Tranquilo in Catamarca

Catamarca, Argentina. Whenever I tell people where I am living, the general response is either, "Why?" or "Oh like Buenos Aires?".

 

No. Not like BA. Catamarca is in the north of Argentina, with a climate like Arizona. The city is small with 140k inhabitants and everything shuts down at siesta time, from 1pm-5pm. All cafes, grocery stores, bread shops, EVERYTHING. The heat is quite pleasant for most of the year until the summer (Dec-Feb) hits and then average temps are 34°C (93°F), which explains why siesta is almost a sacrament for Catamarqueños!

And the "Why?" Oh... LOVE. That's what brought me here. After 4 months of travel and long distance dating, I came here to be with my boyfriend. Holy mole... Life here has taken some adjustment for me! Learning another language is not a task for the faint-hearted, and via immersion is extra interesting, I have met 1 boy on exchange from Thailand, and now after 8 months of being here I met a fellow girl from the USA who leaves in 2 weeks. 

My boyfriend and I even posted our home (the one he so brilliantly designed! It's absolutely gorgeous, come visit!) on Airbnb in order to meet some more extranjeros on their way through, and it has been great. We have hosted people from The Netherlands, Germany, Chile, USA, and Argentina and it has helped to shake things up in the house!

From the tourist guide books, there is not much written about Catamarca, so unfortunately the city is often overlooked by tourists, but there are quite a few hidden gems I would like to share, so here is the list! Hopefully it helps convince you to experience this province!

FOOD IN CATAMARCA

VEGAN Lunch Option – Pachamama – Bº 50vv norte c/5 2º etapa
Have your lunch made to order at this family-run, vegan home, many veggies grown in their own garden!

Tapas – La Cueva Del Santo – Republica 1150
Spanish tapas restaurant, trendy vibe.

Fancy – La Guada – Ayacucho 769
Different specials each night: sushi, asado, pasta and more. Eat in the back on the picnic tables under the stars.

Cafe – Florentino – Esquiu 811
Great trendy café, wifi, tasty pastries & salads. Owned by a wonderful woman from Buenos Aires (she speaks English!). 

Local Pub – Oveja Negra Rock Bar – Nunez del Prado 898
Best lomitos in town (a vegetarian option that is so-so) loud music, good beer.

Cerveceria – Wakani – Calle Echeveria 1
Great craft beer selection, made in-house, try the plantain chips.

Pizza – Napoles – Av. Gdor. Francisco Galindez 599
Delicious brick oven pizza. Trendy vibe and strip of restaurants.

Local Vibe – La Guarda – Rivadavia 430
Empanadas, locro, wines, all things local. The front room is a complete wine shop, the back is a chill restaurant.

Tea House – Sabores Caseros – La Carrera
Off the beaten trail, cute tea house with amazing pastas and pastries.

Club/Bar – Jagger – Av. Pres. Arturo Illia
Late night club, all hour’s bar with great draft beers. OK snacks and food.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN CATAMARCA

Waterfall Hike
30 minutes from the city, a 5 hour round trip (medium intensity) hike into some amazing waterfalls.

El Portezuelo
A 45 minute drive into the clouds! Stop for a tea at the Casa de Te at the top!

El Rodeo
Take a drive into the countryside, just 50km from town! Don't miss the short hike to La Virgen.

Trekking Catamarca Tours
See what this group is up to when you are visiting!

YOGA IN CATAMARCA

Acro Yoga - Suasti Bienestar y Movimento Esquiú 969
Acro Yoga on Tuesday and Friday! Suggested donation, 50-100 pesos per class  

Classic Yoga - Casa Abierto 
Class schedule varies, 100 pesos per class! 

CULTURE IN CATAMARCA

Free walking tours – Free Tours Catamarca
Walk Catamarca, tour in Spanish. Right in El Centro in the main square.

Museo de la Virgen del valle – Republica 449
New museum in El Centro.

