Through adventure I am seeking my purpose. A great transformational phase in my life began after college and I am on a mission to discover my true authentic self by following my heart and listening to my intuition – because school just doesn’t teach you that sort of thing. When I came home from the trail, I was not only faced with the emotional and physical downfall of reintegration into society, but also the deafening trauma of my break up with a man who I had spent over 5 years of my life loving. It was overwhelming. I had just experienced the most beautiful pilgrimage of a lifetime, and there I was, lying in pieces on the ground – with a “nowhere to go, nothing to do” stuck kind of feeling. After spending what felt like forever feeling lost and confused, one word came to my mind. Biosana.
In Spanish, Bio means Life and Sana is Healthy. A healthy life is just what I was looking for. A cleansing of the mind and body, a space for me to heal and reflect. For several years prior to my hike, I had been in contact with a couple of residents at a small sustainable, organic farm in Mexico called Baja Biosana. They always told me, “come on down to Biosana, it’ll be great!”. I wanted to. Every time they would suggest I come down, I wanted to drop everything and go, but since I was still in school I had to be patient. I trusted that if I was meant to go, I would know when it was the right time. Two months after returning to San Diego from my long walk, I was on an airplane to the tip of Baja California Sur, Mexico. What happened next was entirely different from my day to day experience on the Pacific Crest Trail, and in so many ways it’s contrast liberated me.
After a short flight to San Jose Del Cabo, I was greeted by two smiling (and very tan) faces, Andrew and Shenaqua, founders of the sustainable community that I was about to spend an undetermined amount of time living and working at. In an old, dusty astro van, they drove me far into the back country. I was charmed by the mountains and small Mexican towns as we drove to the farm. One final dirt road lead us into the town of El Chorro, at the base of the Sierra La Laguna mountains and through the gates of Baja Biosana. Once I was settled in to my new home, or should I say, campsite, I began exploring with as open a mind as I could muster despite the turbulence going on inside. I was nervous and quiet. Surrounded by people who appeared to be enlightened, I felt myself going inside – insecure because I felt that I wasn’t as spiritually adept as these people. To put it bluntly, I was uncomfortable. Once again I was in a new place with new people and it was going to take time to get used to, all the while harboring a lot of emotion from home.
Each morning I would look outside my tent door and see the orange colors from the sun rise hitting the top of Mount San Rafael, the most prominent peak in view. Soon I would learn that when the glow of the sun kissed the top of it’s majestic summit it was 7 O’clock in the morning – a good time to start wiggling my toes and thinking about getting up and beginning my day. I love rolling around in the mornings, this toe wiggling and mountain gazing would last a blissful half an hour before rising and greeting the cool and moist desert mornings.
Quickly, I developed a morning routine. After rising from my quaint little two person tent overlooking the mountains I would walk to the common area/outdoor kitchen and share tea with the other Biosana residents. This is where my first impression of the people here came from. I observed conversation and energy between the people who had been here longer than me and I felt that these people knew something that I had yet to learn. I felt insecure, average even. Soon I learned it wasn’t so much my impression of them, but rather myself. I was delicate and sensitive after everything that I went through after the trail and I was experiencing low self-esteem. I wanted to connect to these people yet I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully open to them. I was afraid of what they might think of me.
While integrating into this new environment I did projects that allowed me to have quiet and alone time. I spent some of my first work days harvesting Jamaica flowers and spreading them in the hand-made solar dehydrator to be used in tea once they were dried. I climbed high into avocado trees to harvest the delicious fatty green fruits and loved every second of climbing and singing among the deep green leaves and the giant stickbugs. I also harvested white sage for burning and frijoles for salads and cooking with. After a few days at the farm I grew fond of a woman who brought me comfort with her open heart, kind smile, and wise words. Christyn embodied strength, light, dark, and a need for balance. She never said a harmful word to anyone, but always spoke with love and compassion. I first took interest in her when I went with her and some other people living on the farm down to the local swimming holes. I could feel her eyes on me as she was curious about this new girl. I felt safe with her and decided to take part in her Cactus Cafe project near the community kitchen where I cleared weeds and did what I could to make this outdoor space look beautiful.
