Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Love, sex, spirit, and travel...

We left jobs and home to travel the world...and then I wrote about it.

Today is the book's birthday.

click here
You can order it here or at any bookstore.

The title comes from a quote by OSHO:

Don't call it uncertainty--call it wonder.
Don't call it insecurity--call it freedom.

Books may be written alone--but they aren't edited alone, published alone, or lived alone. I'm grateful to every person whose life has touched mine.

It's exciting and unnerving when something so personal and raw--something you've lived with intimately for so long--makes its way out into the world.

So I won't call it uncertainty, I'll call it wonder. I wonder what will come next?

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 Guerro 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.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Nomads on the move again


Five months in Mexico has been wonderful--the longest we've stayed in one place in two years.

And now in a few days, these nomads are headed out again.

We knew after our six-month visitor visas expired we'd need to leave the country. That could have been a weekend in L.A., only to turn around and come back. We weren't sure what we were going to do, except listen to whatever arose.

I like the fertile void. It's opening up to not-knowing. It's making space for new stuff by not filling in every blank.

We knew what we wanted: To see friends. Experience music and travel. Keep expenses low. Spend time elsewhere during the Baja hurricane season. Oh, and I have a book coming out next month. So some things related to that.

I put out feelers on Facebook and housesitting websites. We talked to friends. And soon, a six-month plan unfolded that involves hanging out with a bunch of our friends, experiencing four music events, and staying in five great (and dare I mention free?) places as housesitters. And a few book release related events as well.

For the two places we're flying (New Orleans and Chicago), we've used frequent flier miles. We have so many miles because we buy everything we can on a card that gives us travel points.

We'll be doing a lot of driving in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (our blue Subaru), starting with a four-day adventure up Baja.

Hasta luego, Mexico. We will return to you and all of our Baja amigos with new stories to tell, new experiences to share, and new love to spread.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking a booze break (update on The Year of Living Drinklessly)

A great booze-less Baja evening.

When I decided to take a break from booze, I had no idea there was a movement afoot.

These days, people are doing a lot of writing and talking about the role of drinking in their lives. They are looking at why they feel compelled to drink in social situations or most evenings. Or why they drink to celebrate or soothe. For many, traditional views of drinking (such as espoused through 12-step programs) don't resonate. So they are finding other ways.

One of the most exciting for me is the social network Hello Sunday Morning. Some people on the site are taking a break. Some are sober. Some have developed a "drinking plan" to foster mindful drinking. What they all have in common is a desire to understand.

New books on the topic abound, such as Glass Half Full, Sober is the New Black, The Sober Revolution, and Kick the Drink Easily!--in which Jason Vale makes the great point that "alcohol is the only drug you have to justify not taking."

There are many reasons to take a break from booze. It doesn't have to be that you're an alcoholic or have a "problem." I don't identify with either notion. I was realizing how I didn't feel good the next day, even after one or two drinks. And I wanted to step back and take a look at my patterns.

I haven't had a drink in two months--the longest period of time in my life except for when I had brain surgery.

For the most part I've been very good at focusing on not drinking as an adventure. I'm seeing that I'm not missing out on anything, except hangovers.

But the other day, I endured an hour-long super-craving for a glass of wine. The desire was so strong, it surprised me. I didn't pretend it wasn't happening, and I didn't impulsively act out (unless you can call eating a few jelly beans acting out). I just watched that crazy part of my mind buck like a wild horse. I actually laughed at myself as that voice developed all kinds of rationalizations about why I should do it.

I told myself I could go buy a bottle if that's what I really wanted. But that didn't sound so good either.

So then I drank a big glass of sparkling water with a dash of grapefruit juice and went for a swim. Drinking that water helped a lot. Makes me wonder if I was a bit dehydrated and, therefore, more susceptible to the craving.

Soon, the desire disappeared. As Joe Dispenza days, "A habit is when the body becomes the mind." The mind knows what it wants and doesn't want. But the body has become so habituated it overrides the mind.

The question is: Who's in control?

