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September 2008

Meet the Expat: Gary in Bali


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.




Where I'd Be Right Now...


Although Louisville, Kentucky is a real cute town (I swear!), where I really want to be is right on the beach. I'd take Indonesia or Mexico in two seconds.  Soon enough, though...soon enough. 

We just sold out our Pilates Retreat down on Isla Mujeres in Mexico in January, which is crazy cool.  I guess I can't wait to SCUBA dive in extreme tropical water that looks just like the pool water in the above photo from Bali.  And have a beer at Manana.  And see all my old pals again.  And eat pozole.

In other breaking news, my dad has been working like mad on the boat for me, making all sorts of little upgrades so when I'm ready to sail her down the Ten Tom and down to Mexico, she's ready.  The biggest deal is the autopilot and the watermaker.  That = truly GONE material.  Who could have imagined I'd find my dream boat in my own backyard in Tennessee?  Go figure...

Additional notes from the mind:

1.  I seem to have forgotten Chi exists.  Except for the food.  The glorious, glorious food.  Not sure when I will be back there, for real.

2.  I could live in my truck.  It seems the smaller the space, the happier I am.

3.  I really, really gotta learn Spanish.  Why do I forget so easy?

4.  I guess I love LA again.  What a sordid love affair I have with that one.

5.  I never met a Chee-to I didn't like.  Will I ever have a piece of fruit, or perhaps a vegetable, again?

Just a few more months though...and the time is FLYING...

What Makes MST Tick~


So, Gaper's Block just did a cool little article on me and my wily ways.  It's very handy for those who might need a little inspiration...Enjoy~

An Interview with Misty Tosh

Misty Tosh, a 34 year-old filmmaker (and self-described hustler, schemer and dreamer) has made a life for herself on the road - maybe you'll find her in a vintage trailer that she remodeled herself, or in the sailboat she bought for a song, or helping babies with cleft palates in Indonesia, or chowing down on tamales in Rogers Park. Wherever she goes, she brings the same creativity to her lifestyle that she brings to her artmaking.

In a nutshell, what is Fatcake Productions and how did it get its start?

Fatcake is my production company that started out making TV shows and has now branched off into pilates/volunteering retreats, writing projects, etc. I basically just created the company because I knew I wanted to produce my own travel/adventure related shows and sell them -- much easier to do when you are an established company.

Do you think formal education, like grad school or a degree in an artform, is necessary to make it as a successful artist? Like, did you get an MFA or just jump into filmmaking DIY-style?

I have to be honest: I think it's a gigantic waste of time and money. I moved to LA from Tennessee when I was 20 years old -- dead broke, no contacts, no clue really. I had no education and literally moved into a youth hostel. Being the hustler I am, I just figured out a way to break into the industry (my first job was coordinating a TV show on Fox).
I say jump in 100%.

Example: I am doing a TV show right now in Kentucky for a huge production company and I just hired this kid (whose grandfather I just bought a sailboat from) who lives in Florida and has been dying to get in the industry. When I threw that nugget his way, he just straight up quit school to come and be a production assistant on the show for 10 weeks. He's like me: taking a brazen chance and just figuring that it will all work out. He will learn more on this show than 4 years of film school would ever teach him. And, that's the thing: you have to be a go-getter, be available, be fluid and ready to jump on anything that presents itself to you.

It's funny because now I speak at Northwestern and at Colombia, two great educational houses. This from a girl who never even considered college as something that would propel me into the lifestyle I wanted to create for myself.

You seem to use art as a jumping-off point for adventure, combining film/writing with things like pilates and eating good food into a viable career path. If this is true, you've totally made nine-to-fivers look like suckers. How'd you do it?

Like I said, I'm a hustler, a dreamer, a schemer. I learn as much as I can on real, paid projects and then I turn around and utilize those skills on my own projects. So in the end, it's like I get paid to learn. I've managed to combine my deep addiction to travel, to food, to adventure and off the beaten path places into a full on career -- one that I call the shots on.

And another thing that I never, ever do is this: I do not sweat it when I'm not working. I just hit the road and find inspiration there. I head deep into the belly of third world countries and live cheap. Like: last year, I bought a little vintage 14' trailer for $1,000 and rigged it out with solar panels and hit the road. I did 6,000 miles through all of Mexico and camped out in my trailer (and drank copious amounts of cervezas) and explored for three months -- totally alone.

