Time and the River

Guest post by Lonnie Dillard. Lonnie and his life-partner Sandi Sain have traveled in almost 100 countries and on all seven continents. Before retiring at age 58, Lonnie successfully pursued careers in psychotherapy, banking, interior design and writing.  His writing and design work have appeared in Architectural Digest, Met Home, Galleria, Le Journal Comtat, and several newspapers. 

Lonnie and Sandi currently make their home in Austin, Texas.

IMG_3237A funny thing happened to me on the way down a river:  I got old.

I don’t mean old-er, as in marking another “big zero” decade, which I did recently. But still old. Not ancient, of course, like the Native American ruins carved into the walls of the Grand Canyon, where I spent my birthday. Nor “old as dirt,” like the billion-year-old layer cake rocks that squeeze the sky there into a winding blue ribbon. But still, well, old.  As in suspenders-and-a-belt old. Early Bird specials, comb-overs and prunes old.

I had always believed that “old” happened somewhere around 85 or 90, certainly not 70. That you could see it coming for miles on the horizon like a West Texas dust storm.  But no.  It can fall upon you from out of nowhere, as suddenly as Apaches on a sleeping wagon train.  One day you are Roy Rogers; the next, Gabby Hayes.

I know I should have seen it coming.  The signs were there.  Stairs getting steeper.  Chairs too low to get up from.  Stupid crossword puzzle clues.  Young women holding doors open for me; or else not seeing me at all.  Mysterious bruises.  Dark streets with hidden curbs. Shrinking keypads; forgetting friends’ names; mumblers on TV.

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But I did not. It took a rugged trip down one big river to jolt me off another: down the Colorado and off of De-nial. Admittedly, the face in the mirror has been looking more Gab lately than Roy-ish.  But experience often trumps youth, on rivers as well as rodeos.  Older coots than I had survived the Grand Canyon’s 187 miles of whitewater rapids, drops and falls.  No hill for a stepper like me, I thought, mangling another metaphor.

Jesus warned that the flesh is weak.  I thought he meant only once in awhile.  He did not elaborate that parts of it might pack up without a word and pull out for good, leaving little behind but the wrappers they came in.  But…

Arms that could once lift cheerleaders over my head, even buxom ones weighing almost as much as I did?  Vamoosed!  Legs that only a few short years ago carried me 250 muddy miles on the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella?  Skedaddled.  Cut and run. The imposters they left behind could not haul tents and cots up a riverbank without staggering like cowpokes on payday.

Fingers and hands that wrenched caps off frozen water bottles on the push to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, changed film on the backs of camels or elephants, ate peanuts and peas with chopsticks?  Hightailed.  Days clinging onto a wet rope left little but cramped claws, barely able to snap clips to a tent or zip up a sleeping bag.

How could I have suspected the feet that sidestepped reptiles in Rajasthan, landmines in Laos, hookers in Havana and rope bridges in New Guinea above snapping crocodiles would be good for little more than play kick the can and all-fall-down with every hidden rock between camp and the river?

And who would guess that the eyes now groping for a flashlight at dusk, or a gin bottle inside a dufflebag, are the very same ones that could spot the blow of an Alaskan humpback at half a mile, or detect in the ripple of waving grass a leopard moving on the Serengeti?

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How could wind off a river in Arizona make a sleeping bag and long johns feel as cold  as sea spray in Antarctica on the prow of a Russian icebreaker?

When people get old they lose things. This week-long outdoor odyssey brought home how easy losing things can be:  Swiss army knife, for example. Dry underwear.  Dignity.  Marital harmony.  The respect of my traveling companions…

At this point in literature, the protagonist often experiences epiphany, the ah-ha that enables him to grasp the meaning of all that has happened to him. He realizes that he has been transformed by his suffering.  His life will be forever different.

I get the different part; the meaning…not so much.

I have often been precocious; I walked early, read early.  I was the first of all my friends to get ringworms; smoke grapevine; change from soprano to alto; file for divorce; or buy a car made in Japan.  Maybe this is the same with getting old, too, and I will have extra time to master it before friends my age finally catch up with me.