Museo Arqueologico Adan Quiroga – Sarmiento 450
Museum in El Centro, featuring a branch of the Incas, the Diaguitas.

Minimalist

Money was a major theme when I kicked off this blog (33% of dickz, dollarz & killin it), but aside from tracking my expenses in this sheet, I haven't been writing all that much about it. 
I attribute this to 2 things:

  1. After paying off my college loans and credit card debt in October 2015, I quit my job and have been making more than enough to survive as I've been traveling - I just don't think about it as much now that the burden is gone
  2. Living out of a 50L bag reduces the chance that I'm going to buy shit. If I buy something I usually have to get rid of something - the Sophie's Choice of consumer manufactured products
must love salt water

must love salt water

Last week, on the shared Kindle account I have with my mom, I found The Minimalists. As a result, I am fully engrossed in re-visiting my thoughts on possessions. The read was also timely because part of why I'm in Montenegro is to work on an app that focuses on people's unused clutter with a charitable component. As a result I've been thinking a lot about possessions and why people (me) have attachment to those things. 

I live out of a 50L bag, yes, but I still have 8 bins of clothing and shit stored at my dads. For the most part this stuff is out of sight, out of mind, yet somehow I still feel tethered by it. The Minimalists have connected me to many great blog reads and ideas (like the Project 333 clothing challenge, relevant once I'm past the bag lady phase of life). Accordingly, I'm pivoting in their direction with the following:

  1. When home for Christmas I'll try to sell 80% of my possessions (Poshmark, eBay, not a garage sale, etc.). What I can't sell in that time will be donated
  2. I'm going to limit my purchases to things that are necessary to make me more efficient in my work (digital marketing freelance and kayak/SUP/bike tours). Wishlist includes: contact lenses, polarized sunglasses, a charging brick and potentially a new laptop if my $350 Thailand-bought Acer shits the bed (but does I really NEEDZ a shiny new Mac, precioussssss-s-s?) 

Oh yeah, Montenegro! I lead some kayak and SUP tours, live in a coworking-hostel, work a bit of freelance and am kicking off the app. A few months ago I saw a Facebook post on a digital nomad group recommending the space and Montenegro for travelers who've maxed out their 3 months in the EU.  With no other promising options on my plate I emailed the owner to see if he'd be up for a trade. He was, so I booked a flight to this country and am yet again, winging it! So far, so good!

Chocolate Cake

Last night I got 2 wonderful presents. 1 was chocolate cake. 

I'm a few days into a 30 day social media cleanse - removing Insta-gratifications and the pseudo-connected feeling that apps can bring, while adding free time and a considerable amount of mental space. Yesterday was devoted to sightseeing, including a Port wine tour, climbing an ancient church tower with 2 Korean friends, and eating at a vegan co-op with some hippie guys that are obsessed with Rainbow (note: don't call it a festival - also of note, don't let them know you work in marketing, because that's totally like, selling out man). 

Porto, the home of Port wine

Porto, the home of Port wine

At one point I was skipping down a path and taking panoramics of gorgeous Porto, giggling at my good fortune. This moment was in sharp contrast to a meltdown, hours later. Let me explain, I am so grateful to be alone right now and devote a considerable amount of time thinking about what this means. The train of thought led to questions on why we need a partner at all. And if that's the case - why the fuck are we even here on the planet, when all we do is destroy it? Cue the tears - thanks wine. 

And the tears wouldn't stop. And then I was sobbing and leaning on a park fence in the dark, crying into the night when 2 girls stopped. 

They asked me if I was OK. And they cared about my response. And they didn't leave. Because I wasn't OK. Then they insisted I join them for coffee. This gift of kindness was exactly what I needed. My loneliness stemmed not from a lack of people to interact with, but from a lack of loving interactions. This love doesn't need to be a romantic one, and it's defined by special human beings that come and go and sometimes stay. But really, the length of time is irrelevant. 

