Live Inspired: Indulging the senses in Annapolis

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Spending a weekend in Annapolis requires one, primarily, to use their senses.

Of sight — the heritage colonial architecture, the parade of American flags hung from businesses and residences, the sultry, boat-filled waterfront erupting with blazing sunsets, the pristine turquoise domes and lighted posts at the naval academy, all coalescing into a watercolor landscape from a painting you once saw.

Of smell — the scent of saltwater and magnolia flowers hanging in the air, the salinity of fresh oysters as they’re pried open, the richness of the tide’s other bounty as it’s simmered in olive oil and white wine and butter.

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: 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):

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.

Live Inspired: a necessary education (cat calling and the machismo culture in Honduras)

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Perhaps it really started to sink in with the boy, appearing to be all of 11 or 12 years old.

As I approached him on the street in Gracias, Honduras, he made a show of eyeing me. He pursed his lips together as I walked past and made the exaggerated kissing noises I had become so accustomed to hearing.

“Mami,” he called, sneering and looking to his young friend for reaction.

It was my 17th such incident that day — hearing “pssts” and “wows” as I walked to the bank; absorbing “I love yous” as I searched for a place to eat lunch; receiving the hard stares and persistent chatter of professional predators as I walked around, taking photos.

But it was this preteen, years from sprouting his first chin hairs, that really drove home the point.

Here in Honduras, there is no Me Too movement. Feminism is not trendy nor visible. And the piropos (cat calling)? It’s systemic. It’s so engrained in the culture that the habit is picked up by kids who haven’t even learned what it really means.

Live Inspired: What I think about before I take a photo

Behind every snap, cultural, social and historical context needs to be considered.

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I think about photography — and now videography — all the time.

I think about it when women in colorful skirts walk past colorful buildings. I think about it when old men in cowboy hats lean up against a building while devouring ice cream cones. I think about it every time I go into a market and the worn, leathery hands of the vendors contrast with the youthful ripeness of the produce.

Sometimes beautiful angles just occur, when the world so naturally aligns and a portrait emerges, so defined. Sometimes beautiful moments just happen, girls in flowing dresses dancing around a cotton tree, the sun’s golden light igniting pieces of their hair.

I think about taking these photos all the time.

But often, I don’t.

Why I refrain has nothing to do with the laws of whatever place I’m in, as someone on Instagram suggested to me recently, and everything to do with the complex cultural, social and historical considerations surrounding every snap.

Live Inspired: My loveletter to Belize

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Almost exactly three months ago, I sat on a bus bound for the Belize border after wandering through Guatemala for about four months (minus a couple stops in the States).

I felt this contraction in my chest, then.

I remember thinking, and writing, that I felt I would always be connected with Guatemala, that I would always harbor some special feeling toward the country.

It’s still true. I still practice with my Guatemala-based Spanish teacher twice a week. I still think and read about the political happenings in a place whose landscapes astounded me and whose traditions overwhelmed me.

But even now, it feels far away. Because as this month draws to a close, it’s leaving Belize  (to move on to Honduras) that my heart is breaking over.

Live Inspired: Finding home in, leaving, Corozal

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

A month ago, I rolled into Corozal, a stranger.

Something compelled me to come, though no one had offered a recommendation; though the town wasn’t known for anything in particular; though I knew nothing of what to expect.

I booked a week in an apartment. I wondered if it was too long.

Then I stepped off the bus from Belize City and almost instantly had a feeling. A feeling I would stay longer than planned. A feeling that something special was in the air.

Four weeks later, as I snaked through the sea grape trees at the water’s edge, mentally preparing to finally move on, I understood that instinct.

I was meant to arrive in Corozal. It was a place that slowed my anxiety and calmed my soul. A place where, though I didn’t know it yet, my community was waiting.

Live Inspired: the new vacation

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

I remembered the feeling so distinctly that I almost felt it within myself as I saw it through their eyes.

On my iPhone screen: a family I follow on Instagram, on the last day of their February beach vacation, soaking it all up and wishing their last moments to pass slower.

There was the Last Sunset and the Last Sunrise, dutifully and beautifully documented; smiles captured in the tide; sunglasses that couldn’t quite hide the wistful eyes.

Then images of the road, and already nostalgic faces in rear-view mirrors.

From my perch at an open-air bar in Corozal, where I had come to cool off between video shoots, I looked out at my present nook in the world; my home for the last month.

Beyond the dusty street in front of me lay a children’s park abutting the Caribbean ocean. Turquoise waves rolled in under full sun. Birds chirped. Great palm leaves rustled. 

I stopped for a minute and watched it all.