The people I met, the organizations I volunteered with, the stories I came up with: they are all fuel for future projects. You have to have spirit and gumption for journeys like these and know that everything is one step closer to the next thing.

I'm also a master of manipulating circumstance for myself. Like: if something doesn't work out the way I want it to, I never fret. I just twist it into a new scenario that does work for me. It's by far my best skill.

Your life seems to involve a lot of travel. Where did this love of travel begin?

My mom joined the army when I was 10 years old and my family was immediately ripped from the mountains of Tennessee. She first built missiles in Germany and then became a career prison guard at Ft. Leavenworth, the most maximum-security prison you could imagine. I sorta didn't have the traditional upbringing, as you can imagine.

I went to a different school every single year and had to become extremely adept at befriending strangers, localizing myself and fitting in. All of that childhood "training" made me who I am today: someone who is totally unafraid to travel alone and also someone who sees people in very different ways than most. I never judge anyone -- from the lowest man on the totem pole to the top dog. I'm sure I was judged every time I showed up in the middle of the school year, and that feeling can be harsh and alienating. I never want to inflict that onto anyone. And of course, with travel, especially as a child, comes insight.

What's the latest news on your NGO, 4th World Love, and what inspired you to found it?

4th World Love is in the Phase 1 of its pilot project in Indonesia. We're opening an English school/community center on the small Muslim island of Lombok, just East of Bali.

Long story short: I've been to Indo a handful of times and it's one of my fave places in the world. Last year, I went there specifically to volunteer, and I had such a transitional experience (especially since I'd just come off a huge and hellish TV show) that I wanted to give back more, much more. I knew when I came home that I wanted to do something bigger than just volunteer. Something more long term.

I loved volunteering, but being the creator that I am, I thought that my skills are much better utilized as the full wheel, not just a spoke in the wheel. I brainstormed a bit and figured I could create my own NGO and get a little bigger with it all -- get volunteers excited, teach locals new life skills, get all locals into some long-term English classes, etc. And I knew that I could take this pilot template and literally transplant it to any third world community and have it stick. That's the goal anyway.

So when I am done with the current project I'm on, I'm heading back to Indo (along with Lisa Colangelo, my partner in crime for 4th World and at Fatcake) for a few months to start Phase 2, which is where I figure out how to turn over the community center to the locals. That's the toughie because you want it to run itself without you having to be there overseeing the day-to-day operations. It's all a learning experience though, and that is where I sort of excel. I just don't look at the downfalls in any capacity; for some reason they don't register with me. I totally throw caution to the wind and do it. It all works out somehow, you know? Do what feels right, what makes sense and it will all come together.
The web site will be up and running by the end of Sept.  It's Lots of intel on there, including how to donate, how to volunteer with us in Indo, and information on a big contest we're having to raise funds. Basically, if you donate $50, you are entered in a contest that offers the winner a full, all-expenses-paid 10-day trip to Indonesia to volunteer with us. The more $50 donations you make the better your chances are. The goal is to raise $10,000 (that is 200 people donating $50 each) -- shouldn't be too hard. It will be a life-changing experience for the winner, and all volunteers, really. We're setting it up right -- really focusing on what the volunteer gets out of it, as well as the locals.

We just sponsored five surgeries for little babies in the village who needed cleft palate surgery. Their parents, who make about $20 per month, would never have been able to afford the surgery, but with a bit of fundraising efforts on our end, we pulled together the dough and literally changed these kids' lives. You cannot beat that sort of fulfillment, I don't care what you do!

Little things like this are the goal.  Our motto is all about supporting community development through grassroots projects.

What're your three proudest moments, of late?

First, definitely the surgeries for the babies. (One of the families was so poor that when they were picked up to be taken to the hospital, they brought all the money that they had, which was 1,000 rupiah -- that's the equivalent of 10 cents.) To go back and see the joy on their faces after the surgeries was priceless.

Second, when I sold my TV show (Craving Adventure) to the Travel Channel. Me and a few pals (via Fatcake) basically went to Mexico, shot a demo tape of a foodie adventure-style program, and then I worked my butt off learning to edit on Final Cut Pro (again self-taught and not relying on anyone). We sold that idea to the Travel Channel, and it turned into a special that they continue to air. It was awesome for me, because I basically created the show, hosted it, directed it, wrote it and produced it all based on a little idea about budget travel and food in exotic places. We shot the episode that aired in Nicaragua. It was pretty cool because when I signed my contract, Discovery Channel said it was the first time in the history of their network that they'd allowed an on-air talent to direct, host, write and produce a show. I'd made history at Discovery Channel. Not many people can say that.

Third, buying my new sailboat is a biggie for me. I've always had the idea of my dream boat -- an old-school pirate ship of a boat -- and I just happened across the boat of my dreams about a month ago (this is my third boat). Serendipity stepped in, and it all worked out, and I am now the proud owner of a Chung Hwa 36, which I plan on sailing to Central America this spring and using as a home base as much as I can. As long as I have wi-fi, I'm all good. I'm pretty much a flight away from any job.

How do you simplify your life and stay sane with so much creative work going on?

I live really lean and mean.  For real. 

I do keep a thousand projects going at once, but I make sure that I can handle them all -- and the way to guarantee that is to make sure that I do projects I'm passionate about. Things that I don't mind researching, and staying up all night obsessing about, like: how to rig a sailboat with solar panels; how to start an NGO; fundraising ideas; new TV show ideas to explore; articles to pitch about things that interest me; etc.).

I live pretty cheaply too -- like, I bought a condo in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Chicago (East Rogers Park) instead of getting myself all wrapped up in a huge mortgage. I drive a really rugged 10-year-old truck that I know I can haul through the mountains of Mexico with a trailer strapped on the back of it, instead of traipsing around in some ritzy car. It's all about making concessions and prioritizing things. I'd rather not work for six months and explore Central America than work all the time and live the supposed "large" life that most people seem to think is the right way to live. That sort of life -- one of all consumerism -- makes no sense to me.

Can you give some advice to creative people looking to make a living off their artmaking?

I know it's been said a trillion times, but you just have to do it. There is absolutely no reason not to. Trust me, if you're thinking about it, dreaming it up, wishing for it, etc., then you better believe someone else is conjuring up the same scheme. It's all a matter of who gets there first.

And, no matter what, do not make money the priority. If you do, it might never come. Just fill your head and heart with things you are passionate about and the details will work themselves out. So will the dinero.

Follow the further adventures of Misty Tosh on her blog at, or find out more about her production company at

And, Then One Day You Are Ready


Every day you work. Every day you dream.  Every day you imagine a whole other life. It might have little bits and pieces of your current existence in there, but most likely, it's a full revamp of your ongoing situation.

For me, as busy as I am at this moment, I wake up and go to sleep thinking about Mexico, the beach and a nice brown suntan.  It's like suddenly, one day, you are just ready to move.  Full on OUTTA here.  I guess that's when all good stuff happens in life -- it's when you just don't over think it, you just just figure out a way to do it.

Not that anything is wrong with Chi (but I've spent about 2 months there in the past year), and not that anything is wrong with LA (I do like to work there)...but when I have a minute to breath and a stint of downtime, I guess I just want to snorkel, dive, and be tan the rest of my years.

And, that is some simple living.  I got the trailer in Mexico, the boat about to be in Central America and the freelance lifestyle to do just that.  Don't over think, just do. 

Bye By LA; Bye Bye Chi


Ok, so I guess sunny old Los Angeles has worked its way back into my system. I've eaten juicy ropa vieja at a cute little Cuban joint in El Segundo. I've scarfed some tasty Persian over by UCLA.  I've killed a platter of fish tacos in a dive in Santa Monica.  Somehow on this jaunt out, I've found all the good stuff.

And, here's what's jacked.  I flew back in to Chicago yesterday to grab my truck so I could have my wheels down on this shoot in Kentucky and guess what.  My beloved city seemed so dang grubby. Literally, when I was hauling out of town in MAD, MAD rush hour traffic, I just could not stop thinking about the beach, about Mexico, about Baja and about all the glorious things in life that you usually escape from reality to discover. 

