Stem Cell Therapy – The Future of Curing Disease and Restoring Youth

Guest post by Lori Shea, Owner, Guatemala Medical Travel. Lori first arrived in Rio Dulce, Guatemala aboard a sailboat in 2005 and had a home and business there for two years. For more information on stem cell regenerative therapies visit her website

A body’s natural healing state

Your body is in a constant state of renewal. As you read this article, with every breath you take, the stem cells inside your body are renewing and regenerating themselves every second. These seemingly miraculous cells have the ability to transform themselves into brand new healthy cells to replace the sick or worn out cells in your muscles, organs, tissues, brain, glands, joints and bones – virtually any cell in your body. Many scientific studies now indicate that increasing the number of circulating adult stem cells in your body is probably the single most important thing you can do to maintain optimal health.

Adult stem cells are released from your bone marrow into the bloodstream. Then they go searching for tissues and organs in distress. For example, if the heart sends out a cry for help, the travelling stem cells exit the bloodstream, migrate to the heart, multiply, and become brand new healthy heart muscle cells, to replace the sick or worn out cells.

Sixtino I Medical Building, Guatemala City

As we age, healing slows down

Sick children recover quickly, right? That’s because their bone marrow releases stem cells more efficiently.  When we are young, there are niches of stem cells in all our organs that migrate to areas of injury, inflammation or malignancy to assist in replacement and repair. Injured tissue can be repaired by tapping the body’s stem cell reserves.

As we age, bone marrow produces fewer stem cells which decrease the ability to regenerate. Fewer and fewer stem cells are released into the bloodstream, so your body becomes more susceptible to injury and breakdown.  When these stem cells become so reduced in number, they often fail to repair the aging diseased organ. This leads to chronic disease and further aging with declining immune function.

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Chronic disease and stem cell therapies

Chronic diseases set in when we are older because our smaller components start to break down. The origins of these diseases can be traced to deficiencies at the cellular level. For example, the beta cells in the pancreas become less effective and secrete less insulin, a condition that triggers diabetes. And, when the nerve cells become weak they will begin to harbor Parkinson’s disease.

Qualified and trained medical personnel are available to you

In Guatemala, stem cell therapies are being used to successfully treat:

Auto-immune Diseases: Cerebral Palsy, Critical Limb Ischemia, Diabetes Mellitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, Thyroid Disorders, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Chronic Degenerative Diseases: Cerebral Palsy, Cirrhosis of the liver, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Pulmonary disease, Kidney Failure, ALS, Down Syndrome, Parkinson disease, Stroke and Heart Disease, as well as Spinal Injuries.

Imagine if we could increase the level of stem cells in our bodies to stave off the effect of aging as it applies to both degenerative disease and esthetic appearance.

Dr. Byron Sanchez

Experienced and skilled staff

Dr. Byron Sanchez, medical director of the Medi-Center Stem Cell Research Clinic, is an oncologist and hematologist in Guatemala City with 15 years of experience in stem cell research and transplantation. The highly-skilled medical team at Medi-Center offers stem cell transplantation therapy to their patients with the same degree of success as any other country in the world, from the United States to South Korea, but at a fraction of the price.

Simple procedure

Dr. Sanchez explains the process: Stem cells are derived from the patient’s own bone marrow or umbilical cord.  Blood, fat and skin are also excellent sources of stem cells.  In adults, these cells are rare, isolated at a rate of about one in one thousand. Immunological reconstitution is done by isolating the patient’s natural killer cells, T cytotoxic cells. They are extracted in a painless procedure, isolated, stimulated, and processed in the laboratory.  The new, multi-potent cells are restored to the patient intravenously, in a method much like chelation therapy or dialysis.

With just a few days of treatment and observation, our patients in Guatemala now have the opportunity to live better and longer without resorting to dangerous drugs or invasive surgical techniques.

