Wild Woman

More poetry, an older one.  I’ll run out of those already written that I wish to share soon, which should will prompt some fresh ones!  Hope you enjoy,

National Park Huerquehue, Chile

National Park Huerquehue, Chile

Wild Woman

I am a wild woman, I am at home here with the trees

Their bends and sways seem to convey this is all I’ll ever need

I am a wild woman, smoke rises inside of me

I am lifted beyond the mountains when their body is beneath my feet

I am a wild woman, breezes swim inside of me

They are gentle, strong, and honest

Like my lover ought to be

I am a wild woman, my life is written perfectly

In sandstone mesas, granite vistas, and the ever swirling sea

All of this speaks inside of me

That I am wild

That I am free.

Futaleufu, Chile

Futaleufu, Chile

Posted in Poetry, South American Travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments


Upon returning from my travels and settling down again, I decided to keep this blog under the premise that steph without borders does not necessitate actual physical demarcations on a map, but can also mean a borderless mind.  Granted I’ve not done much with it since that decision, however my aim is to try and post something at least somewhat regularly.  Clearly starting now, as no regularity has occurred thus far.  I’d like to share a poem, I was contemplating an essay of sorts to use as a preamble, but I think I’ll just let it speak for itself with one qualifier.  The more time I have spent looking for silver linings, the easier it has become, and at this point in my life, it does come naturally.

I’d love to hear what you think.  As always, if you’re reading this, I am thankful.

I am not an optimist because it comes naturally to me.

The bright side doesn’t shine directly in my eyes

and sometimes I don’t believe myself when I point it out to you.

Sometimes I fake it.  Sometimes I force it.

But the more I fake and force the more I see.

I am not an optimist because it comes naturally to me.

I am an optimist because if I am not, I cannot bear the darkness,

I cannot stomach the injustice,

I cannot survive my own heart.

I am an optimist because the pain of the world is too great,

I am an optimist because of rape.

I am an optimist because of torture and disease,

I am an optimist so they don’t destroy me.

I am an optimist so that I am shielded from greed,

From excess and its inherent slavery.

I am an optimist so that my heart won’t bleed,

It does not come naturally to me.

I’ve spent years of my life looking for what is BRIGHT,

Searching for truth in LIGHT, trying to find where YOU shine

and because I know you shine

I will point it out and say LOOK!

It IS light, after all.

From abuse I have compassion for the abused,

From rape I have a deep bond with too many women.

From isolation and loneliness I have reverence and I hold my friends close to my heart.

From my heart breaking I have courage and the space to love like you’ve never seen.

From being pushed away I will hold close,

From being misunderstood I will try with all I have to understand

Why there is pain, abuse, violence, and slavery.

Why we cage animals as if they were not our brothers and sisters,

Why we cage our brothers and sisters as if they were not US.

Why we separate,

Why we isolate,

Why we violate.

I am not an optimist because it comes naturally to me,

but because it is the only way I can see

To save myself.


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Where Are You?

I am back to practicing yoga regularly. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that, it creates such peace in my mind and body to give myself that hour and a half on my mat. I love my teacher, who likes to talk about spirituality, connectedness, and the heart while kicking our sweaty asses. Periodically through any given class, she will ask “Where are you?” Now I know that this is a call to be present, to come into your body and focus on the moment, the posture. But I can’t help myself. Whenever she asks that question, I travel in my mind.

Sometimes, I am in my little one person marmot tent and the wind is whipping the fly. Rain is beating down on it and I crawl deeper into my sleeping bag. I breathe the freshness, the purity of the air in Argentine Patagonia. I think about the day I had, wandering the trails at the base of Fitz Roy. I can see it all, the Technicolor blue sky with cartoon like white puffy clouds sailing by, the unreal glow of sunshine on the meadow, and the sharp ridge of rock rising up out of the ground, covered in snow.

Other times, I am in the living room of Refugio Tinquilco, with Pato and Maz. The fire is roaring in the wood stove and we are giddy with Pisco and full bellies. Pato or his son is strumming a guitar, singing melodies that pull your heart and take you to other places, other times. The place is filled with the comfort smell of bread baking in the oven. I am so content in this paradise; I try to think of ways to never leave. In my musings, when I ask if Pato will adopt me, he says yes.

Then there is Peru. The moon is full and it is as close as it’s going to be to earth in a very long time. I make a new friend sitting on ancient stones above a fountain. We walk through dimly lit, narrow streets of cobblestone, with channels cut into their edges for the water to flow, to a ceremonial ground the Incas used. On these magic, giant boulders we lie down and stare at the moon. After a time, our backs slightly frozen, we start walking back to town. On the way we pass by the door to a courtyard. Inside a band plays and there is a party. No one inside is dancing, but out in the street, we are.

Outside of these moments, I am building the next section of my life. I’m thoroughly happy to be doing that in what ranks in the top 5 of most beautiful places I’ve been, the Pacific Northwest. These memories are not tinged with sadness or longing. They are simply where I still am, part of the time. It is the lasting benefit of adventure. Whatever that word means to you, when you have a good one, you never really stop feeling it, it never really leaves you.

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Where does your vote really count?

Okay, first a disclaimer. Stephwithoutborders is being re-vamped. Don’t panic, it’s going to be alright. It’s just that at this moment I am not wandering, at least not in my physical body. I do, however, continue to wander quite a bit around the recesses of my mind and would like to share some of these other types of adventures with you. Hopefully we will maintain a lack of borders in the process, until I can get on a plane again and resume the more traditional wandering life.

Since we are nearing the time when all of us will go to the polls and cast votes for the people we try to believe in, (I mean it, all of us. I don’t care who you’re voting for…well, that’s not technically true, but I do allow that it is none of my business. I believe that it is of paramount importance that we all exercise this right. Don’t let down our ancestors who had to fight for it) it seems appropriate that I speak to you a bit from one of my favorite soapboxes. So please, imagine me standing on a soapbox, bullhorn in hand. I’m thinking jeans and pigtails, and so long as we’re imagining how about some cute country girl freckles too. Got it? Okay, thanks…here we go!

I think that more important than any vote cast on any ballot anywhere ever are the votes we cast every day. Every time I spend 50 cents or $100, I am not just making a purchase to satisfy my current desire. I am telling the whole line of people involved in getting the item I want into my possession that I vote for every step of that process. Now I’m not going to call out any names here or try to start a debate about good versus evil business’…unless you want me to…do you? I mean, I can, and I guess it could be entertaining…but no, at least for now that’s not what I’m trying to get across. What I really want to say while I’m up on this nice wooden soapbox (we made it wooden right?), is that I hope you think about all the ways you vote every day. If you want to buy something and you can pretty much figure out where it came from, I hope you ask yourself how you feel about that. Do you support the process? Did anyone suffer so that you could save a bit? Does that matter to you? (Please say yes.) Is it worth it to spend a little bit more to purchase an item that you believe in?

Now I know the money is tight argument. Somehow we all, always, think money is tight. I suspect it’s because most of us have never actually experienced money being tight. (Suggested cures: 1) learn about how people live in third world countries; 2) really think about what constitutes a NEED and what is truly just a want ) I don’t want to say that what is right for me is right for anyone else, mainly for the selfish reason that I don’t want anyone doing that to me. So I will just say that for me, I would rather go without than have something for less if I don’t support its origins or how it got to me. We do research before we go to the polls and cast votes for the people and issues that resonate with our core beliefs. Why not put the same effort into understanding what your wallet is voting for? It might surprise you to find out. With the depth of influence corporations have on our government policies, it just might be the more important vote.

Posted in Voting | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Bits and Pieces: Connecting with the locals

The most common interaction I had with craft vendors in Cusco went something like this:

“Excuse me miss? Miss you buy from me?”

“No thank you.”

“Miss, miss, why not, you buy from me?”

“It’s very nice, but no, thank you.”

This could go on for seconds to many minutes if the person decided to follow me up the street, convinced that my resolve would break.

I don’t begrudge people this method of interaction.  I get it, they are simply trying to make a living and I am one of the most likely people who can help make that happen.  I hated saying no, but unfortunately saying yes to everyone would have limited my stay to a day or two instead of two months.  What was frustrating, however, was my desire to connect to these people, to understand a bit more of their world.  I just couldn’t seem to get the conversation past the constant urge to sell.

One day I was sitting in Plaza San Blas working on some Spanish homework.  A woman came by with her hand woven belts to show me and asked if I would buy any.  I replied with my standard ‘No, thank you.’  She was very polite, and continued walking around asking other tourists.  Then she came back to my bench and sat beside me.  My initial reaction was ‘Crap! I already said no, I just want to sit here and study!’  But I have the polite gene in me, so I greeted her again, saying hello.  Then the strangest thing happened.  We started a conversation.  We spoke for about half an hour about her and her husband, her children who were studying in University, the town where she lived, and what her life was like.  She asked me questions too, and I shared with her a bit of my story.  The most amazing was at the end, when I had to go to class.  I said I hoped to meet her again and talk more, and she expressed a genuine desire for the same to happen.  And I left.  And never once in that entire interaction did the question of a purchase come up again.  I was elated.  I finally connected with a woman who talked to me just to talk to me.  Later on, when I wanted to buy some belts for gifts, I sought her out.  It was the best way I could thank her for the gift she had given me.

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Culture Shock

This never happened to me when I left my country.  In places I had never walked, breathing air I had not before tasted, where everything was new I somehow never felt out of place.  Now here I am, back on the soil of the country of my birth.  Among people who speak my native tongue, among customs and behaviors that may not make sense to me, but are familiar.  Here I am, for lack of a better word, home.  After all of this time I am finally experiencing culture shock.

As I sequestered myself in a bathroom stall in the Atlanta airport, taking deep breaths and trying to find calm in the chaos that had suddenly enveloped me, I had to laugh at myself.  This was the second time in nine months that I had hidden in an airport bathroom.  The first, you might remember, was when I hid from ridiculously tenacious cabbies in the Santiago, Chile airport at 4 am.  Now it was the crowds of people, the excess EVERYTHING, and the ‘what the heck am I going to do with myself next’ that caused me to feel overwhelmed.  I loved the calm freedom of moving about countries at my own pace, of knowing I didn’t need to decide on anything, and could simply do whatever felt right at any given moment.  I would also be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited for a bathroom where I could flush my toilet paper, and then wash my hands without having to actually touch anything.  There are some pretty awesome aspects to life in the first world.

After crossing multiple borders in South America with barely a glance at my person or my belongings, the first shock of returning was the reintroduction to security procedures for the U.S.  Leaving Panama, I had the regular security checkpoint.  Then a second metal detector and full carry-on baggage search at the gate.  Not a randomly selected search, an EVERYONE gets searched before getting on the plane.  In customs in Georgia, walking what seemed like miles through sterile beige hallways to a large room with lines of people and booths of customs officials, the signs reminded me of how this country operates.  Is it due to fear or preparedness that we interrogate, photograph and fingerprint would be tourists?  I don’t know.  I just know it’s a whole lot different than anywhere else I’ve been.  Most places just stamp the passport and say next.  Panama actually wanted me to take the full six month Visa instead of the two months I had requested.

Sticker would have to be the next shock I went through.  After leaving the safety of my bathroom stall, I decided a large beer and some food would be a good way to acclimate.  Of course I know airport food is expensive.  I just forgot HOW expensive!   I had grown accustomed to beer being cheaper than water.  Thinking I’d be really generous with the last $20 in my wallet, I decided to give all the change to my waitress.  Ordering a beer and a sandwich, I figured that would be around $8.  Nope.  The “meal” came to $18 and I ended up digging change out to leave her a proper tip.

The next shock of coming home was the stores.  I visited my family in Arizona and went straight from the airport to the grocery store.  Millions of items sat on shelves, all pretty much the same, illustrating the excess of American culture.  My sister asked if I wanted anything.  I quite frankly could barely handle even being in there, let alone trying to find something I may want.  Until I passed by MY deodorant.  Well, that changed things a bit.  I like the non-aluminum kinds, and they are virtually impossible to find in South America.  It’s the little things, like beer and Tom’s of Maine, that make the return a bit easier.

So what’s next?  I have no idea.  Really.  None.  If you have any thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear them.  I have to figure some things out relatively quickly.     You know those pesky life things like income, where to live, who I want to be next.  How do I do those things and maintain my gypsy status?  As the adventure continues, I hope you’ll stay with me.  I’ll try to keep it interesting.

Posted in South American Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Skid Marks in Panama (or Where the Road Ends)

This utterly silly post is a collaborative effort between myself and of one of my favorite families. There may have been a bit of alcohol involved as well. Thanks to Jana, Tom and Tristen for an amazing three weeks!

It started in the city they call Panama
When looking at hotels and dreaming of swans
Made of white towels on linens so fine
In $300 hotel rooms that were way out of line

We settled on a hostel instead
With not quite so soft of a bed

We continued our journey north to the clouds
To a giant old crater away from the crowds

(This is El Valle, the town is built in the crater of an old volcano. At first it was a lake, but then the earth shifted and the water flowed out, and now it’s a gorgeous valley.)

We climbed a volcano then had to get cool
So under a waterfall we swam in a pool

There we befriended Flacito, a little black dog
Who followed us home as rain poured through fog

On to Catalina where we all got the runs
Drinking mojitos and having lots of fun

On the island of Cebaco we snorkeled all day
Watching the fish and octopi play
Our hosts captured lobsters as red as our backs
Swiftly we headed back to our shack

In the cabana, tired and beat
Red from the sun and exhausted by heat
A pack was lifted and under we found
A giant scorpion Jana squished to the ground

Tom jumped on the bed, the sheets in a whirl
While Stephanie screamed like a scared little girl
We didn’t check, but we are pretty sure
Marks may have been skidded in our under drawers

Back to the mountains a bus whisked us away
To the idyllic little town known as Boquete

Hiking in the forest was the goal one day
But a lack of road signs got in the way
So instead we headed to a Peruvian restaurant
And drank…
After a night of Pisco we were all very tired
We toured a coffee farm to get ourselves wired

Little did we know Tristen was imbibing
At 16 years old, coffee had him flying
Back to the hostel with no sleep in sight
He created a website that bought us free nights
At first we were concerned but then saw the light
A teenage tech geek on caffeine was alright

With money in our pockets we headed to the sea
Dreaming of tropical property

At a very cheap price the place sounded appealing
But the heat and the bugs had us all reeling
Dolphins and pineapples tried to persuade

But peace with the heat could not be made
Sleepless nights left Stephanie grumpy
Let’s just face it she was looking kind of dumpy
Covered in bug bites and feeling pretty grim
It was back to the mountains to try and save her skin
To the mainland we sped in a dugout canoe
Past dilapidated dwellings and garbage a strewn

With a ticket for going the wrong way down a street
We left Almirante in defiant retreat

A couple wrong turns and some hairpin curves
Had us a bit nauseous and frazzled our nerves
Around a bend the road ended without warning
Tom hit the brakes and the tires were burning
We came to a stop only to find
Skid marks a plenty, on the road left behind

At that moment we entered the twilight zone
Down a road we had already roamed
Confusion set in, panic almost attacked
When we realized our destination was now at our backs

At this point we decided Costa Rica was too much
We couldn’t imagine dealing with a bus
Tired and thirsty we returned to the hills
And were sadly informed our little hostel was filled

The owner told us he had a hotel
He’d give the same rate, it was just up the hill
So off we went and were thrilled when we found…

Elephants, swans and flowers made of towels!

Posted in Central America Travel, South American Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments