Solo

Two ferries, one plane and three trains (one that boarded a ferry itself), were my modes of transportation these past two weeks. Since Natalie left Helsinki, I have been traveling solo. In the past two weeks I explored a part of the world I only imagined, and now it seems my dreams have come true. I’ve seen Finland, Sweden, Denmark and now I’m in Amsterdam!

I walked the streets of Helsinki and saw the cathedral and visited the stalls in Market Square.

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Helsinki Cathedral

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Fresh salmon with garlic sauce, potatoes and veggies. Yum!

When I arrive in Stockholm I celebrate Midsummer, a holiday second only to Christmas. I find myself at Skansen, an open air museum in the center of the city with thousands of other locals and visitors.  It is an amusement park with cultural history along with an aquarium, zoo and so much more.

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Raising the Maypole, it took a good 15 minutes to do it the old-fashioned way.

 

 

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I met some reindeer too!

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I even tried some local protein, elk. It was pretty good. And don’t you love the wreath I made myself!

In Copenhagen I found the famous Little Mermaid statue and also took a stroll a long Nyhavn Harbor.

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The beauty is amazing and I am loving the weather. The average temperature has ranged from the high 50’s to the mid 70’s. There might have been one day in the 80’s in Stockholm and I was warned to be careful with how hot it would be, ha ha. I received reports from my family in Alabama that temperatures have reached 100 degrees already. I have to say I am pretty happy where I am right now. That’s not to say that there is not a rainy day or two, but those days are perfect for visiting a museum or reading a book.

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Windmill c. 1917 by Piet Mondriaan

If you asked me one year ago, let alone six months ago if I would travel abroad by myself I would have said “I would love to think that I could, but I don’t think I would.” Well, that has all changed in the past month. Part of the appeal to being part of The Great Enlivening was that I would be with two other people, two amazing women with a sense of adventure and the means to take time off from life to explore the world. Though we had not been through all the same life experiences, we all felt a need for something new and different.

Both Rachel and Natalie took this time as a source for healing, but for me, I believe it has been a way to break out of my shell. There have been so many firsts on this trip, the biggest by far is spending almost a month traveling around Europe solo. I left all the stability of a good job with benefits and a family that loves and supports me for – uncertainty. But with that uncertainty comes the chance for growth that I think I needed for a long time. I believe that I have grown up these last four months. I was pushed from my comfort zone and put myself in situations that I am not always comfortable with.

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Amazing views on a boat cruising around Stockholm.

I love getting out and experiencing this amazing world that we live in, but usually I have someone with me. My sister or brother are the usual suspects who accompany me. Now I have taken day excursions alone on trips or flown solo to visit friends in different cities, but never a weekend let alone 4 weeks without knowing a single soul.

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My brother and sister with me on our most recent trip down to Disney World for a marathon.

So I have had to put my smile to good use and meet people, strike up conversations with random strangers, like in a line at the Rijksmusuem in Amsterdam that lasted about two hours. It was worth it to see two Rembrandt paintings that have not been seen in public since 1956. Also I got into the museum for free since it was opening day, hence the queue.

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Rembrandt’s portrait of Marten

Or trying to figure out the quirks of an electric stove at the hostel in Copenhagen. I have learned that backpackers are some of the friendliest travelers, always willing to lend a hand or tell you the tricks and quirks of kitchen appliances. Who knew a morning tutorial would lead to an evening at a Biergarten with a fellow American and an Aussie.

 

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Girls just want to have fun

I have had my days when I miss Rachel and Natalie. I pass a cafe and imagine the three of us sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine and sharing our thoughts on our day or our experiences in the past. But I know that their departures and my decision to stay are no coincidence. I truly believe that God was preparing me for this adventure by myself. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to travel alone from the start. I am also reassured by the amount of people I have met throughout this journey who are traveling alone as well. There is a certain amount of freedom that you are allowed because of it.

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I found the smallest house in Amsterdam.

My journey is not finished yet and I know I still have more to learn. But I do know that I have grown through this Great Enlivinging. I am stronger than I think and can do much more than I ever imagined. I know that these are facts that I must take with me on my next adventure in life. What am I going to do when I get back to the States? But luckily I am not quite there yet, I still have a little time to see the world and find out more about myself.

