WOMEN WHO EXPLORE – GOLDEN, BC

How do I even begin?

How do you compile all of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions into one tiny little post?  I’m going to try, but I can’t say it’s going to be easy…or length conscious.  Fair warning.

I guess… I will start from the beginning!

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about how I didn’t get into my program of choice for school, and how hella bummed I was about that.  As fate would have it, I was scrolling through my social medias for happiness inspo (or anything to keep me from completely falling apart, really), and I stumbled across an ad for Women Who Explore.

It was advertising a Soul Sisters Getaway for Golden, British Columbia.  There was to be two nights spent in a luxury river lodge, with all meals (including a wine tasting and a gourmet meal), hot tubbing, and of course activities meant to conjure fun fun fun!

I was feeling very lost, and I really needed something to revive me, so on a complete whim I just booked it.  I said “FUCK IT”, and threw myself into probably THE most uncomfortable position I could put myself into: travelling far from home alone for the first time, travelling solo and not knowing anyone, driving my own ass that far, spending more than a couple of hours with complete strangers, ALL the social interactions, just generally taking a huge leap of faith and trusting that the Universe had my back.

After arriving back home yesterday, all I could say was THANK GOD I TOOK THAT CHANCE.  This past weekend has changed me, in ways I never knew I needed, and in ways I still haven’t discovered yet.

I want to share with you the magic of my experience over the past 3 days, because if you’re someone who is craving a new/life-changing experience, connection with other women, or just need time away for yourself – pay attention.  I think this is JUST what the doctor would order.

Friday

I left home Friday at 12:30 pm, right on time to what I’d been planning (for once in my life!).  I thought I would give myself enough time to make a couple of pit stops in Calgary and Banff on the way in (LOLLLLLLLL).  What I didn’t take into account was that Google Maps is a dirty liar, and the 90 km speed limits severely ate at my time.  I didn’t make any unnecessary stops, and I made it to the ranch RIGHT on time!  Check in was at 6 pm, and I got there with 5 minutes to spare. WHEW!

I was the first of the guests to arrive after the team.  The first face I saw was Jenny’s, who rushed out to greet me.  The first thing I said was, “AM I IN THE RIGHT PLACE?!” because I am severely directionally challenged, and save for my GPS, I could have ended up God knows where.  She assured me I was, and out bounded Lindsay to say her hello’s as well! They offered to get my gear inside, and graciously lugged all my shit into the cabin (I don’t pack light…).  When I initially registered, I had requested solo slumber accommodations if possible; I was so freaked out that I had actually booked myself for such a social event that I was hoping against everything I would at least have a quiet place to chill and be with myself if it all got too overwhelming.  I was SO lucky that they were able to accommodate my request, and they took me straight to my own bedroom (which had a STELLAR view of the mountains/river) – complete with a custom wooden name-tag and a little goodie bag filled with all kinds of amazing things.

Not long after, everyone else started to arrive.  We all sat out on the deck chit-chatting amongst each other as everyone started to come in.  The alcohol came out, and we had a good time laughing, and beginning to get to know the rest of the crew.   Once everyone arrived, Jenny and Lindsay did intros and went over the “house rules” for the weekend.

PC: Ally Pintucci

Friday night was incredible, inspiring, heart-wrenching, and everything I could have never even DREAMED about.

After a late dinner, we all went down to sit in a little gathering circle around the fire pit.  Lindsay came around with a bag of Jelly Belly’s and asked each of us to take some – but wouldn’t tell us how many or why.  We later found out that the number of jellybeans we’d taken was the number of things we had to share about ourselves.  I literally grabbed a handful of 20 fucking jellybeans.  I DON’T EVEN KNOW 20 THINGS ABOUT MYSELF TO SHARE.  I managed to keep it together as I sort of just word-vomited more than I’ve ever told anyone on a first meeting.

I have to say – Friday night was the best night I’ve had in a long, long time.  15 women, sat round a fire, and shared intimate details about themselves with complete strangers.  They were uplifting, inspiring, heart-breaking, intense, strong, courageous stories.  I was awestruck by the openness of these women, and how much I could relate to them.  HOW ON EARTH is it that you stumble across a group of women that are so accepting, so non-judgemental, that you feel you can share the deepest, sometimes darkest parts of you?  The Universe absolutely had my back, and I was in the exact right spot in that moment of time.  I left that campfire feeling so humbled and hopeful.

Saturday

Saturday was met with a delicious breakfast from our lovely hosts (mimosas included).  Seriously, so good.  It was our fuel as we were off to check out some of the surrounding scenery!

We sat down as a group and decided what we were going to do for the day.   We collectively agreed to hit up Emerald Lake and Cedar Lakes.  We parted to get ready and pack our lunches (food provided).  At last minute, I was asked to be a driver which was totally cool! …. except that I’m a total idiot and forgot my wallet, containing my license/money/registration/insurance, and so I had to turn back to get it costing us precious time 😦  We ended up only having time for Emerald Lake, and I felt like a total loser.  Who forgets those things?! LOL C’est la vie!

