New Years traditions and what the color of your underwear says about the year ahead

And just like that, Christmas and Hanukkah 2018 are in the rearview. Kwanzaa celebrations end on January 1. I hope you all made it through okay. This time of year can be difficult for some folks and we still have New Years Eve to contend with. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. We’ve changed the way we interact with them and its worked wonderfully.

When we lived aboard, Melody and I didn’t exchange big gifts. We kept is very simple. We had tiny stockings pinned to the mast. If we were to get each other a gift, it had to fit in the stocking. Now that we no longer have a mast we celebrate by doing something together. Having an experience.

This year, we got tattoos as a remembrance of our time in Mexico. Nothing says love like a needle full of black ink. We also bought a small piece of art. We pondered the decision heavily, but in the end… we pulled the trigger. It’s a skull. Yeah, a skull. But, a skull done by the famous Castillo family. They do several, but in this collection, there are four. Each skull represents one of the four elements, earth, fire, wind, and water. Ours is packed, ready for transit home so I can’t post the actual photo, but below is an example of a Castillo skull.

Man, I swung way wide on that. Let me gather it in by saying, we keep Christmas very simple and low key. As for New Years? I’m not a fan. Never have been. Maybe it’s the pressure associated with such bench mark evenings or maybe it’s the fireworks. I loathe fireworks. Shocking. I know. How can any red-blooded American not like fireworks? Simple, just lump them in with drunk girl crying in bare, stocking feet at 2 am. Toss in drunk, likes-to-fight-guy and you have everything I hate about New Years.

For more years than I care to remember, at the stroke of midnight, I’ve either been at home, hiding with the dog or at a very low-key gathering with a small group of friends. Rarely (if ever) have I dressed up and gone to a glitzy gala type party. I know, shocker number 2.

No matter how we choose to ring in the new year, I think we can at least agree on the sentiments; a fresh start, positive vibes, kindness, prosperity, joy, and more love. Some will make resolutions. A plan- to workout more and eat less. Quit smoking. We promise to be more patient with others and kinder to ourselves. However you go about your New Years calisthenics, I wish you success.

As we approach the big night here in Guanajuato, Mexico I learned about some of the ways Mexicans ring in the new year along with a few traditions they practice in an attempt to bring luck and prosperity.

Back home in the states, my southern friends will chomp down black-eye peas on New Years day. Some of my Italian family and friends will eat sausages and green lentils (cotechino con lenticchie) at the stroke of midnight.

Here in Mexico, they have some pretty interesting ways to increase their odds for good fortune, love, and luck in the new year as well.

Underwear: I start with this one only because Italians have a similar tradition. In Italy, men and women wear red underwear to attract more passion. Here in Mexico, It’s mostly the women who observe this ritual, but a lot of those women choose yellow instead of red for luck and prosperity.

Sweeping: On New Years Day you are to sweep all the rooms of your home, the front steps, and the street in front of your house to remove all traces of the past year. Some people place “gold” coins on the ground and literally sweep them into the house to bring prosperity and abundance in the coming year.

A Burning: On a piece of paper, write down any bad habits or memories from the previous year that you’d like to get rid of and burn the paper. Once they turn to ash, you still have to follow through to make it reality.

Three Rocks: Find 3 stones. One represents money, one for health, and one for love. Put them somewhere you will see them every day. This serves as a gentle reminder for the coming year. I like this one.

Twelve Grapes: The 12 grapes symbolize the 12 months in a year. At the stroke of midnight, eat one grape at each toll of the bell. Make one wish for each grape. I’m told, even the fanciest restaurants include grapes with the New Years Eve plates. I think it’s much the token glass of bubbly we all receive in the states when we do the all-inclusive type dining celebrations.

Spoonful of Cooked Lentils: It seems that lentils are the universal good luck charm. While my southern pals enjoy their black-eyed peas, In other cultures like here in Mexico and in Italy, a spoonful of lentils is given to arriving guests to bring prosperity and good fortune.

So there you have it. Six pretty cool traditions that add a new twist to an old celebration. Which one do you like best? Do you see yourself adapting any of these into your New Years celebration? Personally, I like the rocks and the grapes.

However you ring in the new year, please be safe. Our crew wants to wish your crew a happy and prosperous new year. We wish you joy and peace. Most of all, we wish you love.

Thanks for a great year! We’re excited for what’s ahead.

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Tiny Living on a Sailboat

tiny living on a sailboat

I hope you’re having a great holiday season — I can’t believe 2018 is almost over!

I just wanted to make a quick post to let you know that I’ve been featured on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast with Ethan Waldman.

The episode is called Tiny Lifestyle on the Water.

In our interview, we talked about:

  • Why it’s so hard to downsize and how to make it easier
  • The realities of living on a sailboat
  • How much it costs to live on a boat
  • What steps you should take if you’re thinking about moving onto a sailboat

I also share my 3 recommended resources if you’re thinking of living tiny on a boat.

I hope you give it a listen and enjoy the show!

Have a Happy New Year!
Chris

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The residue of kindness

The holidays are upon us. And, for the crew of Vacilando, it’s the second year in a row that we’ll be celebrating Christmas and New Years outside the United States. Last year we were in Antigua, Guatemala. This year, we’re in the vibrant city of Guanajuato, Mexico. The high elevation (6800 ft.) means crisp, chilly mornings and temperate sunny days.

In full regalia, the street lights drip with gold and silver garland. Two-stories-tall Christmas trees can be seen in small, cobblestoned plazas or in front of the many churches that dot this historically conservative Catholic town. In fact, this city is so conservative that in 2009 the mayor passed a law proposing jail time for public kissing and for using ‘slang’ on city streets.

