See, the problem with travel is that once you get a tiny taste of it, you can't get it out of your system. I can gaze at this photo of colorful birds adorning the side of a small house on Isla Holbox and tailspin into a full systems analysis of MST and exactly what am I doing with my life again? I can place a guilt trip on my soul like no other. Should I not be taking a few years - now - when I'm "young" - to just go? Are these wee bits of escape enough to satiate this one fragile life of mine? Maybe...but maybe not. If the world really ends in 2012, am I really spending my time wisely? It's enough to make one shut down and simply go blank. That's what snapshots are for.
On any given day, while flipping thru pix, I happen upon a photo of the word "Cuba" which is strategically placed above the bar at lovely Casa Sandra on the windy side of the beach on Holbox and not only do I want to be perched right there sipping a cold, sparkly mojito - oh no...I also want to be in sultry Havana, or bewitching Campeche which reminds me of Cuba, or down wandering the cobble stoned streets in Old San Juan which is really just across a small stretch of water from Cuba. That then leads to a mojito at Versailles in LA - Culver City to be exact. At least it's something - one step closer to there. Wherever there is.
The Italian inspired book Casa Sandra presents the bill in transports me to Italy and the dark alleyways of Rome I once explored on the way to Greece. The lodge feel of the dining room there reminds me of Africa and a bizarre X/mas-time safari I once partook in. Every place I go can hopscotch my mind onto the next, and the next and the next. Or even the past.
It's like a constant swirl of travel memories - some that don't even exist yet. All of which get me through the day.
Years ago, me and my Fatcake team boldly tore off to a small beach-side village in Mexico to shoot a TV show. We'd invited a handful of pals down for the final leg of the trip, assuming not a soul would take us up on the last minute travel -- A couple did, however...and one of these lovely ladies was Linda. While maintaining a constant tequila-fueled buzz, we made pots of homemade spaghetti for the villagers, we sampled raicilla, we swam in the warm ocean and almost got yanked to sea, we watched breathtaking sunsets, and we laughed til we cried - over and over again. The Lin, as we so fondly called her, had the time of her life. Good pals on the beach, living life the way it should be lived -in the moment, full of laughs and dripping with good memories.
The Lin loved animals, loved giving to worthy causes, and loved being around good people. We spent time living in her basement before we'd gone to shoot that TV show (yes, there was a time when me and my team were all homeless, just looking to switch up life a bit) and she was the one who taught me all about healthy food, the best of vegetarianism, and how to make a real home - with a fridge full of delicious food and wine.
Last year, she donated a generous sum to 4th World Love, which qualified her for multiple entries into the 2009 all-expenses-paid trip to Baja this spring (2010). 4WL is on the hunt for the next village to open a community development center and Baja is just the place to find it. This way, loads of people who can never make it over to Indo could perhaps step on down to Baja to volunteer and watch the magic of giving back unfold. The Lin won the contest (to our sheer and utter delight) and we couldn't wait to get on the road with her once again in majestic Mexico.
Sadly, our gal Lin passed on last month from cancer. The news was beyond devastating to us. Death hits us all, I suppose. When you least expect it. When you don't want to face it. When you think you and yours are invincible. When you think you'll live forever. When you think you have tomorrow to live your life.
We're going to honor her amazing spirit by naming the 4WL CDC we eventually find down in Baja after her and her donation will ensure that a brand new set of dreams from those less fortunate get to come true.
I'm sure she will be watching the whole time...and laughing right along with us. We hope you join us down in Baja sometime soon +
I found chaya on Isla Holbox. It's a funky wheatgrass/spinach like plant that is said to clean you out. Natures colonic. Love that stuff. My favorite island chef, Juan Pablo, first tossed it in a crispy empanada for me to try and once I realized its like nighttime benefits, I became obsessed.
One morning, whilst tooling around on the golf cart on the hunt for a before-10am mojito, we happened across a super chill hotel on the beach. Las Nubes (check out the pix on the link - that joint was $800 a night and I was like - you mean PESOS? Oh no, $800 large...) wasn't even open yet for bar service, but oh those good waiters could see the panic in our eyes at the idea of not having a drink for the road. Only in Mexico. Suddenly the bar was indeed open and drinks were being prepared. Hefty tip for you sir.
After a couple of minty mojitos and a brilliant ginger/pepper margarita, I brought up the elusive chaya to our waiter and he was delighted to grab some from the kitchen. Don't eat it raw, Misty! Poisonous if you do. Just like nettles. I once had those in Switzerland and formed the same obsession afterward, but that's another story for another day.
