Life of a Gypsy

I never intended to be a gypsy, but that is what I am!

For nearly four years now I’ve lived out of suitcases…in homes rented on AirBnB and Craigslist…in various places around the world.  Mostly, I’ve stayed in America, because I am a doctor and I have a cat, but I did go to Australia for a while… And within America, I’ve lived in seven + states for periods of several weeks to several months.  And on Maui, I stayed a year.

Generally in my life, I’ve loved to travel and have adventures, even as a very young child.  Growing up my favorite games were “Hide and Seek”, “Marco Polo”, “Ghost in the Graveyard”, and really any kind of play that involved discovering something new or hidden.  That theme has definitely continued in my life.  I am fascinated by the unknown!  And I also love to play!  Though I’ve mostly been gypsying around America these past few years (for practical reasons mentioned above), historically I’ve loved to travel abroad.  (I’ve been to Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Belize, Bolivia, Fiji, New Zealand, Canada, Europe (several times), South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Nevis, Barbados, St. Maartin, Jamaica, St. Barts, and more!)  Exploring is my absolute favorite thing to do!!  For now, America is my oyster, but one day, I definitely do plan to take this gypsy journey e v e r y w h e r e!

My story is pretty interesting (well, you decide!), so I thought I’d share…

Starting with Maui …

Warm, nourishing, exotic, colorful.  Healing.  MAUI!!  All the good stuff in life is on Maui. Waterfalls, rainbows, surfing, mangoes, beaches, mountains, aloha, & dolphins!  (Anyone who’s been knows what I’m talking about!)  It’s full of flowers (and smells), good vibes, and happiness.  It is literally intoxicating!  I felt like I was floating on a cloud of mana (the spirit of the land) the entire time!  I stayed a year there…in a cottage by the sea…in the town of Paia.  I really enjoyed it.  It was one of the best years of my life, I think, and part of me definitely wanted to stay… But, I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  The gypsy was awake–even through my mana haze.  Always stirring subtly, wondering what further adventure could be ahead… So, despite having a stable home on Maui, I still lived out of my suitcases.  This was a sign to me that the gypsy was not gone or asleep or even as entranced as I was by my surroundings.  Those colorful bags (I have North Face and Patagonia duffel bags, rather than suitcases.)  were on the floor of the closets in my cute little cottage.  All year long.  Waiting.

I did unpack some things, and I also bought some things.  But, I didn’t really put down a lot of roots.  I met some people.  I bought some plants.  I did see some new clients.  I guess that constitutes roots.  But these were fine roots, located close to the surface.  And I was very sad to leave those plants, people, and clients behind. But such is the life of a gypsy.  The roots you make you have to break.  It is hard.  And it kind of discourages you from forming roots in the first place.  I, however, cannot really help myself.  I do it naturally (I have Cancer rising astrologically.).  I form roots automatically, but I also am pretty skilled at letting go (though it does hurt sometimes).  I’m really the oddest mix of a gypsy-nesting-homebody.  Nesting-homebody is the Cancer part.  She likes to grow roots and nest, care for things.  Gypsy, well, that’s due to a lot of different aspects within me…the wilder parts.  I’m a nester with a serious case of restlessness.  And wanderlust.  It’s quite a paradox.  I’m a paradox.

Being a gypsy means a lot of things.  For one, you value adventure over security.  You also value novelty over routine.  It means you are probably a bit mercurial.  A tad unpredictable.  It means you are brave.  It means you probably do not love commitment and most likely you march to the beat of your own drum.  You are creative–you know how to do what needs to be done in many, if not most, situations.  You also may literally like to make things.  Make things happen.  Or just make … things.  New things.  (Classic gypsies of old were often artisans {or thieves} who traveled around selling their creations {or stealing from people}.  Obviously, I’m more of the artisan-type gypsy.)  You know how to live lightly.  Simply.  You value freedom over possessions.  You really value freedom over just about everything, except maybe love.