However, you can steal a an “illegal” kiss in the Callejon del Besso (Alley of the Kiss). Legend has it that kissing on the third step (yes, only the third step) of this alley will bring 7 years of good luck. Kiss on any other step and you invite 7 years of bad luck. “Why chance it,” I say.

Guanajuato is home to Miguel de Cervantes, commonly referred to as one of the greatest Spanish writers of all time. His most famous work, Don Quixote, has been translated into over 140 languages and dialects. It is, after the Bible, the most translated work in history.

Guanajuato’s other famous (and controversial) resident was famed painter, Diego Rivera. Perhaps more famous for his marriage to another controversial Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, Rivera’s childhood home was refurbished and turned into a museum. While it doesn’t house any of the later, larger Rivera paintings, it does contain many of his early works that many people may not be aware of. Personally, I had no idea he dabbled in cubism and experimented with styles that mimicked the French painter, Paul Cézanne.

This will be the last city we spend any significant time in before heading back to the states in January. Being here at Christmas time is something I’ll always treasure. But, it comes with a twinge of melancholy because usually, Christmas is a time when we gather with family and friends. Our family and friends are far away. I felt the distance last year and I feel it again this year. There is a bit of longing for laying on the rug in front of a warm fireplace. A glass of wine, and a holiday meal with people who know who you are.

Mexicans are deeply devoted to their families. On most Sundays, parks are full of families hanging out enjoying the day. Here in the little neighborhood we’re currently in, the holidays bring with them the evening Posada ceremony, something I had not heard of until we arrived here to Guanajuato.

While most cultures around the world celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, here in Mexico they celebrate the nine days from December 16th to Christmas Eve (Noche Buena or Holy Night). These nine days commemorate the pilgrimage made by Joseph and Mary in search of a room. The Spanish word for “Inn” is Posada.

Each night, a different family hosts a posada in their home. Doors are left open to welcome pilgrims and along with singing, traditional food, and prayer, simple gifts are given to everyone who comes. The evening usually ends with the local children taking whacks at a piñata while adults supervise on the sidelines.

Earlier this week, Melody and I were invited by the woman who owns our Airbnb. We were excited and nervous. We didn’t want to infringe on what seemed to be a very personal tradition. At dusk, we joined a small group of about 20 neighbors on the basketball court below our apartment. I guess they do it this way because houses are so small here. Mel and I hung way back in the shadows. We tried to blend into the stone wall as best we could. We only meant to observe and then quietly retreat.

Each person held a small, white candle that softly illuminated their faces. A nativity scene was perched atop an adjacent knee wall. There was singing and storytelling. While we didn’t understand all of the words, we understood completely the sentiments. After about 20 minutes, everyone began to line up and a woman handed out two small, brown paper bags to each person in line. This was the point where we tried gracefully to make our exit.

From nowhere, a woman made a bee-line for us and grabbed Melody by the arm. She invited us to get in line. “No gracias! Tu’ eres muy amable.” We explained we were just there to watch. We didn’t expect a gift. We didn’t bring a gift. She persisted. We got in line.

We were embarrassed to be made the center of attention, but we smiled and graciously accepted two paper bags, each one the size of a lunch bag I remember from grade school. One bag contained a few tangerines, a lime, an orange, and one other sort of citrus fruit local to the area. The second bag was full of candy, dark chocolates, and sweet marshmallows.

After the gift exchange, Karla (our new friend and host) insisted we stay for a cup of warm ponche, a tea made from guava and cinnamon. Floating in the tea is a mixture of raisins, tamarind, walnuts, and hibiscus flowers. I tried to excuse myself to run back to the apartment for our cups, but I was told not to bother. They had mugs for us. Karla then introduced us to her family and many of the other neighbors. While we continued to get to know everyone, the piñata was hung and the children boiled over in an excitement, fueled by candy, marshmallows, and ponche.

There was more singing and conversations articulated with hand gestures (they never work). We learned that the seven points on the piñata represent the 7 deadly sins. The sinner strikes the piñata in an attempt to bash those sins. Once those sins are sufficiently battered, the sinner is rewarded with the piñata spilling out it’s contents. More candy! When it was all over, we helped pick up trash and remnants of paper-mâché. We were sent off with hugs and kisses. What a night.

During the Posada, the host acts as the inn keeper. The guest are the pilgrims. It dawned on me then, that Melody and I were those pilgrims. We dropped in on these people and they opened their arms and received us. They bestowed simple gifts upon complete strangers. They offered us a warm drink on a cold night. They extended their family and their tradition. They included us.

Along with that bag of tangerines, Mel and I received a gift that will stay with us forever, the residue of kindness. I became educated. I learned about the Posada. Learned the significance of the 7 points on a piñata. And, I learned that a warm cup of ponche on a cold basketball court goes a long way in staving off the ghosts of Christmas.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you feel loved. I hope you have a warm meal and a soft place to lay your head. My heart breaks for those that don’t.

Think about the ones who are less fortunate as you move through the traffic of life. The simplest gestures have the greatest and longest lasting effect. You can be anything in this world. Why not be kind.

Merry Christmas & happy holidays to all of you. We wish you love, luck, and happiness in the coming year. Thank you so much for being a part of our journey all these years.

Much love,

Chris, Mel, and Jet

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News Flash! I am no Ashton Kutcher.


Hi everyone!

As you know, we’ve been living and traveling through Latin America since we sold V in September of 2017. It’s been an incredible experience, and one that we never imagined would have continued for this long. Initially when we sold the boat, the plan was to spend a few short weeks in Antiqua, Guatemala while we hatched a plan to get back to the states.

