havana laundry

Havana: Uncensored and Beautifully Raw

A place frozen in time—that’s what everyone says about Havana. You hear stories and see images of gorgeous classic cars in pristine condition, attractive people who embody warmth and depth, and decaying buildings that were once incredibly grand.

That still doesn’t prepare you for any of it.

The first night we had dinner at Henky’s, a neighborhood restaurant in Habana Vieja, we felt like we were in a dream. Old cars rolled by like it was no big deal, adding to the casual magic that reminds you: “You’re in a place unlike any other. You’re in Havana.”

havana art

“Both for Havana’s beauty and decay, it’s very hard to restrain yourself from staring everywhere you look.” – Brin-Jonathan Butler

This was the farthest I have ever felt from home. I say “felt” because I have been further away geographically.

Experiencing Havana was so different from what I knew—what I thought I knew about the place and its people, and what I thought I knew about my life and myself.

A Digital Detox Not for the Faint of Heart

There are few places we can travel to in the world anymore where there isn’t the “convenience” of WiFi.

Before we arrived in Havana, we visited Mexico City and Holbox Island. We were still very connected in both places—less so in Holbox, a remote island off the Yucatan Peninsula. But we still had internet access when we needed it…actually, it was more like when the island gods decided to allow an hour or two of WiFi when it suited them.

The appeal of destinations where the WiFi sucks—or is nonexistent—is becoming more popular for adventure travelers who truly want to disconnect. It’s understandable with how dependent we’ve all become, addicted to instant gratification behind a screen.

havana tourism

How long will WiFi-free places be around? Probably not too much longer. Even in Cuba.

Many of the people we talked to are more than ready for the very thing we’re all running away from, WiFi. Many of them have Facebook accounts that they access when they can. They want to be more connected with the rest of the world, they want to learn more and find new opportunities in life.

For those who visit Cuba before that day comes, this is a legit digtal detox. Even if you’re a fly by the seat of your pants type, you’ll want to plan out a few things before you get there.

classic car ride

We didn’t do a lot of planning beforehand, but thankfully our neighbor at our casa had a guide book. We borrowed it and quickly took pictures of addresses and activities.

When we left Cuba, we didn’t know whether or not our flight was departing on time because we couldn’t check. We hopped in a classic car taxi, went to the airport, and hoped for the best. When was the last time you had that kind of faith in the airlines? Exactly.

Let Go of What You Call Convenient

I’m not usually a practical travel tips kind of writer, but I will give you some right now because visiting Cuba is a unique adventure. The first thing you need to get in your head is this: Let go.

Already, you won’t have your smartphone conveniences. But, there are many others. Americans, you won’t be able to use your credit or debit cards, which means you have to take out enough cash to last during your trip. While there are ways to get cash, the fees are terrible.

There are two kinds of currencies in Cuba: the CUP for locals and the CUC for tourists. The CUC was 1:1 with the US dollar when we went. Meaning, Havana was not a cheap date. We did our best to budget for the four nights we were there, but taxis were expensive and prices were inconsistent everywhere.

havana cars

We paid $20 for a teeny-tiny pizza from a window when we were desperate. This was definitely a tourist price, since prices were not listed and the line was full of locals. Expect to pay more as a tourist, even if you can speak Spanish.

Everyone is trying to make a buck, however they can. Being that you might spend $10 for a hair dryer back home and they have to spend four times as much for that same appliance, you can begin to understand where they’re coming from.

laundry in havana

Toilets flush, for the most part. We had a good system going on in our casa, with water bottles by the sink to fill the tank. By the evening, the water tanks were low and you had to get crafty.

So, yeah. Things will not be like they are back home, or in most westernized places you have visited. If you’re going to a place like Havana, clearly you don’t want things to be like that anyway. So, don’t try to make Cuba something it isn’t.

Settling Into the Havana Rhythm

Once you get past the creature comforts shell-shock, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when you start to settle into the rhythm of Havana.

There is music and dancing everywhere—inside the cafe, outside the cafe, by a park bench, inside a crumbling building, in the middle of the street. People sing on their way to the market, or for no reason at all.

music in havana

You realize how much of that is probably missing wherever you’re from…the joy of singing and moving. You also start to realize that maybe you don’t have as much as you thought you did. There are people “with less” in Havana who—in many ways—have plenty.

