5 years

Been MIA for a long time. Honestly haven’t felt as if anything I said mattered anyway.

It’s coming up on to 5 years, almost to the day, that I was violently raped by an ex. While that moment broke something inside me and I haven’t been the same since, I think that it also somehow made me realize that even “playing it safe” with a job, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc (being what polite society would consider “normal” essentially), you can still be violated and put in danger.  Before, I was full of anxiety and fear. Even the thought of driving would give me mad anxiety and when I had driving lessons, I’d have panic attacks (not realizing they were that at the time).

What I’m trying to say is that realizing you can’t avoid danger – that it’s going to be coming from everywhere, especially with those you allow close to you. And I have done more in the last 5 years than I have in the 28 years before it having realized that. Let me try to succinctly summarize the last 5 years:

I shaved my head, sold my car I had just paid off, gave up an incredible rent situation, attempted a thru-hike of the PCT (only got 652 miles in before getting injured but still! Pretty fuckin’ cool especially since I got to help collaborate on the coolest podcast “Sounds of the Trail”), lived on the East Coast briefly (visited NY, VT, VA, NC, SC, GA, TN and D.C.), moved back to West Coast, skydived (3 separate times), finally hiked to Havasupai, went to Burning Man, lost a loved one to suicide, rehashed my trauma for the A&E Leah Remini: Scientology the Aftermath show, dipped my toes into vanlifing buying my van while working 2 jobs to save up and go to Europe,  where I walked the 500 mile Camino de Santiago/Way of St. James and met some incredible people who became friends for life, saw family in France and then did that pilgrimage from France into Spain. Fell in love with Spain. Went back to Finland, visited Sweden briefly on the way back to US.

Tried working for Xanterrible at Yellowstone. Concurrently, a national tv episode of me speaking out against the cult I grew up in was about to air, I had a nervous breakdown and a doctor there was kind enough to make me realize I needed help. Went to treatment for about 2 months. Felt a bit better. Went to work with a friend, trimming at his MJ farm in Oregon only to hear my dad was found dead. He’d drunk himself to death and since I was his only child, I had to go back to Finland (this time in the cold cold arctic circle). Stayed with an aunt and her family and saw my father’s side of the family which was awkward since I didn’t know these people. They had never been – nor made any effort to – be in my life. No word from my mom who clearly had shunned me. Saw Northern Lights for the first time which had been on my fuck-et list.

Took my father’s ashes back with me to the States since he’d never been able to visit me. Found a place I could work a little/volunteer in beautiful Oracle, AZ, right next to The Arizona Trail. (High Jinks Ranch), a historical place that Buffalo Bill staked a claim to. The owner was lovely and so empathetic and kind. The Chalet Village Motel – down the hill – owner, Marnie, became like a non-biological mother. I met so many incredible – extraordinary, really – hikers coming through on the trail. I was able to cook for them and have beautiful conversations. I felt like between the nature and these beautiful people, I should be feeling better. I hiked Grand Canyon with my dad’s ashes and did a ton of exploring in AZ at the same time.

But I still felt numb. I dissociate so often that it feels like I’m just experiencing life through some fuzz filter. It’s frustrating being in some of the most beautiful places and just being like “meh”. It’s like my brain can’t process anything too overwhelming. And when it does, my emotional regulation goes out the window and I just burst out from crying at feeling all of the things.

I decided I’d had enough. I’d kill myself for my 33rd birthday, at 3:33am. The final suicide location would be Angel’s Landing. For a few reasons, the main being that I was far from an angel and would be falling. Quite literal but I’m a foreigner so sue me (insert shrug). But I’d do one last roadtrip up the West Coast, into Canada and then down MT, WY & ID and then down through UT to Zion National Park.