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Follow up

According to Dr Sanchez, patients are placed on a longevity diet and an exercise program that can be done at home.  They are given nutritional supplements to support and enhance neurological function and nourish existing cells. Quite often, medium to ultra-high does of vitamins and natural supplements will enhance the efficiency of the newly restored stem cells.

Hope International, Guatemala City

As an anti-aging property, stem cell regenerative therapies are increasingly used in cosmetic formulations. They work to slow down the aging process of the skin, and the supporting muscles, to restore not only a youthful appearance, but the vitality and functionality of the organs as well.

At the Stem Cell Center of Guatemala in zone 10, Dra. Marielos Sequeira, a medical intern, describes an additional method to enhance the efficacy of the Stem Cell Transplantation: Patients are placed in the hyperbaric chamber and breathe 100 percent oxygen while exposed to elevated ambient pressures. In this new application of an older, established technology, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is helping to resolve a growing number of difficult, complicated or otherwise hopeless medical conditions.

In all cases, success rates depend on the patient’s age, lifestyle, genetic composition and metabolism.

The future

Biotechnology is the medicine of the future, coupling our biology (organic bodies and minds) with the extraordinary technological advances that are being proven and accepted by mainstream physicians more and more every day.  The most exciting therapeutic possibility of stem cell transplantation is that it enhances the body’s own natural inclination is to heal itself, effectively reversing the effects of disease and aging. We now have the opportunity to live longer, healthier, happier – feeling “good as new.”

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Americans Too Busy to Notice a Medical Solution?

One of our Readers shared this compelling insight on Americans’ desire to remain distracted – even in the face of solving a medical conundrum.

I am fed up with American culture too… here’s the latest, which you’ll enjoy.

Last night I went out to eat by myself, sat at the restaurant bar.   The bar area was fairly crowded and looking around, I saw everyone playing with their mobile phones.  Even those seated at tables together were still alone with their phones.   This drives me crazy.

Preoccupation with cell phones?

A man, also dining alone, sat down next to me at the bar. He looked to be about 30.  Before he could reach for his phone, I said hello and we struck up a conversation. He said he was a doctor, working in the cardiology unit at a well-known local private hospital.

Ah, I told him, so maybe you can answer the medical question nobody’s been able to help me with.  What’s that, he asks?  I explain that I have all my medical needs attended to in Thailand, which he finds bizarre.  He is quite surprised when I tell him the medical facilities are world class.  “I thought it was pretty much third world over there,” he says.  No, it’s world class in many respects, I tell him.

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I proceed to explain that during a routine physical, it was discovered I have this heart condition called WPW Syndrome.  He says, “That’s a life threatening condition.  Have you had it taken care of?”  Well that brings me to my question.  In Thailand, they can tell me exactly what the surgical procedure will cost, but here I can’t get any hospital to give me even a rough estimate.

Tinkering with a ticker

So, that’s my question. If I wanted to have the surgery done at your hospital, what would it cost?  He admits he doesn’t rightly know… but why am I concerned – surely my insurance will cover most of the cost.

That’s my problem, I tell him, I don’t have insurance.  He says, “don’t you qualify for Medicare?”

(No, you little twerp… I’m not that old.  I don’t tell him that, but that’s what I’m thinking.)  I just say Medicare isn’t an option. I have to pay out of pocket.

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He says, “Well, if you pay out of pocket… Let’s see, you will need a hospital room for about 4 or 5 days, the anesthesiologist, the surgeon …” and he ticks off a few other items before conceding it’d likely cost north of $100,000.

Affordable world class treatment available in Thailand

That, I tell him, is the problem.  I can get the surgery done for a fraction of that in Thailand.

He says,  “I wouldn’t trust my heart to a surgeon in Thailand, I can tell you that.  What you should do is go to the emergency room at the county public hospital, complain of chest pains and they’ll admit you to their cardiology unit.  Then tell them you have WPW Syndrome. That’ll get their attention and you’ll be in the public-supported system.”

