We knew that The Millennium was going to usher in changes! All during the closing years of the Nineteen Hundreds, we wondered what the Y2K Year would bring. We dared to believe that the Prophecies about ¨The Fiery End Of The World¨ were incorrect. And, right at first, that seemed to be so. No big deal! The Year 2000… already twenty years ago, now….. seemed to be, quietly. just like all the others.
But, how about now? The planet has been in Lockdown since March, 2020! Travel ability is not taken for granted any more, as airlines, hotels, motels and many universal businesses have failed or drastically reduced their services. And, if you are one of the “Lucky Ones” to snag a spot on an international transport, you may just pay with your life, if you get exposed to someone breathing out live, invisible, Covid 19 viruses.
We are all wearing face masks these days and trying not to get too close to one another. Holiday tables don´t swell with our beloved family members and our turkey dinners seem much more everyday than ever! It´s been a hundred years since Planet Earth went through our last global plague and we certainly weren´t the travelers, then, that we are now. Wind-driven, four-masters were mostly filled with merchants back then. Maybe they could outrun the scope, or the timing, of the infection, if some countries had no problems? Now, it´s inescapably present, all over the planet and covered by CNN; though we are not exposing ourselves to international contamination simply by watching TV.
Where does it lead? Where and when will it end? Nobody knows and everybody is in this together. And yet, there´s an overall cheerfulness and calm among us. Have you noticed that? A quiet confidence or easy behavior. It’s simply too big to panic about. Wear the masks! Wash the hands! Sit and stand apart! And get on with business! And Life!
What is it about World Travel that brings out the worst characteristics in some Americans? More accurately, in some females from the United States. Shakespeare called them “Shrews!” I have found one I´d like to shed. Or tame! Fortunately, I haven´t encountered as many Wanna-be-Trumps among the men out here on the trail, though I have no doubt that they exist. This self-centeredness is, surely, the reason for many unfortunate, knee-jerk, negative opinions of Americans in other parts of the world.
Luckily, I don´t join group tours; although I used to lead them throughout the Soviet Union in the 1990´s. Cruises and tour groups seem to attract an over-abundance of Miss Prisses, since that type requires such constant personal service and catering-to.
Now that I am lingering here in Mexico, it´s not surprising that I have encountered this strange, entitled attitude, so close to the U.S. borders. Not that my home country produces any more Narcissists than other lands. Simply, that more of us leave home to travel.
Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, let´s examine a much more desirable and positive topic: Spiritual Enlightenment. I highly recommend the excellent book: ¨Spiritual Enlightenment, The Damndest Thing¨ by Jed McKenna. He succeeds in defining for me, Nirvana, the goal of spiritual enlightenment, as: Nothingness, Emptiness, Lack of Input or Stimulus!!!
So, instead of achieving anything; the inner trail leads to nothing! Rather, quietness, rest, attainment, RETIREMENT! In other words, the goal that we seekers actually accomplish is similar to what a climber of a cliff or a mountainside, finds upon ¨topping out: ¨ flatness! Nothing more to achieve! The end of the trail!
That´s the damndest thing!
Or, here´s another existential discovery that might be awaiting us in a new place:
How many of us have, at long last, erected a dream home on that cherished property we snagged so long ago? Only to discover that it´s not quite up to our expectations? Reality fades in the light of personal examination. Sort of like realizing that it was your long-dead spouse´s idea all along. And you never made any plans of your own?
And here´s the biggie of private, existential questions: Can one even hope to have an original idea about your future at the age of Eighty and beyond?
Well, why don´t you just decide to find out?
Avoid the Narcs!
Buy a ticket to a new country!
Rent a place!
Or, better yet….. sign up for Housesitting or Petsitting somewhere in the world!
I´ve done all that! And so can you!
We are a small community of about twenty Expats, couples and singles, from England, Canada and the US. Each each of us has our own complete apartment. But, six days a week, breakfast and dinner are served in a beautiful dining room. There is also a separate library containing a large variety of beautiful books. Because of the careful precautions in cleaning and limited entry, we are very safe from the current virus infections. Right now, no one in Mexico is free to walk about. But in the future, this forested lakefront will again be available for strolls.
Pets are allowed and I have always wished that my traveling lifestyle permitted me to have a small doggie. There are several here so I borrow hugs.
But, voila! Here´s a solution I´ll bet you´ve never thought of!: My bathroom is the residence of Soda, the Denver family´s Golden Retriever, who recently had to be put down due to old age. He suddenly appeared in my washcloth here.
Now, he´s beginning to speak Spanish; often telling me to “Get into the shower! Now!”
I simply reply: “Oh go jump in the lake!”
Well, we´re all supposed to “Spring Forward” in April! Looks like I´ve already done that in March by moving permanently to Mexico! Plus,in April we will move our clocks forward. May we also, as a planet, successfully move forward through these testing times and come out happily at the other end!
I´m making a New Year Resolution to blog more frequently on both of these blog sites, now that I have truly Retired from my constant, around-the-world, travel life. Formerly, I have called myself a Road Warrior…. always on the move as I exhausted one country´s visa length after another. Though I had rented for six months, through June, 2020, (and then abandoned…see my previous blog) an apartment in Colonia, Uruguay, my more frequent housing solution, anywhere in the world, has been hostel living.
Now, I have a large, beautifully-furnished, one bedroom private apartment within a lovely retirement community called The Penthouse. We are only a block from the extensive shore of Lake Chapala, just outside of the tiny town of Ajjic, Mexico. That´s only an hour from the international airport of Guadalajara. So, I´m within reach of everything and am only a four-hour, direct flight from my family in Denver.
At twenty residents here, we seniors are all family, as well. We enjoy two bounteous and delicious meals in the lovely dining room together: breakfast at 9 am and dinner at 5 pm, every day except Sunday. I barely have time to get hungry in between meals, so, I also enjoy my creative day off to use my own kitchen on my own timeframe.
The kitchen has become my office, as well. Because the generous, dining table is a most adequate typing space, with windows overlooking the massive, skyblue swimming pool in the side yard. Sometimes, work on typing up my next manuscript, screenplay or blog, gets interrupted when I hear my new friends splashing around in the late afternoon sun. They sound almost like kids and I am tempted to pop on my suit and go join them. We´re gradually getting acquainted in catch-as-catch-can conversations. There are a few couples, but most of us are singles. Very USA-similar, all English-speaking. In stark contrast to the international. younger population of hosteling backpackers, who also spoke English but with a variety of accents, backgrounds and travel plans. I´m not quite the oldest one here, however; and happy I am to turn over that crown to 95-year-old Pauline!
So, what else is new? COVID 19! Coronavirus 19 is new! In every country of the planet…. Instantly! That´s what!
No one is permitted to freely world travel any more unless they have an emergency! In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined how to make world-wide, compulsive handwashing mandatory! But, so it has become! Nor, could we have foreseen the serious factors: sudden illness, massive deaths, loss of jobs and fortunes, irrespective of country or climate. ALREADY! In just a few weeks!
Even if the virus dates as far back as January this year, nobody took it that seriously until early March. Jennifer and I had no compunction about flying to Mexico on March 9, to check me in here at The Penthouse. We did carry face masks just in case we needed them and we were wary if we heard coughing. Nor had The Penthouse, at that time, gone on lockdown! I might not have been accepted to fill their only vacancy if it had been even one week later. Terms like Social Distancing, Self-Quarantine, or Six Feet Apart, were not yet trends. But that rapidly changed during those middle days of March.
I even saw a new face here after my initial three weeks had passed! My arrival had sent her into isolation, just in case. All of us in the world have to think like this now, and we do not even leave our compound unless we have some emergency. We certainly don´t mind our Lockdown. This is a mighty cosy and loving place to live through the Lockdown stages!
Note: I have taken lots of gorgeous photos but they are on the cell phone. Soon I´ll figure out how to post them here. In the meantime….. Stay tuned!
Dancing right along!
I’m in the sixth month of my Mexican visa and have to travel on instead of jumping through legal hoops to continue; though even that requires a border run. I can always return for another half year after time spent in Central or South America…. if I’m homesick. This time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, has been so much fun that I’ve been taking dancing lessons. Not since high school have I thought about fast -dancing or even the Foxtrot. Now, in Ari’s well-trained arms, I see that the boys in my class did slightly different steps and we certainly held each other much closer, but Elvis hasn’t changed.
But, in two weeks, I’ll be in San Jose, Costa Rica, for another three-day International Living Conference and then a six-week, dogsitting/housesitting opportunity in nearby San Isidro. Then I’ll explore the country for over a month and return to the same home for more dogsitting until October.
Will I find a chance-to-dance in Costa Rica? Not unless little hound dogs know how! But dancefloor calesthenics have got me in shape!
