Seattle, Vancouver and Sedona

As promised! Here are my latest adventures in Seattle, Vancouver – Canada and Sedona, the site of many past adventures in the Arizona desert.  I visited all these places with my daughter, Vanessa, the best co-traveler you could possibly find. However, she hates having her pictures taken and insists on complete control over what is post-able. So, the lack of pictures of her is NOT as oversight.

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A beautiful view from inside the Dale Chihuly art center with the Space Needle above.

 

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In the gardens of the Chihuly art exhibit. I love his work.
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Pike’s Place Market – a crazy, crowded but fun marketplace. A must see.
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Crab cakes at the world famous pier side Ivar’s seafood restaurant. Also – a must!
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The giant harbor ferris wheel. Geez, I love a ride!
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Fruit stand at the public market on Granville Island -Vancouver, Canada.
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Van fell in love with the steam clock in the background of old town Vancouver.
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I loved all of Stanley Park in Vancouver, but my VW shirt souvenir even more.
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See! I told you she hates the camera. That’s why I love this one – got her in spite of herself.
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A cafe in Sedona with the greatest view! Red rock country.
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A mansion in the hills above Sedona with another fabulous view.
space needle
This one is out of order on purpose. The Space Needle in Seattle has been a dream since I was about 10. I desperately wanted to go to the World’s Fair and go up in it. Done!

I hope you enjoyed this little “slideshow” and promise to bring you more – very soon.

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A Different Kind of Traveler

It’s been nearly a year since I posted here, October 31, 2017, and some will be wondering why. Why? Why would someone who so obviously loves to blog stop so suddenly and completely? That’s a good question with lots of answers, so I’ll break it down over two posts.

The first and most valid reason is that I stopped being the type of traveler I had been before and couldn’t quite figure out what to do with myself. I’ve found an adopted home, Manzanillo, Mexico and although I do still travel it’s not with the same appetite or purpose I previously felt.

When I began, I was looking for exactly what I’ve found, a place where I could retire comfortably. But in the searching, I quickly discovered I could easily keep traveling in SE Asia, and then Central America, on a tight budget. So that’s what I did, explore the world on my own.

Once I realized Manzanillo was the place for me, I lost that drive and when I have traveled it has been more as a tourist than an adventurer. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s whole different type of traveler.

That last post in Puerto Vallarta was with my daughter, Vanessa, who is an intrepid adventurer herself. But we were really spoiled in our Westin hotel and didn’t venture out as much as usual. She than came with me to Manzanillo, and I shared my new home with her. But it is a bit laidback – slow-paced – for someone thirty-plus years younger than me.

In the meantime, we went to Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, this summer and loved it! Especially Vancouver. And a few weeks later, Sedona, AZ. I’ll post pictures soon.

What I’ve come to realize is that my style of travel doesn’t match up with most people’s. I love to get into the culture, with regular locals. It takes me a good 10 days of living in a place to feel comfortable and familiar with how the population thinks and reacts to life; how the locals live. This is much more important to me than seeing all the sights. I still love sightseeing but would happily trade another temple for an hour people-watching any day. That makes me different and I realize it.

When I began this journey, seeming fairly proficient at getting from place to place and acquiring cheap accommodations, some friends asked for tips. I really couldn’t give them any, because I knew these folks would hate my choices. I don’t, generally, go in for the easy or particularly comfortable. Take riding the buses, both long-distance and locally. I have met very few people who I believe would enjoy those excursions, but I do. So, there you go.

That’s one reason, and the major one, why I quit posting to this blog. Although now, I realize I still have a lot to say about travel and even living in another country. So, hang on!

 

 

Two Gringas in Puerto Vallarta

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Pierside Puerto Vallarta – popular with the locals

Due to the lack of a computer, I haven’t been able to share pictures and my words online much. Now, however, I’ve been let loose with the addition of Lenny, my new laptop.