This many months later, the experience continues and it’s been both challenging and rewarding. Recently, after a lot of soul searching, Mel and I made the decision to return to the states after the first of the year. We’ve been away from family and friends for almost two years and it’s time to reconnect and spend some quality time. Even though we’ve made the decision, the plan seems to change. From minute to minute; day to day.

It plays out something like this. “Okay, we’re going back and it’s going to be so fun to see everyone again!” Then, over coffee the next morning; “Wow, it’s going to be so expensive. We’ll have to sign a lease. We have no furniture. Maybe this isn’t the best idea.” Now, I don’t know if you experience this sort of wavering on a regular basis, but second guessing is not fun. We flip-flop so often, we could run for office.

“We’re in! Oh, wait. I’m sorry… we’re not in.

“Yeah, let’s buy another boat! Another boat? That’s a terrible idea.”

It’s in these moments where I begin to spin like a small dust storm. One that picks up small farm animals and deposits them on top of a Walmart miles away. I start looking at every option available that might keep us from becoming snared in the normal life trap that we worked so hard to escape from in 2o12. And, when I say every option, I mean EVERY option.

I could totally live in this little beauty, but I think I’d be doing it as a single man.

By now I don’t have to tell you that I’m a huge fan of tiny houses. I love everything about them. First, it’s tiny and I’m all about small spaces. Cozy, well-lit spaces are calming to me. I also like the challenges that small spaces present. One must be concise and a master of efficient design to make it both comfortable and functional. Most tiny houses are mobile. After living on a sailboat for six years, I cannot imagine being stuck in one place for long periods of time. The ability to move a house that was specifically designed for the way we live is absolutely mind blowing to me.

Just one of many great designs driving the tiny house movement

Of course that’s also a big downside to owning a tiny house. Where do you park it and what do you pull it with? That’s the big one for Mel. The constant worry about having to move our house would become a stress that would offset the benefits. Yes, there are tiny house communities springing up all over America, but a lot of them are incredibly expensive. I mean, what’s the difference in paying $1000.00 a month in rent or paying the same to park on someone else’s property? The out-go is the same.

Once we realized the tiny house wasn’t an option at this time, we revisited the idea of another sailboat. It’s a life we know well and one we absolutely love. The freedom and simplicity are huge pluses for us. But the reason we moved off the boat was Jet’s health, which has actually gotten worse. Getting on another boat, even if we weren’t actively cruising, would be putting him back into a difficult environment. Add to this the fact that we don’t have the budget to buy the boat we truly want and it becomes evident that we’d be making a lateral move.

Honey… I got a great deal. We can park it on the dinghy dock!

I think upon reading this, Melody will discover for the first time that I’ve looked into purchasing a yurt. Yep, I said it. A yurt. There are several on Craigslist or (my personal favorite) one of these babies. Now, before you go all half-cocked; they are strong, simple – utilitarian structures that can be as luxurious or as spartan as you want. They are affordable and easy to move. How can anyone argue against a dwelling that’s been time tested by nomadic Mongolians for thousands of years?

3000 years of R & D

If you plan to leave your yurt for an extended period of time (like say to go cruising on a sailboat- ahem), a twenty-foot yurt can be packed into a van and stored in a very small space. When you return to chill for hurricane season, it can be set up in less than an afternoon. That is awesome! BUT- there’s always a but- where does one put their yurt? Do I want to set it up in my mom’s back yard? Nope. Alas… no yurt.

This ain’t your mama’s yurt!

How about a converted school bus? Ashton Kutcher lived in a converted bus. Mel said, “You’re not Ashton Kutcher.” RV? Too expensive. Mobile home? Um, those things are anything but mobile, not to mention tornado magnets.

Okay… so Ashton’s “bus” is a stretch. Btw A.K., this could fit way more than 2 1/2 Men.

So where does that leave us? The answer is, I’m not sure. Our time in Oaxaca comes to an end in few weeks when we’ll be schlepping our little gypsy caravan eleven hours north to the city of Guanajuato. What’s there you ask? We don’t know yet. We’ll be spending Christmas and New Years in a fresh city. We’ll count our blessings and make a plan. And, like every plan we’ve made thus far, it’ll change.

If you’re living the minimal life, chime and let us know how you’ve been successful. We love hearing about how others have paired down and solved their homesteading issue. Living minimally is something we are hugely passionate about. While we aren’t extreme to the point of living in vans or tents (we still love some creature comforts), we believe in living on less, consuming less, and experiencing more. Tell us how you guys have met some of these challenges.

Until next time, take care Vacilando Crew! Remember… Be Nice & Do Good!

 

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Sometimes You Have to Disconnect to Reconnect

We’ve all done it at one time or another, ignored something that we knew was going to be a source of stress or discomfort. No, it’s not the most adult way to handle it I agree, but it happens and I’m guilty. I’ve been ignoring my blog. This blog. It’s nothing personal mind you, it’s just that I haven’t felt great about my writing lately. I’ve been struggling to find a voice now that we’re not sailing and quite frankly, posts like my last one about sleeping in airports have left me uninspired. I can only imagine what you felt having to read it.

This blog has been tapping me on the shoulder for the last couple of months; whispering in my ear, “Christopher, you need to write a post or people are going to stop reading. They’re going to lose interest and your analytics are going to drop.”

I understand completely. I am well aware that when I don’t post on a regular basis our Google analytics drop drastically, book sales falter, our downsizing course gets less traffic and therefore fewer sales. I get it. But I can’t post something for the sake of posting and because I can barely stomach another sleeping in airports post, I took a break. Sometimes you need to disconnect in order to reconnect.

