Live Inspired: planning travel/ what’s ahead

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Between all the visible parts of my job as a roaming writer and video producer, there is one element constantly in the background:

Planning and booking travel.

Living a life on the move requires me to constantly be thinking about where I came from and where I’m headed in addition to where I am in that moment.

I get a lot of questions about how I decide where to go and where to stay and what to do while I’m there, so I thought I’d share some of my process — that delicate balance of making a plan while staying open to major change — as well as some of what’s in store for me in the months ahead.

CITY GUIDE: San Ignacio, Belize

When I first announced my plans to head to Belize after several months in Guatemala, one of the first questions I got was whether I’d be able to have any “real” experiences in a county that elicits images of swaying palm trees, immaculate beaches and touristic experiences.

But although Belize — conveniently the only country in Central America whose official language is English — has a long coastline, one of the world’s best barrier reefs and vast supplies of clear, cerulean waters, it’s identity stretches far beyond the dispatches most often received.

My first glimpse of that reality came in San Ignacio — a little river town on the Western border that will live on as one of my favorite locales in my Central American travels thus far. Here, you’re only about 70 miles from the coast as the crow flies, but you’ll feel much farther away, surrounded by dirt roads, Mayan ruins — even within city limits — and a variety of cultural experiences. Walk down the main street and it will be immediately obvious that you’ve left Guatemala, even though you’re just over the border. Expect to smell curry, spice; you stop seeing much corn; that carbohydrate sustenance replaced plentifully by rice and beans. In addition to the expected Mayan and Hispanic influences, you’ll find a big population of Chinese, Asian Indians, Mennonite Germans and of course many of Creole backgrounds that lend great flavor and distinction to the food. You can hardly soak it up in a week, but I tried.

Live Inspired: Resolutions for 2019

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

When I took off on my open-ended journey, I anticipated learning a lot about the world and other people, but as it turns out, I’ve uncovered so much about myself, too.

Leaving my support network, my sold possessions, everything I know, to travel alone, full-time, through places where basic comforts I’ve long took for granted are often absent — while trying to build a business from scratch — has tested me in major ways.

I’ve been hard on myself as I’ve struggled through the ups and downs, condemning my shortcomings, my moments of frustration and sadness and exhaustion. I’ve cracked the internal whip, always believing I could do more, always terrified I wasn’t enough.

Over the last six months, and perhaps especially the last several weeks, I’ve broken down enough to realize that track isn’t sustainable, and it’s not allowing me to be my best self or produce my best work.

So as I look ahead into 2019 and all the promise it holds, the resolutions I’m making aren’t ones of great achievement, of hard work, of doing more and being more. I am old enough now to realize I need no extra nudge in that direction, and I probably need a nudge the other way.

Instead, I am vowing to let go of some of the pressure and expectation and to be more gracious to a person who is constantly striving to do her best: me.

Live Inspired: 2018 reflections

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Nearly one year ago, I walked into a tiny, Portuguese restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown — one of my favorite neighborhoods in my favorite city, and one that always makes me think and dream — and plopped down at the bar.

As I sipped a glass of wine, I looked through the window, out onto the dark, bustling streets, and my heart hurt. Minneapolis, my adopted home of eight years, had been great to me, as had the Star Tribune, from which I was taking a short break to wander New York and see old friends.

But change, I knew, was long overdue.

So over a plate of prawns and white beans, I quietly hatched a plan. I was going to flip it all upside down.

Live Inspired: holiday traditions

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Last week, my best friend and I were gingerly hanging silver globes and ceramic stars on our 2018 Christmas tree, when I paused a minute to think about the whole ordeal.

Then, our glasses were filled with wine, Christmas music was playing in the background and we were sifting, gleefully, through the sparkling, palm-sized memories we have collected over the years.

But the day preceding that moment was fairly hectic. We had made four (FOUR!) stops attempting to find the perfect tree — after the three cut-your-own farms let us down by having only Christmas Sequoias or Christmas bushes left, we procured The One, at long last, from a trailer stand behind a Golden Corral.

Then there was getting it on the roof of the car, pinning it down well enough to sustain the drive back, and, you know, wrangling a live shrubbery through the door, inside the house and into a Frankenstein collar whose screws twist as though they were made in the early 19th century, too.

We named him Gerald, the prickliest tree I’ve ever had; so surly you had to handle him with gloves.

Live Inspired: my very serious guide to spending time in Belize

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

How to find the desire to go: Do you like places that offer beautiful beaches, diverse culture, astounding landscapes, ancient pyramids that aren’t overrun with tourists, cheap, fresh seafood, bars with in-the-ocean seating and $2.50 cocktails? If not you should probably avoid Belize.

CITY GUIDE: Isla de Flores, Guatemala

The moment you arrive on the quaint, blossoming Isla de Flores, one thing is clear: life is lived on the water.

Plant-laden restaurants and cafes affront the tranquil Lake Petén Itzá, offering prime seating for watercolor sunset shows. During the day, lanchas (public transport boats), canoes and jet skis zip around the glistening expanse; beaches and docks are well frequented. And at night, it’s not uncommon to see kayakers linger beneath the moonlight, taking advantage of the round-the-clock stillness.

But if at first Isla de Flores strikes you as only a mindless aquatic draw for vacationers, think again. The tiny island, only 45 minutes from the grand historic Parque Tikal, is a mine of Mayan culture itself, built atop the ancient city of Nojpetén — the last independent Mayan state.