Driving along Great Ocean Road today, listening to my road-trip playlist, Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know” came on and I instantly felt my heart well up. Not only is it an incredibly sweet song (about a man who doesn’t tell his partner he loves her and realizes she may not know he does), but I had already been thinking about my trip to Canada in less than a week and how much I’m looking forward to spending time with the people who know me best and really, truly love me. The song really got me thinking… just how important is it to hear “I Love You”? With the number of people out there who use those three words to manipulate others, and alternatively the number of people who really, truly love someone but never bring themselves to say it… does it really matter?
Since moving out to Australia, the combination of having no friends here and working from home has been the most isolating experience I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone out of my way to make friends, whether it’s going to workshops and art classes, utilizing social apps, making other country music friends… I’ve done all of it. And quite honestly, I’m made some incredible friends – amazing women. But in a world where my partner has had to suddenly open up and share everything he’s worked so hard for; I in turn had to give up everything I’d worked so hard for. And the emotion that comes along with giving up everything you love and hold dear is one that you can’t really invoke in others by describing it. You can only know how it feels when it’s inside of you. I have tried to explain it a few times, but each time I do I can tell as I’m speaking that my words aren’t translating what’s inside… trying to describe it falls on deaf ears. The reality is, people don’t take it seriously, because to them, moving to Australia is so exotic and exciting, so how could they understand?
Finding myself deep in these thoughts, Keith Urban’s ‘Coming Home’ came on and I actually start to tear up… happy tears! A week from now I will actually be surrounded by people who love me. Who’ve seen absolutely every side of me: the ugly, petty, exhausted, hurt, lost, unsure sides of me, and yet somehow the love me wholeheartedly anyways.
I suppose because I’ve had a few friends die unexpectedly, be it due to suicide or addiction, I’ve always felt that saying those words to those I still have in my life are so important. When I got the call on December 16, 2016, that a guy I thought of as the brother I never had had been found dead… there are absolutely no words for the influx of emotion that hit me the second I heard “Fini is dead”. The visceral reaction humans are capable of having can not be explained, and I hope if you’re reading this, that you never have to experience that yourself. Even as I type this, the amount of emotion taking over, as I am reliving that moment, is just awful. Since he died, I have read our conversation history hundreds, if not in the thousands, of times. And for the past 19 months, I’ve focused solely on his last message to me, which was telling me how much he missed me and loved me and was sorry for how crazy he’d been lately. I absolutely cherished that message. It was a glimmer of the guy I’d grown up with who had turned into someone else in the midst of his downward spiral; a glimmer that as I read it, gave me hope that it really might get better. His message came in at 4:22pm on December 13, 2016. My reply, sent at 4:58pm, just over half an hour after his, still sits unread today. While we first thought he passed on December 16th, a month or so later when the coroners report came in, I was informed he actually died on December 13th. He was just not found until the 16th. Finding out I was quite likely the last person he spoke with in the moments before he died crushed me all over again. That guilt of what if I’d said something, done something, if I’d only known what would happen in the following moments. What if I’d replied sooner? What if I’d have called him, and just spoke to him, just for the next 30, 40 minutes. Maybe he’d still be here. I grappled with this for a long time. Logically I knew it wasn’t right, but emotions, especially when it comes to death, are anything but logical.
It wasn’t until today, when I was thinking about all the people I love, that I wondered if he had known. Did I ever tell him? I honestly didn’t know. And somehow, 19 months after getting the call that he died, I went to our conversation to read not what he last said to me, but what I last said to him. Despite how many times I’d re-read that conversations, I had no idea what my last words were. And when I saw it, I broke out crying all over again. My last message to him had been “I love you Fini”. I remember it so clearly now too. The messages he’d sent me prior to that had been so incoherent, so devoid of any semblance of the person I grew up with, that I had nothing to say back to them other than to let him know that he was loved. And somehow, it took me this long to feel a sense of peace about his death that I hadn’t felt. In the moments leading up to his death, I told him he was loved, he read it, and as he died, he knew he was loved. He was beyond help, but letting him know he was still loved somehow had brought out a piece of the guy I knew. My response, that sits unread, is inconsequential. I could not have said a single word more than I did that would have done anything more.
