The Beginning of it All

Hello friends! My name is Dani, I’m a 29 year old woman from Portland, Oregon. Over the years I have collected many nicknames, but settled on using “Danizilla” for this blog in a nod to one of my closest friends, Rodney, who has been supportive of my writing and other endeavors. The photo representing this post is a few years old from a photoshoot I did with a photographer/makeup artist named Jessica Gildersleeve, to give you an idea of just what kind of weirdo you’re dealing with here.

A little background info: as mentioned I’m from Portland. I think these days that conjures some image of trust fund hipsters riding fixed gear bikes around town, holier-than-thou vegans and extra-liberal “green” types who may or may not bust your kneecaps if you don’t recycle. All those types of people are certainly present here and I cannot really distance myself from Portland stereotypes. I am a walking Portland stereotype myself, I think. Since my early teens I have been dyeing my hair, getting piercings, and later in my teens and early adulthood started wearing my hair in a mohawk or any variation thereof and getting tattoos. I can’t help it, maybe it’s something in the water here.

Me at age 16. So dark. So misunderstood.

When I was younger, looking this way wasn’t quite as widely accepted or prevalent as it is now around town. I did go through a pretty rough time in high school. Even now it’s hard for some people to take me seriously. I decided to start this blog to chronicle my adventures in other lands and how the people in other places receive me, especially as I mostly travel alone.

I have always wanted to travel, and for a long time I avoided doing so. Mostly my excuses were financially driven or because I simply had no one to travel with. I did go on a couple trips with friends; my first trip was to San Francisco with my boyfriend at the time, once to Las Vegas with some friends (which I disliked immensely, not being the drink-and-gamble-and-eat-steak type, though it did get me out of snowy weather for five days), and once to Phoenix, where I visited a friend who had moved to Tempe as well as my uncle who has lived in the area since the ’70s. I love warmer weather and will likely take any chance to escape the never ending rainfall in Portland, and the cold, damp weather in the winter.

A ‘cowboy’ in Tombstone, Arizona, me looking weirdly amused, my friend Jakob going “What’s with this guy?”

I am going to touch on the financial thing briefly. Money is always a reason, not necessarily an excuse, to not go do something that can cost hundreds of dollars. However, I have found in my life that sometimes the sacrifice is worth it for the abundance of good it does me emotionally and all the experiences I can have that just can’t be bought in stores. Friends do ask me, “How do you have the money to travel all these places?” Honestly, most of it is funded by my own credit card. I have always been good with money, denying myself a lot of things most people buy themselves without thinking twice. I have had no issues paying my trips off quickly without paying interest. It’s all a matter of priorities. My first few international trips, however, were paid by my boyfriend’s workplace and for that I am immensely grateful. International locations felt very out of reach for a long time, and I still have yet to make it to Europe, or even Canada! My point remains, however, if it is important to you, you can find a way to make it work. I finally have a stable job (really difficult to find in Portland) but I also have a lot of medical bills and a student loan to pay off. Traveling does so much for me though that I still find a way to make it happen.

Back in the winter at the end 2007 & beginning of 2008, Portland experienced “Snowpocalypse.” Probably not a big deal to the large amount of transplants who now live in Portland, who likely came from places that regularly experience snow, but a big deal to those of us natives and California transplants. The city absolutely freaks out and shuts down when it snows. We have no infrastructure to deal with such an event. At the time, I was traveling almost exclusively by our lightrail system and the switches froze in my neighborhood so the train was unable to run. I guess it was fortunate that this was also the beginning of the collapse of our economy, because it meant there was no need for me to even go to work as there was no work to actually do and they were constantly sending us home anyway. The bad news was no pay of course. I spent a lot of time cooped up in my house, only leaving to walk down to the store for food. By the time a week or two had passed, I was itching to go somewhere warm and tropical. I looked up some fares and decided on Hawaii because it was cheaper than going to the Keys and anywhere international was out because I didn’t have a passport then. My issue then became WHO would accompany me to Hawaii?

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with anxiety, I had a hard time connecting with my peers all through elementary school on. Getting on a plane by myself wasn’t as scary, because I had flown alone once before. I felt comfortable with the procedures at the airport. But going somewhere I had hardly even read about seemed daunting. Going without the safety of a friend seemed nearly impossible. I desperately tried to find someone who could take the time off and afford a trip. As mentioned, my job hardly had any hours to offer me at the time and freely encouraged us to take unpaid time off. I gladly took them up on the offer, and decided the experience would be worth the credit card debt. I had not worked full time in nearly a year at this point after losing my previous job to a layoff after I was a victim in a pretty bad car accident. It was a risk spending hundreds of dollars at that juncture in my life but I felt it was worth it.

No one could go with me, of course, being the beginning of a recession, most people felt it prudent to hold on to their cash. I don’t blame them. My initial thought was, “Now I can’t go, because no one can go with me.” I didn’t like how oppressive that felt. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go by myself. I was excited and terrified all at once. I settled on the island of Maui, not sure why exactly, but I only did enough research to assure myself there was public transportation available and a hostel to book. I have a tendency to over-research things due to my anxiety and I forced myself to not do that. It was scary to commit to purchasing air fare and a private room at the hostel without doing any research on the island. I forced myself to NOT think about it, because I’d probably go into a panic. I avoided thinking about it until the day I had to pack and go.

Best decision I have ever made. I do not ever want to live my life reliant on others. I can be happy by myself and I will be.

I returned with a new view on life. This really changed me and I will do my best in my next post to reflect on that trip to Maui in 2009 that started it all.

Me, recent

A much more recent photo of me, now that you’ve gotten to know me a bit. This is my good side, apparently


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12 responses to “The Beginning of it All

  1. Congratulations on the launch, Dani! I’m really looking forward to your journeys. I enjoyed this first post a lot. You offer a pretty monumentally important perspective that I think we all could stand to learn from (the cruciality of not making excuses and just going for it. Great advise and I can’t wait to read more!).

  2. what an awesome story! i think most people (myself included) use these same excuses not to go out and travel. it’ll be cool to hear about all of your adventures đŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much! I found your blog very interesting, I love thrift stores and vintage clothing, thank you for taking the time to check out mine, too!

  3. You go girl!!! Thanks for peeking at my blog. I want to hear more and so I will follow you. I am from Seattle, and don’t miss the rain, but the trees… I live in the desert now and love the heat. Keep bloggin darlin!

    • Thank you!! I actually really long for the heat and sun, kinda would like to make it out of Portland long-term but always have reasons (excuses) to stay! Love your photos, I’m going to keep an eye on your blog also.

      • Is it raining right now? It is 79 outside and heading for 105 today…
        There is a hobbit like magic about the Northwest.
        My younger days of lsd and shrooms in the 60’s and camping in the penisula introduced me to that magic (wink).

      • Haha, I think a lot of people found the magic that way! Not currently raining, but it’s definitely been getting colder at night, feels like fall in the morning but it’s been burning off clouds in the afternoon. Still we had a fairly short summer which seems to have been the theme of the past few years… I am not ready to let go of it quite yet.

  4. just a quick thanks for subscribing to my India Journal Blog. Hope you enjoy following it and look forward to exploring here as well.
    with love light and JOY đŸ™‚

  5. Thanks for liking my blog. I really enjoyed reading this entry. I LOVE to travel, and have been so fortunate to be able to go a lot of places. Seriously, I don’t know how I actually made it to all of them…Your writing is very heartfelt and down to earth. I really look forward to reading your blog!

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