I soon began to make sense of the community dynamics occurring in this small group of people – not always liking what I was witnessing. At the same time, remembering how to be settled within myself despite what was going on around me. I noticed strange tyrant-like behaviors happening and distanced myself from the aspects of this community that I did not agree with. I saw it as an opportunity to remain calm and peaceful in my heart, and Christyn was a great inspiration for me to act with love, compassion, and understanding. It helped me realize that things are not always as they first appear to be and my initial feeling of inferiority began to fade away as I realized we are all imperfect humans with pain from the past and questions of the future. I realized they were just like me, battling their own battles, asking their questions, and healing.
A week after my arrival, a new bunch of people began to arrive from all over the world. Germany, England, Scotland, Lithuania, New York, California, Missouri, Russia, and many more places. They arrived in response to a request for volunteers to help build an earthen home for Dan, one of Biosana’s many founders. I was excited for the addition to the land and made myself part of their group. I began working with them daily – digging holes, mixing cement, laying stones, and working through the barriers that kept me from getting close to people. After two and a half weeks of internal turbulence, I had a shift. I let go of what I thought people were thinking about me because I realized I had created it all inside my own mind. When I did this, my friends at Biosana welcomed me with open arms. I began developing a deep connection with the community around me and I became grateful to be healing and growing with all these amazing people.
Every day we became closer as we practiced yoga, breath work, and community conversations about how we were feeling and what work we would be doing together that day. On one bright and sunny morning under the palapa one of the volunteers spoke up as we sat together in a circle. Friedel from Germany, suggested we have a “Joy Person” each day, and that it was the most important job to have. I volunteered to be the first joy person and with this job I was able to not only bring enjoyment to others while they worked, but I also practiced being my self without worrying about judgements because I knew I was in a safe place. I read poetry and stories by John Muir aloud, brought snacks and water to my friends working, and even frolicked around with a sarong fanning people. That evening the volunteers expressed their gratitude for my efforts as the first Joy person and I felt appreciated. Sometimes all we need is to feel appreciated. Over many weeks we played in the canyon, soaked in hot springs, shared fire circles, sang, drummed, visited the ocean, hiked over mountains, watched sun sets, worked hard on Dan’s house, cooked healthy meals, and helped each other grow.
One of our outings was a full moon gathering we put on in the canyon about 15 minutes walking distance down the dirt road of El Chorro where we slept around the fire under the moon. The morning after we were disgusted by what had joined us in the night. The four of us who had fallen asleep there had been feasted on by kissing beatles! They are the size of an adult stink bug and they were bulging with full bellies of our blood. There were at least 10-15 of them drunkenly wandering off as we began to stir, but who knows how many might have been there and left while we slept. Luckily, none of us have experienced any ill-effects since the incident. I was pretty freaked out the day after and felt like I had been violated.
During my five weeks in Baja I attempted a solo ascent of Mt. San Rafael – the tall mountain that stood above the farm. There was no trail and I found myself frustrated, lost, and bloodied by the scratchy desert plants that often required me to duck to move through the tunnels in the bushes as I made my way up the canyons and deep into the mountains. Despite the difficulty, I was exhilarated by being on my own in a place not many people attempted to go. I saw rogue cows wandering around way out in the wilderness, obviously wild and long lost from their domestic pasts. In the late afternoon I startled a HUGE wild pig who was asleep under a rock who almost injured itself trying to run away from me. As I made camp within view of my summit, I saw some cute little piggies who “oinked” at me from 100 feet away, I wasn’t sure what they would do so I yelled “HEY PIGGY! GET OUTTA HERE!” and they scurried off into the cacti and plum tree forests above the canyons. I made it to about 2-3 miles below the summit when I realized continuing on was futile due to no trail and lack of time. I became impatient and frustrated when I got lost (for probably the third time) on my way down and kept having to retrace my steps uphill and back down, until I saw two red tail hawks soaring over the canyon, helping me to regain my calmness and keep trying. I made it back to the farm on my third day of wandering and told my story to open ears the evening I returned.
I spent much of my time on the farm, but I also developed a friendship with a local family in El Chorro. Mariana and Alejandro lived at the end of the dirt road, and I would often walk to their land after a days work to relax and connect with these unbelievably humble and happy people. They had just given birth to Regina (Rrrehina) two months earlier and were the first in over 20 years to have a natural birth in the area. Someone told me that the doctors who worked with the people in El Chorro and the surrounding area were wealthy doctors who made appointments around their golf schedules and all pregnant women would endure C-sections for every birth for the convenience of their leisure. Mariana gave birth to Regina in a tub outside with loving neighbors surrounding her with their love and support. They had very little money and survived on the kindness of others. Despite having so little material items, they always had clean, fresh water, vegetables, and grains to cook delicious meals with, and an uninterrupted smile. Mariana smiled so much I couldn’t help but be around her. I wanted to be like her. We became close over a short period of time and she decided to teach me how to make “chocolate” out of raw cacao beans. It turned out to be soooo delicious! And it was an experience I will never forget.
