What is it about World Travel that brings out the worst characteristics in some Americans? More accurately, in some females from the United States. 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 us 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!
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!
(Which of these shots “doesn’t go”; but does ’cause it’s on the wall?)
Here is my newly-discovered Costa Rican destination resort, The Fauna Luxury Hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica, just an hour from the airport. It is so easy to meet people in hostels
I have made all of these wonderful friends in just one week! Imagine that!
I’ve extended my stay in the Fauna Luxury Hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica for another two weeks. This hostel puts no limits on one’s timeframe, contrary to most; so, some guests stay for months. Here’s why:
This colorful inner patio contains ping-pong and pool tables and this glorious mural. It’s an outdoor lobby leading to all rooms, the bar and huge dining room/cafe, and our hostel kitchen. My 5-bunk dorm room has the new-fashion cubicle bunks. We each get a comfy, wooden box with a descending curtain for darkness and privacy. I haven’t seen the private rooms yet but maybe I can get some shots of those too. My dorm bed costs $13 a night but the ensuite privates are only $35 to $50. All including breakfast. Such a deal!
After finishing my six-weeks of petsitting in San Isidro de Grecia, I returned to Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. Fortune certainly smiled on me when I selected the Fauna Luxury Hostel out of a long list on Hostelword.com. This is, by far, the BEST hostel I have ever stayed in! And, I have stayed in hundreds all over the world by now. Here are pictures to prove my point:Lobby and Front Desk
I haven’t published any exciting details of my life here in Grecia, Costa Rica, housesitting and petsitting for a lovely and lively young doggie, Cara. My excuse is a good one, however. While I temporarily settle into a quiet, suburban expat life in a modern community; I am finally able to cope with an enormous editing/writing project that I couldn’t have done within my parapatetic traveling life.
I brought about 40 handwritten journals of my recent travels, which also contain details of my most-unusual inner, psychic life. My sister almost threw them in the dump when this journal collection landed on her plate but agreed to hold off until I arrived. I’m sure this is typical of most psychic’s relatives.
Since dogs are not the best conversationalists, we petsitters know to equipe ourselves with time-fillers: paperbacks or online haunts and duties. Or old journals to tear apart according to topic and then to retype for online distribution. That’s where I am now. Cara has my presence fulltime! Though, can you believe? She STILL competes for my attention with my computer!!! An egomaniacal young doggie! I try not to encourage that ego buildup.
Anyway, I’ll have these jounals gutted by the time her owner, Kathy, returns; and maybe I’ll rent a cabin on the beach to type them up? Or I’ll take a break and finish in the next spot I land in? My life is sooo flexible! It’s certainly an advantage to fashion ones’ self as a writer. Because that very designation identifies you as an analyzer who writes about what you discern under the covers: maybe, a dog’s influence upon your life? I hope my input is of a higher quality!!!
So, thanks to this dog, I have set a goal for myself that keeps me on target to keep winnowing my journals. Naturally, I’m creating more diaries as I go; but trying not to be so loquacious.
Can you say that about the animal in your life?
It’s 2019 and I’m petsitting in Costa Rica and using my day’s full of downtime to cull my old journals for excellent blogging material. Here’s one written in Slovenia, Eastern Europe in 2005: I was 64 years old.
“As I pass through the world’s hostels, I’ll try to describe how life is in them. This hostel is very quiet and cordial, with young, hands-on owners. Everyone speaks English and will help with enthusiastic advice; as will the ever-changing, full compliment of guests, who all seem to be from Australia, Canada or England. Young professionals: teachers, nurses and doctoral candidates. One man spent three weeks in Irkutsk, Russia, as part of his PhD work. Eleven years ago, I was in that same beautiful region of Lake Baikal, Siberia, leading US/USSR group tours for almost a month. I must get back there, someday!
The subject of one’s travels is usually the first thing we all talk about: Where you’ve just been and where you are headed, It’s at these times that I realize what a Road Warrior I really am, because my experiences often rank me equal, or senior, to them and this is surely why they don’t see me as representing my age; but, as simply, a fellow traveler.
Now, what’s it like to sleep in an eight-bunk, mixed dormitory room witb fifteen other men and women sleeping all around you? Just fine! Mutual consideration makes it work out. Even having just one toilet room… with only one toilet. And another shower room, with one shower and no toilet…is managed very easily. Though, it helps to rise early, as I did today.
Everyone else was out until midnight and I turned in at 10:30 p.m. But,I barely heard them come in.
This hostel is similar, in principle, to those in Nicaragua, which I enjoyed so much. Those cost only $3 to $6 a nigbt, compared to $27 here; but that reflects each country’s economy. The Central American ones all had FAR more toilets and showers; but the friendly, welcoming ambiance was just the same. As were the backpackers, themselves.
People of my generation are probably stuck in the Hippie mentality, as far as their impression of backpacking goes. I was, until I met this serious evolution of “under-the-radar” traveler. They are lovely, lovely, highly-educated, very-considerate men and women, who behave like brothers and sisters of one another.
