Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land

The concept of seeking to "learn with humility" is not just a fundamental principle of our travel goals, but a daily necessity of our new life.  We intrinsically understood this from the very first morning as we woke up in Costa Rica to a way of being, not a vacation.

We are "students" in the lessons taught to us by the "Ticos" or natives of Costa Rica, as well as from the myriad young folks who have and are traveling the world.  We know nothing of hostel life (which we are loving), little of public transportation (having grown up in the USA), and only a moderate amount about the biology or the reserve designs of this wonderful country in Central America.  Our ignorance cannot be diminished by Spanish dictionaries or translation programs alone.  For example, each meal is an adventure as each place and country has unique names for its restaurants (Sodas in Costa Rica and Picantrias in Peru), and its cuisine, drinks and deserts. Even the word "menu" means meal of the day rather than a description of restaurant offerings in Peru.

So, we must study our texts, ask questions with humility and a thirst for knowledge, and learn from our teachers, wherever they appear.   We have always understood that personal growth comes from learning.  We need a new language of global travel and the hard earned knowledge of locals who have encouraged us to, as one put it with a reference to Oz, "look behind the curtain" of the gringo trail, the tours, the landscape and better understand the social and environmental costs of what we "buy" or see.  Such knowledge has taken us a lifetime in our fields of resource management, conservation, and education so we have little illusion of what a year or two abroad can teach us.  But we can try to learn with humility.

Costa Rica is an amazing place, with people who have valued clean water and land and conservation decades before most of the world.  But it is also a place in which the natural world suffers as economic development for tourism and agriculture competes with preservationist and conservationist ideals.  The diversity is amazing, but like our own county, animals such as the golden toad, once an icon in Monterverde, have been driven extinct by anthropogenic actions and choices.  Like the arctic in our "beauty and the beast" blog entry, this is a place that is a harbinger of change and choice.

Posted in Lima, Peru.  Images are of a tour guide, a hostel room, and an Emerald Basilisk or "Jesus Christ Lizard" which walks on water.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Living in a Cloud

How do we live an almost completely mobile life carrying belongings in small, 20-25 pound packs?  In part, we live in a cloud.

As we prepare our last bags tonight at our friend Lisa’s house and head toward Latin America in a few hours, we are wondering if the preparations of the past three years will work.  During those years, we slowly converted everything we could to electrons.  We have learned a lot from reading reviews, blogs, and asking others about their path to freedom. 

We scanned most of our old photos (or at least Jess’s nephew Jack did!) and in the end, sent the last few hundreds to Digmypics.  They professionally brought the memories of a lifetime to us via a DVD and albums on Google’s Picassa.  The images are more available than they have been to either of us in the past decades and the memories are rich.  We converted all of our music with Itunes to mp3 files.  We took pictures or scanned things that we had moved from house to house for years including notes from friends, old sports awards, etc.  We went through our filing cabinets and scanned important papers.  All of these and more are available to us on the Ipod Touch, Iphone, and Ipad as well as anywhere there is web access through a wonderful program called Dropbox.

Mail was a particular challenge for us.  Because we no longer have a physical address in Gunnison, Colorado, we had to find somewhere to receive mail.  The solution was a service called  We changed our address to Michigan and the company there receives our mail, scans the envelope, and notifies us via email that it has arrived. We then may request that they open it, forward it, shred it, or scan and email it to us.  As a backup, Sally’s sister in Fort Collins receives any forwarded mail.   (Sandy, you rock!)

We researched the one financial institution that refunded ATM fees, charged no foreign transaction fees, and offered excellent online banking (Charles Schwab).   We obtained a credit card with the best exchange rates and no foreign transaction fees (Capital One). 

Piece by piece the physical manifestations of our life became electronic and accessible.  Our phone will be turned off at midnight but if our preparations have worked, we will be in contact through our emails, Skype accounts as well as this blog.

Wish us luck as we find out if the three years of preparation really did prepare us for our international walkabout.

Posted in Los Angeles, California