Meet the Expat: Larry in Baja

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I met cutie-pie Larry while traipsing up and down the Baja peninsula a few years back.  Me and a few girlfriends got the bright idea to drive from Chicago all the way to the bottom of the Baja peninsula (7,000 miles on my good old Ford Explorer, thank you very much) and along the way, we stopped in a tiny seaside town called La Ventana. 

On our 2nd night there, we were walking around the dirt-street village on the hunt for tacos and margaritas and I saw Larry scooting around on his rickety old moped.  We shot the shit for a minute (as strangers always do in Mexico) and the next day, he showed up in the kitchen of Baja Joe's, our rough-n-tumble (yet AWESOME) hotel on the beach.  Since me and the girls were shooting some footage for a TV show, later that week, we sat him down in his trailer and grilled him on being an expat in Mexico.

Turns out, he spends half the year in Baja, and half the year in the US.  He basically builds houses and chases the wind...La Ventana is one of the best places in the world to wind surf and at certain points of the year, the minuscule village swells up with loads of boys and girls looking to drink, wind surf and god knows what else. 

Larry had just bought a spit of land over looking the Sea of Cortez and was about to build a house on it.  Meanwhile, he was living out of an old trailer and enjoying the view and the population of gals that rolled thru town.  I though La Ventana was a pretty special place--it was the first time I'd seen the moon rise; the first time I'd tried to wind surf; the first time I'd really gotten to the bottom of what it's like to become an expat; and the place that I re-fell in love with the Mexican way of life. 

These little villages exist all over the world.  They are my favorite ones because they have a sprinkling of an expat community and are still pretty off-grid.  Best of both worlds.  And...they are all somehow magically wi-fi connected! This one was cool because there were so many young people there, truly living the good life--thank god for the wind, eh?

I wrote a blog about the whole driving Baja experience for MSNBC, so if you are interested in Baja adventures, check it out here:  Tracking Expats in Baja

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Meet the Expat: Ben in Bali

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One of the coolest places on the face of the planet has got to be the new Green School on the Indonesian island of Bali.  In short, it's a brand new school for local kiddies and expat children who live on the island...and has the most amazing campus you've ever been on  (this coming from a girl who was at OW's Leadership Academy in South Africa when it opened). It's all green--with a huge water vortex from the Ayung River that creates energy; all organic fruits and vegetables grown on-site; and every single thing on the campus made from bamboo.  Truly a beautiful spot.

I met dear Ben when I was in Indo a few months ago.  He is the Head of Admissions and when I showed up on campus for a little tour, he was bounding around, tired and happy as a little puppy.  A few month before, he'd completely uprooted his wife and small baby to Bali to help run this school.  What a dream job!  Though he was totally exhausted, his sheer and utter enthusiasm for the project was so dang inspiring.  Who wouldn't want to be this young, move to a beautiful tropical island, and help start one of the most incredible schools in the world?   We became fast friends and on-the-spot, I seriously considered dropping my life back in the US and moving to Bali to just be somewhere near this school (among other things).

As you can see, expats come in all shapes and sizes.  Young, old, on a boat, on an island, some retired, some starting over.  It's such beautiful stuff, the things people do to get them selves out of the grind.  In the end, why not?  You know...who has time to abide by all these crazy rules and regulations in life?  It's all about finding the swifter path to something totally enchanting for your soul.  Sadly, not many people do it. 

Meanwhile, I just read Ben's bio and he is a 3-time winner on Jeopardy.  How wild is that?  Would love to know how much dinero.  And, please check out these houses on campus.  They are for the school leaders, teachers, etc...what a lucky place to be!  And, dig thru their website, I promise you will educate yourself on some pretty advanced (yet simple) ways of living.  Lots of good video on there, too~ 
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Meet the Expat: Captain James Maddux

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I met the good Captain this past January whilst producing a Pilates Retreat on Isla Mujeres (a tiny island off the coast of Mexico).  Me and Lis were chillin' in our fave hang out spot, Manana, and he happened to saunter by and see me furiously typing away on my computer.  He offered to buy us a beer because he wanted to quiz me on my wi-fi capabilities on the island and before you know it, we were all fast friends.

Now, Capt'n Mad had just sailed his newly purchased boat down from the USA.  He'd never been much of a sailor but one day he just up and decided to do it--to finally live the dream.  He sold everything, left the job, bought a lovely 40+ sailboat and took off on the first leg of his new life.  By the seat of his pants, he made it from the Gulf of Mexico to Isla Mujeres and he had a trillion funny stories to tell us. 

