Thursday, May 28, 2015

Two Years In

Two years ago this month, Dave and I stepped off the cliff.
Santa Cruz, where we've done several house sits.
We left our house, our possessions, and our jobs to travel and live house-free. Our guiding theory was this: The void is fertile. This theory has served us well.

Baja California Sur, Mexico.
In these two years, we've:

* traveled to five countries and numerous U.S. states
* spent beautiful time with friends old and new
* had amazing animal encounters
* become housesitters
* bought a casita in Mexico

Sri Lanka

Oh, and I had brain surgery. And wrote a book that's coming out next month. The book is about all of this stuff. And about how we are transformation.

What has made this lifestyle possible?

1. Being willing to do it. We didn't have everything figured out in advance--including the financial piece. We just knew that in our lives so far, things always worked out. We had faith that they would continue to do so--and that living our dream was possible. The unknown can feel like fear, or like excitement. We choose the latter.

Great Barrier Reef
2. Friends. What a bonus to be able to spend quality time with so many of our friends--and they are so sweet, welcoming us into their lives and guest rooms. Our friend Mark in San Jose has been instrumental. He's like a home base. He lets us keep some of our stuff there, things we change over when needed (like our skis and bikes and winter clothes). When we come through, we often spend nights in his house. In his generous spirit, he has taken us to the airport several times and lets us keep our car in his garage.

Pho in San Jose with Mark
We also have a kind of home base in So Cal at the home of Andy and Nancy, my friend since high school. They, too, have let us keep stuff at their pad and have been very generous with car storage and airport transportation.

Gort, Nancy, and me in L.A.
 3. Housesitting. Simply put, free places to stay. Plus it's fun!

In Tahoe with Lola, our friend Lee's dog. We rented a house there through Airbnb.
 4. Airbnb. Cheap places to stay.

Dave took this in Cape Hillsborough.
We stayed at some Airbnb's in Australia--and also at the home of our friend.
5. The internet. When I left my job as a university teacher, I reinvented myself as a writer and writing coach--which due to the magic of the internet, I can do anywhere. Ditto for Dave, Mr. Business Development, who's involved in a few projects. And of course all travel planning is so much easier with the web.

We stayed with our friends Widi and Karen in India.
6. Working the banking. We have both a credit card and an ATM card that charge us no fees for international transactions. And we charge almost we buy on a card that gives us travel points.

Lois and me in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.
We also stayed with her and her family in Boston and Cape Cod. 
7. Cheap real estate. Rather than plunging all of our resources into a house in California, which we'd considered, we were able to buy a house in Mexico for what many people pay for a car. We didn't have this place (or even have the concept of it) when we set out two years ago, but it's one big example of how the fertile void paid off.

Sunset from our rooftop near Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
When we launched on our traveling life two years ago, we didn't know all of this lay ahead of us. But of course that's how life is, no matter how you live it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Jazz Fest!

I just experienced my first New Orleans Jazz Fest.

Dave has been many times and regaled me with stories. And so have many of his friends. Before that, it had been off my radar. Vaguely, I associated it with Dixieland Jazz. But, oh, it's so much more.

Mardi Gras Indians

Samba parade!
Jazz Fest is open a total of seven days, spread over two weekends, at the Fairgrounds. There are also a ton of other activities throughout the city going on during those two weeks, including music at various venues all night long.
You never know what you'll see walking around the neighborhoods.
We went the second weekend--which turned out to be fortunate because the weather was a perfect 70's to low 80's, with a breeze. It's more often hot and humid. Or sometimes there are torrential downpours, which had been the case the previous weekend. I noticed, though, that people rarely complain. They are there to have fun and immerse themselves in the powerful, universal language that is music and community.

Our first day, Friday, we took the trolley from our Garden District B&B. (We also took cabs and walked a lot.)

Hubbard B&B in the Garden District.
Where we had breakfast every morning.

Walking through the gates of the fairground, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to be there. As though pulled by an invisible hand, we walked right into the Gospel Tent. The music reached into me, and my eyes filled with tears.

That day we saw thirteen artists--from blues and Cajun to Honky Tonk to Brazilian jazz.

One of my favorites: Anders Osborne

Doreen's Jazz New Orleans knocked our socks off.
And over the course of the weekend, we saw much more, including (in a sea of fans) the classic rock of Steve Winwood--and Dave's all-time favorites, the Radiators.

Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review
Both Friday and Saturday nights we went to shows, too--and had a lot of fun hanging out with friends old and new.

The guys at a night show, Fishhead Stew.
Julie, Scott and Dave happy with their pork Po'Boys.
My favorite food at the fairgrounds was a muffuletta. Staying in the Garden District, we were able to walk easily to Magazine Street restaurants. We especially enjoyed Joey K's, which featured down-home NOLA cooking.
Red beans and rice for me, veal with brown gravy for Dave.
There's so much going on, you can't see it or do it all. For instance, we didn't see Elton John and Lenny Kravitz that weekend.
But that's life, right? A big buffet of choices. I like to fully appreciate what's in front of me. The only way I'm really missing out is if I don't.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Did I Quit Coffee (and Booze)?

With my friend Ava.

Because it's an adventure to live in new ways.

Because I'm following my instincts.

Because I found myself drinking that first cup of coffee even on days when it didn't taste very good.

Because I found myself drinking that next glass of wine even when I knew I'd pay the next day.

Because I like the idea of waking up when I open my eyes (not after my first cup of coffee).

