Hello, it's me

Woah, that was a long stretch.

So why no blogging? There are a few reasons, but what it comes down to is that right now getting my thoughts out there takes a lot of energy, and I am really trying to use that energy to make some sort of impact with street dogs.

Since May I’ve been channeling everything I’ve got into launching my new nonprofit, For the Love of Dogs. It's a registered 501c3 in the US and the current focus is unloved dogs in Argentina and Portugal! 

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/274831

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/274831

I am sure it would be interesting to have been along for that ride with me (the highs, the lows, the I DON’T EFFING KNOWS!), but here is a brief summary of what my journey looks like, so far. I think it is similar to one of those entrepreneur graphs > 

What can I do to help?
Why can’t I find somewhere to volunteer?
Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.
But I love this guy.
Sweet! I can volunteer at a government sterilization center.
No one speaks English.
YAY! Day 1. OOPS, 2 cats escape (my fault), PHEW, caught them! Well that’s an infected hand, 20 punctures is definitely sexy.
I need to learn better Spanish.
Oh I can help write surgery notes.
And suture up ball sacks.
Ok sterilizations are key in helping dogs.
This place needs to be more efficient. Great idea! Make sterilizations more efficient!
Spanish, right, study.
How do I even start a nonprofit.
Ah that’s how.
Nope, this is.
I need to get my vet tech certification.
No, I am a marketer, I can find vets.
Paperwork. Legal Fees. 1 month waiting.
Dogs are so miserable in the streets here. And the world.
I cannot even understand anyone, how could I think I could run a nonprofit. I am lonely.
Who am I to even try?
I have my whole life to get this right. Relax.
Well at least Pato loves me regardless of how many dogs I save.
STUDY SPANISH YOU GODDAMN SLACKER. Ok, un poquito.
Wow I like what this brand is becoming.
Website. Logo. Content. Photos. I got this.
No. Logo. Is. Not. Right.
What even is a nonprofit? Haha, typical me, thinking I can do anything… Sigh.
I haven’t even helped one dog.
OMG we have a rescue dog. And I love her.
OMG more dogs, starving near our home.
I can speak with locals! I convinced them to sterilize the mamas!
This nonprofit is going to earn so much grant and fundraising dollars.
Still no final logo.
I am lonely AF. Why does the world have so many languages?
I hate to do this, but I need another version of that logo.
Ok, more sterilized dogs.
OMG no one will adopt this puppy. I will take care of him till he is better…
Amazing, a group I can volunteer in the streets with and find more in-need dogs.
My Spanish is better, a little.
I can’t put this puppy back on the street.
Headed to the US! Launching the nonprofit! I will be a great success!
And I will bring this puppy!
No one wants this puppy in the US.
OMG MOM WANTS THIS PUPPY.
How the hell does a puppy get into the US?
Get this website just right… And this fundraising campaign. It will be a wild success.
I don’t have the right paperwork.
HOORAH! The US with my little immigrant street dog!
Nonprofits are lots of work.
Ok LAUNCH!
Holy shit, fundraising is a lot of work. This is not EZ money.
Wow, so many people trusted me with their money. Now I have to do things.
22 dogs sterilized!
What do you mean the costs have increased?
I love my mission.
I will effect no change on this godforsaken earth and we will all die due to climate change.
Look what I can do. Save the dogs. Save the world.

it's all worth it to help these guys! thank you Mike Gelen!

it's all worth it to help these guys! thank you Mike Gelen!

You get it. Or maybe you don’t and you think I should be admitted into the psych ward. There are highs and there are lows, but I think that I’m living life with open arms. I’m building a new life with a really amazing guy (today is our 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!) - 2 months of backpacker romance, to 2 months of separation (while I taught English in Colombia), to intensive, grown-up-style, living together. We’re being creative about what our dreams look like and how we can turn them into a reality. How lucky am I?!

Also, I am so very excited to be able to present the website that I designed for my new brand, For the Love of Dogs here and the first fundraising campaign I have ever launched, 101 Sterilizations. My goal is to make sterilization (spay / neuter) sexy! Yaaaaa! Let's get it!