Here in Oaxaca, Mexico, October is supposed to mark the end of rainy season. So, I thought it was the perfect time to visit a place I’ve been wanting to see since we arrived back in March, the Pueblos Mancamunados. Thirty-miles east of us, perched high in the Sierra Norte mountains, are 8 indigenous villages connected by over 100 kilometers of hiking trails, goat paths, and fire roads. This remote community is heralded as a shining example of how indigenous peoples can manage the delicate relationship between responsible eco-tourism and respect for the local culture.

It’s quite clear that my map has seen some abuse

Developed in 1998, when the Zapotec communities that have existed for nearly a millennia were crumbling, a group of friends saw an opportunity. They created a program that would foster economic development in these remote communities while at the same time, protecting the sensitive cultural and natural heritage of the area.

Today, nearly 17,000 people make the trek to visit the area each year. Ten percent of all the money taken in goes toward administrative costs. The rest goes directly to the towns. It’s used to fix and maintain trails and roads, supply electricity, and build schools. Funds can also be distributed directly to the community.

Melody got to visit a while back when a dear friend came for an extended stay. After her glowing endorsement, I considered grabbing my backpack and setting out on foot for a ten day trek through the woods. That plan soon gave way to another and the one I ultimately chose, I’d ride my bike.

If there is one thing I love as much as sailing, it’s riding my bike. Although I can never seem to explain this in any cohesive way that seems to make sense to the person listening. Maybe a quote would help?

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.
–Elizabeth West

Once the idea was hatched, I spent the next couple months tweaking my bike, my gear, and my body. We had a few interruptions, one being a minor back injury (unrelated to biking), the second being a robbery. Yep- the house we’re staying in got broken into and although they stole our computers, cameras, and some other stuff, they didn’t steal my bike. I’m not sure why. For a time, I considered abandoning the entire trip, but after some serious discussions with Mel, I decided to scale back the original 10 day trip to about a week and still go.

The ride from our little hacienda in San Felipe to Benito Juarez plotted out to 60 km. Using my Gaia gps app, I planned my route to take me through the smallest towns via any dirt road or goat path I could find.

My bike is a Surly Wednesday. The tires are oversized, fat; made for sandy, loose soil. It’s built to carry heavy touring gear and still be able to perform well on the most demanding terrain. By the looks on the faces of the locals, I might as well have been riding a spaceship. It was a great conversation starter but after some further thought, I believe it may have been a bit intimidating and kept most people at a distance, not what I was hoping for.

The morning of my departure was filled with nerves and a little apprehension. I was starting to second guess the whole silly endeavor and I if I didn’t get on that bike and leave immediately, I might have talked myself out of it completely. So, I kissed my beautiful wife good-bye and headed up the hill.

An hour later, I took a quick detour into the town of Santa Maria del Tule, which is famous for a particular tree that stands in the town square next to a church that would normally be the attraction. Not here. Not in Tule. Instead, El Árbol del Tule, a Montezuma cypress tree that is said to date back nearly 3,000 years and stands nearly 150 ft. hight takes center stage. It’s a sacred place in a quaint and colorful village and a UNESCO World Heritage sight. It’s a sight to behold. I’ve seen it twice and each time I’ve visited all I can do is stand there and stare up in amazement.

After a few sips of water and some photos, with my head heavy with thoughts and wonderment surrounding that amazing cypress, I pedaled hard for my next stop. The village of Teotitlán del Valle sits nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Norte range and it’s the starting point for the climb to Benito Juarez, my first destination. This village is famous for it’s naturally died textiles and woven rugs. Natural dies made from everything from plant matter to insects.

In fact, one of the most amazing things I learned is that the beautiful and most vibrant red that you see in these woven designs comes from a very small and specific bug called the Cochineal. Carminic acid is extracted from the female when she dies and then exposed to hot water and sunlight to produce a vibrant crimson red. The story of this bug is told in a fascinating book aptly named, A Perfect Red.

I also learned that this little village dates back nearly 7000 years! As old as the Ancient City of Damascus. Both are believed to be the oldest continually occupied places on the planet. Get your head around that. Now, Imagine sitting on the curb in front of a beautiful church, noshing on some incredible tacos. Sadly, there are no photos of said tacos. I ate them in record time while fending off the town pooches and a local named Jose’ who desperately wanted to trade bikes with me.

After dispersing the local stray dog community with my remaining scraps of tortillas, I mounted my faithful steed and prepared myself for the most challenging part of the trip, the 20km climb from my already elevated 5000 feet to the village of Benito Juarez, cloaked in a somber, gray mist at 10,000 feet above me.

If the roads leaving Teotitlan were any indication, I got a pretty clear idea of what the next 20km were going to inflict on my body. The streets were steeper than anything you’d find in America. The rough concrete reverberated through both of our frames.

I stopped one last time at a small tienda to grab a Gatorade. The shop owner was quick to engage and interrogate me about my bike. He spoke broken English, eager to practice and patient with my horrible Spanish. He pointed a finger and tossed his head in the direction of the hill. “Arriba la montaña?” He said. “Yes, I’m headed up the mountain.” He smiled, turned away and over his shoulder he shot, “Buena suerte, amigo! Buena suerte.”

I had been told it should take two to three hours to ride to the summit. Leaving the village at 11:00am, I would be more than satisfied to arrive by 4pm.  Five hours; an incredibly conservative ETA, I thought.

The bike was heavy, 65lbs. I had one change of clothes, a sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad, tent, tools, clothes for sleeping in (that wouldn’t ever be exposed to the the trail), a small alcohol stove, 160z. of alcohol, some tortillas and minimal snacks, and one incredibly bulky foully jacket that would be my only solace against the rain and cold that would greet me at the top.