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One of the many canals in Amsterdam.

From Helsinki to Home

I slowly smile as I look through the ferry windows and into the Helsinki harbor. I never expected to be in Finland, but then again, that’s kind of the theme of this trip. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow morning I’ll be on a plane to Los Angeles. I feel like this journey just started, yet at the same time, I feel completely ready to go home.

Rachel left us a few weeks ago, and since then, Katy and I have had some amazing adventures. We spent a week in Paris where we wandered the beautiful streets…

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Visited with my college roomie, Renee…

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Gained some culture…

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Watched the opening game of the 2016 Euro’s (that’s soccer for all you Americans out there) from the Eiffel Tower Fan Zone…

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And after many years, caught up with my old Annapolis friends Lisa and Elle Wells!

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After France, we made our way to Berlin, Germany, where we took in the sites…

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And studied the history.

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After that, we headed to Tallinn, Estonia – one of my last stops on this journey. Coming to the end of this adventure made me contemplate the beginning, when I was so uncertain about the future and the world was yet to be explored.

Before I left on this Great Enlivening, I stood in the living room of my home in Virginia and prayed for the season ahead. I asked God to bless Rachel and I, to show us what steps to take, and to help us navigate the uncertainties ahead. When I finished my prayer I turned around and noticed one of Rachel’s signs in the living room that I’d never paid attention to before. It said “It all starts and ends with family.”

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And that’s exactly how the journey began – with a month-long road trip to visit family and friends. And as poetically as only God can orchestrate, that’s how it ended.

After Berlin, Katy and I travelled to Estonia to see my cousin, Eve, graduate from her Masters in Cyber Security program.

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My sister, Katie, Eve and I grew up together in Salisbury, MD. Katie and I like to joke that Eve is “our” little sis. We all had dinner together on Sundays, went to the same high school, and played for the same volleyball team. So it seemed fitting that I would spend my last few days on this Great Enlivening with Eve. Since nine months ago, I started this journey with my sister, Katie.

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The differences between life today and life then seem unreal. When I started this trip, I was a ship adrift. I was lost in a sea of uncertainty, insecurity and broken heartedness.

Looking back on that season, all I desired was to be the strong, brave and confident woman who God created me to be. But just wishing to be different doesn’t make you different. So even though I didn’t feel ready, I jumped into this Great Enlivening anyway.

Lots of people were skeptical about this journey. Some were incredibly supportive. And others were outright against it. And I don’t blame the naysayers one bit. We live in a world and a country that values ‘the plan.’ And when you’re a smart and successful 31-year-old, it doesn’t make sense to trade in your life for a backpack and a one-way ticket. But sometimes, getting lost in this world is the best way to find out where you’re supposed to be.

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So that’s what I did. I pushed past the boundaries of my comfort zone and experienced the world. Luckily, God gave me two amazing women to travel with. And we all laughed, cried and grew together. It’s safe to say that I am forever changed for the better by this experience. Now, instead of wishing to be stronger, braver and more confident – I am those things.

So to answer the popular question – what’s your ‘plan’ now?  The truth is, that I don’t know. I spent a lot of my life making plans, some that came true and some that never will. And what the next season of my life looks like is trust, not blueprints. Trusting that God will lead me to the people I need to meet, the places I need to go and the future I’m supposed to embrace.

Sure, I have ideas about the next steps, and I have hopes and dreams for the future. But right now, what I have is a lighter heart, an emptier bank account and a shorter bucket list. Oh yeah, and a one-way ticket to California, where I get to see my amazing family who I’ve missed so much.

I may not have the next three years mapped out, but this Great Enlivening has shown me that that’s not what I need. Up until now, I spent the majority of my life striving to be everything I aspired to be and have everything I thought would make me happy. I achieved a lot, but at the end of the day I still wasn’t fulfilled. It wasn’t until I packed up and left it all behind that I found out what this life is all about.

So what does this mean for The Great Enlivening?

Katy continues to travel and will post about her amazing adventures.

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Rachel is busy reconnecting with her niece and nephews in Louisiana…

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But for me, it’s the end of this season. It’s time for a new adventure. I don’t know what it will look like or where it will take me, but I have no doubt that it will be more beautiful than I can imagine.

