The Mighty Caribbean--Where to Go?

Dscf0348Right now I am in the midst of planning a trip to the Caribbean.  A really good friend of mine wants to take a trip and basically told me I can pick anywhere--as long as he hasn't been there before and  there is mad sunshine, good food and many cocktails.  My mind flitted over a dozen exotic locations around the world, but I am trying to narrow my search down to a very short flight (the 33 hours to Bali was a bit much).  So, I've been researching islands in the Caribbean (he's been to most of S. and Central America) and am having the most difficult time settling on an island.  Mostly because no hotel/resort that I come across compares to Uma (pool, pictured right) in Bali.  This was one of the most delicious places I have ever stayed and now, nothing seems to feel right--except there; so simple and beautiful and uncluttered.  Seems like everything I am coming across in the Carib is so busy...too much going on in the spaces.  And, jeez....there are so many islands to choose from, it's hard to know which one won't have mega-resorts, jaded tourists and all that jazz.  Stay tuned, though...I might pull a full flip out and get us to Vietnam--which is where I want to head, but seriously, that flight---I just don't know that I can rock it again in a few weeks--it took me almost a week to get over my jetlag.  Back to my research~it's a good problem to have, no?  And, by the way...I am leaning toward St. Lucia and/or Dominica.  I just really love mountains.

Kopi Cafe and A Trip to Bali


There is always mad research to do when devising an upcoming trip itinerary. It’s such an exciting process, from the actual decision of the location (I usually go for the tropical and exotic) to the purchase of the ticket (thank God for frequent flyer miles) to the extensive emailing (setting up hotel arrangements and such). I love it all and there is no better place in the city to get globally inspired than Kopi Café. This Indonesian-influenced (but completely worldly) café is one of the warmest, brightest spots in Chicago to just chill and grab a cup of African tea or a slurp down a piping hot cup of fair-trade coffee (Kopi is Indonesian for coffee).

I try to make my way up to Andersonville as much as I can if only to sit a spell and dig through their library of travel tombs, phrase books and guide books for sale. It’s so easy to conjure up my next adventure via their dusty bookshelves and a vegan peanut butter chocolate bar, and I especially adore watching a bubbly troupe of globetrotters plow in from their latest trip (leather-bound journal in tow) and deconstruct their adventures to anyone who will listen (the wait staff is always delighted to hear about your journeys, as well as receive a post card from you from the road).

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Bali, Indonesia and a Little Tomb Called: eat, pray, love

Eatpraylovegilbertcover_4Leave it up to a good book to propel my next adventure.  I just finished reading this witty tale of a 32-year-old chica who had an internal crisis, got a divorce, sold everything and hit the road.  To quickly sum it up, she based the book around three very important words:  eat, pray, love.  She spent four months in three different countries around the world (Italy to eat, India to pray and Indonesia to love) and of course, totally changed her life.  It's one of the best books I've read in some time--she's just got a terrific way with free-flow writing and summarizing up thoughts in a very true and eloquent style.  Anyway, it was the Bali chapters that prompted me to book my flight to this magical little island in the Indian Ocean.  I'm going to head there for a couple weeks at the end of March and hell, do all three of those things (eat, pray, love).  My plan is to rent a little jeep and traipse the Eastern Coast of the island as well as head over to the even more remote island of Lombok for a spell.  Maybe go to the smallest of the Gili Islands, as well.  Indonesian food is some of the best in the world and I've never been to this part of the globe, so it's very exciting times, researching all this madness.  Bali is hyper-cheap, too...imagine a little hut on the beach for a couple of bucks...that's what everyone needs after a hellacious Chicago winter.  I don't really plan too much when it comes to travel--really, you just gotta get on the plane and go.  I will report back, of course.  Yep, this is just a damn good book....

Headed Home to the Mountain

Dscf2813The mountain I live on in TN is one of my favorite locations in the world; not only because most of my family is there, but because I love hiking up and down her as much as I can.  This view is from my favorite point on the the way down the mountain (trust me, you think you are in shape 'til you traipse up and down this thing--when I get back to the top, I'm dyin'--I guess this is what one would call 'real exercise') and every time I'm home, I bust out this trail (it's really part of the whole Appalachian Trail, which I would love to hike someday).  On the way down, there are majestic waterfalls, swinging bridges, lazy dams, roaring creeks, rock climbing, and my favorite: rock jumping.  I try to run down the trail and jump from rock to rock (you can only do this at certain points in the trail) without my feet touching the ground (yeah, I always hit the ground at least once).  My mom used to take us here all the time as kids and I feel like me and my brother were placed on some sort of wet garbage bag and hurled down a trail of leaves at 100 was what my mom called, "play."  It's a wonder we didn't fly off the side of the mountain, you know? No trip home (where I am headed very soon) would be complete without me skipping through those leaves and attempting to conquer the mountain.

Tracking Expats in the Wilds of Baja

Baja2_5This tiny little slice of heaven is situated along the Sea of Cortez in the rugged wilds of Baja, Mexico.  Adventurous expats (some refer to themselves Snowbirds), load up a moho, stuff it with their gear and head down here for the winter.  They start small.  A rugged jeep perhaps.  Then they graduate to a moho.  Maybe, after a bit, they build a tiny palapa off the side of the motorhome.  Eventually, they buy a cheap piece of land (preferably on the water...I've seen land go from 5k-25k) and then do the same thing all over again.
They build a small home, start a business (kayak expeditions, charming cafes, language, yoga or sailing classes, art schools, etc...) and live in paradise for close to nothing.  Where do I sign up????
Their wild and crazy stories are the premise ot a new TV show my company, fatcake productions, is producing in a few weeks.  Stay tuned for dispatches.