Shadow of Amy and Quinn reflected on the red dirt of the Soussusvlei desert in Namibia

Musings from Muizenberg

In three days, we will have been on the road for six months. First, I want to thank those of you who are following along and sending us messages of encouragement and support. I have received a lot of loving questions about “the knees” which makes me feel cared for and grateful. I was never much of a “Facebooker” until we began our travels. It has now become my lifeline to our many friends and family members. If you love or even like a little bit of the blogs you are reading, please share them with your own circles on Facebook or forward our website to your friends who boycott Facebook. We would love more followers.

I thought I would take a moment and give you all a real time update on our whereabouts. We are currently in the city of Cape Town in beautiful South Africa.  As you know, I have been battling problems with my knees since we left Colorado. While in Namibia, the swelling gave way to a lot of pain and so we searched with spotted internet service, and found an orthopedic surgeon in Cape Town. After undergoing MRIs on both knees (wow that was intense, who knew how difficult it would be to stay perfectly still for 20+ minutes/knee?), his assessment is that I have broken up cartilage that is irritating the knee joint and causing the inflammation and pain. I must have a piece in my left knee joint that is preventing me from fully straightening it. His recommendation is arthroscopic surgery to “clean out” the cartilage in both knees. Apparently the right knee is the worst and I am even missing bits of cartilage on that side. Because of this news, we have opted to stop here in Cape Town to receive the needed treatments. The long flight from Spain to Namibia (10 hrs) taught me that when inflammation is running amuck it will fill up your whole leg, is really painful and takes several days to subside. In my case, the swelling in my knees has been ever present for the last 5 months. Traveling back to the US is not only very expensive on such short notice but it is also a 35-hour journey.

Here in Cape Town, I will be able get treatment and proper rehabilitation. Our visa allows us a 3-month stay and we have found an apartment to rent for that time. We can even apply for an extension if needed (which I am pushing for so we can explore the many nature trails and mountains of the Cape once I am healed). We have found a very sweet Montessori school called Auburn House School where the girls are enrolled and will start the new term with the rest of the students on April 5th. This was at their request and they are very excited. It will allow me time to catch up on writing and Jacob to continue to work on his plans for his own career goals.

That is the Real Time update for today March 19th, 2016. Happy Birthday to my nephew Roarke who turned 12 on St. Patty’s day. We are sending so much love to Jacob’s family as they celebrate Shirley Martin’s life at her memorial service today. She was a kind, hilarious, beautiful woman, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother and friend to many people.

Keep watching your inbox for our blogs. In queue are more words from Mackenzie and Quinn, my take on Sevilla and our amazing experiences in Namibia.

As they say here in Cape Town,


Go Well.


Mackenzie and Quinn sit on concrete stairs in front of the marina at sunset

A New Weird Christmas in Barceloneta

Two days before Christmas our elf Flutter left a note telling us to go see a Christmas market and find out what a “Caganer” was.  So we went to a christmas market in the Placita de la Seu by the Cathedral of Barcelona that looked like a castle and we saw a sign that said “Caganer”.  We looked around and we saw a stand with a guy selling little statues of people pooping. Daddy looked up on his phone why there were little tiny statues pooping and we found out that the pooping guys were the Caganer.  Another name for Caganer is “the little crapper”.  small Caga Tío logs with raisin and penuts for food and Caganger squattingHe lives in France or Catalonia.  He is a little statue with a red hat and his bottom showing!  People put them in nativity scenes with baby Jesus.  They put him in nativity scenes because his poop fertizes the world so that there will be food for next year.  Some people think that when you put a Caganer in a nativity scene it brings you good luck and good wishes and if you don’t you will get in trouble.  Some people think that it is bad to put a Caganer in a nativity scene because they think it is holy and sacred and they think that the Caganer makes it look funny and not very good.  In my opinion, I think that the Caganer is weird because he poops outside like a dog in the plants and not in a toilet.

When daddy went to go find a water filter I saw some logs with little hats.  Mommy asked the man selling the logs what they were.  He told us that they were Caga Tíos.   Caga Tíos are little logs with red hats and a smily face.  You are supposed give it a blanket and some food so they can grow.  On Christmas Eve you have to whack the log and sing a song: poop log poop out a present, poop log poop log.  The next morning all the kids will see the presents that the poop log pooped out.  I think  that the poop log or the Caga Tíos are good because I like taking care of the Caga Tío. People who live in Spain like the Caga Tío because they like taking care of the them too.Mackenzie stands in living room getting read to open a gift

On Christmas morning I woke  up and I ran into Mommy and Daddy’s room to tell them it is Christmas and “you need to get up”.  Then I ran into the living room and then Quinn woke up too.  When we were awake we had to first give everyone their presents then we got to open them.  In my sock a got a lego person, some candy and a bracelet.  Our Caga Tíos gave us each some chocolate eggs and some farm animals.  I unwrapped a  doll, a note book, a pen that has four colors, a lego set and some earrings from my grandparents.  Our family gave us some money and we will use it to go to Paris, France.  for the rest of the day we got to play with our toys.  It was a fun Christmas and I will never forget it.Mackenzie and Quinn stand with gifts of art supplies in front of the paper christmas tree we made

I liked it a lot and If I ever have a more fun christmas I will tell you!

So long, and thanks for all the laughs

I received a text from one of my sisters the other day that my grandmother was in the hospital and the prognosis didn’t look good. We were all laying on a bed in the highlands of Peru, exhausted from a long day of hiking when it came. I read the text to Amy and the kids and watched as my own feelings were reflected back to me: worry in Amy’s eyes, sadness in Quinn’s and confusion in Mackenzie’s.  Amy and I shared how the myeloma she had been diagnosed with had taken a turn for the worse and she was refusing life support.  Mackenzie immediately asked, “why would Yaya refuse a ventilator?”

We explained that sometimes people reach a point where they are at peace with shirley-weddingtheir life and the challenge and pain of treatment may not be the option they feel best for themselves.  We reminded Mackenzie that Mutti and Padaddy (great grandparents from Amy’s side) had made similar decisions at a comparable point of their lives. It was a reassurance to them both that Yaya’s choice to let come what may is a powerful one that brings her peace.  Ultimately, we all found solace in the thought that when she passes, she will always be with us, in our hearts and in our memories, helping us when we need her special brand of wisdom or guidance.

Later, after the children went to bed, Amy and I had a long discussion about what this meant for us and what we might do. This is one of the hardest parts of our decision to travel, knowing that moments like this might happen. Ultimately we decided that should this be the end, we wouldn’t return for a service. To me, a service is an opportunity to fortify those spaces in our hearts and minds that hold a piece of her. I lament that I won’t be able to share that with my family and friends directly. Instead, Amy and I chose to have a remembrance ceremony at Machu Picchu with the girls. It was a difficult decision, but one we felt Shirley would support. Throughout the lead up to and after our departure she has been one of our biggest cheerleaders, applauding us for having courage to face this journey with all its joys and even its sorrows.

My grandmother was a wonderful woman in many ways, but she was never a typical grandmother. Perhaps that is what made her so special to me and many others. Certainly she was loving and caring, those are great hallmarks of her life.  However, I can’t say that growing up I was ever especially close to her. She wasn’t the type of grandma that I went to for solace or attention in the way that grandchildren might do. But I imagine for even my sister, who was much closer to her, the relationship wasn’t typical. How could it be when you call your grandmother by her first name?

She was always Shirley to me. Never Grandma, Gammy, Yaya or any other name with which you might identify a grandmother. In part this symbolized much of our interaction when I was young.  She didn’t treat me as a child, rather a person who just happened to be her grandchild.  At first glance you might think that would be a terrible thing, but it wasn’t. We had discussions about life, spirituality, society, the future and more that never would have fit in the typical grandmother/grandchild box.  She was never afraid to broach any topic with me and always valued my opinion even if I lacked the equal experience or perspective she had. This is how she treated everyone, no matter the person or their history.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson said: ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.’ May I try each day to always look within to the love, the non judgement, the compassion to finding peace. The world has many differing opinions on all things… me to see everyone as my brothers.” – Shirley B. Martin

The thing I will remember most about her is her humor. Many would say her humor was not always appropriate, but it never failed to hit the mark. A shining example of her humor was when one Thanksgiving, while I was in college, I had brought some friends to my house shirleyfor dinner. After politely asking one of my friends to pass the potatoes, she asked everyone to share how old they were at “their first sexual encounter!” Needless to say, the subtle nervous tension a stranger feels in an unfamiliar situation was stripped away in that one move.  Many around the table laughed, some feigned mock surprise that she would say such a thing and others immediately supplied the requested info.  In one stroke she changed the entire dynamic of the night.

“I find that humor is a wonderful tool for reaching people…true, loving humor. Sometimes I smile when alone at some funny, ridiculous thing about myself. And truth be known, I can find many funny, ridiculous things about me!” – Shirley B. Martin

Shirley cared deeply for her family and the people around her.  She understood that life is a beautiful fragile thing that must be tended.  While exploring Machu Picchu I was reminded that nothing lasts forever.  A small geranium was growing through a 600 year old wall. One day a flower just like that may cause the wall to crumble. At that moment I chose to make that day a celebration of her life rather than a day of sorrow. A day to marvel at the at the sacred place with a mind and heart she helped to shape.Shirley-flower

Thank you Shirley for all you ever were and all you ever weren’t.

sea and sky and a small strip of beach

Bocas del Toro, Panama

I have struggled to write this post. I think because I have mixed emotions about Bocas del Toro. We discovered its beauty and were privileged to share the experience with my sister, Crissey, and her friend Chris. It is also very dirty and there are frequently water bottles and plastic bags floating in the middle of the ocean, and larger amounts of trash lining the shore especially in Bocas Town. I think this reality has made me sad, disappointed in humanity.

Our time in Costa Rica came to a close and we were all excited for our 9-day exploration of Bocas del Toro, Panama (which almost didn’t happen). The archipelago is just south of the Costa Rican/Panamanian boarder in the Caribbean Ocean.   I had some friends who recommended we do a tour there from Costa Rica and after looking at pictures online Jacob and I decided we wanted more than a day to explore. As an added bonus, my sister and her friend decided to meet us and explore the area together for a few days.

Tip #1: You will be harassed at the Panama boarder and potentially barred entrance if you do not have a return ticket to your country of residence. BUT keep a smile and it just might work out like it did for us.

The Story: For $37/person, we booked a shuttle company (CarribeShuttle) to drive us to the Panamanian border, instruct us through the border process and then literally walk us across the bridge into Panama, drive us to Almirante, Panama where we would catch a ferry to Bocas Town. We had our hotel information and flight out of San Jose printed for evidence that we did not plan to stay in Panama indefinitely.  All went as planned until we arrived at the Panamanian boarder office to have our passports stamped. Jacob seems to have taken on the role of “keeper of the passports” and our general family representative. Perhaps it is my reliance on his better Spanish skills but more likely it is because he feels protective of us as the Dad. So, as we are standing in line, Jacob is trying to converse with the official behind glass who seems to be questioning Jacob in a way that sounds like there is a problem. As I move closer, I hear them decide to switch to English (Jacob is still learning) and the gentleman explain that our paperwork showing our flight out of San José to Lima is not sufficient for the Panama visa requirements. We need to show evidence of an airline ticket back to the US, our country of residence. Holy s*$#! What? Jacob stressfully massages his temples and says, “Is there nothing we can do? There must be something”. Oh no. I start drafting the email to my sister in my head “I’m sorry you came all this way, we won’t be able to meet you”. I must have been having this conversation with her in my head for awhile because all the sudden, Jacob is laughing and joking with the man and we are being asked to stand in front of the camera, as entrance requires photos for their computer records, and the gentleman behind the glass is telling us about the festivities expected in Bocas Town that weekend. Jacob is so charming and no, we didn’t pay him off. I’m still not exactly sure how he convinced the man to change his mind; you’ll have to ask Jacob. Of course, I’m not sure he knows either.

Tip #2: Weigh your priorities on where to stay and then be ok with the decision.

The Story: I am sitting at Indi, a restaurant in Bocas Town waiting for the bartender to bring me the café con leche I ordered. My stomach is doing flips with excitement at both the oceanfront scene I am looking out on as well as the solitude that was granted to me by my family. It takes a little while to discover the beauty of Bocas del Toro when staying in Bocas Town. I have awareness that I am viewing my surroundings from the lens of a privileged white woman from the United States and the shock of this area compared to the bliss we experienced in Costa Rica threw me for a loop. Bocas Town has houses in shambles, trash on the streets and in the ocean. The people do not seem as friendly as they were in Costa Rica. When walking on the main street, the restaurants, hotels, bars and tourist shops barricade the view to the ocean. The absolute beauty of this place is hiding behind the vast storefronts that line the street.

Buildings of Bocas Town along the water
Bocas Town

I cannot find the island feel. There is no public pier or place to sit and enjoy the water without making a purchase. The closest beach is a 20-minute walk, polluted with trash and overrun with sand flies, we did not stay there for more than a few minutes during our initial exploration of Bocas Town. We chose to stay in Bocas Town thinking that it would make getting groceries and other things we might need easier. There are accommodations on the other islands but we would need to take a water taxi to Bocas Town for supplies, which, for a family of 4, can get expensive.

So, as I sit here it is no wonder I am in such awe as I take in the scene in front of me. My heart feels so full as I watch the fishing boats and water taxis fly across the water. In the distance I can see the Isla Bastimentos about ¼ mile away thick, jungle forest fills the island and colorful houses dot the shore. To my left is the next closest island of Carenero, it seems like I could probably swim there from here it is so close. What is most striking to me during trips on the water to explore, is how huge the sky appears; nothing but sea and sky with dots of green islands that are dwarfed by the vastness. The sky is usually filled with giant, billowy thunderhead clouds that are gray and white and make an amazing painting at sunset. This is really a beautiful place, a simple life here. Bocas Town has its charm especially at night with the loud cacophony of music being played by groups of people in the plaza; seemingly a competition of who can play their favorite the loudest ends up as one confused sound. It baffles me why they don’t get together and make one large party and take turns with the music, but alas, there is my foreigner lens again. When we arrived, the school down the street from us was rehearsing their marching band performance for the upcoming Bocas Day Parade. This is a big deal for this community. All the school marching bands in the area compete for the large cash prize. There are even adult groups that compete on the last day. It was two full days of snare and base drums marching down main the street. We would have missed that part of the culture if we hadn’t stayed in Bocas Town.

Tip #3: Barter for the right price on water taxis and go to BiBi’s on the Beach for lunch.

The Story: There is so much to explore in Bocas and the only way to do that is by boat. On our first day we tried to get the lay of the land on the cost of taking water taxis. The closest island to Bocas Town is Isla Carenero and, as I said a moment ago, you could practically swim there so when the boat driver said we would need to pay $5/person round trip that seemed ridiculous. Indeed, it was. Our last day in Bocas we went to BiBi’s on Isla Carenero to have lunch, a beer and Squirt (remember Squirt?) We paid $1.50/person one-way and $5 for all of us to get back.  We asked a tour operator with Red Frog Beach Resort how much it should cost us to get to the resort on Bastimentos and she told us t $7/person one way. Later we learned from my sister it should only cost $4/person to reach the Red Frog dock or $3/person for the Old Bank dock. One of many reasons I am grateful Crissey came out.

Lesson here: BARTER!

I have to give a shout out to Bibi’s on the Beach on Isla Carenero. It is a little restaurant that has a few seats inside but most of it is a large deck that extends over the water. We had lunch here, which was one of the best we had while in Bocas. Jacob and I shared a platter of Pulpo (octopus) that was sautéed with onions in a smoky sauce reminiscent of teriyaki and came with long, thin, crispy plantain chips. The scene is so beautiful with the long view of sea and sky that I love so much about the area. We rented some kayaks for $5/90 minutes and paddled around the shore, the water so clear you can see the reefs below which are dotted with yellow and orange starfish. It was a perfect way to spend our last day in Bocas.

Tip #4:  Share an adventure with a sibling and do a boat tour

Amy and Crissey smiling on a boat with a beer
I love this girl

The Story: Quinn’s birthday and Crissey’s birthday are one day apart. What a birthday celebration it was! A man who works on the property where Crissey and Chris stayed also takes guests out on his boat for a tour of the area. Genaro is a very sweet and generous man from Panama. He is a descendant of one of the indigenous tribes in Panama and came to Bocas for a better life than the $2/day indigenous people are paid at his home on the main land of Panama.  The oppression of indigenous people seems to be a theme so far in our journey.  A topic of further investigation for another time perhaps….

On our boat ride, we saw sloths sleeping at Sloth Island, watched dolphins leaping from the water, held starfish, relaxed on an uninhabited island, and snorkeled in crystal clear water. My favorite was pulling up to a small wooden canoe inhabited by a boy no more than Quinn’s age. Genaro asked him where his father was and the boy pointed down into the water. Suddenly, up popped Dad with his snorkel and mask attached to his face. Genaro spoke very fast Spanish to him and then informed us we could buy two lobsters for $2.50, which we happily enjoyed with garlic infused butter made in the guesthouse kitchen at Chris and Crissey’s accommodations later that evening.

I can’t think of a better birthday for anyone, let alone a 6-year-old girl. Quinn was in heaven.Quinn on a boat with hair flying

I am so very grateful for my relationship with my sister. When she told me that she and Chris wanted to come meet us in Panama I was blown away and so excited. They stayed on Bastimentos in a little cabina owned by a woman who lived on the property in a bigger guesthouse. It had no hot water, no air conditioning and no fan. My sister, who hates camping because of bugs and dirt, is going to stay where? I could tell she and Chris were embracing it all and having an adventure all their own. On the day of their arrival, we met them for “happy hour” at Red Frog Beach. Jacob, the girls and I went zip lining there earlier that day and planned it so that we could meet them after for drinks.   I could not believe my eyes when they walked up off the beach. I kept pinching myself that my sister was actually there with me in Panama.

The girls were giddy with excitement to see their Aunt CC. My most favorite part of our time together in Bocas was when we both ended up back in the boat during the snorkeling portion of Quinn’s birthday party, because we both kept seeing so many jellyfish. The warm waters, due to the El Niño, are causing more jellyfish to populate the area. Those dang things are very cool to see gracefully floating in the water but the fear of them got into my head.   I kept thinking I was getting stung so I quickly swam Quinn (who was using a boogie board to stay afloat) and I back to the boat to safety. Crissey had the same fear and joined me shortly after which gave us an opportunity to share a cold beer and giggle like I can only do with her.

Looking back on our time in Bocas del Toro I wouldn’t change a thing. The area is really extremely beautiful. The trash, poor plumbing and infrastructure are due to the nature of a developing country. I don’t want to “look past” these differences but instead see it as a whole. The hustle of tourism and contrast of poverty with amazing natural beauty are what make up Bocas del Toro. As we stood on the dock waiting for the ferry back to Almirante, we ran into Genaro. Crissey and Chris left a few days before us and so we did not get to see him after the birthday boat ride. He stopped and spoke with us until it was time for us to leave. He said he saw us in town a couple of days before and called out to get our attention but we were oblivious. We gave hugs and heartfelt well wishes as we departed.   Perhaps it is not the people who were less friendly but instead my first impression of the area that had me viewing our surroundings in Bocas Town through a negative lens.  I am keenly aware of my privilege of being an educated, white, middle-class woman from the United States and often find myself feeling shame for having the means to go on this journey.  I am trying to find the balance of being proud of my own hard work and choices that got me here while also staying humble, gracious and respectful of all the people and places I meet and visit.  The colorful Caribbean island community of Bocas del Toro is beautiful from the people, to the houses, to the natural world and definitely worth a visit.  I’m glad we went.

hot peppers

Eating in Costa Rica – Part 2

As one of our servers described, as a Costa Rican, he prefers milder food and isn’t very adventurous when he eats out in his home country or when traveling.  I am not sure if this is the reason that the food tends to feature few spices other than a bit of salt and the occasional pepper, but in general eating in Costa Rica was at times very disappointing and often a tad bland.  Our best bets were the restaurants that featured foreign cuisine or interestingly vegan/vegetarian cuisine. See below for more details about our dining adventures.


It was also very expensive on the whole.  We often kept costs of eating out low at most one drink each and we typically had the girls share a small side dish (papas fritas or patacones) along with one main dish.

Homemade patacones!

Kid’s menus are not typical in these areas and the amount of food was generally more than enough for our girls. Even with these tactics we averaged $43.34/meal when eating out.  If you ignore some of the anomalies, like the time we only had fries and four cokes, the total pushes nearly $50/meal to dine at a restaurant.

Recapping these numbers makes me miss our tiny kitchen in our cabina in Punta Uva.  A couple of days before we departed, they replaced our little burners with a small gas range.  With an oven, we could have been a tad more creative in our own home cooking and would have saved homemade casadoeven more.  As it was, we really did fantastic eating at home. Shopping nearly daily for just what we needed and using almost every bit of it went a long way to keeping our costs down.  On average, we spent $8.89/meal.  This included the cost of buying our water every day, a variety of snacks, a small cache of salt and spices and a few storage helpers to allow us to save leftovers in the fridge more easily.

I will post final budget numbers for Costa Rica after our last day there (we return for a day before flying to Perú), but here are some other numbers that might interest you:

  • Snacks/Fruit when out and about: $24.76 for the month (this is by no means all snacks…with two kids that snack constantly this just represents the times we bought things other than at the market)
  • Ice Cream on hot days: $35.45 for the month, about $9-10 for the four of us to indulge a bit.
  • Pipas frias (cold coconuts): $1.50-$2.50 each depending on vendor.
  • Total daily spent on food: $38.18
  • About $13/meal for a family of four. If your kids are older it will likely be higher.
Place Notes Total
Selvin’s Terrible food…the place itself was amazing. Cool lights, beautiful wood tables and chairs and tucked into the jungle just off the main road. Sadly the service was severely lacking. We have come to expect a slower pace than typical in the USA, but this stretched our patience. Then our food finally came…my steak was gristly and cooked poorly, chicken was dry and over-cooked, and the sauce was a salt bomb. The kids had the Sea Bass and this actually was very nicely cooked, but Mackenzie complained it was too lemony. I would say if you do find yourself here, stick with the seafood and avoid the Caribbean sauce. $60.57
Alice Ice Cream Bar Ice cream was very nice and the family running it is very friendly. An expat couple from New York provided great information about the Puerto Viejo area and a few words of advice about our next foray to Panama. As an added bonus, their 8 year old son asked Mack to play soccer with him. Amazing what 30 minutes kicking a ball (especially being allowed to do it in an unused corner of the restaurant) does for connecting two kids 🙂 $11.73
Bri Bri As Amy previously mentioned, we took a trip into an indigenous reserve to visit the Bri Bri people. As part of this a family shared a traditional homemade meal with us consisting of stewed fruits, vegetables and poultry of some sort. This concoction was served in a banana leaf bowl (a tad challenging to manage for the uninitiated) and a coconut cup with a lemony water. After we finished our meal, we sampled fresh handmade chocolates. This included a sample of the raw cacao fruit, a cluster of nuts covered in a slimy white flesh that tasted like jolly ranchers, and eating a fresh roasted cacao nut. Later we were also treated to a traditional hot cacao drink.  Delicious! N/A (Part of larger package)
Maxi’s This Caribbean style soda just off the beach in Manzanillo was a gem.  The food isn’t necessarily all that special, but coupled with the view and friendly staff it was very nice. It was recommended by many of our friends and family that had visited the area in years past. Reggae is thumping and the restaurant upstairs features great views of the water. The chicken was well cooked, with savory seasoning and a tasty side of rice and beans, plantains and cabbage salad. The fish version was ok, the fish was nicely cooked, but wasn’t a great fit with the rice and beans. The girls however loved their arroz con pollo! $56.30
Como en mi Casa A fantastic accident! I was first made aware of this locale by our Spanish teacher Matías and it caused me a bit of confusion. I had asked him if we could maybe have a lesson somewhere besides my kitchen and he suggested that we could go someplace…como en mi casa! I mistook that to mean “like my house” instead of the name of a restaurant. The menu is simple and features vegan, gluten free and vegetarian cuisine. The baked goods were fantastic, the organic local produce was amazing and the preparation was perfect. My Gallo Pinto featured perfectly fried eggs, flavorful rice and beans, fresh fruit and a delightful semi-hard cheese. Amy chose the Mediterranean sandwich and enjoyed every bite. The girls split the hummus snack and goat cheese platter (both of which I sampled). The staff is friendly and the owner brought the girls two organic gluten free chocolate cookies. When asked if the owner was nice, Mack replied, “Yes, cause she didn’t ask you first if we could have a cookie!” $34.29
Wandha We were stuck…last night in town, no food in our fridge and only a credit card to pay for dinner. After multiple strikeouts (no reservation, no we don’t take credit cards, no we are closed) we wound up at Wandha, a restaurant attached to Hotel Shawandha in the area of Punta Uva. This was a budget buster! they featured a kids platter of spaghetti bolognese that included a drink for $10 a plate. My corsair shrimp dish was tasty with a nicely spiced coconut curry and Amy’s steamed white fish was tasty and well prepared. Amy had a nice glass of wine and we shared a fantastic desert of chocolate mousse with ginger sorbet. The service was fantastic and the atmosphere was nice. A great place, but very expensive for anyone on a budget. $95.24

Eating in Costa Rica – Part 1

Eating in Costa Rica has been an adventure all its own.  Our cabina is equipped with a small outdoor kitchen.  We have a nice size fridge/freezer, small microwave, toaster, coffee pot and a two-burner stove. No oven, no dishwasher and generally poor lighting conditions at night.  Despite these challenges we have really done very well at preparing our own food.  We tend to buy enough food for a couple of days, keeping our fruits and veggies fresh and processed foods to a minimum.

