Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – Finally a Favorite

With 5% battery left on my phone, it was surprising how relaxed I was given that I hadn’t realized during the 6+ hour bus ride to Puerto Viejo that I didn’t know where I was going upon arrival. A bit of a “whoopsie” moment though it turned out to be nice as I quickly found my smile during that extra time sitting there once pulling into town and waiting at the Rasta-themed bar/bus station next to the ocean. Soaking in the sounds of the surrounding palm trees rustling in the light breeze and taking in the smell of the blue water a few feet from me, I reveled in the sunshine of about 80° with mild humidity and knew as soon as I had taken note of all the stray dogs who not only looked as if in impressive health but also as if smiling that I had found my kind of place.
It was a nice couple hours though I was ready to leave once finally reaching one of the hostel owners where I was to be volunteering via a traveler networking website called Workaway. Fifteen minutes later, with my phone at 1%, a sweetheart of a man from Spain, on the smaller side and with a head full of black hair that reminded me of the slightly longer styles surfers wore back home, drove up flashing a dazzling smile and charming wide-eyed expression. A feature that I was to quickly find out always made it seem as though he was excited and paying attention, though the reality was that a lot of the time he was more caught up in his own intensity and thoughts. I instantly liked Hector and soon would also his darling and much more laid back (though worldly and experienced) tico wife, Mary.

Sadly, what happened from there in regard to the “volunteering” I was to do was upsettingly opposite of that first impression. As Hector gave me a quick rundown of what was expected of me, it became apparent that they had no interest in honoring the terms I came under in regard to food being provided and volunteering expectations set to be five hours a day, five days a week. Instead they expected six days a week, often for six hour shifts, and no food. Even worse, they had no interest in at at least meeting halfway when I pointed it out. I was instead told that they needed me to be happy and that if I wasn’t, they “understood” if I needed to move on. AKA: smile and take it or get out. No lube provided.
An unintentionally insulting comment from Hector about how there were plenty of volunteers who wanted the work was a lovely touch, as was the convenient ignoring of my comments about how I had already structured the rest of my trip around staying at that hostel and, as such, had already invested the time and money to get there, but did unfortunately prove to be true. Something I was quick to learn after asking around to other “volunteers” whose responses opened my eyes to how it really did seem to be a part of the lifestyle of how some backpackers traveled. Strange to find out given that the cost of a bed for the night was less than I’d make in an hour back home.
I did debate leaving. I had even gone to check out another cool-looking treehouse hostel down the street by the name of the Blue Butterfly Hotel with my tail between my legs. My bigger-picture goal of cultural immersion and to give back to the local community had been shattered. Reality at Kinkaju (and other hostels using free traveler labor) was that I was not only being taken advantage of but also taking much-needed work away from locals. Harsh reality check of my ignorance. Whoopsie.
I did end up staying there after all. The reasons being, besides the details I had mentioned to Hector above, that there was a new litter of kittens that had been born two weeks before. No surprise and nothing new that I’m a sucker for fur-babies. The second reason was friends I made starting with a wonderful French woman named Alexandra who was staying as a paying guest. Telling her I’d at least hang on as long as she was there, we soon made friends with many other Frenchies who randomly came to stay as well. I also bonded with a sweet little Brazilian chica named Andressa who was to come on as another volunteer a few days later to replace an Argentinian woman named Kinga whose hair was long and interestingly almost fully grey on top at 32 years old. A drawer and artist, on her last night we had the kind of refreshing chat over a bottle of wine (that is arguably my favorite part of travel) about the challenges in life of being an artist and traveler. Also about how she was supposed to leave a couple weeks earlier but aslo hadn’t wanted to take off on the mama kitty, Kinka, before the kittens were born and settled. Cute.
Reality from that point was that I just got comfortable.
Stepping back to that first day of my arrival, I had been exhausted and deliriously thankful when Hector had told me to take it easy before starting work the next day. A time I happily used to get out an (forever behind) blog post and to try to get a grip on groggy moments of sleep-deprived silliness such as momentary panic over incorrectly thinking I had lost all my makeup and sunscreen. A level of disorientation that made even more sense the morning after, as I had experienced a few of the strange episodes (focal seizures, anxiety attacks…who really knows what they are) in my sleep that always made me pretty fuzzy-brained the day before. An uncommon addition to those episodes was nightmares that included my dad taking over when I was trying to drive a motorhome and my sister taking the food I was trying to eat. Sister syndrome!
It wasn’t ideal but it was real. I was learning. And finally at a spot I could settle into for the next couple weeks. A time when I was to dance more, both metaphorically and physically, than I had in years. Especially after one of those happy stray pup’s crawled right up into my lap.

Costa Rica – the In Between

The hills of San Jose, Costa Rica reminded me of looking at Tijuana from home in San Diego County. For some reason they also made me miss Thailand and my pal there, Pariny. Though only having been there a couple times, it had come to feel familiar and had already grown in my heart as the symbolic start of that crazy life plunge I had taken and was finally deep in.

There was always so much to figure out and a new excitement when starting to notice how much I already had. Finding my way toward being more laid back, I was proud of myself for embracing the idea of doing the best I could with what I had in ways such as being happy to wash laundry in the sink while full-well knowing they wouldn’t get as clean as I wanted. Also for exchanging US dollars into colones at the airport with the knowledge that, while the conversion rate would suck, it would be worth it to cover a little time in order to get my bearings and fin a place with better rates.
I was also slowly learning how to embrace self-care moments (instead of falling into the past reaction of feeling guilty) in experiences such as enjoying a mental break when being around those who spoke the same first language and, even more importantly, understand each other’s sense of humor. One of my favorite lessons was how most of the people I was likely to become close to were going to be less locals, as I had first thought, and more other travelers. They were the ones more likely to be in the same state of exploring, openess and learning. Another aha moment was how that lead me to realize just how much my future travel was likely to be impacted by those new friends, whether traveling together or visiting each other in our homelands.

When first getting into the country, it had been a surprise to experience a step back in mindset in the way that I noticed myself get a wee bit miserable, impatient and frustrated before realizing what I was doing and changing back over to moving slower in order to think things through, giving myself plenty of time and have an “oh well” attitude in regard to going with the flow. Any traveler can tell you just how often things go wrong when traveling. It haden’t taken long to be reminded of that and just how little control I had.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of the ways adjusting to a new country had proven to present a little extra challenge for me was in the not realizing how much I was spending before grasping the conversion rate. It was invigorating once starting to figure it out but that moment didn’t typically come until a week or two after spending what I’d imagine to be close to twice as much as I would after. Extra not fun when dealing with bank drama. Once again, always something with travel…
The family of the Airbnb we stayed at that first night when leaving the Envision Festival had been amazing. By the time I left, I felt like I had been adopted. Thank God given that there had been a major miscommunication with my friends that had lead to my being unintentionally ditched the next morning. A blunder that was about to cost me a day and more unexpected expense. Fun, fun.
While I wouldn’t have chosen it as so, it was nice to still be there to have my moldy laundry done for a minimal fee (that I offered) and enjoy their company as they insisted I stay for lunch while while sharing stories about their daughters, a professor and a teacher, living in the US. I even helped the wonderful woman hosting me to add a translation app that was soon to be my main translation tool from that point on as well. I’ve had many travelers tell me how the best moments almost always come when unexpected. Spending time with that family was one of those moments.