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Maybe I cannot speak for all gypsies, but I do know a good many of them and all that I know love their freedom.  They are also usually dreamers.  And oftentimes, as mentioned above, artists.  Personally, I value freedom over money, over security, over things, over status, over duty, obligation…really just about everything, except (again) maybe love.  And lately, my career.  (It’s my career that ultimately gives me the incentive to stop roaming for a while so I can further develop my professional potential…)

Some people may look and feel negatively towards/about that…  It doesn’t sound highly responsible or caring to value freedom, fun, and dreams over everything.  That may be true.  The freedom path is not a highly duty-bound path, really.  It is the path of the black-sheep, and, in some cases, the “Prodigal Son”… The duty way is a good way, but it is a different way, with different lessons for its travelers.  The freedom path is not necessarily only traveled by wayward souls who are irresponsible, however.  I, for one, am highly responsible.  I just consciously choose to not attach myself  to numerous things to which I need to be responding.  I will respond if I am needed, and I also am quite caring when it comes to people and things in my life that are important to me.  So, it is possible to be a responsible, caring child-of-the-wind.  It’s just not quite the same as being a responsible, caring child-of-the-earth.  That’s a different path.

My Mayan astrological sign is the reed.  That suits me.  Reeds are independent (free-standing) and self-assertive (fibrous and strong), but they strive to know flexibility, balance, and harmony (to bend with the wind).  Musically, air moves through them to make (hopefully pleasing) sound!  (Interestingly, I played the clarinet and the flute {both “woodwind” instruments, with the clarinet actually using a reed} growing up…and still play the flute now…)  In western astrology, I’m more water (Scorpio with Cancer rising) than wind, but still, I like the metaphor.  I do think of myself as a child-of-the-wind.  And I do actually love the wind.  Wind brings change.  And wind sails the boat.  So, freedom, the path of the wind and change, is my Truth and my learning program at least for now, and I’m honoring it.  It may be because I’m a reed or maybe because I am a bit Uranian (the planet Uranus {representing change, novelty, freedom, progressive thinking, and originality–and ruler of the AIR sign Aquarius} was conjunct {within a few degrees of the same sign of the Zodiac} the sun at the time of my birth.  This is a very strong Uranian/Aquarian placement and could definitely be considered a reliable indication of a very free-spirit!) Or maybe it’s just my destiny…or a mystery.  I do not know exactly why this is my path.  I just know that it is…

Oh, did I mention I’m an astrologer?  I think I did (read the About page)…Now that that’s clear, I’ll be mentioning little astrological asides now and then.  If you’re interested in astrology, you’ll probably like it.  If not, you may not like it.  But you might learn something.  Astrology is fascinating.  Give it a chance.  It may prove its worth.  It sure has with me…

So, back to the story:

For love I have derailed my gypsy path on more than one occasion.  Maybe I’ll talk about that some time in the future.  The stories are pretty entertaining, I think.  Love really is the only motivator strong enough to get me to willingly stop.  Money is I suppose the second great motivator for a gypsy because, practically speaking, we do need to eat.  And when you are a white collar “professional-type” gypsy like I am, you also need to pay your medical malpractice insurance, your health insurance, your car insurance, your storage unit costs, your Hulu.com bill, etc. etc.

I have worked hard to try to keep my lifestyle portable AND sustainable.  But realistically speaking, money is a bit of a rate-limiting factor in the equation.  As might be expected, money does not always flow quite as quickly into the gypsy wagon as it flows into more stationary receptacles.  This makes sense.  In my primary work (holistic medicine and psychology), it is really nice to see a provider in person.  Face to face.  This is true.  I cannot deny it.  I agree!  But, it is also helpful to see a really good provider, a progressive provider, a unique provider, someone you find interesting or inspiring…even from a distance (ie, online or over the phone).  If there is a choice between a wonderful provider you might see digitally vs. someone more average you might see in person…Well, people have to make their own decisions, I guess!  But, I personally love creative people living their life on their own terms.  Thus, I definitely would choose the cool provider with the intriguing life over someone more ordinary I could see in person.  And I suppose I work with people who can see the value in my lifestyle (and how it has very positively contributed to my knowledge and experience base, which they stand to benefit from), even if it is a bit less optimal for them in some ways than seeing a provider in person.

So, I have had a lovely portable holistic medical, psychotherapy, coaching, and astrology practice for almost 4 years now.  And it has been amazing.  Also, hard, easy, confusing, frustrating, fun, interesting, exciting, lonely, crowded, peaceful, chaotic, beautiful, fascinating, creative, and so much more.  It has been rich and rewarding beyond what I can even begin to describe, really.

But, it has not been perfect.  And it has not been exactly highly lucrative either.  But it has been self-sustaining!  It has basically worked!!  (And it has allowed me to prove to myself that I do indeed value freedom over money!)  I am incredibly grateful that I’ve been supported to live this lifestyle for as long as I have!  I’ve had some truly amazing clients over the past four years, and working in a part-time, spacious way has been deeply restorative for my soul!  I have felt like I had so much more to give because I was so much happier and more in balance myself (vs. the way they train us to work in medicine and in “the real world”).  I’ve used the extra time I’ve had to have adventures, make artwork, perfect my astrology skills, research new holistic medical treatments for a variety of conditions, write blog posts, write poetry, etc.  It has been time extremely well spent that in many cases will contribute to my career from here on out (the medical research and astrology parts, at least).

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My “office” on Maui

You know, as I said in the first line of this post, I never planned to be a gypsy.  I have ALWAYS loved to move (a lot) and loved travel even more, but still I used to at least live places one or two or (once, for med school) even four years before leaving. I was nomad- or gypsy-like, rather than the real thing!  I would unpack at least (when I moved somewhere).  And generally, I’d have all my stuff with me (rather than in storage…).

{Side Note:  When I did my very first “trial run” as a gypsy in 2002 I actually did have a storage unit.  I had my cat + all my most important stuff in my car–the same car (and cat) I have now.  I went on a great adventure over a 4 year period of time, zig-zagging across the country.  (I moved from the city to the mountains…for about 8 months, then traveled around a few weeks, then moved back to the city for about 10 months, then moved to a yoga ashram for a month, then moved back to the mountains for about 8 months, then went to Peru for six weeks, and then finally moved back to the city {a different city} for a year…)  Because I stayed a few places for more than a few months, I didn’t really think of myself as a gypsy at the time, but looking back…that is kind of what was happening… I definitely did get a taste of the sweet, free life.  That experience definitely put something into play for me.  The gypsy seed was planted.  And it has definitely bloomed!  See the “Tahoe Skiing Bliss” post for more of that story.}

At the beginning of this 4 year experience I actually originally planned to just move to Kauai.  A lot of soul searching and magic brought me to Kauai in the first place, but when I got there as part of the “big move”, things were different somehow.  More with me than with Kauai.  I had let go of so much (a beautiful home, garden, friends, a thriving healing center and holistic psychiatry business) to get to Hawaii.  I really had some residual pain and grief over that.  It took me a while to accept and process what I had done!  It was what I wanted, and yet, it really was a huge loss.  But the up side was that I was FREE.  After a period of exploration and consideration on the island, I decided wanted to expand my freedom and really enjoy it, rather than settle down more permanently again.

So… that’s what I did!

Initially, I moved into a temporary but beautiful situation on an 8 acre farm on Kauai (a month-to-month rental on a property that was for sale).  It was one of the most scenic and flowerful places I’ve ever visited.  I could not believe I was so fortunate!  I got to live on a botanical garden!!  It was like a dream…

Connecting with nature was my reason for choosing to move to Hawaii–I wanted to work and live close to nature.  Lush nature.  Exotic nature.  Really abundant, flowery nature.  I found it!  And I lived it.  For 4 months.  It was probably the most mystical and nurturing time in my life.  I actually did at times feel very tempted stay, but since the house was for sale, it seemed to make the decision for me.  Towards the end of my time there, I kept having to show the house, which really disturbed my work and privacy.  It was not a stable situation, so I hopped!

I plan to write a wonderful,  descriptive post (maybe even a book!!) about my time on that farm because it truly was a magical and amazing experience for me.  But, ultimately, that land was not my forever home.  I’d been living in Tucson, AZ for the six years prior to my big jump across the ocean (my longest time anywhere since high school), and now that I was free, I was positively itching for experiences.  Especially tropical ones!

The gypsy was officially born.

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I craved experiences.  And I created them.  I yearned for adventure.  And I found it.  I opened to life.  I let the road show and teach me.  I let my heart guide me.  And wow.  I’ve been all over the place since I started this journey!!  I’ve hopped and flown, driven back and forth across the country…up and down it, too!  I’ve had all kinds of experiences!  Lessons, too!!  I’ve lived on several farms, in two mountain ski condos, on 1 artist compound, in several beach shacks, in several quaint English-style cottages, in numerous guest houses, in a snowy mountain cabin,  in several big city apartments, in a couple of adobe desert casitas, in a Victorian attic apartment, in a clapboard cottage by the sea, in a 1920s Los Angeles brothel turned stylish artist cottage, and in a magical fairy tale gingerbread house (almost literally–>see photo!).

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I’ve been to Kauai, Big Island, Maui, San Diego, Tucson, Telluride, Venice (LA), Ojai, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Ashland (OR), Bainbridge Island (WA), Montecito, Encinitas, Los Angeles again (different part), Sedona, Telluride again, Big Island again, Kauai again, Maui again, Australia, Tucson again, Austin, New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, St. Simons Island (GA), New Mexico, San Francisco, and … Lake Tahoe (where I am currently)…   I hope to write plenty of posts about my fascinating discoveries and adventures in all those awesome places!  (Check back later, okay?!)

What an incredible journey it has been…

When I left Tucson many of my patients followed me.  (Not literally–but over the phone and internet.)  And in Hawaii new ones joined me.  And when some people I met around the island learned I was an astrologer, they wanted sessions with me.  And when other people learned I was a therapist, they wanted to do little workshop/retreats with me.  And I advertised online.  And more people found me.  And in this way my mobile practice was born.

It has been a great experience — working online.  Working from home.  Working from everywhere.  Anywhere.  I celebrate the clients who dared to join me…who dared to try something new and different.  Now working this way is becoming more and more common, but when I started it was very new.  Avant-garde almost!  I have loved blazing my own path!  Doing my own thing.  What a thrill!!  Seriously!!

And now, I really don’t want to stop.  This blog may even be a last ditch effort keep me from stopping!!  I want to tell more of my stories about roaming before I stop roaming!! (Will I ever truly stop roaming though??  I doubt it!)  But even though I don’t really want to stop, I kind of think I am probably slowing down a little….somewhat soon.  I feel that it MAY be time to engage with people in a more steady way once again.  It may be time to grow my face-to-face practice (at least a little) once again.  I really am motivated to make the most of my career.  I know I have so much to give in that area of my life.  Is it time to create a few roots once again??

I don’t think it’s the true end of my gypsydom, more like a pause.  Like on Maui!

And so, In a few months time I may have a new plan.  And that plan is to move somewhere.  I originally thought it might be Colorado because I so LOVE to ski.  But since the main reason I’m thinking about stopping is to grow my career, I think I probably should go to the place where I think my career has the absolute best potential for success…There are a lot of places that could work, and there are a lot of places that I like…for a variety of different reasons. But, the place I think would have the most opportunities…with the right kinds of clients and a really nice climate…is…LA. I’m not certain about this, but it’s a strong possibility…

But, wherever I am and whatever I decide to do, I am definitely committed to working on this blog and at least one of my books.  This next phase of life is going to be dedicated to my creative and professional development.  I AM clear about that.  

Speaking of creativity…When you are always moving it’s actually pretty hard to be creative, and this is a or maybe THE major downside to the gypsy lifestyle, in my opinion. (I really, really highly value art, writing, dance, and really all forms of creative self-expression—almost as much as I value freedom!).  When always moving, much of your energy is taken up by interacting with the outside environment.  There are new places to see, things to do, people to meet, old friends to visit…  There is also a lot of time spent working out future logistics (where to stay, what your budget is going to be, how to pack the car, what to buy before the next stop, etc.).  And there is a lot of planning for what to do where you are, too.  Plus, there’s work!  Work has to fit in the schedule somewhere!  Usually, I work 3-4 days a week from my temporary homes, and I schedule sightseeing excursions, exercise, adventures, meet-ups with friends, and etc. around those “virtual” work days.

I love exploring, I’m excited by novelty, and I enjoy planning (I have my Virgo moon to thank for that), so much of the gypsy lifestyle really works for me.  And in order to get my creative fix on the road, I primarily rely on photography (Thank goodness for Instagram!!).  I love taking unique and pretty photos of the beautiful places and fascinating things I see and experience on my journey.  I also bring along lots of portable art projects and materials like seed beads, wood plaques, embroidery thread, glitter, felting wool, and even paints and canvas (and a lightweight, collapsible easel).  All the art shown in the photos on this post was created during the past 4 years on my gypsy journey.  There’s more than what is pictured, actually, but but I definitely don’t make as much art on the road as when I’m stationary.  It’s just a fact.  Travel and planning take time and energy–time and energy that might otherwise be spent making something…or working more, raising a family, building community, taking a class, gardening and so on…those child-of-the-earth things! 

There are definitely consequences to living this way!

Speaking of gardening, I positively adore plants, and I once loved having a yard of my own.  I actually cried when I left my garden in Tucson.  It was so beautiful.  And so full of life!  I knew most of it was going to die without me.  It was a four and a half year investment that served and nourished my soul deeply, but ultimately I had to leave it.  It was painful…so painful.  I still will always have a garden if I stay somewhere long enough (I cannot help myself!  I love plants!!!  I’m traveling with 8 of them now!!), but freedom really does rule for me.  It is my priority.  I’d rather roam than have a garden.  I know this.  So, in order to get my flower fix on the road, I choose to visit amazing botanical gardens in a variety of places, and I take a million photos while blissing out with all the plants.  It’s definitely not the same as growing my own garden, but not-gardening is a trade-off…one of the many required to be a gypsy.

Things get left behind when you are a gypsy.  Things get duplicated, too, sometimes.  Things get simplified.  You really learn what you truly need to be comfortable.  I can get it down to several suitcases.  I can get it to a single backpack, if necessary.  But to be at my optimal range of comfortable + portable, I prefer to have my car (aka–my gypsy wagon).  I have a Toyota 4 Runner SUV.  It is green.  I’m not really a car-namer (never named any of my 4 previous cars), but I do kind of think of this lovely friend as “Jade”.  I have had “her” since 2002.  She was a gift from my parents around the time of my medical school graduation.  I have loved that car from day one (I picked it out!) and have taken it on really too many adventures to count (or she has taken me).  We’ve really been through a lot together.  I honestly feel as if that car is kind of a part of me.  Like my cat, Kashmir.  She, too, is a part of me.  I am a gypsy with a pet car and a pet cat.

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In terms of the actual details of being a gypsy…what I carry is kind of interesting, I think!

