastic history of the city.

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square

Portland Walking Tours - Pioneer Square

The tour covered the entire history of the city, but especially focused on the transition of Portland from one of the most polluted cities in the US to the model of greenness that it is today.

Portlandia. Apparently it's not just a television show...
Portlandia. Apparently it’s not just a television show.

Portland

Portland

Portland

Portland Walking Tours

This is supposedly the penny that was flipped to name the city. The city could have been named Boston.
This is supposedly the penny that was flipped to name the city. The other option was Boston.

Portland

Portland

My tour guide was in an episode of Grimm, which is filmed entirely in Portland. The bar in the background is where his scenes were filmed, although they ostensibly took place somewhere in Europe.
My tour guide was in an episode of Grimm, which is filmed entirely in Portland. The bar in the background is where his scenes were filmed, although they ostensibly took place somewhere in Europe.
The world's smallest park
The world’s smallest park

Portland

I can highly recommend Portland Walking Tours. Not only was it a cogent and engaging introduction to the city, at $20 it was a great value. Plus I was able to walk off approximately 2% of the calories I consumed at breakfast. Bonus!

If I’m ever back in Portland, I would love to do another tour with Portland Walking Tours – perhaps one of their food tours. There is even a tour centered on sampling chocolate, which pretty much sounds amazing. Yes, please.

Despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my walking tour of Portland, I was thrilled when my friend picked me up and I could get out of the rain. Desperate for something warm to drink, we quickly found a spot for lunch. Dar Essalam is just south of Portland in Wilsonville. Cozy and absolutely delicious, this Moroccan restaurant was the perfect spot for me to recover from an entire morning spent in the cold and rain.

Hummus and pita bread
Hummus and pita bread

Lunch at Dar Essalam

Mint tea
Mint tea
Lamb kabob
Lamb kabob

From there, I enjoyed the ever changing views as we drove south to Medford, Oregon. I knew Oregon would be beautiful, but even then I was surprised by how beautiful. As I considered the possibility of moving to Oregon (which, to be clear, is still just a possibility contingent upon whether or not I can find a job), the mountains were doing a good job of convincing me that I should.

Oregon

By the time we arrived in Medford, I had pretty much decided that I wanted to live here. But there was one absolutely crucial thing to determine. There is one thing I could (probably) not live without even for mountain views and vineyards (oh yeah, did I mention there are vineyards?!): Mexican food. Lack of decent Mexican food could possibly be a deal breaker. So for dinner that evening, we headed a few miles away to the charming town of Ashland to try Agave Tamales.

Ashland

Ashland

I couldn't possibly move somewhere that did not have decent Mexican food...
I couldn’t possibly move somewhere that did not have decent Mexican food…
Not quite my homemade guacamole, but not bad.
Not quite my homemade guacamole, but not bad.
This was a delicious posole.
This was a delicious posole.
Green chile and cheese tamale
Green chile and cheese tamale

One night in Oregon as I ate mouthwatering Mexican food while reflecting on a rainy day and rainbows, I felt the beginnings of a new life in a new place. By no means is that new life a certainty and many things may change in the next few months. But, by taking a chance, by stepping out of my comfort zone and booking a plane ticket, I allowed myself the opportunity to see the possibilities. And those possibilities are really exciting.

Erwin Park

For me, sometimes the choice to hike is about working toward a goal. At other times, it’s a way for me to focus on and enjoy the present.

As someone who could be described as a planner, I have a tendency to look forward to the next thing (like moving to Oregon!) at the expense of slowing down and appreciating what is currently happening in my life. However, one lesson that I have certainly learned during this past year is that the things I anticipate in the future do not always come to pass. By living in the future, I rob myself of the opportunity to fully experience the current moment. Although perhaps it was understandable that I spent the last few years anticipating being finished with graduate school.

I do not want to spend my life never living it. Hiking and being outdoors are ways I can focus and find more meaning and satisfaction in the present.

          Erwin Park

That is how I, yet again, found myself at a place I have frequently hiked. Erwin Park in McKinney has an almost 9-mile mountain biking trail that can also be used for hiking. I enjoyed the park on a beautiful Saturday in February (which was approximately 26.45 hours before it was literally freezing again). It is recommended that hikers walk the trail counterclockwise in order to face oncoming bikers. Which is a really good idea given the number of mountain bikers on the trail most weekends. The park has a combination of wooded areas and open fields, providing a decent variety of scenery.

