bike tour

Ten hours to dream up the New Year (and change the world…?)

I haven’t made a new blog post in a while. I briefly lost momentum. I allowed this to happen, and did my best not to judge myself or go into a fear spiral about how my lack of inspiration and motivation to keep writing meant that I’m a failure in general, and can never see a project through, and that this means my entire dream is going to fall apart, and I’ll be humiliated and depressed forever.

Whew, glad I didn’t follow that spiral! (Do some of you recognize that spiral?)

The weather has been Decemberish, and so I haven’t been cycling, really, except for my 3-mile-each-way commute. That’s OK too. Part of what is so meaningful and powerful for me about the process of my dream and vision is that I am doing this for my own pleasure. My own pleasure, of course, includes being of service to the world in the most effective and powerful ways I know how… but I’m really living into a life shift, here, from doing things from a sense of duty or obligation, or thinking that there are certain things I “have to” do (like bicycling in places or weather I would rather not)… to really dreaming into my own change, my own new way of life, where I do things because they bring me joy and satisfaction.

So… as the solstice approaches, I’ve been spending a lot of cozy time on my couch. I have been enjoying music, talking with friends by phone or video, and visioning into this journey.

The other day, a specific vision/action came to me:

I want to get started on this journey now! My dream has two parts: 1) bike around the USA (and parts of Canada) and 2) help shift the world in a positive direction by offering emotional and strategic support to people who care.

I need to wait for circumstances to line up for the first part. My vision is that this will happen next September. But the second part can begin immediately!

I also need to get serious about manifesting the financial/material means to take the physical trip in September. My vision is to somehow create/receive $50,000 (or its equivalent in goods and services) to last me the year of the trip. I continue to hold a vision for one or more fairy godfunders… but I also want to build a broad base of financial and material support. Of course I already have my Patreon set up. (Thank you to my early patrons!!) I am also considering a more traditional crowdfunder, such as GoFundMe. We will see.

As I’ve described before, I wish to offer emotional and strategic support to people who are a good fit to work with me. Some of these people may approach me, and others I might approach, based on my intuition. And, in many ways, I would like to decouple this offering of support from a pay-for-service model. (Hence the other funding sources I’m dreaming up.) But, that traditional model can still provide some of my funding. This project will take a variety of creative sources.

So! Because I wish to offer my supportive skills, and because I wish to begin raising the funds, I have a short-term vision that excites me in this moment: Ten sessions before 2021! If you’re reading this, I hope you can help me with this vision in some way. Here is what I’m seeking:

I want to offer hour-long sessions, by phone or video chat, to ten people between now and New Year’s Day. The more geographically diverse, the better! During each session, I will listen supportively to each person as they describe challenges they have faced in this year, and/or describe a vision for the coming year that excites them, for their own lives and/or for the larger community. As with all my sessions, the content will be confidential unless the person wishes for me to help publicize their idea in order to help it manifest more quickly or powerfully. Those of you who have worked with me before can attest to the surprising power of a simple one-hour conversation.

A few testimonials, from over the years:

“Maren’s ability to hold space is a truly magical thing. I feel like that hour gave me a much needed release, and I can’t express how deep of an impact it has had on me, even months later.”

“I felt invigorated and empowered, more alive and full of hope than I had in a long while. I felt after our session, I can do this.”

“My dreams are alive again, thanks to Maren. … She’s a great listener. When she provides feedback, her language in describing what she just heard is inspiring in itself. Suddenly my dream sounds legitimate!”

“I always come away feeling lighter and softer and more optimistic that our most glorious dreams come true. We can do it!”

Wow; it feels great to read those again. I am humbled and inspired to have worked with all of the wonderful people above. 

In return for these ten sessions I’m offering, I request one or more of the following, based entirely on the means and comfort level/preferences of each person:

* Traditional pay-for-service model. My standard rate is $95/hour

* Pay-for-service model at a pay-what-you-choose rate. This could be less than the standard rate if funds are a barrier, or more than that rate if funds are not a barrier and you wish to contribute extra to my journey

* Sign up as a monthly patron of my Patreon, at whatever rate feels right. I believe the minimum contribution is $2/month, and the average is about $8. I don’t believe there is a maximum.

