I’m in the midst of travel. So far: Busan, ROK; Newport, Ore.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Asbury Park, NJ; Sacramento.

Yesterday: Burbank. Today, Ventura. tonight: Guna Yala, Panama.

Coming up: Sarasota, Fla.; San Francisco; Long Beach.

All these conferences bursting back on the scene post-COVID – I know, we aren’t truly post-COVID, but officially, we’ve released ourselves from quarantines and masks are optional and the world has re-embraced face-to-face gatherings, so off I have gone into the world.

Living at this pace keeps in almost wholly in the now and the what-next? The older I get, the more I worry I don’t look back enough, that I don’t spend enough time wading about in the waters of nostalgia, that my ability to remember my life is atrophying at approximately the speed with which my Instagram stories fade into the ether. So, a new blog project: 500 words (or less) on each destination during this 2022 Fall Travel Extravaganza.

Sept. 30 – Oct. 3: Newport, Oregon

From Humboldt, the drive to Newport takes just over six hours, meandering through Brookings, Gold Beach, Port Orford, Yachats, Bandon, places we would have stopped to explore if I hadn’t been bouncing in my seat with anticipation of arriving at Surfrider’s Cascadia chapters conference. Just about any event that brings me together with my coworkers is cause to celebrate; the PNW crew makes me feel particularly beloved. I was giving off serious “Are we there yet?!” energy.

Scheduling an outdoor event on the Oregon coast faces the same major challenge we face in Humboldt: The weather. Will it be sunny? Windy? Dumping rain? All one can do is pick a reasonable date and hope for the best. And the best is what the crew received on Saturday. Nearly windless, endless sunshine and glassy swell for days. Enough swell, in fact, that the waves thwarted my attempts to paddle to the outside. Granted, I lack patience for turtle-rolling and don’t have a board I can duck dive, so I bring my own disadvantages into the situation. I ended up returning to shore and walking up the beach to a mellower spot, my daydreams about impressing everyone with my (imaginary) surf skills evaporating in the bright light of reality.

With Charlie and Gus

No matter. The conference progressed with the kind of joy central to Surfrider’s mission and delivered via two of my favorite people, Bri and Liz. Instead of offering a by-the-numbers march of predictable presentations, they wove creativity throughout the experience including the incorporation of “Slug Love.” Several slug-adorned sticky notepads had been placed around the room so that we could dash off quick notes of appreciation and deliver them in the throes of inspiration. (I have the ones I received tucked into a pocket in my work notebook as a buffer against imposter syndrome, self-doubt and all the other demons of insecurity that arise from time to time.)

With Katie and Liz

The vibe or maybe the many cups of coffee jumpstarted my own imagination enough that, 10 minutes before my scheduled talk, I tossed out my own PowerPoint and replaced it with a full-body participatory exercise in which I pulled volunteers together to represent the program side and the policy side of the initiative I manage, demonstrating how the two rely on each other to make progress toward our ultimate goal: the large-scale reduction of single-use plastic production and pollution. People appeared to like it! And, importantly, it led to discussion about strategies and support for the on-the-ground efforts happening across the Pacific Northwest.

Dinner that night featured local mushrooms, salmon caught just offshore, homegrown tomatoes. Served at the beach. Under a sky that faded from bright blue to sunset-streaked to a night clear enough to see the International Space Station cruising overhead.

Am I stunned by my good fortune in landing in a world where such moments are possible? Absolutely. In a night brilliant with constellations sprawling across sky, every single star shined with luck. I tuck the memory into my pocket and smile.

Bri and Liz, heroes