Maybe geezer-hood won’t be so bad.  How many travel merit badges does a good Scout need to collect anyway? Perhaps looking where I am going is more important now than going where I want to look.  And re-living old adventures wiser than rushing out to chalk up new ones.  Already I notice that past exploits—and my central roles in them— make much better stories after inconvenient facts are blurred by time.

Still, I cannot picture myself breeding parakeets, doing genealogy or making potholders at the senior citizens’ center. So I am refusing to turn in my passport. That is, until terrorists and mentals are flying all the airplanes. Or the TSA keeps my shoes. Besides, my younger, more spry sidekick would not hear of it.  She had rather wheel my creaky carcass down a jetway or up a gangplank on a dolly than miss a trip.

Adventuring will be different, that’s all. Baggage will be lighter without scuba gear or life jacket, hiking poles or crampons.  The views will be from the back of a tour bus or the porthole of a cruise ship, instead of a hot air balloon or a kayak.  Nights will be spent in real rooms with running hot water and a proper loo, instead of chilly spit baths and a pee-cup in a tent.  There are plenty worse things.

But dang nab it, once in awhile old Gabby might surprise everybody and saddle up with the posse again.  No matter.  Whether posses, portholes or even potholders, the adventure of each new sunrise will do.  One thing old may mean is gratitude for all the great years of “Been There; Done That.”  But also those of “Being Here Now; Doing This.”

Say, have I ever told you how I escaped those sharks down in the Galapagos back in ’93?

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Bringing My Dog with Me; Travels with Sadie

Guest post by Vivian Harvey. Vivian has lived in Mexico for 15 years and has traveled extensively through this country as well as Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala. She now spends four months each winter in Panajachel, Guatemala and travels with her dog, Sadie. You can find out about her educational travel seminars by going to her website.

VivianHarvyPhotoSix years ago my son and his family gave me a long-haired miniature blonde dachshund, Sadie, and she is by far the best gift I’ve ever received. Sadie and I now go just about everywhere together. As soon as the suitcases come out, Sadie hops in, never wanting to be left behind. On our four-month annual trek to Guatemala each winter, a number of people ask me about the in and outs of travel with a dog; here’s what I’ve learned.

Each country’s requirement is different — Sadie has been to Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala, and for each of these I read the guidelines as listed on the countries’ web sites for “animal importation.” None of these countries require a quarantine period of time, but each has specific requirements, with Guatemala’s being the most detailed (and expensive).

Each airline has different requirements

We generally fly on United Airlines to Guatemala, but for flights within the United States, different airlines have different requirements as to cost, size of dog, and advance notice.   As soon as I make my own flight reservation I contact the airlines directly to make the reservation for Sadie. Getting through a large airport is sometimes a challenge, and the dog carrier on wheels I have is worth its weight in gold. United won’t allow any other carry on bag (though I do have my purse and computer with me) which I consider unfair since I have to pay for the dog. Sadie weighs about 13 pounds, and most airlines seem to have a weight limit of about 18 pounds to travel in the cabin with me. On the advice of my vet I give Sadie a mild sedative, and she sleeps most of the trip and doesn’t require a “relief stop” as long as the connecting flights work out to be relatively brief.

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Getting back into the United States has even more requirements — For Mexico and Guatemala, Sadie had to be checked by a local vet in country and papers filled out as to her health, not a big deal, but essential paperwork to show at Customs in the United States.

These have to be timed to be done fairly close to the departure time.


Be sure the place you’re visiting is dog friendly

I stay in Panajachel each winter, and the hotel and restaurants are quite dog friendly. This is not true of other places in Guatemala, and if I go to Antigua or Guatemala City, I get a dog sitter for Sadie for the day or overnight. Before my first winter in Panajachel, I asked the management of the Hotel Regis if I could bring a small dog, and it took a while to get the permission, but now Sadie is a member of the family there, and she enjoys the warmth and hospitality of Guatemala as much as I do.