So I made a trip from seeing friends in San Diego, CA up the coast, visiting friends in NorCal, OR and exploring WA for the first time. Then I went to Kelowna, visited a hiker friend from the PCT. Him and his wife let me stay there for over a week on their amazing boat house. I made his wife uncomfortable with my death talk so I left. Went to Banff & Glacier National Park (Canada). Definitely must-see places before you die! Went through MT, WY & ID as planned and made it to Southern Utah a week before my birthday only to find out that Angel’s Landing hike was closed due to a mudslide having wiped it out. I honestly didn’t have a plan B and I was out of $$. Then karma came back around and one of the hikers I’d helped whilst in AZ told me of a job in Kanab, UT working as the manager/caretaker of Grand Circle Bed & Breakfast. Within 72 hours, I had the job. And that was great until the reservations guy started to harass me and refused to resolve our conflict. If a place no longer feels safe for me, I’ve learned i need to protect my mental health. The owners were fantastic though and the entire Southern UT area is pure magic. Was sold on moving in with a friend from treatment to start anew only to find out she flat out lied and had fallen off the sobriety wagon hard. So I had driven to the Midwest for nothing. Got to see Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota though (SD was amazing).

So now I’m again at a crossroads. Is life even worth living when there is nobody to share that with? I honestly feel Christopher McCandless’ quote so viscerally “Happiness is only real once shared”.  

I’ve told at least 10 people I constantly think of just killing myself. Only 1 has addressed that statement directly with me. And that was a recovering addict who’s been through shit. I’ve had numerous panic attacks in public places where nobody comes to help or assist me in any way.

I wake up daily crying when I realize I’m still alive. My heart races even when there is no danger present. I wake up constantly from the sleep paralysis and nightmares. I’m a sexual person but have anxiety when someone even checks me out.

Nothing gives me true enjoyment. I have tried to eat, hike, kayak, travel, write and drink the pain away and I’ve concluded it’s utterly pointless.

I don’t think there’s room in the world for people like me. You’d think having done such a concentrated amount of living in just 5 years would’ve shaken me alive but it just brings home that maybe I’m too broken.  And living in constant survival mode is draining my soul battery dry daily.

And nobody likes a crybaby.

 

 

 

 

Camino Gear

Been going back and forth on how to describe my experience. On one hand, I thought about describing every area I walked through, with pictures and witty anecdotes from handwritten journal but then I remembered that I didn’t like to read those myself when planning for the walk since I wanted a truly organic experience without some other persons’ bias and stories in my head.

I decided I’d write it, at least to begin with, in a way I wish others would have written it. With plain facts about gear: what I brought and wish I hadn’t (and ended up sending off) and what I wish I had brought and hadn’t. 

If you read this in preparation for doing your own Camino and are wondering about anything I might have missed or are just curious about something else, don’t hesitate to comment and ask!

I started just before the main heat wave begun smack middle of summer (begun May 11 and completed June 22) and had heard the Pyrenees could be cold so brought my insulated Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket, North Face gloves and Thinsulate hat which I only wore once, climbing the Pyrenees with cold ass gusty winds and never wore any of those again for rest of trip. 

I brought 3 pairs Injinji toe socks (love, love, love Injinji!) which was a bit overkill. Sent one pair off, along with my Ursack bear bag (SO unnecessary, even if camping), compass, my extra bandanna and sun hat (even when sunny, my headband was sufficient and I hate hats so never wore it although I saw plenty of people wearing theirs). I’d also been hoping to cowboy camp along the way, which I didn’t do (the only times I saw chances to do it, rain was in the forecast so, for obvious reasons, decided against it) so sent my tent footprint – which I use under my sleeping pad – off as well.

I did NOT bring my tent for which I was happy about since I probably would’ve used it only once, if that. I was advised by some lovely ladies who’d done their pilgrimage before me so thought I should note that.

I did bring:

1 Nike Dri-Fit pants (best pants ever!)

1 Columbia sport tights (for when I do laundry or when I feel like switching things up)

1 tank top

1 shirt for laundry time

2 pairs of Ex Officio undies which are much much better than regular cotton underwear.

1 pair of Bedrock Sandals for when my foot would swell and would be too painful to walk in my trail runners. Also great for the showers and walking around town. Lightweight and stylish.

1 pair of Brooks Cascadias trail runners (my walking/hiking shoe of choice since it usually accommodates my foot swelling).