Food prices in Costa Rica are generally comparable to those you would find in the US.  A loaf of non-white bread is about $2.50, eggs are about $3.50 for a carton of 15 free range eggs, $1 for a dozen tortillas and $1.50 for a 2 lbs bag of black beans.  Perhaps unexpectedly, local fruits are fairly inexpensive: about $1.50-$2 for the best pineapple ever, 60 cents for an avocado, and less than $1 for a large bunch of bananas.  Other items are extremely costly: Beer is $8-9 per six-pack (local beer only)*, cheese is $8-10/lb, and $6 for a small jar of peanut butter.  Additionally, we happen to be staying in the one region of Costa Rica where the tap water is not safe to drink.  We mitigate this cost by buying a large 19 L jug of water every 2 days for about $6 (smaller 6 L jugs are about $4-5 each).  We have found juice and yogurt to be VERY sugary (although the box says 100% juice, I’m not sure I believe it)

Eating out is even more expensive.  This is no different than at home…we often struggled with the work/life balance in this area.  Too exhausted after work, school and activities, we often ate out.  My middle certainly suffered the ill effects and so did our savings.  Here in Costa Rica, we haven’t indulged too much.  The costs are similar to what we payed in Colorado for a dinner for four (so far an average of about $35 per meal).  The difference is that now we are on an extremely tight budget: if we want to eat out, an excursion or event is likely out of the question or must be scaled back. Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “why did they have to go to Costa Rica to discover that?  I live it every day!” We were certainly blessed to not have this be an overwhelming concern in the States, but looking back we can see how this impacted us even beyond the obvious costs.

Here in Costa Rica we have found a much better paradigm.  Amy and I now cook together…what used to be a debate is now a partnership.  We clean up after each meal together too, otherwise we pay the price of a million fruit flies, ants and wasps in the morning.  We often cook simple food for dinner such as our version of Casado (rice and beans with some form of protein) or pasta, fresh fruits and veggies.  Lunches are generally sandwiches with more fruit and breakfast is cereal and/or eggs.  One of my favorites is taking the leftover rice and beans from the night before and frying an egg to break over the top of it.  Our kids have taken to this new mode too.  They are constantly “starving” (snack foods are crazy expensive) so they have been willing to try many new things.  Fresh made guacamole, various rice and bean concoctions and squash casserole are just of few of the former “gross” foods they now trying and generally loving.


Place Notes Total
Pita Bonita This place was worth every penny. It is a hundred meters down the road from us in Punta Uva. Amazing fresh hummus, great falafel and spectacular kabob accompanied by super fresh pita bread that I couldn’t stop eating. The owner, Elan, is an Israeli expat who moved to the area for a new way of life. He was very helpful and friendly. $50.00
Jungle Love The ambiance was fantastic (except for Mack throwing a pouting fest that resulted in her spilling her very full banana batido, a fresh fruit “shake”, all over the table). We were tired and all a little out of sorts. We had been in Punta Uva about a week by this time and needed a bit of comfort food so we decided that it was a great pizza night. The pizza was fair, but having had many amazing pies and slices over the years I may be a bit slanted. For me, the sauce was a tad sweet and the crust was a little too biscuit-like. The toppings were fantastic: fresh garlic, sautéed spinach, delicious mushrooms and a slightly spicy sausage were a winning combination. We ordered a large and a medium pizza and had enough leftovers for a nice lunch (although reheating pizza without oven is a challenge). $42.74
Pan Pay This bakery and restaurant was recommended by our Spanish teacher. It is located near the beach in Puerto Viejo on the north end of town. The place was small and the server was impatient with our lack of Spanish. It might have just been the woman helping us as others appeared very friendly. The girls loved the Batidos here and my Pinto Gallo with Tocineta (rice and beans mixed with bacon and eggs) was awesome. The girls had Bocadillos with Queso and Tocineta. Not bad, but not amazing. $19.81
Soda Chino A Chinese influenced soda in Limón. This place served chop suey alongside the traditional casados popular in sodas across Costa Rica. We only had fries and four cokes…don’t think the food would have been great based on what we saw. $10.67
Wok and Roll We took a drive to Turrialba, a mountain valley dominated by an active volcano. It was cloudy, so the only eruptions we saw came from the backseat as Quinn was carsick multiple times on the winding mountain roads (she started the day in a dress, upon arrival in Turrialba she changed into pants and a t-shirt purchased in town, ended the day naked, poor girl). We chose an eatery featuring Chinese food because Mackenzie likes it so much. It was a pretty good option, with nice kid friendly dishes and an amazingly friendly staff. Amy and I shared the Singapore Noodles (one of my favorites) and it was very well prepared. This was a pretty expensive place, but it is close to the main square. $40.00
Punta Mona Center
for Regenerative Design
& Botanical Studies
“An 85 acre off the grid, beach front, family owned,
environmental education center,
botanical collection, permaculture farm
and eco-lodge, dedicated to regenerative ways of living.” The vegan fair was amazing, a squash dish with hearts of palm, garlic, coconut milk and coconut oil; Kale and lentils with savory mushrooms; fried plantains with guacamole. Amy and I enjoyed it immensely and it was about $10 per person. I am not sure if you can arrange to simply eat there on your own, but our tour guide Omar arranged the lunch for us after a kayaking tour.

*A former colleague of mine was certain I was crazy for going on a trip where alcohol may be out of the question because it is such a budget buster.  She suggested that I mitigate the cost by forming a GoFundMe. Well Mindie, here it is: Buy me a Beer

Costa Rica: The Month in Review

We have arrived in Bocas Town, Bocas del Torro Province, Panama.  Our new one bedroom condo is air conditioned and bug free, a welcomed luxury.  I am in the small living room watching the girls turn the two sets of bunkbeds, that are also in the living room, into forts.  My mind drifts back to the cabina that we left in Costa Rica.  I am missing the peaceful solitude of our jungle bungalow and the sounds of nature all around.  Bocas Town is way more lively and seems to be preparing for some sort of festival, a story I am sure we will share in the coming week.

This morning I am reflecting on the first month of our year long adventure.  We had our last few days in Costa Rica planned out so well.  We would spend Monday doing errands in Puerto Viejo, a hot 40 min bike ride (I’m sure if you weren’t lugging two kids you could go faster), and enjoy lunch at Lidia’s Place, a highly recommended lunch spot to get the local dish of Casado. Tuesday we would go to our favorite beach spot and Wednesday we planned to do laundry (most of which needs to be air dried), slowly start to pack and then enjoy one last dinner at our favorite spot, Pita Bonita.

Mackenzie in a waterfall

Quinn holding a green parrotWell…this isn’t how it all ended up working out.  Monday we rode into town as planned, at the peak of hunger, pulled up in front of Lidia’s only to find it closed.  Dang! Now what?  Feeling hot and hungry the moans of disappointment from the girls in the background, Jacob and I looked at each other pleadingly for the other to think of plan B.  Luckily, Jacob remembered that our Spanish teacher Matías recommended a place called Como en mi Casa.  Jacob remembered this place because about out a week earlier he misunderstood the meeting location that Matías  told him for one of their Spanish lessons. Jacob thought Matías said to meet him at his home but instead Matías meant for them to meet at this restaurant.  Oops! Anyway, there we were hot, hungry and cranky.