I spent a few hours with my new friends and they bought me chocolate cake. It was the best cake I've ever tasted. And today I walked to the Atlantic, pranced into the waves and waved to the East Coast and my friends back home. We are looking at the sun at the same time now ♥ 

Blogz

Blogging. Believe it or not i have been writing a bit over the last month and a half, but sometimes it feels like a chore. And sometimes i have no wifi. And the days with good wifi and interest in writing aren't that plentiful. And oh... did you see that sunset? And mm Tanduay rum and poker night is more fun.

Also - I am not sure that the current layout of the blog still works as my life evolves. Dickz. yeah i have a ton of ridonkulous lessons in dating still to impart, but i am dating a dick who is not such a dick most of the time. So do i write about us under Dickz? 

Travel... well that is my whole life now. Finances and work and life all revolve around where we are and where next might be, so do I add a section for that?

Promise: I am going to back-date what I did write and post it at some point but the size of that job increases with time. The next goal is to make sure that the blog reflects me and where I am going right now. For the short term here's the soundbite version of the last 2 months:

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  • Circus school was a haven for relaxation and not getting shit done. 24/7 there was mellow thai weed in the pagoda, there were parties every night (a BIG PARTY at least twice a week), and one of the highest ratios of humans getting laid:humans I've ever seen, perhaps 1.4?
  • Kittens are definitely funding ISIS, specifically Drugz
  • Travel from Pai, Thailand to Palawan, Philippines was a true testament to our relationship - we meandered off the most direct path many times (ooh a cock fight... ooh a 3 day cargo ship trip...) and only fought 2, max 3 times
  • The world does not end when I don't regularly workout, my butt gets more juicy and i still fit all the same clothes
  • Divemaster school is not as easy as imagined. Night dives are terrifying. And i am not good at everything in the entire world as once suspected
  • You can in fact blow off a chunk of your finger with a firecracker, and it might just happen on a cliche night like NYE
  • Being in a relationship centered around travel + living together is a huge test but the personal growth it allows can be mind blowing
  • The magical, creative place where fiction + reality collide can be as simple as this... (special love to Xavier - pictured for the photos, memories + writeup on his site) 

Cliff Adventurez

el-nido-taraw-cliff-aerial-view

Recently i had the joy of exploring the Taraw Cliff and surrounding cliff-sides with T. It was a crazy experience because we took *the path less traveled* aka the free way (finances + $ hackz are still a huge personal theme, tracking here). In order to find the way up, enjoy the view and avoid paying for use of the rope bridge, one needs to navigate through the non-tourist neighborhood and ask a few locals (it's on a side street in Barangay Maligaya). Then look at the rock formations on all side and see where there are wear patterns, then proceed. Once up the Taraw Cliff you will then find that all of the other rock formations are higher and with better views. 

After we came down a different way than we went up, we had to ask anywhere from 4-8 locals for the path to the higher cliffs. You'd think they were protecting the Dead Sea Scrolls or some shit, not just a grueling hike to a different vantage point...

Back down to Barangay Suerte and deeper into the 'hood we walk wooden planks around huts, naked children, wild dogs, and finally an 8 year old girl points us to the path. And up we go!

At three different points the well worn path has huts and the higher of the two are most definitely homes. An old man we pass is using a machete to chop down bamboo, and so we ask him which way is up. the path we proceed on leads to hut #2, which is likely his home, 50 minutes up the steep and winding path - this guy is the Palawan Thoraeau for sure.

The path gets murky at this point. We are undecided on which way to go, but give "up" a try. After hut #3 the path is pretty obscure and soon brush gives way to steep rock formations. My 2 favorite interactions were by far:

"Babe, there is a chance we will encounter a wild boar, what do you do if that happens?"
"Scale a tree... duh."

"OK, babe it's steep after this point and will require quite a bit of vertical climbing - if one of us gets hurt, the other will have to leave and get help and it could be hours before a rescue would occur... if you want to turn back now is the time..."
"I'm fine - keep climbing."

Obviously I'm babe. And obviously T has us covered in case shit hits the fan. 

