Finding the Way

IMG_5162(Just two pro-fessional explorer-ers… out to find the next adventure…)

Joel pointed out yesterday that we’ve been “on the road” for 3 months now.

We’ve been in Colombia, South America, for 16 days… so at first this statement caught me off guard, “What?! It’s been 3 months?! …Where have I been?!”

But then it dawned on me.  Oh, yea, we started our USA-tour road trip early July–a lifestyle of sleeping in the car, in our tent, or on friends’ couches– and being a nomad started to feel like the norm.  It was an adventure designed to be a business trip, where I had pop-up sales in different states, linked up with yoga studios and interesting boutiques around the country, and did some “research” on the kinds of clothes and brands that are out there, from east to north to west to south.  It was indeed this, but it became also a country-wide loop of reconnecting with distant friends and family, with some national park excursions thrown in along the way  We ended early September, and had a 2-week hiatus back in St. Pete.

It was labor day weekend when we returned to home-base, Tampa Bay.  I stayed in my mom’s townhouse while she went to the east coast of Florida to visit friends, and I basked in the glory of having a refrigerator, a television, a comfortable couch, and plenty of floor space… and for 2 days completely vegged out, eating all the leftovers while watching 50 episodes of The Office, and bit by bit counted out the remaining inventory of ShockT shirts I’d brought and sold during the road trip.  In rained all day Sunday–perhaps the 3rd day of rain I’d seen since June–and almost felt guilty for enjoying it so much, never leaving the couch and wondering how many bbq picnics were getting rained out.

My laziness was intensified knowing what lay ahead.  Joel and I had booked our one-way tickets–only $150 each–months before, flying from Tampa to Cartagena, Colombia, on September 15th.  It was September 6th… and my to-do list was enough to make me curl up in a ball and watch 10 more episodes of The Office.

Dilemma one: I misplaced my passport after moving out of my apartment 6 months earlier (I’d returned from vacation, on my birthday, to find the apartment owners had been foreclosed upon, and I had to get out.  Now.)  Multiple visits to storage and excavations in the garage yielded no passport.  So I reserved the earliest appointment at the passport agency in Miami for September 11th.

Dilemma two: I needed to create a team of ShockT friends to help me continue our presence at market and online.

My mother is a saint, and had been helping me send out online orders even before my road trip began (she has a way of caring for clothing– cleaning and ironing and folding and packaging–that could only come from a life’s work of being a mother.)  She had helped me at markets, but only because she loves me– not because she loves waking up before sunrise on Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) morning, loading her car with bins of shirts, setting up a tent and hanging all the shirts (sometimes battling wind and rain,) then sitting in the Florida heat all day.  No, only a crazy person would do that alone.

I needed to find a fellow crazy person.

Joel helped me put the word out.  I had a couple awesome girlfriends offer to help– but with some exciting plans and changes coming up in their lives, I was reluctant to be the source of more responsibility on their shoulders.  And to be honest, part of me was thinking, “I can’t ask you to do all this for me!  Not for what I can pay you!”  Plus, part of the job requirement is having a car large enough to hold a tent, folding screens, racks, folding tables, etc., plus the storage space to hang on to everything in between markets. Someone would have to want to sacrifice part of their weekend to wake up and brave the weather and be responsible for expensive inventory.  Someone would need to learn about the whole process– the set-up, the product, the procedure of making a sale–in one week.

Luckily, people like this do exist.


Her name is Kristie, a friend of Joel’s brother who I’d never met before.  She had responded right away to Joel’s facebook post, and continued to express interest when I was reluctant to follow through with training anyone at all, deterred by my own projections of fear.  I decided to meet with her, before giving up on the idea altogether.

And I’m glad I did.

Kristie has a quiet yet sturdy presence.  She didn’t speak much while I rambled on about ShockT and markets and this and that, hyped up on adrenaline and green tea.  When I would stop and ask, “Am I making sense?!”  She would reassure me, with confident eye contact, “Yes, perfect sense.”  Her style reminded me of someone from Portland, a cute-conservative hipster, with her thick-rimmed glasses and button-up peter-pan-collared blouse.  In fact, she is from Asheville.  (Asheville had been the first city I visited on my road trip, and of all the cities across the USA, was definitely the most passionate about “keeping it local,” about knowing where your things come from, and taking pride in craftsmanship.)

