I love mountains!
So much so, I really should get a bumper sticker that declares my affection for these ancient geographical structures.
Mountains are pleasing to look at, fun to explore, and easily inspire adventurers, which is why they do a great job of being a metaphor for many aspects of life -- not to mention being a great way to illustrate the halfway mark on the Pennsylvania, Here A Year project.
The way up:
Typically, climbing up a mountain is the most challenging and difficult part of the hike, but when looked back upon, it usually contains the most memories. So far, this has been true for my journey as well.
I said goodbye to my extended family in Minnesota, right after having my beagle, Elli, unexpectedly die from a respiratory disease, followed by my grandma dying the week after -- all leading up to living in a strange state, in a bungalow, on a animal rescue farm.
When I arrived, I instantly started my trek of exploring unique cultures - Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish/Mennonites, Mummers, South Philly Vibe, Pittsburgh’s Art Scene, The Cove, People of the Poconos, Commonwealth Capitol District - and it didn’t take long before I was discovering the richness of the state by walking around the annals of history - William Penn’s homestead, Gettysburg National Battlefield, Independence Hall, etc., and celebrating the state by going to festivals and parades, and seeing the land from above in an experimental aircraft (not to mention skydiving), along with diving to the depths of an underwater ghost towns, seeing dogs fly, and fire twirled, and concerts played, and trees being zipped across, and hills being rolled up, and baseball games being soaked up, and kites, kites, kites, and running up the Rocky steps, and laughing at roadside attractions (Centralia, Whistler’s Mother Statue, Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum, Shoe House), and being stuffed with cheese steaks, ice cream, chocolate, chow-chow, and whoopie pies...(I’m out of breath!)
I think you get the picture.
On top of all this, my 225,000 mile-driven Mazda quit (for good), I had a total body poison ivy outbreak, and I was attacked by a goat -- all a part of the adventure!
But most importantly, I’ve made so many wonderful connections with terrific people all across Pennsylvania. Some are virtual through Facebook, Twitter, and the Here A Year website, but most are in the flesh - taking me on tours, showing me the hidden gems of their cities, letting me into their circle of trust and friendship.
This is especially true about the people who are out there, working to make their communities and this world a better place. And of the three verbs I use as a guide through this journey (Live, Discover, Connect), CONNECT is the one I enjoy the most.
So far, I’ve been averaging 18 hours a week volunteering with organizations from all over the state, namely: Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue, Special Olympics Pennsylvania, The Super Hero Foundation, Pyrotopia, Gino J. Merli Veterans' Center, Ivyland 5k, Random Snacks of Kindness Project, and the PA State Parks Department - all with the hope to do more.
At the top:
The best part about making it to the top of any mountain is the view. And with the view comes heightened emotions of joy.
This is true for the halfway point of my lifestyle experiment as well.
The ability to look back and see what has been accomplished as well and getting a vantage point of what might be to come is priceless. I feel like I have good grasp on how the journey is evolving and with that, looking into the future to see what its potential might be.
But I must continue on down the mountain. No one is able to stay on the peak forever.
Most people think that the trek down a mountain is super easy. I disagree.
I don’t see the next six months getting any easier as this venture is not able to survive by me sitting back and coasting. On the contrary, the back half might even be tougher.
When I think about the days ahead, I like to think of them as keeping the momentum alive. Here A Year is just now getting its base of supporters set. It’s just now finding its groove with blog postings and video highlights. It’s just now getting taken as something serious to enjoy.
All a part of what momentum does -- and I hope the snowball effect continues.
I still have many places to go, along with many cultures to understand, and new charities to volunteer alongside of -- I can’t wait!
With so many things to do, it’s important to get feedback from those who are fellow adventurers - whether that be in person or in the online world. There will be even more opportunities for you to vote on, not to mention the giveaways of sweet PA goodies.
I hope you’ll stick around.
So here’s at the halfway point -- and to many more adventures this year. Cheers friends!