Como en Mi Casa serves a vegetarian and vegan menu of locally grown, organic products ironically located above a butcher on the second floor of the building.  We rode up and saw several patrons sitting at the bar on the balcony enjoying their lunches.  Hooray, crisis averted!  The ambience was beautiful.  Great music, friendly staff and the owner’s art dots the walls.  She requested the girls draw her a picture to put on display.  The food was amazing.  Jacob’s Pinto Gallo was beautifully spiced and came with a delicious salsa. I had an amazing Mediterranean garden burger with fresh made bread topped with sun dried tomatoes and perfectly ripe avocados (which normally give me stomach problems when I eat them but somehow in Costa Rica it doesn’t effect me as much).  The girls shared a goat cheese and cracker plate and some fresh made hummus.  Fantastic.  Hypnotized by the girls’ cuteness, the owner gave them each a house-made, vegan chocolate cookie made from local chocolate.

Tuesday came and after a lazy morning we lathered on our sunscreen, donned our swimsuits and mounted our bikes to head to the favorite beach spot.  From our house you take the second road to the Arrecife beach, named after the restaurant that is located there.  The bumpy, rocky road leads you along the ocean where you can pick from a series of little private coves.  The water is calm and a perfect depth for Quinn to feel safe playing a little further out from the shore. Plenty of beach to lay your towel and some shade from the overhanging palm trees make this a great spot.  Because Mackenzie helps me pedal, we tend to go much faster than Jacob pulling Quinn in the trailer.  We bumped on ahead and scouted out our spot. “Man, the wind has really picked up today”, I thought “and the tide is high” (cue Blondie’s song The Tide is High here).  We waited for Jacob and Quinn to catch up, assessed the conditions and decided to look further down.  This pattern would happen over and over again for the next 30 minutes until a decision was made to go back to Punta Uva cove where we know it to be calmer waters as it is protected by the point.  (English translation is Grape Point, odd since we didn’t see grapes in that area).  We rode up, parked our bikes and realized that the conditions were the same. Choppy water and not much dry beach due to the high tide.  We made the best of it.  Jacob and I floated out in the waves and the girls dug holes, built castles and drew sea turtles in the sand.

I imagine by now you are getting the sense that we had the saying “the best laid plans…” going around in our heads. Really it is not until now, that I realize none of our final-days-plans worked out as we hoped. We just rolled with it so to speak, figured it out and made the best of it, discovering jewels we would otherwise have missed.  Not to say it wasn’t devoid of feelings of frustration and whining, I don’t want to paint the picture that every moment is magical.  So it was not surprising that the same pattern happened on Wednesday too.  I saved laundry for our last day so as to optimize our clean clothes for our next destination.  We woke to cloudy skies but with high hopes I started the laundry after attending my final yoga class (lovely).  As I hung it out on the line, the clouds loomed.  Yep, after about an hour on the line, the rain came and I sprinted back to the “laundry grove” to save the almost dry clothes.  Clothes retrieved and rehung on a line on our porch our thoughts drifted to dinner.  Jacob decided he better look up Pita Bonita to “make sure it’s open” because on his way back from a bike ride, he noticed the cerrado sign hanging on the door.  Internet said it was supposed to be open but when I called….NOOOOOOOO!  Closed. This was the biggest bummer of the week and one that was not so easy from which to bounce back.  Now what?  Well, Jungle Love is not too far down the road but it is a dark on the road at night and this made us both very nervous.  Website said open, lights attached to the bikes,  let’s go.

“No, we do not have a reservation” we said forlornly to the hostess.  “I can’t get you in until 7:30pm” she said “most places are closed on Wednesdays” she went on. (now 7:30 was an hour and a half away. Some of you might be thinking 7:30 is reasonable, why don’t you just wait? If your thinking that, I’m guessing you don’t have kids).  Ok, well, there is the super expensive place up the road that may not have anything that the kids will like, we can look at the menu.  Oh, wait, they don’t take cards and we have spent all of our Costa Rican Colones and didn’t bring any US dollars (most places will accept dollars). Ok…What now?

All this time Jacob and I were debating, Mackenzie was jumping up and down trying to get us to listen to her that she had seen a place up the road that was open.  At this point, we are all starving and it is starting to rain again.  After checking a couple more places with the same “no cards” response, we finally listened to Mackenzie.  We landed at a place called Resturante Wandha.  The restaurant was part of a larger resort and therefore we paid resort prices.  The food was ok, I had a tropical sea bass dish. The fish was steamed in a ginger broth inside a banana leaf.  Jacob had a curried shrimp dish.  The waiter was very nice and ambience was great but I wouldn’t go back. It was no Pita Bonita.

While we waited for our meal, I asked Jacob and the girls for their top three favorite things over the last month.  Here were the responses:


  1. Trying new foods
  2. Seeing Howler Monkeys
  3. Taking hikes


  1.  Seeing pretty flowers
  2. Trying new foods
  3. Going to the beach


  1. The delicious squash dish at the organic farm on Punta Mona
  2. Spending time together as a family
  3. All the friendly people


  1. The sound of Howler Monkeys
  2.  The hike at La Ceiba
  3.  The dining experience at Como en Mi Casa

There were many more amazing things we could all add to our list.  Returning to this place some time in the future to really become fluent in Spanish and  immerse in life there could be a possibility.  On our way to Bocas, we met a very nice man from Germany who has paused for a year of travel twice in his life.  He said the first time he went it took a bit to adjust to the realization that he had time.  Time to explore at whatever pace he wanted and yet, it still was not enough to go everywhere he wished.  As I look forward to the next leg of our travels, I realize I am doing the same adjustment.  My brain has moments of panic that we need to “get it all in”.  It may look like “vacationing” on the outside and granted some of it is that but I feel more like we have given ourselves the gift of time, togetherness and learning. There are hard days.  The girls are not always so cooperative and Jacob and I bite at each other some but in the long run, this time together, time to explore new locations is precious.

Amy and Jacob selfie. Amy with red lips and Jacob with "war paint"

We are living on a tight budget to make this happen, having many discussions of what our “work” looks like now and in the future.  As predicted, Costa Rica was a great landing spot for our first destination. Taking a month to establish our travel/school routine, exploration and togetherness proved to be a great decision. For the next 5-6 weeks we will be more on the move.  8 days in Bocas then to Lima, Peru for 3 before heading out on our exploration of the southern half of Peru. Bouncing around to new locations each week we are there.  This will be a good test of our communication, parenting and emotion regulation skills.  So… Here we go!

baby monkey in a red hammock being cared for by a volunteer

Having Fun in Costa Rica

I have been in Costa Rica for two weeks.  The only thing I don’t like is it’s really hot and humid.  There are lots of cool things to see and do.  One day, I went to my friends house to have pancakes. I met her when I

thousands of leaf cutter ants carrying pieces of cut leaves down a tree
Leaf cutter ants hard at work disassembling a tree near our cabina

went to the butterfly garden.  Her name is Ana.  On the way to her house I got bit and looked up and saw a lot of leaf-cutter ants on the tree carrying leaves.  Then I saw a whole line of ants that looked like millions and billions of ants. They were taking the leaves to their home.