After approximately 1 hour of vertical movement we get to a spot where there is a glorious vantage point, about 70% of the way to the top. We savor the view and an orange from a spot that we are pretty sure no tourists or locals frequent. And fortunately neither of us was impaled by a wild boar (wear bug repellent though, I ended up with somewhere between 30 and 1 million bites).

Carnie Life Ends

We bid adieu to the Circus yesterday. I thought at times the end couldn't come soon enough (non-stop partying can get exhausting for an introvert), but once it arrived I was so sad. We had a traditional goodbye Leo (a beer "tradition" according to the Toastie King, a coworker named after his frequent late night 7 eleven runs for Toasties) and a big hash brown breakfast from Big's Little Cafe (serious must have Pai breakfast) w a crew of 10 fellow carnies who then cheered us on as we parted ways down the dirt road - and of course I was in tears.  

When we left, a portion of the transient backpacking community at the circus seemed to have leveled off for a few weeks with staff plus some longer-term residents. The rapport was on point and I really felt part of this strangely lovely, weed/alcohol/Toastie bonded incestuous little family. What follows are some quotable notes I took somewhere between the hours 11am to 4am during our 3 week stay...

  • "I don't know who sober me is anymore."
  • "My ex of 5 years would only ejaculate on my face, because he was very Catholic."
  • "I hate getting told I'm infected."
  • "I almost ate Jack's balls." (Jack, the now neutered yellow lab)
  • "My penis has been described as really fucking handsome."
  • "I can fit 30 ecstasy tablets under my foreskin."
  • "When we had sex he would make me listen to live music. He pretended the applause was for his performance."
  • "Getting choked out is like DMT, this is a game-changer."
  • "It distinctly states in the Pai Circus rules that we do not provide drugs for guests, however if you leave the premises and walk 200m to the right you will find _____, where you can purchase a bag of weed for 500 baht."
  • "I am going to miss you, I can't wait to see you grow up on Facebook."

We talked about normal things too, like our digestion and how Thai food was wrecking havoc. And who was banging who (cheers to one Brit, who averaged 2-3 girls every 24 hours for weeks on end). And which staff hut was a rockin' the night before (a real standing ovation goes to Mexican Undercover/Quadzilla). I baked brownies and banana bread from scratch with Thai ingredients (not thai weed) and both were a success which was as much of a shock to me as it should be you. Over 20 of us broke out in the Lion King theme (ayyyy sapennnaaaa...) when someone held up a fat joint. 

Pai Circus. A place where all the weirdos are welcome, most extend their stay and the days melt into nights. It's like the last day of summer that never ends. 

Stuff

Closing out a life remotely is a world of stress and simultaneously freeing because you have NO CONTROL. 

buddhist-buddha-letting_go-stuff-travel

My mind keeps jumping to the list of things I want to get in order back in the states, yet the quieter voice inside of me says... Let go. This is such a paradox for someone as OCD and organized as myself. I'm pairing down my earthly belongings to a 50L North Face bag and whatever my dad can fit in the back of his F-150. To be fair, I only started with a studio apartment <400sq ft, but this is extreme. 

Today I called dad to arrange for the grand pickup and of course he quelled my fears and anxieties... "If you came home to your apartment burned to the ground you'd be thankful you didn't still have a dog in there and that your landlord was safe." Truth. So anything I get from the apartment is really just a bonus from the fire gods. Things I want:

  • contact lenses
  • Olive's ashes
  • perhaps a few workout / travel clothing options 

But really, the latter even seems excessive. Whatever I get I have to carry with me now. The things I am carrying are starting to mean less to me. It's this weird shift in your mindset where each item is a symbol of its function. What can I use this tanktop for (day/night/adventures/etc)? Is it comfortable? I do have 4 dresses with me, but I have a feeling that if I found a really kickass pair of shorts I'd gladly drop a dress or two. 

