Have I Said This Before?

My girlfriend and I have been planning our escape for years. It was some fear and apprehensions that stopped us from taking the leap years ago and wandering our beautiful planet on a forever way of life…traveling.

We planned and saved every dollar we could. Tried to make good decisions about big purchases. Brought our company to a viable asset. Fixed everything physically wrong with our aging bodies so we could be young again. We made a goal of 2017 as our jumping off point.

Well 2017 came and went. We put our business up for sale at the beginning of 2017. We had several interested parties, but running a car dealership is not as simple as liking cars. Everyone that came to the table either faded away when they found out how much was actually involved or the banks turned them down. I fell into a deep depression that I kept hidden as best as I could.

We set ourselves up to live a good life. We built our dream home 18 years ago and are about 3-4 years away from paying it off. Our house is warm and comfortable and WAY too big for our little family of two humans and a corgi. It was a tax shelter and necessity which has now become a source of financial security, affording us freedom if we could cut the chains.

We have read countless books on becoming a minimalist. We have attended Overlanding expos and created good, healthy ties with fellow explorers and travelers living both here in the US and in foreign countries. We bought a 2015 Ford Transit 250 to build into our adventure mobile. Of course with our still busy schedule it has not had much attention. So here we sit, chained to our business and unwilling to give up our comfortable home until the sale.

To make matters worse… everyday we wake up to another mass shooting, another unarmed kid shot by cops, a narcissistic POTUS who is batshit crazy and can seriously impact our financial health, physical health and turn the world against us. Kids are taking to the streets demanding change but getting the hand by the grownups they rally against. It is just too much for my fragile psyche to be bombarded with everyday.

Why take off and leave all that we know? Why sell off everything and have nothing but freedom to show for it? Why break away from all that is comfortable and travel to third world countries where people are happy and live harmoniously with the world around them? Seriously… you need to ask!

Winter Escape

Sometimes, in the cold gray winter months I need to get away. If I can get into the sun, feel the warm sun on my bare arms and breathe clean air… I can recharge my depleted batteries with a little solar energy. Where does one go to accomplish such a task without a full on vacation? Well for me it’s a quick trip to Phoenix Arizona.

It’s something about the desert. Something that draws me in. Something about the solitude one can find in the desert. In an environment as harsh as the desert, one can fill the batteries indeed. All time seems to stand still. Everything around me is in a state of suspended animation. Even in the winter months each tiny plant struggles to eek out an existence in this beautiful but deadly landscape.

I can drift off for hours without noticing time’s passage. My mind empties of all pressing matters, if only for a reserved amount of time. Soon enough I will make my home in such a place.

A Long Time Coming

It’s hard to tell a story with so many twists and turns. Sometimes the anticipation and planning is more stressful than anything I’ve done before. It’s different when it’s a long term decision. The path we choose now WILL affect the next phase of our lives. Saying that out loud really brings this into perspective. The decisions we have made in the past could be wrong… we always had the time and means to make it right. This decision may not be so easy to undo.

What on earth could be so dire? Well it’s the decision about our new home on wheels.

So you may be saying, so what’s the big deal?

When you are going from a house too big for two, to a custom created camper van with a living space of 73.5 square feet. Everything you own is contained in this space. How do you decide what to keep and what to discard? We grew up in a time when at least 40 years of our lives were NOT digital. That means for a photographer… boxes and boxes of prints and negatives. I have a wood toy chest from my childhood I have lugged all over the US every time I moved. Handwritten letters from past loves, friends and family. Artwork collected from around the world.

The electronics, furniture and other STUFF is easy to part with. There is just so much STUFF to get rid of…

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The process: We have really vacillated back and forth between a very used Sprinter van to a gently used Ford Transit. My mind has been designing and redesigning our cozy living space. The main goal is usable space and storage. A space that two women and a corgi can live in comfortably. A “home on wheels” that is comfortable and inviting. Our Tiny Home.

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There is so much I have had to learn. Solar, plumbing, electrical, wood working. The imagination is strong and the ability to recreate what I see may be tough. We hopefully will be buying our van this week and the build will begin. I hope we will be able to be patient and build out our space carefully and “hell for strong”, as my dad would say.

The Artist’s House on The Sea

The third stop on our journey was The Artist’s House on The Sea, on Isla Colón. We packed up to head out from Un Puerto Particular via water taxi back to the main island of Colón. We notified Filberto of our arrival and planned to meet him at the dock at 13:00. Filberto said he would be driving a Kia Double Cab and wearing a leather hat. He said we wouldn’t be able to miss him. In Island time he showed, as planned, and he was wearing a top hat made of leather… no doubt he made it. He is an eccentric type of fella. His thick accent was easy to listen to. He carried himself well. On the short ride to our new home he told us a quick synopsis of his life. Recommended eating establishments and told us how to get about.