So thank you to everyone who read this blog, who wrote to us, who prayed for us and who supported our journey!

If you’d like to stay in touch (and I hope you do!), you can follow me on Instagram @nataliesactthree

 

-Natalie Hunter, signing off 🙂

 

“El Nino” is a Punk

We’re on our way home when the text comes in. “Be REALLY careful driving.” It’s from our neighbor, Claudio, aka “Dad.”

He was nice enough to watch the dogs while Natalie and I went up to the San Diego airport to drop off my friend Sherri who came to visit. But since this is the second time he’s cautioned us today, I can tell he’s pretty worried.

“Why is everyone so freaked out by the rain?” I ask Natalie, bewildered as we make our way back toward the border.

“Oh, it’s just Californians” she explains matter-of-factly. “They’re not used to driving in it.”

Growing up in Alabama and Louisiana, rain was often part of everyday life. But here in SoCal and Baja California, it’s an anomaly and apparently something that causes a lot of concern and traffic accidents.

“But it’s just rain,” I say.

“It’s like how Southerners react to snow,” she counters.

Immediately I have a flash back of my first time driving in the snow in Virginia. When I misjudged the time it would take to slow down and make a turn and how I wasn’t able to. How my car skidded right up over the curb and directly onto the main road – which by the grace of God somehow had no on-coming traffic at that moment.

“Well, I guess that makes sense,” I acknowledge.

But inwardly I still think the reaction to rain (people not leaving their houses and being afraid to drive anywhere) is a bit over the top. I mean, it’s just a little water people.

We cross over into Mexico and then traffic comes to a stop. We’ve come to expect exceedingly long wait times heading into the U.S., but coming into Mexico is usually smooth sailing. Until today.

We inch along for about 30 minutes chalking it up to nothing more than some wicked rush-hour traffic until I see it: a section of the road that is completely covered in water and the wake of cars that are haphazardly trying to pass through it.

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It’s hard to tell how deep the water is but it’s completely covering the wheels of most of the cars, which makes me thankful we’re in an SUV.

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After safely crossing this “shallow river” we continue on the main road where I began to really appreciate Claudio’s concern for our safety. Turns out “El Nino” is no joke. And also that Mexican infrastructure is not made for substantial rain.

Muddy water pooled along the edges of the lanes makes hydroplaning a serious threat and newly deposited boulders strewn across the road have me concerned about landslides.

Just when we make it back to our house safely we get the news. We expected that the skylight in our entryway would be leaking (which has happened before and why we keep a spare bucket nearby).

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But in addition, all the excessive rain that has saturated the ground has seeped through a crack in the concrete walls completely flooding my bathroom and the utility closet.

When we talk to friends and neighbors later we hear similar reports; flooded houses and people stranded because of impassable, muddy roads. Even the beach where Natalie and I run is a mess. Massive waves took out some of the wooden umbrellas and tables and trash is strewn all along the sand.

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Needless to say, I now understand the impact a “little rain” can have here. And I also think “El Nino” deserves a spanking for all the havoc he’s wreacked.

But more than anything I’ve come to a greater respect and appreciation for water.

On one hand we are surrounded by it – the Pacific ocean is literally right off our back patio. And on the other hand, we have to plan ahead to ensure we have what we need to live. You see, the water is not drinkable in Mexico. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you think about needing enough water for two adults and two dogs every day.

Before we left Virginia I purchased a top-of-the-line water filter that can basically take scummy pond water and make it potable.

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It’s worked well, but it only filters about a gallon an hour. So, at least 6 times a day, I’m refilling the container, filling up our pitcher in the fridge and also allocating some water for the dogs.

If I fall behind in doing so, we run out. Which isn’t the end of the world, because we can always go to a “tienda” to buy some, but it does keep water at the forefront of my mind throughout my day.

In Mexico, I never leave the house without a water bottle. And when I go to the U.S. I always feel so grateful to have fresh, free water available at fountains in nearly every store – something I didn’t really appreciate before.

