What if you could change your life in 8 days? What if you could go from being almost bedridden with a chronic illness to a life of freedom, vitality and adventure quicker than you ever imagined was possible?
That’s exactly what Zarah Darling did last year when on a whim she decided to become a vanlife nomad! In just 8 days she packed up her 4 bedroom house, bought a van and set off to explore the magic of nature.
After over a decade of struggling with chronic fatigue from toxic mould exposure Zarah discovered her own unique road to wellness: literally living on the road! She says this radically different lifestyle was exactly what her body needed to feel vibrant and truly alive! Now with a growing reputation as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst Zarah travels across the county whilst mentoring people on how they too can choose and create anything they dream up, and more! I caught up with Zarah yesterday to chat about her “journey” (yes pun intended) and how she’s helping people to unleash their inner magic.
Wow! You live out of a van! What lead you to choose a nomadic lifestyle ? Was there a particular turning point or catalyst?
When I was growing up, my dad had a few books about hippies living in converted school buses and I loved leafing through them just to relax and daydream. The buses had quirky features like wooden shingles added to the outside of them to make them look like houses. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense why I find this lifestyle so appealing now! Those books planted seeds of possibility in my mind but I didn’t choose the lifestyle until a year and a half ago after being sick for over a decade. Choosing to feel better, and being willing to do whatever it takes, was the turning point.
I had been changing houses frequently for over 2 years after I discovered I was suffering from effects of toxic mould exposure – extreme fatigue, reduced brain processing function, physical injuries that wouldn’t heal, 24/7 aches and pains lasting for years. I even moved to the desert where it should be really dry, but mould in houses was a problem there too.
After taking an impromptu road trip for a week to an organic farm (and seeing Cyndi Lauper in concert!), I confirmed there was mould in my latest home and knew I had to get out. I had already planned to drive 11 hours to a workshop. And if I didn’t have to turnaround afterwards to come home I’d be halfway to my best friend’s from 6th grade house. Within 8 days I packed up by 4 bedroom house, got out of my lease, bought a SUV, and and headed for that workshop in Houston. If you ever wonder if you can change your life or choose something different, it can happen very quickly if it’s really time for that choice.
Do you ever feel scared as a single women travelling alone? How do you feel safe and protected?
I use my intuitive awareness to check in and see if it’s safe when choosing which areas to sleep at, or even which direction to go… I ask a lot of questions to tap into that awareness. For example, I might ask, “Is it safe here for me?” I’ll notice if there are bars on the windows in a neighbourhood, how many cars are parked in certain areas, and pay attention to the number of people walking around. So there are logical things to pay attention to, but I’m most comforted by checking the energy of, “Am I safe here?” If it’s light and expansive, I’m comfortable staying. If it’s heavy and contractive I choose another spot.
Then it takes even more spidey senses to have awareness when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and there aren’t any houses to get a sense of what happens there. When it’s just open fields, hills, mountains and cliffs that’s really fun to ask the universe, “Will I be safe here?”
I think it’s important to distinguish between fear and awareness and know what’s a legitimate threat verses what’s just noisy chatter in the head that will pull you off course and trip you up. So playing with that and reflecting in hindsight can be really helpful to learn your own energy vocabulary.
I review situations and ask myself, “Was that just fear I experienced or was it a true awareness where I knew something was off before it happened?” This can really help you develop the vocabulary of your intuition. I think those tools apply to all genders.
There are also some practical things I do to stay safe. When I park to sleep I climb through the middle of my seats to the bed in the back rather than getting out of the car to go through the backdoor. I do as little as possible to draw attention to my situation so that passersby won’t realize I’m in there.
I have an air horn and car keys clipped to me at night, so I can make a noise to startle any intruder or slide through to the front to drive away quickly if I have to. If I had to go out of the backdoor to get to the drivers seat that would make me feel more nervous. Also, I have a SUV so it doesn’t look as obvious as a camper van that someone would be sleeping in there and that helps me feel safe.
Can you tell us about your work as a “Magic & Awareness Catalyst”? Do you think the tools you use could be helpful for people suffering mental health challenges?
Working as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst means I help facilitate people to live a more magical existence and to have the courage to be who they truly are. The tools I use really do help anyone experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues. First off if you’re not depressed about the current state of our world and planet, either you’ve found the magic answer or you’re not paying attention. Right? If you’re anxious it probably means you’re aware of a better reality and are wishing people would hurry up and realize they can help create it!
If you’re experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues, I invite you to ask yourself if you’re actually super aware of what’s happening across the planet and what other people are experiencing. What if you could learn to distinguish between what’s yours and what’s someone else’s? If you are drowning yourself along with someone else, that won’t help either of you to survive!
