WE NEVER STOP BECOMING – Even After the Story Ends and the Book Tour Begins

Mar 30, 2011 | Book Tours, Books, Spirit of Adventure, U.S. Travel

If I were a visual artist, I’d draw my book tour for you in a series of sketches: half-finished lines and curves full of electric highs and exhausted lows, the faces of old friends softened by nostalgia, the faces of new friends clarified by discovery.

My friend Angie and I became rock ‘n roll groupies for Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real.

Thursday night in Seattle, my friend Angie and I became rock ‘n roll groupies for Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real. Off my itinerary, I was headbanging and swaying like a smitten teenager, as Lukas and his band tore up The Showbox.

Although his talents displayed a genetic inheritance from his dad, Willie Nelson, this 22-year-old carves his own path, careening across stage like a man possessed. The tunes were a mash-up of heavy metal, folk, acid rock, blues, country, and alternative. Despite the band’s kicking energy, I could actually hear the melodies and lyrics, which were beautiful, poignant, funny. I felt like I’d discovered music again. Here’s a sample from another show:

After our show, he shook hands and took photos with every fan. As Angie and I put our arms around his skinny waist and grinned for the camera, I said, “This is so nice of you.” His surprised look seemed to ask, “Why wouldn’t I?” Maybe it was the pot – he reeked of reefer – but this sweet guy seemed to deliver on “the promise of the real.”

As Angie and I put our arms around Lukas Nelson’s skinny waist and grinned for the camera, I said, “This is so nice of you.”

The next morning I had breakfast with my husband’s old high school friend, Tammy, whom I’d never met. We talked about travel over biscuits and gravy. She volunteers with Habitat for Humanity’s global village program, helping build houses for people in need in countries like Nepal or Haiti, then hanging out afterward to explore. Tammy is smart, open, eager to listen and to laugh. I was sorry to leave our booth.

Tammy volunteers with Habitat for Humanity’s global village program, helping build houses for people in need in countries like Nepal or Haiti.

In the afternoon, I had caffeine with another woman I’d never met: a friend’s sister, a fellow-traveler and free spirit. Kim is trying to decide where to go on her next adventure. She has already been to Ireland, Laos, Israel, Egypt, Costa Rica, and more. I threw Patagonia into the ring – the next adventure on my bucket list. I was sorry to say goodbye to another new friend on this quixotic road.

Kim has already been to Ireland, Laos, Israel, Egypt, Costa Rica, and more.

But it was time for my reading at Ravenna Third Place Books. The shop had a homey feeling, and so did my earnest but quiet audience. Quiet, that is, except for the small boy who spent ten minutes screaming and crying in the next aisle while I read— you just can’t plan entertainment like that.

The shop had a homey feeling, and so did my earnest but quiet audience.

My new friend Tammy was also distracted by this title sitting on a nearby shelf:

My new friend Tammy was also distracted by this title.

I signed several books. Half my proceeds will go to New Beginnings, an organization that advocates for battered women. My book is the story of one woman transforming her life, and it’s important to me to use that story to help empower other women to do the same.

Afterward, my friends David, Angie and I hung out until midnight. David is a TV news photographer who used to work with me in Anchorage, where Angie used to shoot news for the competition. By 4:00 a.m., I left their sleeping house to hit the airport for my flight to Anchorage. Pant, pant, pant…

David is a TV news photographer who used to work with me in Anchorage, where Angie used to shoot news for the competition.

I had an oh-crap moment at the airport. The Alaska Airlines computer system crashed and we couldn’t take off until it came back up. I had two events in Anchorage that same day, and not much wiggle room. Luckily we were only stranded for half an hour, though some flights got delayed for hours or days.

In Anchorage, I had just enough time to take an hour nap at my friend Samantha’s house before giving a Girls Trek Too workshop at REI. It seemed wrong to be indoors talking about trekking on a warm spring day with a squinty blue sky and sun-struck snow-capped mountains.

It seemed wrong to be indoors talking about trekking on a warm spring day with a squinty blue sky and sun-struck snow-capped mountains.

Yet about 15 eager women were on hand. One woman had shed 100 pounds, plus a couple of adult kids, and was ready to jump out of her empty nest and head to Costa Rica. Her big question, shared by several others, was, “How safe is it for a woman to travel alone?” I had plenty of tips, but ultimately it depends on who’s asking, where they’re going, what they’re doing.

I told them that once, in Mexico, I ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant along a river, where a waiter offered to show me something around the bend. I failed to notice he was leading me out of sight of the restaurant. He made an aggressive pass, and I demanded he take me back to the restaurant. When we returned, he turned his back on the few people there, and exposed himself to me.

“So,” I told the women, “You really have to be aware.”

“What does that mean?” one woman asked.

Good question. Sure, it’s unwise to follow a strange man to a place where no one else can see you… but how do you foresee other dangers? My primary advice: “Don’t let your kindness instincts outweigh your survival instincts.” Sometimes I think that women have been so socialized to be nurturing, generous, and forgiving, that we’ll put ourselves in danger rather than risk seeming rude. So if a man who looks out of place walks toward us on a dark street, we might not cross the street, for fear of offending – only to get assaulted. Or if someone approaches us to show us something, we might politely say, “Thank you, but…” only to get harassed. When in doubt: cross the street, ignore approaching strangers, and say no to unexpected offers.

I read the women a section of my book about hiking to a Himalayan monastery to receive a blessing from a laughing Llama.

How can you have an adventure if you’re closed off? Keep your guard high as a default, but trust your instincts to tell you when you’re in a situation that merits dropping your guard. I still believe the key to adventure is to talk to strangers. I read the women a section of my book in which I hiked to a Himalayan monastery to receive a blessing from a laughing Llama – a strange man, indeed. I hope I convinced them.

I hit The Woodshed, a once-popular downtown dive, for a book release party with friends old and new (above), and my in-laws (below).

In the evening, I hit The Woodshed, a once-popular downtown dive, for a book release party with friends old and new, and my in-laws. Among other guests: Lee, the assignment editor who always made me laugh, “Only Cara could turn a tax-day story into a party!”; Lauren, the evening anchor who used to edit my scripts and put up with my defense of every last line as “critical to the meaning of the story”; Roxanne, the assignment editor who put up with me asking, “is this word better, or this one?” until she finally said, “Cara, you’re one of the best writers here. Just trust yourself.” I told her that comment has helped me through the years. “Really? I just thought you were a pain in the ass,” she said, with her teasing smile. Lee is now teaching journalism and writing screenplays, Lauren is now a morning anchor, and Roxanne is an attorney for the North Slope Borough. Life moves on.

Lee (above) is now teaching journalism. Roxanne (left) is an attorney, Lauren (middle) is a morning anchor, and Linda (right) is a new friend.


Our lives shift and expand. We shed old shells and grow new ones. With luck, we dig deeper into our purpose. On this tour, as on every trip, I find myself reflected in the people and places around me. As I stood in the basement of The Shed, reading about my past life, my friends and I gazed at each other through the dimness, and I realized that though the friendship is still there, we’ve become new people. It’s not so bad to see what we’ve become.

And as my journey continues, so does the becoming.

About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

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