We also saw some big crickets.  The first one was when we went to the mariposiro/butterfly garden.  It’s right by our cabina.  We went at dusk.  We

praying mantis on chair
A helper to get rid of the bad bugs.

went at dusk because the tree frogs and toads come out to eat bugs. The cricket was as big as my hand.  It was on a stem eating bugs.  There are also these annoying black wasps that fly around our cabina.  They are really creepy.  They fly around mommy and it makes her mad.  I also don’t like them. One time daddy used a broom to get them away, by waiting and then when they flew towards him, he would try to hit them.

I have also seen a lot of animals.  There are these lizards that run by our house on their back legs.  I saw a

brown lizard carrying another lizard on it’s back.  The lizard had a blue tail and orange spots on it’s back.  I have seen small lizards and big lizards.  I even saw a green one with a hump on its head.  A week ago I saw two woodpeckers fighting in the trees and they almost fell on my head.  They were red-headed with white tail feathers and a funny shaped body.  There are some Howler Monkeys that used to live by our cabina.  They wake me up at 4:30am.

We had lots of fun in Costa Rica.  I love how when I open the door I see the jungle.  When the birds sing in the morning, it makes me feel ready to start the day.

Lizard on a leaf near the ground
Our neighborhood lizard

The Magical Costa Rican Jungle

As I hung up the phone after setting up a kayak tour with Omar from Bucus Condos and Tours, he told me he hoped I was feeling the magic of the jungle and sending it my wishes to be fulfilled. This is the kind of lovely energy that is here among the people.  I truly have been sending the jungle my wishes and my intentions each day.  They are to release the inflammation in my knees and to continue to practice mindful presence.

Just down the road from where we are staying I discovered a beautiful yoga retreat center that has daily classes (Tierra de Sueños).  I decided that I have been resting, elevating and taking ibuprofen long enough.  It is not good for my body to continue with the ibuprofen and I need to change my mindset about these knees.  Yoga kept calling to me and so I decided to listen.  The retreat center has a sort of open air yoga platform a few meters down a twisty path through the jungle, from the reception office. It is made of dark wood planks on the floor and walls that continue up to form a high ceiling.  Immediately upon ascending the stairs I knew I was in the right place.  The peaceful, meditative energy was palpable. I sat facing the teacher who had a backdrop of palm trees, red flowers, flitting butterflies and hummingbirds.  Seriously.

The instructor began the class with a breathing meditation and had us set an intention for our practice. “Release”. That was my word, throughout.  As I followed her instructions for the various poses throughout the class, I definitely released a lot of sweat.  Ho-ly cow! I have never sweat like this in my life, my shins were sweating and not just a little, visible drops ran down my legs. It amazed me.  There was a gentle breeze that blew through the space. This did not help me one bit.  I quickly glanced at my neighbor to assess her sweat factor.  Nope, she was just fine, no sweat not even a glow. (I realize this might be my paranoid, introjection or irrational comparison but I don’t think so).

“Ok”, I thought, “I’m gonna go with it.”

Blast, I forgot to bring a towel though.  It has been awhile since I have attended a yoga class so I am sure the sweat was also due to the fact that yoga is no joke. You use every muscle.  Gratefully, I made it, my knees did great. I walked home feeling joyful for having used my body, wondering if I overdid it, but hopeful that my intention worked.  As the week went on I came back for another class and to that word “release” in my mind. By the end of the week, I found that I had my range of motion back and less inflammation. Huh, maybe the magic of the jungle is working.

So, now I have done a total of three classes (sweat not so overwhelming, remembered a towel) and my knees are so much better.  I think Jacob has stopped worrying about me so much and we are feeling more free to go on excursions. Little did I know that the coming excursions would all hold the theme of life in balance with the earth.  We met Omar at the restaurant called Maxi’s in Manzanillo and he took us on a boat to Punta Mona. There we picked up some kayaks and went further down the coast to the Gandoca Canal which boarders Panama.  He led us down the river; the jungle towering above us.  We saw Spider monkeys, caymans, blue herons, tiny King Fisher birds that look like hummingbirds and “Jesus Christ” lizards.


I think the lizards were our favorite.  When the water is smooth, no ripples from the wind, these small prehistoric looking lizards are able to run on their back legs across the water.  We quietly paddled up to a log holding one of these lizards. Omar waited for just the right moment to scare the lizard into doing its trick which was followed by squeals of joy from the girls, that was the best part.  Nature is truly amazing; that peaceful lagoon holds so much life. One can’t help but be in awe.

After the great upper body workout paddling back upstream, the wind had now kicked up,  we ended our day with lunch at a sustainable organic farm (which Jacob referenced in the last post).  Omar led us through a jungle path to the main structure which is two buildings their top floors connected by a swinging bridge and contains an outdoor kitchen on the first floor and sleeping quarters upstairs.  Little did we know that there was a group of about 15 people who had spent the last 10 days together at the “Awesomeness Fest” on the Pacific side (really, I’m not making this up) and were ending their trip with an excursion to the Caribbean side and stay at the organic farm.  As we walked up they were all standing in a large circle about to eat the food prepared by the staff at the farm. The owner of the farm opened up the circle for us to join; we shared our names, favorite fruit and a blessing of love that was baked into the food we were about to eat.  What? My hippie side felt very happy.

IMG_1644This theme of reverence and respect for the sustenance that the rainforest provides continued with the next two tours we took.  First, we went on a tour to meet some of the indigenous people of Costa Rica, the Bri Bri, to learn about their way of life and process of making chocolate. We spent about an hour with a Shaman who talked about the spiritual ways of the tribe and the medicinal uses of  vegetation from the jungle. During our experience learning about chocolate, we discovered that it too is seen as medicine and a symbol of  love, life and solidarity.

Next, we spent time on a jungle hike with a tour guide from the La Ceiba preserve.  This preserve is connected to the Jaguar Rescue Center and is “step two” in the reintroduction of rescued animals back into the wild. Fabian, our guide and conservationist, was one of the most joyful people I have met.  His love of Costa Rica was very evident and he, too, spoke about the medicinal properties available in the rainforest.  Something he said stuck with me in a very impactful way,

“Everything we need is here, we have only to understand”.