Two months into our time here, I’m pretty comfortable with the water situation. It’s been a long time since I’ve accidentally swallowed a big gulp after brushing my teeth (which always makes me feel sick – though whether it’s a physical or psychosomatic response, I’m not sure). Refilling the water filter is habitual these days and most of the time we have more than enough.

But beyond that, I’ve fallen in love…with the ocean.

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It’s something I admire each day on my porch or through my dinning room windows. I love to gaze at the beauty of sunlight dancing on the waves like diamonds. I breathe in the ocean air, walk along it’s rocky beaches and run along it’s sandy ones. The sound of the crashing waves has become a part of my life, the rhythm as natural as breathing to me, the sound calming my spirit and lulling me to sleep each night.

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Since November, I’ve enjoyed the presence of the ocean. But last week, in honor of a new year and my friend Sherri’s birthday, I opted for a more tangible experience –completely immersing myself in it.

For the last decade, nearly every January, I’ve had people invite me to do the “Polar Plunge” in Virginia Beach. And every year I’ve politely declined. Maybe because I’m a chicken, but also because running into freezing cold water in the middle of winter sounds miserable.

But this January I took the plunge on my own volition. See the video below.

Yes, it was a physical plunge (which wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and was actually quite refreshing). But more importantly, and on a much deeper level, I believe it was symbolic of a spiritual plunge. A willingness to go into deeper waters. To embrace a little discomfort. To explore more of who God is and the world He’s created. And to experience what I might otherwise just admire from afar.

On this “Great Enlivening,” I sense God calling me beyond the comfort and security of the shore. He’s asked me to get out of the boat and leave behind my life raft. To be completely dependent on Him. Which, in all honestly, is a bit scary.

I’ve seen the power of the waves crashing and the fierceness with which they can cause destruction. I’ve questioned whether or not I have the skills to swim in the midst of the inevitable storms I’ll face.

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Yet, God continues to tell me to trust Him. That it’s not about my ability but my obedience. That if I listen to His still, small voice, He will sustain me, tell me which wave to ride and when to dive deep.

And also, that if I’m willing to step out on faith, I’ll get to experience the thrill of walking on water.


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Learning to Embrace a New Normal

Screeeeeech…screeeeeech…screeeeeech.

The sound of the swing is annoying but I don’t stop. I’m a good 75 to 100 lbs heavier and 25 to 30 years older than the average playground user but just as thrilled as any kid to be at this park.

It’s a cloudless, 75-degree Fall day in Tucson, Arizona and I can’t help but marvel at the magnificent mountain view just in the distance.

I’ve assessed the swing set and deemed it safe and sturdy enough to support me.  So despite its cries of protest, I kick my legs, lean back and climb higher.

With each pass the wind whooshes in my ears. My stomach flutters as I reach the height of the swing, my body momentarily weightless, suspended just above the earth and below a crystal blue desert sky.

I close my eyes and smile. I’ve forgotten how much fun this is.

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There’s a mom sitting on a bench engrossed in her cellphone while her two kids zip down the slide, giggle and chase each other around with reckless abandon.

I’ve gone unnoticed until they run past me on their way to the monkey bars. The girl, about 5, slows down as she passes. Her eyes squint and the skeptical up and down look she gives me says it all. “Grown ups aren’t supposed to play on playgrounds.”

“Yeah, I know kid,” I think to myself. “And they’re not supposed to cash out their investments at 33 and go travel the world with no definitive plan for the future either…but here I am.”

Expectations.

At some point, early on, they became a part of my life and I’ve had a love-hate relationship with them ever since.

There are expectations about what to do, who to be, how to look, what to own and so much more. Some expectations are self-imposed. Others I’ve adopted based on societal norms and the influence of others. And still other expectations I don’t even know I have, until they go unmet. But these expectations have greatly influenced and largely dictated the course of my life for more than three decades…until now.

Deciding to leave everything behind and go on a 12 to 18 month trip around the world was a blatant and unapologetic assault on those expectations. It was a ninja kick to limitations, a war cry for freedom from routine and a bold determination to break out of the “box” I’m told to live in.

I have this idealistic image of myself in my mind– a bad-ass road warrior, a “She-Ra” of sorts, rebelling against all that is “normal and expected” and charging fearlessly into the unknown.