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Part of Westin’s lobby

So, this summer – mid-August – my daughter, Vanessa, and I took our annual two-week vacation together and started off in Puerto Vallarta, one of the Mexican cities that Southwest Airlines flies into. We stayed in the Westin, so we weren’t roughing it like I usually do, so it was a real treat for me.

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Liz and Dick – the city honors their love affair which built Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta was fun because we were together and being spoiled a bit, but I like being in the middle of the local populations much more. PV is a town centered around the tourist trade and very historical in that vein. I had no idea Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton has made the place famous back in the days of their love affair.

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The Marina which is just a few blocks away from the Westin. Nice area.

We came during a huge rainy season – torrential downpours and heavy winds, which I love but my poor daughter hates. However, we got plenty of sunshine and sightseeing in while we were there.

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We did people-watching from the balcony of our room.

We had a totally beach day, which was relaxing; including watching a beach wedding and nibbling on Mexican food brought by a cabana server! Our swimming was done in this gorgeous pool however, because of the jellyfish warnings. Not hard duty!

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On the ferry ride to Yelapa – lots of resorts along the way.

We took a ferry out to a little village at the mouth of the bay – Yelapa – which was quite the adventure, getting caught in drenching rain while waiting for the return ferry in the open. The ferry ride was really enjoyable, and I’m a sucker for a boat ride.

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Ferry dude and other passengers.

We also did the hotel’s free tour, which stopped at a tequila factory, glass shop, jewelry shop, and leather shop. We were a bust for all those shops, but had a good time checking it all out. Lunch in a jungle forest restaurant was quite nice and relaxing, all watched over by the café’s parrot.

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Candy maker in old PV. Nice guy and seems to love his job.
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Tequila school! Three little shots and I was not listening anymore.

A good time was had by the two gringas in Puerto Vallarta – nothing too crazy or out of line. We’ll have to try harder next time!

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The pier where you catch the ferry to Yelapa and other parts…

Back in the USA

Me at The Oasis (2)
My last Saturday in Manzanillo – fabulous beachside resort in the tony part of town.

I’ve just returned from my second Mexico visit and am staying in California for the moment. Time is oddly suspended when I’m back home, but I do know I’m probably here until January sometime.

I didn’t post much on Facebook this trip (without my laptop), because it’s so much harder to write on a phone. Emails were shorter, too. No project work could be done either, on Upwork or travel articles, so life was very simple. I also went through weeks without much in the way of Wi-Fi. I’m telling you, life really slows down without a computer and Wi-Fi.

My first trip to Mexico was wonderful. I loved everywhere I went and after finally landing in the beach town of Manzanillo, felt like I’d found my second home.

Turns out my second home is still wonderful…during the fall and winter. No more summer time visits for me. Between the humidity, bugs, water shutdowns, lack of computer and Wi-Fi and things like unannounced and extremely loud building renovations, I really didn’t enjoy this trip.

But there’s an upside to this. It made it so much easier to come home. Normally, it is a stretch for me to be back in the States for very long. This time, I find I’m relieved to find myself back in familiar and non-humid territory.

My plan is to stay in Manzanillo for five to six months each year, then head out for a few months of new travel. Perfect for me and a nice way to enjoy the warmer, beachy town I fell so hard for during March to June of last year.

I’m staying with one of my sisters as she recovers from surgery, so most of my posts will be from the Sacramento area of California, but I have so many subjects on life that I’ve just made notes for so hang on.

Hug a Pink Elephant #7

JournalPART ONE – THE ADVENTURE OF EVERYDAY LIFE

 Tip #1 – Write it down. Preferably in your adventure notebook, but always write it down: on your tablet, phone or a grocery receipt. Just write it down.

 

One of the truths of everyone’s life is – we’re all too busy. No matter if you are a working mom, a father with two jobs, an artist who has a day job too, or maybe even a retiree, there is never enough time.

In this rush, you’ll have moments of clarity, times when ideas just seem to come, but I’ve learned no matter how clear the thought seems to you at the time, you CAN lose it. I have lost many.

So, I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a tiny notebook with me. I use it and my cell phone note app to write down thoughts as they occur. I’ve been amazed when I later review what I wrote, because quite often I have completely forgotten even having had the thought. So use your adventure notebook for exercises, lists, thoughts, planning but if you don’t happen to have it with you – jot it down on something else. The last thing you want to do is lose all your hard work.

 

 

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

How many times have you passed a street and thought, “I wonder what’s down there?” or seen a sign for an interesting ethnic restaurant and made a mental note to go there someday?

If you have a natural curiosity you are miles ahead of the guy who has to force himself to stop and take a look around. BUT it’s not doing you any good if you’re not acting on it.

Let’s take a look at how fraternal twins, Jenni and Jacki, aged 35, start their work week.

Here’s Jenni’s morning: She wakes up at 5:00 a.m., does twenty minutes on her treadmill, showers, and has toast, milk and a boiled egg for breakfast. Jenni slips on an outfit she picked out the night before, even though the pink blouse jumps out at her. She thinks her position at a national insurance company requires she get to work before everyone else, so she heads for the office at 6:00 and arrives to an empty parking lot.

Jenni scopes out the entire first floor, turning on lights, starting the coffee and finally heads to her own office and an extremely clean desk. If you’re watching along with me, you might be wondering what she’s doing here – if she has no work to do – but after putting away her purse and walking back to the lunch room to put her lunch in the company refrigerator, she settles in and pulls a 3-inch pile of papers and folders from her bottom drawer, sighs and digs in. She gets several things done before she hears her first, “Morning, Jenni.”

Jacki’s morning is a little different: Jacki also wakes up at five a.m. to let Homer, her Labrador, out into the backyard. She plugs in the coffee maker, throws on a running outfit, returns to pour herself a cup of Joe, then takes a seat on the patio, sips her coffee and watches as Homer chases a butterfly. Five minutes later, with her coffee only half drunk, she clips a leash to Homer’s collar and they slip out the side gate and take a walk/run through the neighborhood. Half way around she spots Helen, an elderly friend she hasn’t seen in a while and stops for a five minute chat and invites her to stop by on Saturday for breakfast. Helen lights up and they agree on 9 a.m. Homer drags her toward home and once there, he settles down for a nap while she showers, shuffles through her closet for a dress she’s been dying to wear and dresses. She works as a social worker at a local hospital and arrives to a harried office, before half the other staff but later than the other half. She walks to her desk, where several desk trays are neatly labeled but overflowing. She begins to tackle the Urgent pile when a coworker brings her a latte and a croissant, Jacki’s standard breakfast. She hands a few bills to her friend and says, “I got you tomorrow!”

 

The sister’s lives are not all that different, but the way they view them is.

Jenni is a planner, down to the last detail. What you don’t know is she’s extremely efficient and everyone depends on her to keep the ship afloat. One of the few times she was forced to stay home sick, the office ran out of coffee and there was near rebellion in the ranks (Jenni has a secret stash so the problem would have been averted had she been there). On the same day, one side of the “bull pen” call area worked by window light all day because no one else knew the light switch was now behind a set of file cabinets. So much of Jenni’s day is spent fulfilling the needs of those around her; she’s kind of the unofficial mom of the office. The problem here is Jenni has trouble getting her own work done, in spite of her efficiencies, and seldom gives herself time or care.

Jacki, on the other hand, gives herself time to do what feels good, a more leisurely morning; the time to find the dress she really wants to wear and talk to her neighbor for a minute. She still gets to work at a reasonable time, shares everyday tasks with her coworkers and is able to extend herself to her elderly neighbor with an invite – not because she thinks it’s the right thing to do but because she enjoys Helen.

Both women are good employees and somewhat driven by routine to different degrees. Now let’s see what happens after work, when their defenses are down.

 

Jenni stays at work until most of the others are gone, packing up around 6:30 p.m. – after tucking her stack of unfinished work into her bottom drawer and wiping down her desktop. She drives straight home, only briefly tempted by the Chinese restaurant she loves. She’s saving up for a four-day cruise with Jacki and their mother this summer and watching every penny. It’s summer and there is a spectacular sunset to her left, causing a man to pull over and snap some pictures on his phone but Jenni doesn’t notice. As she pulls into her garage, she suddenly realizes she forgot to eat lunch and is starving. She also can’t remember driving home. Jenni heads to the refrigerator where she pulls a container of leftovers out of the freezer and zaps it. Following her reheated meal, she changes into a set of pajamas and watches television, falling asleep and finally heads to bed when her cell phone alarm goes off at 10 p.m.

 

Jacki is already in bed. She left work at 5:30 p.m. She was able to really get through her work today and felt so good about where things stood, she stopped at her favorite Tex-Mex place and treated herself to takeout which she ate on her patio, sharing a bit of chicken breast with Homer. Just as the sun was going down, it shot an orange light through the glass balls she had strung around her yard and Jacki sat there watching the light show. It made her think of the aurora borealis so she went inside and Googled it, discovering she could actually see them in her lifetime by planning a visit to Alaska. She immediately went to the bucket list she had on her computer and added it. It was number 38, but she then took a minute to cross off Bryce Canyon, which she had visited the weekend before. She was a little tired from the trip, so sleep came easily.

 

We can see now how differently these twins live. Jenni moves through her day without much joy, planning her one adventure while missing out on the little things around her.  I can just imagine if Jenni’s cruise turns out less than stellar. All her sacrifices will have been for nothing, in Jenni’s mind.

Jacki, however, makes a point of enjoying her day, savoring the little things and although she’s going on the cruise with Jenni too, she doesn’t let it stop her from dreaming of other adventures and even scratching off one of her destinations on her bucket list. Jacki is planning on having an adventurous life and taking positive steps toward it. But she is definitely living in the present, enjoying the moment. I would be willing to bet because she doesn’t put all her chips on the cruise, it will be far more enjoyable for her even if there are a couple of bumps along way. She hasn’t built it up to be her reward for a year of suffering with less. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I’d like you to picture Jenni and Jacki, giving them the haircut, clothes and home you think each would wear. Why? Because we are going to visit them again. Guys, please feel free to change them to men in your minds but with the same personalities.

 

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

― Oprah Winfrey

FIRST WEEK QUESTIONS

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, my friend. It’s time to make a couple of assessments for your first week of your new life. Bring out your trusty notebook and let’s answer a couple of questions.

What do you give to yourself?

This is a terribly important question, especially for women who generally don’t give themselves much – time, money to spend, slack, etc. Think hard about this question. Write how you treat yourself well and actually gift yourself with things you think you deserve or need. Maybe it’s a pedicure once a month or an hour at the local bookstore just reading or perhaps you finally bought a new jigsaw so you could try a new project. Whatever it is write it down here.

What else should I be giving myself?

Start a list of other things you’d like to be able to give yourself (or should be) and keep it going, adding new things as you think of them. Over time revisit this question and your answers and see if you can’t grant yourself another wish. And then another. Be your own fairy godmother.

What can I do differently?

This may be the toughest question of all because we all tend to do the same things over and over, in the same way, for several reasons: perceived efficiency, familiarity and comfort, just because…

Really look at your life – tilt your view – and list at least three things you could try doing in a new way. Then try them. You have my permission to cheat here. You can do the three easiest things to change. It is better to be comfortable than afraid at this point.

Did I try something new today?

Maybe you’re way ahead of me and already did something differently today. If so, give yourself a big mental star! If not, then ask yourself this question at the end of the day tomorrow and make sure you can say yes so you’ll get the star.

Tip #2– It is perfectly okay to buy yourself some gold stars and put one in your notebook every time you take on something new! This might feel childish at first, but no one needs to know but you and if it feels good, do it!

How did trying something new feel?

This little bit is extremely important. Be as honest as you can with yourself. Did you enjoy this new thing or was it a bit scary or both? If it was scary, do you think it will be less so the next time? Drill down a bit. The point here is to encourage yourself by doing things in a new way, so if you find you didn’t like it, spend the time to discover if you’ll never like it or if it can be tweaked into something you would like.

