Always Striving, Never Enough. Stories of trying to be better and never quite making it.

I’ve been searching for a domain name for my blog for 5 months now. All the ones I want are already taken. And then I came up with a great title and tagline:

“Always Striving–You Are Never Enough
Moving stories of trying to be better and never quite making it”

Do you ever feel like no matter how much you try, you are never quite enough?
It seems there is always someone better than you. Faster, thinner, smarter, sexier, more spiritually inclined, more dedicated, more successful.

There is a satirical self-help book on this concept called “How to Make Yourself Miserable for the Rest of the Century” by Dan Greenburg and Marcia Jacobs. There are instructions such as “look at a full length photo of yourself in a bathing suit side by side with an image of your favorite model or actor/actress and compare the differences”.

I certainly am lacking when I compare myself to my favorite activists, world adventurers and spiritual teachers. I am not the high level circus performer I want to be. Nor the great writer. Not even a great wife or daughter or sister.

And now I have one more thing to compare–my world trip. And it has been found lacking. It doesn’t compare to the people who circumnavigate every continent over a 3 year period, or to the people who ride for climate change, or ride 100 miles a day, or make loads of money as a travel writer while traveling in style.

I am just going on an extended vacation, and I have the balls to create a blog called “Living on Purpose”, as if I know what the hell that means. Since this title is not available as a .com (already taken), I better find another title like “On Extended”.

Can I stop the striving? Is enough enough? Am I good enough?

Thanks for my health that I can go on a year long bicycle ride.
Thanks for my partner, willing to go with me on this trip.
Thanks for enough money to go on such an adventure.
Thanks for globalization that makes it easy to travel.
Thanks for the encouragement from family and friends.
Thanks to myself for going on this adventure.

I guess I am enough.

Tracking with the Nharo Bushmen of Botswana


“I woke to the sound of a lion ripping the door off my lodge. ‘But wait!’, I thought,’ that can’t be right!’.  I drifted back to sleep. In the morning, I discovered that very close to the lodge was an enclosed game preserve with lions in it. The sound of a wild lion close by is a terrifying thing. They don’t sound like they do in a zoo.”

Robin Bliss Wagner, founder of the Earth Connection Outdoor School in Santa Cruz, CA,  went in 2012 for 10 days to spend time with the Nharo bushmen through a program facilitated by Nicole Apelian and Jon Young called “The Origins Project”, through Ecotours International.

I asked my friend Robin if he’d be willing to share stories from his experience with the bushmen of the Kalahari. I want to meet indigenous people, and the next best thing to doing the thing is to hear stories about the thing. Robin agreed to share his experiences, and these are stories that he told me over skype one day.

Robin arrived by bush plane into the Kalahari with a small tour group at the Grasslands Lodge. The owners of the lodge have lived on that land for generations and run the lodge and a game reserve. They have a relationship with a group of Nharo bushmen and hire them to take tour groups out in the bush to show them the plants, animals, tracks and the bushmen’s traditional ways of living .

Everyday the bushmen  and the visitors went out wandering the land, gathering plants and tracking. Not only did the men and women of the tribe go out, but so did the elders, children, and even the babies, on the womens’ backs. Everyone went out together, learning, playing, gathering food and water. While out in the bush, the children were very quiet. Even the babies did not cry. This they learn very quickly because if they cry, the wild lions or leopards will find them.

Even though the Kalahari is one of the harshest climates on earth, it supports incredible wild life. Robin was able to track and see some of these animals: Elands, as big as cows and able to jump 20 feet up into the air (so say the bushmen), brown hyenas-the rarest species of hyena, lions- the males with big black manes,  warthogs, wildebeest, kudu,  ostrich,  giraffes and others.

For the conservation of this rare eco-system, all hunting has been banned in the Kalahari, even for the bushmen. This completely changes their traditional way of life, as does diamond mining causing forced relocations of villages, the drought that has been going for years, and the livestock farmers grazing their cattle where once it was wilderness. This is why the Nharo bushmen can be found leading tours now. They need money for food and water, when previously they hunted and gathered for all their needs. Check out this fantastic organization that helps Indigenous people of the world stand up for their rights:

Robin watched with fascination the first time the bushmen demonstrated making fire with a hand drill (2 sticks rubbed together). Robin, a naturalist and outdoor educator, has spent many years perfecting hand drill. But the Nharo bushmen broke all the rules he had learned. Instead of using a flat board for the base, they used a round branch for the fireboard the same diameter as the spindle, using them interchangeably. And instead of having only one man work up a coal, the nharo worked together, each taking a turn to spin the spindle and then passing it on until, communally, fire sprang to life. (You can see a short clip of this on the video below, at 1:16)

photo from

At one point, Robin asked the Nharo if they ever used or had seen a bow drill, which is another technology for getting a fire going, where there is a bow, spindle and fireboard–more complicated than the hand drill, but easier to get a coal with, especially in a cold or wet climate. The Nharo said no, they hadn’t seen  such a thing.

Robin and another tour member, Jeff, quickly whipped up a bow drill kit, rough but useable. The bushmen watched closely, amused at how complicated the whole thing was. When the bowdrill kit was producing a lot of smoke , one of the bushmen, Guta, ran off into the bush. Robin was perplexed and asked the guide why Guta had run away. The guide said it was to be polite.  Guta had run off to laugh by himself in the bush, because such a ridiculous and complicated contraption had actually worked. The bushmen could not understand why one would make something more complicated than it needed to be.

