Live Inspired: learning to be my own (sane) boss

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Last week, after flying to North Carolina, last minute, to vote, I was at home with my family.

For a full work week. In the middle of several projects. With self-imposed deadlines creeping around the corner.

Normally this would have stressed me out far too much — Would I be able to spend time with my family and also Get Things Done In a Timely and Efficient Manner? — but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to feel some of my anxiety and need to maintain a relentless pace melt away.

I am trying to turn off my “work brain” more often and allow time for activities that won’t later be spun into an article, video or photo gallery. Finally, I’m starting to feel some semblance of balance when it comes to my work life and the time previously reserved for teeth brushing and sleeping.

Getting there has been a journey.

You see, everyone dreams about leaving their jobs and working for themselves because they want to be their own boss.

But not many people take time to think about just what kind of boss they would be.

And as it turns out, I’m a nightmare.

CITY GUIDE: Cobán, Guatemala

Coban, Guatemala — there’s a good chance most people you know who have trekked to the country haven’t spent much time, if any, there.

Unlike the areas surrounding Lake Atitlán and Antigua, Coban really has no tourism infrastructure and therefore lacks the coffee shops/sightseeing guides/English speakers that you can find in those other places.

In fact, when travelers do pass through, it’s almost always with the intention of getting to Semuc Champey, a breathtaking natural limestone feature creating stepped pools and waterfalls in the Cahabón River.

That’s why I showed up in late October, and it’s a worthy reason.

But as I found, over two weeks in town, there is much to love about Cobán itself — from its stellar coffee sourced from the surrounding hills to its massive commercial district full of vibrant markets to the beautiful national park within walking distance of the center. 

Live Inspired: why I journeyed, last minute, to the States to vote

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

About eight days ago, I was sitting at a cafe in Cobán, Guatemala, when the reality set in.

My absentee ballot for the midterm elections had not come. Something in the system had gotten screwed up. I called the North Carolina voting office and they confirmed: my registration had gotten lost.

“You can show up in North Carolina on election day,” the woman on the line told me, “or you can not vote.”

Nearly 3,000 miles away, I buried my face in my hands, distraught. I cried for a few minutes. Then I whipped open my computer and began plotting to do just that — to change all my plans and reservations and show up in my home town just four days later.

Still, they walk: perspectives on the migrant caravan, from Guatemala

Over the months I’ve traveled throughout Guatemala, I’ve met many friends here, and occasionally, as we’ve discussed the U.S. in conversation, I’ve asked them a question:

Quieres ir allí, algún día?

Do you want to go there, someday?

Though no one I’ve met has voluntarily spoken a single bad word about the U.S., the answer, to this direct question, usually involves a shy shrug, perhaps a bowed head.

A friend I met recently here in Cobán replied with this:

“I don’t think I’m wanted there.”

Another friend, in Guatemala City responded, shaking his head:

“I can’t put myself through that.”

I could predict the answer, but each time, it breaks my heart over again.

It makes me think of the caravan of migrants currently making its way through Mexico and toward the U.S. border — the group of a few thousand young men, mothers and babies from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that has so captured the nation and become something of a political prop heading into tomorrow’s midterm elections.

Live Inspired: the hard days

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Some mornings it’s hard to get up.

Sunday morning was one of them. Well, I’ll be honest, Monday and Tuesday, too. I stared at the ceiling for a while, and finally rolled off the bed onto the hard floor in the dark.

Oh, you might be thinking — if you’re new to this column — I thought this series was supposed to be about inspiration.

Well, yes. It is. But inspiration doesn’t come easy, doesn’t drop into your lap. Getting to the inspiration part is often messy, often frustrating, and real as hell. Those transitions are just as truly parts of inspiration as are the finales.

I realize from afar, travels like these can seem like they are nothing but rainforests and empanadas. But in reality, this journey has been a great melting pot of things. In the last four months, I have experienced some of the most memorable moments of my life. I have met so many people. I have seen such beauty that it affects my heart rate. I’ve cried, more than I thought possible, from awe, from beauty, from gratitude, from kindness received.

And yet I also go through low stretches.

CITY GUIDE: 8 places to go in Guatemala City

At the moment, Guatemala City isn’t oft spoken of as a tourist destination — almost entirely due to its reputation of widespread, violent crime.

But as it boasts the country’s largest airport and is positioned as the hub of travel from the U.S., you just might find yourself there anyway, if you’re looking to explore the other bounty Guatemala has to offer.

If that’s the case, don’t panic: there are areas within the city that can be accessed without great risk if you exercise basic precautions and don’t wander off the beaten path. And what you find there — cobblestone streets, vine-draped facades and hip bars in the super trendy Zona 4 and vibrant markets and parks in the culture-filled Zona 1 core — just might inspire you to stay a day or two longer. It did, me.

Live Inspired: 4 days in charming, complicated Guatemala City

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If the universe had done its work properly, I would have been utterly terrified by the time I stepped foot in Guatemala City.

Long before I arrived a week ago, I had gotten snippets of what to expect. The highlights were these:

Danger. Robberies. Crime. Stabbings. Death.

Don’t walk anywhere, I was repeatedly told, by Guatemalans and other travelers — even during the day. And then when I entered my intended address into the U.S. State Department’s citizen travel database, the information the government sent me reinforced those warnings.

“Violent crime, such as armed robbery and murder, is common,” part of the State Department’s dispatch read. “Do not use public ATMs. Request security escorts. Do not display signs of wealth. Do not hail taxis.  Avoid walking at night. Avoid driving at night.”

OK, try not to be alive at night, got it. If you’re alive you’re already dead.

What should I really expect? I wasn’t totally sure. I’d never been in a city where I was told not to walk anywhere during the day. Could it really be that bad?

How to pack for indefinitely: PART 2

After three months of traveling through Mexico and Guatemala, I planned a break in the U.S. to celebrate my birthday, wash off, see some people I love and also reassess this initial packing situation.

To recap: in July, I set off with a 40-liter bag, smaller than I could even imagine, filled with everything I thought I needed for an indefinite journey abroad.

I didn’t know what I was doing.

And let’s be clear — it’s very possible I still don’t. But after a quarter of a year, I certainly have some better idea of what I need, what I absolutely don’t, and what I can live without.

Live Inspired: Straddling two lives

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The truth is, I feel a pang in my chest when I think about leaving again.

It’s coming, of course. 

I take off tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 18), bound for Guatemala City, and then Cobán, then who knows where, as I continue my indefinite journey through Central America, through new challenges, through new frustrations and thrills. 

This new life, full of surprise and wonder? I love it. 

But my old life? I love it, too.