Costa Rican Raw

Cocoa has commonly been known as the “Drink of the Gods”, and has been around for more than one thousand years.  Most people have a passion for chocolate or cocoa but have not had the experience of seeing this exotic bean in its raw and natural form.

On a previous trip to a Costa Rican Organic Echo Farm, I had the opportunity to walk the grounds of the plantation, which consisted of over 300 trees that were over 30 years old.

The process begins with roasting and grinding the fermented cocoa beans.  The grinding process uses an ancient stone, “metate” which has been carved by indigenous people out of volcanic rock from a nearby volcano.  Once grinding is completed, a variety of New World ingredients such as Vanilla, Jamaica or Allspice, Spicy Chile, and Achiote or Annatto are selected or you can stick to your more basic European milk and sugar drink or chocolate bar.

Finca Luna Nueva offers a variety of organic and experiential experiences for those who are seeking a raw and natural experience.

For more information:

http://fincalunanuevalodge.com

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Super 8 Hotels, Chinese Food and Cat Smuggling

There are adventures and then there are adventures…

I recently took a long road trip across the southwest with a good friend of mine.  The trip was not planned out, but more of a quick spontaneous trip that allowed us the freedom to stop anywhere we wanted along the way, which included dive hotels, the world of junk food and other unexpected finds along the way, including Pie Town, New Mexico.

With no itinerary, we drove as far as we could each day, traveling approximately 10 hours or more until we were too tired to continue, stopping at Super 8 Hotels and eating Chinese food along the way. The first night in Texas was fine, the hotel was good, the Chinese food mediocre.  The second night in Kansas the hotel was filthy, and the Chinese food was superb. The 3rd night was uneventful and unmarkable.

We were hoping to reach our destination of 1700 miles on the third day, but due to a snowstorm, we were forced to stay in a hotel another night.  This time, we just pulled off the freeway and found a relatively new hotel to stay in.

I had driven almost 13 hours that day and there were no other hotels nearby so I made the decision to sneak my cat into the hotel, thinking that if they did not accept pets that we would have to drive on ice covered roads in search of another hotel.  Normally I would never do this, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted so I put my cat into his carrier and quietly snuck him into my hotel room.

An hour later, I decided to order Chinese food and hungrily waited for the delivery person to arrive.  After about 30 minutes, I heard a knock on my door.  I quickly put my cat into the bathroom and shut the door.  I paid for my food, set my dinner down and tried to open the door to let my cat out, but the door wouldn’t open.  I realized it was locked!  I started to freak out. I continued to try to work on the lock but nothing worked.  I started to panic as I knew I had to call the woman at the front desk to open the door and she would know that I had snuck my cat into the hotel.

I dreaded making the call but told the woman that my bathroom door was locked.  She thought that was odd.  I thought what kind of crazy hotel would put a lock on the outside of a bathroom door!  The woman came to my room with a large keyring full of keys.  I knew I had to tell her before my cat came out of the bathroom that he was in there.  She tried six or seven different keys, none of them worked. I started panicking.  I eventually said, “My cat’s in there.”  I thought she heard me but she didn’t respond other than to say that none of the keys were working.

Eventually, the last key turned the lock and Lucky, my cat strolled out.  She looked down and said, “Oh, you have a cat.”  I said yes, this chain is pet-friendly right?  She said, “No, no it isn’t.” I swallowed deeply and was thinking about what to do or say, when she said, “It’s ok.  I only make $11.00 an hour.  You can keep your cat, but you will have to sneak him out in the morning because the manager will be here.”

Relieved, I calmed down, ate my Chinese food and fell asleep.  The next morning my friend called me to ask me if the manager had knocked on my door.  I said, “No why?” He said that the manager had just knocked on his door.  I panicked and hung up on my friend and put my cat into his carrier and got him out of the hotel as fast as I could.  My friend later told me that he had left his door open and the manager was only inquiring if he had checked out.  I laughed and wanted to strangle him at the same time.

After a trip of 1700 miles, 4 days of hotels and Chinese food and cat smuggling. I made the decision to never try to smuggle my cat again into a hotel again. I also developed a strong addiction to dive hotels and Chinese food.