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Ok, maybe with a tiny bit of fear.

I’ve gotten many wide-eyed looks of concern, enthusiastic smiles, words of caution and confessions of jealousy when I share my plan with friends and family. The overwhelming majority of people tell me they would love to do something similar, though several have admitted that even if it was possible, they probably wouldn’t have the courage/guts/balls to do so.

I get it. Nothing about this experience is safe, predictable or guaranteed. It’s not logical, financially wise or routine. And yet, those are precisely the reasons why I am so thrilled about this adventure.

I don’t think that a risk-averse life with more money and lots of comfort is the recipe for true fulfillment; which is a good thing, because right now I’m living the complete opposite way.

Last week as we headed from Dallas to Tucson, there was one morning where we woke up not knowing where we would be staying that night. For two people, that’s not a huge deal, but having two dogs as well makes it a little more challenging.

Natalie went to work looking up vacation rentals and other such places online and managed to find a “casita” in Las Cruces, New Mexico. They were dog friendly, very reasonably priced and located just outside the town…on a farm.

Though I consider myself a southern belle, I certainly wasn’t raised with livestock. But for two days, we hung out with horses, chickens, roosters, some sort of alpaca like animal (we’re still not sure) and goats.

Does anyone know what this is??

“Alpaca-like animal” –  Does anyone know what this is??

Oh yeah, and the fattest pig I have ever seen. Seriously.

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Apparently roosters are early risers and insistent that those around them are too. But being awoken at the crack of dawn had its perks because I was able to see the most spectacular sunrise just over the mountains.

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There have been many beautiful, unexpected experiences as well as countless seemingly ordinary ones over the last week. Not all are noteworthy or glamorous. But here are a few of the things that now define our “new normal” on this road trip.

Natalie and I:

  1. Are often confused about the date, day, time zone and where exactly we are
  1. Make every decision – where to eat, stop, and sleep – based on pet friendliness
  1. Live out of a suitcase, spend most of our days in workout clothes and have no desire to buy anything else we will have to pack or find a place for in the car
  1. Visit gas stations, rest stops and dog parks nearly every day and are becoming experts at rationing food, water, dog treats and clean underwear
  1. Are starting to think home-cooked meals, comfortable beds and 80 mph speed limits are the best things… ever.

I think about this as I continue swinging and can’t help but laugh at my “new life.”

While I’m no longer ruled by societal expectations, I’m not exactly trailblazing or leading a rebellion against them either.

But then it occurs to me. Perhaps I don’t need to be “She-Ra.” Maybe I don’t need to buck against all expectations and routines, I just need to find and live by the ones that are healthy and empowering.

Like being Christ’s light to the people I meet on this adventure. Like being fully present and loving those around me. Like making time every day to pray, listen to God and become the woman He created me to be.

These expectations seem so simple. Almost too simple. But maybe, just maybe these are the kind of expectations we are supposed to have. The ones that we learn to love, not only because they bring us fulfillment and joy, but because they bless other people and make the world a better place as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever wanted to leave everything behind and travel the world?

Yeah, me too. So, that’s what I’m doing.

It’s been a long and unexpected journey to get to this point. A devout Catholic, successful military officer, turned full-time missionary, I branched out to start my own coaching business on the heels of my own marriage falling apart.

Divorce was never part of my life plan. I assumed by 33 I’d be happily married and a stay-at-home Mom to at least three unbelievably adorable children. But God didn’t abandon me in the hurt and confusion of my painfully unmet expectations. Instead, He began to shift my perspective and show me the beauty and potential in a life that while far from “ideal,” was ripe with potential and crying out to be lived fully.

ENLIVEN. One simple word. One enormous mission. God gave me this word.

“I want you to live this enlivened life and teach others to do the same,” He seemed to say.

Besides being unsure about exactly how to do that, I knew with every fiber of my being that this was – that this IS – my life’s mission.

I already know there are many people who need to be “enlivened.” A few years ago that was me. Life was good, but I wouldn’t say it was great.  And certainly not exceptional. At that time I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific that was missing or askew. By societal standards I had all the necessary ingredients for the ideal existence: health, good looks, financial security, a job I enjoyed, a beautiful home and a handsome, successful husband. But that’s all I was really doing – existing.