At 52 years old, I have no interest in hot-dogging or false bravado. My approach was to take it easy on my bad knees and nurse my sore back. I planned on a 2.5 to 3 miles per hour average going up. That would put 20km (12.5 miles) behind me in approximately 5 hours. No sweat.

At 1:00pm, after a couple hours of riding, I found some protection from the mid-day sun and sat for a 30 minute break. Nosh down a Cliff Bar and a banana. Hydrate. Pace yourself, I told myself. There’s only one goal; make it to the top.

At approximately 3pm, a small tuk-tuk chugged up from behind. A nice young man named Rafael said he was a park ranger and offered to give me a ride. I thanked him and declined. Then he offered to take some of my stuff to the ranger station and hold it for me if I wanted to lighten my load. Again, I thanked him for his kind offer and declined. Rafael told me the rain was coming. I shouldn’t delay. Before he departed, I asked, “Cuanto tiempo más?” His answer surprised me. “Dos horas.” Two hours! I was four hours into this climb and I still had two more to go?

At 3:30, just like Rafael predicted, the rain started. Slowly at first and then in a steady, rehearsed downpour as it did every afternoon around this time. I donned my bulky sailing jacket and tucked all my electronics into their dry bag. I could feel the lactic acid in my legs and it was time to stop screwing around. If  Rafael’s estimation was correct, I still hand an hour and a half to go and I was soaking wet and getting cold. Never a good combination.

Another hour had passed. The rain was unrelenting. I had to keep moving. I didn’t want to think about hypothermia, but my brain was barking out orders to a pair of legs that were bent on staging a mutiny of sorts. I wasn’t upset or regretting my decision to do the climb. And I wasn’t thinking about quitting.

While I was wrestling with my bike in the mud and rain, I thought about the villagers who lived in those mountains who were walking in the same downpour, only they were walking with bundles of firewood on their backs because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have a hot meal or warmth for the night. Me? I chose to be there. At any point I could make camp on the side of the road and get warm. But that wasn’t going to happen.

It’s in these moments that my mind releases the senseless bullshit and finds a focal point. I know, it’s crazy but that’s how it’s always been for me. In these moments I see how utterly silly it is to become mired in the pettiness of self criticism and false worry. I’m guilty. I admit it. If I could change anything about myself it would be to do away with the immense pressure I put on myself and my work. It’s crippling at times and I’m at my worst when I’m idling. I begin to wobble like a top, abandoned by the forces that keep it spinning. I being to question everything. I can feel it coming on but sometimes it gets the better of me.

And that’s why I rode my bike to the top of that mountain. Not to prove anything to anyone. Not to brag about the accomplishment, but to remind myself how lucky I am to live this wacky, beautiful life. To remind myself not to waste a single second on negative thoughts. I do it to reset the belief that you can do anything you set your mind to. I don’t normally need reminders. It’s just that sometimes I forget to remember. I need to disconnect to reconnect. Unplug it and plug it back in. Sometimes that fixes everything.

When all was said and done, I arrived to Rafael’s office at 6:00pm. It took me over an hour to do the final 2km (1.6 miles). An iceberg drifts at 0.7km an hour. That’s about how slow I was moving. Daylight was fading and I was probably a sight to behold. Soaked through, caked with mud, and babbling like a madman. I booked a small, unheated cabin for 250 pesos (12 USD). Thankfully, my sleep gear, wool socks, and sleeping bag were dry. I quickly made a fire, strung up some twine between a couple chairs and hung my sopping clothes.

The climb I had been dreaming about was now behind me. My legs ached but my mind was clear. I missed my wife. I knew she was worried but there was no way to contact her to let her know I was safe. I would seek a brief connection once the sun came up. Slowly the warmth returned and the shivering subsided. I don’t remember much after that. I slipped away quickly to the lullaby of crackling pine and falling rain.

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How to sleep (like a boss) in an airport

You’re flying and you missed your connection. Mother Nature decided that your plane just didn’t need to go anywhere for the next nine hours. Whatever the reason, you’re stuck in an airport and it looks like you’re gonna have to spend the night.

The chairs are uncomfortable, the “food” is anything but edible. The lighting is equivalent to sleeping in grocery store and the ambiance is anything but soothing and relaxing. If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to sleep in an airport. Truth? When it comes to part-time living in airports, train and bus stations, I’m a pro. I have the curved spine and matted hair to prove it. But the times they are a changin’ kids!

I recently traveled to the U.S. to reset my visa and help a friend with a project. Due to the schedule differences between Oaxaca, Mexico City, and the U.S., it’s the usual practice to spend a lot of time waiting in Mexico City for the connection through Dallas or Miami. Sometimes you can wait 12 to 16 hours. I’ve done it and it’s not fun.

But on this recent trip I discovered something incredibly cool and I’m completely baffled why they don’t yet exist in America. People, meet the sleep pod!

Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor: This photo of the “Pod Room” is way too bright and not what it looks like when you arrive

The company is Izzzleep. You can rent by the hour if you just want a short nap and a shower before your connection, or by the day. The cost for the day is about $30 USD. Check in is after 1pm and check out is before 10am the next day. I chose to book for the entire day. My bus from Oaxaca arrived around 6pm and my flight to the states didn’t leave until the following morning at 6am.

When I checked in, I was given an electronic key-card, a new pair of socks (because shoes are not allowed once inside the main area), a pack of earplugs, and a bottle of water.

Lockers to the right and sinks to the left

Each numbered pod has a corresponding locker where you can store your luggage and shoes. Inside that locker you’ll find a small blanket and a towel. There are shower stalls, sink basins, and separate toilets. The above photo of the locker room is accurate. It looks just like this when you arrive.