There were startling moments when I realized I was the one with less. Less celebration, less music and movement.

It felt good to change that with salsa lessons from Lianne, who owned the casa we stayed in with her Dutch husband, Patrick. She and her partner are professional salsa dancers who run a dance school and give lessons on the casa rooftop.

This was the first time Mr. H and I had ever taken a formal dance class together. We had a slight language barrier with the instructors, but once we got into the lesson we learned and laughed in no time. Salsa lessons on a rooftop in Havana—not too shabby, right?

The structural reinforcements you see on the roof were in place because of the neighboring building. The beauty of the crumbling architecture we all marvel at in Havana comes at a price.

The people there do need our help. When you visit, it’s a good idea to donate anything you can. If you’re an American citizen traveling to Cuba, donations might be one of the reasons you have for entering the country.

We went as travel writers, but we left toiletries and clothing behind…including the skirt I wore when we took our salsa lessons. I’d had it for years, but it would always be the rooftop salsa skirt forever after. The skirt belonged to Havana now.

Lovely People You Might Get to Meet

I say you might get to meet them, because it depends on how you decide to experience Havana. If you stay at a hotel that caters to tourists or if you take too many tours, you will likely miss out on meeting locals.

The tendency for people visiting Havana is to play it safe, because of the aforementioned inconveniences and the great unknown with what to expect in Cuba.

First, I will tell you that the city is very safe. We were told that the government has strict laws in place to protect tourists—safe for tourism equals economy boost.

henkys havana

The two restaurants we frequented, Henky’s and Crêperie Oasis Nelva, had excellent food. Mainly we went to both places because of the service. The bartenders, chefs, and servers were friends by the end of our trip.

havana creperie

To put it into perspective, we were only there for five days. Do you make friends with people at restaurants at home so quickly? Um, neither do we.

Casas are cropping up all over the city, and they are a great way to have a genuine experience, and meet locals and fellow adventure travelers. Bonus: many casas are on AirBnB, so you can scoot around the credit card issue by paying in full through their platform before you arrive.

havana family

We felt like part of the family at the casa we stayed at, and I can’t recommend Lianne and Patrick’s place enough. Situated right in the heart of Habana Vieja, there is a friendly staff, picturesque balconies, and air-conditioning—which you will probably need.

Of course, a welcoming attitude toward tourists doesn’t happen everywhere, with everyone. It just depends on the experience you’re going for. Smiling, trying some Spanish, and showing gratitude go a long way here.

Do Things and Don’t Do Anything

You can’t talk about Havana without talking about Hemingway. I’m a writer, so I paid my respects to Mr. Hemingway by trying two of his preferred drinks at his preferred bars, a daiquiri at El Floridita and a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio.

hemingway bar

I also visited his home, Finca Vigia. My real reason for going there was because he first bought the house when he was married to Martha Gellhorn, the first female war correspondent and one of my longtime heroes. (You can read about that obsession right here.)

Other than the Hemingway pilgrimages, we had no plans for things to do. Luckily Havana is one of the most captivating places in the world, so you can truly wander and enjoy and not “do” anything.

A stroll along El Malecon, the endless boardwalk along the port, is a must.

havana buildings

As is getting lost among the stunning, tragic architecture and stumbling upon art you won’t find in the guide books.

havana graffiti

I’ll never forget the day we got stranded in a torrential downpour and took shelter at a restaurant patio on the Port of Havana. We sat there for hours, watching these troublemakers dive off the pier over and over. The owner of a nearby store kept chasing them off. They would return a few minutes later and carry on with the fun.

Of all the amazing moments I had in Havana, this very simple one stands out to me. These children captured the Cuban spirit, with their carefree energy in the diesel-scented rain. It was so free and beautiful.

Havana really moved me. It reminded me that I need to live with more abandon, to move more to music, and to infuse more joy into the ordinary.

The city may change one day—become westernized, commercialized, neutralized. Until then, the experience is there for the taking if you’re ready to change something inside yourself.

For more on Havana, stop by Intrepid Travel to read a piece that is very special to me…

A Love Letter to Havana, A City That Taught Me So Much

strolling el malecon

kissing in cinque terre

Look at Life and Love Instead of Your Phone

My heart warmed when I saw them from a distance. I was on my weekly run through the city when I spotted the couple holding each other by a stoplight at a busy intersection. They were young and in love—it was only them and nothing else existed.

