Category Archives: Travel

And She’s Back

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It’s hard to believe that 18 months have gone by since my last post….life intervened in interesting and circuitous ways.  But alas, I’m here, happy, healthy, and excited to start talking again.   I often say that time is  like holding water in your hand, no matter how hard you try, it continues to move on.

So where have I been and what have I been doing over that last almost two years….

  • Sojourn to Turkey
  • Romance in Quebec
  • Theatrical debut
  • Non-Profit Consulting
  • Webmaster for a nationally and internationally renowned non-profit
  • Child in Senegal, West Africa for months
  • Child in College in New York (hallelujah)
  • The birth of my first nephew….I’m such a proud aunty
  • Homeschool
  • Volunteering
  • New Business Ventures
  • Life and Love

Yes – I think that about sums it up.   I’ve spent the last few months busy and slightly distracted, but constantly saying to myself, “I have to get back to the blog”. Ever the procrastinator, I am finally sitting myself down to write.

So to pick up where I left off in 2012 – I had planned to leave for Cuba with my daughter, on  one-way tickets for 2 months, then possibly do Ecuador, Panama, or Costa Rica from there.  Housing in Cuba was set, as were private tutors in chess and Spanish for the little one.  Our Cuban friends/family were waiting for us, we had our gifts all packed. And we were ready.  I had closed my business earlier in the month, tied up all lose ends and made sure that I would have access to my money.   The last piece of the puzzle was to drive to my mom in Georgia, see my sisters in Virginia, then my daughter in New York, before we were off for the flight.

With this great plan in mind, I donated or sold all of our belongings, except those that would go to my sister which I put in storage, my apartment was leased to a new tenant and I impatiently waited for June 4, 2012 to arrive, when we’d catch that glorious flight from Toronto and start off on a new adventure.

God/fate/ life….just laugh in the face of the best laid plans.  As a parting activity, we went to spend a final day volunteering at an urban farm.  The director asked my daughter a simple question, “Will you be part of our summer program this year?” That led to a discussion regarding us permanently leaving the city and them begging me to stay to work with them and their founder as the organization transitioned through a period of growth.   Don’t ask me why….. I had 2 non-refundable one-way tickets from Canada to Cuba,  I would have no apartment within a week, I had no furnishings, no winter wear , and no reason to think delaying my plans would be a good idea……but I said yes, and I did.

Six months later…after having been an interim webmaster, trainer of best practices for USDA small farm harvesting and warehousing practices, IT guru and jack-of-all trades extraordinaire— I finally said good-bye, left the city and instead of Cuba went on a 3-week sabbatical to Turkey.

I came back after Turkey (which was amazing) and started a new phase of my life with the love of my life.  It turns out that cupid/fate/life and God had a plan for me all along and whatever made me delay the Cuba trip…it was the best decision I could have ever made.    Now I get to travel the world not just with the kids, but with my life partner….and he gets to have unexpected and pseudo exotic adventures with me.   We’re all pretty happy.

So now, while I continue to sing the praises of travel and living abroad, I am also about finding the treasures in your backyard, the joys that make life rich and delightful, and living life to the fullest…cause life is too short not to be happy and follow your dreams.

Welcome and I look forward to sharing the new adventures.

Restless Roots – Where to Next?

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The problem with traveling, and enjoying it, is that once you start, it’s hard to give it up.  I fantasize about putting roots down and settling in one place…except, the reality of doing that some how scares me.  I think of the routines and habits that come along with being “settled”, the consistent parade of familiar faces, sites and scents, and I run for the nearest airport and farthest/quick destination point.  Why that is? I do not know…perhaps I do not want my roots to show. Roots being a metaphor for permanent settlement and not my socio-cultural /ethnic background.

So the constant question these days is, “Where are you going?”  My standard response has become, “The Caribbean for two months and then we will see from there.”  This is the plan that is not.   Going to Cuba has slightly side tracked my Ecuador plans because while it’s markets are spartan, compared to Cuenca (Ecuador), Cuban people are really hard to beat.  And in the end, isn’t the experience of being in a new place more about the people than the marketplace? Of course I can’t work in Cuba,  so unless I create a project for myself, the Cuban adventure will last until boredom sets in and we move off to the next country.

So, this summer’s adventure is all about discovering Cuba, its culture, history, people and food.  We will see where the adventure leads us from there.  I am committed to spending at least the next 12 months abroad, so we will see.  And if I happen to meet my prince and fall in love  in [enter the country name], I may consider planting my roots in the ground  and not simply in a portable/roll-away flowerpot.

Onward ho!

 

 

Final Stages for New Beginnings

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I just realized that it has been 3 weeks since my last post and time has just flown by.  So that said, I wanted to give you an update regarding our pending move to “way down yonder”.

  1. Our flights have been purchases and accommodation taken care of, for our two month stay in Cuba.  For those of you just joining in on the conversation, the original plan was to go to Cuenca, Ecuador this summer and build our lives from the ground up again…which, by the way, is still very appealing.  But of course, we went to Cuba last month, I was seduced by the warm climate, gregarious personalities, and living history…not to mention the eye candy!   In all seriousness, as an entrepreneur, it is very difficult for me to wrap my head around the notion that 90% of the economy is government owned and private business is so heavily taxed that it might as well be government owned.  It’s an interesting notion and one I plan to explore more fully when I’m on the ground.
  2. I have consolidated most of our life into 1 suitcase.  Granted it’s filled with mini skirts, sun dresses, tank tops, shorts and other summertime paraphernalia (no sweaters here).  The packing effort which began several weeks ago, has resulted in serious soul searching regarding the value I place on cloths and things versus memories.  No point in traveling with Indian saris, abayas from Abu Dhabi, and Africana from Senegal, so those will sit in storage at my sister’s.  The Brooks Brother suit is just too beautiful to let go of, but all of my “business” blouses and Ann Taylor odds and ends were donated to and are now hanging on racks at my local Goodwill…really, I saw them on the racks!
  3. Craigslist is my best friend when it comes to moving and relocation because now my apartment is mostly empty.  IKEA dressers, file cabinets, kitchen carts, carpets, desks, etc., have an incredible way of sprouting feet and leaving quickly when they are posted in craigslist ads.  It’s a wonderful thing and now I am just left with the basics to give my youngest sister to furnish her first apartment or donate to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
  4. I have purchased gifts for all our friends and new family in Cuba, which is exactly what I would do if I was going back to Sierra Leone to visit.  As a guest, you must come bearing gifts…it’s just the polite and considerate thing to do.  The great thing about Cuba is that because things are limited and relatively expensive, relatively small gifts are really appreciated and valued.  Between gifts, shoes, bed sheets (I’m very particular and never leave home without them), towels, and bags, we filled up a second suitcase.  The third suitcase will be all the things I just couldn’t leave behind and our school curriculum materials for the next year.  No matter where we are in the world, we will still homeschool this coming year.
  5. My company officially closes down this Friday and we are leaving our town in under 3 weeks to head out for the summer…this means the beginning of graduation season, hanging with family and getting on planes, trains and in automobiles.

There you have it, the last three weeks consolidated into 5 bullet points.

Ready to Semi-Retire – What About Your Business?

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“What about your business?”  This is among the top three questions I get when I mention our pending Ecuadorian move and quite frankly, it is a question that I spend a significant amount of time mulling over.  The fact is, I run a contractual service business, so once our contract is finished later this year, I could go into hibernation/quasi-retirement for a year, and then resurface the following year with a new contract.   However, the concerns I have, have nothing to do with getting hired again, and everything to do with the people I employ and the families we serve.

I am reminded daily about the positive impact we have on children, their self-esteem, and academic success and I see the relationships we build with parents and guardians who are trying their best to raise these young people in urban environments that most of us would never want to live in.    So, is there gratification and pride in the work I do?  Yes!  I also know that our employees rely on this income to help them achieve personal goals, such as car payments, family vacations and gifts.

But an ex-boyfriend once told me that travel was like my lover…and I have to agree.  The thrill of pulling out my passport and whisking off to some location where the first language is not American English…is for me exhilarating.  Like encountering love afresh.  My cheeks even get rosy…or maybe that’s just my blush.

I have also been reminded that there are multiple companies that do my same work (though in my opinion, not as well) and my students and families will just migrate to them.  Reality check!  While I like to think I am indispensable, I can be easily replaced…shucks!  So with that in mind, I am reminded that my staff can find positions with these other companies and I no longer feel bad about shutting down my operations.

I am fortunate, given my business model and the fact that I can essentially walk right back into it, that letting go of the business for a year,  or more, is really not that big of a deal.  I also enjoy rather spartan living, so moving to a less expensive locale will help with the drop in income. However, this solution does not work for many cases, so I leave it to you to decide how you want to retire.  But I do think the decision should be your own and not someone else’s.

For those of you who have been following this blog, you know that I like to keep my decision making relatively simple and stream-lined. I am no different when it comes to running a business and thinking next steps.

 

Three Things Cuba Does Really Well

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Three things that the Cuban government does very well are (1) educate its people, (2) include cultural knowledge and the arts as part of the national curriculum;  and (3) foster environments that are inclusive, from an early age.

The underpinnings of a society are best seen in the behavior of its children and Cuban children could not have been more engaging, enchanting and inclusive of a little girl who had no idea what they were saying.   So below is a clip of three scenes: (1) Reflects the value Cubans place on providing an education that promotes critical thinking, strategic analysis, and active engagement (all children learn chess); (2) Reflects the high value placed on culture and the arts in Cuban society (this young girl attends a boarding school in Cienfuegos that specializes in classically trained musicianship (Cuban education is, by definition, State-run and free); and (3) Reflects the innate inclusiveness of Cuban children and how it extends outward to everyone (there is no fear here).

This is what makes Cuba unique in the world.

Musical Moments in Cuba

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Cuba is a place where music and culture are valued beyond material wealth and acquisition, and as such, the sounds and rhythms of the country and its  people, are never far behind.   Outside of Havana, Santiago de Cuba is probably one of the best places to experience Cuba’s cultural diversity and the video below provides a snapshot.

The first scene is a group of men literally singing for their supper, to the   tourists that visit Castillo del Morro (or more formally, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca), and choose to stay for lunch.

The second scene is a singer at Casa de las Tradiciones.  This is a very popular spot for both tourists and locals.  The first part of the evening consists of solo (and typically older) singers with traditional tunes and the second part of the evening involves hot and sweaty salsa dancing.

The third scene is part of the musical rehearsal for the national closing ceremonies of the Feria de Libros (National Book Fair).  This is my favorite piece because it reflects the strength of African cultural and linguistic roots in Cuba.  When watching the dancer, imagine her arms holding up the ends of a long flowing traditional gown.  This is the  Ballet Folklórico Cutumba and for more info on them, click here.