But what if you can untangle yourself? Isn’t that the greatest gift to those around you; being a source of inspiration and showing others how it can be done? Even though I’m still really attuned to other people’s suffering I’ve recognised that it’s their choice as well. What if everything was a choice?
That’s different than the tone deaf suggestion of, “Hey just be happy, just pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” I’m not suggesting that. It’s not always simple and polyanna-like but if everything is a choice, that can mean choosing to find help, choosing to explore another alternative, choosing to have willingness for something different to show up and not even needing to know what that will look like exactly; just choosing a different possibility.
Do you have any tips on healing chronic health issues and what helped you recover? Was it mainly hitting the road that helped or were there other factors?
The key for me to get over chronic illness was to choose to do and be something different than what I had been previously. I chose something different than being sick from the mould and it wasn’t just choosing to be happy or no longer sick, it was the willingness to do whatever it takes to experience something different.
For me doing whatever it takes meant no longer living in a house and choosing to be out in nature with all the ions that help our bodies to heal and to experience all of the magic that nature provides. I was willing to receive that.. and here’s a funny thing; here’s how this mindset shift can just blow you away, since then my story has completely changed.
I used think OMG I’m so sick I can’t even live in a house. Now I can see how my subconscious mind created the illness to avoid judgement against what I knew I would like to choose. I figured, if I was sick, people wouldn’t judge me for living in a van, driving across country and and sleeping at camp sites.
What if I had just said gosh I would really love to live in a van a travel across the county. I’m just going to choose that and I don’t need to make myself sick to convince other people that there’s any logic to what I’m choosing.
I’ve also noticed that other people who have mould sensitivity share a common outlook on life. They share similar stories about how they were brought up and how they don’t trust anyone else in a very deep sense. It might look like it on the surface but deep underneath we don’t trust anyone else and feel like we have to do everything ourselves, on our own.
We’ve got that whole martyr outlook that we have to suffer, work really hard, nothing can come easily and we’re really concerned with what other people think about us (even though we’d never admit it). So all those points of view really set me up to be the perfect victim to fall prey to mould and that’s part of my old story.
Now because my outlook changed I can create my life with far more ease. Before it was like I had to almost literally kill myself in order to create things in this world. Now I live in my own reality where I don’t make any appointments before 2pm, I work outside in parks and beaches and run 98% of my business from my iPhone.
What if you could create things without sacrificing your health, your piece of mind, or the enjoyment of living? To get out of a chronic illness situation, the first thing I invite people to do is practice choosing something different. Like if you have a usual route that you drive or walk to some location, choose a different direction or a different route. Or if you go to a restaurant and always order the same thing, chose something else next time.
And here’s the important part, choose it just because. Don’t try to come up with any logical reasoning about why you are choosing it.
What if you even opened up a menu and the first thing your finger landed on you ordered? How exciting would that be and what if the experience of that could be part of your daily life and how you do all things. If you’re thinking “OMG this feels out of control” what if you recognize how strong you are as you withstand a chronic illness? If you can withstand that you can definitely cope with making some changes and doing things differently .
Some of our readers are struggling with major depression. As a Magic & Awareness Catalyst what do you think might help them feel more joy? Any tips on how they can let their true magic shine?
The antidote to depression is to believe in possibilities and the first step to that is to release the point of view that there’s something wrong with you. What if you first let yourself off the hook for everything? What if there was no wrongness of you and you started entertaining the idea that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s choices, and no longer have to align and agree with your own choices from the past? And note, this outlook of possibilities can partner with current support and treatment – just letting go of any stigma or wrongness may allow other therapies to make more of an intended impact. What if right now you can just choose from the magic that you are; that quiet voice that’s been struggling for you to hear it.
For whatever reason maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the quiet voice and maybe it had to get louder and louder and the only way it knew how to get loud was to become sharp pains or chronic illness or some other health issue.
You are here with a special gift that this planet needs and even if you’ve been labeled different and wrong so much that you’ve started to believe it, what if that’s only because you are here to actually change the world? After all, if you fit in perfectly there would be nothing to change.
Instead of feeling that sensation of depression what if instead you label it as awareness and then eliminate the part where there’s any wrongness.
If you’re in allowance of who you are, then how much joy could you have then? And how much of you could you share with the world? Maybe that means finding the right people that are able to see who you are, but what if you get to show them how to see who you are by seeing yourself and allowing yourself to be all of yourself? That unique thing that you have to offer this world isn’t going to show up in anyone else and it’s not going to be set free into the world unless you choose to do that…. and we’re waiting… we want to see it!