There was a silent longing for something more, a quiet desperation within that I hid behind a bright smile, a polished resume and the seemingly perfect Facebook profile. All the things that should have satiated this unnamed need were failing. Temporary distractions were just that. But I continued with the status quo, hoping that the vibrant, fulfilling life I’d always imagined enjoying was just around the corner.

Then my marriage began unraveling, forcing me to reevaluate my entire philosophy on… well, everything.

I’ve written a 217 page book on the three-year journey God led me on to rediscover hope in the midst of the most excruciating heartbreak I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps one day I’ll actually publish it. But I did rediscover hope and much more – an insatiable desire to embrace this experience called life and boldly and authentically drink every drop of it. Which leads me to today.

The remnants of what was once a stunning four-bedroom house is now easily contained in less than half of a 5 by 10 foot storage space in Norfolk, Virginia. I may not have a husband or kids, but God sent me Natalie, and with her two dogs, we are a family of sorts. Despite sometimes being mistaken as a couple, we both have hopes that wonderful husbands and children will one day be part of our future. But for the present we have each other, and an incredible opportunity and shared passion to travel the world and really live this enlivened life to the extreme.

“What are you going to do? Where are you going to go?”

These questions are the usual response when I tell people about this very loose plan. And while I sometimes give a brief overview of what I think the future holds, the truth is, I have no idea. I don’t know where this journey will lead much less where it will end. I’m hoping it will be to all 7 continents. But whether or not that happens, I’m confident of one thing – it is going to change me in ways I can’t yet understand and I will never be the same.

I left Virginia, my home of more than 11 years, last week and with stops in Alabama and Louisiana to visit my family, I just arrived in Dallas, Texas. In my car is what I believe I need for the next five or six months until I can get back to my storage unit and change out my wardrobe.  Truthfully, I don’t really need 90% of what I brought. I’m just not ready to let go of all of the comfort of my somewhat normal, former life… at least not yet.

Somehow I think that will change.

Natalie will be joining me in Dallas in a few days with our furry traveling companions, Nimitz and Mugsy. That’s when we will combine everything into her car (I’ll leave mine parked in a friend’s garage) and start making our way out west where this great adventure will officially begin.

Unbridled excitement, joy, hope, fear, uncertainty and anticipation are just a few of the emotions I’m currently experiencing. I’m rational enough to know that there will be many trials along the way, unexpected obstacles, moments of frustration and, no doubt, tears. My cracked windshield is already proof of that. But I also know there will be indescribable moments of captivating beauty, awe-inspiring encounters, laughter that elicits tears and memories and friendships that will endure forever.

THIS is the great enlivening. This is what I have been waiting my whole life to experience. And this is what I want to share with you.

Over the coming months Natalie and I will be chronicling the highs and lows and random in-betweens of this epic world tour! We hope you’ll follow us here and keep us in your prayers. And if you want to join us or come visit wherever we may be – here is your open invitation. We’d love to have you!

The great enlivening isn’t just for us… It’s for you too! So, here’s to all of us and the unknown adventure of a lifetime that we are about to embark upon!

P.S. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the “subscribe” link to get our latest updates! 🙂

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One crazy idea…

It was a warm summer evening in Norfolk, Virginia.  The soft buzzing sounds in the air told me that several flies had made their way into the house and were driving Rachel and Nimitz crazy.  “Come on Nims, get him!” Rachel chanted as Nimitz jumped and snapped his jaw at one of the little buggers.  I never really participate in these fly-murder sessions. I was raised in true California style, and was taught that if I wanted a fly to leave, all I had to do was ask it nicely.  And if that didn’t work, then the two of us had to learn to coexist.  Rachel on the other hand, received no such upbringing.

Aside from the inordinate amount of flies in the house, there was nothing notable about that night.  But little did Rachel and I know, that the next day our future would look completely different.

We were in the midst of planning a move to Dallas, Texas. A few months earlier we decided that Dallas would be a great place to launch the new side of our business, facilitating corporate retreats. Dallas has a burgeoning economy with a ton of young entrepreneurs just like us, but most importantly: Texans aren’t afraid of a little God in their business. And that’s what makes us different, we believe that God isn’t something to be compartmentalized on Sunday mornings. He permeates our personal and professional lives (He made them after all!), and we’re better off when we include Him in the process.