As I approached them, the gap closing quickly between us as I ran, the warmth slipped away. My eyes had played tricks on me. Despite the sunshine beating against my sweaty skin, I shivered.

They weren’t holding each other. They were looking at their phones.

From a distance, the beautiful illusion seemed so real. The couple was positioned in such a way that they could have been wrapped in each other’s arms. He faced her and she faced him. But instead of looking into each other’s eyes, or her head resting against his chest, they were devoted to the powerful screens they held tenderly in their hands.

I ran past them, and I could feel the emptiness that shouldn’t have been there. Tears flooded my eyes and I picked up my pace to pound the image away. But, it wouldn’t go away.

“The typical American checks his or her smartphone once every six-and-a-half minutes, or roughly 150 times each day.” – Baylor University Research

That was when I realized how incredibly profound that moment was. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a couple showing affection—it was happening less and less every year…hell, every day.

When I first moved to Portland, it reminded me of the first time I visited Paris way back in 2004—long before smartphones had taken over. For whatever reason, there are many couples here.

As a writer, sometimes I wonder if I’m being observant or theatric with these realizations in life, but I had several single friends confirm this to be true. They struggled to find a mate, because so many were already taken.

I grew accustomed to couples kissing and hugging each other in public. Springtime was especially ridiculous, with the constant ass-grabbing and ear-nibbling. I used to get annoyed with couples hiking too slowly in front of me while I was trying to workout, because they were so wrapped up in each other.

Now I don’t see it at all. I see affection for our phones instead of each other.

Some of you may remember my obsession with the bench at Pittock Mansion, which I called the Lovers Bench, and wrote several posts about two years ago. The bench made such an impact on me that it even weaseled its way into the dystopian novel I’ll be finishing very soon.

For those who aren’t familiar, there is a bench with professions of love carved into the wood at one of Portland’s most gorgeous city viewpoints. The first Lovers Bench was removed and I contacted Portland Parks & Rec to get to the bottom of it. (Yes, I will get this batshit crazy over something I care about…even when it’s rotting, vandalized wood.)

The Lovers Bench was in bad shape and they replaced the boards, much to my dismay. I was upset that the carvings were gone forever, but soon more carvings began to appear on the new bench.

Sadly, they have appeared much slower than before. Every time I visit the bench I look for them, and there aren’t very many.

lovers bench

I took a shot of this couple back in 2015 when I was completely obsessed with Lovers Bench, which they are sitting on here. What would they be doing now if they were sitting on that bench? Would they hold each other while enjoying the view? I’m afraid they wouldn’t, and they would stare at their phones.

What about the couple I passed on my run? Two years ago, they might have held each other—or at least looked at each other while talking.

What about this older couple I captured in Milwaukee in 2012?

old couple on bench

Or, these two at a San Diego beach that same year?

beach couple

What about these newlyweds in Rome last summer?

rome wedding

This dancing couple on Holbox Island in Mexico a few months ago?

salsa on the beach

What about us?

holbox island at sunset

It makes me sad, but it also makes me aware of what I’m doing when I’m around my husband and other people.

We can all make a better effort to use our phones responsibly. There are countless articles out there with tips on how to be more present by putting our phones away. You can work with your partner, like Mr. H and I do, and commit to some ground rules—like no phones while eating, on Sundays, whatever.

We have the power to connect with others like we used to, but it takes awareness that so many of us have lost inside our screened worlds. You know our society is facing an epidemic when a kitschy term comes along.

“70% said that phubbing hurt their ability to interact with their romantic partners.” – Baylor University Research

Phubbing combines “phone” and “snubbing” to describe the social phenomenon so many of us know intimately today—when a conversation or moment is interrupted because someone chooses to pay attention to their phone instead of the life that’s happening in front of them.

Nothing is as important as each other. I think we humans all know this, even still. But we’re losing sight of it so quickly. There is no doubt that the technological wonders we hold in our hands—these smart devices that are supposed to connect us—have become the barriers that now separate us.

There is a time and a place for using technology to our advantage. I’ve certainly connected with many incredible people I would have never met otherwise, and I’ve stayed in touch with people I rarely get to see.