OK, thanks for the advice.

I mentioned this to a friend who had to go the public route at the public hospital for emergency surgery last summer and he strongly advised against doing that.  As he put it, “Going to County will give you a heart attack. You’re far better off in Thailand.”

At least he gets it… from personal experience.  Most Americans don’t get it at all.  They’re too busy being busy and playing with their phones.

Douglas Upshaw

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Vacationing with a Stranger

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. 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.

I studied the travel brochures, saved my money, planned my itinerary, made all the  necessary reservations and put together a fabulous wardrobe. I was psyched.

I would be taking a well deserved vacation with that special someone; not just anyone,  but someone whose habits I knew, and whose likes and dislikes I shared.

Or so I thought.

The fact that we didn’t have much in common never seemed to matter. For instance I was 58, nearly ten years older than he; something he gloated about regularly. And while he found small talk difficult, I could easily give a spontaneous full scale lecture on something as unremarkable as nose hairs. Our one common interest was flea markets – hardly something on which to build a relationship, but apparently we had.

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In our day to day living we barely noticed our differences because of the many hours we spend apart at our respective jobs. At the end of each day we’d share animated discussions and  display interest and caring during diner, driving, and visits with friends. These things caused me  to assume that we would travel well together. But, seven days and nights in confined quarters  served to heighten and amplify our dissimilarities.

Suddenly my age was a factor because when I expressed interest in parasailing and  horseback riding he saw fit to remind me that I was too old to venture into activities usually reserved for agile young bodies. That left me profoundly hostile.

And I, already feeling frumpy in my one piece black bathing suit with industrial strength bra and demure pleated skirt designed to conceal rather than reveal, prayed that his head would  unscrew and smash to the ground the next time it rotated to ogle some bikini clad bimbo.

He decided that vacation was the perfect time for deep breathing, chest-pounding jogs on  the beach. My idea of fun on the beach included a blanket, shallow breathing on my back, and  examining the insides of my eyelids.

If you are a single traveler and would like to find a travel companion, click here.

I wanted to drive through the countryside taking shots of local sites. He preferred walking through town, in pursuit of shot glasses for his collection. I looked forward to peaceful sunsets on a quiet pier, fishing for cute little fluke and  flounder. But he dragged me onto a four hour party boat populated with big sweaty men, all focused on capturing gigantic Blues and combative Marlin, while I hung limply over the railing and prayed for death.

He had planned on ending each day with an intimate dinner, a bottle of wine, some dancing, and a little romancing. What I did instead was pass out by 9:00 p.m.

Somehow we managed to survive both the week and the long flight home. In fact, within  five days we even started speaking again.

I’ve learned you can’t presume that just because you know someone they’ll be a great  traveling companion. I look a cruise with my cousin – a sweet, soft-spoken woman I’d known  most of my life – and didn’t sleep for six nights because the sound of her snoring was much like what you’d hear from a front row seat at a NASCAR race. Not to be outmatched, she pointed out that my teeth grinding was no picnic for her, either.

So, before I take steps toward booking any trips, I make sure my prospective traveling buddy and I agree on what’s fun and what’s not, or my dream vacation just might turn into  another nightmare.

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A Reader Has Insurance Questions

Hi Billy and Akaisha,

I have questions about insurance.

1. Car Insurance – If you have a 2 year old paid off car worth about 20k, would you purchase a high deductible full coverage or just liability insurance for it.

2. Umbrella Insurance – My wife purchased an Umbrella Insurance policy because of our net worth just to protect us if our normal insurance does not cover it (she did that because at the time we owned a business but we never cancelled it). She is in favor of keeping it, I think this maybe overkill but wanted independent advice.

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3. Life Insurance – We both have life insurance but not sure we need it since we are financially independent. Thoughts?