But once you pass through that brown door, the main “Pod Room” is futuristic and moody. It’s eerily quiet and looks more like this:

This is what it really looks like! Shhhhhh…

Inside each pod, you’ll find the same blue lighting and a few overhead reading lights. There’s a drop down TV if you want to watch Johnny Depp’s Spanish rendition of Secret Window. The wifi is strong, and the air-conditioning goes low enough to chill a side of beef if that’s your thing. A small fire extinguisher gave me the willies.

Interior with the snazzy Tron lighting

The ear plugs came in handy when something very large tested the structural integrity of the pod above me and began to growl, obviously not traveling with its sleep apnea machine. That seems to be the only real drawback to these things.

The noise travels through the thin plastic doors without much interference. While they appear all space-age and shit, they’re more akin to a plastic folding table from Walmart. Once I put my earplugs in, I worried that I’d miss my 4am alarm and the quality of my sleep quickly diminished.

But here’s the thing. All things considered, I wasn’t balled up on the floor in the terminal with a jacket over my face. I wasn’t curled up on a chair, sticky from a spilled Starbucks mocha. I was pretty damn comfortable and I actually got some rest.

I woke up before my alarm and after a hot shower, I turned in my key and walked right out into the terminal. It was storming outside and I didn’t have to deal with it. No morning traffic. No taxi communication snafus. Nada. I was through security by 4:30 and sitting at my gate with a coffee by 4:45.

And that is worth the price of admission.

The post How to sleep (like a boss) in an airport appeared first on Vacilando.

The Sweet River

If you’re a regular reader here, you most likely sail, dream about sailing someday, or like to read about those of us who suffer from this incurable disease called, Wanderlust. Maybe you are one of the afflicted as well. I cannot shake the desire to move and travel. To see what’s around the next bend, whether it’s a bend in a river or a winding stretch of road. I have to know.

Recently, Melody and I were talking about where we are and where we’ve been. She mentioned to me that I’d never written anything substantial about our time in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. I couldn’t believe it, so I looked and she was right. Knowing how special a place the Rio holds in my heart, I can’t imagine how she slipped through the cracks.

Looking back now, I realize we had a lot going on. Little did we know the Rio would be the place where our lives would be shaken to bits and we’d be forced to take an unintended detour. If you’ll indulge me in a look back, I’d like to revisit my beloved sweet river and see it through the lens of time gone by.

We checked into Livingston at the Caribbean entrance to the Rio at the end of April, wanting to make our May 1 reservation at Monkey Bay Marina. After four months of cruising through Cuba, Mexico, and Belize, we were taken aback by the murky river water and black mud that came up on our anchor.

Livingston – Servamar is where you go for immigration paperwork
Livingston is a lovely town

We had been snorkeling in water so clear it was hard to tell the difference between five feet and twenty-five feet. This river water was so different, but I was happy that “V” had fresh water flushing her pipes after years in salt water.

What struck me was how the flat, palm tree-laden beach landscape disappeared and so quickly transformed into sheer, 300-foot limestone cliffs that dove straight into the water.

The gorge area, known as La Cueva de la Vaca (the cow cave), is home to monkeys, toucans, parrots, and countless varieties of orchids and other tropical species. Vines and lush vegetation dipped and swayed in the swift current. A current trying its best to push us back out to the Caribbean. For a moment, I remember thinking that maybe we should let it turn us around, back to a world we knew pretty well.

Our normal. Crystal blue water and white sand beach.

15 miles up from Livingston, the Rio opens wide as you enter the Golfete, where you’re likely to catch some manatee if you time it right. A few more miles up river is the one road town of Fronteras.

Just off the water’s edge of this intense village is the main anchorage and several marinas. A large and legendary bridge connects the two sides of the river. It’s a perilous structure, so old and questionable that there are men stationed at each end to keep two tractor trailers from passing over the middle at the same time. A structure that raises my blood pressure at the mere thought of crossing over or under it.

The dinghy ride to Fronteras and the infamous bridge

Our first trip to Fronteras hit me like a shot to the temple from Ali. When we summitted the crooked, concrete steps that lead from the gravel path to the main road, fumes from the tractor trailers choked my throat.

Noise. Heat. People. Totally different environment from the one we’d been living in for months.

Just a normal day in Fronteras

Fruit and vegetable stands were less than a meter away from the mud-caked cattle trucks. In between was us, the pedestrians. Guatemaltecos in straw cowboy hats and dusty boots carried large sacks on their backs. Motor bikes buzzed around and honked impatiently.

The sensory overload assaulted our laid-back beach personas. This place was hazardous to flip-flops and it was evident we’d need to harden up… fast.

Once loaded down with tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli, peppers, eggs, and beer, we made swift for the dinghy. We were in full retreat back to the dock at Monkey Bay. There was no road to get us there. No bar and no restaurant. Just a couple of hammocks and a cooler full of beer.

If you’re looking to be in the mix, but not right in the mix, this is the place.

Monkey Bay Marina at sunrise

Jim and Kitty on the sailing vessel Dream Away run a lovely spot with some of the best showers on the Rio. It’s a tropical setting where howler monkeys growl at you from overhead and orchids cling to species of trees I know nothing about.

Hummingbirds flit from blossom to blossom on the huge mimosa that covers the Ranchito. Every afternoon we’d gather in the large, open palapa to recount the day’s events, catch up on the chisme (gossip), and share a rum or cold Gallo.

Enjoying the afternoon Captain’s Hour in the Rancho

With the timing of a Swiss watch, the afternoon winds arrived to chase down the heat. Being the tropics, the rain, thunder, and lightning followed. On the Rio it’s unlike any I’ve ever seen, but never seemed to stop the activity on the river. A few times it was fatal.

