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when the universe speaks, it is good to listen

Last week I loaded up Chewy (my little honda), checked the oil, and set off for the hills. I’d planned on a six day backpacking trip in the mountains. I finally had a bunch of days off in a row. Yippee!! I pulled out onto the interstate, accelerated, and WHAM!! My hood flew up and smashed my windshield into ten million pieces. I was able to pull over easily (there wasn’t any traffic), and limp it back to my home in Green River. I was only a few miles away, and once the initial shock (I screamed, “F**K!!”) was over, I had to laugh. Of all the ways I worried about my poor, ailing car failing me, this never even crossed my mind. I took this as a clear sign that I was NOT supposed to go anywhere on this particular night. The next day a friend let me borrow her super sweet brand new Outback, and I was still able to do most of the backpacking trip. Yay!

I had this idea a while ago, to travel back to Chile and see if I could find a story in the proposed building of five hydroelectric dams in an otherwise untouched region of Chilean Patagonia. I thought this might be my big break, my chance to finally be a travel writer. I’ve started doing research, and reaching out for potential sponsors and supporters. I’ve told myself again and again, okay, Susan, you need to make this happen. Don’t give up on it when it gets hard…make this a priority. I planned on heading down next winter, after another year of working and saving $ in Utah, enjoying the support network I’ve found, enjoying the snow, the desert, my friends, etc. But along with these thoughts of encouragement have come small, niggling doubts. Are you sure you’re doing this right, Susan? You’re really going to wait a whole year before striking off into the world again? Isn’t that what you’ve been wanting to do for the past three years? Why are you waiting? These little doubts got louder and louder. What if somebody else writes the story before you get there? What if the dams are already under construction in a year and there isn’t a story any more? I started to have anxiety. And then my windshield blew up. It only took a couple of days after that for the message from the universe to become clear: GO. NOW. I no longer have anything to hold me to Utah except for my friends and my fears. It’s been a while since I picked up and left everything. I’ve gotten quite comfortable here, even while I have chafed against the “normalcy” and structure of life in SLC. But although I enjoy the seasonal life I’ve carved out for myself here, it’s not what I want to do when I grow up. When people ask, I say, “I want to write for National Geographic.” Another year in Utah isn’t going to get me any closer to that goal. I don’t have a ton of money, but I have enough to go and figure it out, and I think this hydroelectric project has enough followers and detractors to possibly get me some funding. It’s time to stop trying to fit my so-called writing career in between working two or three other jobs. It’s time to stop finding random jobs that allow me to travel. It’s time to make the writing pay for itself. It’s time to get published.

I am…scared. Excited. Scared. Really excited. But this feels right. This feels like what I am supposed to be doing. It’s what I’m good at, it’s what I’ve been wanting to do since before I moved to Utah. I’m just getting started on building a network, planning my route through southern Chile, touching base with everyone I’ve ever met who has something to do with Patagonia or conservation movements, or fundraising. This is but my first official announcement: Plans have changed! I’m going back to Chile. Probably in early November until late March. Or for as long as it takes. Stay tuned…

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