Travel Accelerates “Unlearning”

unlearningAs I started to write this post, I realized I’m not the first one to explore the idea of “unlearning.” So, I Googled the term and it came back with 1,200,000 hits, with the first page of returns including references from Forbes magazine to Huffington Post.

Merriam-Webster’s secondly-listed definition “to undo the effect of: discard the habit of” is what I’ll discuss in this piece. I have long been aware of the dynamic of being burdened by the things we think we know or learned as a child but are now longer true.

Sometimes, it seems that being immersed in a new situation or environment may shake us out of a comfort zone or belief closely held. I have found that, with travel, both are true and accelerated.

As I began planning my travel life, I was inundated with the fears of my friends and family. Extreme stories about how I would be attacked and my money belt cut off me, concern over my having picked a purple suitcase over a plain black one – on and on.

I was also challenged by others that somehow my desire to travel or live overseas was unpatriotic, with one relative challenging me with “America is better.” This isn’t a contest.

These were people deeply stuck in perceptions that were fear-based. I am not a fear-based person, so although I was affected by these comments, I was able to move past them. My first phase of unlearning, as I traveled, was to unlearn the idea that other cultures and countries are automatically more unsafe than the United States.

My first memory of kindness overseas comes from a 6-hour bus trip in the Philippines. When we came to a rest-stop, I was totally unprepared to have to pay to use the toilet and to have to provide my own toilet paper. A tiny older woman saw my distress and rolled off a length from her own toilet paper roll and handed it to me without fanfare. The rest of my trip throughout SE Asia was sprinkled with simple kindnesses like this.

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Here’s a tuk-tuk from Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

In Cambodia, I experienced my first and only moment of danger and distress – when I was being targeted by two men approaching me from different directions but obviously in league together. I was saved – quite literally – by a tuk-tuk driver (a motorized rickshaw, sort of), who I didn’t know, that rolled up in his vehicle and told me to jump in. As we took off, one of the men tried to get in with me, but the driver sped up. He told me the men were coming for me. I knew that, but was so happy he’d been there to whisk me away. Another kindness. He tried to refuse when I paid him for the ride home.

Except for this situation, I’ve been in “scarier” situations at home in the US, from walking through an iffy area of South Central Los Angeles at night to living in a rundown trailer park where my next-door neighbor was beat-up as I laid unaware, trying to sleep, He ultimately died from that beating.

So, I’ve unlearned that travel is unsafe. In fact, I have a dread of being wished “safe travels”, because, although I recognize the thought is well-intended, it carries a negative connotation that is nearly painful to hear.

There are any number of other “knowledge” I’ve discarded along the way, but perhaps the biggest is the idea of normal. There is no true “normal” – whether you live in the US or travel the world. Everywhere and everyone is different in some way and just about the time you think you have a good idea of what’s the norm in a situation, you are reminded that there is no normal.

Here’s a simple example. For the past month, I’ve had a terrible time trying to sleep at night – like normal people. I can sleep – but it’s usually during the day. This caused me great distress for about two weeks until I mentioned it to a gentleman from Chicago who lives here in Manzanillo for six months out of every year. He responded, “This is Mexico. Don’t worry about it.”

It’s laughable now, but it worked. I still don’t sleep easily at night, but I’ve relaxed about it and use the time wisely, like writing this piece at about 3 a.m.

Measuring everything with our previous knowledge base, a natural thing to do by the way, quickly dissipates when you are traveling internationally because other cultures do it differently. And you find yourself thinking, “Oh, that actually works better for me.” Or not. But either way, you now know that what you thought was absolutely true or the right way to do something isn’t necessarily. You’ve unlearned something you may have held onto for the rest of your life if you hadn’t traveled.

I treasure the unlearning I’m experiencing. It frees me up to be and think differently and kind of settle into something new, until I unlearn the next thing.

Unsettling? Maybe. Rewarding? Definitely.