Sars to letcha know, I wanna do all that good stuff in my downtime.  No more let me get thru life in the city these next few months.  It's all about blissful DOWN TIME.  And, that about to be taking place in somewhere REAL, REAL tropical.

You know what I'm sayin?


Santino's on the West Side of LA = The Perfect Little Bar


I can't believe I'm leaving LA already.  Just when I've found all sorts of amazing places to hang out--places that aren't your typical LA places--I'm back on the road. 

Tomorrow, I'm outta LA, headed south to Kentucky to film this TV show I'm working on.  Much as I'm loving hanging out at Santino's (the coolest little tapas joint on Lincoln in Santa Monica)'s time to hit the road.  I love movement.  The idea of living in a hotel for a few months is actually not that bad.  And, for real, Louisville is the most adorable town ever.  I never knew it was so hip, so chill, so cool.

I'll be back to LA in December to wrap this show, so I'll have plenty of time to explore the menu again at Santino's.  Check out those chick peas, though. So delish.

More updates soon on the evolution of 4th World Love.  Stay tuned...




Pozole Perfection {From The Raving Dish}


A mere six months ago, I was in sun-kissed Mexico and I couldn't sleep. It wasn't because I wasn't tired; oh no, I was dead exhausted. It was stroking in on 5 a.m. and I was wide awake because I'd been on the beach drinking rum since sunset. The time had come to either satisfy the voracious munchies or to cut my losses and hit the hay. I chose to eat. But what could I possibly find on a tiny tropical island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula before sunup on a Sunday morning? I woke my pal Lisa up from her deep, unsuspecting slumber and we decided to find out.

We drove a dozen crazy loops around the five-mile-long island, and finally stumbled across a 24-hour market. We succumbed to an old stand-by: a can of cheese Pringles. We were almost back to our hotel when I remembered a two-table restaurant that I'd eaten at earlier in the week. I'd noticed a hand-scratched sign that simply read, "Pozole Sunday Only." On the off chance that some nana would be slinging up some hominy stew before the crack of dawn, Lisa and I plowed by in my truck (yes, I'd driven to Mexico from Chicago) and were met with a glorious sight to behold. A bona-fide grandma was standing in a scrap of a kitchen lovingly stirring up a cauldron of homemade pozole; it was game on. Nothing like island spice to settle a Cuban rum-filled belly.




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The Boat Name--Change of Plans...


Yah, the boat.  I have one word:  blessed.  Dude, this little vessel is gonna take me straight up around the world.  I will have to get into all the nitty gritty details once I get to spend more time on her (after the job I'm on right now ends in January)...but I do know that she's pretty dang killer.  Totally takes my breath away.  My dad's working on her a bit right now, ironing out all the boat-y kinks that always attack you no matter what good of shape the boat is in...and she will be sitting pretty somewhere down South til I'm ready to bust on down the Ten Tom this spring. 

In the meantime, I'm making list after list after list of little things that I might need.  Somehow, I've already phased out the good old USA.  Between an old school pirate sailboat and a itty-bitty vintage trailer--both over 30 years old each--I think I'm covered on the south of the border homefront. 

And, check this out--the current name is Enola and of course, I was going to change it.  I was like, what does that even mean??  Then, it came to my attention that ENOLA is ALONE backwards.  You couldn't have dreamt up a better name for me.  I guess I gotta keep it!

The Seeds of 4th World Love...


Imagine a couple of stalks of just picked sweet corn, a sweeping view of the fog shrouded mountains, a crude fire that took just seconds to build, a freshly swept bale, a handful of the community leaders, and ME.  Now mix them all together and throw in some combat Sasak with a teeny bit of English.  Top if off with a few ideas of how to make a village prosper and you've got get together #1 regarding 4th World Love's presence in Indonesia. 

This, my friends, was the makings of an impromptu meeting of the minds in my fave village in Lombok where my new NGO is opening a community center & English school as we speak.  Hard to believe that our wildly energetic (and sometimes confusing) convo from a few months ago is now coming into fruition. 

It was so funny, here I am ready to unleash all the brain power in the world on these simple folks and they're grilling corn up for everyone to enjoy first.  I mean, I'm literally on edge, prepared to get the full Q & A from these guys (my friends) and they are just simply gape-jawed that I would even care enough to come back for a visit, much less help start a friggin' community center that benefits their entire village. 

