Nothin’ left to lose…

“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”.

These Janis Joplin lyrics pop into my head all the time, (I have no idea why, I’m sure there is some deep subconscious meaning here) and they always launch me into a mental thrashing around of what freedom means to me.

Fire is a terribly frightening force.

A few weeks ago, I was woken up at midnight by pounding on my front door.  When I opened the door, there was no one there, but I saw flames shooting from the building 20 yards across the parking lot. As we all ran out into the street, the fire engulfed two condos, and before the fire fighters could put it out, 2 units were completely destroyed and a 3rd badly damaged. Thankfully there was no loss of life. It was very frightening. I did not sleep very well for the next two weeks.

After a fire, we all automatically begin making mental lists of what we would take with us as we flee. What I found very interesting about my reaction was that I began looking at everything I own more critically. I am definitely not ready to suffer losing everything, but I suddenly felt that 95% of my possessions had little real value to me. I was overcome by an urge to purge. To get rid of all of that stuff that was cluttering up my closets and shelves. One of my neighbors, who had lost everything, said “oh well, most of it was crap anyway”.  I knew she had suffered a much deeper loss recently, and I admired the way she was handling a second tragedy.

Even when we know too much stuff is oppressive, it’s so hard to get rid of it.  Fire does it for you, it cleanses the clutter, leaving space for clarity. I would not wish the trauma of a fire on anyone, but, in a sense, it must be very liberating? How freeing to have “nothing left to lose”! I have a new perspective, and inspiration to pair down to what I really value, in order to better appreciate what truly matters.

I’ll let you know if I can actually DO IT!  It will not be easy…

Live Small, Travel BIG!


Am I crazy, or are they?

I certainly don’t have the credentials to be blogging about economics (I was a stockbroker for 10 years, so I have a decent grasp of how the financial system supposedly works), but listening to politicians talk about how to stimulate our economy, leaves me pondering… I feel like they are missing the primary issue.

Lots of laughter in Vietnam!

“America is a consumer driven economy”. True, but what if Americans are changing? (isn’t insanity doing the same thing over and expecting different results?) And our politicians, promoting the status quo system, fail to recognize this? Maybe I am in “la la land”, but it seems to me this economic crisis could actually have a very positive purpose, if we don’t allow the “powers that be” to distract us from the valuable lessons we can learn here.

We talk so much about “security” in our country, yet we promote the thing that leads to massive insecurity – consumption as the answer to everything. Maybe Americans are beginning to consider the possibility that consumption of “stuff” is not the path to a fulfilling life?  Maybe they want to pay down their debt, forgo that kitchen remodel, drive their old car for a few more years, and seek enriching experiences – like enjoying nature, community service, voluntourism, and travel – as the new normal? And maybe the reason corporate America is not hiring, is that they see this new reality? I have faith that America can figure out how to prosper in a more sensible culture. That we can toss off the shackles of our addiction to credit. This paradigm shift may cause a slower economic recovery, and patience, but in the LONG TERM, we would be building a better, stronger, more “secure” world.



Live Small, Travel BIG…

Happy with what they've got in Cambodia!

There are many different ways to live this life. So many choices, that we often don’t even realize we are making.

Much of the way we travel through life, an expression of things we were taught by the experience we were born into, for better or worse.

Living “within your means”, to me, has always meant spending less then I earn. Early in my adult life, I realized that, above all, I did not want to become a slave to my possessions. Debt makes me nervous. This may not be the recipe for accumulating enormous wealth, but it lets me sleep at night. Isn’t it interesting that living “small”, or frugally, seems to be frowned upon in our culture? Or is it just human nature to want to accumulate?

As a kid, this would have been my dream house, I loved building forts and sleeping in them!

Society, media, government, all tell us that it is our responsibility to consume, acquire, buy more, and bigger. It is easy to rationalize charging it all on credit cards when we really believe we NEED all of these things. I somehow missed that part of the ‘how to be a patriotic American’ indoctrination. I am just not a big consumer. I did try it for a brief stint, but found it left me cranky. Buying is intoxicating, but the high wears off quickly, and I was left pissed off at myself for wasting money that could have been allocated to my next plane ticket.

My “Live small, Travel BIG” motto has not always been easy, I have at times questioned myself.  Do I lack drive, ambition?  Am I just lazy? Am I missing the boat by not taking advantage of “leverage”? (that oft-heard, cocktail party buzz word of the 90’s) For the last few decades, I watched people pass me by in the race to have a bigger house, newer cars, and more toys, and I wondered, why don’t I want all of that?

