Live Inspired: 11 things I love and hate about Los Angeles

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Over the course of a week in Los Angeles, I trekked all over the city, met up with five different friends, and presented them all with the same incredulous question:

Do they LIKE living in LA?

I asked with equal amounts of adoration and exhaustion — because during the time I’ve spent in the City of Angels (7 or 8 trips in the last decade), my impressions have ranged from <heart eye emoji> to <eye roll emoji,> sometimes in the span of a single half hour.

Here in LA, you can get bangin’ egg rolls for $1 but you might have to eat them next to a rabid-eyed crew that has been awake for 37 hours. There are a million cool neighborhoods to explore but it might take you 1.5 hours and 17 sudokus to make it across town. You can walk your dog to year-round soft breezes, mild temps and palm tree views but your pup might also pick up some used sanitary napkins on the stroll.

You get the idea.

Here’s how I size it up:

Live Inspired: trading objects for experiences

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

This past weekend, I cleaned out my remaining closet of stuff.

I dumped a lot of stuff to donating centers. I sold a fair amount of my favorite pieces of clothing on Instagram. 

As I did, I received a bunch of messages. Among them:

“Good for you, lighten the load.”

And, “How refreshing.”

I understand those well-meaning sentiments and where they came from. Meanwhile, however, I was focusing on not puking in the sink.

Live Inspired: How to travel around the U.S. for a summer as a kind-of broke nomad

On Sunday night, I had a nightmare that I got sick while back in the States.

In the dream, I had a cold that wouldn’t go away, so I went to a hospital. At the end of the appointment, I asked the doctor how much this visit would cost, sans health insurance. She wrote down and slid a number across the table that jolted me from sleep, wheezing.

Health insurance, you see, is one of the many things that just isn’t in the budget for this three-month stint in the U.S. — a venture I’m both very excited and very stressed about.

After I awoke, I lay in bed for a minute, doing a mental check of every part of my body to ensure sickness wasn’t creeping up inside of me. I considered that I should probably drink fewer beers and smoke fewer stress cigarettes. I mulled how many more tunafish sandwiches were in my future. I checked my bank accounts, again, and the tally of all the various reward points I have.

When people in the U.S. marvel at how I’m able to afford to travel full time, they’re usually doing so with a North American mindset — scrutinizing just how much everything costs, here. By moving through developing countries, I tell them, I spend a lot less money to travel full time than most people do to stay in one place. That, of course is because everything in the U.S. is more expensive. Healthcare is a pretty dramatic example (seeing a doctor and obtaining medicine in Central America are tiny fractions of what such things cost here), but vast differences, exist, too, in travel, housing and food.

In Central America, I make enough money to buy my coffee each morning, eat out three meals a day (sometimes on the street though), drink too many aforementioned beers and occasionally stay in a locale with AC, hot water or (!) both. In the States, that budget would barely get me a sandwich and a dorm bed.

On Monday morning, thinking of all this, I considered breaking all my plans and zipping back to El Salvador, stat.

But alas, I have already booked nearly a summer’s worth of travel, and have some events in the works, too. SO, I guess I’ll figure out how to make it work. Hopefully. Maybe. Con suerte.

Here’s how to do it (I think):

While we get outraged about Russian interference, we should consider our own history too

Last week, the redacted version of the Robert Mueller investigation into possible Trump collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections was released, and seemingly all of the U.S. — particularly its media — took the opportunity to find new ways to be aghast, disgusted, horrified by the idea that a foreign government could be involved in dictating our leadership, our way of life.

It’s disturbing, certainly. I’ve been among those enamored with fury, too.

But lately, I’ve instead been thinking back to a conversation I had a few months ago in a bar in Belize.

My Belize City friend, Ian, chuckled then as we shared a glass of wine, talking politics in a small bar in Placencia. At some point the Mueller investigation came up.

“Americans are outraged that Russia helped choose your president,” he mused, “even though it’s what your country has done with leaders of countries all over Central America for decades.”

Despite knowing the history, foggily, the statement hit like a 2×4 block of concrete to the face.

Because, well, let’s face it: as U.S. natives, we don’t like to think of ourselves that way.