Also, I definitely couldn't do any of this alone. I am so very thankful to my sweet and sexy boytoy, Pato. To both of my parents and both of their partners. To all of my friends who have been supporting me in my ups and downs and freak out phone calls. To Michael Gelen, for the wonderful logo. To Nikki, for the wise & fun counsel. And to all the dogs, just because. 

Travel Log Day 348: Nomad Update

coffeeshop-albania-juice-travel-blog

Last Thursday I stayed in bed all day and watched The Blacklist on Netflix. I ate vegan, had 3 cups of tea and did about 25 billable minutes of work (14 minutes of which were a phone call). I booked a flight to Morocco and researched Cape Town. I meditated for 14 minutes and made plans to do yoga, pushups, social media work, blogging and head to the beach - none of the latter was accomplished. 

Marketing schemes that romanticize the digital nomad life are everywhere nowadays. I have to admit, the experience is unreal. It's the sort of solo experience everyone owes themselves for at least 1 month:

  • Research a country
  • Book a ticket
  • Book a non-luxury place to stay for the first few nights
  • Figure it out as you go

But there are some downsides that are often brushed aside and more and more nomads have been blogging about these. Not until you actually experience them does the sting settle in. A year ago I read these lists and brushed them aside, "Pfft I can handle that, I'm the greatest." Well I can say for a fact now that these are all components that I take into account when deciding how long I plan to pursue this lifestyle. Accordingly, here is MY list of downsides - however, I end each on a positive note, because perspective is everything. 

Digital Nomad • Loneliness

As an introvert I avoid over-committing myself socially, and can't do more than a week in hostel dorm rooms. When I do make a friend, we usually have a weekend to get to know one another and then one of us is moving on. Twice now I've used Tinder as a means for meeting people, but there is an implied layer of sex when you meet someone on there - also, it limits the connections to the opposite sex (I don't misrepresent myself as a lesbian). POSITIVE: Being outside of my comfort zone forces me to change for the best. I can't use my introversion as a crutch to stay in a few stale friendships, but instead I am opened up to new and more rewarding connections - should I choose to embrace the challenge. 

Nomad • Drinking

The communal language of bonding is drinking here on planet earth. I've cut down on that (1-2 drinks one day each week) to such a degree that going to a bar to "see what happens" just isn't a thing for me anymore. Believe me, some rich and exotic tales have spun from those nights, but as a solo chick in the Balkans I think it might attract the wrong attention. POSITIVE: I'm drinking less and finding more interesting things to be the basis of new relations - animal rights, minimalism, veganism, travel... Conversations about your new handbag? BYE.

Nik + me hiking in Kotor

Nik + me hiking in Kotor

Nomading • The Whole Enchilada

Opportunities like Remote Year combat loneliness by pairing a group for a month in each location around the globe. Resulting experiences are often very positive, but you're buying in for $2000 per month or more (not including food, alcohol or flights to and from the experience). My daily average for ALL expenses since November is averaging $34 per day ($1020 monthly), half the cost and including everything. I do often arrange trade situations (like my current at Playworking) and that has defrayed a lot on the spending end of things so I am on the low end of cost, but DIY is absolutely less expensive. These experiences simplify finding housing, coworking spaces, friends, events and excursions - but figuring those things out is half the fun and experience of nomading. They're like the cruise ship of nomad life... The Disney cruise ship... POSITIVE: The more people attracted to this sorta life expands global compassion and understanding of other cultures, regardless of how the experience has been packaged. I'd love if these companies could incorporate an eco/humanitarian component to the experiences... (Ok new brainstorm is starting in my head ATM... Adding volunteer opportunities like dog shelters into the experience where nomads walk dogs/assist shelters and donate some $). Speaking of, I convinced the owner of my coliving/coworking space to let me foster a local pup - he said no. And now I have a foster named Nik for 4 weeks... ;)

