Live Inspired: at last, los farolitos and magic

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

As the sun settled into the hills behind the twin bell towers of the broad, white Iglesia Santa Lucia, the town came alive.

Candles, encased by glass lanterns in all shades of color, alit the adjacent park and town square, casting golden highlights on strolling silhouettes, on a child’s bouncing coif as she frolicked, on the underbelly of the almond tree branches.

It was Día de los Farolitos — that is, day of the lanterns — and I was not where I was supposed to be. Actually, nothing about the weekend had gone as planned.

Live Inspired: 10 things I learned after one year as a nomad

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

In many ways, it feels like my journey as a nomad has only just begun. But that day in late June when I packed up my backpack and left my old house in Minneapolis? That feels like CENTURIES ago, some black-and-white movie I once watched.

The last 14 months have been an exercise in almost complete change — I sold everything, left all that I knew and charged into an indefinite journey of solo travel. To do that, I had to unlearn how to live, how to think, how to operate, and then calculate and build a new normal in a totally new existence.

After more than a year as a nomad traveling mostly through Central America, here’s what I learned:

Live Inspired: first impressions in El Salvador

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

The shrill, happy notes reverberated through Plaza Libertad, drawing a crowd of a couple dozen, and me — invited by the music and the gleaming red upright bass.

A woman, wearing a bright pink apron and holding a matching ladle, spooned atol — a sweet corn drink — into styrofoam cups to serve. Two other women had staked out territory in front of the little five-piece band and were dancing as though it was their jobs (it might have been; they later worked the crowd for tips). 

I whipped out my iPhone, as I always do, with a wave of reluctance. The nature of my job, these days, is to record what’s around me, but documenting other people in other places, especially as a white person, isn’t always popular. I’ve often stopped photographing because I absorb the glares around me. In more than a handful of cases, I’ve actually gotten visceral rebukes.

But on this glorious Friday afternoon, as I eyed the assembly, all I caught were smiles.

Playlist: U.S.A. summer feels

There might be no stronger keeper of memories than music — even more than photos and stories, songs have a way of sending me back, viscerally, to specific moments in time, to an almost palpable state of mind.

SO: one of the things I want to do more of moving forward is creating playlists based on place and my time moving through them. I’m starting with my nearly four-month cruise through the States (plus a week in Canada!).

It was a hell of a journey being in my native country — even my former adopted home, Minneapolis — as a nomad, this time. It was both familiar and strange; comforting and challenging; indulgent and driving.

Live Inspired: the hours before takeoff

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Every time, it’s the same.

On the night before I make a new, big move, I don’t sleep.

Before that point, I think about my plans ahead very differently. Now, over a year into this wild, nomadic existence, there is an element of normalcy in what I do — plunging myself into the unknown, alone — even though at times it feels totally insane.

I know I’ll fall into my flow. I know I’ll fall in love. The constant move, more than anything else now, is the new order.

But in those hours before the next leg begins, a particular feeling takes over — some blend of excitement, anticipation and anxiety — and my pulse raises, my stomach turns.

Live Inspired: ruined travel plans — a perfect surprise

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Down by the pebble-strewn shore, the river looked as still as a lake, transforming from waterway to a long, glass mirror as the afternoon rendered into evening.

It was one of those glorious days when the air feels neither too hot nor too cold, and the Mississippi reflects the deep, cloudless sky, the lush green shore and, somehow, the very exuberance of one of the summer’s best offerings.

On the first full day of the next leg of my journey through Central America, I was enjoying it to the fullest — but I was not in El Salvador, where I had planned for months to be on this date (Tuesday of this week). I was nowhere close. In fact, I was back in Minneapolis, stranded in the U.S. after one of the most hellacious travel disruptions of my life.

And it was pretty damn great.

Live Inspired: An ode to slow travel

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

At sunset in Panajachel, Guatemala, a line of snack stalls abutted the Lake Atitlán.

Each one offered beers, swaddled with napkin bibs, and fresh ceviches with their own little twist. Living there for over a month, I could have tried them all. But walking by every night, I chose the same one — not because I was uninterested in trying something different, but because being a regular just felt good.

Live Inspired: Why I love being a solo female traveler

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Traveling with others can be a lot of fun, and let’s be honest, it’s definitely the most popular way to travel. But solo travel, especially solo female travel, has become trendy for a reason and it’s not just the great selfie ops (selfies are actually really hard to take solo, I’ve learned).

I get a lot of questions about my solo female traveller lifestyle — whether I get lonely or bored or feel uncomfortable a lot.

Those answers? All a resounding “no!”

Traveling alone isn’t a consolation prize; for me, it’s actually the pinnacle. Whether you’re taking a weekend trip within the U.S. or wandering across a continent, solo excursions can be incredibly refreshing and stimulating. Going alone has taught me a ton about myself, about my independence and what I’m capable of.

Once you start, it can be addicting. Here’s some of why I love moving through the world alone.