So to me… this is why ‘I Love You’ is so important. It sounds cliche to say ‘you may not get another chance to say it’, but I’ve lived it. It’s true. One moment you’re saying bye to someone with whom you have plans to see them again, not knowing you will neither see nor speak to them ever again. That is the harsh reality of this world and there is no getting out of it.
Since I moved here, the love I was always surrounded with at home was suddenly gone. That is just a part of my circumstances as I start a new life on the other side of the world. So for every message I have received from friends that said “I Love You Schleph”, or the drunken phone calls from a bathroom in Dublin saying you wish I were there, to the random “Love you Steph” messages and the “Love you too!” messages I get when I tell them I love them, to the woman I work with who often tells me she loves me as we end our calls… I am so, so grateful to have each of you in my life, and I hope you know that. I hope you know how much that really means to me, because honestly, words matter, and it means absolutely everything to me.
A few weeks ago, I excitedly pressed submit on my application to be a CanadaC3 participant. I had been working on my application for weeks, often opening it, working on it, saving it, closing it, repeat. It almost seems too good an opportunity to be true – giving Canadians the opportunity to join in on a 150-day expedition that would depart from Toronto, travel through the Northwest Passage, through to Victoria. The purpose is to give Canadians a deeper understanding of our land, our peoples, and our country. These opportunities don’t come by often, and in this particular case, has come about because Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary. With the key themes of the journey being Diversity and Inclusion, Reconciliation, Youth Engagement and the Environment, it really struck a cord with me. Having traveled throughout various regions of the world, it becomes impossible for these issues to not become close to your heart. To have the opportunity to bring these learnings and lessons home to my own country that I love so much… well that would be something.
As Geoff Green, Expedition Leader and Founder, best put it… “Canada C3 will be a transformational journey that will spark and captivate our imagination and lead to a greater awareness and deeper understanding of Canada.”
While I eagerly await to find out if I have been accepted, I’ve been following the journey along before it has even began in so many ways! If you’d like to learn more about this epic expedition, which starts June 1 in Toronto, check out the Canada C3 website!
Or if you’re more a social savvy kind of follower, be sure to check out their socials, to learn all about what has been going on behind the scenes leading up to the journey and follow their daily journey!
Nine days until the next adventure. Five days until my 2-year anniversary from my departure for Brazil. This world honestly never ceases to amaze me. Two years ago tonight I was packing my backpack, unpacking it, repacking it. I was looking at three pairs of tights, three sweaters, three t-shirts that I would be wearing for the next year of my life (confession: I switched them out twice along the way!) Yet still, that is the lifestyle I’ve gotten used to. The concept of choice still overwhelms me. In a society that prides itself on filling our closets to the point that we don’t even know what’s in them anymore, I still can’t get over the concept of having more than five items to choose from.
So even this next journey, having the space of a trunk and a backseat seems too much. Someone gifted me $100 today, as their contribution to this adventure I’m embarking on, to buy myself the normal, every day supplies I’ll need. I went to the store and was honestly stuck at $38. I couldn’t justify anything else, because I didn’t need it.
How the heck do I fill a trunk? I’ve got my sleeping bag, tent, pillow & blanket in the back seat. In the trunk I have all the car repair & first aid supplies I think I may need in an emergency situation. But in front of me here I have a suitcase that I can’t for the life of me fill. Three sundresses, a few tights, some sweaters, my jeans, and some shoes. It’s about 1/4 full and I’ve got nothing left to put in it. And that is the best feeling ever. I guess it’s ready to be filled with memories.
Two years ago I could not even fathom the idea that the journey I was about to embark one would one day be just a memory. Yet here I am, looking back on it, a memory of a time in my life now. It blows my mind to imagine that tonight, as I type this, will also just one day be a memory of a thing I did. 33 US States, 1 District & so many beautiful faces along the way. As unprepared as I feel… I am so ready… patiently waiting! ✌
Holy heck. It has now been 724 days since I left to travel the world. April 14, 2015 had been the key date in my life, up until now. I counted down for years until that day arrived, and I’ve been counting up ever since. Soon, however, I will be back at 0. Starting fresh on Day 1. April 19, 2017 marks my ‘New Day 1’.
I will be traveling around the entire United States, making a documentary about the kindness of the every day American. For more information, click on ‘The America I Know’ above! But for a taste of where I’m going, see below! When I got back to Canada almost a year ago now, I could not imagine what would be next. Since then, I found new dreams, which turned into new goals, which turned into new action plans, which will soon become my new normal! I can not thank everyone in my life who has helped make this new pursuit a reality! If you’d like to help, please donate to my GoFundMe page by clicking here, or by reaching out if you have anything else in mind!
April 19-20: Vermont
April 21-22: Maine
April 23: New Hampshire
April 24-25: Massachusetts
April 26: Rhode Island
April 27: Connecticut
April 28-30: New York
May 1: Delaware
May 2: Maryland
May 3: DC
May 4-7: Virginia
May 8-9: North Carolina
May 10-11: South Carolina
May 12-16: Georgia
May 17-21: Florida
May 22-23: Alabama
May 24-26: Mississippi
May 27-29: Louisiana
May 30-June5: Texas
June 6-7: New Mexico
June 12-25: California
June 25-30: Oregon
July 1-2: Washington
July 3-4: Wyoming
July 5-8: South Dakota
July 9-12: North Dakota
July 13-15: Minnesota
July 16-18: Wisconsin
July 19-20: Illinois
July 21-23: Indiana
July 24-29: Ohio
It had been three years since I last saw Eric Church perform, going back to November 2014. So to say I had been eagerly anticipating the Holdin’ My Own Tour would be the understatement of the century. That said though, after weeks of anticipation leading up to CMT Music Fest last July and the complete disappointment that came along with the last minute cancellation due to inclement weather, it was everything I could do not let myself get too excited. After all, what if it were cancelled again? My heart just wouldn’t be able to handle that.
So imagine my absolute delight when Tuesday night went off not just without a hitch, but was absolutely flawless. My friend and I got into London at 5:30pm, well before the doors to the show opened, so we decided to walk the short (and I mean short!) distance to the Bull & Barrel to grab a bite and some drinks. The Bull & Barrel is an amazing country bar in London in every way – from the food/drinks, the service, the prices, the layout, and of course the music, it’s a great pre & post concert venue. What I love most about the Bull & Barrel too is the mixed crowd. It’s never just one demographic, which always makes a venue more appealing to me. I ran into Andrew, the owner of the Bull & Barrel and chatted with him briefly – and to me that’s always a sign of good service, when the owner of a venue is on site and engaged.
At 7:30pm we decided to walk over to Budweiser Gardens with our tickets and I will say – the line up shocked me! We were in line to get in for over 25 minutes, and for a show that emphasized a prompt 8pm start time… I was mildly panicked! We made it to our seats just in time for the show to start and from there, I was blown away again and again. In a completely unprecedented concert concept, Eric Church performed an unheard of amount of songs to what felt like a sold out crowd at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario, Canada. The one thing I always love about Budweiser Gardens versus other venues is that for a venue that holds up to 9,100 patrons, it always feels like an intimate performance, no matter where your seats are. I was in section 106, row H, and my view was absolutely stellar. Not to mention the usher in our section was fantastic – showing us to our seats, handling issues like they weren’t no things, and just being an all around boss.
As the concert played out (set list below), what struck me most is how Eric Church always sounds not only as good as his albums, but somehow better. His ability to play live and often unplugged really showcases his raw talent – the main reason I consider myself one of his biggest fans. Since he had decided to forego an opening act and play two sets himself, one of the best advantages is it allowed him to play both his singles and unreleased musics from his entire discography. From singles like How ‘Bout You to the unreleased Pledge Allegiance to the Hag from his Sinners Like Me album, right through to his Mr. Misunderstood single and to the emotional Mixed Drinks About Feelings from his recently released album, he covered the entire gamut throughout the over three hour set.
While his set list changes at each show, in an effort to keep each show unique and fresh, below is the setlist from the London show which shows just how much he covers. The Holdin’ My Own tour was incredible, from the pre-concert to the venue to of course, the live music by Eric Church. It’s safe to say that Tuesday will not be my last time seeing Eric Church, and would not be my last time at Budweiser Gardens!