Where is Home?

Home

 

Home.

What does Home mean to you?

For some it’s a house, for others it is a sacred land that had been passed down through ancestors, or perhaps it is where your parents are.

Maybe home is the accumulation of hard earned possessions or a life someone has built for their children. A community, or the combination of all these things, rolled together into an idea.

For me, home is where my husband and dog are. Home is in the pieces of my heart that I have given to my family and friends scattered all over the planet and it is in a land that I have adopted, far from my country of birth. It is wherever I may carry it.

While having a very normal morning playing toss and tug of war with my dog on a walk in the woods, the moment was surreal as I paused and looked around, laughing and yelling, ”Where the hell am I?”

In less than two and a half weeks, I am in another country, town and life. It’s amazing what you can pull off in short periods of time.

This is our new life model, the manifestation of a dream in the making for more than eight years. It has morphed during the process as we realized key points that we did not know before and as life grows and changes so do we in our needs, desires and wisdom.

The new model is to take work all over the Canada and the US, with my husbands well paying job as a project manager. To work “hair straight back” as we call it, for a chunk of the year and then disappear into Nicaragua to live a quiet surfers life.

2015 was a gift of health and six months in the south, getting to know our southern community, healing from a three year off and on back flare up, and to surf our brains out.

Returning back to our mountain home after visiting family, we scraped together work that was plentiful when we left and somewhat meager on our return.

A wonderful summer and fall in the mountains left us happy in heart but not at the cash level we needed to return south and build on our land. True to form, another random phone call was to veer us in a new direction.

“ So how do you feel about Pennsylvania?”

My only answer was, “Can we go to Nicaragua after?”

“ Yup”

“ I’m in.”

This short conversation would lead to the hurricane of packing up our lives once again, ferreting away our possessions into a room within our house, and handing the keys to a property manager.

My husband had gone ahead to the job, and I was to follow with the dog, a few days later. Rental cars and hotel living with a canine companion is a new challenge yet completely doable in this day and age. We even crammed in a whirlwind trip to NYC over Christmas, found a house and moved once again.

After unpacking, grocery getting and renting another car for myself, we are finally breathing a sigh of relief. I can now lay on the floor with Coco at my side and get back to writing.

When in Canada I can work my many fun jobs wherever I may be, now in the USA I switch gears into more Coaching and Writing; careers I can take on the road.

Life on the run is exciting and blissful for me, but certainly not for everyone. The unknowns and the challenges are certainly there packaged in a plethora of different stresses, yet a slight shift of mindset makes adapting to the life of adventure a worthwhile one for us.

I feel fortunate to have my home in my heart, easy to carry and share with others. For this crazy life of ours would not be possible if it were any other way.

Tell me a story of where your home is, or your idea of it.

SUP Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

 

There is nothing I love more than an adventure on the horizon, off the popular travel paths, and into the somewhat unknown and this fit precisely that description.

While bouncing down a dirt road in Northern Nicaragua, we hit a patch of cellular connection, and a text pinged on my phone.

“Hey, how are you guys? Want to SUP paddle the Rio San Juan next week?“

Grinning I read it allowed to my husband EJ. As cell service dropped once more, we pulled up to the beach and went for a surf, with the text rolling around in our minds.

Once back to our place we pulled out the lonely planet Nicaragua book, and got online to search facts about the river. This was to be one of those epic trips of a lifetime.

The Rio San Juan is 192.06 km of majestic chocolate colored river, flowing east from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean coast. Draped with virgin rainforest it winds between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, defining the southern border of the Indio Maize Biologic Reserve.

Not only was the river used to access the Pacific to join the California gold rush, pirates like Captain Henry Morgan paddled up the river in the cloak of night to plunder the riches of Granada. The river was one of the proposed locations for the grand canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. Rusted dredging equipment still looms out of brackish waters in the Caribbean.

Scott and Gea Schmid are the incredible owners of Livit Water, a stand up paddleboard and tour company operating out of Granada. Scott had been eyeing the river for a while,  and wanted to do some recon for future trips with Livit, as well as to potentially be the first person to SUP paddle the entire river. Kayak tours were becoming a bit more popular, yet no one was operating stand up tours in that area.

With the arrival of his brothers in the country and EJ and I in the north, the time was ripe for an adventure with the perfect crew. Aside from Scott and Gea, our minimal paddle experience did not deter us from thoughts of a grand river journey.

Scott and Gea hired two local guides, whose river and animal knowledge was fantastic. Their smiles, humor, and quiet wisdom of their land left us feeling in excellent hands. They organized a support boat to hold all our camping gear, and to offer a fun place to take breaks.

After a flurry of prepping and packing, we found ourselves pushing off into the dawn, filled with a sense of excitement and nervy unknowns. The initial hours of waking up new muscles and figuring out bathroom maneuvers while floating, left us each found our own style and flow.

Travel speed, ability, and proposed destination each night had to be thought of beforehand to ensure adequate supplies and a comfortable place to sleep.

Journal – Rio San Juan,

As we pulled a hard left across the current, floating off a bank draped with vines and bamboo, I hear my husband yelling “We get to camp here?”

 With a mischievous nod and grin from our local guides, we begin hauling paddleboards up a muddy path, stepping into a bamboo island paradise.

 Abandoned between river and dense growth above, sat the remains of one of Vanderbilt’s river steamboats from the California gold rush era. On the other side sat a bamboo cook shack with benches and fire pit. Surrounded by endless jungle and river, we settled into our new routine of setting up camp.

 After a homemade pesto and noodle feast, we sipped on Nicaraguan rum, as I read “The Pirates Code” in both English and Spanish for our mixed crew. I gaze around at laughing faces shimmering in firelight, and shake my head in wonder. Once again I find myself on an adventure of a lifetime.

 After waking to brewing coffee and egg burritos, we pack up in the early morning mist, the excitement of the unknown has me bouncing and like every day I wonder what amazing things will show up around each turn of the river.

 

The variety of accommodation led us to enjoy the unknown of each evening. Our first afternoon found us a boat-access hotel, complete with a trained chef from Managua; an absolute blessing after a long first day. From our remote island campsite and a homestay with a Costa Rican artist, to cooking on the steps of a riverside immigration building while chattering about our daily adventures.

The river itself had a variety of moods. Fast water shooting through narrow channels between small lush islands, to sluggish and wind blown sections where the paddling was with few words and gritted teeth. A rodeo ride through the rapids of El Castillo left us soaking and laughing, with the stone garrison built in 1673 perched above our sodden exploits.

Scott and EJ decided from the beginning they would attempt to paddle the entire river from start to finish. Stopping the support boat or pulling ashore to eat, they longingly eyed the rest of us getting an easy tow for a break or playing cards and listening to music as the river slipped by.

Gea and I took on cooking duties; straddling atop our stacked boards after a few hours of paddling we prepared sandwiches and easy snacks to pass from the boat. Ryan and Kevin had varying days on the river, sometimes pushing hard with Scott and EJ, or joining us for laugh.

Land slid by us with cows staring from green riverside pastures, scarlet Macaws squawked overhead, and toucans perched high in old growth treetops. Spider monkeys swung through the canopy, while howler monkeys’ deep throated calling echoed through misty forest.

Bubbles on the water or splashes from the banks reminded us of the crocodiles living in the area, yet the odd tail or quick view before they slid out of sight was thankfully as close as we got to the beautiful prehistoric creatures.

Dense jungle gave way to marshy river delta; narrow alleys of water lazily wound through verdant grasses. Our final day was a blur until we could hear the surf pounding on Caribbean shores and together we passed the finish line as the Rio San Juan met the sea.

Greytown was met with dirty taped body parts and hoots of triumph. Slumping into plastic chairs, cold beer slipped down our throats as we shared favorite moments and personal challenges. With a fried fish meal and a night out at the local bar we crashed into the deep sleep of the accomplished.

The boat ride back up river was a slow reflective journey, retracing our memories from beneath improvised sunshades. Five days on the river suddenly felt too short; all agreed we could have continued on a longer trip, as a map of Nicaragua spread across our boards, dreams of other river adventures already formed in our minds.

Stress, Gratitude and Perspective.

 

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I just read a beautiful blog post called “ Saved by the invisibles” by Jonathan Carroll, posted on the Kindness blog. This was a great reminder to stop and be mindful as well as thankful of the gifts presented each and every moment of your day; an important practice while navigating this day and age of technology and stress.