I’ve spent plenty of hours in the screened vortex to know that real experiences are unbeatable. You won’t miss out if you ignore your phone from time to time. But if you ignore the life and people right in front of you, you will miss out.

history travel

Frida and Gellhorn: Walking Beside Two Beautifully Heroic Women

I’ve never bought four one-way tickets before in my life. But, that’s what it took to go on a special journey, one where I could walk in the same place as two beautifully heroic women I will never have the chance to meet.

Once I decided I was going to meet my long-time blogger friend Julie in Holbox Island (aka off-the-beaten path paradise), I thought: We’re already traveling to Mexico, we might as well see two other places at the top of our travel list.

fincia vigia view

mexico city adventures

Mr. H had different reasons for wanting to experience Mexico City and Cuba in the flesh. Like him, I’m a huge fan of food, culture, architecture, and art. The truth is—as most of you know—I’m a big nerd. A history travel nerd.

You know you’re a history travel nerd if you go somewhere in the world because of your obsession with a person, place, or event that occurred in the past. Everything else, while important and wonderful, is secondary to your inner nerd calling the shots.

That’s what makes you come up with a travel budget, no matter how difficult. That’s what makes you take off from work, no matter how difficult. You don’t care, because you want the chance to walk in the same place where that history happened—just so you can be a part of it.

cuba taxi scenery

I focus on history travel destinations most of the time. Traveling to a place without a lot of history isn’t appealing to me, so I tend to skip it.

That’s one of the main reasons I prefer to travel outside the U.S. That isn’t to say there isn’t any American history, but there are two notable hiccups for history lovers.

  1. It’s a young country. No ancient ruins here.
  2. The history we do have isn’t preserved. Courtesy of a new high-rise.

mexico city museum
There is plenty of rich history to dazzle anyone like me in Mexico City and Cuba. But the reason I’ve been so fascinated with both places is because of two women I have looked up to for many years.

Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican artist as she preferred to be known (Diego Rivera’s third wife as she preferred not to be known). Martha Gellhorn, the first female war correspondent as she preferred to be known (Ernest Hemingway’s third wife as she preferred not to be known).

Along with being a history nerd, I also love stories about strong women who left their mark, showing they were just as good as the boys…that sort of thing.

Every book I’ve written so far has a ball-busting, intelligent woman playing the main character. I never tire of it, and regardless of the genre-bending work I write, the common thread will always be a strong female character.

diego mural

Yogi salute to the great Diego Rivera.

hemingway typewriter

Hemingway used to stand at his typewriter when he worked.

Though Martha Gellhorn and Frida Kahlo are so different, I see commonalities far beyond being the third wives of famous, brilliant men.

They were both famous and brilliant in their own right. They had this unstoppable drive for experiencing more than what was right in front of them, and that drive took them to places around the world and inside their imaginations that inspired them on their individual paths.

They made an impact on people all over the world—and still do to this day. And though they were only born a year apart, I’m pretty sure Martha and Frida never met in real life.

hemingway's house cuba

frida museum

Naturally, I went to Frida’s house, La Casa Azúl, and Gellhorn’s house (aka Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía), which are crazy popular tourist destinations.

However, I visited what can easily be called tourist traps with intentions that ran deeper.

frida and me

frida painting

There is something so incredibly fascinating about how places shape certain people, whether famous historical figures or not.

To enjoy an espresso at the same cafe they went to, or drive on a street they traveled regularly—it brings you closer to them somehow. And to see their homes is such an intimate glimpse into their lives.

martha gellhorn cuba

gellhorn war correspondent

So, it was nothing short of magical to walk in the footsteps of these women and feel a bit of their spirit breathing inside the walls, furniture, and clothing.

You see their sanctuary where they worked and slept, where they swam and ate.

walking around gellhorn's house

frida's house entrance

Even though Martha Gellhorn and Frida Kahlo are gone, they live on. I’m so happy I had the chance to see their homes and walk beside their courageous spirits.

And to rediscover as I usually do during my travels that no matter how different we may think we are from each other, we are often the same.

