YEL­LOW IS A GO

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Some­times you have to give it up to get it back to­gether - but how far would you go to make sense of your world and your place in it? Kim Di­nan does that while adding good­will into the world in her mem­oir, The Yel­low En­ve­lope. We took some time to chat with Kim to find out about her se­ries of time trav­el­ing with her hus­band as a global no­mad, those she met along the way, what she learned and how she has as­sessed her time post the jour­ney that was cov­ered in her book.

ATH­LEISURE MAG: We en­joyed this mem­oir, do you still go on nomadic ad­ven­tures? How does it feel to be home with a rou­tine etc?

KIM DI­NAN: I have not had a nomadic ad­ven­ture since my hus­band and I re­turned to the states in 2015. The ad­just­ment back to a “tra­di­tional” life was fairly jar­ring and we had a few months where we felt like we couldn’t tell the ground from the sky. Since we’d sold every­thing be­fore we left, we came home with noth­ing. We rented a house, but it was com­pletely empty. We didn’t own a bed, a couch, a car or dishes. So ini­tially there was this out-of-con­trol feel­ing as we re-ac­quired all of this stuff we’d pur­pose­fully got­ten rid of. Then my hus­band went back to a 9-5 job and that was a real shock to the sys­tem. I had my book and free­lance work to fo­cus on, but all in all it just took a while to find our feet again.

There were bright spots too, though. I longed for a rou­tine and was happy to have one again. To­ward the end of our trip all I wanted was an oven to bake bread in and dresser draw­ers to or­ga­nize my clothes. The small things that I used to take for granted in ev­ery­day life be­came things that I re­ally missed. To this day, if it’s rain­ing out­side and I’m in­side, I thank the uni­verse to have a roof over my head and warm wa­ter in the faucet. Those things weren’t guar­an­teed when we were trav­el­ing, and there are many peo­ple that do not have such lux­u­ries. I just don’t take those con­ve­niences for granted any­more.

For a long time we said that we’d never do a truly nomadic trip again be­cause the ad­just­ment back was so hard—but of course now we are plot­ting our next big ad­ven­ture. Though when we hit the road next time we’re get­ting a stor­age unit!

AM: Are you still in touch with Michele and Glenn?

KD: Absolutely! Michele and Glenn still live in Ore­gon, and while we don’t live in Ore­gon any­more, we keep in touch via email and Facebook and of course we see them when­ever we go back to the west coast. A few months af­ter we re­turned to the states Michele took a six-month sab­bat­i­cal and Glenn quit his job and they set out on their own trip around the world!

The ad­just­ment back to a "tra­di­tional" life was fairly jar­ring and we ... couldn't tell the ground from the sky.

AM: In­spi­ra­tion and be­ing a role model when you may not re­al­ize it is a theme that we kept see­ing in your book. Be­sides Michele and Glenn, who else in­spired you on this trip?

KD: I met so many in­spir­ing peo­ple on our trip. I think the most in­spir­ing thing was not one sin­gle per­son, but this re­al­iza­tion that there are so many ways to live—and there’s no “right way.” In the U.S. there’s this be­lief that you should fol­low this very tra­di­tional and well-trod­den path that’s like: high school, col­lege (if you’re lucky), job, house, mar­riage, kids… you know it be­cause ev­ery­one knows it. It’s just a part of who we are as Amer­i­cans. There’s noth­ing wrong with it per se, it’s just

not the only way.

It wasn’t un­til I set out into the world that I re­al­ized that there are peo­ple all over the world liv­ing in very dif­fer­ent ways— and they were happy. Of course I al­ways knew this in­tel­lec­tu­ally but to ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence it was a whole new thing for me. There are peo­ple that have very lit­tle money, but are in­cred­i­bly rich in com­mu­nity—their social fab­ric is so strong.

I met peo­ple that had trav­eled for years and were rais­ing their kids on the open road. I met olive farm­ers and doc­tors and rick­shaw drivers and holy men and women and what I re­al­ized was that, you know, we all need cer­tain things to have a good life—clean wa­ter and air, food, ac­cess to a good ed­u­ca­tion, com­mu­nity—but af­ter that life can take so many shapes. You don’t have to do it the way ev­ery­one back home is do­ing it. You’re al­lowed to live life in the way that makes you feel re­ally alive, even if it doesn’t make sense to other peo­ple.