Keep the food consistent

I have found the type of food that Sadie eats at home to be available in Guatemala for about what I pay at home, though it’s a bit of a task to get it. This was a concern the first year I went to Guatemala and I worried a bit about locating a good vet, both in case of illness and to be sure the “going home paperwork” was all in order. It turned out that this was not a problem, good vets in Antigua and Panajachel.


The overall cost is not insignificant

With the additional vet costs and “official paper work” (both in the US and in Guatemala) of about $300, the flight costs (total of $250 round trip on United Airlines), and occasional dog sitters (about $150), this not something which I’d suggest for a short vacation. But for a lengthy stay of four months and for the companionship of my dog, taking Sadie with me is well worth the price. She is also a great conversation starter, both with local people and with other tourists, and I suspect that more people in Panajachel know Sadie’s name than know mine.

Other articles by this author

Health Information for Independent Travelers

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I’m Having a Physical Fitness Fit

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004 and you can find her columns on the Huffington Post. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

LaverneI hate exercise! There is nothing about being hot, exhausted and in pain that appeals to me. The most active thing I did this week was struggle to rip open a bag of Oreos.

Every day, the media reminds me that I am out of sync with the rest of the world. The government is presently designing a dollar bill that has running shoes replacing George Washington’s face. Sweat was officially added to the list of American symbolisms, along with apple pie, the flag and Mom. Ellen DeGeneres is promoting a line of bridal warm-up suits. Antiperspirants are being phased from market shelves and replaced with cans of Instant Sweat Aerosols.

Last week, I hosted a support group for ten 50-plus men and women who shared a bond — their utter disdain for exercise. They entered my house, one by one, lethargic and overweight. There was a time when they accepted who they were, but the world’s obsession with physical fitness had interfered with their sedentary lifestyle and left them feeling disgraced, embarrassed and diminished.

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One woman, Portia Portly, claimed that she just didn’t fit in. Everyone she knew took aerobics, yoga or spin classes. So she went to Sports Authority and bought several spandex outfits that she now wears around town. Suddenly, her social life has exploded because people assume she is either going to or coming from an exercise class.

Portia’s success was applauded, voted on and accepted as standard policy.

“I joined a health club,” confessed a rather pudgy business man, “just so I can tell my macho associates I’m a member. They don’t know I only go for the saunas and massages. There’s no reason for them to ever know.”

I felt compelled to cleanse my conscience.

“When my husband completed his sixth marathon, he returned home and found me lying in the yard. How could I admit that while he’d been running over 26 miles I’d been sunbathing, on my back, motionless? I told him I had sprained my ankle while doing jumping jacks and was waiting for him to carry me indoors.”

Everyone empathized.

“A perfect example of prejudice towards non-athletes happened to my cousin, Martha,” announced a woman who preferred to remain nameless.

“Martha devised an inexpensive source of fuel by extracting energy from several diet pills she found lying in her medicine cabinet since 1952. She received presidential praise and was up for a Nobel Prize for Great Achievements.”

And then the bomb dropped.

“An in-depth interview with Martha revealed that she not only wasn’t committed to being physically active, given the choice, she would scoff down apple pie rather than an apple. Consequently, her credibility became suspect and she is currently under investigation by both the CIA and Richard Simmons.”

The meeting lasted only 30 minutes — as long as it took for everyone to finish off the donuts, brownies and Cinnabons, and run out of new business to whine about.

If you feel out of place because you don’t smell from perspiration, don’t need a knee brace, don’t have shin splints, aren’t getting cortisone shots and don’t own a terry cloth head band, join us next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in front of the YMCA.

Be prepared to march for THE RIGHT TO BE INACTIVE.

Please be prompt, as the parade is scheduled to last only ten minutes.

The local first aid squad has kindly volunteered to be on hand for those requiring treatment for exhaustion.

Other posts by this author

Dancing Through the Pain

Men and Women Throughout History

I Don’t See Well Anymore

Giddy Yup

Stop Telling Me I’m Old

Growing Up Dangerously

Watching Real Beauty

Hell, Not on the Map, but I Was There

Cellulite: A Rite of Passage

Camping: Not for Sissies

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

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Safety in Guatemala

Q&A with a Reader

Hi guys,

I really enjoy reading your newsletter and the information in it is very informative.