Our hike led us to the La Ceiba tree or Tree of Life.  This tree was HUGE. Its roots roped out in several directions and where they connected to the trunk they were over 6 ft. high.  Fabian explained that this tree is seen as a “mother” tree because her roots go deep into the earth and stretch out in many different directions. She takes in so much carbon dioxide that she feeds the forest around her.  She feeds the animals and people around her too, with the oxygen she supplies.  Powerful.P1020175

Sadly, this balance with and respect for the land has not always been the theme in Costa Rica.  During our visit to the Bri Bri people, our guide shared with us how much their culture has been lost.  It started when Spaniards came to the country. The introduction of Spanish language caused the Bri Bri people to slowly forget their own as well as the ways of living in balance with the rainforest.  Large crops of cacao and bananas were planted and more people immigrated to the Caribbean cost from Jamaica and China to work on the plantations. However, the Costa Rican government realized something very important.  People wanted to visit. To see the wildlife, meet the native people.  They realized tourism could be another big part of the country’s  income; therefore, large scale conservation projects were started which included preserving a large part of the land for the Bri Bri and other indigenous peoples, in the place they had naturally settled. Thankfully, this has allowed them to sustain, still participating in chocolate and banana production but in the balanced way they know.  The shaman’s knowledge is still being passed to the next generation.  And yet, outside of that preserve, there are banana plantations as far as the eye can see along the hour drive from Limón to Puerto Viejo. Chocolate production is dying out because people are making more money on bananas.

Still pondering the theme of living in balance and the rich resources the rainforest provides, I was saddened by a video I watched this morning, about the millions of acres of rainforest that are burning in Indonesia. The people of Indonesia have found a profitable solution to caring for the needs of their family, through the production of palm oil.  The government is capitalizing on this as well.  The reporter was encouraging a boycott on palm oil.  It got me thinking, is this the answer to saving the rainforest? Is it as simple as refraining from buying unsustainable products?  Perhaps the boycott will make them stop burning the fields, but I think the boycott is only part of the solution, there are larger social issues at play. Burning the fields has more to do with a cheap way of “resetting” the land than it does the crop that is planted on it.  Indonesia is not the only place where monoculture happens.  It is not the only place where the negative impact of monoculture to the earth is evident.  My intention isn’t to get political, my thoughts only bring me to the awareness that we are headed to Indonesia at some point on our journey.  How will the rainforest there compare to here? Costa Rica is all about conservation.  What is conservation like in Indonesia?  The people of Costa Rica seem to be striving to find a balance between large production of goods and respect for the land.  Is that a value there? 

I have set a new, or additional intention for my meditation and yoga practice.  I intend for this journey to not only be an education in culture and respect of diversity but also for the girls to develop a respect and reverence for the earth.   I have always been connected to nature and often seek it is a place of refuge. Our dear friend, family member, and my colleague Kris Abram posted this to Facebook today:

“A revolution needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us.  We need to wake up and fall in love with the Earth.  Our personal & collective happiness & survival depend on it” – Thich Nhat Hanh

My wish to the rainforest is not only to help support the healing of my knees and release whatever I am holding there but to also help me become clear about how I can live a balanced life in my unique way and how I might take the next step in my career of impacting social change.

Letting it go…

One of the questions that many people ask us is, “what about your stuff?”  It is a curiosity for some and a critical question for others.  When we tell them that we are letting it go, we often get a look of uncertainty. I imagine that their uncertainty comes mainly from two perspectives: 1) they are uncertain that we made a wise choice, and 2) they are uncertain of what that really means.  When we say we are letting it go, we mean that we either sold, gave away, donated or sadly trashed the large majority of the things that we owned.

For those of you thinking we are crazy 🙂 I will assure you that we kept a few things.

  • Our Subaru – originally I had planned to sell that car in Houston or Austin, but Amy convinced me to keep it.  Amy’s parents generously offered to keep it and manage it for us while we are gone.
  • Photos, valuable books, our camping gear, small family heirlooms and any clothes that weren’t at the end of their useful life already – these items went mainly into Amy’s sister’s basement in a stack about 6’x6’x6′.
  •  A few kitchen necessities – things like a few knives, a pot and pan, and a couple other small implements. These also went into the same stack in our sister’s basement.
  • The kids furniture – my mother just bought a new house and has put this into a kids room there. Assuming we don’t end up living in a yurt when we come back we will likely retrieve them.

This is also probably the part that is the hardest for many to come to terms with. Often the next question is, “Won’t you need all that other stuff when you get back?”  This is a tough one for sure…the simple answer is maybe.  Do I really need a garlic press, three types of blenders, two types of mixers or a myriad of ultra specialized things? Perhaps we will come back and repurchase all that and more, but I think the reality might be somewhere in between.  Our life was a constant press to acquire more and more things that took up more and more space. And the more space we had, the more time it was taking to not only manage the space (mow, trim, garden, paint, repair, remodel, clean, etc.), but also to pay for it all (more time at work). It is somewhat ironic that we then buy more stuff in an effort to make the added tasks easier and less time consuming. In fact, Amy and I were considering buying a bigger house this spring when we realized we were simply perpetuating a vicious cycle.  Worse, we felt like we may have been inadvertently teaching our kids to place too much value on the material things in our lives.

Now I am not saying that getting rid of everything is the only solution to this problem, nor does one need to travel the world for a year. For us however, it felt like a way to break the cycle and truly take a new approach in our lives. As Amy likes to put it, “we are hitting the reset button.”  Step one, remove the material constraints that were inhibiting us from taking this leap. Step two, take advantage of the time and the newly freed resources to explore more of what is out there.  At minimum we have a fairly unique experience to look back on and hopefully find new opportunities with our changed perspective.  As an added bonus (except when the four of us are all piled into one bed) we get to spend some serious quality time together.

As we travelled from the Front Range, we slowly discarded a few more items. Some old clothes we had brought for camping, a box of toys and kids books given to a nephew, an old tent on its last leg, and some car ride friendly kids activities.  Our original plan had us getting down to two large backpacks for Amy and I, two small packs for the kids and two small carry-on packs for Amy and I.  For the kids education and support we chose to add a bag late in the game and are now carrying a small duffel (carry-on size) filled with school workbooks and some school supplies.  I am still hopeful we can shed a few more items in the future to lighten our load, for as of now we are packed to the brim.  Sherry asked us if we would like her selfie stick to take with us as we left Tucson…I told her no, “it would mean getting rid of underwear at this point.”

When we were in Phoenix I made one more leap in letting it go: I buzzed my hair for the first time.  I had been thinning for years and much like the other things in my life I couldn’t let it go.  But I felt like it was time, this shaving would be a symbol for me of the transformation we were about to undergo.  It is taking some getting used to, but I think it was the right decision. See for yourself: