By Diana Proemm, CTRS
This the last couple of years, I was neither unhappy, but not really “happy“. I had a severe case of wanderlust, and dreamed only of re-living my 20’s of putting on a backpack and filling it with crazy adventures and experiences to destinations unknown. I was in a profession where I worked with people with disabilities that I absolutely loved, but was leading to a dead end street. Photography has lighted my world since I was a child, and that candle was slowly fading out as well. I knew it was time for me to shed a snakeskin layer but there were a few things holding me back.
My life partner and I bought a condo in Bozeman, Montana in 2007 right before the downturn of the US economy and bam, we were upside down in place we had only intended to stay in for two-three years. Fast forward to 2014, and still a little upside down, but slowly progressing towards the ability to sell our place and not lose our rear ends. With loads of passion for the work but no challenge in my current job at the time, I had a to make a difficult to decision to resign. I needed a change, and one that would be less was less stressful on my body and more challenging for my brain. I decided to teach skiing at the Yellowstone Club for the winter. This was fantastic as I was back at the root of what I loved to do, which was teach skiing. The housing market was slowly coming back in our favor in 2015, so we decided to put the condo on the market for sale by owner that June. Job prospects in the area were limited in my field, so I took a part-time summer job guiding trips into Yellowstone National Park with Yellowstone Guidelines, and worked on some lifestyle photography projects with Gallatin Valley Land Trust and Comfort Company which kept me busy while trying to sell the condo.
Knowing I was motivated to sell my place, I slowly started giving things away, selling items that no longer served me, emptying space so that when the time came to leave, there would be less to deal with.
After two months on the market, we recieved a cash offer on our place August 10th, 2015 with stipulations of departing the premises within three weeks. My dreams of selling the condo, had come true on August 31, 2015 when we signed over the property. This major turn of events sent the universe into overdrive and we were going to be leaving the country that fall as I had envisioned. I was elated, overwhelmed, scared, sad, crazy excited, every emotion you could have came to the surface like a nice beach break bringing in waves of all sizes.
The ball was rolling downhill on a path that I had chosen, and was ready to go! We started packing, organizing, and planning our first destination to Mexico. Pre-made plans and ruminations started coming together. Our neighbors let us rent their place for a few weeks, and convieniently their garage was next to ours for ease of moving our cherished few items we were keeping. With the little details falling into place, one by one, we were able to move forward with our plans. We sold the condo furnished so having to move furniture was not an issue, along with little things like bedding, silverware, and all little things that take time and effort to pack. The majority of of the furniture and household items were not high dollar items, so they were easy to let go of. All of the items we were attached to such as artwork, pictures, and miscellaneous items we kept.
This was going to be our release from modern day society! Freedom finally, after years of talking, wishing, and hoping I could put my backpack on and fly into the unknown was now a reality. I was so thrilled I could have peed my pants like a dog when he gets so excited to see you, wags his tail vigorously then pees on the floor. Whoo hoo this was really happening, I was packing my bags and jumping on the next plane to wherever! Then the unthinkable happened…my brain did a 180 skid turn.
Then the unthinkable happened…my brain did a 180 skid turn.
My thoughts went something this: “Just kidding, I don’t really want to go, I’m fine here. Can we stay here in Bozeman?” Anxiety set in, and I suffered crazy thoughts of actually staying put in Bozeman after everything we had been moving towards, including selling our home. I had lost all mental reasoning and my waves of excitement turned to crashing heaves of fear. Everything I had dreamed of for months and years was enfolding before my eyes and what? I now don’t want to head on world tour? The brain was drilling questions such as: “This is crazy!! Who does this at 43? Sells everything except a few boxes of miscellaneous treasures, quits all jobs, sells her camera gear last minute for a light weight fancy point and shoot and departs on a world tour with no real destination, job or purpose?” My mind was playing tricks on me and and I now was second guessing my decision.
I kept telling myself that it was travel jitters and departing for the unknown. It didn’t always work, so I made sure to do yoga every morning, walk, hike, and meditate to calm the brain and bring back my rational. My friends were amazing sound boards, and one supportive friend in particular said to me after I tried to say I was coming back a few days after we left: “You’re not allow back… At least not for around six months.” Besides, I had no alternative but to keep on the path as I now didn’t have a home.
I used this opportunity to cleanse my soul and my possessions that were weighing me down. There were so many items that I had kept for years and nicely collected dust in my garage. This was the second step in shedding the snakeskin I needed to part with. The attachments I placed on miscellaneous items was intriquiquing to me. My partner did not keep many momentos or attachments to ‘things’, but my mine, were actually memories, and I felt that if I threw them away, it was like throwing away part of my past. Most of the items I decided to let go of and the hardest things to part with were my treasured printed photographs from when I was in high and college- back in the day before digital photography. It had broken my heart to let them go especially since, I had spent 100’s of hours in the darkroom on them in college over 20 years ago, and then tossed them in the trash. I don’t think I would have if the digital age wasn’t around. To alleviate the heart break, I photographed all the prints, and stored them in a digital file, to collect dust in a different location.
This also goes for the myriads of cards and momentos that I had kept to remind myself of something in my past. These memories make you who you are today and keeping them are sometimes good reminders of how far you come. All these momentos and photographs I had kept and stored in my garage for years after sitting in my parents basement for 15 plus years. They sat in a box, never to be seen by anyone but me or my partner on occasion when I had to move the box from one side to another. Digital files weigh much less than those silly boxes that I keep toting around. It was time to toss. It was a fight with my mentality through the course of going through my treasures in the garage. I photographed a lot of the old prints (that would never see the light of day on a wall or anywhere), cards, etc. and tossed them all. Pile by pile, bit by bit. I now feel weightless and free making room for the next phase of my life.
When my anxiety would rise with the decision of particular items to stay or go, to the point where I couldn’t make a decision, it was time to walk away. I had maxed out my decision making process for the day. I would leave the items I was going through and walk away without making a decision. I would take a walk, or work on something else, less mentally stressful. The next day, I would go back to the items giving me stress and anxiety on whether to keep or toss, and with a fresh mind it didn’t seem like a big deal anymore. The decisions came easier with a fresh cleaned mind. I don’t have kids, and knowing that my nieces and nephews wouldn’t really want any of my crap, decisions came easier. Treasured books, big photographs and artwork were either sold, donated or loaned to friends to put on their walls until I return from my travels. In the end, I whiddled down my treasures to a few boxes that fit within my Subaru.
I felt that if I wanted a treasure, it would stay, with me or with a friend. If I couldn’t make a decision, I didn’t stress anymore, I knew it would be OK, that my amazing friends and family had my back and would babysit. We hosted a lovely goodbye party on my friends ranch with a stunning sunset and night camped under the stars, and said our goodbyes. After it was all said and done, my partner and I left Montana with everything we owned in a 2002 Subaru Legacy wagon on September 22nd, 2015.
This day started our journey east across the country and beyond. We had launched our lives into the never ending river, and it was floating us on our world tour, we could either go with it at this point, or cling onto a rock to stay in the same situation we were in, not allowing ourselves this opportunity to learn, grow and experience as humans.
My friend said it best when she gave me some insight after I asked for how the world perceived me.
“Diana Proemm, you are not one to take the backseat and accept status quo. You are the woman that completely flips that giant rug of life upside down. You shake vigorously, repeatedly whack it with an old tennis racquet, then lay it across the fence to air out. Others, they simply continue to shove things under their rugs of life, hoping that one day, they’ll wake up and everything will be okay. But you know how this story goes, right? They’re going to wake up, get out of bed, give a biiigggg yawn, take a step forward, then start the same process over again.”
I took this as, I seek change and strive to learn and grow every day. My friends will tell you that I have lived by the seat of my pants, and typically jump off the cliff without knowing what’s below. This travel bug started when I recieved a job with Big Sky Resort in the Huntley dining room in mid-May of 1995. Within one week, I packed my belongings, left home, drove out west with my mom in my 1990 Ford Mustang and moved to Big Sky, Montana to be a ski bum for year. Who knew this random act would lead me to the outstanding worldly adventures I have been on, and the path in reverse directions before heading on tour.
My way of life and selling everything may not be in the cards for you, but today or tomorrow, take a different route to work, say hello to a stranger, buy someone’s coffee who looks like they are struggling with their day, as that act of kindness might provoke a spark in yourself or someone else to keep going. I say this because I had an angel come to me one night last summer while I was struggling mentally, and physically while waiting tables at a local restaurant and was over my head busy and stressed. This angel/client wrote on the bill“Keep swimming, you’re doing great.” If this lady only knew how much this helped me get through the night and metaphorically with my life at the time, I wish that I could thank her.
Keep it simple people, don’t buy or do unnecessary things that don’t fulfill you. Change is inevitable and I think jumping in the river and going with the flow versus hanging onto the rock is the only way to go! Don’t forget to look through your lens of life and remind yourself of what’s important to you and go after it.
Much Love, dp
The Bigger Picture uses my love for photography to capture real people using recreation to gain wellness and happiness. Diana Proemm is a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist (CTRS) with a photography and travel problem. She provides RT consulting and photography services throughout the USA and beyond.