How To Be A Rebel

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in Cultivating Creativity, Reflections on Life

Last Monday, my friend Gillian Kessler played a cover of John Mayer singing Free Fallin’ during her evening dance class. She dedicated it to me. Naturally, I started crying.

I bet you would have, too, especially if Gillian had just led you through an hour of movement-based soul-searching centered around the theme “rebel.” For me, I feel most free when I’m a little–or a lot–rebellious. As John Mayer caressed several octaves, I cried because I realized that I’d lost my inner rebel. You know the one: the little voice that tells you to take risks, laugh louder, dance bigger, show the world you don’t give a shit. The one that tells you the occasional free-fall is as vital as breath. The one that tells you to live your truth.

off the rack afro brazilian dance bri randall
Dancing with Gillian a few years back at the Wilma Theater in Missoula.

My inner rebel disappeared when we returned from our adventures overseas. I want her back. This week, I got to work figuring out how to be a rebel again.

STEP 1: Remember when I felt most free.

That’s easy: when I first moved to Missoula. I was cartwheeling in happy mental circles, giggly with glee at the world. I was 22. I belonged to only me. I could free-fall wherever and whenever I wanted to. Where’d the giggles go? They got slowly buried in layers of responsibility and connection as adulthood progressed. We start to promise pieces of ourselves to lovers, friends, siblings, parents, children. I now belong to so many others that I no longer belong to myself.

Brianna Randall walking in Missoula with little kiddos

STEP 2: Go camp alone for 24 hours. 

Alone time is the panacea that soothes my soul. But I haven’t had 24 hours alone in 14 months, which is likely why my inner rebel is buried. To uncover her, I spent a night camping on the Blackfoot River. The golden leaves and flowing water lulled me into a long sleep–13 hours!–that illustrated why it’s tough to be rebellious when you’re massively sleep deprived. The next morning, I started to find the path back to freedom by making a new, improved vision board for my life.

camping on blackfoot river brianna randall
Everything a girl needs for 24 hours alone.

STEP 3: Just say no to ‘spirit suck.’

It’s time to take back some of those pieces of me I’ve parsed out lately, namely to commitments that don’t feed my inner rebel. I rarely say no. It’s because I suffer from FOMO–the clinical term for the ‘fear of missing out’. But I’ve started to cut out anything that doesn’t make me smile (even if it’s just a little, bitty smile down deep). This is hardest to do with work-related commitments, as the temptation of more money can be the ultimate spirit suck.

This scene is the opposite of spirit suck.
This scene is the opposite of spirit suck.

STEP 4: Say yes to what gives me energy.

Dancing. Yoga. Staring into Talon’s eyes and kissing his toes. Walking alone on trails. Cooking dinner with Rob. Those are the easy ones to pinpoint. As for work, I’ve realized that my passion is telling stories. It’s easy to figure out from there which contracts will allow me to write compelling stories and which won’t.

talon randall roberts hiking in missoula
Hiking in the sun with Talon makes my inner rebel happy.

STEP 5: Give myself permission to take time–and risks. 

Here’s the crux of what my inner rebel wants: a book. I want to write my own book, full of my own stories. And that’s a huge risk, both emotionally–can I actually just do that?–and financially, since writing a book may never provide money for me or my family. But I’ve given myself permission to try. Steps 1-4 will hopefully give me the time and motivation to take the risk. Meanwhile, I’m pretty excited to practice free-falling again–even if it’s a short, sweet fall into my own bed or into my baby’s eyes.

It’s a lifelong journey to cultivate my inner rebel. I got off-trail there for a bit, but luckily Gillian and John Mayer came to the rescue and helped get me back on course toward finding my truest self.

talon randall roberts by rattlesnake creek in missoula
Talon and Rattlesnake Creek = stories waiting to happen.
Off the Rack in Missoula dance bodypaint brianna randall
Back in the days of bodypaint and dancing in front of big crowds: Off the Rack 2012.
tonga pacific travel island brianna randall rob roberts sailing boat

Vava’u islands = Rocky Mountain peaks

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Ocean Tales, Traveling

tonga pacific travel island brianna randall rob roberts sailing boat

One of the reasons we feel comfortable in Tonga is because the topography is so similar to the Rocky Mountain landscape we came from. Did you just do a double-take after reading that sentence? Good, that means you’re paying attention. But the statement is true, geographically speaking: Vava’u is a series of high mountain peaks, bordered by sprawling meadows nestled above deep canyons.

