60 days. Walking. No Money — 5 ways this experience changed my perspective on life.

Suzana Barbosa
May 13, 2018 · 17 min read
Photo credit: Mike Potter

I’ve taken a long time to write this story. I’ve been trying to figure out ways to communicate everything I’ve learned and how I could share the experience with you. But SO much has changed since then. I went from living in Canada to residing in Denmark, going back to school after a decade, and from being a singer, which has always been my dream, to losing everything and starting over.

For 15 years, I was a singer, performer and composer with two of my best friends. We had many amazing successes; traveling to beautiful places around the world, performing our own music, being featured with Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, Michael Buble and being signed with Universal records. But there were many more challenges that became too much to bear. At the time, music streaming became too heavy to handle, taking away our main source of income and being in our 30’s, we found ourselves craving relief from the everyday struggles.

When our musical group, the family I knew so well and loved, ended..I needed a reason. I was depressed, heartbroken and quite frankly, not interested in life. Since I was 5 years old, I knew I wanted to be a singer and coping with that ending was very difficult.

While walking around moping, surfing the internet, I clicked on a video trailer how musicians and creators survive in the age of free. This trailer motivated me to step into courage for what I loved most. That one click changed my life forever.

In April 2014, I started my campaign Walk Miles for Music. I challenged myself to walk over 400 miles in 60 days with no money. Why no money? My theory was, if people don’t pay for music, artists can’t eat. I wanted to bring awareness to the musicians plight with internet streaming and losing their sources of income. I know, I could’ve chosen something a bit easier but I also wanted to challenge my fears. I walked along the coast of California, from LA to San Francisco, with a twin sized baby buggy (named Bug) loaded with warm clothes, tent, sleeping bag, water, safety bag, battery charger, pepper spray and an empty wallet. My hidden objective was to challenge my limitations and make a difference, but this journey lead me into far more surprises than originally thought.

I walked over 1,200,000 steps with frequent moments of feeling fiercely frightened, especially when alone in the woods in pitch black darkness. But, I’ve got to admit, I also felt at peace, exhilarated and free. I learned more about myself in those 60 days then I had in 10 years. This experience orchestrated my power to step into courage, make hard decisions and most of all, let go of preconceived notions, fears and attitudes. I am humbled and grateful for those who heard my message about supporting musicians, including Ian Port for writing a story about my mission and more importantly about the truth of the music industry.

Here are 5 ways this experience changed my perspective on life

You’ve heard all of these before, and so this is simply a story to hopefully inspire you because honestly, if I can do it, anyone can. Really. Anyone. This is also a way for me to feature the people who made this journey special and to say thank you. Here are 5 simple truths that changed my life.

1. Trust your gut

2. Choose courage over fear

3. Let go of outcome

4. Embrace people’s kindness

5. Adopt the attitude of gratitude

1. Trust your gut

“Intuition is a judgment that is fast. It comes quickly into a person’s consciousness. The person doesn’t know why they have this feeling. Yet, this is strong enough to make an individual act on it. What a gut instinct is not is a calculation. You do not fully know where it comes from.” — Dr. Gigerenzer

My mother was a catalyst in this form of intelligence called intuition. I can remember her asking since I was a little one, “what does your gut say?”.

First, I started with making rules with myself: never walk in the dark, have the tent and fire set up before dusk; make sure I had an external battery for emergency reach; send location details to friends and family; and communicate with a park ranger about my mission and personal contact details.

Because I was walking, there were times I could not reach a park before dark, so I had to setup my campsite off the side of the highway, which is apparently called squatting. The first time I had to do this, I had a slight anxiety attack as my mind was spewing horrible ways I could die. I knew I had to calm my mind and focus on survival. I found a beautiful cliff in a gated area where I setup my campsite. I wasn’t permitted to light a fire to stay warm. So instead, I called a good friend knowing he would console me. Feeling more at ease and with a peace of mind, I took a deep inhale of the sea breeze and appreciated the beautiful ocean view from the cliff side. I woke up by 6 am the next morning, refreshed, excited about the coming day and ready to walk on.

Intuition is not a fluffy word. As mentioned, it’s a form of intelligence and an important skill set that successful leaders know they must attain in order to grow. Most people don’t bother because it doesn’t seem rational. I have to ask, why wouldn’t you want to hone this skill set that is available to all of us, albeit tricky to figure out at first, but certainly a life saver.

Sleeping in a tent, alone in complete darkness most certainly had my mind talking. The internal chatter was deafening, and I had to be strict and learn to let my thoughts pass. I remember walking at one point thinking “This is ridiculous, what am I doing?”. There was a point where I really put a lot of emphasis on how foolish this was… but of course, the opposite was true, rather, it was life changing.

I believe that intuition becomes our compass when heart and brain work together. It’s about listening. If you can learn to be still and allow — you’ll hear it. There are so many tools out there that offer easy guidance on how to still the mind. Headspace is one of my favourites right now and you get to try it out for free for 10 days. ( No, I don’t get commision for this).


2. Choose courage over fear

“Fear is contagious. Fortunately, so is courage. Learning to become fearless will touch everyone around you, and best of all, you’ll find it’s a gift that keeps on giving.” — Michelle Aguilar

This became a huge eye opener for me. When I told people about my plan, some were excited and naturally concerned for my safety, but some outright called me crazy. That didn’t bother me much as I’ve been called a lot of wacky things in my lifetime, but the most challenging part was having to justify myself to complete strangers. The most common fearful question I got was…

“Aren’t you afraid of getting raped?”

Of course I thought about all kinds of scenarios but I refused to own another person’s fear. So, I made strategic plans to address this prevalent risk (so sad I have to say that). I became really good at letting those fear-inducing comments pass by me like wind.

I’ve made hundreds of mistakes since becoming a musicpreneur at the tender age of 21, but those trials and errors have lead to new and unexpected outcomes, and those lessons have become my greatest teacher. Walking 400 Miles taught me how to let go of other people’s fears and be present … that was an incredible gift!

We all know the courage and dedication it takes to start your own company, say yes to marriage or quit your job (just to point out a few). That one step can be the hardest but I encourage you to try it, it could be the most exciting adventure of your life.

3. Let go of outcome and allow

“First you jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.” — Ray Bradbury

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time and most of my friends know that I’ll jump first and allow the rest of the details to be handled along the way. But before Walk Miles for Music, I didn’t jump first. I thought it better organized if I planned for the way things should look by the end of my quest. Of course, by the end, I was forced to detach from pre-conceived outcomes, let go of control, and go with the flow.

There was not a day that went by on my Walk where food, a place to shower or a place to make repairs didn’t appear when I needed it most. My favourite story was when the wheel on Bug broke.

It was getting dark and I could feel panic building in my chest. I had nowhere to sleep yet, Bug had a broken front wheel, I didn’t know where I could get the wheel fixed or by whom … let alone carry a 60 pound buggy to wherever!

So, I decided to take a deep breath and take notice of what was around me. I was present and open to opportunity. And there it was … my opportunity. My gut told me to jump first then build.

As I was walking by a small forest of trees, I saw a garage-faced house with a sign “Piano Lessons” hanging beside the door. I thought “How uncanny, I’m walking for music, so perhaps they can help me!” As I got closer to the door, I could hear the piano ivories being played. I got excited and knocked but there was no response. So I knocked harder. The piano notes hung in the air as all sounds suddenly stopped. A woman with wild hair answered the door and looked at me with a startled but firm look, like I better have something good to say. I shyly explained my situation and she looked at Bug, looked at me and then said, “I think you need to talk to my husband”.

A peaceful looking man with white hair and the kindest eyes came to greet me. He looked at Bug, went back inside and came out with a few tools. He puttered a bit, then stared at Bug again. It looked hopeless and I could feel my heart saying “This is it, it’s over?!”

Just before I really started to feel defeated, he says “we need to remake the bolt for the wheel” I look at him with a smile “Yes, we do!”

”We walk into his garage and he had every kind of tool and machinery you could imagine. Right then and there he made me a bolt from scratch! This kind gentleman told me that of all the doors to knock, his was the only one with the equipment to remake my bolt!

No kidding. I was grateful.