PC: Lee Horbachewski

Our day at Emerald Lake turned out to be a riot.  We went traipsing in there, us 15 women, our horde of inflatables in tow – to the utter horrifying shock and amusement of the other tourists.

Some of the people near us got a real kick out of it, and even asked to take photos with our “props”

We spent the afternoon floating in the frigid waters of the lake, basking in the warm sunlight.  It was a gorgeous day for a float, and was so peaceful.  As Lee and I were in a raft, a few of the other women decided to attach themselves to us to save their hands from frostbite and we paddled them around.

PC: Ally Pintucci


We retired back to the cabin to check a couple of “firsts” off my list!  Once we arrived back, we were treated to a wine tasting (thanks, Thom!).  I’ve NEVER been to, or experienced, a wine tasting before.  It was definitely interesting!  I learned A LOT about wine that I never would have otherwise.  A very cool experience…my only recommendations would be to most definitely eat before you do a wine tasting, and if you MUST do it on an empty stomach, try to avoid sitting in direct sunlight HAHA.  The wine definitely hit me REAL good.

PC: Ally Pintucci

To follow the wine tasting, we were treated to an incredible, eye-pleasing, absolutely DELICIOUS five course meal courtesy of Dustin.  This was also one of my firsts, as I’ve never experienced a multi-course meal like this.  And OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDD.  My tastebuds were orgasming in my mouth.  That’s literally the only way I can truly describe how fucking incredible this food was.  I’m kicking myself now for not taking photos of each course, because not only did it taste unreal, it was SO beautifully plated.

While I don’t have photos to show you of each course, I DID keep the menu so I can tell you what we ate (and you can bathe in your jealousy of it)

*Amuse Bouche (zucchini fritter, honied tomato and goat cheese; pictured)
*Roasted cauliflower pecorino soup with pumpkin seeds, crouton and basil oil
*Smoked duck and baby tuscan kale salad with roasted pistachios, dried cherry relish, shaved parmesan, lemon vinaigrette
*Sous vide Safe Farms grass fed flat iron steak with squash puree, mushroom risotto, seasonal vegetables (carrots and asparagus)
*Lemon tart with fresh raspberries and whipped cream

Yeah, I KNOW.  If only I could eat like this every day…

Supper was phenomenal.  We ate, we laughed, we drank, and drank, and drank…

One we all could eat no more for fear of bursting, we made our way back outside to spend the evening in and around the hot tub.  We found a gas fire pit which saved us a treacherous drunken trek (thank GOD), and it allowed us to all stay close.  We feasted on smore’s and Nutella straight outta the jar.  We passed around binoculars, trying in vain to see the man on the mountain (3rd peak in and swoop) that was either dancing the YMCA or dead, whom Jenny insisted was there (HAHA, love you babe!).  We snuggled on the golden swan floatie under blankets.  We star gazed and eagerly waited for the Aurora Borealis storm to come our way.

A few of the ladies had set up their cameras and tripods as we waited for the Northern Light show to arrive.  Shouts rang out as their screens lit up green, and we all gathered around the deck watching in excitement and awe as the lights started to dance above us.  I grew tired and exhausted from such an amazing day, so I retired to bed early.  The rest of the women stayed up a bit longer, and after heading to bed for a short while themselves, were awoke to an exhilarated Ally who, had noticed the show had intensified, and got everyone up and outside to see the masterpiece in the sky.  I slept through it all, but luckily for me they were able to capture some pretty unbelievable shots.  They speak for themselves, so take a look.

My heart bursts with happiness for everyone who experienced these lights for the first time that night; it’s truly something you’ll never forget.

Sunday

Sunday was the day we said farewell 😦

I stumbled out of my room to the sweet ring of Jenny greeting me, “Good morning love! How did you sleep?”.  In that moment, I realized just how much I was going to miss after I drove away.

I showered, packed, and prepared to go.  We all said our goodbyes, exchanged information, wished each other well, and shed a few tears.

I never could have anticipated walking in just how difficult it would be to walk out.  I managed to keep my eyes dry until I got in my car and hit the highway home.

Everything about this weekend was perfect.  Any imperfections only made it that much more authentic, that much more real, that much better (though I’d be hard pressed to tell you what those imperfections were because I failed to see any – other than my own stupidity).  If you’d have told me on Thursday that the weekend ahead would leave me rocked to my core, indescribably inspired, unexpectedly heartbroken to have to leave these incredible women behind… I would have laughed.  I never could have guessed where this adventure would have taken me; I’m sure that any notion I could have had had been far surpassed in every facet.

I learned so much in my time at the River Ranch with the Women Who Explore, both about myself and about my perception of others.  So many times, we place these barriers upon ourselves by seeing our fellow sisters as competition instead of collaboration.  If we can just be brave enough to look past our own insecurities, and appreciate other women for their stories … oh the bonds and connections we can create.  I am so incredibly thankful to have met every single Soul Sister in Golden.  I am forever changed, in the best of ways, because of all of you and for that I am so grateful.

I can’t wait to connect with you all once again, and for all of the new connections waiting to be born on my next Soul Sisters adventure.