* A trade or in-kind contribution, which may or may not approximate $95 (see above). Some examples of things I am seeking:

          * WordPress website/blog support (big need! The site is very outdated)

          * Free or discounted items for the trip such as Clif bars and the like, lodging credits for hotels or AirBnbs (I won’t always be able to find in-person hosts for every location, sadly), bike/rain gear, etc. Do you have an “in” with a provider of any of the above?

           * Possibly other items or services you have access to that I haven’t thought of yet

* Help me to spread the word of this vision by sharing it with like-minded friends or audiences. Specifically, I would request that you share the Patreon link that outlines my vision and preface it with some words from your own heart about my vision and/or a testimonial of your experience doing a session with me, if you have. Of course that second part is optional if you prefer to keep it private


So… what say ye?? Can you help me to manifest ten sessions by the end of this year? My intention is that each person who receives a session will find it to be a powerful way to put this year to rest and open up wonderful possibilities for the coming year. And, I hope that with ten of them, I/we will collectively begin to experience the magic and synergy that comes from multiple people setting intentions. That is what my journey is all about!

If you’d like to do a session, or know someone else who might, please contact me at maren@dreamintochange.com

Happy almost-turn-of-the year, everyone. Good things are coming; I feel it.

Stepping into an illustrious tradition

As I continue to get excited about traversing the United States (and parts of Canada, and possibly a dip or two into Mexico) I find myself thinking of others who have made similar travels, and who inspire me.

I recently learned from my mother that even my own grandfather—her father—made a somewhat similar travel decision in another time of economic uncertainty.

A Canadian citizen, he graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1930 with two degrees (one in forestry, for which he later earned a master’s degree at Harvard University, then spent his career working for the US Forest Service in Idaho and Utah). In 1930, right after the US stock market crash, jobs were even harder to come by in Canada than in the US. Rather than look for employment (or perhaps following a fruitless search) he decided to travel the world. He managed to spend a mere $200 for the entire trip, which my estimates show to be worth about $2325 in current US dollars. For this cost, my mother speculates that he must have traveled primarily on freighter ships. We know that he stayed with family members around the world, including Australia, France, Switzerland, and England. The purpose of his trip was mostly fun and adventure, rather than a larger humanitarian aim. However, I’m sure he learned a tremendous amount in his travels—before the days of television, much less the Internet—and it was interesting to me to learn that there is such a “meandering precedent” within the past two generations of my own family.

Outside my family, I have been inspired by the stories of Peace Pilgrim and John Francis, both of whom traveled on foot around the United States promoting peace and environmental responsibility, respectively.

I read John Francis’ book Planetwalker, at the recommendation of my friend Sunshine Dixon, last September on my epic cross-country train trip, and found his story very impressive. (I recommend his TEDTalk.)

Years ago, my friend Diane Emerson gave me Peace Pilgrim’s book, and I am embarrassed to say that it remains on my “to read” list, but I plan to read it soon; upon hearing of my upcoming travels, many other friends have recommended it.

Another fascinating character I just learned about, from my friend Avi, is Paul Erdős. From Wikipedia:

He was one of the most prolific mathematicians and producers of mathematical conjectures of the 20th century. He was known both for his social practice of mathematics (he engaged more than 500 collaborators) and for his eccentric lifestyle (Time magazine called him The Oddball’s Oddball).

Described by his biographer, Paul Hoffman, as “probably the most eccentric mathematician in the world,” Erdős spent most of his adult life living out of a suitcase. Except for some years in the 1950s, when he was not allowed to enter the United States based on the pretense that he was a Communist sympathizer, his life was a continuous series of going from one meeting or seminar to another. During his visits, Erdős expected his hosts to lodge him, feed him, and do his laundry, along with anything else he needed, as well as arrange for him to get to his next destination.