No garage to fill up with stuff!

Well, I am still not sure what made me a saver, not a spender, but I am damn glad I missed the “credit” boat! (That doesn’t mean I am completely immune, we have a mortgage, and I somehow managed to clutter our little condo with way more “stuff” than we need)

We have to discover our own path to happiness, and I do not presume to have the answers for the rest of you, all I know is that living a simple life that allows me to pack up and GO, is what fulfills me. Maybe, contrary to what has been drilled into us, it is an option for you too? I guess we just continue to strive for balance in our lives.

Recently, I have been feeling an even stronger urge to purge, load the backpacks, and wander the world for a few years. Watch for more to come on those plans! 😉



Relationship Test Drive…


Guys get big points for carrying the purse!

Before you get too far along in a courtship, travel with your beloved (a “vacation” doesn’t count, sipping Mai Tais at a beach resort will not really tell you what you need to know!) I guarantee this will be the best relationship advice you ever get, and will save you a fortune in self help books and therapy!

To test your compatibility, invest in a real trip, preferably with few set plans. If you have been dating someone for awhile, and are wondering if this is “the one”, traveling will answer that question, in 2 or 3 weeks, instead of years!  The daily trials and tribulations – figuring out where to eat, where to sleep, and navigating, either in a rental car, or public transport, will test every skill you will ever need for a long relationship. You get to see how your mate behaves when they are tired, hungry, and frustrated. You see how they handle challenges, and what sort of problem solving skills they possess. It takes a whole lot of energy to hide the whiner, pessimist, blamer, control freak, for extended, uninterrupted periods. If these personality traits are lurking behind the curtain, they will be exposed. Better to find out now, than later!

My best travel partner, sherpa and hubby!

You will also see what kind of team the two of you make. Are you both struggling to be the leader? Or do you fall into natural, comfortable roles? When one person is having an off day, does the other “step up”, or crumble at having to pick up the slack? Are your biorhythms in sync? Does one enjoy sharing food, while the other guards their plate? Travel is the best way to discover these important answers in a short period of time.

My husband David had not traveled internationally when he met me. (That seems hard to believe now!) After about nine months of dating, we rented a car and toured Italy. He drove and schlepped bags,  I navigated and scouted pensiones. Our final test came in Florence, where a train strike thwarted our plans. Faced with missing our return flight from Milan to the U.S., David sprang into action. While I sat on the curb with our bags, he ran off to rent a car, again, then drove at break neck speed (not in his nature) on the autostrada to come screeching up to the curb at Malpensa, where we handed the keys to a porter and ran for our flight. We were stressed, but still laughing, and I was impressed by his ability to keep cool under pressure.

All travel has challenges, as do all relationships, but in three weeks we had learned more about each other than most people do in years. Fast forward 20 years, and we are still happily rockin’ down the hiway together! (He has learned to ignore me when I tell him how to drive) 🙂

For the male perspective, read Mike’s very funny take on the travel and relationships!

Will it be the crude or nude charter?

Cruisin' the BVI

Cruisin' the BVI


“Would you prefer to bare boat, or a crude charter?”

This was the first decision I had to make on our recent shoot in the British Virgin Islands. I thought, hmmm, not sure nude or crude will fly on PBS, but what the heck, worth a try!

OK, I am messin’ with ya… “Bareboating” refers to a self-skippered yacht rental , whereas a crewed charter comes with a skipper and private chef.

Our "cat" at Peter Island, BVI

As the daughter of an avid sailor, I was raised to regard any motorized craft with disdain – if it wasn’t wind-powered, it was called a “stink-potter”, and we would have nothing to do with it. So, my first challenge on our BVI shoot was letting go of my prejudice – trading “the romance of the sea” for the ease of power cruising – without cringing.  I was able to accomplish this fairly quickly. The Moorings “power cats” are sexy, comfy and easy to manage for those electing to be the master of their voyage. Bareboating is also less expensive, but, in my opinion, a professional captain is well worth the money. They not only handle the boat and give you peace of mind, but will make sure you discover the best beaches, bars, and protected anchorages.

Lunch aboard our power cat.

The next step up in luxury is a fully crewed yacht vacation – you get meals prepared and no KP duties! (and who knows, you may not even have to give up the bare boating, if that’s what you’re into!)