“I didn’t write. I just wandered about.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I put on the canvas whatever comes into my mind.” – Frida Kahlo

“What the trees can do handsomely—greening and flowering, fading and then the falling of leaves—human beings cannot do with dignity, let alone without pain.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I paint flowers so they will not die.” – Frida Kahlo

“I tell you loneliness is the thing to master. Courage and fear, love, death are only parts of it and can easily be ruled afterwards.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” – Frida Kahlo

“Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.” – Frida Kahlo

“It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves due to atrophy of the imagination.” – Martha Gellhorn
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” – Frida Kahlo

havana balcony
Are you a travel history nerd? Tell me about a place you went to for its amazing history.

alma bar

So Many Beautiful Places, Only So Many Beautiful People

There are many beautiful places to see around the world, but there are only so many beautiful people we get to see in our lifetime. When work, schedules, budget, and travel arrangements are involved, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of “I wish I could, but I can’t.”

sunrise on holbox

But when we decide to make it happen, the reward is truly incredible. I know, because last month I trekked out to a remote island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to meet a blogger I’d been friends with online for years.

It was just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Kidding…it was a plane ride, followed by a 2.5-hour bus ride on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, then a half-hour ferry ride to get to the island.

holbox ferry

And because the universe has a twisted sense of humor, this California girl gets seasick.

On bumpy two-lane roads when the van driver thinks she’s in the Daytona 500, I close my eyes and pray…and I also get carsick. As you can imagine vividly, I was a right mess on that ferry to Holbox Island—like a sweaty ghost.

ferry seasick

Thankfully the boat ride was only a half hour, and Mr. H was gentlemanly enough not to document my misery too much. Misery that was heightened by the island music playing on the boat, which had a completely different effect on the healthy riders having the time of their life as they slathered on sunscreen and drank beer.

Once I got to dry land, I felt better. Scratch that—after I downed a gallon of water, swam in the pool, took a cold shower—and ate fish tacos I felt better.

What really worked was seeing this one’s face…Julie of Les Petits Pas de Juls. (featured image above…credit: Julie)

les petits pas de juls

A lot of you already know Julie—you follow her travel photography blog and/or you caught her awe-inspiring Life Enthusiast post here. Julie is just one of those strong, beautiful beings you want to know.

She’s a world traveler many times over on a constant crusade to help the environment. The cool thing is that she shares her experience and encourages us all to do the same, to see more of the world and to do our part to save it before it’s gone.

mexico palm trees

Being Portlanders, Mr. H and I do a pretty damn good job with environmental consciousness. But we aren’t anywhere on the same level as Julie. We were joking that there would probably be a friendly pinch or slap from her when we botched up our earth-loving duties with some sort of plastic misstep.

No abuse happened while we were there (because she’s a sweetheart), but we did get the evil eye when we ordered bottles of water at dinner. Rightfully so, since we had our reusable water bottles in our hotel that we could have toted along with us.

“It is the nature of the strong heart, that like the palm tree it strives ever upwards when it is most burdened.” – Philip Sidney

Naturally, I had to capture these environmental crusade moments when I could—like this one, when Julie marched toward the shore to retrieve a cocktail glass. “Hang on,” I said. “Let me get a shot of you saving the world!”

beach litter

Her husband had a good laugh with us, because he witnesses these small, heroic gestures often. But, this is Julie…the one we all know and love. She’s the person she says she is…take it, or leave it…I’ll take it.

You’d be surprised how much waste there is in paradise. The main culprit? Straws.

Really, it’s booze in general, with vacationers getting too lax and leaving glasses, bottles, and cups wherever they please. But, it’s also the restaurants using plastic cutlery, paper plates, etc…and more straws.

We began refusing straws, just because…

mexican michelada

Do we really need a plastic straw to go with our plastic bottle of water? Ask Julie, she’ll tell you the answer to that one.

pox

Julie and her husband, Raul, run a great, quaint bar on the island. Mal de Amores is plastic-free and proud.

Their answer to straws are reusable crystal or stainless steel options that allow you to stir things up without killing the planet. (see above…and yes, we received two crystal straws immediately from Julie as gifts, which we have put to good use.)

beach bar

It’s great to see people like Julie and Raul sampling the island life at this point in their lives, coming together to operate a beach bar that’s enjoyable for people while being environmentally responsible. I respect that.

americans in holbox

When they first opened the bar earlier this year, Julie said we should come down from Portland. At first the whole “I wish I could, but I can’t” song entered my mind.