My husband and I have been traveling all over Mexico for the last 3 years and really love the country!! We feel much safer there than we do in the US!!  It’s funny because of all the bad press people hear about Mexico a lot of people won’t even consider going there for a vacation.

To us that’s really sad because as you know Mexico is a big country and one just needs to stay out of certain areas like you would stay out of certain cities in the US.

That being said we have never been to Guatemala and are interested in checking it out.  Of course as you know it seems to get worst reviews in the area of safety than Mexico.  I’ve heard that violence is increasing there… Do you know if that’s true or not?  What we are really doing in our travels is looking for a place to retire.  My question is would you guys live there?

Another country we interested in is Nicaragua.  Have you guys ever been there?

Thanks so much,


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Hi Debbie,

Thanks for taking the time to write and to let us know that you have been enjoying our newsletters. We appreciate that!

We, too, feel that Mexico is a safe country over all, and that, yes, there are some locations one could avoid to stay out of trouble, which is similar to the States, of course.

Regarding safety in Guatemala — we have been living here off and on for about 5 years now. While we have seen lots of different locations in Guatemala, we generally stay either in Antigua or at Lake Atitlan. We think that Guatemala is one of the best kept secrets in terms of a place to retire. The weather is very good (rainy season and dry/windy season), people are friendly, the cost of living is affordable, and there is good medical care available in Antigua, Xela and Lake Atitlan, with some of the best being in Guatemala City.


Let me just say that Guatemala City is considered dangerous and we only go there for medical care if necessary and we utilize a personal driver to take us there and back. But Antigua and the Lake area is very calm. We had no problems at all in Xela, Tikal, Flores or traveling in between them.

Take a look at our Guatemala Travel and Information page and I would certainly recommend reading our Guatemala Guide before you come down here. There is a thriving expat community in the colonial city of Antigua and a funky and fun expat community here around the lake.


We have not yet been to Nicaragua, although we tried making it there last year. Hopefully we will get there at some point.

Feel free to write any time with questions. We are happy to recommend things to you or to answer your questions.

Wishing you all the best,

Akaisha Kaderli

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Health Information for Independent Travelers

Guest post by Vivian Harvey. Vivian has lived in Mexico for 15 years and has traveled extensively through this country as well as Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala. She now spends four months each winter in Panajachel, Guatemala and travels with her dog, Sadie. You can find out about her educational travel seminars by going to her website.

VivianHarvyPhotoI’ve been spending the winters in Guatemala, after living in Mexico for a number of years.  For the past 20 years or so, I’ve been leading travel programs through Mexico and Central America for groups, and for each of these group travelers I insist on the completion of a health/emergency form which I keep with me until I put them safely on the plane to fly home.

But I have never filled out a similar form for myself.

Why would I?

I’m never sick, and, completely discounting the fact that I’m now 75, it never occurred to me that I would need to have this information on hand.  But last winter a couple of things happened that forced reality on me; two friends suffered what appeared to be strokes and were taken to hospital in Guatemala City (they turned out to be OK, but it was worrisome) and just before I was to fly home to Ohio, I tripped over my dog’s steps in the middle of the night, crashed to the tile floor giving myself a nasty gash on my leg and head (very bloody!), as well a concussion.

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I realized that if I’d really hurt myself, no one in Panajachel (the town where I stay in Guatemala) would have the slightest idea about my overall health status, or how to get in touch with my sons or my doctor. They would have no knowledge of allergies I have, or what medicine I might be taking.  So I have developed what I hope is a comprehensive one-page form, with one copy in my passport holder and one to give to the hotel where I’ve stayed for years.


Preventative action

Many friends are coming to visit me in Panajachel this winter, and I’m suggesting that they do the same. Even with friends whom I’ve known for a long time, if they become seriously ill, I don’t know the names of their doctors or how to contact their family members.  I’m sending the same information to my sons and also keeping a copy in my car with my Ohio registration.  (For the form to keep in Ohio I’m including information that my dog may be home alone; this idea comes from a friend who is equally devoted to her dog.)