Erwin Park                     Erwin Park

Erwin Park also offers campsites, a playground, and picnic facilities.

Erwin Park                      Erwin Park

Although a 9-ish mile hike at a local park may not be life-changing, it was the perfect way for me to slow down in order to appreciate the gift of a beautiful day and to feel gratitude for what is happening in my life right now.

What are some ways you focus on the present or enjoy the moment?

Cedar Ridge Preserve

One aspect of living a full life is making intentional choices that move you toward important goals or values. However, progress can be impeded because making those choices can be difficult and sometimes even painful.

This brings me to Peru. Peru, and namely the Inca Trail, has long been high on the list of places to which I want to travel. But there has always been something holding me back: not having someone who wants to go to Peru with me, feeling nervous about doing the hike (remember my ability to balance is precarious at best; see this post to fully appreciate my total inability to not fall), the need to save money for the trip.

The reality is that if, as I say, taking a trip to Peru and hiking the Inca Trail are important to me, I will take the steps necessary to overcome these obstacles. I will plan to go to Peru even if no one else can go with me (although my parents may be less than enthusiastic about that). I will save money by not buying new earrings Every. Single. Time. I walk into Target (I wish that were an exaggeration). On that note, I might also want to stop making trips to Target just to buy new earrings. It’s a problem. And, relevant to this post, I will make time to hike on a regular basis in order to work toward getting in Inca-Trail-hiking shape.

So, I am publicly sharing my intention: Peru 2015. I do not have any big trips planned prior to that, so my blog will be focused primarily on local attractions for the foreseeable future (although perhaps that will be in Oregon and not Texas in a few months!). And because regular hiking is on the pre-Peru agenda, I am sure there will be many future posts dedicated to Dallas area hikes.

Take, for instance, my recent visit to Cedar Ridge Preserve.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Located at the very edge of Dallas, Cedar Ridge Preserve offered much more than I expected to find in the city. I was pleasantly surprised by the sometimes steep and rocky terrain due to the limestone escarpment upon which the preserve sits. There were actual hills. And trees. This not-so-city girl was thrilled. I just had to ignore that the natural beauty of the park included rattlesnakes.

Cedar Ridge Preserve             Cedar Ridge Preserve

Please excuse my Saturday morning, no makeup, puffy face…

With about 10 miles of natural surface trails, over 600 acres of land, and a view of Joe Pool Lake, Cedar Ridge Preserve is about as scenic as a Dallas gets. There is even a small pond.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

The preserve is managed by the Dallas Audubon Society, who request a $3 donation per visit, which can be left in the on site box or paid online. The trails at Cedar Ridge Preserve are for hiking only (no mountain bikes or horses) and pets are allowed if they are leashed.

I have since been back a couple more times, but I am really looking forward to seeing the trails in the spring when the bluebonnets are blooming. I predict that there will be many more Saturday morning hikes in my future as I begin taking steps toward Peru 2015. Now to work on that earring buying problem…

What is one of your goals or an important step you would like to take toward something you value? If that happens to be Peru, you can always tag along with me!

 

 

The Wandering Mind

I began blogging 2 ½ years ago as a way to avoid working on my dissertation while writing about my favorite thing – travel. As someone who has always enjoyed writing, I wanted a creative outlet where I could write something other than scientific papers, which, let’s be honest, are a bit dry and usually not all that interesting. What began as a simple hobby has recently become something more.

Lately, likely due to the major transitions in my life, I’ve become more thoughtful about travel, what it means to me, and how to more fully experience the places I visit. This brings me to my other interest – psychology. Now that I am officially Dr. Cora and am no longer in grad school, I have had more time to reflect on travel. I realized that many of the skills I teach and use in therapy are skills that can make travel more meaningful, memorable, and transformative.  So join me as I begin this new adventure in blogging. I’m glad to have you along for the ride!

I am unable to transfer the content of my previous blog at this time (yep, so not technically skilled), but you can still see all of my old posts at http://cgplatt.travellerspoint.com