Live Inspired: old beauty, new discovery

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates •

I rounded the corner and gasped a little. 

That sounds a little dramatic, but you’ll have to trust me that it was warranted.

Between the crumbling stone pillars, I had caught my first glimpse of the garden and the kind of beauty that makes you lose your breath for just a second.

Surrounded on all sides by stately arches bordering a broad, open-air cloister, the space was carpeted by soft, green grass except for a x-shaped walkway, converging at the masterpiece at center stage: a faded but stately fountain that sent delicate streams cascading down the sides. Behind, the Sierra Madre mountains, blue and green water color paintings from this distance, were framed through every aperture.

It was immaculate. I tried to remember the last time I had seen something so beautiful that it sort of hurt my heart (then I remembered it was less than a week ago at Lake Atitlán).

The sound of the water falling was magnified because except for a couple of maintenance workers floating around the edges of the complex and the cooing pigeons fluttering through the nave, I was completely alone.

Suddenly, I felt so fortunate to be right here, right now, gifted the opportunity to see the Convento de Santa Clara — a church and convent built at the start of the 18th century and preserved beautifully in the city’s core — as it was originally destined to be; peaceful, quiet.

I wondered if the pigeons knew how lucky they were to abide in such an incredible home.

Live Inspired: the language barrier

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It wasn’t until I’d finished my first beer and had ordered the second that we first spoke.

I had arrived in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico half an hour earlier, wandered onto the main street and sat down at a table with another diner, not an unusual move in Mexico when the tables are full.

The conversation, in Spanish, started simply. I felt good.

Aldo was there with his pet Collie who boasted a name I attempted to pronounce for two hours, but never quite mastered. Occasionally someone walked by and called the Collie “Lassie,” to the great annoyance of Aldo and I’m sure the Collie as he was *clearly* a manly, manly dog.

“Que embarazoso,” Aldo said, rolling his eyes and petting his wounded manly dog whose name was difficult to pronounce but definitely not Lassie.

Live Inspired: how to be a rubber band

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It seems far away now, but I haven’t forgotten the frustration that once bubbled up, regularly.

Sitting in a cubicle, under fluorescent lights, abiding to stiff work hours, I felt like I was going a little insane. I was trying to be creative in the most uncreative space I could imagine.

How much better could I be, I thought, if I could remove this bulky structure, if I could write when and where I was inspired? If I could wander and discover, until creativity struck. And certainly it would strike all the time.

Those urges were among the reasons I decided to take this leap, and I expect a lot of people who make major change in their lives have similar motivations.

Yet, as I’ve discarded that resented framework, I’ve found, the pieces within it sometimes threaten to unravel, too.

Live Inspired: finding peace on the road

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I realized I felt it, truly, for the first time in weeks on the way to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a mountain town on the southern border of Mexico.

Already, it had been quite a day.

After a week each in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Huatulco, I was on the move again, a process that had become stressful as I started my transition from “avid traveler with a steady job” to “full-time nomad struggling to pay her bills.”

I’d taken two flights, discovered I needed to pay for my overweight carry-on (apparently that’s a thing in Mexico), and then nearly missed my connection from Mexico City after mistakenly walking out to Baggage Claim 7 instead of down to Gate 7 (why were they next to each other anyway?!), making my way through security again and then losing said boarding pass.

Now, after all that, I was on an hourlong shuttle to my next destination.

Live Inspired: a new, strange life

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Over the last three weeks, traveling solo through Mexico has given me some of the most memorable moments of my life.

It’s also given me some of my biggest challenges. 

I’ve traveled overseas alone, a lot. But in the past, I’ve always had an end date, a more luxurious budget, an ability to go with the flow — because the pressure of getting real things done was low.

I would soak it up. Live in the moment. Then I would go home. 

Now, I am attempting to start a business while learning living abroad. Either situation, alone, might have be enough to overwhelm me. Managing the two, together, has been almost breaking at times.

Last week, I called my mom while sitting at a cafe in a new place, where the WiFi wouldn’t work. My voice cracked in a way I rarely allow in public. I hoped my sunglasses would hide the tears rolling down my cheeks.

Live Inspired: an introduction

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates •

I am extremely excited to officially announce my new partnership with John Reamer and Associates!

Every week, I’ll be sharing a short story about my travels here and on the John Reamer and Associates social media pages, under the banner Live Inspired.

My first post…

For the last eight years, I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and have lived a mostly happy, mostly comfortable existence.

But last month, I gave all that up. I quit my job, I sold all my things and said goodbye to my house.

Why? Because I was inspired to pursue a lifelong dream instead — traveling the world with an open itinerary. And in order to do so, I’m severely pushing myself out of my comfort zone. After a few weeks on the road (hola from Mexico!), I have a new appreciation for some of the basic amenities I’ve lost: hot showers, clean bathrooms, a kitchen to cook in and even conditioner (I’m carrying my life on my back, so toiletry items are very limited).

Still, I’m inspired to keep trekking, to see new things, to meet new people, to challenge myself, to find gratitude for things I’ve long taken for granted, to better understand a corner of the world so different from my own.

Along the way, I’ll be sharing my experiences, my victories and my struggles. Already, it’s been emotional… and I’m only just beginning. I hope you come along for the ride.