Upon arriving we entered a small mud path that was lined with garbage. He explained that the neighbor was piling it there to eventually claim the property for himself… some convoluted law about him using the property that eventually he could claim it as his own since the owner didn’t care to take care of it? We were getting used to seeing large garbage piles sitting about… this was not the act of nature but of man.

Shaking off the vision, we entered into Filberto’s domain. There was a small wood planked walkway that lead to a charming three story building. Once inside he showed us his works of art. He told us about building this house and his own house 300 mts off the main house. We have left Kansas Dorothy. The home was basically three large bedrooms with three baths and one stand-up shower on the main level. The bathroom on the second level has a shower that you sit on the toilet to use. The third floor bath is tucked away in a small slanted closet, good for children but an adult might find it difficult to use. The main level has the cooking area. Stove, shower, fridge, table and chairs and a small washing machine. Totally open to the world.

On each level there was an eclectic assortment of art work. Filberto gave us a tour and explained each one, where he found it or where his inspiration came from. His art was expressive and down right strange… but totally reflected his demeanor and personality. The more I watched him, listened to him and grew to respect his choice of lifestyle, I couldn’t shake my grandfathers image from my head.

He left us and departed to his home on the water in a small Zodiac inflatable boat… that no longer was inflated but served his purpose of traveling to his small home on The Sea. His home was now ours…

Gandaulf the Red

Over the last 25 years, we have always traveled with a dog.  Mercy “Bucket”… a 75 pound German shepherd was an awesome travel companion and member of our little family.  She passed on Mother’s Day in 2008 at 15 years old.  After a short grieving period we got Gandaulf.  We were looking for another Adventure Dog that could keep up with our travels but this time without the size and hairiness of a shepherd.  The Corgis are a working breed just like the shepherds, with a lot of the same mannerisms, easy to train and always out to please.

Gandaulf came to us as a rescue at 10 weeks old. How could a dog with such short legs keep up with our hiking, climbing, rafting and travel abroad?  He would get high centered on the Sunday papers in driveways on our walks, high centered on tennis balls… but boy could he jump! It wasn’t long before his first 2 mile hike, camping trips and rafting/fishing trips. He was a natural in the outdoors.

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Gandaulf is now 7 years old and shows no sign of slowing down.  He has been to more countries than most humans.  Every year he has his own calendar showcasing his travels… he’s a natural in front of the camera.  This adventure will be a test of his patience and travel savvy.

We have never entered another country via driving across the border.  There is a bit of trepidation on our part.  We see blogs and FB posts of people traveling with their dogs. Traveling by airplanes is such a hassle with the red tape and vaccinations he has to go through. Poor guy… but he is a trooper.  We hope crossing a border is no big deal…

We would love to hear from anyone out there with such experience for some pointers.  Dos and don’ts, etc…

The Fear Factor

If anyone our age tells you that they are not afraid to do something new, give up everything they have, quit their job, sell their homes, cash out their retirement accounts and leave whatever family and friends they have, I’d say they are not centered in reality.

As human beings we resist change. People cling to religion because it is a constant in their lives. They stay in their homes till they die or they can no longer live alone.

We are at a jumping off point that is like jumping off a 700 foot cliff with a wing suit as safety equipment. Oh… and with no prior training. Do not hesitate. Yes websites, blogs, Facebook and many other publications exist that make this journey a bit more manageable… but the actual “doing” is scary as hell!

Twenty years ago even thinking about doing this would have been a daunting undertaking. Where do you start? Where is it safe to cross a border? Where is it safe to spend the night? What do you need to cross a border? The world was a huge unknown for the most part. The US state department made you so afraid to venture into other countries. As a visual learner, I find the task at hand much easier to comprehend. The how to exists out there. YouTube, Blog sites, Facebook pages for expats, AIRBNB, VRBO, where to go and how to manuals are everywhere.

When we were younger this would’ve been an absolute thrilling notion, like when we hit the road back in 1993/4. Cell phones were new on the market and very expensive (for what they were). IPads were a futuristic concept. Hell a portable laptop computer was even just a glimmer in someone’s imagination. We were kids… we threw caution to the wind and just did it. Ahhhh… for the innocence of youth…

This time we have so many options… some more fraught with danger than others. Could we be happy settling down in some mountain town in Ecuador, Columbia, Peru? Become beach bums in Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, and Thailand? Travel the world from ‘point A to point B’ with no time limits? Will our vagabonding lifestyle be possible as planned? Best made plans are often laid to waist when put into action… still we continue to put one foot in front of the other. I continue to wake with butterflies in my stomach, that’s the “more mature age” jitters… The Fear Factor

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Flower Power… Beauty in the eyes of the beholder

In each intricate petal of a flower there is evidence of something greater than any of us. The simple way each unfolds into a predetermined pattern to form a stunning work of natural art. This album is of some of the beauty I have captured in our travels.