Digital • Romance

I'm always the one leaving. Or we are both leaving. Yes, there is a romantical component of my brain that loves the idea of getting swept away by a fellow nomad and then pursuing the adventures of the world together, but the more common reality of the situation is that you either meet a fellow traveler and then stay in touch less and less as the miles between you grow OR you meet someone who lives in a place as you pass through and they scheme up ideas of how they also want to travel the world and do things, and then you leave, and then they stay. Relationships are not impossible to find, but are certainly less promising than when you've got roots planted in a location. POSITIVE: Traveling with someone speeds up the getting to know you process. Knowing there is an end date makes it easier to be open and honest about intentions. It's a lot less likely that you'll hold onto someone out of convenience, which in turn leaves you open for the extraordinary - if you believe in those sorts of things ;)

Digital Nomad • Stability

Being on the go all the time precludes you from easily having a pet, a fridge full of your favorite foods, your own space where everything has its own place, exercise rituals. These are things that make me happy! I miss them! POSITIVE: These things and others are not impossible on the road, just harder. By staying 1-2 months in a few places I've been able to get my fix of all these things, but it's an exercise in patience and letting go. I'm an impatient, OCD, occasional control freak, so that's probably a good thing to learn.

NET POSITIVE:

I still get Netflix and chill days where I encounter no other human life forms, but despite those, my brain is constantly igniting with ideas, dreams and schemes. I broke out of a materialistic rut that had sucked my soul for the past decade. I'm creating a life I love on my own terms, and after stripping away the bullshit, I'm learning what I want to add back in. 

Needs

beach yoga = free

beach yoga = free

Anyone who knows me has heard my rants, a skill I credit to Mr. John Anderson aka Dad. A recurring rant of mine has been Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how they play into happiness. Low and behold Mr. Money Mustache covered these Needs this week (please note: required reading) and their relation to spending. In typical MMM fashion, he goes on about flexing your frugal muscles and cutting down on non-essential spending as a source of happiness.

In the last 2 years I've made drastic changes - I'm obnoxiously frugal, debt-free, a digital nomad, a vegetarian. When looking at the Needs, I've always met the basics (food, water, sleep). After the basics I've done ok too, I've maintained friendships, stayed in touch with my family, feel like I'm part of quite a few communities, fought off bed bugs successfully, am always doing something creative and artsy, and feel pretty secure in who I'm shaping up to be as a human.

walking everywhere = free

walking everywhere = free

I'm even doing alright financially, if you follow along on my tracker you'd notice that from January thru May I spent $5,354 on necessities and $1,633 on toys (camera, bike, tattoo, cancelled flights). What isn't in there is what I've made! Since I started working part time in mid-February, I've earned $7,476, plus a nice tax return of $2,794. My motto of "I'll travel til the money runs out" hasn't caught me... yet! 

Once the basic Needs have been sorted, us humans have the chance for Self Actualization. It comes as a result of creative pursuits, service and giving back. Now, by no means am I a saintly person - perhaps not eternal damnation bound, but growing up I spent countless hours on the Bad Chair in the corner, in detention, and banished to my room. If there were equivalents to these as an adult, I would still be putting in hard time. Yet I have an infinite soft spot for dogs. 4 days each week I've been volunteering at two bike-able sanctuaries here in the Algarve.

The first is ADAPO, where there is a run of 6 dogs plus 4 wild dogs who I feed, water, love and hangout with. The second is Goldra where there are on average 120 dogs. I do the same things with these guys in addition to cleaning cages, bathing, grooming, and photographing so that perhaps they might be adopted (or sponsored, here's a link to sponsor one if you want to help out!). Some of these pups have big issues - behavioral, blindness, hit by a car, or as many puppies in Portugal are, left in a dumpster. Troubles and all, I love them. Each and every one. As I spend time with each one, I start daydreaming about adopting him or her and how happy we could be and the mischief we could get into. Perhaps we could explore the U.S. in a cross-country road trip to see everyone I love and miss... Just like John Steinbeck & Charley.

Reality check: I can't provide a stable dog-home right now because I'm not sure what's next, but for the next few months I've found a home here in Portugal and I can spread my time amongst an entire dog family. And guess what? Although NEXT is completely up in the air, I think I'm on the right track. 