1 Buff and another UV headband (didn’t need two in the end since only wore one entire time)

2 pairs of Injinji socks (I switch socks on super hot days to prevent blisters)

1 small Therm a Rest Zlite sleeping pad (not many people need a pad but I elevate my feet every 8km or so and use it constantly)

1 Sleeping Bag (10 degree Zpacks bag so super lightweight)

1 lightweight camping pillow (Sea to Summit Aeros) which honestly probably wasn’t necessary but my neck hated the pillows offered in albergues so I’m glad I brought mine.

1 super lightweight (Deuce of Spades brand) trowel which I didn’t use once but felt good to have, should I have an uncontrollable urge to poop somewhere outdoors.

1 bandanna dangling from pack for pee reasons (or as some lady and on the PCT 2 years ago called it: “vajanky”: like “vagina” and “hanky” Lol).

My trusty Black Diamond trekking poles (brought 2 extra tips for which I was grateful for since I ended up needing them both)

My Osprey Ariel 65L (total overkill on the size by the way but I love my pack too much to trade her for a smaller one I have. I probably could have made a 38L fit).

Osprey pack rain cover

Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket

Electronics: 1 Anker 20,000mAh external battery along with converter and charger for phone and battery. Side note: The 20,00mAh was probably too much. A 10,000mAh would’ve been sufficient. If you’re like me and absolutely have to have phone battery life, it’s worth its weight. Some albergues have very very few outlets to charge on and having an external battery makes life so much easier in the long run in those instances.

I also brought my tele, wide and fisheye lens from Moment for my phone (see my Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/skahlua912 . DEFINITELY worth their weight, in my opinion).

Medical supplies: bottle of ibuprofen, sewing needle and thread (for both blisters and any clothes or gear that might need a stitch), antiseptic towelettes, bandaids and Compheed anti blister pads and some moleskin). Also Electro Mix electrolytes (swear by them…. better than Nuun and other more expensive electrolytes, for me personally anyway). 

Hygienic supplies: to go travel sized toothbrush and paste, Sea to Summit multipurpose soap used as shampoo, body wash AND laundry detergent, rosemary and lavender tonic for cramping, relaxation when able to take baths and to repel bed bugs, coconut oil for hair, face and body lotion, contact lens shit and comb.

Wish I’d brought and ended up buying:

My anti-diarrhea pills/activated charcoal

Smaller, lightweight backpack to use while in towns

Poncho 

More of my favorite protein bars (I could only find muesli or granola bars at the stores in Spain)

Ultimately though, the Camino has services for sending your backpack on to next albergue you plan on staying at so you can bring as much as you want if you’d rather have a more luxurious experience. Or, opposite of that,  if you’d rather have a more minimalistic journey, you could go without more than 1/2 of what I brought and still be fine.

The Camino has stores, albergues, cafes and water stops along with towns throughout the day. Not one day will there be nothing. I prepared a bit more for the backcountry which the Camino is most definitely NOT! Lol

Will write more later about the beautiful people I met along the way and epiphanies I had along the way.

Here are some pics:
The last day, when you first get a peak of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral πŸ‘‡πŸ»
The first day, when carrying a bunch of unnecessary stuff and pack is heavy πŸ‘‡πŸ»
My sweaty selfie πŸ‘‡πŸ»
Blister resolution πŸ˜³πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Blogging the Camino

I’ve found it to be quite a chore to go back and rehash emotions, thoughts and events each day on the Camino so I’ve been keeping a written journal and have decided to write more on here once actually done.

I’m more than halfway now and should be finishing within 2 weeks. Having gotten sick for almost a week and conking out the last couple of days have set me back but I’m in no real hurry.

I have so many things to say and look forward to updating the blog once done with more specifics and tips, etc.

Rest assured, you will get some exciting posts later! 
Xoxo,

Saina 

Estella, Spain

I woke up around 3-4am choking. Apparently I’d barfed in my sleep and because I sleep on my back, it started going down the wrong chute. At first, I panicked thinking “this is how I fuckin’ die?!? Choking on my own vomit in a random hotel in Spain?!? How lame!” And then I remembered I’d wanted to die the other day and could just let myself asphyxiate but decided that’s not how I wanted to go and I still need to finish this pilgrimage and see my family in Finland. This entire mental dialogue happened in the space of a second or so and I quickly coughed the acidic barf out and went back to sleep. Fun stuff.