My pop-up shop is back!

Thanks to a wild first round of photo sales in December and January — my first foray into this madness — my pop-up shop is officially back for round two, kicking off …right now.

This time around,  I have some new notecard sets up for grabs as well as a bunch of new prints in 8x10s and 12x18s. And a lot of the best sellers from the previous round, such as the Beetle and Old Man and the Sea prints and the street dog notecards are still available as well!

Most excitingly for me, after bumbling through the first round of sales manually, I have a fancy new landing page for my shop, where you can browse the available goods and order them directly. You can find it here. As it is still new, please alert me to any problems or concern! And if there’s something you’d like to see but you don’t, I’m all ears (but no promises).

An important note! Being that this is a pop-up, there is a DEADLINE FOR ORDERING if you want to make this round of shipments, which will go out in late May.

So make sure you place all orders before midnight on May 12 to make the cut.

Here’s the link again. Now ready, set, SHOP!

Live Inspired: In the “land of the free,” our toilets flush all

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

These days, I spend a lot of time trying to remember where to put my toilet paper.

Since I got back to the States a week ago, I’ve found myself lingering in a lot of bathrooms, awkwardly holding that little used swath and trying to figure out why the trash can is so far away.

When I realize, anew, that I’m back in the ol’ U.S. of A. and I can indeed flush the stuff, my new reaction is less relieved than it is confused — mystified by the fact that the toilets can actually handle it here. I’ve stared into a lot of toilets, unconvinced it will all make its way down.

Perhaps this is the biggest analogy of it all: life in the States, down to the way we dispose of our excrement, is different. Almost every moment back is a reminder of that.

Live Inspired: Chemex, craft beer and joy in the world’s most violent city

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

The barista arrived at my leather banquette table armed with a tray full of equipment.

The pourover stand, with a glass decanter at its base. A stainless kettle with a delicate, gooseneck spout. A canister of the coffee itself, which she allowed me to whiff before beginning the precise brewing process, ensuring the shape and stream of the water flow was optimal for my single perfect cup.

Around me, bright murals covered the walls. Edison lights hung from the ceiling. Japanese siphon contraptions, which were also used to brew this organic java, were strategically placed around the cafe, like art.

I was in San Pedro Sula, dubbed “the most violent city on Earth.”

And I was having a lovely time.

How are Hondurans reacting to Trump’s aid cuts? A perspective from San Pedro Sula

Thanks to a long, complicated and overwhelming negative history of U.S. influence in Honduras, the reactions on the ground aren’t as straight-forward as one might expect.

At the top of Rotulo Coca Cola, where the heat of the city weakens with altitude and the pavement edges up against the jungle, a plateau rises from the mass of banana trees.

From here, all of San Pedro Sula, Honduras looks small — a city of almost a million stretched beneath the humid haze, its raucous soundtrack replaced by the drone of crickets.

“It looks so peaceful from here,” Eduardo Hermida said, overlooking his home town. “That’s why I like it.

“From here, it looks like everything down there is going well.”

Live Inspired: A Tegucigalpa welcoming

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I had taken a wrong turn.

In search of Castillo Belluci, a crumbling Italian-built castle in the hills of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I had stumbled past a great iron gate. It seemed to be the right area of the Leona neighborhood. It seemed a gate worthy of such an attraction. So I walked right in.

…And abruptly found myself in someone’s front yard. Beyond the plant-lined stairway where I stood, a man and two women sat at a long, al fresco table, slowly savoring a bottle of wine. Seeing a gringa suddenly appear in their garden, they raised their arms.

“Venga,” come on down, the man called. “Esta es su casa.”

Realizing my mistake and, assuming the sentiment about it being my house to be sarcasm, I covered my face with my hands. “Ay perdon, perdon,” I shouted. But as I spun to leave, they called again, dramatically gesturing with their arms that I join them.

I wondered, for a moment, whether they were expecting someone else and had confused me for their guest.

Soon, I saw there wasn’t any misunderstanding at all: by crashing into their lives, rather, I had become their guest. They had watched a confused, white tourist barge into their garden, and they simply chose to respond with such graciousness that I felt I had been bound there, all along.