Not only did he fix Bug for me, but their son was off to college so they invited me to stay a night in his room. I said yes, of course.

I’ve learned in business and life, that you have to let go of outcome. Things are not always going to go as planned and that’s ok. Sometimes you need to knock on doors and ask for help. When you do, maybe you’ll meet the most wonderful people, hear amazing stories and make the most incredible memories.

P.S. Do you know this couple? I would like to say thank you. I lost their contact details when my phone was stolen but I hope one day I can go back and thank them for making my experience extra special.

4. Embrace people’s kindness

I believe these pictures speak louder than words. I may have missed a few people here, but here are some of the folks who made my experience magical. Thank you to those of you who took a chance on this weird gal, helped me when I needed it most, gave me a warm place to sleep, fed me when I was hungry, encouraged me when I was down and gave me hope to carry on.

BRIAN & RHONDA JEAN

Meet Brian and Rhonda Jean. I was next to them at the campsite. They fed me bacon and eggs, and dinner that evening. Brian played guitar for us and wow, what a player. Even when we parted ways and I came across fire blocked roads, Brian came to my rescue again and drove me through the backroads into the next town. Still four years later, they have become part of my extended family and I just adore them.

STEVE & FLORA

Steve and Flora have been together since they were teens! Steve worked at one of the campgrounds where I stayed. I told him about my Walk Mile For Music mission and my plan to walk to the next campground, but the weather was getting scary as my tent was about to fly off, so he kindly drove me instead. They allowed me to sleep in their home a few nights to recuperate and it was the most comfy bed ever. Steve had to save me a few times! Especially when the police stopped me and told me pedestrians weren’t allowed to walk on a section of highway as it was dangerous. Also, the lompoc police were getting calls that a crazy woman with babies were walking on a highway. I wasn’t in a rush so I enjoyed my time and I even got to ride in Steve’s 1933 Dodge Pick Up!

Ali Wilson and Family

I can’t forget the wonderful musical family either! Ali and her beautiful family, who touched my heart, sang songs and shared their home. Thank you for your love and time.

Lorry and her AMAZING daughters and husband

She picked me up when I was in LA and I had the honour of being part of her family for a couple days. Even had a high end balsamic vinegar experience! Lori makes a difference for children who have suffered abuse.

Gary & Kyndra

I met Gary and Kyndra along the way and as we chatted, I noticed how fun, loving and kind they were. Kyndra even asked to push Bug for a while. Later, Gary found out the ole bug broke it’s wheel and he drove back to fix it for me. Not only that! … they even drove all the way to Lompoc to deliver me an ‘abundance of love box’ with — band aids, cooler, matches, cutlery, peanut butter, avocados, oranges, apples, quinoa, yogurt!

I felt a connection with them right away and I hope we can meet again one day!

RYAN, BARBARA & JACKSON

One night, I set up my campsite in a deserted-looking section of the campground and settled into my sleeping bag for a much-needed sleep. Mother Nature had a different idea for me though. Her insane winds howled and lashed at the trees all night. I didn’t sleep a wink. I thought my tent was going to shred and fly off into a million pieces. The winds finally stopped just before 8:00 am.

Thirty minutes later, the Park Host wakes me up and insists ‘Someone has reserved this spot. You’ll have to move to another spot.” So I think to myself WHY? there’s so many free spaces! Anyway, here comes Ryan loading his stuff to the side while I begrudgingly start to break down my tent.

Finally, I shook off my grumpiness, got over myself and started chatting with Ryan, his wife Barbara and their adorable son Jackson. Ends up being a hilarious family that fed me a fab dinner that night.

When Bug died, leaving me with no means of transporting my life’s essentials, Ryan and Barbara drove all the way back to surprise me with Cadillac, Bug’s replacement, and helped me get back on the road to continue my quest.

From Bug to Cadillac (red my favourite colour)

IAN & JOLEEN

I met Ian Moore and his beautiful lady, Joleen, while I was staying Pfeiffer State Park. There was a festival happening called, Hipnic, and I happened to arrive right when it was starting. I tried to get in, but it was sold out! Ian had an extra ticket and I generously passed it on to me. Oh how the Universe serves when you let go of outcome and share.