We are retiring early in July, so I am analyzing every single expense to ensure we cut all unnecessary expenses. By the way, thanks to you guys for being such an inspiration to all of us. I put a link on our new website to your site under the Who Inspires Us section.


Hi Steve,

Happy to answer your questions. Bear in mind that each person needs to make these decisions for themselves. Our opinions are just that – our opinions and if you don’t feel comfortable with following our choices, most certainly choose what works best for you.

Car insurance: Insurance prices are regional. It’s one price if you insure your car in Los Angeles and another price if you do so in Kansas or Iowa. Before we became Car Free  we insured our vehicle for liability only.

Umbrella insurance: This is a difficult question to answer for someone else. It all depends on your lifestyle and your net worth. We say do whatever your risk tolerance and comfort allows you to do. We don’t spend a lot of time in the States where being sued is more of an issue. Other locations in the world do not emphasize being reimbursed for a decision that might have unintended consequences.

Life insurance: Normally, in a case of being financially independent, we would say life insurance isn’t as necessary. In case of a death, the surviving spouse would receive the assets. In case both of you would unexpectedly die at the same time, your children would receive your assets. However, in reading your blog, we see that you have two young college age boys who could still be living at home. In this case you might carry life insurance until they are able to live more independently.

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Congratulations on your early retirement! Thank you for your kind words, and we feel honored that you have mentioned us as people who have inspired you. We wish you all the very best!

Please do keep in touch.


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Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective

Guest post by Angela “Sittingperfected”  Laws

If you own a home, are new to the house sitting world and have reservations about a stranger living in your place while you are on vacation, read Angela’s post below. 

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

It begins with a conversation

Friend in California: Are you really going to let complete strangers look after your home?
Me: Yes.
Friend: Are you mad? (She knows I’m not!)
Me: No, I haven’t met them yet but they’re not strangers, let me explain…

This is a conversation I’ve had on many occasions with family, friends and strangers – You know, the ones who are unfamiliar with the growing phenomenon that is House Sitting. I’m so convinced and passionate about this amazing concept that I need to share my experience with those home owners who are willing to open their minds and homes to the practicalities of engaging their own pet/house sitter.

I promise, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to discover what I’ve known for five wonderful years: House Sitters really DO guarantee peace of mind!

Home Sweet Home

Caring for my beloved pet

In the beginning, my main motivation was finding the very best care for my beloved Springer. Holly was thirteen, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and never been in kennels. EVER!  I know there are good kennels run by caring professionals, but they’re still kennels and can be very expensive. Also it’s well documented by the Veterinary Profession that pets are much happier, less stressed, feel safer and are more content when they remain in their own homes. And I wanted no less for Holly.

Enter Deborah, a local pet/house sitter.

Once I’d spoken with her, checked references and done my due diligence, I knew she was the right choice. I returned to find a happy, contented Holly and a wonderfully cared-for home.

Time marches on

That was over five years ago and since then, much has changed. My husband John retired and, sadly, our beloved Holly passed away. Now we indulge in our passion for travel even more, and we always engage house sitters. We have a lovely home which needs care, attention and security, so we need to travel with complete peace of mind.

See new places, meet new people

An easy, affordable solution

For a number of reasons I choose NOT to use an agency; I need to have absolute control over my choice of sitter. provides the very best web-based alternative to these expensive agencies. I see absolutely no point in paying for a service that I can do myself. I have MUCH better ways of spending that sort of money, and who knows my needs better than I do? Agency sitters charge a daily rate, daily food allowance and charge according to the number of pets involved. In five years I have never paid a sitter!

During long sits, an agreement is made where sitters are to pay utilities. This is not unusual.

International appeal

My sitters come from around the world. Although some home owners insist on looking locally, for me the distance they travel is never an issue.

Country tranquility can be yours

Last year I had a couple from Australia who “sat” my home in Canada for seven months. It was our longest trip. I hadn’t met them before they arrived, but after copious amounts of communication via email, Skype and lengthy conversations with people who gave them references, I felt I knew them better than my next door neighbours. Our home was immaculate when we left, and – if humanly possible – more so upon our return.