So, as we chowed on some grilled corn, we spoke about ideas...ways to help the village.  Small things like ongoing English classes, promoting tourism, how to build websites, import/export trails, potential retreats, scholarships, etc...all things that are so easy for me and you to conjure up practically in our sleep.  For them, though, it was all a very distant dream.  Now, it's suddenly a reality. 

It's good to be a traveler.  To see deep within a community, make friends with the locals, and really, to just help out in the most innocent way I know how.  By going back.





Into the Belly of Baja: The Ultimate 72-hour Road Trip


Just had a new piece published over at Matador--one of my fave sites of all time.  If you want the 101 on Baja, keep on reading!  The awesome map is from Erik over at Notes From the Road, another killer travel site.  Read on, mst

Here’s a simple guide to rockin’ Baja over a long three-day weekend. All you need is a thirst for adventure, insider tips and a set of wheels.

1. Buy ticket. Get car. Cross border.
The best city to fly into for your Baja expedition is San Diego. Flights are cheap from most destinations and the airport is user friendly. Shuttles over to the rental car area are short and sweet and the only thing you have to remember is to purchase Mexican car insurance. Any rental vehicle will do; just get something easy on the gas and light on the pocket.

[Editor’s Note: Some US rental car companies in San Diego do not permit cars to be driven across the border. Check with your rental car company before driving south.]

Crossing the Mexican border is cake. You don’t slow down, you don’t stop, and rarely do you hit a tangle of traffic going south (it’s the northbound traffic that kills).

San Diego is just a few miles north of Tijuana, so once you get on Highway 5, expect to haul ass across the border in less than 20 minutes. Follow the easy-to-spot signs for the toll road (Highway 1-D) and attempt to keep up with the faster-than-lightning speed of other cars. Careful the slick cops, though; they patrol this trail non-stop, on the hunt for heavy-footed travelers on a southbound mission.

Insider Tip: Once you leave the tourist pockets of northern Baja, make sure you fill up on gas any time you see a Pemex station. You’re heading into the lawless (and gas-stationless) interior of Baja and running out of gas is common for those who think they can “just make it.”

2. Ogle view. Gorge on crab claws. Do tequila shooters.
Heading out of Tijuana, your jaw will literally drop at the view of the mighty Pacific crashing into the cliffs. Sweeping mountain ranges bleed into tidy vineyards and giant foaming waves keep you company all the way to Ensenada (69 miles south of Tijuana).

The toll road ends in this touristy seaside city, so start making tracks on the old Transpeninsular Highway, better known as Highway 1. This 1000 mile, two-lane road takes you all the way to the Sea of Cortez, and getting lost is next to impossible.

Tucked away in the dusty valley of San Quintin is a backwoods foodie favorite called Cielito Lindo. This local beachfront institution always has massive cracked crab claws on offer. The place is loaded with weather-beaten old-timers, all of them one shot away from hitting the floor.

After you order up a platter of buttery, paprika doused claws and an icy cold cerveza, watch the madness unfold at the bar.

While you slurp a gratis bowl of smoky black bean soup, the regulars—mostly folks who live in the trailer park behind the restaurant or are beach camping for cheap at Gypsy’s—will belt out impromptu songs about lost love and, most likely, offer to buy you a beer.

Have one on them before exploring the six protected bays of San Quintin and her miles of empty beaches.

Your goal is to make El Rosario around sundown (an hour south of San Quintin), because driving after dark on the no-streetlight-no-side-railing Highway 1 is enough to make your skin crawl.

Plus, the Baja Cactus Motel, a dandy little treasure in this middle-of-nowhere pit-stop, has the most comfy beds this side of Guerrero.

Mama Espinosa’s, the historical late-night cantina next door, is a must-see. This old-school haunt has the fattest lobster burritos in Baja and who doesn’t need a shot of tequila after the harrowing drive into the barren bowels of inland Baja. Make that two shots, extra lime.

Insider Tip: Ensenada has dozens of Baja fish taco stands around town and the best ones are found alongside the marina. A few bones gets you a crispy fried fish taco and a frosty beer. Breakfast of champions.



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