Many of us whom are over stimulated by smart phones, internet and fast pace living, tend to forget to pencil in time, or practice the simple act of enjoying the moments. Tasting, smelling, looking around and being thankful, all the while keeping the perspective of what is worth our worry and stress, and what is NOT.

Stress consumes us in the first world. Money, jobs, family, commitments, you name it. I see people having road rage, bitching to co-workers or peers, or losing their cool over the most insignificant things. I too am occasionally caught on the verge of a negative moment, but have created a well worn practice that get’s me though most days.

This practice manifested from the days when my husband was fighting Cancer. He was an incredibly positive and calm patient. I showed up the same but behind the scenes was on the brink of a melt down.

It was one of those max out moments when you are deep in the fight and no end or beginning in sight. I don’t actually remember what was going on at the time, but the last straw was the milk exploding out of the fridge, all over me and onto the floor. Sounds like nothing, but many of us know, as the last straw, things can get ugly.

I stood there, looking at myself as if out of my body and awaiting the furious reaction, when I began to cuss and laugh. I was reminded of a movie called “The Great White.”

It stars Robin Williams and Holly Hunter. She plays a wife with Tourette syndrome, and has these amazing scenes where she just strikes off into a string of hilarious curses.

They came to me as I was about to freak out, and it made me laugh. Hard. And then I felt better and moved on. This eventually morphed into the “string of curses” followed by the question, “Is it life, death or cancer?” If the answer is no, laugh that shit off and move on. It’s so not worth worrying about, and consuming your time and making yourself sick. While I am not suggesting for everyone to go  around cussing, I offer the gentle reminder instead to keep stress in perspective.

All of us, if we live long enough, are presented with much greater challenges than someone cutting in line, or saying the wrong thing. Perspective is key, gratitude and attitude, a must. Practicing savoring the beauty unveiling itself in the small things – we could all work on.

 

Of Friends and Time.

 

Friends of the world, you hold tatters of my heart.

Memories and love echo in my mind like laughter at sunset.

I share your journey near and far; feel my thoughts through the moon, my wonder in the stars and utter joy with each rising of the sun.

Feel my hand, my lips, whispering on the wind, across the water.

Cherished moments shared, rippling across time.

Until we gaze once more, shining eyes and brimming hearts.

– Vanessa Plimley

Health and the elusive Balance.

 

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Health. Some of us have it, and those of us that don’t, yearn for it, covet it, and prey for it to wrap its sunny arms around us.

Some people abuse themselves for life, and live to a hundred – insert here a photo of a craggy farmer smoking cigarettes and drinking whisky all his life. He lived outside, worked physically on the land and ate home cooked food with ingredients found close by. Got in fights, broke bones and ate dirt.

Some people are health nuts their entire lives: No drinking, no smoking, taking their vitamins, eating organic and religiously go to their Pilates class or the gym. They had a plan but were so stressed about keeping to it, they die of a disease or in a car wreck on their way to their next appointment. Sometimes it feels like there is no rhyme or reason.

As a personal trainer, people always are always asking me about the latest trends, or what they should and shouldn’t do in terms of exercise and diet. My response back is, in the gym and in normal life:

What are you willing to change?

What will you not give up?

How much do you want it?

And is your choice sustainable?

Often people do not want to really work that hard, and will find an endless well of excuses. Others make mind blowing gains due to some inner fire or driving need. Maybe its divorce, health, vanity, babies, growing older, whatever the reason, the results vary greatly.

And it’s confusing. When I am lying on the floor with a back flare up for the third month in a row, worrying about getting better, about my husband, if I will ever heal, am I putting on weight, and taking a ridiculous amount of medications to exist, is a cheeseburger and a beer healthy? Damn straight it is. If it brings even a fleeting feeling of normalcy, or a ray of sunshine through the clouds and ticks my stress meter down an inch, hell ya!

My husband and I snicker together at the definition of “Health food.” Sometimes it’s mental health food. As long as it’s not all the time, and oh that sneaky word of “Balance” pops up again to bite you in the ass.

More and more as I trainer I ended up listening, and cheerleading my clients through a breakdown instead of crushing out a workout. This eventually lead me to go back to school for personal coaching, in attempt to better support them through the mental aspect of their health. Something so overlooked in a lot of our health goals today. Our awareness is getting better but we have a long way to go in terms of application versus conversation.

In this day and age of technology, of electronic stimulus, fast lives and little time off, it seems hard to find the magic balance of what will keep us healthy.

We are all wired differently, with a myriad of needs and wants depending on culture, sex, country, and economic stature.

Yet one thing is undeniable. We have the choice to govern our lives. We can recreate ourselves each day, but have to take the time to inventory our life, ask what is missing, what makes us happy, and what the heck we really want. Make a plan, that is constantly reassessed, then have the courage and tenacity to take a perhaps staggering step towards the goal. If it’s forward, it’s still a step in the right direction.

Poste Restante

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“Poste restante (French: post remaining) or general delivery is a service where the post office holds mail until the recipient calls for it. It is a common destination for mail for people who are visiting a particular location and have no need, or no way, of having mail delivered directly to their place of residence at that time.”

The traveler’s road can be a lonely one at times, yet one of the most romantic and interesting memories I have about staying connected is “Poste Restante.” Before the age of Internet and the technological birth of cyber cafes that now can be found in the most obscure places in the world, letters fluttered their way around the world. I love finding old journals with pages I wrote to my parents, filled with drawings and chicken scratches and stains from coffee shops or sand from attempting to write from a wind blown beach. Pressed flowers, and worn folds speaking of another untold tale.

In so many countries I have wandered to the nearest post office to collect a handful of gifts in those small packets of worn pages. Love and stories sent from family and friends that were written and mailed all over the world.

My most profound poste restante memory was from the isolated islands of “Les îles Marquises” in the South Pacific. I had embarked on yet another random journey, this one with a charismatic one armed captain, sailing from San Diego to French Polynesia. We had been at sea for twenty-four days, following the trade winds on one of the most classic crossings of the greatest seafarers in the world.

After weeks of living by the rhythms of the ocean, I remember beginning to see an increase of birds. Not just long distance flying albatross but great frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. When along the wind came the smell of soil, rich and pungent, salt and pepper smells of the tropics.

There is nothing quite comparable to the excitement of a sailor that has been to sea for weeks on end, quivering with the anticipation of setting eyes and feet on a new land.

Dark blue depths gave way to turquoise shoals, as the island of Fatu Hiva rose out of the horizon like the back of a giant sea turtle. Binoculars were pulled out, charts consulted and anticipation grew as we passed by Tahuata, to enter the main anchorage of Hiva Oa. With a surreal feeling enveloping our minds and giant grins upon our faces we pulled into a new port that harbored a rag tag congregation of seafarers. We maneuvered through the bay to eventually drop anchor with greetings and waves from other nut brown and wind blown souls.

From shore paddled smiling islanders with boats filled with exotic fruit, vying for a new sale, or the potential to trade goods with the newly arrived.

Our crew cleaned ourselves up, smiling with the novelty of putting on actual cloths and shoes to travel to shore, wobbly legs staggering upon the shore. After restocking our supplies, refueling, and water as well as the search for parts to complete repairs needed after a long crossing, we finally made the walk into the heart of town, and to the post office.

It was a small building of brick painted white and green, with simple windows and a carved wooden door. Inside at each booth were bundles of the most fragrant and tropical cluster I have ever smelled. It turned out to be a regular hair dressing of local Marquesian woman. A core of a pineapple rolled in sandalwood, and speared with small thin sticks were exotic local flowers of Tiare and Frangipani and pods of vanilla. The combined scent was like nothing I have ever smelled in my life.

In a daze I walked up to the smiling woman behind the counter, giving my name and requesting in rusty French for any letters addressed to me. To my utter amazement I was passed 3 worn letters. Two were from Canada and one from Australia. It blew my mind that these small pieces of paper had made their way so far, to such a remote spot for me to collect. It was like receiving a prize of jewels, the gift of communication from loved ones so far away.

When I think today of email, cell phones, and internet cafes, I am conflicted with feelings. The loss of a romantic age of communication, and the simplistic joy of a handwritten note, and the opposite sense of instant connection and ease of staying in touch. It inspires me to sit down and write a few letters to friends of old, scattered around the far reaches of the globe.

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