AM: You trav­eled for 2 years on this trip what are 3 things you loved and 3 things you could have done with­out on the trip?

KD: We ac­tu­ally trav­eled for nearly 3 years! Not ev­ery coun­try and ex­pe­ri­ence made it into the book.

When I look back on the trip the 3 things I re­ally loved was, first of all, the time. Ev­ery sin­gle day was wide open. I had the time to re­ally look in­ward, to ask my­self what I wanted out of life, to spend time men­tally sort­ing through my life and truly get­ting to know my­self. I feel so in­cred­i­bly

lucky that I had those years—they changed my life.

The sec­ond thing I re­ally loved, and maybe this makes me sound a bit self­ish, was that I didn’t worry about peo­ple. Since I wasn’t home and I didn’t have a phone I knew that I’d only hear about some­thing if it was re­ally im­por­tant. I used to be the kind of per­son where, if the phone rang un­ex­pect­edly, I’d au­to­mat­i­cally think that some­thing was wrong. I guess I’m a wor­rier by na­ture. But I stopped worrying be­cause I was so far away from home and I couldn’t fix any­thing for any­body—and that feel­ing was in­cred­i­bly free­ing.

The third thing I loved was the food. Oh man, the food. Es­pe­cially the In­dian food—even the air­plane food in In­dia made me drool.

As far as the things I could have done with­out. Well, I re­ally missed the peo­ple I loved. I missed be­ing a daily part of peo­ple’s lives. You leave and the world keeps right on spin­ning and you re­al­ize that if you don’t show up for peo­ple they move on with­out you. I also could have done with­out the mar­riage ten­sions and prob­lems that came to a head while trav­el­ing. But the thing is, I’m also grate­ful that I faced my deep­est ques­tions—about my mar­riage and my­self—head on. It’s so easy to stuff un­com­fort­able thoughts and feel­ings down and ig­nore the truth and much, much harder to face it. No one wants to go through gut-wrench­ing times, but they’re nec­es­sary.

AM: What lessons that you learned on the trip do you still do to this day?

KD: One of the big­gest things I learned on the trip was to let go. I stopped be­ing a con­trol freak. I used to think that I was just born that way but, nope, it’s a learned thing and it can be changed. Now I know that the only thing I can con­trol is my re­ac­tion in any given sit­u­a­tion. So I just roll with things now. It’s so much bet­ter not get­ting worked up about small things!

Be­cause of the yel­low en­ve­lope gift we were given, I also learned a lot about giv­ing. I learned that giv­ing will al­ways be awk­ward and un­com­fort­able but that's no rea­son to avoid it. To this day I still give yel­low en­velopes away and I’ve even started some­thing called The Yel­low En­ve­lope Pro­ject (find it on Facebook @yel­lowen­velope­pro­ject) where I mail yel­low en­velopes to peo­ple around the globe and they use their en­ve­lope to per­form an act of kind­ness.

AM: Prior to leav­ing on this trip, what are 3 things that you would have never done in your old life, but find your­self en­joy­ing now?

KD: I used to be a plan­ner, but now most of the time I just show up and fig­ure things out when I get there. It leaves room for spon­tane­ity and ad­ven­ture.

I also used to be so guarded of my time, but now I’m more open. I make time for peo­ple—I al­most al­ways say yes to an in­vi­ta­tion, whereas be­fore I said no be­cause my life was so sched­uled and reg­i­mented.

I’m also just more cu­ri­ous about peo­ple and more trust­ing. I mean, I trav­eled the world for three years, re­ly­ing on strangers the whole time, and time and time again peo­ple proved to me that hu­mans are gen­er­ally good and will­ing to help as long as you are open to re­ceiv­ing. That’s the thing; I wasn’t open to re­ceiv­ing things be­fore. Now, I let peo­ple help me. And I do every­thing I can to help other peo­ple. We’re all in this thing to­gether.