Because I like the idea of relaxing and falling asleep due to the influence of a swim in the sea, a warm bath, or mint tea (not booze).

Because I like the idea of partying, socializing, and having a blast without suffering the next day.

Because I had so much fun--and an internal rich life--as a kid, before I'd ever had a sip of booze or coffee. Maybe it would be like being a kid again?

Here's what's happening:

I'm saving a lot of money.

I suffered a week-long headache upon quitting coffee.

Caffeine actually works now. Twice since I quit coffee, I was at music events where I wanted to stay up and dance late. So I drank a coke, and it gave me a boost that caffeine hasn't in a long time.

I feel calmer and more patient. Less reactive.

My teeth are whiter.

I'm sleeping better.

Lots of people are supportive of me. Some tease me. (I can take it!) Others become aggressive or angry--or defensive of their own habits--even though I've never claimed that what I'm doing is for everyone.

Sometimes I get a little nostalgic about booze, about enjoying a local IPA from a tap or a glass of chardonnay. That's when I tell myself if I really want one, have it.

I guess I haven't really wanted to because I haven't done it.

With booze, I know after the initial lift, I get sleepy. I want to be wide awake to experience it all.

I'm noticing the space between the desire and the acting upon the desire. It's a rich space. When I allow myself to sit there, it's like inhabiting the space between waves, between breaths.

I'm noticing that one of my habits is to fill that space with "learning." I've been reading a lot of books and blogs, perusing websites like Hello Sunday Morning. And while I'm indeed learning a lot, I'm sensing it's time to back off from my gung-ho attitude and just float in the fertile void.

In other words, I don't want to fill up the "drinking" space with "not-drinking." I want to open like an anemone and see what else floats by.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Driving Baja

Our November trip from San Diego to Todos Santos was fast. We whizzed down Baja in two grueling days.

We decided on our drive back up we wanted to stop and smell the roses--and see the sights. So we took four days, which is about six hours in the car each day.

Our first stop was Loreto, the home of the first mission established in upper and lower California.

est. 1697
We stayed at the utterly charming La Damiana Inn, my favorite hotel along the way.

Entrance to our room.

Open-air kitchen for everyone's use.
The house cat, Señor Murphy, looked shockingly like our sweet Mango. (It was hard to say goodbye to Mango--even more so when she jumped in the car as Dave put our suitcases in.)

Señor Murphy takes a siesta.

Loreto has a colorful downtown area filled with shops and restaurants.

The waterfront area is beautiful: clean and expansive for walking and watching the birds and boats.  I'd love to spend a week there sometime.

The next day we discovered that the stretch between Loreto and Mulege is rife with serene beaches that are true gems. We pulled our car onto the sand and stepped out into the glassy Sea of Cortez waters. Next trip, we plan to spend a few days in this area.

After that, the road turns inland and climbs up into the mountains. The scenery is gorgeous, but as with much of the drive, the two-lane road is narrow. When a semi comes barreling down the mountain, you pray you can squeeze by. Each time that happened, I took a deep breath and exhaled as the truck passed. The road is pocked with crosses adorned with flowers, reminders to drive with care.

Tres Virgenes, just outside of Santa Rosalia.
Occasionally we stopped to eat a snack and for Dave to take pictures.

desert in bloom
We stopped at San Ignacio, where we checked out the fresh water lagoon...

...and the church.

At the church's exit. I don't know what it means, but I kind of like it.

That night we spent in Guerrero Negro, which sits on the border between Baja Sur and Baja north. We spent the night at Malarrimo, where we had a tasty seafood dinner.

Day three took us to San Quintin, an agricultural haven.

Nopal (edible cactus) crops
San Quintin also has a waterfront with this Steven Spielberg-esque feature:

We stayed in the Hotel Jardin. The grounds are gorgeous, with flowers blooming all over and a large vegetable garden behind the restaurant. We'd heard good things about the restaurant, but for us it was just okay. The atmosphere felt like a TGI Fridays, and the food seemed like a gringo-ized version of Mexican. Perhaps it was the universe's way of getting us ready to re-enter the U.S.

Day four led us up the Pacific in virtually a straight line toward the border. When we hit Ensenada and saw this guy hacking into coconuts, we knew we had to stop.

Refreshing young coconut.
Right next to the coconut stand Dave had his last carnitas tacos in Mexico for a while. He savored every bite.
Things got wonky in Tijuana. The signage wasn't clear, and we discovered we were in a lane taking us into the city rather than to the border. We were snared in traffic. People descended on the cars selling everything from hats to plastic piggy banks to bags of chips.

We kept craning our necks to see if we could merge into the correct lane, but cement dividers foiled us. A guy approached our car and told us in half-English that for $40 he could get a group of guys to remove one of the dividers so we could squeeze through. We declined, even when he dropped the priced to twenty bucks.

Boys going toward the border.
Finally we were able to merge in--only to discover we were in the fast-track medical lane. The guard wouldn't let us through without papers from a doctor; he ordered us to drive around the city and to the back of the line. The words of one of my friends echoed in my head, "I would never drive in Tijuana."

I happened to be behind the wheel (Dave and I share driving duties). Long story short, I drove us through the chaos of Tijuana traffic and eventually across the border. I wouldn't wish such mayhem on anyone--but it did make me feel a bit like Superwoman.

A few hours of pandemonium did not dampen our desire to see more of Baja. We'll do it again in November, in the reverse direction.