Erdős published around 1,500 mathematical papers during his lifetime, a figure that remains unsurpassed. He firmly believed mathematics to be a social activity, living an itinerant lifestyle with the sole purpose of writing mathematical papers with other mathematicians.

This lifestyle fascinates me. I dream of being someone who brings such value to the world, and to my hosts—by listening deeply to their dreams and/or existing projects, and helping them to enhance as well as publicize them—that they would wish to host me in such a way, and we would both consider it a win-win proposition, much like the intention I outlined ten years ago. Rather than solving mathematical problems, my intent is to collaboratively solve social and environmental problems.

I am setting an intention right now that this vision will come to pass.

www.patreon.com/dreamintochange

Choosing to trust the magic

Lately I’ve been thinking about money, and my career path, and how these two intersect with my bike tour dream.

I estimate that I will need about $36,000 of (net) income to get me through this year on my bike. And I will no longer have the income from my current day job. (I very much hope my day job will even continue to exist, but given the shaky state of the US economy, particularly in the retail sector, that is far from guaranteed at this point, and this fact stresses me out a bit as well, after 17 years in that job.)

My deepest hope and dream, for the past dozen years, has been to make a living from my life coaching and empathetic listening practices.

That has not happened. My income from these sources has remained a trickle, a meager supplement to the income from my day job. If I’m being realistic, I have no reason to believe that I can suddenly “manifest” this dream career in the next year, to give me the cushion I’ll need to pay for the trip.I find this disappointing on a few levels. I worry about my future, my possible retirement. Technically, I have the savings to pay for this trip, but that would take a massive dip into my retirement savings, and that feels really scary and foolhardy.

I also find it disappointing because I judge myself as a failure in this respect. Being some sort of therapist or life coach has been my dream ever since 8th grade, and I have never found a way to make it work for me financially. The clients I do have love what I offer—I know my work has deep value—but I’ve never been able to find an effective way to “market” myself; like most people in healing professions, I recoil at the very idea.

I have spent thousands of dollars on business coaching with two different coaches. This only left me depressed and hopeless about my prospects. I have offered free sessions to try to entice new clients. I have participated in trades. (The ongoing trade with a massage therapist was definitely a win-win!) I have done countless sliding-scale benefits, trying to make my work as financially accessible as possible to potential clients, while also donating a portion of proceeds to many different nonprofit causes I care about.

I don’t want to make “sales funnels,” or sign up for expensive mailing-list software, and write just the right blog posts, and post just the right videos, where I look professional enough but also down-to-earth, and I speak vulnerably yet powerfully, and I lure people in to want to work with me.

Ugh! No! I don’t want to do any of this.

And so… I’m kind of a failure. And it feels depressing.

So, I was thinking about this these past few days. Like… what do I need to do to “meditate right” and “manifest right livelihood” in just the right way? Or, what do I need to force myself to do, against my will, to “make it happen” in more conventional ways, such as going to grad school or some sort of coaching school, slogging through my learning disabilities and racking up debt which I then may or may not be able to repay? Or spending a lot of money to hire some kind of perfect coach to either force me to do the icky marketing, or at the very least, update my aging, non-smartphone-optimized website?

Racking up debt, doing things we hate, going against our own values, experiencing various forms of humiliation… that’s how we succeed under capitalism, right?

Yeah. No. I’m not doing those things.

I had a bit of an epiphany today, after these ruminations, on a phone call with a dear friend. (Hi, Erin!)

Those of us who believe in magic (sometimes surreptitiously, because we’re not allowed to do so openly in this society without being mocked or dismissed)… those of us who do our best to “manifest” the magic we want… the thing is, it does exist. It does happen. And it’s incredible to behold.

But.

Sometimes (always?) it does not work in the ways we might want. Like… sometimes we have a core struggle in life. Mine appears to be that of manifesting right livelihood.

It’s deep. It’s thick, like a dense forest. It’s not something a bit of meditating, and visualizing, and journaling, and talking about it to many people, and going to networking events… etc… can produce.

It is a core struggle. Probably lifelong.

