Viva Mexico!

We are alive and well in Puerto Escondido! Even though we had discovered this place in an article about great tropical places for digital nomads like us, this was the only country on our list that we had slight concerns about safety… Online, Mexico sounds like the most dangerous place on earth. We read conflicting stories with some people saying Mexico is all violence and crime and other people saying that the media reports are overblown, especially in certain parts of Mexico. Turns out that for us, the latter has been true.

It reminded us of our experience in Thailand: Right before we arrived, there was a military coup in Thailand which sounded really scary in the news reports. Everyone on the ground told us it’s totally fine and not to worry, and when we arrived ourselves, that was definitely the case. We never experienced any danger in our day to day lives.

Similarly, Puerto Escondido feels pretty safe on the ground (minus all the wild dogs and the risks of smoke inhalation from people burning their trash), which has been such a relief!

Overall, we’ve been really liking our time here. Unlike our experience in Thailand, we don’t feel like people in Mexico resent us for being white or not speaking the language. There are a lot of expats here, especially surfers, but it doesn’t feel like the foreigners have outworn their welcome yet, which is how we felt in Chiang Mai a lot of the time. It’s been great so far.

Mexican Food

The food is amazing (obvs) and actually not very different than the Mexican food we’re used to in America. We were surprised in Thailand to find how different the food was than Americanized Thai food. We sometimes point out how we never had an outstanding meal in Thailand…nothing ever made us go, “Mmmmmm this is so delicious!” In Mexico, it’s the total opposite. So much of the food has made us drool. It’s been so so good.

We have a kitchen in our apartment, but have only used the stove once! It’s just easier (and tastier!) to eat out!

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Playa Zicatela Beach

The location of our apartment is also pretty nice. We’re only about a 5 minute walk from Playa Zicatela, a super long stretch of beach that’s world famous among surfers, which means we walk down there nearly every day to eat and hang out.

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We spend most of our days working on our computers at home but can’t really complain about the office space…

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^^ The view from our balcony.

Dolphin Tour in Puerto Escondido

Our first activity here was a dolphin tour ($20USD per person). The tour started before sunrise so we got some pretty amazing views before leaving the harbor. Once we were out on the open water, we saw dozens of wild dolphins (white belly and spinner!) and also a few sea turtles way out from shore. It was so cool!!!

I only brought my telephoto lens along because I thought the animals would be way off in the distance, but they ended up swimming right along the boat! My lens was not nearly wide enough for me to get any good pictures of them so close. Bummer.  BUT I also tried to put the camera down anyways and just soak it all in with, ya know, my eyeballs. So it wasn’t a total loss.

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^^ I am SOOO SAD this one is blurry but I was focused on looking instead of shooting….Please don’t judge me.

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Releasing Baby Turtles

A couple nights ago, we were having dinner on the beach when we noticed a million people crowded around near the shore. At first we thought they were just admiring the sunset (which was weird because all the sunsets are nice here and not particularly unique enough to merit a crowd), but then another tourist in the restaurant told us that it was a turtle release!

It’s not always possible for sea turtle eggs to survive long enough to hatch and then make it to the ocean, so to protect the species, animal organizations will collect the eggs and assist with their return to the ocean once they’re hatched. You can sometimes pay to have the honor of releasing baby turtles and it’s something I have aaaaalways wanted to do. So I walked down to the group of people and saw that some turtle sanctuary employees had buckets full of baby turtles and were helping to shepherd them toward the ocean!

Guys, it was to-die-for adorable. People were frantically taking photos and when the waves would come up to shore everyone would scream. It was kind of chaotic. This older Mexican woman next to me was screeeaming at people to be careful and not move when the waves came up on land in case you accidentally squished a turtle under your feet.

When the waves receded, all the little baby turtles got flipped over and turned around and were all spread out among the crowd. Their clumsy helplessness was so freaking adorable. I couldn’t handle it.

I didn’t get to hold one in my hands, but I did feel them swimming (or rather, being pushed around by the current) around my legs when the waves came in!

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Glowing Lagoon!

Three or four times a year, Laguna de Manialtepec (about 25 minutes drive outside Puerto Escondido) has this amazing phenomenon where the plankton literally glow when they’re moved and we happen to be here at a time when it’s happening. So three nights ago, we booked a tour with Lalo Eco-Tours and paid 300 pesos (about $18 USD) per person to swim for an hour in a GLOWING lagoon under a dark, moonless sky full of stars. It was literally the coolest thing I have ever done!

The water was amazingly warm and when you swam, the plankton lit up like little stars all over your skin (or as I told David: like Edward in Twilight). You couldn’t feel them, but you could see them everywhere around you. There were three other couples on the tour and all of us were laughing and experimenting: What happens if I swim really fast? Or really slow? Or blow bubbles? Or splash? Or open my eyes under water?

It was hard to decide whether you wanted to look up at the stars in the sky or down at the “stars” in the water, and at one point while we were floating on our backs a shooting star went by!

It’s difficult to capture the glow on camera because it’s super dark and when light shines, the glowing isn’t visible. Our tour guide said a bright moon makes it impossible to see the glow. So I took some long exposure shots of the blue phosphorescent trails left by David swimming and by our boat as it went through the water, and even though they’re blurry you’ll get an idea of what it looked like.

Honestly, I’d pay a $100 for this kind of experience and it was only 20 bucks. So worth it. I thought I would be scared to swim in dark water where I couldn’t touch the ground, but I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing the whole time. It was seriously magical.

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^^ This is the trail of someone swimming back to the boat

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^^ This is David spinning in circles as fast as he can for 30 seconds

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^^ Left: David’s hand and another tourist’s hand dragging along the water. The red is from someone else’s camera and the white streaks are from our tour guide’s flashlight. Right: Our boat’s trail in the water.
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^^ This is me dragging my hand alongside the boat as we drove back to the dock

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^^ This is the trail of the boat in the water. Above the blue luminescence, you can see the gray sky, the black outline of the mangrove trees that surround the lagoon, and the lights of another passing boat.