Moving to Dallas made personal, professional and spiritual sense; and both Rachel and I had lived in Texas in the past, so it was an easy choice. All of the life-logistics for moving away from Virginia were lining up with unexplainable ease. Within a week, I sold a property and rented my home fully-furnished for an extended lease. Our work with our business clients in Virginia wrapped up effortlessly and it seemed like everyone we knew couldn’t stop raving about Texas.

But despite the ease with which our loose ends were tying up in Virginia, nothing seemed to be lining up in Dallas and we were only two months away from our desired move date. So on this evening, we did what any normal, type-A, over-producers would do, and decided to figure it all out on our own. So we took to the Internet. I scoured craigslist, Zillow, Trulia and any other site we could think of looking for a place to live in Dallas. Rachel started “facebooking” every person she knew in Dallas, hoping that someone would have a lead for us. Yet we discovered… nothing. Feeling frustrated and a little like we’d fallen down a rabbit hole, we decided to stop. I turned on Scandal, poured a glass of wine and tried to turn off my brain. Rachel went to go take a shower and we figured we’d regroup tomorrow.

Twenty minutes later, Rachel came tearing out of the bathroom, her hair dripping wet and told me to turn the TV off. Now I’m not a fan of anything that interrupts Scandal, but something in her tone told me I should comply. She looked at me and said “we have to pray about Dallas.”

She was right. Rachel and I often fall into the “I can do this on my own” trap, despite the commitment we’ve made to consult God in our decisions, big or small. We stopped what we were doing and prayed. We asked God for clarity, vision and guidance. And He answered our prayer. But as we’ve come to know, the answer wasn’t quite what we expected. He told us to fast.

This wasn’t just an instruction to abstain from food, God told us to fast from distraction. About a month earlier, we both decided to start a “dating fast” so that we could focus on God’s plan for our business without the distraction of men, but we knew that God was calling us to an even higher level of focus. We spent the evening discussing the other things in our lives that distract us from God and his purpose for us, then we settled on eliminating television, alcohol and abstaining from food once a week. We decided that the fast would last one month. I wish I could say that the inspiration for the timeline was divine… but the truth is that I wanted to be able to watch TV and have a beer during the Raven’s first game of the regular season… which was exactly one month away.

We started our “distraction fast” the next day, and as I quickly discovered, I was much more addicted to TV than alcohol! I didn’t miss my New Zealand Sauv Blanc’s nearly as much as I thought, but I missed my cheesy, silly sitcoms more than I ever expected. It took a few days to adjust to the new normal, but I quickly noticed a fresh level of spiritual connection and awareness of God’s presence. It was like tuning in to an amazing radio station that can only be heard when everything else is quiet.

During the fast, God gave me new clarity about his purpose for my life, in the immediate, and the long-term. But most importantly, He challenged my faith. God asked if I was truly willing to follow him wherever He would lead me. I pondered this question for a few days, before finally answering with an emphatic, Yes!

After this, God quickly revealed the new plan. He told us that we were going to travel. Not a short trip, and not a comfortable vacation. We were going to travel around the world and live among different cultures… ah! What?! The idea of this adventure was incredibly exciting, but there was one hesitation: money. Rachel and I are new business owners, barely covering our expenses some months and not covering them at all in others! How was I going to afford an around the world trip with an indefinite timeline?

And this is when we stepped out into the faith zone. We may not have disposable income, but one of the perks of being a 30-something, is that you’ve worked long and hard enough to stash some cash in your retirement funds. Enough cash for a year or so of sensible, world-wide travel. God asked if I would follow him wherever he would lead, and I’m on board. The worst-case scenario is that we spend every dime we’ve ever made, have the most amazing year, come home and get jobs. But the best-case scenario is that countless lives are enriched forever, we have the adventure of a lifetime and God teaches us what makes up a full, engaged and ENLIVENED life.

I don’t know exactly where this journey will lead, or what it will look like. But it’s going to be an amazing adventure.

By: Natalie Hunter, 10/8/2015