Then, I thought…why in the hell am I turning down an opportunity to see a longtime friend and off-the-beaten path paradise?

las tortugas

So, Mr. H and I made it happen. We also decided to bookend the trip with a stop in Mexico City and Cuba, because also…why the hell not? (More on these places later!)

Holbox Island was the R&R segment in the middle of the trip. When I stumbled off the boat as a sweaty ghost, earlier that day was an interesting standby battle at Juarez Airport after several days navigating the magical chaos that is Mexico City. I couldn’t imagine another flight four days later to Havana, and wondered if my pampered American white ass would even make it to that leg.

But, Holbox Island has a way of healing you. Ve más despacio…Slow down, it said.

hammock reading

Have a drink or two, lay in a hammock, read your book, eat tacos and fresh guacamole, listen to the waves, laugh with your friends, kiss your husband’s salty lips, swim with the fish, burrow your toes into the hot sand until you find the cool part beneath the surface. Just be.

Okay, fine…

chilling on the beach

Have it your way…

holbox island at sunset

You win, this time…

hammock in the pool

There are a lot of beaches to choose from in Mexico, and most of us Americans choose the usual: Cabo, Cancun, Cozumel. Previously we had been to Playa del Carmen, which is more popular with European tourists.

But Holbox?

holbox brunch

People don’t know about it. Hell, people don’t know how to say it and my phone kept autocorrecting to “Hotbox” (teehee!). For my friends who don’t smoke weed and/or aren’t from the West Coast, here is hotbox…defined. (Remember…you’ll always learn useful shit on this blog.)

By the way, it’s pronounced Hol-bosh.

salsa on the beach

It’s more of a beach destination for Mexicans. Europeans are catching on a bit, along with a handful of Americans. There are no cars on Holbox—after the traffic insanity in Mexico City, this was a refreshing sight to see.

People get around “quickly” on the sandy roads with four-wheelers, golf cart taxis, and bicycles. Most walk, barefoot. The staff at restaurants and hotels don’t bother with shoes, and after acclimating to the pace, you swear off your sandals eventually too.

sunset in mexico

Holbox Island is raw and gorgeous.

It’s an island, sure. But there’s something about the vibe that is unique, pure, and captivating. It’s one of those places you hope will stay that way forever, and it’s one of those places you never think you’ll end up in.

Opportunity came with the chance to meet Julie, and I’m so glad we made it happen. I’ve met two bloggers now in person, and I’m happy to say that the friends we make here in this blogosphere space are legit.

friends with bloggers

I’m not sure what it is that makes the bloggers I know such genuine people—if it’s the words we all share from our souls, or what. I’m happy to know so many of you, and I hope to meet you some day.

nature enjoyment

Stop and See

I was on my usual power hike through Forest Park on Saturday. I caught up with my sister on the phone on the way up to the view on top of the hill. It was a lovely conversation, one that ended with a pep talk to each other…a reminder to take the time we need for ourselves.

My sister is a mother of four. While I don’t have kids, I’ve gone through quite a few changes these past months that I didn’t know were coming. And, it has made the time both challenging and wonderful.

husband and wife company

After many years of trying to figure this out, Mr. H and I finally started our own business together. It’s called Superneat Marketing. Some people crack a smile at the name and others roll their eyes. But, like any business, there is a reason we came up with that name.

Neatness has been in our family for a long time. When we make a toast, it’s: “To neatness.”

It’s pretty much the highest compliment you can get in our house—if someone is having a bad day or you want to tell them how much you love them, we say to each other: “Well, I think you’re superneat.”

superneat marketing

Already our clients are using the term and we love that. But more than anything we love helping these awesome small businesses grow, because they are often the underserved population with marketing consultants and agencies.

It’s very rad to help them out, and it’s superneat working side-by-side with Mr. H.

moving is tough

The other cuckoo thing that happened as we were launching our website…we moved. In two weeks. Mr. H and I were crawling all over each other in the glorified studio we lived in for three years, so it was time for a much needed upgrade.

As you may have heard, rents in Portland have been pretty outrageous with the population explosion. We decided to be smart about it—especially with the mega life changes already happening—and worked with our apartment building to transfer units.

balcony wine

We had to hustle to get an upgrade deal that wouldn’t do us in, hence the two weeks. And even though it was only a move down the hall, up one floor, and down another hall…it was still a move.