And… maybe the way to approach it is not head-on. Maybe it’s more of a dance. Maybe it’s about having a wish and a vision, but mostly focusing on the magic and the beauty that does continue to unfurl around us, sometimes serendipitously and sometimes with a slight push from us.

I don’t want to slog in service of my dreams. I want the means to be consistent with the ends.

Thinking about this trip lights me up. I don’t know if it will somehow lead to my “succeeding” financially as a coach or healer… actually, I suspect it won’t. I’m starting to grok that this may be part of the point. Maybe that’s not even my actual destination in life.

The point is to follow my passion. My passion lights up others. As I traverse this land (and even before I start) I will meet so many amazing people. We will light each other up. We will become parts of a powerful network. Untold magic will result from this trip. I am 100% certain of that.

And I will make it happen, financially, somehow. I’m taking this trip.

www.patreon.com/dreamintochange

Basking in a fleeting magic

As a hobby photographer, I have been enjoying playing with golden hour light since this past spring. Early in the pandemic restrictions, I would walk five blocks to what I thought was my “boring” neighborhood park, to enjoy some fresh air and outdoor time. But the sloth of the lockdown held a gift for me: the first few weeks of severely reduced working hours had me, mostly happily, staying in bed until 1 or 2:00 in the afternoon more often than not. By the time I had showered, eaten, and decided to go to the park, the light would be starting to turn. And it was absolutely enthralling.

There is a Japanese phrase, mono no aware (“the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last”) that describes the “extra” beauty of an aspect of nature that arises when we know that the beauty is fleeting.

This could aptly describe the end of summer, the end of a flower’s blossom, the end of a day … so I think that the golden hour, while visually stunning in its own right, also benefits from this concept.

Today was a spectacular Portland September day. The high temperature was around 80 degrees (27 C), and after work I spontaneously decided to bike to one of my favorite food carts, Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen. The ride took me along the beautiful Springwater Corridor. After a wonderful outdoor meal of vegan Chinese food, I headed home a different way, through the Westmoreland neighborhood. As I was rounding the bend at Bybee Blvd, I glanced to my left and was visually struck—not for the first time—that there was a beautiful overlook of the Willamette River just there, and there seemed to be some benches. Tonight, I finally paused long enough to check, and sure enough: I saw three picnic tables, two of which were occupied, and the last one just waiting for me.

As I parked my bike next to the table, I was overcome with the beauty of the light. It was about 6:30 pm, and the sun was dropping in the sky, saturating all the river trees with a golden glow. I marveled at it, and began photographing somewhat obsessively, as is my wont.

Finally, I relaxed and simply sat at the table, soaking in the moment. After thirty years in Portland, to sit in this spot was another first for me this summer. The temperature was perfect. The light was perfect. This wonderful dream of a bike tour hummed in the back of my head.

And… I realized that a big part of my motivation for taking this trip is to maximize the golden hours in my life. I hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms, but that is what I’m dreaming of: to follow the light and the warm, pleasant weather all around the continent. Of course I know I will encounter days—probably stretches of weeks—that will deviate drastically from these ideal conditions. But… I hope that on most days of this tour, I will greet the golden hour tired but satisfied, and I will be able to sit—alone or with friends, new or old—outdoors, in some new spot every few days, feeling the warmth of the lowering sun and basking in its magical glow.

This summer is drawing to a close in Portland. If all goes according to plan, by this time next year I will be in southern Oregon or northern California. Tonight, as the evening ebbed, the summer ebbed, the year ebbed, my time in Portland ebbed… I savored the mono no aware.

www.patreon.com/posts/42155095

The rain returns

I’m back in Portland, after a wonderfully refreshing break. The area had a small bit of rain while I was gone, which mercifully cleared out most of the smoke, and put out many of the fires.

Today, I was back out on my bike—returning from an eye doctor appointment—in my first “real rain” of the season. That’s how we know fall has arrived in Portland. Contrary to popular belief, it does not always rain here. Our summer months—July, August, and most of September—are reliably and almost completely dry. It’s the other nine months where things get soggy. Unfortunately, within the past few years that dryness has now seemingly reached a climate-change point where it turns the West Coast into a tinderbox pretty consistently by the end of the summer.

Still, many of us do struggle with seasonal depression, and the rain and gloom and cooler temperatures are a part of that… particularly for those of us who bike for transportation.

Thus, I experienced quite a mixture of feelings today, swathed in my rain jacket, rain pants, helmet cover, and rubber boots, wearing sunglasses over my dilated eyes as I navigated the rain and gray skies for the 15-minute ride home. (I arrived soaked and dripping, and hung up all my gear in the kitchen, signaling the return of another seasonal ritual.)

I noticed how so many of the trees seemed to have begun turning, even just in the week I was away. The equinox happened the other day.  And now, here is the rain.

It will be intermittent, interspersed with warm and sunny days, probably until mid-October, when the season will really settle in. I expect I will do much less pleasure bicycling, focusing more on commuting and grocery trips, beginning around that time.

This leads me to ponder how I will navigate the weather on my bike trip. A large motivator for the trip is to “follow the sun” and pleasant temperatures around the country, effectively opting out of the cool and rainy months here at home. But I know that I will still encounter some rain, and possibly other challenging weather—maybe even hail or snow in mountainous regions—so I will need to be prepared for this. How will I choose what to pack, to be able to protect myself adequately, yet also keep things as lightweight and non-bulky as possible?

A friend forwarded me an ad for a bike trailer today, and I looked at it and wondered if it would be a good style of trailer for me. What were its pros and cons? How would it compare to other options, in size, shape, style, portability/convenience, price…? What kind of bags or “luggage” will I end up taking, and how will they interface with whatever style of trailer I end up using? As I mused aloud about these questions to my friend—who lives on his bike, up and down the West Coast—he reminded me that planning has its place, but the magic of “living by bike” lies largely in taking the leap, and allowing what unfolds to unfold.

It’s kinda scary.

And kinda exactly what I think I want and need.

www.patreon.com/dreamintochange

Overcoming fears, finding new challenges

I am finding that blogging about my fears seems to help dissipate them. I love this, and hope it continues. (I recommend some version of this to anyone reading: if you don’t have a blog, maybe post about some of your fears on Facebook, or tell them to friends. See if it helps!)

Case in point: Yesterday I wrote that I had a hard time getting myself out of the house in time to go to the nature park I had hoped to visit in West Linn. While that ended up turning out fine, because I chose to make a new plan and do some “hill work,” and enjoy beautiful views on Mt. Tabor instead… I am pleased to report that today, after my livestreaming concert ended at about 2:45, I got everything together in time to head out the door at 3:15, bound for the park. (Mary S. Young State Park, if you’re in the Portland area and want to visit yourself.)

I had a lovely ride, and found the park to be incredibly beautiful, with forested trails and river access. I decided to take a different route on the way back, so that I could do a bit more hill work and enjoy more beautiful views in the Tryon Creek Natural Area, as well as the River View Cemetery. The views and time spent in the perfect-temperature September evening were definitely worth it… but I did find myself facing another, now-familiar concern: How do people build up the stamina to handle all the distance and hills I will need to cover on my trip? How will I be able to do this? I estimate that I climbed less than 500’ on this trip today. I covered about 30 miles total in my loop. And I didn’t have any luggage or gear, except what I carried in my small backpack. On my nationwide journey, I expect to travel probably an average of 50 miles per day, and sometimes as much as 60. Elevation gains could reach 3000-4000’ on any given day. And I expect to have either a trailer with a suitcase, or possibly some version of packs rigged directly onto the front and rear of the bike. (I’ll figure out such logistics later, maybe next summer.)

How do people do this? It seems really challenging. I know people do it. How do they do it? I’m in decent shape, I think, and at 47, frankly I’m on the low end of the typical age for Brompton touring folks. 