Win-win situation

We’ve engaged many sitters of different ages, both couples and singles. Some we’ve had for a week and others for longer. All are different, but one aspect remains constant. This mutually beneficial arrangement – without exception – is a WIN-WIN situation.

So the next time you travel and worry who’ll give your precious pets the 24 hour TLC, walks, attention and care they’ll miss once you leave, who’ll make sure your home is safe and secure, plants watered, garden tidy, mail taken in, and who’ll keep you informed on a regular basis about all of the above, worry no more! Engage a TrustedHouseSitter and leave home with Complete Peace of Mind.

Home owners and house sitters work together

House Sitter Profiles on TrustedHousesitters provide in-depth information including references, experience, availability, location, photographs and even video introductions.

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Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Disclosure: Some links on this site, like the Amazon links, may be affiliate links. If you click on one of these links and buy from the affiliated company, then we receive some small compensation. The modest income helps to keep this blog going. Affiliate links do not increase your cost, and we only use them for products or services that we’re familiar with and that we feel may deliver value to you.

A World of Yes! 

One of the conversations that Billy and I have often is how our chosen lifestyle makes us privy to opportunities. We remind ourselves that we take this vista of potential for granted much of the time. But every once in a while, it strikes us how circumstances can be rearranged in the most creative of ways to make a dreary life into one that is extraordinary.

Saying Yes to Life  is a different perspective versus digging our heels in for the sake of feeling safe.

The sky is the limit with YES!

We hear from some of our Readers about how stuck they feel in the living situations in which they find themselves. Maybe they are in a job for which they have lost enthusiasm, paying for a house that that weighs them down financially, or they might be worried to death about the present and future costs of health care. To them, there is no way out to a better, more attractive life.

They feel stuck.

Being stuck can feel paralyzing

Some of that inability to take action is old fashioned inertia. Feeling stuck is also due to fear or not knowing where to go or what to do differently.  And a portion of that malaise is because maybe they have given up their dream of financial independence – the enthusiasm and hope they had for a better retirement future.

Shake it up a little

Get radical for a few minutes of active imagination here and see where it takes you.

What if…

You got out from under the perspective you are now holding and did something unexpected. Like maybe sell your house, rent it out, exchange it for a house caring job across the globe, or go around the world doing house sitting gigs  for months at a time. There are gorgeous mansions, lovely country homes, or efficient city apartments in exotic places like Japan, Italy, France, Switzerland, Costa Rica, San Francisco, Tucson, or Vancouver. You can have your choice of staying a few weeks in a certain house sitting commitment or you could make a long term pledge to look after a home for a year or more. Yes, we have seen these astonishing offers.

Miss your garden or having pets of your own? Some of these house sitting openings have organic gardens to tend, horses to ride, a silly cat to look after or an affectionate dog to accompany you on long walks through forests or on the beach.

The world is full of gardens and pets that need tending

Some home owners wish to sublet their summer home while they are enjoying their winter home thousands of miles away. We just looked at a fully furnished sublet in gorgeous Panajachel, Guatemala which offered volcano and lake views, had indoor/outdoor living, two fireplaces and was only a 10 minute walk from town. With cable TV, internet, all utilities, gardener and a maid, we were looking at paying $300 a month.

That has to be cheaper than your current mortgage, and these sorts of deals are everywhere.

Fear of boredom

What about entertainment? How do you keep yourself from being bored if you are outside the familiar?

If you equip yourself with digital gadgets so you are able to read kindle books, watch movie downloads, and get the latest news via internet, you are not limited to any location around the world.

Want to bone up on your language skills or cooking abilities? Living a few months in Tuscany would offer you access to practicing your Italian and taking a local cooking or painting class. Or maybe you would be interested in an archaeological dig in Crete or living among the moneyed in Mirabella, Spain?

To learn survival phrases in the local language, download a free travel language guide by World Nomads and learn basic travel phrases in any of 25 languages to get you started on your global tour. Step into a whole new experience for yourself.

Your world gets bigger when you open to change

What about health care?

We have always taken advantage of the local health care in most countries where we visit. It is affordable in many nations, but if that topic makes you nervous, then supplement your “going naked” approach by taking out travel insurance through IHI (International Health Insurance) or World Nomads so that this category of your life is covered.

Why limit your whole approach to life and the making of an incredible future just because of one piece of the puzzle?

Does this puzzle piece own you?

Strangling perspectives, paradigms and mental positions

It’s true that overturning paradigms can be a fearsome task, especially if you or a loved one holds a stubborn perspective. But if you want to escape from a strangling position and open up to a panorama of opportunities for learning, giving-and-receiving, and living a style of life that is less cumbersome, breaking out is not impossible.

Blow those negative, self-limiting viewpoints to smithereens! Why should we allow fears or mental pictures hold us back from a life of self-fulfillment?

Will living affordably in gorgeous places around the world suit everyone?

Of course not.

WooHOO Baby!

But for those to whom this idea appeals, you will be able to create a wondrous lifestyle, one that continuously opens to even more possibilities and personal expressions.

How do I know this works? From living on the sugar plantation island of Nevis, West Indies, sailing on a triple-masted sailing vessel through tropical Caribbean islands, spending years in exotic Asia all the way to living with the ancient Maya peoples in Central America, we have experienced it firsthand.

We don’t need any convincing.

How about you?

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Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Heart Song, Housing, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Any Dirt on Being an American Traveler?

Hi Billy and Akaisha,

I just love your stories.

My wife and I are working towards financial freedom now and you guys are one magnificent motivation to figure that out.  Once in a while your stories trigger me to write and ask a question.

Reading your recent story about Belize and travels through Guatemala, I could not help wondering if you guys have any harrowing stories about trouble the locals may make when they encounter to Americans that don’t speak the language well and seem to be ‘adventuring’ through their country.  Have you felt any prejudice against Americans increase over the last 5 years?  Do you have any interesting stories to tell about ‘near misses’ that you can share?  Seems your stories are always very positive.  Any dirt to share?

Again, thanks for being an inspiration to those of us still stuck on the gerbil wheel!


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Hi Dave,

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my reply, and thank you for your kind words about us being a motivation for you. That makes us feel very happy!

As far as having any “dirt” to share, or having harrowing experiences with locals and bad attitudes towards Americans, mostly all we have to report is positive.

We make sure that we are under the radar in how we dress and our approach to the locals is always friendly, conversational, and respectful.

I would recommend that you read our response to one Reader who asked how to Identify Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, as I go into more detail there about fear, taking precautionary action, and violence.

That being said, in the countries where we have visited it is our experience that there is not the blatant and shame-inducing hatred of Americans that is portrayed by the media so often. We as Americans are not hated. In fact, it seems everywhere we go the locals of any country are proud to be from that country and we find that to be healthy. We are proud to be from the U.S.A. and we show that by our smiles, our humor and by treating the local population with equality and esteem.

On occasion we will see people from other nations who are loud, disrespectful, dirty, condescending or dismissive, and those people, of course, come to find that they have issues in foreign countries. Anyone – American or not – who acts in this manner will find that they will encounter trouble. It only makes sense.

Learn about housing on the road, RVing, long-term stays, global house exchange, vacation rentals, apart-hotels and hostels. Click here.

I would say that we are very proud to be Americans but we advance through our travels primarily as human beings. We neither cower nor bang on drums in some proselytizing manner about our beliefs.

If you would like to travel, take the leap. Don’t be afraid to answer that you are from the States, and return any exchange with the humanity that you are.

We wish you all good things, and again, thank you for taking the time to write.


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Psychedelic Spiritual Experience?

Just saw the movie Blossoms of Fire and it made me wonder why I didn’t know about or visit the town of Juchitan when I was in Oaxaca so many years ago. I too was in search of the magic mushrooms of Huautla and basically walked up the mountain. It took about 3 days ( I think- who can remember) although I do remember staying at some indigenous people’s house and they fed us roasted crickets (apparently this was a delicacy) they were honored to have us stay on the floor of their home.

The psychedelic is integral to the indigenous experience

When we got up to Huautla we did meet with Julia she was not too nice or friendly but we did see a newspaper clipping of John Lennon on her wall and also heard that Bob Dylan was there at some point. We had mushrooms but on our own, no ceremony. I think we decided not to take walk back down and instead took a bus to some town, maybe Pueblo.

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We had heard that gringos were getting busted so that is why we walked up the mountain but I guess we were too stoned to care so we took the bus down. Anyhow we did get busted by the Federales when we got off the bus.

If you were down there then I probably knew you.

Anyhow I enjoyed reading about your adventure.

What’s it like living there now?

Take good care,
A fellow traveler

Hi Esther,

Thanks for taking the time to write and to tell us of your experience so many years ago! You remembered quite a bit of it and the detail is priceless.

When we visited Huautla, it did not have any ‘hippie” type of feel, and people were very secretive and almost protective of Julieta. There were stories of how Maria Sabina had “betrayed” the indigenous for sharing the psychedelic culture they valued. She was “chased” out of town and into the hills, and her son had been killed as a sort of vendetta or as retribution for this betrayal.

The town was quiet, and there were no groups of “seekers” for the spiritual experience. One could not purchase anything on the street or from anyone other than through Julieta, who would guide you through the spiritual journey. I’m sure the natives could have gotten anything they wanted and they were quite respectful of the mushroom, the encounter with God, and of what their culture teaches.

It was quite the experience, albeit, very different than yours. But that is what traveling is all about – the expansion of one’s horizons and perspectives.

Thanks again for taking the time to write.

All the best,

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Starfish One by One Empowers Young Women

Enjoy this guest blog post by Diane Dreyfus, M.S.Arch, who came to Guatemala after years of working on Wall Street as a trader and floor manager. She writes about her involvement with the Native Maya on her blog, Dragoness’ Utterances

 Starfish One by One is dedicated to serving as a catalyst for the education of rural Mayan girls in Guatemala, enhancing the educational opportunities as well as the spiritual and emotional well-being of children and their families, one by one. Parents, mentors, and other organizations are our partners in creating support groups for our scholarship students. These children will become the agents of change for their families and their communities.

First hand observation

Travis Ning, the Executive Director of Starfish One by One, invited me to attend a monthly meeting held at their office here at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, early one Sunday morning.

These meetings offer teenage participants a chance to share experiences and how they are doing in the intense and expansive educational program. The fifteen young women attending this morning have been recipients of Starfish’s scholarships since 2008. They were selected due to their inability to continue in secondary school. Now, almost through high school, they have a cherished history of exerting positive peer pressure on each other. They certainly need this kind of solid support system because they are often the most educated people in their families and, when they graduate, they will have more schooling than most females in their pueblos.

Empowering one young woman at a time

Sadly, completing high school is the exception in Guatemala, and, most indigenous girls do not go further than 7th grade.

Educational challenges

Mr. Ning says, “By the time girls are 12, their schooling is considered a ‘double burden’— they clean houses, cook and watch the younger children. Their further schooling deprives the family of an additional helper or income generator and besides that, sending a girl on to high school is a luxury that few can afford.” ($250 of the $1,000/per student cost of the Starfish One by One program goes toward covering direct school costs – books, fees, transportation and, when necessary, uniforms.)

Starfish One by One’s program directors and mentors tackle the four primary obstacles to girls’ education in Guatemala:

Poverty – endemic in the Highlands and especially among indigenous people.

Structural problems – such as distant and/or mediocre schools.

Family issues – at the very least, the parent’s lack of education and sometimes alcoholism and abuse.

Social constraints– conditions that tend to disfavor Mayans and females.

Peer support is power potential

The program offsets these negative impacts through:

Scholarships that lift the quotidian burdens of higher education and, to a lesser degree, help to mitigate the negative structural effects.

Four parent meetings a year encourage them to be aware of their daughter’s current status and to celebrate and support her progress.

Regular weekly meetings/mentoring sessions are intended to bolster self esteem and to build confidence in the face of unfavorable norms.

Direction and friendship with Starfish workers build possibilities

Besides these gentle, strategic interventions, Starfish One by One seeks “spaces of collaboration” and additional ways to create conditions for academic success. For example, they may present Save the Children’s financial planning training (that includes starting a bank account in grade school) or use Wing’s reproductive education module or abstract from an environmental group’s program promoting stewardship.

These are additional “gifts” that the program provides on the way to empowering the girls.

“In the beginning,” recalled Mr. Ning, “many of the girls wanted to be doctors or lawyers. So we brought in different kinds of professionals to talk about their work. There was one doctor, who was very honest. He said that studying medicine was the hardest thing he had ever done; that he wanted to quit many times. After that, only a few raised their hands when we asked who wanted to be a doctor.”

“We are doing one thing — girl’s empowerment — and given our model, we cannot expand beyond 300. We want to do a lot for a few instead of doing a little for a lot. ‘The Girl Effect’ is the best way to tackle the otherwise daunting list of problems in Guatemala like malnutrition, environmental degradation, or economic exclusion” Mr. Ning concluded.

If you want to mentor, volunteer or help children on a national or international level, click here for more information.

Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Health, Heart Song, Indigenous Life, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Volunteering, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retirement Costs for Singles


Recently someplace in one of your newsletters there was mention of a retirement destination, a kind of gentle paradise, without cell phones & the internet, snuggled in a lovely valley in South America. Can you tell me the name of the place?

And as an aside, I always enjoy your newsletters, but I could wish that more writers about retirement would consider single retirees more. This goes for financial publications as well.



Are you a single traveler? Click here for travel housing information and travel clubs.

Hi Paul,
Thank you for taking the time to write. We love to hear from our Readers.

I believe you are talking about Vilcabamba in Ecuador. (Take a look at our Ecuador Hotel and Travel information here. )

It’s hard to know how much has changed since we were last there in late 2005, but I’m sure internet and cell phone usage has found its way there in that little valley by now. Still, it’s worth seeing, as it’s a throw back in time. The hippies of the 1960’s and 70’s moved there, settled in with the natives and now their children are the young adults of the area.

You will find restaurants playing Janice Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix and other such music in the little town and of course the hippie jewelry shops. The valley is gorgeous and peaceful. At the time we were there, real estate was booming because North Americans couldn’t believe the land prices and the vistas that came with them.

Your suggestion that we (and other financial/retirement sites) write more for the single traveler and retiree is a good one. We try to give the prices we pay for anything on our trips, food, travel, hotels and such – and in some regards, those prices wouldn’t be any different if one was single or traveling as a couple. The price of dinner, bus tickets, a spa membership or entrance to a museum would be the same no matter what. The difference is that the price of the apartment or hotel would only be covered by one person instead of divided by two.

Housing is one of the biggest expenses anywhere you might live or travel. That being said, you might take a look at our Housing Options Page which offers you different ways to solve the housing cost in retirement. Our Travel Housing Options Page also lists ways to find decent and affordable housing, hotels, apart-hotels, and rentals too.

Our Traveling Singles Page offers travel agencies, small tour group options, hostels and travel clubs for singles and those who want to travel in a small group.

So there really is a lot out there for you to take advantage of.

Hope these links help, and do feel free to write any time, Paul.

All the best,

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