Well, toss it in a drink I told him. Smother it with rum, ice, cucumbers, whatever...blend it up. Forget it mixed with eggs. Who has time for food at this moment - especially when ya know that Juan Pablo's fryer will be hoppin' soon. We'll even name it after your hotel and people will come in droves for the Nubes Chaya Chiller. That's some shit I'd hop on a plane for.
And, so he did. It was like the green machine with hefty swigs of dark rum. All cold and delicious and good for you.
A buzz is a buzz is a buzz...
It always takes me a minute to remember when it was that I last did something that mattered. Not just a big something, but a little something. Was it making small talk - in Spanish - with the janitor in an elevator? Was it not losing my cool with the internet rep on the phone, and instead just being real sweet and calm, knowing the problem would get fixed soon? Just little bitty things that make someone elses day soar along instead of f'ing it up.
We were still trolling around Isls Holbox on the golf cart and we noticed a mess of Mexican lads clustered around the water. Which can only mean one thing is on the horizon - fish. After skidding to a stop, we boldly walked over to their rough hewn set up and inquired about what they were doing. Without hesitation, we were offered cold, cold Sol's, warm tortillas and still cracklin' fish straight out of the pan. Nobody spoke a lick of English, but we went around the group, gathering up names, using up our combat Spanish, tasting little pecks of their food, sipping up drops of Sol from their beaded cans, and generally just being happy with where the day stood.
Stopping to investigate the unknown always matters and it always surprises everyone. Me included. They guffawed when looking at their group picture on my camera and somehow a morning was made all the way around. How easy was that moment in time - and it could have possibly never happened if we'd not blown over the flooded dirt road.
New motto: Just stop.
I think you all know at this point, I'm in for the homespun take on meals. I love the homemade snacks, the bits of simple goodness that are churned out in kitchens around the world. I try to love the restaurants that charge lots of money (for ALWAYS sub-par food), but it just doesn't resonate with my belly. And, my belly always wins.
So - on Holbox - it's the tiny cocina economicas that dot the island that get my vote. The good man Jaun Paul just off the town square blew my mind with his gooey chaya empanadas. If you don't know chaya - it's like spinach with a hit of wheat grass. Known for its intense medicinal properties (re: deep cleansing of the bowels), it's an acquired taste but one that just makes you feel good. Especially when doused in cheese.
Bowls of beef soup (I only slurp up the peppery broth with rice - and snatch all potatoes and carrots), palm-sized panuchos and salbutes, fresh caught amberjack (for real, I actually saw the fish and then suddenly I was eating it - the plate was done up real fancy), and of course everything else I can get my hands on. Especially if it's found deep in a cooler, wrapped in a bag, filling a bright bucket, on the back of a flimsy buggy, safe in a plastic container, or sizzling away on a grill.
Holbox did not fail me.
If you're anything like me, every single day begins with the very best of intentions. No matter what the environment. I'm gonna get up, pound some coffee, rock some kind of sweaty workout, and just start anew. All the madness in my head will clear up, there will be light at the end of the tunnel, and life will once again make sense. This is ALWAYS the process at the top of the day, just before rolling out of bed.
Then, all shiz hits the fan. It's immediately decided that today is a very proper day to start off with a icy mojito and a good book. I mean, come on. We're on an island for the love. There's no workout to be had. There's a rickety golf cart, a pocket full of crumbled pesos, and deep need for a little something to take the edge off. Throw in a good book about being lost at sea for 76 days, and we've got the makings for a very relaxing morning.
Welcome to Isla Holbox.
Let's just get right to it. The minute you step off a plane in a warm, tropical land - the first that that must be addressed is the undeniable craving for a rum-laced drink. Or vodka, or cerveza, or sake...whatever the poison is, the thirst must be quenched. And then, you feel as if you arrived. You are finally...away.
For me, and my good friend Mexico, it's rum. I sucked down a rum punch the moment I walked out of the Cancun airport and within seconds had decided that Isla Mujeres was on the back burner and this trip called for a new place. A little island by the name of Isla Holbox. They say its the Mujeres of years past, so after some fierce negotiations with a gent named Octavio, we were on our way to completely unchartered territory. No reservations, no preset intel on the island, nothing but a little time on our hands and an violent desire to be in a bikini with a beach in the background and a cold one in hand.
After a sprinty 2-hour ride to Chicala, we grabbed a couple of delicious empenadas con queso, hopped on the $5, 20-minute ferry ride and began what turned out the be the most expensive trip ever.