Nervous about time once finally prying myself away somewhere around 3 PM, I finally caught an hour and 20 min bus ride (OMG that bus hurt my boobs) that ran late and caused me to miss the next one. Well, the next one I thought I was supposed to take. Not a happy camper, and definitely not in the mood to socialize, I chose a chill hostel for the night across from another fun and social option I had been considering directly across in order to decompress and write. A great thought until reality consumed that time with taking care of other stressful work and responsibilities from back at home. While that didn’t help my mood, what did was the sweet kitty who had been giving me love until accidentally rolling off my lap and onto it’s back. Fur-babies can always save me.

It wasn’t the best night but I did end up having the entire dorm room to myself. Exciting until realizing that I was too grouchy and wound up to sleep until 4 AM.
The next day, I kept the hot mess of it all going when unknowingly getting myself to the wrong bus terminal (which, in a positive twist, did actually end up giving me the chance to see more of the city with all that UBERing) before making it to the right one. It was kind of nice in the nostalgic way of reminding me of so many of the other cities I had gotten stuck in when in Thailand. For some reason I had always found a little romance and magic in those hot-mess moments.

A few hours in once having finally taken off on the right bus, I was loving the change in scenery to the much more lush green of tropical rain forest as we neared the Caribbean side of the country. Besides getting a little nervous when my stomach started to hurt for a bit (not to mention it getting uncomfortably hot toward the end of the ride) I was finding my way back to a bit of homeostasis. Especially once reaching the Rhasta-themed bus terminal in Puerto Viejo. Looking around at stray but healthy-looking dogs that I swore were smiling, my smile was back again as well. I had made it to what was to be my temporary home in Costa Rica.

Envision – The Rest of the Fest

Unsurprisingly after the festivities the night before we felt super rough when getting up. Thankfully not for long once getting our chocolate fix, alas, it wasn’t meant to last long as we had let our excitement (and my incorrect assumption that it would melt) turn to gluttony and ate twice what we should have. A not-so-smart move that lead to my throwing up in the ocean during the hours we spent bobbing around soon after. What turned out to be an all-day excursion that also lead to the not-so-fun experience of my being so burnt that I was to have water blisters all over my body within a day or two. That I saw coming, and made mention of, but let myself be all-too-easily swayed (shocker) when my part Syrian pals exclaimed that we should stick together. A good thought in general but there isn’t enough sunblock in the world for my kind of glow-in-the-dark.
Once finally heading back into the back entrance of the festival through a dirt walkway between the beach and rain forest that was lined with vendors, I grabbed some pineapple that was so sweet juicy that it soon made a welcomed mess all over me. They some veggie burgers that were destined to go uneaten, as I started to feel better but they weren’t quite there yet. Wandering off on my own to lay down in a drum circle underneath the huge tropical trees of deep green right in the heart of the festival, I continued to feel better and better until ready to head out for more food. Following the delicious aroma of grilling chicken among the local merchants on that path between the festival exit and beach, I squeezed onto a rickety old wooden bench table for that delicious meat, candied plantains and not-so-exciting white rice and black beans that seemed to come with just about everything (grumble). After filling my belly for the night, I made it to a fun and interactive self-affirming workshop (yay workshops!) that included, among other things, a circle of us participants holding hands and sharing about ourselves. From there I made a failed attempt at cleaning my smelly tent but found a different kind of sweet success soon after with a makeshift bucket shower that proved to provide more than a few nods and raised eyebrows of longing approval from the fellow festies who took notice. For those of you unfamiliar, the ability to cool off and freshen up in that kind of world is a form of hippy ecstasy.
Hobbling around thanks to bare feet I hadn’t realized were no longer calloused enough for an un-souled romp, I shared distracted smiled with those I passed while we tried to navigate our way around the muddy paths and I hunted for more workshops as well as exploring the yoga neighborhood closer to the main entrance (the main camping area we were in was closer to the middle). Returning to camp around 9 PM V was already asleep in her tent and the fellas planted on a make-shift area of a tarp hangout area between our tents. Joining them for only an hour or so of conversation, it didn’t take long for the rest of us soon followed suit.
Surprised to actually get a wee bit of sleep despite constantly waking up from the stifling smell of mold, a stinging sunburn and to change positions on the hard sodden ground only separated by the thin material of the tent, I woke up around 7 AM when the sun began to blaze down. After quickly rinsing off in the same manner as the evening before, I took off before my compadres had awoken with the need to hit the port-a-potties (I had lost my Go Girl at the SF Woman’s March) and to find some breakfast. After a quick stop back at the tent, to which I found the crew had already gone, I headed back to the yoga neighborhood to spread the communal white clay mud mask that I had noticed the day before over my entire sunburned body (with help from other participants) and then headed out to the ocean for a super quick rinse off (get away from me sun!) and some food. Determined to get some yoga in, I made my way right back to that neighborhood for vinyasa, though I only made it half way through the hour and a half. If those people are really partying, camping, getting no sleep and still managing to contort for hours…I’m convinced they’re yoga aliens. The way I participated the second half was a corpse pose next door in a camp that had been set up for such with its large trees, pillows, outdoor beds and different types of hammocks. Take that, yoga aliens.
Finally managing to find V & P when roaming back toward our camp, the day continued with hanging in that main area where I had been enjoying the drum circle the day before. An afternoon that included the amusement of being about twenty feet from famous life coach and internet comedian, JP Sears, who we had actually first spotted the day before on the beach. An entertaining and unexpected sighting to which V had encouraged my going to say hi and take a picture with for all of you. Alas, considering how much I assumed he was likely to already be being bombarded, I didn’t want to bother him. So instead I have these couple pictures of him from a few feet away that he was unaware of. A lot less invasive and creepy, right?
Even without chatting him up, just the idea that he was there and the memories of his funny videos added a positivity to the festival that was to stick with me throughout the rest of the festival.
After what had become our routine early evening hang in our own little center-camp we wandered around for an hour to check out art and cool camps and then proved ourselves to once again opt out of the joining the all-nigher crowd after an hour of separating to do our own thing before bed. Me wandering off with one of the boys to check out a really cool stage with fire dancers.
The next day started out as a repeat of experiences with another clay body mask on my crazy sunburn, quick dip in the ocean, empanadas that reminded me of American tamales, delicious meat skewers (my fave) and succulent pineapple. A couple new welcomed additions to the palate were a Coke (something I only like when hung over or in hot and humid conditions) and a heavenly double scoop of vegan coffee ice cream. The best ice cream I believed in the moment that I had ever tasted, though I chuckled at the idea that it was probably more the environment than anything.
Noting a few days in that I had gotten better at dealing with a constant state of being worn out and sleep deprived (something that comes from being a traveler, burner and recovering insomniac) I brought the thought from the back of my mind to the front about needing to start enjoying that festival more for its positives before I missed it. To that point I had seen more fault in it than good thanks to the unfortunate circumstance of feeling mislead by the admin of the festival when reaching out before buying my ticket to ensure there would be a variety of music (not just EDM, techno, etc), something that had proven to be false (minus Xavier Rudd), commercialism I wasn’t used to and the inevitable disappointment of the love and community of Burning Man being impossible to parallel. It made it hard to not be let down, though I could still see that it would have been amazing to me if I didn’t have those things blocking me. It was on the beach in the rain forest in Costa Rica for God sake. It was time I started appreciating it.
I actually did start recognizing the beauty and enjoyment of it more from there. Ironically, though, the wear of the weekend was starting to seep into our little group with disconnects such as when P once again insisted we stick together when I flat-out said I didn’t want to go on a trip the liquor store. An outing that caused us to unknowingly miss Xavier’s first performance. Something I was super bummed to find out about the next day considering that he had been the one musician I was into there. More than that because the performance had turned into the experience I had been most looking for when the spellbinding show had lead the people watching to join hands in a circle, singing his songs while he played. Magic.
“Woke up” the next morning (maybe slept an hour) to a friend climbing out of her tent understandably confused and hysterical about her boyfriend waking her up in the middle of the night livid and breaking up with her about a less-than-sober misunderstanding regarding a conversation the night before that had lead to his believing there was a conspiracy against him. Trying to comfort and help them work it out on and off throughout the day based on insight-though-experience that included guidance about how the situation was not real/due to intoxicants, exhaustion and over-stimulation, along with how they would think the situation silly later (but to be careful because the way they came at each other is what would last), I juggled it with my own financial frustration of only having a few bucks of available money left thanks to the fraud that had been flagged in my account right before I had flown out. Something I was to find out later was thanks to an error on UBER’s part. Not even a little surprising.
After paying $24 for a simple breakfast for that bud I had been walking around trying to talk down for an hour, $60 for an Airbnb to go to that night (once shit hit the fan and I had decided to leave early to support my gal pal) and $60 I had Venmoed to V toward the party a few days before, I was sweating it. The total amount was quite a bit more than my poor-ass would have spent on my own and well above what I had budgeted. Friendship sure can be expensive. Especially when you’re living like a twenty year old pauper while all your friends are living like real adults. Pick-pocketing, fraud, pick your poison. I always manage to find the hot mess when it comes to finances, regardless of whether it’s my fault of not.
It was a crazy day and I was bummed about leaving the festival a day early, especially once finding out that I would be missing Xavier Rudd AGAIN, but soon started to have the best day of the event when running into my long-time bud, Clif. Giving him shit right away about being there on his own and not for my b-day when I had invited him, we soon continued as if we had come together, the other bud taking off after a chuckle when hearing Clif’s nickname for me of Slobinon Malotsatits. I headed off on my own not too long later to make it to that same sound meditation workshop that had been my first great experience of the festival. It being too hot, and me too sunburned, to enjoy it the same as I had before, I soon found my way back to Clif. Once meeting up again, we went to a didgeridoo workshop where he introduced me to a cool musician and fellow local of Ocean Beach (from back home in San Diego) that he had met earlier in the festival. Very cool.
Probably not the best workshop for my fat burned lips but great fun and an awesome grand finale before packing up and heading out with a quick and chaotic goodbye to my Envision experience.
Packing up and surviving our bud fighting to stay awake at the wheel, we made it to the Airbnb a few hours later. Our time at the festival was over and soon the next leg of my Costa Rican adventure about to begin. Well, after the next unexpected 24 that was about to take place…

