New Mexico… the new location for finding yourself?

“Sometimes you just got to go.”

Sometimes? How about most of the time? At least this is how I have felt in the past. I get the itch to go, to leave… so I pack up and go. It’s as if I’m always searching for something. And maybe at the same time, running from something else. I don’t know what it is, but if I get the urge, POOF, I’m gone.

In the past, I haven’t always known what I was gravitating to or moving from. “Just going” is something that I do. But, I never use to be like this…

At one point of my life, I was very much rooted and settled. I had a home, a yard, a fiancé, a great job with an equally great boss, and basically, predictability. What the hell happened to that? Well, that’s a whole other story.

I wonder if I pick up and go as much as I have, because I am worried about getting locked down again into a predictable, stagnant lifestyle, which never really suited me much in the first place. Not to say that I don’t want a home, a yard, a fiancé and the whole she-bang… but I want it when the time is right. It wasn’t right back then; I was suffocating. I always felt like there was more or that I was missing out.

And so over the years, after I left all that behind, I have tried making up for lost time. I started traveling in pursuit of more. Or as some like to say, in search of “finding themselves.” These self-seeking journeys have taken me across Canada, Australia, Thailand and Brasil. And now, it has taken me to New Mexico in the United States.

Ahem… Whaaat? New Mexico? Why in the world would you pick New Mexico?

Yeah… okay… I hear you. The southern states are not exactly appealing when you think of soul-searching, life changing adventures. I mean, sure it’s nice out here but it’s not as glamorous as the beaches in Brasil, the yummy food in Thailand, or the amazing accents in Australia. But right now, I am here because it has something I need… something I want.

Albuquerque, New Mexico is home to one of the best Mixed Martial Arts centers: Jackson – Winkeljohn MMA gym. With world class coaching and training partners, it is common for MMA fighters to flock to Albuquerque when prepping for a fight; this gym truly has an excellent reputation.

Well, that’s why I’m here; I came to train.

I’ve always wanted to “go” train at some top quality gym. I just didn’t know how to make it work really…. how to take care of accommodations, transportation for traveling back and forth to the gym, or how I could make it work financially… there was just stuff I wasn’t sure of. But after some searching, emailing, wishing, hoping, tweeting and texting, I found myself gone once again, to a ranch 30 minutes from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Known to the MMA and UFC fans as Cowboy, he is the guy who helped me make all this come together for me, basically just by answering an email and saying yes. And just like that I am here, staying at his ranch, training at Greg Jacksons gym and feeling a little (a lot) out of my comfort zone.

“I should have gotten better, before I came to get better.”

I said that to Bobby, another fella that lives here at that ranch. Bobby and I had been rolling, and he had  schooled me to the point where I felt like it was my first day training, ever. Like, I knew nothing. And lets be honest, it’s not like I know much. But at least prior to that little training session, I had confidence. But after we finished, all I could think was, how can I even begin to think I belong here?

“You just have to jump in with both feet… It’s going to take a lot of beatings, a lot of tapping out and a lot of hard work, but that’s how you get better. And that’s what ya came here for right?” Bobby said to me as we sat there on the mats catching our breaths, letting our heart rates slow down…

He is right. Duh, Erin, of course he is right. I didn’t wake up that morning a black belt in Jiu jitsu, nor would I the morning after. It was going to take a lot of work and time. But, like he said, that’s what I came  here for: to learn and to fulfill this part of me that nags for awareness, that consumes all my thoughts…

I feel as though there is just so much to take in, being here. If staying in a house with strangers isn’t awkward enough, being the only girl sure presents its challenges. And then there is the gym… the quality of female fighters there is unreal. I’ve never trained with girls so talented. Literally, everyday it takes me talking myself into being brave and going in there, knowing damn well I’m about to get multiple ass whoopings. It’s hard to be fearless. But I’m trying.

After the first week of training was over, Cowboy took me with him and a few others to the lake. It became clear to me how important balance is. These guys train and fight for a living, but it isn’t what defines their lives. Nor should it be. They balance their work out with their play. We spent hours ripping around in the boat, in the sunshine. The guys got in the freezing water (it’s only March, remember) and did some wakeboarding and I sat in the warm dry heat and laughed. They played like boys. “I really like this” I thought to myself. I just had so much fun. After such a mentally hard week, I needed it.

On the way to grab food, after that long day in the sun, Cowboy said something in a random conversation that really stuck with me. “Whatever you were doing last year at this time, you should be doing something different now.”

Ding, ding, ding, ding…

An alarm went off, not only in my head, but also in my heart; it vibrated my whole being…

Last year at this time, I was doing nothing of the sort to pursue my MMA dreams. I felt in that moment, how big this was for me to be down in the states, living and training with strangers, being at the bottom of the food chain, taking beatings everyday. I was so far out of my comfort zone, that if my comfort zone had any sort of light to it, I couldn’t see it anymore. I longed for it, but at the same time, it felt good to be out of it.

Maybe doing something different then what I have been use to, just might be what makes this all work. It certainly has been uncomfortable. And it certainly hasn’t been easy… even when everyone else seems to make it look like it is. But maybe this really is the recipe for movement, for future success. Getting the urge to leave home to train out here has its reasons, all of which are bigger than me. But it brought me here. And for the first time in a long time, I don’t want to get up and go again. Instead of an urge to just run or search, I feel an urge to stay…

I could get use to that…



  1. You know I am super proud of you. I’m so glad you took the step to get out there, out of your comfort zone. Donald and the others will challenge you like you’ve never been challenged before. And now you have a goal: to get into Strikeforce and fight for that title. I will support you the whole way, my dear. 😉

  2. hello! I just stumbled upon this blog a few months back and started reading, we’ve never met, just getting that out of the way 🙂

    good to see that things are on track for you. when I started reading the post, it seemed like it was travelling for the purpose of soul-searching, but now that you mentioned it is for training, it isn’t a search, more of a pursuit. Subtle difference.

    I know how you feel on travelling though, I used to love to travel. It felt like I could go somewhere, anywhere, somewhere else in the world, go to a bar that first night, sit out under the stars, sip my drink, and think to myself, “no one in my life can find me right now. I am totally lost.” And it felt good. Like I could reinvent myself.

    Ancient Chinese philosophers would say that there is nothing 10,000 miles away that you couldn’t also figure out on your own doorstep, and maybe that’s true, but I always felt more kinship with people who had the wanderlust, who had to ramble on every once in a while, even if it was just for the opportunity to take an ass-beating in a brand new city 😉

    And if MMA isn’t progressing quickly enough, just start dealing crystal meth on the side for the sheer variety! (Breaking Bad jokes? Albuquerque? No? Oh well, worth a try)

    Wishing you the best of luck!

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