It was really mere Serendipity that selected San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, when I concluded my latest solo, around the world trek in late 2018.
I was in Hanoi, Vietnam, planning to travel on to China, Siberia, Russia, South Korea and Japan, when I learned that my sister, Ann, faced pancreatic surgery. Suddenly, family ties kicked in and I decided to head home immediately. I first had lovely visits in Colorado with my daughter and family; and then, with my sister in Lakeland, Florida. She’s two years younger, but considerably taller.
Ann’s treatment is going well, so I looked around Florida, where I have spent so many years of my life, and decided to leave The States for more adventurous and less-expensive regions. Suddenly, the name of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, popped into my head and I bought a plane ticket and reserved a bunk in a hostel here; knowing that I had been very impressed on my only other visit here a few years ago at the beginning of my third around-the-world trip from which I had just returned.. I hadn’t thought about it since, but, suddenly, it sounded like a great “near-to-home-but-not-too-close” solution.
Little did I know, that this metal bust would change my viewpoint…. and my reputation! You see, my maiden name was Linda Jeanne Dickinson! My father was Russell Dickinson, descendant of a long line of New England Dickinsons, sea captains, for whom I have a record back to the 1640’s, when the first, Samuel Dickinson, sailed to Amherst, Massacheusetts from England. Though the San Miguel early expat, Stirling Dickinson, moved here from Chicago in 1937, his family roots were also in New England. So, I claimed him straight away!
The bust and some huge murals represent that Stirling Dickinson, who established the beautiful Biblioteca: the large local library; two great art institutes: Bellas Artes and the Instituto Allende, two baseball teams and a stadium, lots of orchids….something like 2000 varieties which he had collected worldwide and many now-prosperous local families to whom he had provided a university education. I claimed him as my long-lost Tio Stirling!
This week I became the surviving family member when the city honored him and several others in this city’s “Faces Of The Past” Ceremony.
So, within such a short time, I have settled-in,and have taken up my honorary post as Uncle Stirling’s niece. I even live near to his most visible monument: Calle (Street) Stirling Dickinson.
Who could imply that this brand-new city hasn’t been waiting for me all along? That proverbial “End of the road” is even fully-equipped with friends I haven’t met yet? Every day this proves to be the case… with huge hugs, followed by: “Hello darling! What’s your name?”
It feels like a long time has passed (Yup! Three months!) since I posted those photos of my new homebase here in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende, a lovely small town in upper, central Mexico. Life has been beautifully busy since then, beginning with the annual Writer’s Conference, which has gained a huge reputation for itself in the past fifteen years. I chose to attend “The Whole Enchilada” which meant five very-active days of attending lectures and workshops given by some of the world’s best writers. I hauled out one of my most exciting screenplays to use as my work-in-progress to review and consult with agents and, generally, seek to improve. This is a big-screen, sea saga that I wrote from an actual manuscript written by my father, who experienced the back-to-back South Pacific voyages of two famous vessels: The Cimba and The Seth Parker, on which he served as Second Mate. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong on the voyage between Pago Pago, American Samoa and Honolulu, Hawaii, and the crew had to mutiny to arrive safely into port. I knew I had a great story and a well-written script and was anxious to pitch it to the right agent. So, I signed up and paid extra to pitch Anna Geller, only to be told at the end of my presentation, that the conference was only able to deal with books and not filmscripts! Bummer! But, at least, The Insatiable Sea is back at the front of the pack and I will pay more attention to it, and my eight other screenplays, now that I have a real writing office and am not living out of my backpack. Sigh! The life of a Writer! At least, I met many of my contemporaries and members of the Literary Sala here, most of whom put on this very professional conference. I’m surrounded by excellent company and many already-good friends.
And that was true during my recent travels on my way to Mexico. Backpacking, hosteling, out on the world trail produces this kind of beautiful, but fleeting, friendship!
But first, consider this: would you eat one of these, mystery meats, just to fit into a new society? I passed on them, myself and haven’t seen their like, here in Mexico. Hence, I have no idea what Rat tastes like!
HAPPY MARCH 3rd, 19TH BIRTHDAY TO MY DEAR GRANDAUGHTER, MOLLY! I WAS ALSO TRAVELING IN ASIA THIS TIME LAST YEAR FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY. YOUR GIFT WILL BE MAILED PRETTY SOON AND WILL HAVE PRESENTS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, AS IT WAS THEN. LOVE YOU ALL!