Envision Festival in Costa Rica – Day 1

“!Entrada!” I exclaimed to the taxi driver with an extended arm and pointed finger as we reached the sign at the festival entrance.
“!Si, entrada!” He exclaimed driving right on down that dirt road forged in the middle of tropical green. Uh…ok, so I was being dropped off down the street and walking back.

Annoyed already.

Finally in line for that festival I had worked so hard to get to, I expected to be ecstatic. Instead I was having a low moment of wary impatience, over-stimulation and everything getting to me. Aware of it and trying to switch out of grouchy traveler mode, I struggled to be in the moment when a guy in line started to sing while playing his guitar and an old hippie in a court jester style hat and tie-dye short started talking all kinds of random nonsense with an occasional tap on his tambourine.

Looking around with irritated thoughts about how much of a challenge it was to tolerate the twenty-something festie types who came with what I perceived to be an inauthentic and entitled “we are the world but I know everything and should be catered to” attitude (see millennial memes), I wondered if I was just being a grouchy turd or had already passed the age of being able to enjoy the festival world. A sad thought given that I had just starting exploring it.
Finally making my way up the line in hot sun and sticky heat, a welcome turn came when I managed to head back toward a bit of zen soon after getting past the gates. It didn’t last long, unfortunately, thanks to a chick fitting the description above ironically tried to push her bottle under the spout for some Karma Tribe gifted ice-cold cucumber water before I could move out of the way. Awkwardly trying to screw on the water cap of my camelbak, you better believe I said scolded her. Proud in that moment for finally having a voice to stand up for myself after decades of being too easily walked on and insecure, I also simultaneously felt uneasy with the thought that I sounded like a mom. Ugh.

Begrudgingly continuing on as I began to set up camp in the harsh mid-day sun thanks to so few spots still available in open camping, I managed to find a little comfort in the memory it inspired of breaking down camp at Burning Man, only in an intense dry heat, a few months before. A difference that soon seemed to lead to my feeling not only a bit nauseous but also in my developing a slight headache. A bit dazed by the time I finished, I zombied around in circles despite knowing full well that I probably just needed a wee moment with less stimulation, rest and more agua. As to my feeling angry and full of shattered assumption, I was aware that part of the reason was thanks to my having high expectations (nowhere to go but down when starting from the top) and being too sensitive as to what a challenge it was going to be to find the burner vibe I was looking for among so much consumerism. A reaction that was soon to be seconded by Venesa once she arrived.