❤ ❤ ❤

MASSIVE THANKS AND ALL MY HEART TO:
Our beautiful, spirited hosts: Jenny and Lindsay
Our photographer: Ally Pintucci
Our unofficial photographer: Lee Horbachewski
To all my Soul Sisters:
Amber
Megan
Taleea
Lena
Bear
Leah
Shannon
Marion
Ashley
Amy

And our guest of honour, Koa ❤

PC: Ally Pintucci

This Is The Why

**TRIGGER WARNER: Self-Harm, Self-Harm Scars**

Disclaimer: I have received full permission to post my thoughts, and these photos.
Loren, I love you ❤


This is the why.

When I started this blog, I had no idea what direction it would take, and if you’d told me 4 years ago that I’d be making this post, I would have laughed in your face.  That won’t be me, no, never.

But here I am, and I honestly couldn’t be more proud or humbled to be here.

As you probably know by now I’ve dealt with Mental Illness my whole life, but only more recently (in the last year or two) has it become more intense.  One of the things that’s been therapeutic for myself in navigating the chaos has been to write about it and share my struggles.  I didn’t start sharing my story to get people’s attention, or to get sympathy.  I share it because it genuinely helps me to make sense of what is going on, and I needed to know it was out there on a platform that was larger than just myself.  I suppose a sort of hope for divine intervention, if you will.  I don’t even really know myself… I just know that it’s something I felt I’ve had to do as a part of my recovery.

The more that I shared and put my vulnerability out there, the more people that came to me sharing their similar stories in turn, and that made a really big impact on me.  It was really only then I truly realized that, hey, I’m NOT the only one stuck in this tornado of perpetual existential crises.  I’m not okay a lot of the time, but look how many other people are just as not okay as I am.  You just get stuck in this fallacy that you’re the only person out there who is traipsing around wearing this smile that doesn’t belong to you.

Though I had people sharing the depths of their souls with me, I still never imagined that I’d ever really make that much of an impact on someone.  I sometimes thought how nice it might be to have this affect on someone else, but still my reasoning – my why – was for myself, for my recovery.  I continued sharing my journey for my own betterment, and the thought of “hey, maybe someone somewhere will find something positive in all of this” existed, vaguely, in the background.  As humans, I believe we’re innately inclined to helping each other, but I think we forget just how exactly we DO help others in ways we don’t expect.

It’s sad really, because we do not realize the positive power that we hold, that our words hold, that our story holds.

Flash forward to last night when I had this ceiling absolutely shattered in the most unexpected way possible.  As usual, I was browsing my social medias before settling into bed for the night.  It’s been a rough few days; I’ve been feeling really down, hardcore judging myself and comparing where and who I am to those who seem far better and far more successful than I… in short, I was feeling like a waste of skin, if I’m being completely honest.

And then…

I was notified that I’d been tagged in this post:

 

The flood gates were completely obliterated.
H*ck, the dam is gushing as I type this even now.

YOU. INSPIRED. ME. TO. MAKE. THIS. POST.

WHAT?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

For someone who is struggling, who has scars that are road maps to the pain and suffering they have endured, who has fresh wounds from the pain and suffering they still endure, to be vulnerable enough to share that with the world can be terrifying, crippling, not even in the question….

Yet…someone was able to share THAT level of vulnerability BECAUSE OF ME.

I literally have no words for that.  All I can do is just let the tears flow, and clutch my heart in endless gratitude that my story has reached someone so deeply.   That my journey has made a positive difference to someone trying to make sense of their own.

I won’t share her story with you because it is not my story to tell, but I will say this:  Loren has endured FAR more than any human should ever have to during their time around the Sun.  I’m not comparing her story to mine or anyone else’s because every single story matters, no matter the weight…but man, her story is a heavy, heavy one.

So, to Loren:

You are one of THE strongest, most resilient people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You’ve been knocked down, over and over, by things that would completely ruin others yet you get back up EVERY SINGLE TIME.  I admire you SO fucking much for how you’ve handled life’s blows.  You are the sweetest, most caring, loving individual, and you deserve nothing but all of the good this world has to offer.  Your ring is fucking GORGEOUS, you deserve to feel so special, and I hope each day that passes your courage to show it off rises.  Your scars don’t define you.  They are symbols that you’ve made it through every single shit-sandwich day; they’re a symbol of the warrior that dwells within you, and I hope that you always know just how incredible she is.  If you forget, don’t worry – I’ll remind you.  I am SO proud of you, and how far you’ve come, and I know you’ll get to where you need to be.

And, thank you.
Thank you for your trust.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for being so fucking brave.

Thank you for allowing me to share this piece of your story.

Thank you, for simply being you.

This is the why.  
Because this is a community that holds each other up when times get tough.  This is a community that cheers you on across the finish line, even when you don’t think you have it in you to get that far.  This is a community that continues to support you even after you get there.

This is the why.
Because people (like Loren) deserve happiness.
People deserve to live free of judgement.
People deserve to know they are fucking amazing.
People deserve to know how strong and incredible they are.
People deserve to know just how much they are loved, and how much their story matters.

This is the why.
Because I see now what my words are capable of, and I want to continue on being inspired by others, and maybe (hopefully) inspiring others, too.