What to put on the form

The things I’m suggesting should be on the form are, in addition to my name, address, phone number, passport number and birth date, are:

— Names of family members and a couple of friends at home along with email address and phone numbers

— Name of primary physician and attorney, and their phone numbers

— Allergies to food/medicine and recent immunizations, like tetanus, hepatitis, rabies, etc.

— Medicines taken regularly, including a couple of OTC ones

— Information about travel insurance companies, including policy and telephone numbers (I never had travel insurance in the past, but now I have two insurance policies which say they will cover many of the primary big ticket items if I would need to be hospitalized or (worst case) airlifted to the United States.  As with all insurance, I hope I never need it.

If you plan to do any travel in the future, having this form placed in with your passport will prevent confusion to those who may need to provide assistance to you. It will also give you comfort to know that those who care about you will be notified.

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Active Adult Communities for Retirement

I have been enjoying your newsletter and book for many years. Could I get the name of the community, state and city where you have your USA residence? I plan on checking out several places soon. I just turned 70 and am very active.

You guys are the best!



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Hi Frank,

Thank you for taking the time to write, we appreciate it!

For privacy sake, we don’t like to give out our personal residence address, but I have some links here that you can research to get lots of information on active adult communities. There are lots of them around, especially in the sunbelt of the US.

If you Google Active Adult Communities you will get lots of listings. For narrowing down your results, just put in a state and many will show up for that location.

On our Housing Page there are several listings for active adult communities, including Top Retirements which offers a directory of active adult communities for the nation.

Finally, you can check out our Worry Free Housing piece which – at the bottom of the article – will give you some contacts that will prove useful to you.

We recommend that before you purchase a home in one of these locations, that you go to visit in person and stay a season or two. There is no rush. You need to know if you like your neighbors, the community itself, and if it is close by the things that are important to you such as grocery stores, movie houses, an airport or anything else that might be on your list. If you can, purchase from a previous owner and you will save some money. The best time to look for houses for sale is just before the annual lifestyle fees or rent is due. For many personal reasons (illness, a death in the family, becoming elderly, not being able to afford two homes anymore, etc.) people might choose to not renew their lease and their home goes up for sale.

Another important decision to make is whether or not you want to own the property on which the home sits or if you will be comfortable owning the home and leasing the property. The difference in these two options are thousands and thousands of dollars – not just at the time of purchase, but also in the cost of annual home insurance. Find out what your maintenance responsibilities are. If you own the land, chances are that the maintenance requirements are higher. If you lease the land, often the community has a budget which pays for tree trimming, watering and so on.

Take your time. It’s exciting to be looking for a community where you might fit in and have a good time for years to come.

Good luck. I hope you find this information to be useful to you.

All the best,


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Retirement; Like your parents, but way cooler!



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How to Retire/Live/Travel with Only Social Security


Your story is very inspirational.

My husband and I have traveled to many parts of the world.  I am 62 and he just turned 65.  We are real estate brokers but lost all of our assets in the real estate crash.  From reading your stories it seems like you have always had some good assets to fall back on if necessary.  Have you addressed situations like ours in any of your books, i.e., how to retire/live/travel, etc. with only social security and say $50,000 in savings?



All of our books lead to adventure. Don’t miss out on yours!

Hi N.,

Thank you for taking the time to write, we appreciate it.

Sorry to learn of your misfortune, but don’t give up hope for a satisfying retirement. We know many people who live only on their Social Security. You could do well living in Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand, Ecuador, or the Dominican Republic, for starters.

It might require some mental or emotional flexibility on your part to adjust to cultural differences, but if you have already traveled to other countries, then you are probably familiar with what cultural challenges you might face.

I would recommend a couple of things from our website. Take a look at our video, Adventures in Financial Independence. We share some personal financial information and it might be useful to you in terms of modeling your retirement.

You might also be interested in our book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Destination Choices.  In this book we compare these destinations and it could give you some insight into these locations for retirement.

Our book, Your Retirement Dream IS Possible gives an interactive spending spreadsheet which we utilize ourselves to track and monitor spending on a daily basis. If you are watching your money, this spreadsheet is invaluable.

Our Retirement Relocation Page might be useful to you also. You will find lots of links to Expat forums there along with cost of living sites.

Another page that might be helpful is our Retirement Jobs Page.

Take heart, and we wish you the best. Please feel free to write to us any time with your questions.




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Digital Madness

Christopher Amoroso has been traveling and living abroad for fifteen years.  He has lived in El Salvador, South Korea, and Guatemala (where he currently resides), and has visited many other countries with countless adventures and experiences to write about.  His present hobbies include boxing, learning Korean, and finding the path to complete peace, joy and happiness, if it exists.

photo chrisI met Billy in Panajachel, Guatemala, sitting on the patio at the Kitsch Bakery wearing his trademark “RetireEarlyLifestyle.com” T-shirt.  Maybe not the prettiest item in his wardrobe, but it definitely caught my attention.  I asked him about it because, quite frankly, financially speaking, I’m screwed! (and I’m trying to get myself un-screwed!)

The situation?  I’ve got myself stuck in a third-world country with no money!

Billy’s site is all about preparing your finances AHEAD OF TIME so that early retirement and travel is PAINLESS.  Ignore his advice at your own peril!  Or, failing that, visit my future blog to figure out how to dig yourself out!

“So Billy,” I asked, “I’d like to ask you a few questions about that t-shirt of yours.”

“Of course,” he said.  He was very open to the idea.  Why else would he be wearing it?

The gist of the conversation that followed was that I, a very new digital nomad, was looking for a mentor to guide me in improving my financial situation.  More on that, later.

A digital nomad is, briefly, a person who makes his (or her) living online and uses that freedom to travel the world.  In my case, I’ll call it “Digital Madness.”

The Adventurer’s Guide to Guatemala

My current situation

I recently became a digital nomad, and having done so, refuse to look back.  I have freedom to move anywhere in Guatemala I choose, not being tied down to one location to earn money.  Only problem is, I’m not earning enough.  I need more – not as in “Keeping up with the Joneses,” but, “If I can’t pay my visa late fees, I’ll never be able to leave this country!”  Of course, I could always sneak across the border late at night, but the risk of ending up in a Mexican prison like Andrew Tahmooressi keeps me on the straight and narrow.

Here’s my story

I’ve been living in Guatemala for some time, but recently my cash started running out.  Bank accounts empty; credit cards full, and an enormous visa fee I must pay if I try to leave the country, I had to do something, and fast!  I don’t know about bar tending and wouldn’t make a good waiter, which left me with Teaching English.  With flyers in hand, I promoted my services and soon began earning some cash!

I also found a job working at a local English Academy.  I made enough to get by and even starting saving up a little for my Big Escape!  Things were looking up!

Several months later, however, it all came crashing down!

First I lost my rent-free room.  They needed it for storage.  Storage??!!  Of all the things!

Then, I lost my job at the Academy.  The Director’s new boyfriend needed work, so he got all my classes and I got the boot.

So the prospects of having to pay for rent and meals with no cash flow brought me near to panic.

My online work rescue

Fortunately, I had begun teaching a few English courses online, and there was my salvation.  Moving quickly, I contacted a friend in Korea who helped to promote my services, and soon I was teaching 16-20 hours a week to eager Korean kids who, in the words of one young student, “Didn’t want to be poor” for lack of English skills.  Soon I was earning more than enough for my basic needs, and the crisis was averted!

So I’m getting ready for my 6:00 am class, bleary-eyed and in need of some strong coffee in a town that I had grown bored of, and it occurs to me that, now that I’m working completely online, I could be doing this from anywhere!

And that’s how I became a digital nomad!

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Branching out

My first stop as a digital nomad was the famous black-sand beaches of Monterrico.  Three weeks of sun, sand and surf was a nice treat after a brush with poverty and homelessness.  A 30 minute walk separated my beach bungalow from the nearest wi-fi zone, and that early-morning walk on the breezy, ocean-sprayed beach refreshed my soul each day.

But three weeks in that hot, humid Guatemalan paradise was enough for me, so I decided to relocate to Lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

Learning about financial independence

That’s where I met Billy.

Wanting to help a poor fellow out, Billy suggested I start a blog – people would want to read about my experiences, he said.  Then, eventually I could turn my writing into a money-maker and that I should check out how on his website (See Retirement Jobs ).

I just might start that blog.  I’ve already written my first posting.  You’re reading it right now!  And there’s plenty more adventures to share!

So stay tuned to see how I get myself out of this jam that I’ve created for myself.  I’ve got some ideas cooking, and it shouldn’t be long before I have some results that will give me the true financial freedom that I desire to continue my life as a digital nomad.

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When All Feels Helpless, There is Something You CAN Do

Ann Hoffman-Ruffner founded Wayfinding Women, LLC after a 30 year career as a therapist and administrator for inpatient psychiatry. A lifelong advocate for women & girls, Ann is a certified Martha Beck coach and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate. 

Ann Hoffman photoI don’t’ know about you, but lately I find myself peacefully browsing through Facebook, replaying those videos of precious puppies falling over themselves in a plump pile of puppy exhaustion.  They are so darn cute.

Then, with no warning, the next post bolts me out of my happy place like lightning through my core with some traumatic picture or tragic news.  You know the kind.  Today it was a picture from China’s Yulin dog meat festival where 10,000 dogs are being slaughtered marking the summer solstice.  The picture of a man holding a puppy by the neck breaks my heart and makes me sick inside. I know it’s a different culture but that doesn’t ease my anguish. I look at my loving and sweet Marvin Hamlisch (my fur-child, the basset hound…not the Broadway composer) sleeping next to me and tears well in my eyes.

image1I feel real pain.  I feel really helpless.

And it’s not just Facebook…you know, you get that call about a friend who has just learned they have Stage 4 Cancer.  Or you get an email that your friend’s spouse died suddenly. Oftentimes it’s the evening news where we learn about a group of people on the other side of the world that are hurting, scared and in need.

Today I learned of the death of a friend in Pakistan due to power cuts and extreme heat.  More than 700 have died from the heat so far.  If I could, I’d bring every one into my house that has air conditioning; I’d take them fans, I’d bring them ice water. But I can’t.  I feel helpless.

These are times when we need to have a way to not feel helpless.  We need a way of DOING, of making it better, even when we can’t change the outcome.

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When we feel helpless, we are not without power. We have incredible power…energy within each of us, toward love and compassion. We see it when we are with someone we care for and our loving energy provides calm and comfort.  What’s best is that we don’t have to be in the same location for the other being to feel this.  You KNOW what I’m talking about.  That’s why there are prayer chains and peace vigils.  Our energy makes a difference.  We may not be able to stop bad things from happening, but we can change the energy for those involved.

The practice is called LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION. There are many excellent articles describing the practice and the science behind it, but this is the meditation that I used today for those animals in China and all people who are suffering in this world right now.

While you may not be able to stop what is happening, you can change the experience for those involved and yourself, allowing yourself to be freed from helplessness in order to use your energy for the higher good.

Ready? Let’s do it….

Find a moment of quiet in yourself and be still. Focus first on the loving kindness for yourself (remember, airplane oxygen masks-put it on yourself first) And quietly and slowly say:

May I be happy.

May I be well.

May I be safe.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. If feelings of warmth, or love arise in your body or mind, connect to them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases. To aid the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases.

Then when you are ready, connect to the visual of those in need of peace and freedom from suffering. Focusing on the peace instead of the pain, say the following-

I care about this pain;

I care about the pain in the world.

May all beings be free of suffering and all the causes of suffering.

May all beings feel comforted, supported, and cared for,

May all beings be surrounded with peace,

May all feel only peace.

May we all feel only peace.


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