My little caravan of three (me, car, cat) includes 8 plants, a bag of shoes, a bag of clothes, a bag of “gear” (jackets, wetsuits, miscellaneous sports equipment and clothing, etc.) and instruments/decor (tapestries, a singing bowl, my flute, and a few little things to make every new place look and feel like home), a bag of accessories, a bag of jewelry/art/crystals, a bag of office supplies/cameras/tech gear, a bag of files/paperwork/computer + cables, a bag of art supplies, a bag of kitchen supplies, a basket full of supplements, a Honeywell air purifier, a Jupiter water ionizer, a Vornado fan, a Bose Soundlink speaker, my favorite snow skis, a tennis racquet, a collapsible hula hoop, a portable easel, a tripod, a bag of ski gear, a small case of crystals, a bag of bath and body stuff, a laundry basket filled with bedding (my own feather duvet, 2 feather pillows, & pure linen sheets), and two coolers (one for food and one for chocolate).  Oh, and I also travel with a full size biomat, a Vitamix blender, a Zojirushi rice cooker, a Dyson hand vac, a Nespresso machine, a compact printer, an Apple TV, 1 sofa pillow (to serve as a portable desk while sitting on a couch), 2 foam mattress pads, a yoga mat, and 4 sheepskin rugs.

All of that fits in my car.

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It’s tight, but it fits.  And it’s home.  Home in a car.  To be unpacked at each new destination.  For four years running…Well, mostly.  Some of that stuff I did not have in Hawaii.  But I bought other, similar stuff while I was there.  And I took about 10 bags of that stuff with me.  And my car!  And my cat!  So, most of it is the same.  Most of that stuff is what constitutes my environment, my “home”.

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This is how we do it!

There’s something really gratifying about being able to get satisfaction out of the same outfits, jewelry, hats, and scarves for months and even years on end.  Every new thing I buy is carefully chosen and greatly appreciated.  I do not accept new items without a lot of thought.  It’s like backpacking in that way!  You have a bigger “space budget”, but it is a similar principle.  You can only take a car load full of stuff—what’s it going to be?  It really allows you to see what items you truly value, what things make you feel comfortable, what things keep you healthy, what things help you look your best and feel good.  This process tells you what are your most essential possessions.  It’s fascinating.  I’ve gotten to stop by my storage unit several times during the 4 years I’ve been traveling, so I get to make adjustments to my “wagon” if my priorities change or I realize I’ve forgotten something I want or need.  Often, I just have to replace something if I forget it or cannot find it in storage, however.  I have two ionizers.  Many extra crystals. Several sets of paints.  2 rice cookers.  2 Dyson hand vacs.  2 printers.  An extra blender.

I guess that seems a little bit wasteful, but really, I am quite conservative (resource-wise).  Like I said, this is not a lifestyle of consumerism.  A few things are duplicated, but in general, life is joyfully lived with less.

There are a lot of choices to make as a gypsy.  I like that about it.  I can be a bit indecisive sometimes, and this gypsy journey has given me many opportunities to make hundreds of little choices that actually can be quite impactful (but not so much so that they are impossible to make).  Really, choices have to be made to move forward.  And often, there are timelines.  Deadlines.  Days when you will be homeless soon if you do not act quickly.  It’s been a good experience for me.  Being a gypsy, like many things in life, is a balancing act.  There is a lot of FLOW (most of which I love and am comfortable with) paired with a reasonably significant amount of SLOW — practical details like planning, budgeting, dates, and deadlines.

In summary, being a gypsy is a fabulous, adventurous, fun and challenging path…a path with amazing benefits and some real consequences, too.  For me, the journey has definitely been inner, as well as outer.  I am happy “Chasing the Muse” and living as a gypsy has been part of my life story, and I plan to enjoy it thoroughly for as long as it lasts.  I celebrate all my other fellow gypsies or gypsy-wannnabes (and I’d love to hear from you).

Freedom is indeed worth more than gold…

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(At least to me.)

Gold is good, too, though.  Especially on a smoothie.

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To be continued…

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