BONUS: I've updated my goals. The exercise around this is one I learned when I worked at lululemon, it's shaped me and my decisions since 2010. I've still got to drill down on the next 2 years but I am in LOVE with where I'm headed. Let me know if you would like to do the same and I can coach you!

Infested

Tonight I made pesto pasta in the electronic teapot in my hotel. And it made me so fucking happy. 

Little pleasures like this really matter while enduring a harrowing bed bug infestation. In the last 6 days I've accumulated around 50 bites covering my upper back, face and arms, oh and 9 on my knee, for good measure. For those of you that don't know, bed bugs hide in mattresses, bed frames, walls and travel in clothing and other objects. They can lay dormant for up to a year as they wait for their favorite thing, human blood. For some reason, they LOVE mine. So although I was staying in a relatively nice hostel, someone before me must have left them behind, because, 24 hours post check-in the nasty bumps made their debut. 

(L to R: selfie on day 2; note-to-self in phone; gratitude journal, May 17th)

After a day of scratching I went to a dermatologist who immediately diagnosed me and prescribed some stuff (ugh $). Then I washed all 15kg of my clothes on the hottest setting and was moved into another dorm room in the hostel, with promises of an exterminator. But hello, I woke up this morning with new bites. Cue 3 more rounds of laundry, bagging of belongings, checking into a hotel to cortisone my naked body on repeat while I Netflix & chilled with bae (me), and the teapot pasta. 

tick infested pups, bed bug infested Lulu. samesies.

tick infested pups, bed bug infested Lulu. samesies.

Most of you haven't had a skin condition that marks you in such a miserable and obvious way since the chicken pox, so let me explain, the red bites come in clusters, mostly on your arms, back, face - they can raise into hives, and are so itchy that each night I wake up scratching the shit out of myself. These welts then either blister or open into sores, and as of Day 6, are still quite visible. Did I mention they were on my face? A quick Google search yields interesting responses to bed bug outbreaks such as alienation, depression, oh and suicide. Nice. 

So, I did what any logical woman would do. I joined Tinder. Insert Marilyn Monroe voice "If you can't love me at my worst...blah blah..." In fact, this was not my reasoning but still pretty funny. My first dating experience in Portugal was nice, but isn't that the kiss of death? Nice. Although my sores didn't frighten him away, his lack of a job did frighten me away. 

Through all this I've managed to work, buy a bike, find an Airbnb for the next 2 weeks and volunteer with the dogs at Goldra (a dog sanctuary with 110+ dogs!!). While picking ticks and fleas from the body of an abandoned 4-week-old puppy, it dawned on me that maybe I don't have it so bad. 

Cheetos, Wine, Dark Chocolate

Petunia!

Petunia!

The monitor lizard is stirring in the roof again. I am guessing that he weighs between 10-15 lbs and his tail (the only part I've seen) is >15 inches. T created a trap for him 3 times now and all 3 times the lizard has escaped it , leaving it in pieces. Our housemaid Ann also took it upon herself to take down the trap. This caused a tourette's style fit from Crocodile Dundee (le sigh...). She should have known better, as she was the one who let us know the lizards bring in big money when sold to the locals.

As I'm writing, a cat has strutted through the apartment. This actually happens quite often. Unfortunately though, my Christmas miracle Petunia has decided not to return once she caught on that each visit required a bath. Pretty sure she had fleas, whoops.

romance in the sky

romance in the sky

As of this writing, I definitely smell. The power is out (this occurs almost daily in El Nido as the power grid can't keep up with all the tourists) and so the fans are not cooling me. Also, my generally malaise about taking a shower is extreme. Luckily it's my "day off" - my life is a vacation, so what exactly constitutes a day off? I am not in the dive shop and get to blog and cook dinner for the guys. For the next few weeks I'm running the social media show for the shop to defray some of my divemaster financial obligations. Yet another reminder of how happy I am to be on the back-end of a business instead of babysitting adults under the sea. 

One of the great benefits of my semi-employment is that I have so much alone time. SO MUCH. It's a special treat. Almost as good as some of the Western amenities I crave - rich dark chocolate, a perfect cabernet, Cheetos. Yes. Cheetos. 