What an exercise in letting go. So what do I have in my 50L bag? Here is the current rundown, I'll update this post w addendums as I perfect the mix:

  • 2 pairs workout shorts
  • 1 pair jean shorts 
  • 4 dresses 
  • 2 sports bras, 2 regular bras
  • 5 thongs, 1 pair mesh booty shorts (duh)
  • 3 bikinis (this will increase)
  • 1 sarong
  • 1 pr lululemon capris
  • 1 pr bali pants
  • 4 pairs socks
  • 2 tshirts, 1 workout tank, 6 tank tops
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 pr each: nike free, reebok hiking shoes, tevas, havaianas
  • 1 north face shell
  • 1L ziplock of toiletries
  • 1 small cosmetic pouch
  • 1 small accessory pouch
  • 1/4 cup of olive's ashes in a small tupperware (she's currently frolicking around the world from napa to the gili islands)
  • 1 iPad (exclusively used as a reader for kindle books, debating it's necessity in my life)
  • 1 iPhone (I'll be switching to Samsung once I secure some income)
  • 1 small acer laptop purchased this week 
  • 1 passport carrier, also used to store credit cards etc.

Now that it's all listed it feels really excessive... Time to wean down!

Grateful

In a span of 9 days I will have been in airplanes and airports for a total of 52 hours and 34 minutes. 4 hours of those because my pilot died.  

My red-eye flight from Tahoe by way of Phoenix yesterday was the one in the news because of the emergency landing made by the amazing crew after the pilot passed away mid-flight. Being a part of the experience was completely un-traumatizing and we have the crew to thank for that. their grace and professionalism made a panic situation one that had me wondering "Is this a joke" and "Does he have food poisoning..?"

So for them I am completely in awe and filled with gratitude, and for the pilot's family, I can't even begin to understand their grief. But I do know that Olive is happy to have another person she can mooch treats off of. 

melissa me friends tahoe french bulldog.jpg

So why so much travel? And why does my life feel like a snow globe, of out-of-body, surreal experiences right now? For starters - I don't see any of the following as warnings, omens or negative signs. No, I feel the most alive and grateful that I have ever felt (after all of the car and other accidents my life alone is a ton of miracles stacked one on top of another). But really, the travel...

Last week Sunday I stayed up past my bedtime to watch the blood moon lunar eclipse from an overpass on Storrow drive. I felt peaceful, alone and alive. The next morning on my commute to Stoughton (part bike, part commuter rail) I was hit by an SUV and tossed off my bike, yet neither of us was hurt (us being me and my one-true-love, my bike).

Within a few hours of the accident, I had an email from the new dating app (Meet Me Outside) I had dabbled with that gets active and outdoorsy people connected (i.e. non-creepy, non-Tinder experiences). I had won their ultimate first date in Tahoe to meet a mystery man and run a Spartan Race - that weekend. Of course I said yes, but, I'd maxed out my vacation time at work so we had to get crafty with booking travel - cue the red eye! 

The weekend was magical, my date was an energetic, bright, successful guy who is totally on his way to doing tons of cool shit; and i can absolutely see us staying in touch as we move on our separate tracks. Speaking of tracks, as the universe would have it, his and mine had overlapped so many times before that weekend that it was uncanny:

  • He was a t.a. for a natural disasters class at NU the year after i took it
  • I bartended at a cigar bar he frequented in college
  • We had multiple mutual acquaintances and he attended a NYE party this year that I RSVP'd to but didn't attend...

Meet Me Outside, Reebok + Spartan Race showed us an amazing time and I felt like the ultimate, obstacle race princess. What a thrill, and what's even more awesome? It was my first >1 mile run since shattering my foot last year. 

After that whirlwind weekend, the pilot tragedy, and a 3 days at work it's time to hit those blue skies again for 3 days (back) in Cali with Melissa (the most fiercely loyal and true friend anyone could ask for) for some acro yoga, Napa winery hijinks, Bonk-bulldog-snuggles and never-ending laughter.

From Cali, the most interesting part of the story begins: 151 days and 22 hours in the making (on my biggest adventure yet), then almost a day in airports (20 hours and 44 minutes, but who's counting?). This one, I’m holding close to the vest.

