Previous month:
April 2008
Next month:
June 2008

May 2008

*M* is for Mexico, Margaritas, Micheladas, Maps, Magazines and Manana


M is for Mexico, Margaritas, Micheladas, Maps, Magazines and Manana (in no particular order)

I guess M is an easy one. 

Mexico is a big old DUH!  I mean, how could you not love everything about this massive country?   They give us margaritas (my favorite one in San Miguel de Allende was no joke and a little birdie even poo'ed by it); they provide us with the ever delicious Micheladas--the fantastic beer elixir which is never made the same any two places; and Manana..well, what can I say about this perfect little bookshop/cafe/kinda-bar/chill out spot on Isla Mujeres?  I could wile away YEARS at the counter---con cold Pacicifo, of course--watching the nutties who've made their way to Isla Mujeres go by.

And as for maps and magazines--well, what do you think the source of all inspiration is?  I mean, you gotta have maps galore just so you can plot out future journeys (I like the ancient looking ones myself). And, magazines...well all the food, travel, adventure and sailing magazines do tend to overwhelm me but I often find gem upon gem in it makes all the subscription costs (and shipping costs when I am out of town) totally worth it~~

And, if you are looking to firm up a MST perfect day---give me many maps and magazines with a margarita and a michelada back in Manana in Mexico...the glory of it all...could you imagine??





Bank-Rollin' on Chicagos Best Dives {From The Raving Dish}


Since November of last year, I've been on the road. Ever read Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck? Well, my adventure-filled trip was reminiscent of that book; throw in a few Mexican outlaws, some rowdy Muslim school kids, a solar-panel vintage travel trailer and a slew of blink-and-they-might-just-kImg_2566ill-ya locals in the Virgin Islands and you've got the gist of my journey. Winter's not my thing anymore, so I was off volunteering on a small island in Indonesia, checking out a beautiful sailboat perched in a small bay near St. John in the Caribbean, driving from Chicago all the way to the Eastern tip of Mexico (literally to the Belizean border), driving back from Mexico up to Los Angeles for a few months of work and finally, I pulled the long haul from the West Coast to the remote mountains of Tennessee to visit with my parents. It's been a glorious but really rough, road-weary ride.

Ahhhh, but now the time has finally come to head home to Chicago. It's just for a week (another month in Bali is coming up) but I can already taste the food—all that fantastic food that I only seem to find in the back woods of Mexico, the deep jungle of Indonesia or the dusty streets of Chicago.

Continue reading "Bank-Rollin' on Chicagos Best Dives {From The Raving Dish}" »

*L* is for Learn a New Language


L is for Learn a New Language (or Three)

I didn't realize how much Spanish I picked up during my couple of months on the road in Mexico--its not til I'm back in the US, trying to order some tamales at the farmers market, or listening to a book on tape that is set in Baja, or reading a novel that is peppered with random Spanish words that it just clicks---ahhhhh! I understand!   And, that is the most powerful feeling in the be able to get someone in a whole new language.

When I was in Africa, I picked up maybe 10 words, same with Indonesia.   But, they made all the difference in the world.  People just appreciate that you try to communicate with them in their native language and it's tragic because rarely do the myriad of immigrants working in the US get props for being bilingual.  Hell, how many Americans do you know that are fully bilingual?  Right-o.

So, now that I have the Spanish basics down--thanks to many afternoon bar sessions with in San Miguel de Allende and lots of Q & A with new pals on Isla Mujeres, when I roll back thru Central America, I want to stop in Nicaragua at La Mariposa Spanish School and seems to be the PERFECT place to hole up for a few weeks and dig really deep into more Spanish.   

When I say perfect, I mean for real.  Super cute little eco-hotel (8 rooms); 3 vegetarian meals included; very small classes; you can volunteer in the local community; lots of side trips if you want them....and all the food + room + 20 hours a week of Spanish is only $300/wk.  What a brill place.

That is the goal be rock solid in Spanish by the end of the year.  I love goals.  I love re-adjusting them.  I love striking them off the list.  I love coming up with whole new lists.   I love abandoning them all-together and having a beer instead...only to flip out and demand of myself a brand new list of fresh goals--and then, when I scratch them's always the SAME LIST!

*K* is for Keep a Sked


K is for Keep a Sked (Not)

My parents have the wackiest schedule.  They wake up 'round about 2 the news, check in online, pound a pot of coffee and putter around.  They kinda nap throughout the day and then hit the hay about sundown.  Being home makes me realize that I love this schedule.  I mean, who ever said you have to wake up at 6 am and go to bed at 11pm?  It's really your life, your sleep, your existence--especially when you are a freelancer like me! 

Hence the allure of floating away on a sailboat, crashing in the back of my cozy truck while on road trips, never really adjusting to local time when I travel a gazillion time zones away, watching a brilliant sunset when I can't remember the last time I looked up, taking mid-day naps in my little trailer and being home in with my parents in the mountains.  During all these circumstances, my life becomes mine again and for real...the road is just too short to keep a true schedule.