The days went quickly while we were there. So did our cruising kitty. We were at the end of it and trying to replenish. We released Burning Man and Mel took on a few new clients. It was difficult at times working remotely when the wifi or the electricity (which powered the wifi) would go down without notice and be down for an unknown amount of time.

If you told me there was wifi at all in jungle, I wouldn’t believe you. If you said it was down because a howler monkey chewed through the cable, well… let’s just say it puts an entirely new twist on the term working remotely.

One of the many howler monkeys who started off our day each morning

The Rio was also the place where we realized Jet’s eyesight was worse than we imagined. After he took a couple of scary falls off the boat, we began the discussion about selling and finding a patch of land where he could grow old without the stress of moving around in a cramped cockpit.

We thought it would be a long and drawn out process. We thought we had time. But we never know how much time we have do we? I can’t think about this too much or it winds me up tight, like a garage door spring.

His eyes may not be as clear as they once were, but his heart is as big as a house.

This is the point where the story of the Rio meets the story of Vacilando being lovingly passed to her new owner. It’s been written.

As I write this recap of the Rio, I’m staring out at the Sierra Norte mountains here in Oaxaca, Mexico, far from any water, amazed that I’m okay with that for now. The sun is blazing, like it does in the mid-afternoon. The purple, red, and peach bougainvillea burst from patches of dark green and hummingbirds flit from blossom to blossom. An afternoon breeze has just kicked up.

It reminds me of a very special place. A place filled with incredible people telling equally incredible stories of how they got to a far away river in southern Guatemala.

The post The Sweet River appeared first on Vacilando.

La celebración!

It’s a very big weekend here in beautiful Oaxaca, and all over Mexico for that matter. Today is the biggest election in Mexican history and people are buzzing in our little hamlet of San Felipe del Agua.

The music spilling from tiendas competes with the church bells, and kids storm the school playground while their parents wait in line to cast their votes. It’s very cool to see it all happen from a different perspective. We are excited for the people of Mexico and hoping for a peaceful outcome.

There is yet another reason for the palpable sense of crackling ozone around here. Mexico’s futbol team has made it to the round of 16, and tomorrow morning, they face number one Brazil in an elimination match.

Frankly, I’m not sure what they’re more nervous about. For us, it’s incredible to see from another perspective and I’m pulling for a big celebration tomorrow! And they sure know how to celebrate around here!

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a Tlayuda before but if you haven’t, you’re seriously missing out. The tlayuda is native to Oaxaca and basically, it’s a gently roasted tortilla filled with refried beans, quesillo (Oaxacan cheese), and other ingredients such as chicken or beef.

Oaxaca is also famous for their mole (which is sometimes found in the tlayuda), pazole rojo, and their chapulines (roasted grasshoppers). And let me tell you, the fame is well deserved. The chapulines are an acquired taste and I’m not sure I’m there yet. I’ve tried ’em, but I need another run at it.

Tlalyuda served with peppers, radish, and chapulines.

As if this wasn’t enough, the humble crew of Vacilando is celebrating yet another event. Today marks the official launch of our online course, Downsizing For A Life Afloat. For years we’ve been asked how we went about downsizing to move onto our boat.

So, with the tiny movement growing by leaps and bounds, and more people than ever investigating living a smaller, more adventurous life, I thought I’d try to fill a void that I saw. While there are many resources about downsizing in general, nobody was offering a course tailored towards people who wanted to move onto a boat.

If you or someone you know is dreaming of living on a boat, in an RV or tiny house, or simply wanting to getting rid of some serious clutter, this might be just the course to help get you started!

So, that’s what’s been happening and what is happening on our little hill.

We’re being fueled by locally grown coffee and taking full advantage of the beautiful weather. Tomorrow morning, you’ll find me at cafe’ Lola in front of the massive 10 foot wide television with mi amigos screaming my head off. And who knows… I might even drink a beer. Down here they add tomato juice and it becomes health food!

Michelada… the breakfast of champions you know!

The post La celebración! appeared first on Vacilando.

La celebración!

It’s a very big weekend here in beautiful Oaxaca, and all over Mexico for that matter. Today is the biggest election in Mexican history and people are buzzing in our little hamlet of San Felipe del Agua.

The music spilling from tiendas competes with the church bells, and kids storm the school playground while their parents wait in line to cast their votes. It’s very cool to see it all happen from a different perspective. We are excited for the people of Mexico and hoping for a peaceful outcome.

There is yet another reason for the palpable sense of crackling ozone around here. Mexico’s futbol team has made it to the round of 16, and tomorrow morning, they face number one Brazil in an elimination match.

Frankly, I’m not sure what they’re more nervous about. For us, it’s incredible to see from another perspective and I’m pulling for a big celebration tomorrow! And they sure know how to celebrate around here!

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a Tlayuda before but if you haven’t, you’re seriously missing out. The tlayuda is native to Oaxaca and basically, it’s a gently roasted tortilla filled with refried beans, quesillo (Oaxacan cheese), and other ingredients such as chicken or beef.

Oaxaca is also famous for their mole (which is sometimes found in the tlayuda), pazole rojo, and their chapulines (roasted grasshoppers). And let me tell you, the fame is well deserved. The chapulines are an acquired taste and I’m not sure I’m there yet. I’ve tried ’em, but I need another run at it.

Tlalyuda served with peppers, radish, and chapulines.

As if this wasn’t enough, the humble crew of Vacilando is celebrating yet another event. Today marks the official launch of our online course, Downsizing For A Life Afloat. For years we’ve been asked how we went about downsizing to move onto our boat.

So, with the tiny movement growing by leaps and bounds, and more people than ever investigating living a smaller, more adventurous life, I thought I’d try to fill a void that I saw. While there are many resources about downsizing in general, nobody was offering a course tailored towards people who wanted to move onto a boat.