Life in Transition

What do you do when life challenges you in unexpected ways?  You drive a U-haul across the country, leaving behind life as you know it.

Unexpectedly I found my life shift and change, forcing me to make decisions that I did not want to make.  I realized that life is unpredictable.

Driving a 20-foot U-haul and towing my car behind was completely out of my comfort zone. My friend and travel companion reminded me to breathe as I began the journey driving the wrong way into rural mountains with no place to turn around.  I white-knuckled the steering wheel as I drove further into the unfamiliar mountain range.

For four days, we were enchanted by the beauty of New Mexico, laughed across the state of Texas and wanted to kill each other in the cattle fields of Kansas, but we survived the journey recognizing that our adventure together was a test of strength, endurance, and patience.  We ate Chinese food every night in Super 8 Hotels along the way and saw Dorthy’s house from the Wizard of Oz.

We survived the journey together and I have surrendered to the fact that I will probably make more unexpected journeys in my lifetime, and that’s ok.  I no longer hold onto a false sense of security as life is truly an illusion.  What feels safe, isn’t, and what feels fearful is safe. Life is a paradox.

I could have stayed in one place my entire life, but then I think about all the people I would not have met and all the experiences I would not have had, both good and bad.  Not that I have chosen all of my life changes, on the contrary, most of them were forced upon me, but I no longer fight them, but accept that I am being guided to a new place, a new experience or back to a familiar place where I am to resolve the past.  Wherever life takes me, it will be a journey…

 

Seeking Solitude

As a traveler, I am always seeking solitude in beautiful natural locations where I can leave life as I know it far behind.  Quite unexpectedly on a recent trip to Cape Cod, I found seclusion on a beautiful remote beach where the rest of the world ceased to exist.

After trekking for several miles on sandy coastal dunes, I found a deserted spot perched high up on an ocean cliff where the only sound heard was that of crashing waves on a rocky seashore, and where seals joyfully played in the ocean’s surf.

The Atlantic wind carried my mind a million miles away as I imagined what it would be like to spend a year on this secluded shore in a world that is overrun with people.

Cape Cod is a popular tourist spot, but thanks to a local who was also seeking solitude, I was led to some beautiful remote places that are kept hidden from passing travelers.

Quirky Cape Cod

Cape Cod offers the best of two worlds, one world for nature lovers, and another world for those who love adventures to quirky villages full of colorful people.

On a recent trip to the Cape, I fell in love with Provincetown and its multicolored buildings, artsy atmosphere and flavorful residents.  The mix of natural calm and vibrant energy permeates the east coast, creating a fun, positive vibe for passing tourists.  For outdoor lovers, there are several options including walking on breakwater rocks to Wood End Lighthouse, biking, hiking through giant sand dunes, or kayaking on the Atlantic ocean.  For urban dwellers or city lovers, options include hanging out in eclectic cafes, partying at night in flamboyant cabarets, or eat healthy greens in one of the many vegan or vegetarian restaurants in town.

The Cape offers the best in outdoor activities and energizing city life, with a twist on fun, quirky and outrageous adventures.

 

Navajo Country

I knew that I was traveling to a remote part of the country, but I didn’t realize how far away I was actually going until I boarded my last flight out of Phoneix on a tiny Pilatus PC-12 aircraft that seats eight passengers maximum, eventually landing on top of the beautiful White Mountains of Arizona.

I was informed that I would be tired as I adjusted to the elevation of over 7000 feet, as my body began to build red blood cells to adjust to the thin atmosphere.  Not only was I tired due to the altitude, but I also had to adjust to the time change after having traveled over 2,200 miles, beginning in Eastern Standard Time and ending in Mountain Standard Time.

My week was spent exploring the area, meeting interesting people and hearing their stories, as some travelled through, while others have made their homes amongst the mountains.

Mountain life is different from the mainstream, but if you are seeking a place of raw natural beauty, where the goal of life isn’t commercialism or consumerism, then the White Mountains is a place where you will find happiness through aromatic ponderosa pines, beautiful lakes and rivers, and seeing elk and wild horses roaming the landscape.

My week in the White Mountains gave me a taste of mountain life and a respect for the people who live there.  A beautiful place with heart and wild natural soul.