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. 

Dawgz

Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels

I have a new dog almost every day. This is quite an easy feat, and thoroughly documented via my Instagram. The dogs in Southeast Asia coexist on the streets with a savviness that keeps most of them fed, humped, and not run over by the loads of tourists on motorbikes. So humped in fact that the females generally have nipples the size of my thumb that flop liberally, not dissimilar to a cow's udder.

The dogs here are quite creatively built. They are shortened + stout versions of all sorts of dogs we have in the States. In addition there is the occasional full breed that hasn't been mixed into the fold yet. An example of this is Jack Daniels, Pai Circus Hostel's yellow lab.

schnauzer-pai-thailand-dog-cute-love-travel-dog

On today's sojourn, I've joined up with a golden retriever and a schnauzer/wirey-furred old thing (who I have to kick out of the circus at least once a day). As my pack and I pass a farm, 3 angry dogs came out to protect their zone so I have to play my alpha card and shout them off. Further along our way, an Asian (non-Thai looking) couple motorbikes up and scolds Isabel (the golden) to come home. My wirey companion and I continue on for a bit but as we approach the circus, she realizes there will be no red carpet entrance (and in fact a fierce yellow lab protecting his turf) and we part ways. 

I miss my Olive, but having a little bit of time with many dogs around the world is such a healing experience. 

Time Travel

I time traveled today. in Amy Poehler's book she refers to time travel - specifically that all of your life experiences are multiple points of reference. These separate points (separated by any amount of time) can be seamlessly brought into one experience when certain things align (stay with me here).

bulldog-grief-death-puppy-love-relax

I experienced this today on Lake Tahoe. In 2006 I graduated and decided to use my graduation money to buy my first puppy, Olive. 2 weeks later I went on a 2 week trip with then boyfriend and left Olive and then cat Bazoo to be watched by a friend (who did a shit job, enter scene: mom guilt). We went to San Fran, Sacramento, Napa and wouldn't you know it, Tahoe. to the exact spot I found myself in today - Emerald Bay. 

I recognized the lake, but only after hiking down did I realize that I had been here. Exactly here. And laid in the sand and done a sand angel. And now. Just now. I realized that I book-ended Olive's life in this precise location. The first time feeling guilty because I was vacationing away from my brand new puppy, this time feeling guilty because I didn't bring my baby girl's ashes with me to commemorate her life.

It's ok though, once I'm ready to let her go she will go some pretty cool places.

Olive

How could I start a blog and not write about you? Half of my heart (the best half) that saw me through my entire 20s and so many wayward decisions with only the occasional side-eye of judgment (I agree, that was stupid, oh and that, you were right). Your little heart was so strong and so ferociously brave and yet you retained this puppy-like exuberance and wild spirit (and were almost entirely untrainable). I'm not sure if you kept me younger or if we did it to each other but there you were, my curmudgeonly little snuggle-bug who maintained a svelte and wily way even through your last moments. 

olive english bulldog love of my life

Now you're gone. And I know it was for the best but when I think about the cause of your death I keep thinking back about what more I could have done. You would have done more for me. I cried all the time at first and now it's about once a week (and every time I drink - hence two months of no drinking cleanses since you left). Mom says that the beauty of your life is that you taught me how to love so deeply, and that your absence has opened up something inside of me that I can share with someone else. I sure hope he is worthy, you've left some big shoes to fill. 

Baby bully, you're so many places I go - the Fens where you used to dive bomb geese-poop-treats, Christopher Columbus park where you growled at the sketchy guy you didn't trust down the alley, under my covers, when I crack my eggs in the morning. You were my perfect reminder to relax because life is so damn short and that really, hundreds of fuzzy belly kisses are the cure to anything in the world. Thank you, without those memories and reminders I would be way less human. 

You're there on my shelf too. In a cedar box. It's not totally befitting your goofy + wild nature but it's still so special to me. I hold it and it's weight grounds me (in death you finally got on that diet I always joked I would put you on...). We've got some big plans this year, and although I'm not ready to open that box just yet, there are some amazing adventures in store for us.