When I felt my rambling was complete, I did what I thought would be appropriate as an interview, and asked, “Do you have any questions?” (When the self-conscious me was wanting to ask, “Does this sound like way too much to figure out and totally not worth it?!”)  I braced myself.  But rather than being met with any confusion or doubt, instead she responded, calm and clear, about her interest in ShockT and what it stands for, the importance to her that she represents someone local and something USA-made and eco-friendly, how she’d been telling her friends all about it, and was looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of it.

I was so impressed by her sure-footed courage.  And felt myself lifted up, feeling like I was actually doing something good by giving this opportunity to someone.  I had been viewing the idea of hiring someone in a negative light– as it being a burden on myself and the employee– and suddenly, that switch was flipped, and now it felt like an exciting opportunity, the beginning of the next step of growth.


Light breaks through the clouds in Tampa Bay

Training Kristie in 1 week was not as daunting as one might think.  Granted, I’m glad the stress of those days before my flight are over– organizing inventory, running through market set-up, writing out steps, labeling bins, figuring out accounting dilemmas… turbo-speed organization bootcamp.

On top of that was the journey to Miami.  To reduce risk of being late, Joel and I drove down Thursday evening and slept in the car (bringing back fond memories of our road trip.)  Apparently, everyone who had an appointment that Friday had one at 9am.  Long lines, hours of waiting for my number to be called… and a few hundred dollars later, my passport was being expedited.  It would be ready for pick-up… Monday.  The day before our flight.

Monday was already overflowing for me– a meeting with my accountant to learn our new inventory-and-sales-tracking system, and my planned day for packing (I am queen of procrastination when it comes to packing.)  Joel has some saintly blood in him, apparently, because he drove all the way back to Miami on Monday to pick up the passport– a total of 10 hours of driving, along with the less-than thrilling experience of entering a government building.

Passport, check.  Trained new market assistant, check.  Online order shipments, check.  All packed and ready to go… not quite.

It was midnight, and I was still working on business organization– from accounting to list-making.  I forced myself to stop, reluctantly bringing piles of papers with me to be dealt with once I accessed internet in Colombia.  I threw all my prospective clothing and travel items into large trash bags and tossed them into my car with my large, empty backpacker’s backpack, to be sorted through once at Joel’s.  We planned to meet at a friend’s house, where I was dropping off my car (Marvin!) for them to lease in my absence.  (So if you see the ShockT spaceship driving around St. Pete… wave HELLO! to Ed and/or Jessie for me.)

Arrived at Joel’s parents house by 1am.  Deciding what to bring, tearfully choosing between favorite pairs of pants, stuffing in as many ShockT shirts, yoga leggings, and comfort items as I could into my “packing cubes” (sneaking in my Yogi Tea bags and women’s health supplements, despite Joel’s frustration with my non-minimalism.)  I even managed to fit in a deflated massage ball with its pump.  (Practicing “non-attachment” and “letting go” has been a large part of preparing for this journey… and yet, I still find great physical, mental, and spiritual need in a 9-inch Yamuna.)  Un-spoiling oneself is a long process, and I accept where I am.


And with bags packed, and hopefully nothing of great importance forgotten… off we went.  4:30 am, Joel’s dad drove us to Tampa International, with a bag of snacks prepared by Joel’s mom in hand.

~ ~ ~ ~

In reflecting, I feel so much gratitude for the support of family and friends throughout our preparations for this journey… I’m continually amazed by what is possible, and how it is made possible by love and encouragement.

Keep in mind… love can show up in different ways.  When you are face-to-face with your own fears and insecurities, you cannot always expect reassurance from others.  Often, the people closest to us can be the most resistant to our taking of risks.  Your fears become their fears.  When we are about to launch forward, much like an arrow being pulled back by the bow, this is when the strongest resistance is met–both within ourselves, and outside of ourselves.

Prepare yourself for this, armed with the knowledge that resistance can come from a place of deep love and desire to nurture.  Those who love us want to protect us.  We love ourselves, and want to remain comfortable and safe.  But if we remain forever sheltered, how can we see the full light of day?  And so, we must be brave, have faith.  Learn to listen to that inner whisper, and know in your heart when it is time to fly.



Courtney <3


(At the airport– hasta luego! (See you later!))




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