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The Cowgirl Caravan

Updated: Mar 13

We've all had times when our life gets completely turned upside down on us. I'm talking about that rug pulled out from underneath you affect that leaves you desperately trying to put the pieces back together, make a totally new plan, or completely change course to a direction you never in your wildest dreams could have imagined you would travel.

One of those times for me was back in 2013. So long ago!! Remembering back to that time, the upside-down affect was more of a gradual process than I realized at the time. I had been working on building my practice, which involved bringing my clients together in healing sessions with my horses, and really starting to formulate my own unique methods and my business model. I had not met my husband Cole yet and was at the tail end of a horribly toxic relationship with a partner that claimed to support me and my work, but in the end didn't believe in me at all.

I had left the familiar and comfortable living of being a fine dining server at a fancy hotel restaurant where I made really great money. My living situation was very unstable and became even more so after breaking it off with my boyfriend at the time. I moved in with a friend of mine who come to find out after living with her and her husband, was in the throes of a marriage on the rocks. Needless to say, I found myself in a bit of a desperate situation. I had no money, no real place to live, and a barely established business. Fun stuff!!

I could have opted to move in with my mother, but I cared about both of our well-being too much to choose that option! I knew I had to move forward somehow, but I just didn't know what that could look like with no money in the bank.

I spent most of my time at 'The Pasture' where I had my horses and met with the few clients and riding students I had. If I could only live out there somehow, I knew I could at least be happy.

So, I called my father. My dad has always been one of the most creative problem solvers I know, he loves me, and I knew he would help me figure something out. My dad is 100% a hippie at heart and at the time, he lived on a massive barge in the St. Johns River in Palatka, FL. (A blog post for another day!) For as long as I can remember, he has been the director of the Putnam County transit system, aka the bus system.

I don't know how many conversations we had, trying to sort out my sad and dire situation, but the end result was my dad acquiring a retired city bus that I would move out to The Pasture and convert into a tiny home.

I had gotten permission from the property manager of The Pasture, who had become a good friend to me. In exchange for living on my bus at The Pasture I would take on some managment responsibilities. And before I knew it, I was camping out in an empty shell of a bus with no running water or electricity. The process of building it out was possible thanks to A LOT of help from a lot of very generous and kind souls that wanted to see me safe and happy.

So, there I was. Still broke. Going through an awful break-up. And now living on a bus with no water or electricity. But I was with my horses, and I was out in the country in nature, and that was enough to keep me going.

I eventually did get water and electricity hooked up and continued to build out and improve upon the bus until it really felt like home. I came to love and cherish my little nest in the woods so much. It became a place for me to lick my wounds and heal my heart. The time I spent living there taught me how to enjoy my own company more than ever. And I really began to understand how little I needed in order to be content.

I spent many nights soaking in my water trough tub (I eventually got a propane hot water heater), listening to music, drinking wine, writing poetry, and beginning to imagine a new path for myself. I cried. . . a lot. I sang. I walked out to visit the horses under the moonlight and borrow from their grounded energy.

I took cold showers under a hose I had strung up in palmettos behind the bus. I swam in the lake. I rode bareback in my bikini. I walked barefoot and gave up on doing much with my hair aside from washing it. I reveled in the wildness that had taken over my life.

It was a new beginning.

A very dear friend of mine deemed my bus 'The Cowgirl Caravan,' and it stuck. My new path, living on the Cowgirl Caravan, became about simple living. It became about finding so much joy and pleasure in the smallest things. It became about knowing myself without money or material things, or romantic relationship. It became about truly following my purpose and living in rhythm with my horses.

That time in my life was very challenging and unsure, but it was also so beautiful and raw and stripped down. It was some of the deepest Soul Work I've ever done.

I think this little snapshot into that season of my life is a valuable story to tell for so many reasons. One being that it stands in sharp contrast to what my life looks like now. I'm sure it would be easy for someone to see my life now and imagine that maybe things have always been easy for me, or I'm lucky, or whatever other things we tend to project onto the surface of someone else's life.

That time in my life made me tougher. It gave me the opportunity to really test myself and see what I was made of. Without that. . . I don't think I would have had the grit it took for me to get where I am today.

So remember, it's the hard times, the challenges that life throws at us that seem insurmountable, the heartbreaks, and the soul-shattering losses that shape us into who we are. We can let such difficult times crush us, or we can see them as opportunities to know and trust ourselves more fully and to build serious resilience.

I think about the Cowgirl Caravan often and will forever be grateful for the lessons I learned while living there. And when I work with clients that are in the throes of an upside-down experience, I see so much opportunity for growth and healing and coming closer to Self.

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I just love your story Ashley. I need to come see you soon. xxx

Love, Birdie Cowan

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