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

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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

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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

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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.

Live Inspired: discomfort, an integral part of the journey

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

On Sunday, I had brunch on a perfect, white sand beach, hammocks swinging near by, then ordered a drink, dipped in the pool and selected a lawn chair, book in hand.

Cool breezes floated in from the ocean. The sun beamed down through palm trees.

And under my sunglasses, tears were falling down my face.

I was exhausted. And suddenly, it was all pouring out.

After a bit of a rough week, I had made what is an unusual decision for me: I was giving myself a vacation day, free from work and discomfort. I cabbed to a beautiful resort 30 minutes away, and feeling far from my typical reality of sweaty, sleepless nights, constellations of mosquito bites and street food, I plopped down and immediately started crying.

Now, I realize many of you reading this are doing so with mounds of snow outside or maybe from under the fluorescent lights of a cubicle. Sympathy for someone gallivanting around the coast of Belize and writing paragraphs like the one I just did is a hard sell, so I won’t try it.

I’m thrilled to be traveling through lesser tread parts of the world and sharing their underrated beauty. I experience incredible highs, deep fulfillment and satisfaction in an internal, if not always superficial sense. I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision to do this; at this point, I really can’t even imagine going back.

But beyond the veneer of “a glamorous life abroad,” this is also the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I am still very much adjusting to a world flipped upside down.

Live Inspired: Traveling not to visit, but to live

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If there’s one skill of the nomad life I’m terrible at it’s this: staying in a place for only a week.

It’s torture — a week seems to be just enough time to find myself settled and fulfilled by new routine before uprooting again. 

As I’m leaving San Ignacio today (Monday), I’m feeling that sentiment sharply.

Somehow, in my old life, I did this on the regular while vacationing. When I look back and think about traveling through Mexico or Asia or Europe, spending three short days (or even TWO?!?!?!) in a single place and acting like that was normal, my mind is blown.

Indeed, my original “itinerary” when I was playing with the idea of doing this was jetting across Asia and Africa, spending only two or three days in every town or even country. (A BIG LOL TO THAT.)

Most of the other travelers I run into are on this kind of track, so much so that some guest houses are shocked when I tell them I plan to stay even a full week.

But of course, what I’m doing is very different now. I’m not on vacation anymore. I’m not even on a work trip. I making my way across the world, full time. To do that, one has to keep moving. Sometimes I’ve relented, staying in a particular spot for two, three weeks, even a month in Panajachel.

Still, it’s never enough.

Live Inspired: my love letter to Guatemala

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I’m writing this on Monday, on a bus bound for the Belize border, and in about an hour or so, I will leave Guatemala behind after about three and a half months in your clutch.

In a way, it feels as though I am leaving home. What a wild journey it has been.

I showed up to your border in August, thinking I might spend a week or two with you before continuing south through Central America.

That joke was most certainly on me.

Instead, I fell in love with your architecture, your culture, your landscapes; your passion and patience, your intelligence, your liberal smiles.

I swam in your lakes, I shopped in your markets, I walked up your hills, I fell in love with your people. And I found I couldn’t leave.

Live Inspired: being alone vs. being lonely

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Ten minutes ago, I was at a cafe, having breakfast, when a couple of tourists collapsed down next to me on the bench-style seating. I immediately looked around. Was the place full? No? Why did they have to be so NEAR me then?

It didn’t help that one of the guys was tapping the table and intermittently humming  sections of the song playing that wasn’t even close to accurate. (Really? You don’t even speak Spanish. There’s no chance you know this 1970s Puerto Rican ballad.)

But really, it wasn’t about this guy and his humming habits. It was more about the fact that it was morning and I had my computer and I was near the lake and feeling peaceful, and these are generally among the list of situations in which I want as little human contact as possible.

I needed to get out of there, to go somewhere where no one was looking at me or sitting near me or threatening to blurt out: “So, where ya from?” like I’m just dying to answer that question AGAIN at 9 a.m. on a Monday.

OK, OK, before you call me cold or anti-social, let me explain.

I love people! I do! Really!

I just don’t want them around me all the time.

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

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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.

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

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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.