Gaz Leah and I sat on the airport terminal floor, waiting for a taxi to take us to our hotel in Lisbon, Portugal this morning. It was a haggard twelve plus hours of travel, packed with repacking the entire content of our backpacks in an attempt to meet weight requirements and racing through DIA to make sure we didn’t miss our flight—but we’re here and have one more flight to go. Accompanied by Matt Parent and Tiny Almeda, we will be on a plane tomorrow morning to São Tomé Principe to achieve a dream goal of Gaz’s: establish a new route on Pico Cão Grande.

DIA shenanigans with Gaz and Matt (Goal of trip: to fit inside bag and have Gaz haul me.)

Struggling through a bulletproof jungle and drilling bolts into a rock face while sitting on hooks aren’t necessarily fortes of mine, but when Gaz invited me on his expedition, I couldn’t let myself be swayed by fears of the unknown. When I’m eighty years old and reminiscing days past, I won’t regret any of my decisions.

It did mean disrupting many facets of my life. I’m still not sure how I feel about that part, honestly. Having just fallen into somewhat of a rhythm of my version of “work/life” balance, I was starting to feel good about being in one place. There is a part of me that wishes I could be the kind of person who could stay in one place all of the time, but I’m nomadic at heart.

The “Big Dog”. Picture courtesy of

Fear of what others might say. Fear of the unknown. Guilt. Lack of money, lack of time, lack of confidence. These are all reasons to have said no. They’re also all of the reasons I said yes. Unfortunately, living life in a bold and passionate way inevitably comes with disappointment and it’s something I can’t pretend I’m not guilty of.

In the end, I can’t control anybody else’s feelings, reactions, or choices, just as they can’t control mine. Gaz’s advice was to simply be brutally honest about what you’re doing and who you are. I have always tried to be honest with people about that, and sometimes I have succeeded while others, I have failed.

It’s something to keep working through and work on, and truth be told, if I didn’t have something to work on, then I couldn’t become a better version of who I am. Learning is never finished, and I’m grateful for that.

Gaz told me before our departure, “The rule is to have fun. I don’t care how many fuck ups you have because as long as you have a good attitude, I’m willing to teach you. You can’t teach attitude.”

I’m grateful for that, too.

Flying is always magical—YOU ARE IN A GIANT METAL TUBE AT 35,000 FEET. What is not magical about that?
Gaz peering over the edge of São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, Portugal

So, with twelve hours before departing Lisbon, I’m reminding myself to continue breathing and keep notice of the feelings I’m having. They come in giant waves. Sometimes, I don’t understand them. Sometimes, I can’t respond to them and in turn, can’t express them. But feeling them instead of engaging in them helps me in big ways: identifying the feelings, labeling negative thoughts, and describing the emotion so that I can react to them in more positive ways. It reminds me to take the information I can gather from the experience and try and do better—it’s all we can do.

2 thoughts

  1. Kathy, once again you are showing so much courage in so many ways. So inspiring! One more thing to remember is loving kindness and compassion for yourself! (Michelle angelfish)

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