Traveling with no agenda, no itinerary, no place to be, for me, is true freedom, and I think it’s the reason that so many people are attracted to yacht chartering. Whether you cruise bare, nude, crude, or crewed, it’s the perfect combo of relaxation and adventure.

3 Tips for Healthy Air Travel…

Heading to Pakse to explore southern Laos and the Mekong...

I read somewhere that 75% of people get sick in the first week of the their holiday. Most people blame their vacation illness on “the guy that was coughing in the seat behind”, but, really, germs are everywhere, it’s a matter of how well you have equipped your body to fight them.

Here’s my quick analysis of the problem… when you are getting ready to leave for a trip, life gets crazy – there’s a ton to do before you leave, and, you have to pack (always a source of stress for me!) Being extra busy keeps you from eating right and getting enough sleep, adding to the stress. Now, you and your compromised immune system get on a plane, with a bunch of people, and germs. 

I take precautions, but they may not be what you’d think!

Get every shot you can, take antibiotics as a preventative, wear a face mask in the airport, and drink heavily on the plane. I’m just KIDDING!  I actually know people that do this – but really, I do not recommend any of these strategies.

Here is what WILL save you:

Think of your immune system as your army – you must prepare your soldiers for war – germs & stress are the enemy! Organize your battle strategy. The week prior to departure is critical. To minimize all of that last-minute stress, set a fake deadline at least 2 days before your actual departure for getting as much taken care of as possible, and give this same deadline to others, that way when they dump projects on you at the last minute, you’ll actually have time to deal with it. Prioritize! Only do what absolutely must get done. Ask yourself, “will putting this off a couple of weeks, really matter?” (Yes, in this case, procrastination is your friend!)

Make lists, keep one by your bed, it’ll help you sleep better. Make eating right and getting enough sleep a priority (it’ll be difficult, but just DO IT!) Take vitamins that boost your immune system – my savior is “Wellness Formula” by Source Naturals. And, cut back on alcohol and sugar, both weaken your army!

On the plane, drink lots of water, the less alcohol the better, and try to sleep. I refuse to get neurotic about germs, but I guess wiping down your armrest and tray table with sanitized handy wipes would be OK, (but I have never done it). Wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and take your vitamins – same prescription for flu season.

If possible, plan your trip so that you do not hit the ground running – allow a recovery day or two in someplace relaxing. Don’t visit the big city FIRST, save it for the end of your trip. I am not a big pill-taker, but DO take something to help you sleep for the first 2-4 nights – depending on how many time zones you have crossed. And, continue to boost your immune system with vitamins for the first week of your trip.

Salud and Gesundheit!


Choosing between Travel & Vacation…

Travel to feed your soul…

Sharing home made vodka, from a tin cup, with the locals in the Republic of Georgia

As you journey through life, choose your destinations well, but do not hurry there.
Wander the back roads and forgotten paths
Seek out new voices, strange sights, and ideas foreign to your own.
Such things are riches for the soul.
And if, upon arrival, you find that your destination is not exactly as you had dreamed, do not be disappointed.
Know that the true worth of your travels lies not in where you arrive at the journey’s end,
but in who you become along the way.*

Who you become along the way, that is the difference between travel and a vacation. When people ask me “where should we go”, that is the first question I ask them “do you want to vacation, or do you want to travel?” Both have their place, but if you give some thought to the purpose of the trip, you are more likely to get what you are looking for.

By my definition, a vacation is mindless, relaxing, maybe even involves pampering.  Whether that means just sleeping until noon, reading a book by the fire,  snoozing by a pool, or playing tennis, hiking and ending the day with a great meal – all good ways to spend a much needed vacation.

Travel involves not always knowing what comes next, giving up control, relying on the locals, and often, some degree of challenge, or even discomfort, but through all of this, you experience a destination and it’s people in a very different way. No matter how off-course an adventure goes, I have found the pay off is always there – enriching experiences that leave me connected in some small, but deep way, with another culture.

It can be a tough decision whether to travel or vacation. We all have too much stress and can certainly make the case for being entitled to relaxation and pampering, but in my experience, indulging myself gets boring pretty quickly. The good news is, these days, it is possible to combine soul-nurturing, mind-expanding travel, with a little vacationing.

Vacation replenishes the body, travel feeds the soul!

*I am a master Googler, but I could not dig up the author of these wise words. It is used on many websites, plagiarized on a few, and attributed to “anonymous” on others. (and once to Jorge Heredia, but I could not verify that)