Every afternoon for 2 hours the bushmen would sit in the shade, avoiding the fearsome heat of midday and preserving energy and much needed moisture. While most everyone was resting, Robin and his friend Jeff decided to make the most of their 10 day trip and instead of napping,  go tracking in the heat of the afternoon.

“We would start following tracks in the sand and follow them until suddenly the owners of the tracks would be right in front of us. Wildebeest, warthogs, even an ostrich.”

The bushmen were quick to laugh, and play was a way of being, and of teaching the little ones. They could become an animal, thinking and moving like the Kudu moving carefully down it’s hidden pathways. Official games  that were presented as a welcome to the visitors, such as a kind of jump roping game and a game where one throws a thin stick with the flick of the wrist and pierces a mound of sand, were only for the adults. The children had to sit and watch. “Imagine if you were a kid and were only allowed to watch the adults do something really cool. What might you do when the adults weren’t watching?”

Robin came away from his experience with the bushmen with a strengthened enthusiasm and motivation to integrate the way the bushmen teach their children by asking lots of questions, by playing with them, and taking them out at a young age into the bush. Robin saw that the bushmen were deeply connected to their land.  They always were having fun, and though they were playing and relaxing, Robin saw that there was a lot more than meets the eye in the way they choose to live.

I asked Robin if there was anything that he regretted about the trip. He said that he didn’t get to sleep out in the bush with the Nharo. He was required to stay in the lodge provided. He never got to see how the Nharo live at home, what their village is like, what life looks like for them in their community.

The  Nharo told Robin  that the visitors through the Origins Project were the first white people to sit in the sand with them and share stories. Robin said to the bushmen, “There are a lot of people back home who admire what you do very much. They will ask, ‘What do the bushmen have to say to us, what is their message to us?’ Is there anything you’d like to tell us?”

One of the Nharo elders replied, “Come back and visit. Always think of us. We will think of you. Bring more people next time.”

Thanks Robin for sharing your experiences!! If you are interested in learning how to be a native on your own land, check out Earth Connection Outdoor School.

This is a video showing a little of the Origins Project and the actual bushmen that Robin spent time with.



Winter Tires coming off

I made it through my first Vermont winter on a bicycle! The studded winter tires are coming off.

Enter smooth rollin’!

Winter Tires coming off!!

Winter is cracking up–cycling along the West River in Brattleboro yesterday I saw what remains of the ice. In some places the ice/snow chunks are still over 7 ft deep along the river.

West River April 12 2015

West River April 12 2015

We can finally test our world travel gear now that the salt has subsided off of the crusty frozen roads. Yesterday Erik and I cycled on back roads in West Brattleboro and Dummerston. I wore my first cycling padded seat pants (they kinda look and feel like diapers). It helped. And check out our rad raingear.

Cycling April 2015

Cycling April 2015

Cycling April 2015

Stickney Brook ( a local swimming area, where the ‘steps in the rocks make nice pools for soaking in)

Yasuko and Sage

I’m still not sure about the whole folding bicycle thing. They are very handy for on and off commuter transportation–but are they comfortable and adjustable enough to be touring bicycles?

It’s springtime everywhere (in the northern hemisphere…maybe not north of a certain latitude, but for most of us…)   Share one of your spring adventures in the comments section!

Winging it

More than a year ago now, Erik and I began envisioning a world trip. We allowed ourselves to think big, and toyed with everything from sailing round the world to going to Africa. It was exciting thinking of all the possibilities.

But right now, I cannot thinking about what we will do on our trip, or even where we will go. Right now, all I can think about are the details. Every few days, another cardboard box finds it way wedged between our front door and the screen door. The last few boxes had quick dry pants from EMS (didn’t fit properly, returned them) and a used Vaude front handle bar bag from ebay.

My days are filled with work, circus training and rehearsals, emailing, cooking, eating, finding housing for my family who are coming to stay in Brattleboro the month of May. The envisioning time is over for my trip. It’s joined the to-do lists of my daily life.

My latest fear about our trip

….is that I am taking myself on the voyage, and I know some things about myself. I imagine a trip where I start the day open, with no plans and let the world wash over me, following intuition and accepting the generosity of strangers. But then I consider that in reality, I hate not having a plan. I do not like winging things.

The last time I ‘wung’ it, I flew from Bologna, Italy to Bordeaux, France, with no plans for an entire week. I wandered Bordeaux for days, looking for new friends, trying to to figure out how to rent these bicycles that were all around town, and trying to find a cheap train ticket out of Bordeaux to somewhere else. Nothing was working. Then, suddenly, fortuitously it seemed, a couchsurfing host responded to me in my lonely hostel and took me to the beach, where, I promptly forgot my wallet and passport in a public bathroom, never to be seen again (the wallet and passport that is, although I felt like I was never going to be seen again).

That particular story does not end in misery. I had to go to Paris to get a new passport and ended up staying with my cousin Nicholas in his 6th floor ancient bourgeois apartment, 2 blocks from Sacre Coeur. Not bad.


Though things did not end badly, I must be honest that the entire time, I was all shades of anxious, scared, and terrified. Where was the imagined joy and freedom in traveling?

Thus, I fear on this upcoming year of travel, I will always be sweating the small stuff (where will we camp? Where will we get food and water? Where are we?!! etc).  I want for myself to become a wild adventurer, caution thrown to the winds, and to learn to laugh at discomfort and uncertainty.

I am reading a book right now called “A Paradise Built in Hell”, which demonstrates the spirit and love of human beings in times of natural or man-made disasters, of humans ability to laugh at the horror of it, and  generosity and compassion that appears when everything is taken away.

Can I bring myself along on this world trip and be cool with uncertainty, change, unknown?