Wandering off after camp was finally set up, I managed to find a large and mostly empty palapa made of different-sized tree trunks and dried palms to lay down in. Thank God.
Half an hour or so after going limp, a bearded man about my age with a peaceful shamanic energy and smile that was just as big as his beard popped his face over mine to ask if it would be a bother to set up some stuff by me. Turned out he was about to lead a sound meditation workshop that ended up being just what I needed. Especially once the man laying next to me told me about a natural herb remedy tent he volunteered at by the medical station that could may be able to help with my symptoms. A recommendation that proved successful after getting through squeals, excitement and hugs once finally stumbling upon Venesa, her boyfriend (our first time meeting) and a man they had carpooled in with followed by showing them where to set up camp. The universe had finally given me a hand.

Finally taking a turn for the better from that point on, we excitedly threw up a cheers once settled in and the first celebratory drink continued on into many more through the wee hours. Adding on to that amusing ambiance, we even managed to buy some party favors from one of the people openly selling as they walked by every ten minutes. Something that gave me even more of a chuckle was when the guy allowed to send payment for my chocolate through Venmo.
Later that night, with what was to be the only big tropical storm of the weekend (my chance to channel Woodstock), a rainy downpour of a manic dance party broke out at the music stage we were at. One of those magical moments that ended up being my highlight of the festival. Even when we made it back to camp and realized that I had left my tent’s window open causing it to flood and all of my belongings to get soaked. A situation that, within 24 hours, was about to lead to everything in there smelling for the rest of the next few days to the point of my not being able to sleep during the few hours that I may have been able to otherwise.
Shout out to Venesa for helping me empty out the water when I was frozen in a drunken state of “oh nooooo” and thanks above for having paid to check important belongings like my laptop in a protected storage crate for $20.
Still, in contrast to the surly vibes I had a hard time shaking earlier that day, I found the humor in it. In no small part, thanks to remembering how nostalgia seemed to later pop up when thinking of those most challenging moments. Who knows why. Maybe because they tend to be when we most grow.

Costa Rica – The Beginning

Holy shit, Costa Rica has become as expensive as California! I was NOT prepared for that. What do you mean it’s no longer as dirt-cheap as all the surfers used to talk about years ago? Who had two thumbs and didn’t do enough current research? This gal.
Add to that my always seeming to forget how challenging it is to keep a budget. Especially considering, at least for me, how the beginning of new trips, places, situations and the emotions that come with tend to require more moola at first. At least for me.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know mentioned how expensive the country has become in the last post, but it’s worth a reminder. If for no other reason but to keep my sanity.
San Jose was my first stop and pretty much what I had heard. A place to get into the country and then out to destination areas stat. With iron security gates surrounding everything and a lack of nature, I knew it wasn’t for me. Looks like I now know twice over when asked if I “know the way to a San Jose” that my answer is a solid “unfortunately”. Still, I was super happy to be there, even that city, and am admittedly aware that I probably didn’t find the charms that it did have to offer. Reminder me of the way I think of L.A. *shrugs*
Once landing and getting past the confusion of my UBER driver continuously trying to chat it up with my limited Spanish and his limited English, I found my way though the never-ending iron gates to the cute and unassuming house-turned Airbnb I was to be staying at complete with the host’s live-in family. Getting settled into the private room that I had originally booked for myself, Venessa and her boyfriend so we could recover from jetlag before heading to the Envision Festival (I had their arrival date wrong), I soon wandered out to at the very least grab a bite. That was my first real experience finding out where the country’s prices were at when I ended up with a meal that consisted of $15 for nachos with pineapple (surprisingly not a bad addition) and a beer at a place that was one step above street food. Something I hoped was a fluke due to being super close to the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, Costa Rica’s national stadium, but quickly realized was not. I’d say that someone (me) is spoiled from Thailand prices.
Going to the grocery from there, I panicked and only bought a bottle of wine and avocado when trying to figure out some eats for the next couple days. Epic fail but at least I got a chuckle out of it.
Sleeping though what was to be the included breakfast the next morning I had made such a point to look for, something I was to find out the morning after that consisted of nothing more than toast and drinks, I was OK with the sacrifice for the much-needed ten hours of sleep I managed to get that first night. Having that private room did cost me a pretty penny above what I would have spent on just my own bed but quickly taught me that catching up on sleep proved just how much it was worth it regardless of whether friends were there to share it or not.

Though still always a pleasant surprise, it’s the little things that make the difference. This time it was the outlets around that fit two-pronged American plugs and a bathroom sign in a restaurant with legs that twisted together for a giggle as it reminded me of the challenges of now having a 40-year-old bladder. A gauntlet I like to tell myself is only due to my needing to have more sex. Always looking for an excuse…
In addition to those two little things putting a smile on my face, I had a quiet but pleasant day wandering around the neighborhood without really knowing what to do with myself. Finding a park, pub and local restaurant to hang in, I finished my day by writing (after getting away from a nice but annoying older American man at the hostel who wouldn’t stop yapping) and organizing a flight for my next trip (back to SE Asia and India) through the company I was be working for as a mentor to teens in a service and photojournalism program over the beginning of summer.
The next day I was finally on my way to Uvita for the festival. At least I thought I was until finding out once in line with a paid ticket for my bus at the station I had found through information provided on the website, asking my hosts and plugging in the info to my UBER app with fingers crossed, that the festival started the day after the ticket showed. Something that never would have legally flown in the US. It would appear that Eventbrite didn’t care about providing accurate info to participants this time though. Extra lovely considering that many of us were coming from overseas.
With only a few minutes of minimal panic before action, I managed to find a bed at a hostel right down the street from the festival. Something I was excited for as I had only stayed in a hostel once before in Ireland. Before getting there and after the first hour or two on the bus, a short stop introduced me to the popular street food of empanadas. Something I love in the U.S. but not so much there as the outer casing tasted much more like the masa tamales are made of than what I was used to and I don’t like tamales. I know. I’m that “one”.

The first travelers I befriended was at check-in at the hostel. They were a fun group of Canadians (which there seemed to be a lot of in that area) who were also on their way to Envision by way of another festival.
After hanging with them for a bit before going to grab a bite, I next met a sweetheart of an American woman named Carly (shout out!) who was walking with a surfboard bigger than her arms wanted to allow down the same dirt path as I toward the ocean. Turned out she had stayed in the country longer than expected after the man she was dating had to gone home to Los Angeles for work. A decision I much respected.
After hitting the beach together for her to surf and both of us to watch the sunset, we followed a recommendation for some great ceviche by confusedly finding our way through the rain forest via car on a bumpy rural road to an awesome 🐕 friendly surfer-style hostel restaurant by the name of Flutterby House that had been founded by two women from California. Go figure.
How I loved that place and wished I had a few more days to stay there. A great reminder of how unexpected the best moments in travel tend to be. Also my first true moments moments of pura vida.

Four for Forty: #4 – Getting to Costa Rica!

Beyond my being adamant that I was at least going to make it to Envision, a festival unofficially listed on a blog I found as a regional burn, Costa Rica didn’t really have much to do with my birthday. What did feel like a birthday treat, however, was how close the little sister was to coming with until work stuff got in the way. A bummer (though we obviously made up for it) but I was still excited as I had my burner bud from last year, Venesa, and her new man coming to join.
I was leaving less than a week after One Love with the plan that those last couple days before flying back to the Bay for work (and then Costa Rica) would be for recovery and the last of my quality family time. Instead it turned into the opposite when the little brother had one of his breaks after I made an insensitively fed up comment that instantly escalated into his not only physically threatening me but appearing to get a wee bit delusional. Whoopsie.
While it caused me to have to Free Robin Fly from my family’s casa, it at least lead to my spending time with a pal I hadn’t seen enough of. I’m all for happy endings, so hey. It may not have exactly been leaving the fam on a happy note but at least we got something.
With my last day at home in San Diego for a month and a half being Valentine’s Day, I awkwardly made a video for that new special fella you read about in the last post (which I’m painfully including for you *blush*) from the OB coffee shop I wrote so much of my book at, Java Jungle, before heading across the street to eat at my last San Diego taco shop for a while, Mike’s Taco Club (yummy sauces), before heading off to the airport.

Managing to get in a bit of fun in the Bay between hours driving for Lyft by making it to a burner party and with the pals in the area you’ve read about, it dawned on me from the moment a week later when dropping the family work car off to sister (and realizing that the cost of grabbing my own Lyft to SFO was worth it) that I was finally starting to understand this new life just a wee bit. A thought that was immediately followed with others about being unsure about whether it was really getting that much easier or if it was just that Central America was a little more in my comfort zone. Either way, I knew that those first moments of familiarity within my travels were a huge step. I’d have an answer to the rest soon enough when, by the end of the trip, I was to be amazed by how I would end up making it through three weeks in a country as expensive as California and went to a festival there on somewhere around a grand.

Once waiting to board the red eye flight on the not-too-bad Copa Airlines for my first leg to Panama, the majority of other passengers being Spanish speakers made it excitingly obvious, though still in California, that I was on my way. Once on the plane and soon in flight, my not quite equipped enough preparations to combat being cold when trying to sleep (as the blankets I’d assumed would be given out were not), I was reminded of how many unexpected moments come with travel and how much I was going to have to switch back into go with the flow mode. Good practice for my impatient-ass and a tiny bit less uncomfortable than it could have been since I at least managed to get the emergency row. It also didn’t hurt that I was on my way to Costa Rica and was proud of myself for finally wearing a mask the whole time along with taking the Airborne that Wendy had convinced me to, yes, be worth the buy.
By the time we got to the destination of the layover in Panama, I was so tired that I didn’t want to figure out how to take advantage of the eight hours I had in a country that I would not have likely visited otherwise. Finally having enough experience to be stern with myself about no longer senselessly missing such great travel opportunities, I did eventually kick my butt back even further into travel mode by slowing down my mind into a slower state of actually observing my surroundings, finding tools available and thinking it through. First things first, I went to the bathroom for the ‘ol Wet Wipes, deodorant and toothbrush bath along with changing the skivvies routine I find essential during travel. Whether or not it’s true, I always think travel makes me smell. Likely paranoia for the most part due (at least in part) to how repulsed I get by how bad so many others do. One of my biggest travel negatives.
After leisurely strolling around the entire airport and waiting until I had already filled out a customs declaration form at the doors to leave, I finally did my research on where to go. It wasn’t until then, practically with one foot out the door, that I realized that the few hours I had to explore would have likely cost me around $150. Too expensive for my still-tight budget, but hey. At least it was a step forward.
Heading back to what was originally to be the terminal for my next flight (until it was changed to pure across the airport), I crashed hard on the airport floor by a random man playing a violin. I mean crazy sex dreams and not waking up until practically peeing my pants hard. Not bad for a recovering insomniac.
Finally making it onto that one last flight to CR, complete with an in-flight pout-session when sleeping through the snack, I had, after 18 years of hearing surfers talk about it, finally made it to Costa Rica.

Four for Forty – #3: Rasta Love

With only a day’s rest after Mexico, sis and I joined my So Cal friends for the next celebration. A reggae festival in Long Beach, CA by the name of One Love that was to be yet another outstanding birthday success full of fun and fabulous friends who made me feel loved and celebrated.
Starting the day with Wendy and I picking up my pal Juliette at home in our beach town, Ocean Beach, we were on our way. Stopping halfway to pick up another friend, Shana, we already had a four-woman party. Shana, working for the Double Tree hotel, even managed to hook us up with a room at the very cool Hotel Maya that just so happened to be right next to the venue.
Meeting up there with Kati, Nikki and our friend Angie, who was coming all the way from Temecula, we also met up with friends (and total sweethearts) Cassie and her boyfriend Nathan once entering the venue. Soon posting up in a spot, we were so rambunctious and all over the place that we didn’t move for the whole of the festival. We didn’t even make it to the second stage, though it was probably for the best given that we were in “herding cats” mode.

With a mixture of having fun and keeping tabs of our crew (and myself), I was barely paying attention when a tall handsome man appeared and began trying to talk to me. Suddenly and with a slight French accent, he caught my attention when asking in a refreshingly respectful manner of a joke whether he was being a bother and if he was wasting his time. Managing to catch my attention in that moment, I really looked at him for the first time. I noticed him. Not only how attractive he was but also the kindness that radiated from him and the way he was looking at me. If we were a cartoon, there would have been little hearts in his eyes. I think I still saw them actually.
For the rest of the evening he was all there was. With the rest of the festival becoming a blur, he and his also very cool pal Pramod came back with us to the hotel and treated us to dinner before heading back to the room (minus Shana who had snuck back to the second room) for a night cap while Wendy and Pramod chatted on the balcony, Juliette passed out and Stephan and I continued in the room for a moment that became one of the closest I have ever had to falling in love. I don’t know if anyone has ever looked at me the way he did. At least not someone I wanted to. He was so incredibly romantic and, while I would have normally ruined the moment by being scared and running away, he was somehow able to make me feel safe. In part because, while I’d imagine it to be more the natural poet in him and not really just for me, his borderline sappy words (that I joked to myself were acceptable being that he was French) were working. They were amazing, actually. Like the love letters of the past.
Later, after their finally having to leave to at least get a couple hours sleep before work, we also fell asleep to what was the perfect ending to such a big birthday. Even if I was never to see him again, I was to be floating for weeks.

Four for Forty – Second Celebration: Mexico!

I don’t remember ever having a getaway with my sister out of the country, just us. She was nervous about Mexico until we got to the other side of the border. That was after I had accidentally taken us to the wrong crossing first. Whoopsie. It was pretty easy from there, though. UBER works, and is way cheaper than taxis, so I paid for those and she paid for pretty much everything else.
The best part of the whole trip was watching her childlike enthusiasm as she realized how much Mexico really was down the street from us and that a little more of my kind of lifestyle could be hers. Getting to Las Rocas Resort and Spa an hour later, we were both ecstatic about the place. Well, minus the gigantic statue of Jesus that stood on a hill behind us with his arms extended. That creeped me out. What thrilled us even further, though, was our balcony view that was all ocean. Something that was easily seen by the picture of Big Red jumping on her bed within our first few minutes of getting there.
Quickly after settling in, we went to walk the grounds for an initial checkout and, both being tired from always living on the go, to veg at the infinity pool. Amazing and relaxing minus the group of guys who had no other chicks to check out but us. Later walking by two of them on their second floor balcony, one yelled down to come up and party with them. When I asked what he meant by party he responded by telling us to come up to see. Big nope on that one.
Heading back up to our room, I was talking to Wendy ,who was out on the balcony, from inside the room. Walking out to meet her, she gestured to the balcony next door where it turned out that the guys from the hot tub/cat calling us were. We, wide-eyed with a giggle, tried to ignore them as they carried on a sweet conversation together about what I don’t remember but something that showed them to not be the creepers we had worried about.
An hour or so later one of the two guys unexpectedly jumped from his balcony to ours with a big smile and hello. After my quick scolding for a dangerous move, the three of us got into a conversation of which a buzzed Wendy entertained me as she chatted away while barely stopping for a breath. He did manage to join in enough to fill us in on how him and his cousin (who he had been unsuccessful in getting to come over to that point) were surfers on holiday from their family’s oil drill (or something like that). At one point Wendy cracked us all up when when walking right into the glass sliding door. Soon after we separated from him and his cousin to go our separate ways for dinner with a request to leave a note with our contact info on our door for meeting back up later. Well, she thought I was crazy to have actually done it (and even a wee bit embarrassed) as she thought it was only the comment of a friendly gesture and that it was awkward for me to really leave the number as they would never really call. Low-and-behold the priceless look of delighted surprise on her face when they actually did. Soon after we met back up at the resort and eventually made our way back down to the hot tub to hang with the other random people who were on holiday, traveling or expats. It was her first experience in this traveler world and she was floating on an excited cloud with how awesome it all was. Those kind of connections are my favorite part about travel and seeing her finally experience it just may have been the highlight of all my birthday celebrations combined. I didn’t even mind so much when her staying out until almost dawn with our neighbor meant that it would likely be an early night the next day on my actual birthday, Feb 8.
We struck out almost the entire time with the restaurants we went to, including lobster in Puerto Nuevo, but did manage to find major deliciousness at the street taco stand next to the resort where each was $1. Something excited Big Red so much that she tipped the guys working there $10 or a $6 tab.
Papas & Beer still stands as my favorite of places I’ve gone to in Baja. Going both days, we sat on the deck with buckets of beer while watching the horses for rent on both sides of us, vendors walking around and other people enjoying a couple days of relaxation and fun. On our full day, the 8th, we got full body massages of which we teased that she got the professional masseuse and me the receptionist due to their not wanting to lose the business. The shoulder massages we got on the deck of Papas & Beer the next day was much better for me but also left bruises on my arms that would take over a week to go away. That little woman was strong!
Wendy bought me a bracelet and ring for my b-day as well as some souvenirs for the girls (her daughter and our other niece). Having started the day hungover and tired, we were more than thankful that we fought to get ourselves there as our relaxing day slowly continued on. Especially when one of the guys working there found his way over to force me to do a popper. In other words a fizzy drink that’s poured into the mouth from the bottle followed by the mouth being covered to prevent spitting it out while the head is shaken around and a loud whistle blown obnoxiously. After me the guy also got Wendy and unexpectedly picked her up on his shoulders and spun her around. Followed, by which, was her signature friendly smack on the arm. It was hilarious.

Everything of the trip had been so easy until the ride back to the boarder. In true little sister fashion, Big Red passed out only to wake up asking if we were there yet before crashing back out again while I dealt with the Spanish speaking driver (who was nice and patient) as we tried to figure out what to do when the UBER app dropped my ride. Something we would find out about an hour later had happened worldwide. After a couple times pulling over, messages sent back and forth to UBER and the driver trying to figure out if we needed to pay the rest of the ride in cash, we finally got it all sorted. Finally making it to the border what must have been 45 minutes later than we would have save that trouble, others walked by us so fast through that it was obvious they were commuters walking over on a daily basis. Finally walking past the two hot boarder patrol officers as we stepped back into America no more than ten minutes later, one answered my call to Wendy with a big joking smile on his face when asking her if she had contacted our mom to pick us up by saying that she would be waiting for us. It was the perfect ending to one damn amazing celebration.