Stuck here for another day. I woke up at 6am to gauge if I could walk and I still could hardly bring myself up to go to the bathroom so decided staying another day. Hopped in the shower and a HUGE thick glob of dark green/yellow snot the size of my hand came out of my nose which actually helped me breathe a lot better. I’d never ever seen that in my life. It was like the size of a clementine. No exaggeration.😳

Finally caught the pharmacy while it was open (they keep weird hours here in this town. They’re like open for 2 hours at random times, once early AM and then late afternoon). Got flu stuff, echinacea, diarrhea pills (yay!) and extra blister stuff just in case. I feel like I’m oversharing some bodily functions here but it’s my blog. If I can’t keep it disgustingly honest here, where can I?

Feeling a lot more positive today. I rarely get sick so this is a bummer but I’m sure it’ll take longer to heal if I’m mentally in a negative space.

Need to download for the previous days which were actually quite pleasant. Will post some of the pics here and put a bit of commentary next to them when able. I will then expound on all that later when more mentally aware (head is pounding at the moment). This is just 2 days of shittiness. The other days were fantastic so really don’t want my blog to represent the sucky part too much. Mentally, I really want to keep walking but my health needs to come first. But I’m not done here. Not by a long shot. I know I can do this. That’s not a question in my mind at all. Sometimes you just need a mental perspective shift.

The people are wonderful that I meet. Just the other day, when I was crying,  sopping wet and freezing from the rain and waiting for the albergue to open, some Italians walked past and offered to sit with me until I was ok which was so nice and made me cry even harder (whenever someone is nice to me when I’m upset, it just makes me cry. I’m more comfortable with people being harsh or ignoring me when upset, as bad as that sounds).

I separated from my walking buddy in Pamplona. Just needed to feel the feelings I was having and I couldn’t do that with someone else around, no matter how lovely. Miss her tons but we agreed it’s best for both of us.

Tried to upload a ton of pics but the wifi sucks at this fancy pants hotel which is frustrating but will just do a separate post when able. The support I’ve received from people on last post was so heartwarming and really, really helped. Thank you!! 
Some road walking (not my favorite but it was still sort of pretty) πŸ‘‡πŸ»


This town is super old and this is the view from the rabies bridge (pic of bridge below this one). It used to be said that if you cross it 3 times with animal, they’d be cured of (or never get) rabies. The lepers would also be housed right nearby. Like holy shit, history man! πŸ‘‡πŸ»πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Rabies bridge πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Daily Baguette Service in this town! πŸ˜„πŸ˜πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Horsies!!!!! πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ‘‡πŸ»



I absolutely loved this day, when a lot of it was in the forests with birds chirping. Absolutely my favorite πŸ‘‡πŸ»


Again, have SO many more pictures but unable to download. Been sleeping most of today and can feel my body healing itself so am very happy about that.

Adios for now! ❀️

3 days on Camino

I am resisting the urge to stomp on ahead and disciplining myself to SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. 

My right foot tends to scream at me after a few miles so, in order to do any sort of semblance of mileage, I sent pack ahead of me the last 2 days. The first day of like 10km just straight up hill, made both feet super mad at me and I intend on finishing this. I’m learning quickly that long distance hiking (PCT, AT, etc) are much more about getting to the destination within a certain time frame. I have the luxury to not do that here and everyone I’ve bonded with are also the kind who just want to enjoy this and not make it a race. 

Since I didn’t have much time to prep for this walk/hike/pilgrimage, I’m kind of doing it now so taking it maybe too easy the first week and then plan on pushing myself after building up some strength.

The first day, I came across a lady who was hiking solo and we talked about if we were doing all 25km to next city or staying at the albergue (hostel) in the Pyrenees that usually books up ahead of time. I told her I had just called and got a reservation and gave her my phone to call. Long story short, we started talking and I just fell in love with her. I call her my Camino mama. She is empathetic, hilarious and has a fuckin killer Kiwi accent. We’ve hiked last 3 days together and I haven’t laughed so much in a long time back to back. 

I haven’t slept all that well in the albergues since have had some night terror type nightmares and tons of snoring people (I started recording it. New album coming out is “Snoring Symphonies” πŸ˜‚). 