AM: What are your fa­vorite moun­tains/ hik­ing trails?

KD: Oh, there are so many!! First, I have to start in my own back­yard be­cause the United States has some of the most stun­ning nat­u­ral beauty in the world. The Na­tional Parks are a na­tional trea­sure—I could spend the rest of my life just ex­plor­ing states like Utah, Colorado, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton.

I have a very soft spot in my heart for the Camino de San­ti­ago, a 500-mile pil­grim-

age route through Spain that I walked solo (though it didn't make it into the book - maybe an­other book!). The Camino de San­ti­ago is a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s noth­ing else like it on earth.

I also have to give a shout-out to Nepal. My hus­band and I walked the An­na­purna Cir­cuit. That was some of the hard­est trekking of my life (we crested a 17,000foot pass!) but also some of the most mag­i­cal. It’s not just the moun­tains, which are amaz­ing, but also the vil­lages that you walk through. It’s a spe­cial part of the world and I can’t wait to go back.

AM: What places/coun­tries have you yet to visit that are on your bucket list?

KD: Namibia, Tan­za­nia, Ice­land, New Zealand, Ire­land, Bhutan, Ti­bet… should I go on?

AM: Are you still in touch with the women you met in In­dia or those that were on the bik­ing trip in Viet­nam?

KD: Some­what, yes. Thanks to the won­ders of Facebook and In­sta­gram I’m able to keep up to date with most of the peo­ple I met on my trip.

AM: There are many peo­ple/ex­pe­ri­ences that you share - is there a mo­ment that didn't make it in that you or Brian were im­pacted by?

KD: I think of a thou­sand small mo­ments that im­pacted us—peo­ple stop­ping to ask us if we needed di­rec­tions when we looked lost, peo­ple that asked us cu­ri­ously about our life back home, just small mo­ments when oth­ers took the time out of their day to as­sist us in some way. I think in gen­eral we’re all so caught up in our own lives and mov­ing so fast that we rarely take the time to look up and see how we can be of ser­vice. I try to pay more at­ten­tion now to small ways that I can help.

AM: Cul­tur­ally you walked in the shoes of oth­ers through­out your jour­ney as you ex­pe­ri­enced var­i­ous "cul­ture shocks". Share 3 with us and why is trav­el­ing to places dif-

fer­ent than your own so im­por­tant?

KD: Trav­el­ing is so im­por­tant be­cause it teaches you what it's like to be a for­eigner. It’s hard to be the odd man out like that. It’s im­pos­si­ble to know what that feels like and not have more com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing for peo­ple hav­ing sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences in your own coun­try. Trav­el­ing teaches you that your way is not the only way. You don’t have to get on an air­plane and fly half­way around the world to learn this les­son. If you live in the coun­try, go to the city. If you live in the city, head to the coun­try. Be open and cu­ri­ous—you’ll learn some­thing.

As far as cul­ture shock goes, I think the big­gest cul­ture shock came when we tran­si­tioned from western to eastern cul­tures. In western cul­tures, think­ing is very lin­ier and log­i­cal. In eastern cul­tures, it seems like there is more wig­gle room. If you try to use logic to make sense of the way some things go down in places like In­dia, you’ll go nuts. But if you can just learn to laugh and ac­cept things as they are, you’ll be fine. That was my ex­pe­ri­ence.

AM: What was your fa­vorite coun­try and/or city cov­ered in the book?

KD: Well, when I look back on the trip I know that some of my feel­ings about cer­tain places are clouded by my own per­sonal jour­ney. I was bat­tling a lot of in­ter­nal un­rest in South Amer­ica, so when I think back to some of those coun­tries it's hard for me to sep­a­rate my own un­hap­pi­ness with my over­all feel­ings about a place. On the other hand, I am in love with In­dia. I loved the coun­try, the peo­ple, the cul­ture—but I also had a bit of an awak­en­ing in that coun­try, so I’m sure the fact that I kind of came out the other side of things and found bal­ance there is also part of the rea­son why I love that coun­try so much. I’m al­most afraid to go back be­cause I love it in my mem­ory just the way it is.

All pic­tures are cour­tesy of Kim Di­nan.

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