During this time off, I've come to realize the limiting thoughts I have about booze. The main one is that only uptight, un-fun people don't drink.

Today I embrace my empowering belief that what I imbibe has nothing to do with my happiness, joy, strength, personality, or sense of self.

Every day, every moment, I have choices. I celebrate my choices! I know what makes me feel good. My sense of ease, peace, spontaneity, fun, purpose, and power come from connection to my inner being--not from some outer source.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

East Cape Baja Adventure

Baja continues to blow our minds. On the first day of our four-day adventure to the East Cape, we slipped into this incredible body of water:
Ballet leg at Cañon de la Zorra falls.

Getting there required driving rutted dirt roads--as is true of most of the area.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (our blue Subaru) earned her off-street cred.

To get to the waterfall, there are lots of twists and turns. At times we weren't sure we were going the right direction. But with the assistance of luck and a few signs, we made it to the entrance.
Pay here.
The guy who lives here takes a few pesos then points you to the trail. The hike takes about 15 minutes and was a little iffy in my flip flops. 
Hiking down to Cañon de la Zorra falls.
We spent the night in Santiago, a pueblo so small and deserted it feels like a ghost town. The items on the little grocery store's shelves were dusty and out-of-date. One customer had a zombie vibe. I decided to view it all as charming.

When we arrived the Palomar Hotel, we were entranced by the terrace restaurant, fruit trees, and cooing doves. Our room featured a rock hard bed, crumbling wall and dead cockroaches.

After a nap, we went to the restaurant at 5:20 p.m.--only to be told it was closed for the evening. I pointed to the posted hours of 9 a.m.-6 p.m. but the guy responded with a shrug. We scraped together lunch leftovers, half an avocado from our cooler, and a few cookies to tide us over.

I woke a few times in the night to thousands of doves bawling, dogs yowling and roosters crowing. The next morning the Palomar redeemed itself with this breakfast:
Dave had huevos rancheros, and I had chilaquiles.
Note the hand-drawn map on the table, courtesy of Sergio, the charismatic owner. He directed us how to get to here:
Santa Rita hot spring.
I'd thought the waterfall would be hard to top--but this hot spring was even better. We had the place to ourselves.
Me in the hot spring.
Dave in the cold creek.
Afterward, blissed-out, we wandered through the church in nearby San Jorge.

This and the basketball court are the main features of San Jorge.
Later, we came across a monument at the Tropic of Cancer. I liked looking at the monument's globe and pointing to exactly where I stood at that moment, on this thing called earth. It made me feel pleasantly insignificant.
That afternoon, we headed south to Los Zacatitos, to a friend's purple dome house in the desert.

The house is a work of art.

The dome's ceiling is like the sky. The bed looks afloat.
That night we went to Zac's for Taco Tuesday--a fun gringo scene, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone. The next morning, Angel (our friend's dog) led us on a walk of the playa de Zacatitos.
Angel leads the way.
Back on the bumpy dirt roads, we drove north to Cabo Pulmo. Even though the road was rough, I was glad we chose the ocean route (rather than the smoother inland route) because we were treated to awesome sites along the way. Like whales:

And interesting juxtapositions:

bull and tractor

burros and surfers

raptor and cactus
We also saw striking remnants of last September's Hurricane Odile:

We spent the night in Cabo Pulmo at a dive shop.
Cabo Pulmo room
Even though the morning dawned with choppy waters, we figured what the hell, we're here, let's do it. So we got aboard a boat appropriately named Si no quieres no ("If you don't want to, don't"). From the beach, some guys pushed us backward into the waves until the captain could drop the motor.
We want to!
We were taken to the only hard coral reef on the west coast of North America. The fact that it's a protected national park became evident as we swam with a dizzying array of fish. A mermaid's dream.
The captain also took us over to check out the sea lions.

On our drive home, we passed through the small mountain town of El Triunfo. I love its striking architecture ....

...and flagstone streets...

...and Caffe El Triunfo's baked goods.

We loaded up on sweet stuff then drove to our home sweet home.