Having to figure out logistics of where to sleep every night since outside camping is basically prohibited (extremely restricted) makes me quite anxious. I enjoyed the PCT more in the sense that I could night hike if I wanted to and know I could just pull over anywhere and camp.

But learning as I go. The people are terrific and I feel like that bonding and sense of community I wanted on the PCT that I didn’t truly feel, I am getting here. This is more of a spiritual journey as opposed to an endurance feat (not digging on long distance thru hikers. They’re incredible) and it’s what I needed.

Found myself crying walking amongst beautiful trees. Come to find out, some witches were burned there. There is history soaked into every single step of this journey and the beautiful views, sheep, cows and horses roaming free just add to the whole experience.

I have so many other thoughts – from what I wish I hadn’t packed to people I’ve met – that I want to talk about but too tired. Only got 2 hours of sleep last night. 

But here are some pics:

Old monastery that’s turned into an albergue. Stayed there for the night (pics of the beds is somewhere in this batch).πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Drinking coffee out of a bowl at the albergue. Lol. Apparently that’s a thing? πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Dinner at albergue Orisson in the Pyrenees. We all had to stand up and say our name and where we were from. Everyone clapped for each other and it was actually really a bonding moment. Loved it! πŸ‘‡πŸ»


Coming into town at night. So many pilgrims descended upon St Jean Pied de Port.πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Paris Day 4

Not much to tell. Paris has been lovely but also overwhelming. Ready to start my pilgrimage. Actually thinking about doing a silent one (not speaking entire time) just to try it since I know it’s sort of a meditative experience and will help me to quiet down and really take in everything and listen to people but, realistically, doubt that’s going to happen. Anyone who knows me knows I talk – sometimes too much for other people’s comfort. πŸ˜‚

I definitely need to come back when I’m not so emotionally raw so I can revel in the energy here. If Paris was a blind date, they’d be a hot guy that probably thinks I am an emotional wreck and not cool enough to even hang out with. Hahaha. I’ll be back for a second, better, impression. 

I head out maΓ±ana (working on my Spanish skills since headed into Spain πŸ˜„) on the train. Excited to get to the point of this trip which is walking and walking and to heal.

I’ve been having flashback nightmares. Anyone that’s dealt with PTSD knows what I’m talking about and it’s not pleasant. Memories from past abuse come up and even new, sometimes even worse than what I remembered, ones rear their ugly head. So haven’t slept well until today, when I took quite a long nap.

Super grateful for my uncle and his family for taking me in. Not having grown up around family since age 8ish, there’s always a period of awkwardness (for me) but they’ve been so lovely and welcoming that it’s truly been heart melting and I love them for it.

Tourist spots here are cool but seeing people making duck faces, putting up peace signs and taking selfies in front of them just isn’t the type of space I’m in and kind of irritating to me at the moment but if they’re having fun, go for it. I’m just not going to join in. Maybe next time.

Paris

Just got here. Headed out first thing soon enough (my aunt keeps telling me to stop spreading my real time whereabouts so this is me trying to be cryptic so that all my many stalkers won’t be able to find me 😜. She has a point though – better safe than sorry and it’s nice to know someone cares). 

Booked my first alburgue since I’ll arrive later in the day to St Jean Pied de Port and it’d be too late to start the trek (since I want to see where I’m going and pick up my Pilgrim passport).

I have realized – and this dawned on me before but was affirmed by some quiet time with uncle and his family today – that I need to slow down. I can’t handle mellow time around people, even family, AT ALL. It makes me super uncomfortable and I feel the need to keep moving (mentally and/or physically) no matter what. I think this is a direct result of my unusual upbringing where I was basically left homeless after being discarded and having to be on survival mode and high alert constantly. 

To be fair, being in survival mode was useful for decades (the high alert and activity) as it kept me from being in too much mental pain and kept me distracted while also not allowing me to be on the streets as a bum. But I’ve realized that it no longer serves a purpose and I am spiritually exhausted and depleted of any energy. 
So my first lesson from this trip- and I haven’t actually even stepped foot on the Camino yet – is to start being mindful and slowing the fuck down.

Holy shit, this trip is going to be life changing if I can learn just how to do that alone.