I’m back

20 March 2018

It is lunchtime on a Tuesday and as I sit here at Starbucks sipping a coffee with almond milk (because I took up coffee – particularly espresso – last year and haven’t been able to turn back), I can’t help but laugh a little. I thought it’d be wise to reflect a bit and put down some of my thoughts onto paper. Why? Well, my birthday is Thursday. Thursday, I will be 28 years old. It’s kind of a weird age I think because there is such a dichotomy in where people are in their lives at 28 years old. I’ve got friends from high school who are married, who have a child… or multiples, who have jobs they call their career. All of these things are great, but I also have friends who are still finding themselves, following their passions, and figuring out where they want to be. I think I somewhat fall into the gray area of this whole realm.

I have lived so many lives already; seen so many sunrises and sunsets from so many points on the globe. I’ve climbed mountains, swam oceans and rivers, done volunteer work in slums at the equator line in Africa, and splashed with penguin and dolphin near the Antarctic. Life has given me love – with family, with friends, and in the very few relationships I’ve opened myself to fully, it has given me love as well as heartbreak. It has taught me strength, perseverance, and acceptance. I am grateful, very grateful. Though I did not imagine I’d be sitting at Starbucks two days before my 28th birthday thinking about what to do next.

Let me preface, I finally started a job in November that I thought was THE job. I love the industry, I love the connections I was making, I love every aspect of what the job entailed. Despite the enormous good, it was not the right situation… I’ll leave it at that. Anywho, I follow a good amount of social media accounts that got me thinking. For years as I traveled (you’ll see old posts from when I initially started this blog site) people suggested I become a blogger – my passion for writing, for travel, and for adventure would be able to share middle ground. I never thought possible but now I think why not. Granted, I’m going to have to learn how to focus in more on specific topics or themes because I can have a tendency to cover too many bases.

To save you from my rambles any longer (for now), here it is. This is where I’m going get back to me; where I am going to share my travels in hopes they offer you insights, my adventures and swimming endeavors in hopes they offer you inspiration, and maybe some healthful posts including food or exercise as therein lies one of my other biggest passions. I hope you can appreciate that in revamping and recreating this site, I’m rediscovering myself. I know that each experience leads us to the next and there will always be more good to come. So I continue to take on the world, know that your follow is appreciated and welcomed. Also while you’re at it, follow me on IG: @dseacliff for more of the adventures.

Now don’t mind me, I’ll just be sitting here day dreaming of my next trip back to Hawaii…

Maui • March 2018

River Swimming 

12 October 2015

Who knew that rivers other than the Hudon could be so much fun?! Okay, that is sort of a joke. I am totally bias to the sweet Hudson but I can’t deny the good times I’ve had in other rivers, especially this month. 

A few weeks ago Kathleen Wilson put on a wonderful Swim Around Charleston event! It is a relatively new swim event but one that I’m excited to watch grow. What could be better than a 12-mile swim, surrounded by dolphin, set around a beautiful city, and run so well that the start is almost early it is so on time. I wasn’t a swimmer for this event this year, I had the pleasure of hanging with Kathleen on the official boat all day, but I fully intend to jump in to complete this swim in the very near future! I’d recommend it to anyone. https://m.facebook.com/pages/Swim-Around-Charleston/180662841996941

This weekend I went back to Chattanooga to participate in the Swim the Suck 10-mile swim down the Tennessee River Gorge. Now this is a little hidden gem I’ve known about! I participated in this swim two years ago and loved every aspect of the event! From Friday night’s dinner cooked by Hank Hill, race director Karah Nazor’s father, to the local brew kegs at the end, and every second in between. This is another event I have to give huge kudos to the race director for because through all the chaos, she smoothly runs an event that makes everyone feel as though they are family and keeps them coming back. http://www.swimthesuck10mile.com

Enough preaching about how great the events are in general, which goes unsaid if you have been to either of them but a little more about this weekend in Chattanooga.

I arrived Friday afternoon a few hours before the pre-race meeting/dinner so I headed to the Brewhaus to meet my CouchSurfing host for the weekend, Caleb. Don’t worry, it isn’t as sketchy as it sounds – and I have survived each of my CS experiences with a smiling face. I met Caleb and chatted for a bit, then headed down to the river to jump in for a splash with Victoria (always love seeing her – and she was the reason I came to Swim the Suck my first year!), Randy (I’m working on getting this guy into the cold), and Caroline! After a quick stretch out swim we headed up to Outdoor Chattanooga to check-in. The incredible Karah presented a PowerPoint highlighting the key bits. I won one of the raffle drawings which was entry in to 2016 Kingdom Swim in Vermont! Stoked for that. 

    
  

Victoria and I! 

The Vermontster Ice Swimmers meet again!   
 My assigned kayaker never showed to the event so a dedicated floater kayaker stepped up and offered his service. Now, I won’t deny my unease and he totally knows this because we joked about it after, but in talking with Erich at the dinner he informed me he had never piloted a swimmer before. I was a little hesitant because I’m used to putting my trust in my kayaker (thanks for spoiling me, dad and Lizzy and Alex and Terry and Pat and Margareth and all you other kayak swim support pros!), but all reservations went out the window quickly as we made our way down the river side by side. Erich could not have done a better job and I am so grateful for his incredible support and talent. 

   

 Our finisher awards were hand crafted cutting boards stamped with SUCK and bottle opener key chains, appropriately since swimming is all about the eating and drinking. Karah also designed awesome Suck hoodies! Another important aspect of the sport – the swag. 

 
Erich is in the white kayak and I’m the bobbing head next to him, just after my finish.   
 
It was a rainy but wonderful start. 

   
Met some more of the amazing Palmetto Masters swimmers. 


Thanks again for everything, Karah! And this is Alex Meyer, Olympian beast who competed in the London OW event. 

   
I am really happy with how my swim went thanks to carbopro, jolyn, earth’s best (because broccoli should always be a part of marathon swimming), and speedo. I felt no pain and I remained steady and strong the entire swim!

I have so much gratitude for the open water swimming community and am glad to have the feeling of home in each of the people I’ve met along the way, and in so many beautiful bodies of water. 

Swim happy, everyone! 

A Reoccurring Theme

30 September 2015

Okay, so admittedly it is actually kind of funny that the general topic of this post is very much related to my previous most recent post. Funny to me anyway, because though it was not intentional, it is a topic where I frequently find myself head-to-head. I wrote a little poem today that came from a place of disappoint, of gratitude, and of pleasure. Bizarre mix, I know. Here’s the quick synopsis: after finishing an amazing swim this morning with people of whom I genuinely admire as people in all aspects of personhood, I ran in to someone I have know/who has known me for probably about 12-14 years. During the albeit brief exchange I had with this person, they instantly crashed the morning high I had just earned. How did they do this? A face of judgement. We may have exchanged no more than 30 words in total between the two of us, yet they said and reacted so perfectly as to bring me down because of their negativity and lack of acceptance for a perspective that differed from their own. I don’t dig that. As I got in my car and sat for a moment instantly doubting myself in reaction to her disapproval, I quickly snapped back and realized the importance of positivity and perspective. I feel sorry that this person, amongst others, believe it’s okay to judge one on THEIR actions simply because the actions are not of their own personal norm. Remembering how much I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had because of the choices I’ve made, the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met that I wouldn’t change for anything, this is what instantly snapped me out of that ever so quick moment out self doubt. I hope you all are able to remember to totally own your choices and be proud of the path you’ve created for yourself. Sometimes I forget this in the midst of constant disapproval but when taking that deep breath and allowing myself to feel joy in the life I’ve created, it is really wonderful. If you forget, I hope you let yourself remember. 

Alright, so quick vent sesh over. Sorry… Didn’t mean to go hippy-preach mode on you, but you get the guist. No judgement, just big smiles, please and thank you. 

Bottom line, I was inspired by this off kilter encounter and so I wrote a little something that went like this (and similar to some of my  previous poems, the format seems to always get funky…just accept it):

Life’s Trip

4000 meticulous miles

98 day old car

5000 

6000

just three months old

where have we been? 

where will we go?

The road is wide, the road is curvaceously long

the wheels turn, but the mind travels

constantly yearning for new dirt beneath my feet 

that’s what sets my pace

the going

a destination is a place you end

so, I have no destination

because I keep going 

my wandering eyes don’t want to stay 

they crave the unseen

my feet move faster than the wheels

their hunger grows in each step

my soul feeds on the structure of daily ambiguity

yet, I have a plan 

that plan is a rest stop

on my road of continued motion

but they see instability

they dare not accept their unknown

and they cannot accept mine

I live for the next adventure

they turn off at the rest stop

my wheels move forward 

the next fantastical place beckons

the next succinct, yet paradoxically momentous, interaction between strangers awaits the alignment of the stars

me and whomever I encounter

life is a journey

it is beautiful unrehearsed experience

a ride on this road is left untaken 

when the unknown hinders your soul

my soul is free

  

Cold Sweet Cold

I keep saying how I want to be better at posting more. I never finished writing about Honduras, nor did I finish my Iceland posts. Maybe I will get back to them at some point, but for now as I find myself sitting in my new apartment in Charleston, I was inspired going through pictures of Argentina. I wrote a poem today influenced greatly by my experience at the glacier. I can’t reiterate enough how wonderful it is to find yourself with a group of people who not only make you feel endless love but who offer you a sense of belonging. I’m grateful for my marathon swim family but my cold water swim family has taken me somewhere completely different, somewhere I love so deeply for its uniqueness. Here is my poem (please excuse the language, I don’t often curse but the water sometimes does that to a person), inspired by my time spent in the waters of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. It didn’t transfer quite right so imagine a break between each third line (ugh).

  

 

A Glacial Love Affair


The cold burns as you dip that first toe

A little bit further you slide the other toes in, then the foot

“What the fu*k am I doing?” you whisper to yourself

Slowly the water separates and invites you in

It clings to your epidermis as you accept its invitation

Into the frigid water

The temperature plays on the line of freezing

Your breath quickens; your body tightens

“Fu*k!” you quietly scream

No mercy is shown for he who tempts nature’s chilly pool

As the pain grows, so does the smile creeping on your face

How could you not love this pain?

When Mother Nature offers herself

Raw, cold, and unyielding

You must embrace her, for her beauty is innocent

Your entire body is submerged in the icy water

Your heart beats faster

Oh, to know you are alive!

Further in you slither

She drinks you as if nothing were more planned

Then to be here in this place, now

Your chest, your neck, your head

They sink below the door of the surface

The numbness sets in as the smile grows

It’s time to breathe

Your head breaks her wall

As your hands stab through

All you need to do is move forward

Just touch the other side

And then you can end this pain

But why would you want to?

Your muscles swim by memory

As your body is too cold to be meticulous

When you reach the other side

The smile is the only thing everyone around you sees

The real pain has only just begun

Getting out of that glacial water is necessary

But you know within

That water is where you are at home

🙂

The Good Kind of Hurt

You know that feeling you get when you push yourself so hard that every muscle in your body aches? That feeling of pure exhaustion and over exertion that hinders you natural flow? That feeling that makes you want to collapse and scream in agony, yet somehow you also want to smile because you earned that level of pain? I love that feeling. 

I can’t honestly say I was prepared for what I took on this past Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t dedicate a fraction of the time or effort most of my sea friends committed to their training because life got in the way and I let it.  

This weekend I participated in Stage One and Stage Two of the 8 Bridges swimming event in the Hudson River. This is by far one of my all time favorite events – as a swimmer and volunteer. It is also by far one of the absolute greatest open water events in the world, and is in fact the worlds longest stage race. The event is well organized and enjoyable, and takes place in an amazing location. I completed Stage Three a few years ago and loved every second. Since the first year of the event I’ve wanted to do more stages. This year I went for it and registered for the first two stages, with the ultimate goal of making my way all the way down the Hudson soon enough. 

Swimming in the Hudson is like magic. If you’ve never done it then you’re missing out. That might sound strange to most people, and I’m sure I present somewhat questionable having said that, but it’s the truth. An amazing waterway with breathtaking views, I like to think of the Hudson (particularly the 8 Bridges swimming aspect) as an escape. Where else can you transcend reality and societal norms in such a way as to put your head down for hours on end and see nothing but the silhouettes of mountains, the shapes of playful clouds, and…well, your kayaker, because let’s be honest you need them there with you and you see them at nearly every breath you take. It is therapy for the soul. 

Upon arriving upstate in preparation for this event I surprised myself in that I am not sure I’ve ever felt less nervous for an event. I was sort of waiting for it to hit me that I’d be taking on this challenging journey down the river but that slap in the face never seemed to come. I think this has something to do with how great the event is in its entirety. To be surrounded by so many talented, genuine, spirited, generous, and loving people is a special thing, and that’s what this event gives you. I don’t believe the nervous ever set in for me because of the people, my people. Like so many great open water swim events, it is easy to feel a sense of belonging that you might lack in many other aspects of life – at least that is how I feel. This same feeling came over me when I was in Vermont for the Ice Swimming Championships, the feeling of pure bliss in knowing that each individual around you shares the passion you have or nonetheless carries the desire to support that passion in you. 

  
I digress. Stage One was beautiful. We started off with a perfectly calm and peaceful morning picking up just a bit of chop on the second half. To be frank, I don’t have much else to say about day one because it was so great in all aspects. Oh, but I will mention how wonderful it was to finish strong with John smiling on one side, gliding through the water on the paddle board and my amazing kayaker Lizzy on the other side, with a smile on her face as she’d had all day. 

  
Day Two on the other hand was rough. Having been in a car accident less than two weeks ago and experiencing whiplash, I was slightly hesitant in the conditions we were experiencing. The Hudson sure likes giving us a true washing machine adventure. Hour after hour I kept waiting for the moment the river was going to calm down and the sun was going to shine. It didn’t. Despite my neck pains though, it was a fun ride! Maybe not ideal for 7+ hours of swimming but even in those testing conditions, how could one not love being toyed with by the very element in which they came to play? I love it. Toward the end of day two the current changed after only two swimmers reached the ending point, the Mid-Hudson Bridge. All the rest of us who hadn’t made the choice sooner to get out were pulled, as the speed picked up against our favor. That’s how the river works, like magic. 

  
Open water swimming is a test to withstand anything the elements so choose to throw ones way. It’s the price of admission to enjoy the waters and I would happily pay that price any day. Though I was a part of those pulled just shy of the bridge, I have to say I’m pretty happy with myself for swimming nearly 40 miles in two days. I wasn’t sure how my swims would end – now I know, and the worst of it is sore muscles – and I would do it again like that in a heart beat. Maybe with a little extra training time though next year. 

🙂

 

 

Iceland Day Three

29 March 2015

Happy Birthday to one of my very best friends! Alexa, I hope you had the most wonderful day x

We slept so well last night! I don’t think we budged an inch till the second the alarm went off…ten and a half hours later. Our intention this morning after breakfast was to meet in the city to go off on our glacier climbing adventure! But it didn’t work out that way. Alex booked the tour for us last week back in NY but slightly misread the transportation situation so we didn’t have the means of getting to the glacier, ha. Fret not, my friends! Today worked out for the better. We came back to the hostel, showered, rearranged our weeks schedule, then booked and made our plans for the rest of the week – which still include glacier climbing, amongst Rift Valley snorkeling between the tectonic plates (!!!), lava cave tube climbing, and fjord exploring. Yup, be jealous. Iceland is pretty neat & I’m still glad I’m here rather than Miami (sorry, ekk).

  

Did I mention we woke up to fresh snow? Iceland is a lot Ike Florida. Okay, that sounds bizarre. What I mean by that is that we woke up to snow, then walked for a while and put on sun glasses and took off our rain coats, then at one point we walked in to a store and it started raining, then we walked out of said store to hail. Then the sun shone once again. And then it hailed with the sunshine, for three minutes. It’s basically the same as Florida…except cold. 

We walked all over downtown Reykavik and booked a few more nights at a backpackers hostel and the popular Kex hostel (where DM told me Mumford & Sons has played!). Check out this view near the Cathedral:  

 and the Cathedral:  

  

  

  

 

Mom, I thought of you when I saw this bar stool. How neat is this!  

 We stumbled upon some live local (religious?) music in the flea market.  

 And found an Irish pub down the road from some graffiti.   

  

  

Alex found a great new outfit & I found a great way to prioritize time. 😉 (I did NOT purchase this, to be clear.)

  

 The views along the water are incredible. 

   

We stopped at the hostel to drop our stuff and change before heading out for dinner and drinks. We settled on Indian food – cannot believe Alex has never had Indian before, so what better place than in Iceland to try it (I had my favorite Indian food ever in Luxembourg) – then walked around till we came across a great little Irish pub. Side note: why is it so hard to find people in Reykjavik when the population is 208,752?! Our New friend pointed out it was a Sunday. Oops. We listened to Irish Folk music and sipped our Icelandic Einstök white ale until the third Einar we met decided there was no better topic than American Politics to discuss with us. Learned a lot about sensorship and the figure head that is the Icelandic president. Interesting is an understatement. This bar was pretty cool though, it was a whiskey bar. Alex and I had the feeling it was definitely the type of place our swim friend Ed R. would have loved. 

    (Einstök: Thinking you you, Brian!)

     

 

Alex had the yummiest alcoholic ginger beer with lime. Need this is the US!

  

The Indian restaurant had the best poster in their bathroom: 

 

And how great is this miserable statue near the city center?!

 

 

Love the street art. 

  

Driving to a geyser tomorrow. Woohoo!  By the way, have I mentioned how I won’t miss the smell of sulfur in the water? Bleh. Night!

  

The Game of Life

3 October 2014

Have you ever experienced that feeling that the way things play out in life, though far from what you had planned, are in fact the way they were meant to be all along? I feel that way recently.

I had plans. Well, I had a plan. A plan to move, to set out on a new adventure in a new town with new people and new experiences. It is amazing how quickly things can turn around and stray so far from the set path. The change I experienced was for the better though, it was a final hour quick decision to make but I believe it’s really been for the best. I canceled my plans to move and accepted a full time position in a field of my interest.

My life has taken a quick 360, as my good friend pointed out to me the other night over dinner. As have many others. It’s a 360 that I know will be for the best in my future, and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity I was handed.

Frank Turner – a British singer – has a song called Photosynthesis. It begins like this:

Well I guess I should confess that I am starting to get old
All the latest music fads all passed me by and left me cold
All the kids are talking slang I won’t pretend to understand
All my friends are getting married, mortgages and pension plans
And it’s obvious my angry adolescent days are done
And I’m happy and I’m settled in the person I’ve become
But that doesn’t mean I’m settled up and sitting out the game
Time may change a lot but some things may stay the same

I feel he just puts it in to perspective so perfectly. Photosynthesis is undeniable with time, yet despite the changes one can always retain their original self. I’ve made fast new changes recently in my life but my photosynthesis is forever ongoing and I treasure that trait within myself.

Funny what life does to a person. It will always offer the good as long as one is willing to embrace the change that it may cause. I have pure gratitude for the people in my life, the experiences I’ve had, and the bumps in the road along the beginning of a much longer ride.

Take a chance. Embrace change. Appreciate the good in your life. & Love. Sweet dreams, world!