If you or someone you know is dreaming of living on a boat, in an RV or tiny house, or simply wanting to getting rid of some serious clutter, this might be just the course to help get you started!

So, that’s what’s been happening and what is happening on our little hill.

We’re being fueled by locally grown coffee and taking full advantage of the beautiful weather. Tomorrow morning, you’ll find me at cafe’ Lola in front of the massive 10 foot wide television with mi amigos screaming my head off. And who knows… I might even drink a beer. Down here they add tomato juice and it becomes health food!

Michelada… the breakfast of champions you know!

The post La celebración! appeared first on Vacilando.

It’s Four O’clock Somewhere

By now we’ve all heard that we should be taking 10,000 steps a day for a happier, healthier life. Devices like the Fitbit make it easy to record your strides through out the day. At the end, if you’ve managed the requisite 10,000 steps, you’ll have logged about 5 miles. Not four miles or six but — five.

While researching this post, the number 5 kept popping up. I couldn’t get away from it. I dare say it might be the most important number ever.

Since I’m out on the “that’s a bold statement limb,” I might as well go a bit further and say, I don’t think you need to take 10,000 steps to live a happier life. I think you need to take five. Five steps.

What in the hell am I talking about? Right… let me explain.

My wife and I just returned from a long weekend away. We drove to a very small and undiscovered beach on Mexico’s Pacific coast. From the outside, it looks as if we live a carefree existence. But we too tend to get bogged down by the daily B.S. that seems to circumnavigate the globe, hustling to make ends meet, to be productive, and to stave off the worries of the future. While we are away in every sense of the word, every now and then, it pays to get farther away.

From a weather-worn Adirondack chair perched a couple meters above the toasty sand, I watched the sun sink behind the cliffs. When it disappeared, I watched the people around me and I noticed few, if any of them, were staring at the palm of their hand. At a device.

Except for the annoying, selfie obsessed couple from who-the-fuck-cares, most were strolling along, lost in thought. Some played with their dogs, while others just sat on the sand, watching the same sun I was watching; staring out at the surf break.

As the condensation from my perfectly-chilled Victoria dripped down my shin, I realized just how much life we miss every day in our distracted lives. I’ve known it for years. We all have. Technology served up the false promise that with it, things would be easier. And we swallowed it — hook, line, and sinker.

Phones with the computing power of spaceships hypnotize us. Our refrigerators will order groceries when it detects we’re running low. God help us if they ever perfect the self-driving car. How far removed from life do we need to be if we can’t stop long enough to drive ourselves.

I’m sorry… I’m out.

It’s become glaringly obvious to me that people love their distractions. They love distractions almost as much as they love their excuses. Having an excuse gives you an out. It gives you a reason to remain just as you are. You don’t have to lift a finger to change because — [insert excuse].

Hell, if you do it correctly, being distracted keeps you from ever having to make the excuse. It’s a perpetual cycle that prevents many of us from noticing the ticking of the clock. I know this, because I made excuses for years. Fed myself Bullshit Flakes for breakfast and created a forcefield fed by the power supply, “I’ll be happy when…”

When we left to go sailing in 2012, I made a promise to myself that I’d stop. I shut down the forcefield and it worked for a while but — like everyone else, I got distracted. I’m now redoubling my efforts to focus on what is and not on what is… ahead.

Just for fun, I googled “How to be happy.” 204,000,000 results. Damn! That’s a lot. I clicked the top result: wikiHow: 3 Ways to Be Happy. There weren’t 3. There were 22 different steps. See the irony?

My friends, there’s no riddle to life. If there was, there would most likely be 3 or… 22 different answers. We hear all the time about the secret to happiness. I’m here to tell you, it’s not a secret. And there aren’t 3, or 22 or 10,000 steps.

From that Adirondack chair I deciphered the Code of the Perpetual Wanderer. Wanna take a guess at how many steps to happiness there are in my code? Exactly — 5. Just five simple steps on the Path of the Perpetual Wanderer (It’s a very short path).

  • Simplify. Everything
  • Move more — eat less
  • Get more sleep
  • Get off your fucking phone
  • Walk barefoot

The universe has been trying to tell us about 5’s importance all along. We’ve simply been too distracted to notice. How many fingers do we have? 5. Toes? 5. Senses? 5. How many Jackson’s were there? 5. We don’t call it a four o’clock shadow, and everybody knows about the five goldennnn rinnnnggggs!

There are 5 days to a work-week, 5 Great Lakes, 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u), 5 food groups, and 5 boroughs in Manhattan.

Chanel No. 6 would have been a bit over the top, and Jack Nicholson would never have wasted his time on a movie called Two Easy Pieces.

There are the 5 Epochs of Civilization, 5 Pillars of Islam, and 5 Precepts of Buddhism.

I’m not done yet.

Five elements in Western alchemy (earth, air, fire, water, spirit) and 5 in Chinese philosophy (wood, water, fire, earth, metal). There are five stages of grief, five guys named Moe, and when cut horizontally, an apple has five seeds in the shape of a five-pointed star. Go ahead, look it up.

I assure you, deciphering the Code of the Perpetual Wanderer was not an easy task. Countless cervezas gave their lives in the name of discovery. The above 5 tenets have been time-tested and painstakingly pondered over the last decade at least.

Please — be careful with the aforementioned information as it may lead to sudden job-quitting, debtlessness, and a heightened sense of I don’t give a fuck-itis.

Don’t believe me? Care to remain as you are? No problem. Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep enjoying that secluded beach and chilly Victorias.

After all, it’s 4 o’clock somewhere.

The post It’s Four O’clock Somewhere appeared first on Vacilando.