But, the cats are good and we’re good. Plus…balcony and a happy marriage!

backbend with cat

After a three-year hiatus, I started teaching yoga again. I’m sticking with subbing for now and taking it slow. I found an amazing studio here in Portland called The People’s Yoga. Their mission is to offer yoga to everybody, regardless of economic barriers. I dig it and I’m very proud to teach there.

Lastly, I’ve been writing A LOT for other publications.

I became a regular contributor for ClearVoice, which is an awesome place for me to nerd out on content. My writer friends will find this interview with Kristen Lamb interesting, Humans Are Wired to Remember the Story.

I also started realizing a dream of mine of becoming a travel writer. What started with several millennial-esque travel blogs on VIVA Lifestyle & Travel morphed into opportunities at Intrepid Travel. They value sustainable travel culturally and environmentally—very much Britt’s speed.

intrepid travel writer

I remember writing my first piece on a Sunday, and it was a toughie that was all about the power of a ban to make a positive impact. I had to do a lot of research about animal rights and pretty much cried through the entire piece.

But, I felt honored to write about such an important topic and it was beyond cool to see it shared widely on social.

bar silhouette

Phew!

This morning as I’m sitting here in my robe before work, I feel like it’s a damn miracle that I’m even writing a blog post. It got so hard to do this, something that used to be so simple.

As many of you longtime bloggers can understand, sometimes you hit a wall. Not writer’s block, it’s more like being blocked by life.

I always say you have to be in a very specific state of mind to do this thing called writing. You don’t have to be on cloud nine or anything, but you have to at least be able to free yourself from distractions long enough to sit your ass in the chair and throw down some words.

When life changes? That adds a very thick layer you have to push through.

I was recently talking to my good blogger friend (and kindred spirit), Julie of Les Petits Pas de Juls, on WhatsApp. She asked me how my book was going and I said…slowly. But, I’m thankful it’s still going in some form.

I told her I had been writing so much for other people that I was struggling to write for myself. And, I’m hoping to make more time after I clear my head on a rad trip we have coming up next week.

blogging friends

Last year I vowed to meet more bloggers in person, and I was fortunate to meet Jilanne in San Francisco. Next I’m thrilled to see Julie, who runs a beach bar with her husband on Holbox Island.

“Slow” is the word there, and I love that. Because “fast” has been too much of a word for me lately. I’m looking forward to hanging with Julie and allowing her to remind me of the sweeter, beautiful things I’ve been glossing over too much in life.

We decided to bookend the trip to see Julie with two places Mr. H and I have dreamed about…Mexico City and Cuba. Being the geek that I am, my main inspiration for going to these places is to see Frida’s house and Martha Gellhorn’s house (who many would refer to as Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigia.)

Both Frida and Gellhorn have been heroes of mine for a long time. Being able to walk in the same places as these women is magnificent. I’m excited to drink in the culture of both of these places and see what kind of inspiration I come home with.

portland forest

Anyway, the dust has started settling a bit and I felt this incredible sense of peace in the forest last weekend. On my way back home I was about to put my headphones in to listen to music when I stopped myself.

I wanted to listen to the birds. I wanted to listen to the trees in the wind. I wanted to hear the children’s laughter. The whole reason I was hiking in the first place was to unplug. Yet, I struggled with it. I still had that urge to multitask.

So, I did something I’ve never done before in the three years I’ve hiked that same route. I stopped on a bench and stared at the trees. I laid on the bench for about a half hour. And, it was glorious.

forest time

Groups of people passed me from time to time, and one older gentleman made me smile when he said: “Somebody’s got the right idea.”

The nice thing about this bench is that it’s up higher on the hill, so it’s not nearly as crowded as other parts of the trail—even on the weekend. So there were times when it was just me on the bench. Just me and the birds.

After a while they accepted me, because I was one of the quiet and still humans—an anomaly they aren’t used to seeing, I’m sure.

 

Did you know birds sing the most extraordinary song when they think nobody else is around? I didn’t. I felt lucky and grateful to be the only one in that audience, in that front row seat to nature’s stage.

All I had to do was stop and see. It shouldn’t be that hard. I’m going to do more of it.