I met amazing musicians with my favourite definitely being The Brothers Comatose band and Ian Moore whom I was fortunate to interview. I got valuable feedback on their experience as musicpreneurs and have been able to apply it to my work. The qualitative data gathered supported my vision to help musicians and other creatives have access to the support they need while pursuing a career in the arts.

The Brother’s Comatose

RICHARD & HIS VW

I met Richard while he was busking on the streets of Santa Barbara. When I shared my Walk Miles for Music story, he invited me to stay at his place with his wife Marilyn and dog Sirus. He threw the buggy on top of his volkswagen and off we went! …

Thanks for the adventure Richard!

JOHN

I met a musician, John Beccia, and his wife while at a rest stop at a beach at the beginning of my journey. He told me to look them up when I got near San Luis Obispo. I took him up on his offer and got to stay on his beautiful property and even sung trumpet on one of his songs! The happiest and funniest guy I ever met! Heart of gold. John being a music lover himself, he resonated with my mission and made me feel right at home and even baked me delicious bread!

TRACY & MARGO

I had the privilege of meeting Tracy while I was sleeping on a bench in Carmel, California. She invited me to stay at the Sea View Inn, a quaint, cozy bed and breakfast run by herself and her friend, Margo (the lady in the white top). This was a real treat since I didn’t sleep well on a bench!

This downtime was certainly needed as my feet were starting to show wear and tear from walking so much. Regardless of the sore feet and lost toe nails, we danced and laughed together. It’s a moment I will never forget.

5. Adopt the attitude of gratitude

“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” — Germany Kent

This experience I had changed my life forever, built character and transformed my perspective on the power of gratitude.

I was relishing in gratitude with all the love and support I was receiving. I assume this is probably why more came my way. According to psychology today, gratitude leads to a happier life and this trip made me a believer. I can quickly come out of negativity by simply being present and mindful for all that I have.

My beautiful mother

My mom was also someone who taught us to notice the little things and to count our blessings. She was a daring woman who was the epitome of love, grace, and kindness. She became an Angel March 10th 2016 and holy shit do I miss her. She loved to travel, I think that’s where I get my adventurous side. Just before her passing, she did the El Camino De Santiago pilgrimage walk, which makes me so happy she fulfilled one of her dreams. She taught me how to be daring, bold and oh so caring.

Bonnie, one of the most significant women in my life, has been my biggest fan, mentor and family member since the day we met over 15 years ago. She gave me the extra push I needed to go on this journey. I certainly love her like a daughter and have been blessed to be surrounded by incredible women in my life.

Gratitude has changed my personal and business relationships for the better. With so much technology taking over our daily tasks, I am glad I got to disconnect from my phone, be present, connect and make lasting relationships.

At the end of my ‘Walk miles for Music’ journey, heading back to Canada, I had to bid a fond farewell to Cadillac, my trusty carry-everything-everywhere-anytime baby buggy. What better way than to pass it on to Whitney, the wife of Phil, from The Brothers Comatose, as they were due to bring a new baby musician into the world.

What am I doing now?

Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth. — Bradley Whitford

Photo credit: M. Potter. Taken near the end of my journey.

It’s been 4 years since I began this journey and I still reflect on this incredible ride when I need it most or to simply remind myself, I had this courage once, I can do it again!

Many ask me what I have done since my walk. Well, I went to school in Denmark to finish my bachelor degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the intention of encouraging creatives to embrace entrepreneurship and worked on designing a model that works for their needs. Also, I gather daring stories from other brave humans for my I Dare You to Care project, with the intention of inspiring people to embrace empathy and step into courage.

Finally, I started a company called Arthost, democratizing residency spaces for creatives and combining entrepreneurial lessons for them during their stay. My intention is to spread more creativity and art while teaching creatives to learn sustainable business models. We will be launching Arthost in the Fall and it’s very exciting!

If you want to share a daring stories, we are collecting them through my page here. Thank you for reading and thank you to everyone who made my journey extra special. There are many more parts to this story, and I will share them along the way, so stay tuned:)

Suzana Barbosa

Written by

Sharing stories about the power of empathy and of those who dare to care about people and planet. www.idareyoutocare.org

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