I shall attempt to avoid them at all costs in the future.


*J* is for Just Do It (Go Back to Old Haunts)


J is for Just Do It

All I can say is I'm going back to Bali in a little over a week.  Just need an extreme getaway after the madness of LA.  That's how plans/ideas/thoughts roll with me though.  I've managed to wear myself out looking at sailboats, trying to reorganize life (done nothing), driving to various Southern cities looking at potential homes (none clicked) and yesterday, before I went buckwild and jumped on a plane out to Taos to look at a very cool off-grid, solar home, I decided what was really in order--at this exact moment--was a much-needed trip back to Bali.   

Just wanna get healthy again, eat nasi campur, ride a moped, sweat in the humidity, swim in the rain, do some yoga, get a trillion $6 massages, see old pals, lay on the beach and maybe just maybe...come back refreshed and ready to tackle the long haul back thru Mexico and the rest of Central America.  One must prepare in the mind/body for long journeys like that...and with a bunch of frequent flier miles, looks like my 5k ticket is now $32 bones.  How can I not go with terms like that?

Sometimes you just gotta listen to your body...not the voices floating around in your head with the big to do list flowing.  Just go.  Quick like that.

*I* is for Isla Mujeres (Mexico)


I is for Isla Mujeres

Oh, let me name the reasons why.  And, this barely even tips the iceberg.

I love perusing the local grocery store, sharing a beer and some laughs with a stranger...all while grabbing peppers, tomatoes, etc...for the best recipe for ceviche ever (made by Deisy and Jorge, of course).

I love the impromptu downtown parades that happen out of nowhere--with boys in drag, mind you.  Gone before you can even finish your first beer.  But, loads of clapping, giggling and spying all the way around.

I love the never-ending view of the crashing surf--on the rocky side and the calm side.  At sunrise and sunset.

I love pouring my already cold beer over ice.  And, I especially love when my little pal Alex prepares me a primo Michelada--'round about noon.

I love being suntanned, smilin' and on a boat...about to go snorkeling with loads of colorful fishies.  Dreads in full ATTACK mode.

I love the view from "Abundance" at Casa Ixchel.  And, every other view from Casa Ixchel come to think about it.  I also love having an early AM drink with my bud Miguel, sittin' on a stoop, assessing life.

I love buying fresh seafood from someone's house (living room)--and the little hand-painted signs that show you what's on offer.  Then turning out some killer ceviche from it (again, thanks D and J).

I love pretty pink tupperware bowls full of random scraps--that somehow turns into the best soup ever slurped down.

Most of all, I love the all the sweet, sweet islanders and all their lovely ways.  Bonita, Bonita.










*H* is for Happy (and Home)


H is for Happy

I am currently a whole lot of both.  The job in LA just ended and I immediately packed up (took 2 seconds) and hit the road, driving cross country from LA...all the way home to the deep South.   Right before I left, I took a little trip down to Long Beach to check out a 32' sailboat for sale and lo and behold, I think I've found my new boat!   

I was dead delighted to be down on a classic looking sailboat, sippin' a few cold beers and yukking it up about travel, sailing, the world, adventures and life with the broker of the boat for sale.  I almost hurled him a wad of dough right then and there, but there is one more boat in San Carlos (Mexico) that I wanna check out before I plunk down some major dinero.  I guess the boating vibe never really goes away and for real, why not?

I also decided that LA isn't for me--full time.  Of course, I can work out there anytime, but to live there year-round is not in my blood (even though I felt differently a few months back).  Nope, I'm not sure where home is at this exact moment, I just know I've got a few weeks here in the mountains with my parents and then back to my place in Chi for June to sort out all of life.  Perfect month to be there. 

I do plan on hitting the road right after that...back south of the border...learn more Spanish, finish my Panama trip, check on my trailer in San Miguel de Allende, possibly buy a new (old) sailboat, continue my NGO research--just keep doing all that good, fun, this-is-what-life-is-all-about stuff.

OMG!  Just sooooooo happy!!!!!! 
Job over.  Life back.

*G* is for Gili's (Islands in Indonesia)


G is for Gili Islands

Just off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia (and Bali) is a small patch of islands.  They're referred to as the Gili's and people come from around the world to learn to dive at one of the PADI dive centers on the island.  The water surrounding Gili Trawangan in soft baby blue and you can see Mt. Rinjani (a volcano on Lombok) in the distance.  It's a lovely bunch of islands--rustic and hip all at the same time.  It's also about a trillion degrees every single day.

Really, I was sorta blow away by just how tiny Trawangan was.  You could walk around the entire island in no time and there were just a smattering of dirt roads and paths throughout.  The heat was absolutely ungodly and I'd originally gone there to learn to dive but once I got a taste of the stillness and the blistering heat, I decided the only thing for me to do was skip learning to dive and just have some good old drinks on the beach instead.  I just couldn't bear the idea of digging thru the SCUBA book and actually trying to learn something when I was more in need of pure relaxation.  (I am going to re-approach the diving again once I hit Honduras in a few months).  I mean, the heat in the Gili's was enough to just melt you down into a full coma the second you stepped outside.  I couldn't fathom tossing on some dive gear and lugging tanks all over the place.  No more rum drink, please!