So… I guess if they can do it, so can I? I sure hope so. Maybe after a week or so of putting in the miles every day, I’ll just get used to it? All I can do is hope so, and continue to give myself local excursions to practice between now and then. Maybe next summer I can begin “training” in earnest, with more and longer trips, and carrying a load.

One day at a time, eh?

Scaling my first “mountain”

Today, I got in the saddle on the Brompton for the first time in a while. It was time to begin “training” for this dream! 

The bike had had its first-ever tuneup the other day, so the ride was extra smooth. I headed up Mt. Tabor, the extinct-volcano-turned-city-park in my neighborhood. I was pleased to discover that the gears—which go lower than those on my “everyday bike” 1979 Free Spirit—made the climb feel entirely reasonable. When I got to the summit, I found many other bicyclists and pedestrians—car parking is partway up the mountain, so one must use human power to get to the top—enjoying the beautiful late-summer, late-afternoon sun. I imagined how many beautiful public parks I will encounter all across the country when I make this journey.

It’s early in my visioning stage, and I’m still brimming with excitement. Yet, there are always internal obstacles to be aware of, and to do my best to navigate consciously. For me, today—as with many days in most of my life—I struggled to find the motivation to get going. I was “attending” a live-streamed musical event on my computer until 2:30, but I had told myself yesterday that I would get out and get on my bike no later than 3:00. In fact, I had originally had another destination in mind: a suburban park that would probably take me about two hours to reach. Given the waning daylight this time of the season, I thought I should leave by 3:00 to make sure I had enough time to enjoy it, and to enjoy the return trip during daylight.

But for two hours today, I found myself feeling antsy, and finding excuses not to leave the house. I checked Facebook. Then Instagram. Then Facebook again. I had a snack. Then another snack. Then checked FB and IG again. I felt my own familiar frustration with myself: “Are you going to do this again? Are you going to sabotage your perfectly reasonable plan? Why do you do this to yourself?”

Finally, at 5:00, I was disappointed with myself for having apparently indeed sabotaged my plan. But, I realized that not all was lost, and I could enjoy a closer destination. I put down the laptop and phone, and headed out the door… and thus began a lovely couple of hours.

And, maybe I could do my original plan tomorrow.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself sabotaging own your plans at times? When you do, are you able to be flexible, and take some smaller, more manageable steps if the original plan feels too scary at first? I am appreciating my willingness to be gentle and patient with myself at this time. It’s a stressful time in the world. And, I have time to prepare for this journey. I can do this.


www.patreon.com/dreamintochange

Dreaming of Earthships

I think I’m at the point in this journey, and this blog, where I’m ready to start talking to some people about their dreams, and sharing those dreams with the larger world. I’m not sure yet what form(s) this may take: Written interviews? Video interviews? General summaries of my talks with people?

I’m going to start here with that last one. I had a talk with a friend the other day about some of his dreams. One of those dreams was to live in an Earthship. I was inspired to hear him say this, because I had vaguely heard about Earthships, years ago, but hadn’t thought about them in years. 

The concept was conceived and popularized by architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970s. An Earthship is a dwelling structure that is fully self-sustaining. It is built simply, with natural materials sourced from the local area, and/or recycled materials such as glass bottles; powered by sustainable energy and independent from the municipal electrical grid; and its water, sewage, and waste material handling systems are all natural and self-contained.

My friend has a vision of living in a structure like this with a community of like-minded folks who value living simply, kindly, and in harmony with the environment.

I love hearing these kinds of dreams and visions. While doing my reading on this topic after talking with my friend, I saw that Reynolds’ Earthship Biotecture is located in Taos, NM, and they offer tours of their Earthship building. I am tentatively adding Taos to my bike trip itinerary, so that I can tour it myself.

To anyone reading: I would love to see any other stories or resources about Earthships, or (especially) to hear your personal stories of visiting or touring one, or maybe even building or living in one. Please share! Also, I’d love to hear others’ dreams about your ideal living situation. Are you already living in your optimal living situation? What does it—or would it—look like for you?

(Link to the Patreon, if you’re moved to support my vision in this way.)