Breathe

What's new you ask...

  • Hit by an SUV yesterday (no damage to the bike or me), hustled the guy for a ride to work + $45 in potential damage (mental? lol)
  • Won a trip to tahoe for this weekend from an outdoorsy dating app I recently looked into via Bostinno (but didn't really pursue for one specific reason or another... that's a whole 'nother tale) AND get outfitted in reebok gear to do my first ever Spartan Race!
  • Launching studdly.com next week
  • Cleaning up the brand new site I've mothered from infancy at my actual job
  • Cali in 9 days to see the love of my life, Melissa (one of them, sorry Eileen, Maggie, Stephanie...)
  • Then right into a 20 day magical mystery tour
find your soul soul cycle meditate boston bike bicycle

It turns out I can be an absolute fucking machine (no not a fucking machine, or can I...?). When it comes to getting shit done I am a perfectionist and I push myself really hard. This can be a blessing and also a curse. When it comes to social commitments, however, it can become deadly to my mental health. As an introvert (yes, truly) I stop functioning when I overcommit. Last saturday my angel (Maggie) came over and I couldn't dress myself because I had filled my itinerary and queue so full. So some things got axed (some really hurt to let go, like committing to learn Wordpress - she's a total babe and yet a total cunt). 

Wanting to do it all vs. wanting to retain my humanness - the ongoing struggle.

Over the last year (since the break) I've started to meditate 2-4 times each week as well as take a regular inventory of my life. The things that are not giving me joy, exciting me and furthering my goals have been sacrificed one by one. My friendship circle has grown smaller, and yet stronger. My passions are becoming more refined. And allowing some time to breathe has opened up the door to extraordinary possibilities. If something doesn't bring you joy LET IT THE FUCK GO. Do. It. Now. 

UPDATE. Some rules were made to be broken... I have been so #cheapasfuck that I had a friend cut my hair a few weeks ago and almost had another friend highlight it this weekend, but the cost/time analysis did not work out in the favor of buying supplies for and then learning a trade. So my one true splurge lately is for an appointment with my hair soulmate Kashmir tomorrow - #wwlbwd*

*What would Luke Brian's wife do? A hashtag crafted during a long ride back from Buffalo w Maggie where we decided we should marry hot-southern male-country-singers. My plan to marry Luke Bryan involves an elaborate scheme of catfishing his wife into cheating emotionally with another hot-southern-country-male-singer then exposing the truth to Luke, wherein is in unable to resist my charms and we live happily ever after. Oh, and he has a big dick. Also oh, Maggie has dibs on Sam Hunt. 

Bendy

I never was all that great at gymnastics, or any other sport for that matter. my terrible (near blind) vision led to a paralyzing fear when tackling back-handsprings on the high beam as well as a unifying theme of no hand-eye coordination in all ball sports. As further proof, i was cut from soccer and then badminton my freshman year at tiny Holy Angels Academy (rip). To note, this was horribly embarrassing at a school where I knew almost no one, didn't know the rules of all girls school clicks, and was singled out in specific by another freshman on the team as being not on the in, I hated her.

Luckily i had "heart" according to Hector the soccer coach that cut me. I can push myself past the point of pain, get in sick shape, but never really deliver a win. Thanks to that I was given a Rudy-esque spot on the team where I was able to be something of a ball girl and practice with the team. Unlike Rudy, I never suited up, nor tried out for another season. Yup, cross country and track were definitely more my calling.

Now that I am old and don't give AF about what pretty much anyone thinks I've struck up a relationship with strange yoga poses based on no formal training. The muscle memories from gymnastics and deep seeded ability to deal with embarrassment have been key in getting some pretty awesome shots all around the world.

Words to the wise: Quit gymnastics when there is impending mortal danger, practice with the team even after you've been cut, don't get in a fist fight with the ugly soccer prodigy, and kick your feet upside down to see where you land!