4 for 40! – First of the Four

Check it out! As of Feb 8, I’m 40 and yeehaw! WHAT a ride.
Not the life it took to get here (though that too of course) but the actual celebration. Or should I say celebrations.
They were absolutely amazing x 1,000,000 and I’m crazy touched by what people did for me (we’ll get there) but it sure didn’t start that way. Let me tell you…
I was nervous about my birthday. Not because of the age but that, in an often painfully ironic turn, I’ve noticed that the events that are supposed to create the biggest happiness all too often seem to become the biggest letdown. My worries about this were confirmed when my sister-from-another-mister Kati ended up doing an intimate weekend with her sisters and husband with an informal beach gathering later for everyone else after enough people made her feel like her 40th was imposing on them. I mean, wow. If someone who everyone digs as the bees-knees got that kind of reaction, what chance did I stand?
Not much. Let me tell you.
Especially given that I constantly take off on everyone and have missed many of their celebrations. Because of that I knew I shouldn’t expect much. Still, I still wanted to at least try, so I planned a cruise. First in mind for my sick pop and second for the mounds of kids who have taken over the lives of my friends and family.
Kati, Nikki and my family would have gone and that’s who’s really important. Still, the 90% of others who didn’t bother to respond at all and the not great comments of the few others who did bummed me out so much that I canceled it. It’s fair to be said that the travel agent set it up for failure by being greedy with pushing to announce it too early. Still…
From there I announced that I was going to the Envision Festival in Costa Rica and anyone who wanted to come was welcome but that I wasn’t going to be responsible for planning any of it. I’d go by myself if need be and was (sadly) fully prepared for it. I mean, I knew it wasn’t fair for me to expect much but it still hurt.
Two or three friends said they would come, though I wasn’t about to believe it until tickets were bought. Nikki, not being able to go, took the reigns to plan a trip to a resort in Mexico she loved by the name of Las Rocas. Once again the dates weren’t working for everyone else to go, and I refused to bend any more for people who hadn’t shown any sign of caring, so it ended up turning into a plan for a sister birthday trip of just Wendy and I. Nik said it wouldn’t be right to go given that Doozer (sister) was coming to town. Something I didn’t exactly accept with grace (yes, I see the pattern) given that I had reached out to both before Dooz had planned the trip.
Debbi (AKA: Doozer) was super sweet about trying to see me while in town but, as far as my stubborn-ass was concerned, they both had known the dates. While I would try (because they are the best, actually do care and are family), I wasn’t going to go too far out of my way. Being somewhat of a shit, I also stood firm on my comments that I refused to end up in TGIFridays on Feb 8 in order to bend for others, which understandably upset Nik who had been trying so hard, but she was also quick to understand.
On a random whim a week or two later, I threw out the idea of going to one day of a reggae fest. Well it worked. She was so excited when she called asking if I was serious that she yelled out to her husband/my bud Brent asking if they should buy my ticket for a b-day present. That was that. My little love bug was successful in her mission to make my So Cal birthday special. Something I suspect was extra important to her given how much the previous attempts had bummed me out.
Soon after I left for three weeks in the Bay Area to make some money driving for Lyft. Well, one drunken hot-tub skinny dipping night in the woods with my burner buds Brigit and Aaron, we were BSing with my high school bestie Nicki (spelled different than Nikki at home in SD) about doing something up there and all of the sudden she was planning a wine tasting in the woods and dinner party with all the old school buds. Something that was a wee bit fuzzy when I asked later if she was going to make an evite. Not only had she already done it but she started cracking up about how I hadn’t even RSVPed to my own birthday party.
Meanwhile back in San Diego at a pizza and zipline party at Nikki’s house with Kate, Wendy and our friend Angie in attendance with there with their kids, Angie and Wendy decided they were going to come to the reggae festival as well. Super yay!
Pretty sure Kate had already been on board before that but I hadn’t wanted to even ask Big Red since she was already going to Mexico with me. Come soon my friends Shana and Juliette were also in. Shana, working for a hotel line, was even able to work a deal for Hotel Maya in Long Beach for the night of. Something that provided even more excitement as I had already really enjoyed that place from a time we had stayed before.
Take a step back. The day of the Nor Cal party Nicki was throwing me came. Or should I say the morning after the craziest six hour escapade driving for Lyft ever in which the passenger was a child star turned drug addict.
Back to the morning of the party. I drove 45 minutes to Nicki’s from right by the first winery (by Brigit and Aaron’s) for the pre-party and was not disappointed. Let’s just start with the blow up unicorn covered in unicorn lights that was directly in front of me when I walked in. Then look left or right and there’s a cute little setup of pictures of me, my name stenciled out all pretty and a nice setup of hors d’oeuvres that she had put together. Even a fancy schmancy cake. I felt So! Fucking! Special!
After our first little celebration there, we loaded into the minivan she had rented for the occasion (hahahahah) and headed back to wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains while I filled them in on the crazy ride I had the night before. Arriving there close to an hour late (of course) some super special pals I hadn’t seen in a long time were already waiting at Hallcrest Vineyards and then MJA Vineyards. They were the cutest little wineries and we had a blast. Especially sitting out on picnic tables in the sun with the expansive field surrounded by Forrest at Hallcrest. Sitting in hardcore traffic to get to dinner after that meant we were way beyond any chance they would save our reservation, though we managed to find a spot in the back to finish up the party. My finishing up meaning taking a few too many of the tequila shots I had bought for others when they wouldn’t take them. Whoopsie!

Flash forward to my praying to the porcelain god the next morning with mumbled comments about 40 not being the new 21 while Nicki’s husband Anthony laughed that I was the new president until the next friend turned 40. This is the guy that once, years before, had been high-fiving me as we both threw up jager-bombs in the tub and toilet next to each other.
Finally managing to pull myself together by the time they got home from church, I was ready to work to pay for the next celebration. Well, I thought I was until I threw up in my mouth while giving my first Lyft passenger a ride. 🙈 Yeah…it took a few hours from there.

They DO love me! 💖

Life After the Burn

The burn doesn’t really end until days, if not weeks, after getting home. Besides all the emotions of such an intense experience to sort through, there’s also the cleanup which, despite dizzying exhaustion, most try to get done quick. Playa dust seems next to impossible to get fully out but isn’t something you want hanging around when at all possible. I was amazed at how fast we managed to get it all taken care of. I think we may have broken a record. Well, minus the tent I splintered when breaking down during our burner couple squabble in the debilitating heat. Something that, luckily, turned out to be an easy fix with some super glue to seal in the splintered pieces.
Even the burn reminds me of one of the challenges I’ve found in travel and adventure in that it’s been hard to focus on living my beautiful life at home in California (San Diego County and the Bay Area) as opposed to being consumed by working on next trip. After all, they’re still my favorite places from those I have been to. At least so far. Finding some success with that after getting settled back in, I managed to keep up the fun with Jewels, her Brazilian boyfriend Andre and her fur-babies Sugar (aka: Sugs) and Annie (aka: Piggie). I even got to help out with the pups sometimes, including taking Piggie to the vet when she developed skin cancer. I got to hang out and write at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, Te Mana (among others) and of course beach days that sometimes ended with bonfires and hitting the bars in my hood, Ocean Beach, San Diego. My pal Jessica’s birthday was a great example of that.

Previously having a great time for my friend Anna’s bachelorette party at a Spanish restaurant in La Jolla, visiting it again with Jewels and my sister, Wendy, ended my second experience with the opposite when the owner didn’t remember, or seem to care, that I came in to write about them for the magazine and then a male dancer flung and obnoxious drunk women against the wall right next to me when she wouldn’t stay off the stage. I may not have ended up writing about them but did manage to write about a fun and impressive new Brewery in Del Mar called Vistapoint Brewing Co a month later after hanging with the owner and head chef eating all kinds of their delicious plates paired with beers while they filled me in about each. Now those are the kind of perks that make writing for the magazine on top of everything else I have going on worth it.
The family chaos continued to climb as my brother and his fiance broke up and the rest of our family, who he had unintentionally mislead about the situation before they temporarily moved in with them from the Bay Area, was forced to move into an Airbnb for a couple months (where, by the way, I got Sean to make tribute posters of our pups who had passed), while they continued to look. Wendy stepping up through everything as the temporary hero and matriarch to our family lead to them finally finding, and unexpectedly buying, the Satterwhite Sanctuary in a small town in the bottom of San Diego County called Bonita. With its two houses, pool, basketball court, batting cage, built in outside bar, large fire pit and gazebo, it was perfect for my parents to have their own two bedroom house where even my grandmother could stay and my sister and brother to have the other large house their daughters. Perfect until my brother made it to the part of his marine vet PTSD (among other issues) cycle where he switched from sweet to angry and violent along with pointing the blame, in most part, at the closest woman to him. A place of darkness for him that was triggered in large part (this time) to the break with his fiance, the situation it created with their daughter, his unhappiness working as an RN in the psych ward at the VA and their living situation. Also from losing two of his dogs only a couple months apart.

This time his blame and hostility seemed to be aimed more at my sister, the woman who had been babying and taking care of him and way too many of his responsibilities (including mothering his daughter), though ended up peaking at me when he openly threatened premeditated violence after I hurt his feelings with an insensitive question (unfortunately I can be a stone-cold ice-princess bitch) when I got fed up and asked why he couldn’t wait until after my 40th birthday celebration before throwing more of his stuff at us. Time to refill my mace.

So many of us have a loved ones who face similar demons. Most know my brother for his good side only. Not only do they never see him when his inner monster comes out but also during the in between when he’s aware and not only trying to fight it on his own but also trying to get help. Also how regretful, heartbroken, depressed and feeling bad about himself he can get because of it. Only seeing him a couple times a year, mostly for my niece, I have kept a strong distance for years because of this cycle. Now that our family is involved, I can’t run away (in other words, fail him) any more. The family is also seeing and acknowledging it for the first time as opposed to dismissing my pleas for help in the past. There’s a rough road ahead of us but we’re together and closer than we’ve ever have been. They have a great property, us siblings can help take care of the folks and grandma (mostly sick pop) and they help take care of my nieces. I share all these experiences for those of you who can relate and because I am a writer. It’s how I process. It is also a part of my journey which is what I am trying to give you full honesty. My style is not just to show you the dream but also reality. Also to share part of why leaving again soon after for Costa Rica wasn’t as heartbreaking as it had been before.

Back to my home, shortly after Jewels and I had a Halloween pumpkin party with my nieces, followed by my celebrating Halloween in OB with Jess, the dog/house-sitting season hit and I moved out. Working on reconnecting with loved ones while I had the chance, I spent a couple nights with different friends and even managed to give Nik and Kate a chance to have date nights with their hubbies Brent and Kurt while watching their kids. I also got a chance to cheer Nikki on in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Mission Beach, while she participated in a mini triathlon. Super fun and exciting but also a reminder about hard rideshare has been so challenging on the wellness of my fitness and nutrition routine.
Landing a gig to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) remotely at night for a company called 51Talk, things were finally starting to fall into place. Taking a few steps forward then back, other plans for work and travel were still painful in that supplementing by driving for rideshare in San Diego was netting around a grand of the $3k I was pulling in from driving around 50 hours a week. That was on top of the family commitments that was occupying an exorbitant amount of my time. The most heartbreaking of all bills that began to fall behind because of this was not being able to pay for a blog hosting renewal. Not that I had time to write anyway.
Still, good times with good friends and family continued to be squeaked in as Wendy and I had a few awesome sister dates and I made it to San Diego’s regional burn YOUtopia. A festival I wrote about for the magazine and volunteered at as a greeter. Finding out quickly that I wasn’t a fan as it took more after the sound camp side of the burn (think rave) than art and connection with others, I was also quickly upset by a lead during my volunteer shift who had embraced the snarky side of the culture by constantly yelling at me. Still, I was thankful for the experience, the volunteer lead who was a sweetie and the friends who came with. Shout out to Juliette, Jessica and Morgan!

Moving on yet again to more moments worth a mention, an adopted little sis-pal from my first burn, Clara, came to visit and I volunteered at the soup kitchen where my pal from the last burn, Annie/Goldilocks worked. I got stood up there by a guy who works at Dixieline, where I go to pick up free scrap wood for bonfires and the fire pit, but hey. At least I got wood. Thanksgiving was a bummer at first when my brother’s baby-mama took their daughter and sister’s baby-daddy changed the flight for them to come from the Bay Area in the AM to late in the day. Well, that didn’t last long. Soon we ended up in the best and most hilarious sibling pool party ever (folks hung inside). This was before my brother’s break in February. I can’t remember us ever having such a great day together. Ever. Definitely topped the charts for the best Thanksgiving. Flying down to San Diego from the Bay Area a couple weeks later, my friend Svetlana talked me into going to a large event called the Naughty or Nice that three of the four people I had lost a few months before were attached to. She was also close to one of them, Wren, which was part of why I let her talk me into it. The experience was hard but in some way did seem to help. A trigger came soon after, though, when one of the bridesmaids from Anna’s wedding, a cool chick who I had bonded with at her wedding weekend, passed from cancer.
Managing to volunteer at the Del Mar racetrack to help take care of horses when California was being ravaged by fire, I soon after managed to get sick. Something Wendy pointed out be telling me I looked like shit and Sean by telling me I looked like I needed to take vitamins when meeting up with the fam at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Sienna, my niece’s favorite. For a month there on out, starting when dog/house sitting for Anna, I was a flu zombie. So much for starting to teach English online for that China-based company, 51Talk, who had hired me. So much, also, for saving to travel Central and South America for a couple months given that being too sick to work = not able to save. In contrast to Thanksgiving, Christmas and the day after New Years were the worst in that they were the days I was the most sick. Extra rough given that Wendy, needing to blow off steam once finally boiling over from all the massive amount of responsibility she had been handling not only for our family but also her high-level boss in venture capitalism, wanted to recreate our epic Thanksgiving by having a hot tub and champagne party all day. Sean was at work. The family had a housewarming/NYE combo party for which her closest friends had flown out and were staying at the house. I tried to keep up with both events through my aches, fevers, shivers and pain though it ended in my being on antibiotics.

Finally heading back to the Bay where I net more than twice as much driving for rideshare, I got sick for another few days from Svetlana’s son, as did she, but we managed to have fun with the quality time of my staying with her while she spoiled me and cracked me up by creating a vendetta against the shoe industry when getting infuriatingly upset about how hard it is to find my size shoe (12). During my stay, we managed to make it to the Woman’s March in San Francisco. My second and her first. Something I was extra excited about given that she is from a family and place in Russia that was not so great with woman’s rights. I saw Brandi there, if you remember reading about her, and she is just as fierce as ever. It was apparent, though, that our time is over. At least for now. While in the Bay, I also got time with my burner buds who live in the Santa Cruz mountains where I write among the trees and hike in the morning and we skinny dip beneath the stars at night.
Besides 51Talk, there is one other event that has catapulted my life onto the next level of all I have been working for. After Anna told me about her company, GLA (Global Leadership Adventures), a company that identifies as a Peace Corps for teens, I applied and was hired to work as a mentor for the summer in a photojournalism program, thanks to my blogging, in the Himalayas.
So here we are now. What you can look forward to next, dear FRFers, is the story of my turning 40 and Costa Rica, where I attended their local burn, Envision Festival, and volunteered at a place I found through the site, Workaway.
For now it’s back to the adventure.