Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bright Spot(light) on Gretchen

I have this friend, Gretchen, who amazes me.

We have known of each other, then were acquaintances, then friends over the course of 6.5 years.
At every phase of our knowing each other, I have cocked my head to the side and thought, how is Gretchen who she is?

She is a joyful, honest, hilarious, comfortable in her skin, and brave.
She is one of the friends that often makes me think, "how did I get to be around her?"

I'm the battle stations girl.  The one who can tick off 5 worst case scenarios given any one circumstance.  
I'm scared of heights and the edge of things, so jumping off of them is not even an option.
Not Gretchen.

She is embarking on a journey overseas in a week.
I've traveled overseas, but not this way.  Gretchen will be gone for at least a year.  
When I heard her say a year I quickly wrote on her to do list, "come back to America" under "get stuff done."  (I'm good at writing lists.) She could just go and go and go.

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That is not to say that she has no map.  Gretchen's map is her heart and she listens to and follows it closely.
From leaving a corporate job, to work at The Journey church, to leaving her staff position, to throwing herself into clean cooking (and cooking well) at home then making a spot for herself cooking and serving at Juniper and now Element, Gretchen has stayed on her heart path.  

I've been honored to know her in these transitions and see her off now.  
She's funding her trip here: 

I hope if her story moves you, you'd contribute.

And I got to sit down with her to ask questions I already know the answers to, just so I could quote her.   
Because dear readers, I want you to hear from her.


When did you get the idea to travel overseas?

(We debated the year, and settled on this answer.) 

About 1.5 years ago. 

What prompted you to think of traveling?

The idea of knowing my job wasn't a good fit. And after quitting my job, not being sure what I wanted to do next. I knew I didn't want to jump into another serious 9-5 office-job. I was interested in culinary arts, but also saw this next chapter as an opportunity to do something I never took advantage of (or could afford) when I was younger - and that was travel. I don't have the responsibilities other 30 somethings do (no debt, no morgage, not married, no kids)so why wouldn't I do it? All of those thoughts prompted dreams of travel. 

When are you headed out?

June 2nd I leave for London, but first I am going to Seattle May 28th.

(At this point Gretchen uttered a Gretchen noise that has layers of excitement and nervousness coated in frenetic shell.) 

And how long will you be traveling?

(I shot her a look of horror.)
I have a one way ticket and will hope to be gone at least one year.

What will you be doing there?

I will be volunteering at places.  I found a ton of websites that connect host families with volunteers.  You volunteer 4- 6 hours a day for room and board. Like WWOOF: ( 

Help Exchange: (

And where will you be volunteering? 

Organic farms, hostels, bed and breakfasts.  I broadened where I would be volunteering. Originally I was looking only into organic farms because I am interested in sustainability. My first month I'll be in Paris helping a lady move into and decorate her new apartment!  Next I'll be volunteering in Italy at a vacation lodge that's also a working farm. 

That's called agritourism right?   

Yes it is.

I thought you were going to to that exclusively. 

I don't know much about gardening so I wanted to learn more about that. Obviously, I'm into slow food and local sourcing, so the whole organic farms idea (like what WWOOFing specifically is) was on my radar first. Since I started planning, I expanded where I'm working to non-organic. 
It's overwhelming the amount of opportunities that are out there. I don't want to limit my time in Europe to strictly working on farms, and I've discovered there are many more volunteer opportunities out there outside of just farming!

Overwhelming is one word for it.
I had to cut the interview short because Gretchen perhaps most limited resource is time.  
She's selling her car, renting out her apartment, canceling insurance, doing phone things, and selling/ storing all of her possessions to make her dream happen.

Meanwhile, all I know to do is to watch her jump and soar, and tell others to watch and possibly support her. You can find and follow her blogged adventures here:

I hope you enjoyed this first Bright Spot(light).  Gretchen truly is a Bright Spot to watch.