Sure, those meadows and canyons are covered by miles of ocean, instead of Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. Yet the energy feels the same. I can easily picture this landscape as mountains and valleys through all the coral and sand.

boats in neiafu harbor tonga

Where I’m sitting in Vava’u right this moment is only a couple miles away from the second deepest oceanic trench on the planet. The Tongan Trench is 35,702 feet deep and 50 miles wide. That means the island I’m sitting on is taller than Mount Everest, if you were looking up at it from the bottom of the trench.

All of the dozens of islands in Vava’u are mountaintops, and the flat seabed between them are the gently sloped meadows. This is one of the world’s best cruising grounds partly because of the uniformity of the sea floor here. It’s all mellow sandy bottoms between 10 and 30 meters deep — a high mountain plateau, if you will. Compared to the jagged cliffs of the Marquesas, the steep drop-offs in Bora Bora, or the flat volcanic rings of the Tuamotus, these islands feel downright friendly.

MT-rob and josh on flathead lake

We sailed on Flathead Lake in Montana each summer before heading west across the Pacific. Flathead is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western U.S. It’s the remnants of a giant inland glacial lake, and sits below the tall peaks of Glacier National Park. All of the islands in the lake are actually mountains and hills that emerged as the lake receded over the millennia. Tonga looks a lot like sailing on Flathead, if you replace the pines with palms.

Not only is the Tongan Trench one of the steepest features on the globe’s surface, it’s also the fastest-moving plate ever recorded. The convergent plates that formed this deep chasm are moving at 6 to 9 inches per year, which means Tonga is basically undergoing a constant earthquake. Not the rattle-and-roll earthquakes I grew up with in Southern California, but rather a consistent tremor rippling just beneath the surface.

The Trench gives Vava’u a sense of height and breadth often lost on tiny tropical islands in the middle of the world’s largest ocean. Though the slopes are gentle, you can sense the buzz of movement, shifting ground, and the power of the Earth beneath the sea. Bottom line? It feels good here, geographically, energetically, and aesthetically.

tonga pacific travel island brianna randall rob roberts sailing boat

Off the Rack in Missoula dance bodypaint brianna randall

Exercise on a Boat

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in Dance, Yoga and Fitness, Sailing

saucony tennis shoes on avocado green tiles - i hate sitting still I’m sitting in the grungy hallway of a junior high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The buzzing fluorescent lights highlight the 1970s avocado-green tiles, and illuminate Rob and his brother, Brent, playing volleyball in the gym a few yards ahead of me.

We’re visiting Rob’s family for a week before we head off next month. I’m quickly realizing it’s a good test case for how I’ll cope with transitioning to a boat, at least in terms of exercise. The bad news: it’s been 24 hours and I already feel antsy.

The good news: I just found the girls locker room and danced like a crazy woman to music blasting from my laptop, which made me feel much better.

One thing I’m most anxious about as we embark on our voyage is that I’ll become a bitchy and unhappy person if I can’t get enough exercise. Other people seem slightly concerned, too: for instance, my friend Heather turned to me during an Oula Dance class last week in sudden alarm, asking, “Bri! How are you going to dance on a boat?” Great question, and one that I’ve spent a lot of time pondering.

Rob playing indoor volleyball in a gym near his hometown in PA

If you know me at all, you know I don’t sit. I have a standing desk, I bike to work, I do yoga, dance, and strength training. And that’s often all in a single day (thank you, Downtown Dance Collective). Then there’s the outdoor activities that keep me sane and peaceful: hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, cross-country skiing.

Movement is a huge part of who I am and how I relate to the world. I’ve been reading Zero to Cruising and other blogs to learn how other cruisers deal. I know that sailing is active, and that I’ll use my body plenty onboard.

But I’m still anticipating that I’ll need to learn to let go of the antsy feeling that wells up when I stay put.

Off the Rack in Missoula dance bodypaint brianna randall

I’ll need to learn to breathe through the frustration of not being able to hop on my bike and ride hard uphill. Most importantly, I’ll need to be creative in the small, confined space. Pushups, lunges and sit-ups will get boring fast.

That’s why I’m planning on dancing my way across the Pacific. I might not get to make big turns or long leaps. And I won’t look nearly as cool as I did in the performance picture to the left (note: this is how I picture myself when I dance … even in grungy junior high locker rooms). But that won’t stop me from dancing on the bow — even if I have to wear a life jacket and strap myself to the mast.

Stay tuned for videos and posts on how I stay fit, sane and (hopefully) pleasant during our Pacific crossing. Meanwhile, I’m going to do a set of jumping jacks to stay pleasant here in Pennsylvania while I wait for Rob.


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