It was pretty wild because some of the folks I met on Gili had never been off the island--not even to Lombok.  I guess when you live in paradise, why leave?  I will say, this island easily had some of the best snorkeling I've ever encountered (all you need are a bikini and snorkel gear for that treat) and once again, I grew even more addicted to my all time favorite Indo dish--nasi campur.  Plus, the smiles that the locals sport are big enough and genuine enough to move mountains.  And, they have nothing.  Nada. 








*F* is for Food (Street, Homemade & Pure)


F is for Food

Food is really the reason I travel.  Sure, I love everything about meeting new people, examining foreign cultures and traditions, and exploring hidden villages, but the usual reason that I'm so intent on hitting the road is for the food.  No way in the world would I trek somewhere that didn't have good food.  No matter how beautiful, how amazing, how incredible the place was.  It's just not what drives me.  The food--which is ultimately the history and soul of a country--is what propels me to hop on a plane or jump in my truck and GET THERE asap.

I usually start with the street food and slowly build my way up to tiny stalls, back-alley restaurants, beachside shacks and ultimately a homemade meal in a locals home.  Anything that doesn't cater to tourists is exactly what I'm looking for and it's most definitely where the best food can be found.   It's the stands, the stalls, the shacks, the rough-hewn firepits, the homemade BBQ grills and the coolers full of warm goodies that are turning out the best grub, bar none.

Everyone always tells me I must have a tummy made of steel.  And, I always laugh because I think the reason I never get sick is because I keep it simple.  I almost never eat the meat (sometimes the juice on rice or a few bites if it looks irresistible).  I eat often and with great voracity.  I stick to the most natural items I can find--those that are closest to the earth.  Rice, corn and lentils are usually in the mix somewhere (be it in Africa, Mexico, Indo, Spain, Greece, Italy, or Tanzania).  I usually spend most of my traveling dollars on food, but very little real dinero is needed when you eat at the kind of places I frequent.

All my travel memories can usually trace a very thin line back to a certain meal.  A freshly caught fish grilled at the beach and a sprinkling of stars. Maybe a stewpot full of bright red soup as a parting gift from a happy new friend.  Or a just-picked vegetables breakfast at a volunteer homestay in Indo.  For me, watching a old fella with rickety pullcart at the bottom of a busy hill somewhere in Indonesia prepare his fried goodies (with great pride and concentration) is deeper satisfaction that watching a master chef  prep food in his all teched out kitchen. 

Food is what makes the world go 'round. It's the one thing everyone on the face of the earth has in common. It breaks language barriers..and when given the proper care and attention, it's the most powerful force in the world.  Clearly I am obsessed with it~~










*E* is for Expat (Become One)


E is for Expat

In all my travels, no matter how far I go, I always run into at least one American that has uprooted their life from the USA and bolted.  Started over.  Moved to a totally foreign land and become an expat.  Even if it's just for 6 months out of the year.  They are just simply all over the place.

I mean, why would you live in the USA full time when you can live like a champ in the tropics of Indonesia for 1/5 of what you pay to live in some cookie-cutter suburb?   Why drop $15 on lunch every day when you can spend $2 on the best fish tacos you ever had in Baja?  Why drop $500 for a car payment when you can tool around back alleys in Greece on a $500 moped?

I've seen Expats doin' it every which way:  Living on the beach in Baja out of campers and tents, house-sitting in small villages dotting the coast of South Africa, holing up in tiny apartments in Spain overlooking the marina, relaxing on their postage-stamp size terrace on island villages in Greece sipping a cafe and attempting to learn the language, snatching up old villas in colonial Mexican cities and fixing them up, selling all their crapola and on a whim investing in 40' sailboats so they liveaboard and cruise the world.  The options never really end.  Some people just choose to live differently...and I still think one of the coolest places to drop out is down in Baja. 

Most people have only been either to Cabo, Rosarito, or Ensenada, but the very best of Baja can be found down on the magical Sea of Cortez. It's still so remote and untouched and if you are self-sufficient, you can live a rollicking good life for practically nothing.  It's all about the beach, the boats, the snorkeling, the kayaking, the fishing, the beer and the tacos.  Not much else. 

Mulege and Loreto are a couple of cool towns that have some amenities, some quirky expats and some excellent (and cheap) living options.  But, if I had to do it, I'd stay right in Bahia Concepcion in my little close to nature as possible.  I'd dive into some intense Spanish classes.  I'd eat fish every single day.  I'd remaster the art of a perfect margarita.  I'd read 'til my eyes crossed.  I'd explore dusty dirt roads that led to nowhere.  I'd snorkel with fishies and kayak from bay to bay, camping out each night. 

When you choose to live a little bit on the untraditional side of life, it's simply an investigation into what you are truly made of.  Why would you not want to challenge that part of your soul?