All are naturally attractive, clean-cut, fit, and in good health. Everyone sleeps in loose,
comfortable clothing: shorts, tee shirts, mumus or sundresses. No one talks in the dorm room after the first person turns in and it’s reading lights only. I always curtain my lower bunk sides with sarongs; simply for darkness, rather than modesty or privacy.
Now, a brief look beyond the hostel walls! I just saw a traditional Babushka, a granny, standing in tbe hot sun, bundled in sweater, skirt, a head scarf and heavy knit stockings. It would probably be immodest to wear anything less. She had the stocky, square peasant’s body and was either my age or younger. Otherwise, all people here are leading the fashion parade.
Such a clean city! With good sidewalks! Everything is under repair here, with none of the poverty I found in Central America. Slovenia is known as the richest portion of Old Yugoslavia. The land is not suited for agriculture, so it has become the center of industry, learning and finance.
I highly recommend this whole, less-traveled, anciently-civilized region!
I am now happily ensconced in a lovely, modern home in Grecia, Costa Rica; takibg care of Cara, a young and very exuberant, middle-sized doggie, while her owner, Kathy, is in The States visiting family. Cara is the main reason I’m here, but I also keep the house occupied during the many weeks of its owner’s absence. This is a win-win situation for everyone.
I get to live in a foreign country as an expat, at no cost except my food and the incoming and outgoing transportation to Costa Rica. Americans get a 90-day visa at the border, which can be renewed by exiting znd re-entering.
Kathy has the peace-of-mind of knowing that her precious child is safe and happy and not “imprisoned” in a boarding kennel at great expense. I get to indulge my love for dogs and to spend many long hours culling my accumulated journals in order to write my next book. These many journals contain twenty-years’ worth of wisdom and forgotten adventures and fill a medium suitcase. It’s about time I took them off my sister’s hands and relived my “most adventourous traveling life”. So, days are being filled with research, cutting the valuable pages out and tossing the rest. All in the company of a sleeping dog.
I’d sleep too, if I had romped so exuberantly with Little Man, next door, during our walk this morning! Our immediate neighborhood consists of eight lovely homes each surrounded by a landscaped lawn, on a dedicated, gated street.
Originally, all of this property was owned by one Tico family with seven daughters. As the girls grew, Mom and Pop, who still live here in the family home, built each one of them their own house, up and down this street. By now, even the next generation of their grandchildren are raised and gone but most of those daughters and spouses still live here. A few have sold, and a few rent theirs out, like this one to Kathy, but this is still a delightful, family enclave.
They all have keys to each other’s places, so that they can rescue clueless dogsitters who get stuck in the fenced back yard when the wind slams the door shut and locks one out! Just this morning! Talk about community!
This wee town of Gracia contains all anyone needs in the way of shopping; but it is near to San Isidro (one of several San Isidros here), which is only an hour from the capital city of San Jose and the international airport. We are in the mountains where the air is clear and the temperatures are mild. It is extremely quiet and peaceful. The country, itself, is one of the safest in the world and the native Costa Ricans are renowned for their genuine friendliness.
Now, how can you avail yourself of this Win/Win World of house and petsitting? Just google those terms to find the several excellent matching service websites. I always use www.trustedhousesitters.com. You can find so many listings for all over the world for long and short periods. Couples are especially welcomed; particularly, if the pets are big muscular dogs who expect and need long walks.
Once, I spent a month in Capetown, South Africa, minding a sweet little Yorkie. I forgot to mention that you usually get introduced to all of the owner’s friends, who then make up your delightful support group. This time, I’ve already gone out to lunch with Maggie, a Reiki Master and fellow Voice Hearer and we’re going to try to start an HVN group (www.hvn.org) here to meet at the Yoga Center. Expats famously gather in so many interest groups in their new communities, that you will find yourself fitting in as a local in no time at all. This is an excellent and very affordable way to checkout a possible future location for an expating move of your own.
And, in my case, I only speak English! Spanish would be nice, but I’ve done this all over the world without the local language. You can too!
I flew here from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to attend Molly’s high school graduation and many gala affairs surrounding that, including a pool party and a theater fundraiser.
As part of my two weeks’ family visit, we attended two fantastic theatrical, performances of the 30th Anniversary Musical of Phamaly (Family) Theater for physically-disabled actors. My grandaughter, who has a very rare genetic chromosome disorder found in only 34 people in the world, has been a dedicated actor for several years. The very talented cast uses wheelchairs, walkers and canes but they are polished and professional. What a show! This is the only such theatrical company in the United States and they have traveled as far as Japan to perform.
On Tuesday, June 4, I fly to Tampa, Florida, to visit my sister and brothet-in-law, Ann and Bill Sargent, and after a week, I’ll fly to San Jose, Costa Rica, for a convention and six weeks of pet sitting. I’m anxious to return to the Land of Pura Vida.
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!