Of course, he was so proud of his new lifestyle, he invited us out to go snorkeling with him the next day, which we gladly took him up on.  Life on a boat is cool because you usually have a dinghy that can whirl you around to places that are difficult to get to otherwise.  We snorkeled around wrecks and through little caves and laughed for hours and to this day, I still keep in touch with Mad.  He's now down in Guatemala, on the Rio Dulce (a fantastic hurricane hole) and says he is having the time of his life.  He literally can't believe he didn't do it sooner.

I often shoot him emails to gather intel about what I might need to be aware of for my own upcoming journey via my new sailboat. I want to go thru Mexico, down to Belize, over to the Rio Dulce and all the way down the Eastern Coast of Central America (for starters).  He shoots back details like:  Bring a gun!  Trail a hook of the side of your boat from Belize to Guat and you'll have loads of fish to eat!  Get a huge lock for your dinghy, there are thief's down here!  Bring lots of canned fruit and vegetables--stack 'em 8 deep!

Such funny stuff.  Point being here--no matter how old you are, you're never too late to live the adventure.  The years can thunder by so quickly...it becomes tough to remember what your dreams were in the first place.  But the good thing is, you can constantly adjust--you can always alter and tweak and make it work for you.  Just like Mad did. He told me that there are a group of expats down on the Rio that get together about 5pm every day for happy hour and they talk about sailing secrets, new discoveries, etc...and when I'm ready to make the trip, they've all done it and can't wait to help guide me in.  That knowledge just makes me happy. 

Meanwhile, I just saw that the DOW is below 10,000.  That is scary--is the shizz about to hit the fan?  No matter, don't wait too long...and most of all--don't think anyone is watching out for you.  You just have you, your family, your dreams, and your goals.  Not much else is there. 

So, like Mad says--go for it and you might just have the best time of your life!
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Meet the Expat: Shelly in Mexico

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They way people ultimately choose to live absolutely fascinates me.  Most people are pretty dang cut and dried:  they need/want the regular income so they can live the life they think they are supposed to live.  Which usually entails a fat mortgage, a couple of kiddies, a dishwasher and a whole lotta debt. 

I just don't think you have to do it that way, and I love running into people who have taken it to the extreme.  Take Expat Shelley for instance. 

I ran into her buried in the woods in a small town in Mexico.  I was cruising through, saw a sign that said cold beer and ended up way down a long, muddy trail at a lakeside eco-camp.  She was living behind the camp in a house she'd just had built piece by piece (due to low fundage)--with only candles to light up the place.  She painted by day and drank alarming amounts of alcohol by night (just to round off the edges).  She was quirky as hell and simply fighting her way through the world--rousing mad south-of-the-border struggles perched on the tip of her lips the whole way.

She was funny and charming and I wish I'd had more time to spend with her.  When I first saw her paintings I was blown away; who knew this was being churned out in the woods of Veracruz?  Next time I head back down for oysters, I gotta stop in a see the Shells.  But, more important, you gotta just keep these alt. lifestyles on the front burner. I'm not the only one, and Shells ain't the only one...there must be gobs of us doing a little something different.

All I'm sayin' is--Don't just make living the good life something you talk about.  Or dream about.  Or think about.  Really go out and do it, it's not rocket science.  It's a choice. Pure and simple.

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Meet the Expat: Gary in Bali

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Gary lives the good life.  He owns a tidy little 5-room guesthouse on the main road that runs through Candidasa, Bali.  He married a hysterical Balinese woman, who likes to drink whiskey and sing her heart out to anyone who dare pick up the communal guitar.  He is a true hustler, always in the know about the who's who and what's what of his tiny village on the sea. 

Every time I roll back into town, I run into him every single day.  Usually when I am on my way to get my $7 massage fix.  When I stroll up, he's either reading a book, wolfing hotdog's from his new hot dog stand (a true business man) or sipping a nice stout drink at the top of the morning. 

He's an Aussie, truly one of the funniest people I've ever met and always looking to wheel and deal his way thru the day.  Last time I was in town, he'd had his arm half eaten away by a spider bite. 

His rooms rent for about $11 a night, give or take (pending on what kind of deal you can strike) and he most def. has the coldest Bintang in town.  You can just toss him a $10 spot and that way when you stop back in, you have a running tab.  Sometimes you just need that beer on the way to get a massage.

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