On my last week there I backpacked with two friends over the Sierra La Laguna Mountains from the Gulf of California side to the Pacific Ocean side. It was great to get out for a few nights on another adventure, and an awesome way to wrap up my trip. We walked up desert slopes and into unexpected pine forests. At the top there was an ancient lagoon that had dried thousands of years earlier and left behind a 3 mile long meadow that was FREEZING at night. My bag and all my belongings were covered in ice the morning I woke up in the lagoon. This lagoon is what gives these mountains their name, the Sierra La Laguna. The night we arrived at the lagoon I wanted to summit the highest peak in southern Baja, El Picacho. It was only 3 more miles to the summit so I left my pack behind and hit the trail running to make it before sundown. I went alone and met a hoard of wonderful locals at the top. Together we laughed and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. I had spent 5 weeks on the other side of the range and it brought me comfort to see the Pacific Ocean again, a piece of home!
After our last night on the mountain, the three of us headed down the next day and hitch hiked from the trailhead to the beach and enjoyed burritos and wine as we watched the moon set over the ocean. My friend Yvonne from Quebec sang songs in French and worked on a beautiful hair wrap for me by the fire. It was like a dream. The next morning I decided it would be appropriate to go for a swim. I entered the rocky water near our campsite but immediately I had a battle with the rough waters and felt the sting of many spines go into my foot and ankle. I had hit a sea urchin and blue spines were stuck in my foot! Luckily, most of the walking was finished because we planned to hitch hike back to the farm. It was a tough day but we took about 7 separate rides and made it back to the farm in about 8 hours (probably a 3 hour drive if you go straight through).
I said my goodbyes on my last day at Biosana and though I spent the first 2.5 weeks adjusting and getting comfortable, I was now so happy and at home. I no longer felt the way I did when I bought my plane ticket to go back home. I was content, but I had also gained peace in my heart that allowed me to accept what was happening and go home without any regrets.
Life is full of magic and being at Biosana and hiking the PCT really engrained this into my heart. Once you know it is there, you can do nothing but constantly seek it. Some may look down on me for this way of thinking, because in our society we are taught that we are only worth something if we get a job, buy a house, get married, have children, and just do what everyone else is doing. I can understand why seeking an adventurous lifestyle might seem irresponsible to people who have spent their whole lives focusing on money, stability, and permanence. I don’t plan on letting that perspective prevent me from following my heart, even if I make mistakes along the way (and I promise that I will). I anticipate my path to be a unique challenge, as going against the grain has never been easy.
Resources to live outside of the norm are not available, so I have to create it myself by exploring the path less traveled. There is an entire culture of people who do this, but we don’t see much of them because they are out there traveling and experiencing the world. I will join them. I am also very excited to start working in the field of outdoor recreation (Wilderness Guide, Nature Interpreter, Park Ranger, etc.). I am in the process of finding a way to balance both my work experience and travel experience. Luckily, my travels compliment my work experience in the field I am passionate about. With time, I will find my rhythm. My tentative plans now are to hike the Appalachian Trail (If I can scrounge the bills) or the Colorado Trail (only 500 miles) with my friend, then begin working to save money for my next adventure. Hopefully, I will be able to find seasonal work in my field in between adventures.
I spent 5 weeks on an amazing farm at the very tip of Baja California Sur, Mexico full of people living alternative lives, who have all influenced my path as a human being. Every person I meet, every step I take, every fall, and every laugh is forming the beginning of my path as a strong and independent young woman. I was nervous when I first arrived and for the first two weeks I was uncomfortable. It is kind of funny to see myself thrown into the unknown and my behavior associated with that. I am prepared to feel more discomfort in the future and am better equipped to stick it through because I know that my discomfort will pass as it helps me grow. I am grateful for the opportunity to push the boundary. So little time, so much to experience!
“I put one foot in front of the other, steppin’ in to the here and now, I’m not sure just where I’m goin’, but I will get there anyhow…” – Tim O’Brien (listen to the song)