Almost Home

Mexico is going to be a shorter trip for us than the rest of our monthly country destinations have been. We leave on November 23rd, which is so soon! We both have conflicting feelings about going back…for the last few months, I have been mostly looking forward to going back to America, but now that the day is almost actually here, I’m getting kind of nervous. One minute we’re making plans to keep traveling the world and the next I’m daydreaming about how I’ll decorate our kitchen. I can’t decide how to feel about it. I also see all this stupid stuff about America in the news, and just…ugh. It makes me want to stay on the road forever. I’m torn. So…who knows what the future holds for us. All I know is we have at least two good months of family time in America to look forward to and just a week and a half left abroad. Gotta soak it in while we can!

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Things I Like About Spain

Okay, so we’re in the Canary Islands and not in Spain proper, but still…here are a few things that I like about our October home so far…

Strangers wave to each other!

This is one of my favorite parts so far. Everybody on the street waves to each other. It’s a small island, so people seem to know each other, but I’ve also had people wave and say hello to me, a stranger. Minus one encounter with a rude waiter, people feel pretty friendly in general here.

Food is cheap (relatively speaking)

We’ve been finding pretty big portions of food here for less than $5 USD. And so far it’s been pretty tasty too! Last month in Italy, the food was a lot more expensive and we spent more on food than we’ve ever done on our monthly country trip so far. And that hurt the wallet a bit. To be fair, we did go out to some nicer restaurants than usual while our friend Devon was visiting and probably could have spent a little less on gelato, but…what’s the point of being in Italy if you’re not going to gain a few pounds?

The weather is perfect

I mentioned this in my first post about Spain, but seriously it’s a perfect Goldilocks temperature here. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. There was one crazy humid day, but since then it’s been really really refreshing.

Beeeeeef

You guys. We’ve had so. much. chicken. in the past few months. Partly because it’s a relatively safe meat choice anywhere in the world and partly because it’s usually easy to learn and remember the word for chicken. And when you need to ask the mean lady behind the meat counter who doesn’t speak English and is sick of dealing with the dumb foreigners, you learn to ask for the easy stuff. And for us, that’s meant chicken, chicken, chicken. Having delicious roasted/shredded/grilled beef here has been a wonderful change of pace.

Nice, easy public transportation

Compared to Italy specifically, the bus system here is so nice. It’s 20x cleaner, runs way later into the evening, and comes more often. Plus, it’s cheaper. Win. I do admit though that I’m missing the public transit in America…I can’t remember what it feels like to understand everything about the bus/metro/whatever. I miss knowing social things (like, do you board in the front or middle? do I have to tell them where I’m going? will they yell at me if I stand up in the middle of the ride?) and the logicistical things (like knowing where to buy tickets and being able to understand exactly where/when buses are running). But as far as these things go, Spain’s system isn’t too bad.

The stars!

La Palma, the island we’re on, has a big space observatory which means the whole island uses yellow lights that don’t impede star gazing (just like the Big Island in Hawaii!). And since the population is so low anyways, the light pollution is already minimal. Which means a clear view of the night sky!

Overall, our time in Spain has been very relaxing so far. I’m so glad this ended up being one of our monthly countries!

Thoughts on Italy + Greetings From Spain!

So uh….it’s been a while, huh? We have been going going going with work and friends and workshops and more, so our month in Italy flew by in the blink of an eye! Our time in Italy went something like this…

-One week to settle in
-Our friend from Washington DC visited for a week
-A week in Greece (for me)
-My first wedding styled shoot
-We left Italy

And bam, that was it! In all the chaos, I didn’t even blog here once. Oops! So I’m blogging now just to say hello and give you guys an update on our lives at the moment and answer a few FAQs…

Did you like Italy?

Loved it! I had visited Italy a couple times when I was studying abroad back in 2008-2009, and at the time, it went down in the books as one of my least favorite European countries. *Gasp* I know! But I remember thinking that everyone was really rude, it was really crowded, no one spoke English, and it just didn’t live up to the hype. For example, I remember visiting Milan and running out of activities within an hour, so we ended up eating at McDonalds…twice. Yeah, not my fave city.

But! I’m learning that everything is better with David because on this trip I fell in love with Italy!

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It didn’t hurt that we were in the most picturesque Airbnb ever.

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Minus the relentless bug swarms and a certain sneaky mouse with a taste for our pasta, it was pretty amazing to be out in a historic house in the Tuscan countryside. Just as pretty as we hoped it would be!

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We were also able to take side trips to Cinque Terre, Lucca, and Florence while our friend Devon was visiting from Washington DC. And, of course, they were all magical.

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What was your favorite food in Italy?

It’s impossible to choose! We also ate soooo much good food last month. We had the best homemade pasta at the Spaghetteria in Pisa, cheesey heavenly pizza at Al Castello in Vernazza, and *cough* three *cough* amazing meals at the Trattoria di Montemagno in our little town of Montemagno.

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The Trattoria specifically was to die for. If you ever find yourself in Pisa, it’s worth the 20 minute drive from the city out to the tiny little town of Montemagno just for this restaurant alone. It’s more than just pizza and pasta…in fact, there was no pizza and only one pasta dish on the ever-changing menu when we went! It is just feel-good home cooking…pork chops, cheesy potatoes, soft floury bread. Mmmm. We also tried the green olives (a local specialty) that they serve everyone as an appetizer, and even though we were skeptical at first, as soon as we tried them we instantly fell in love. Then after dinner, we got the most divine coconut cake of my life. Ah, drooling now just thinking about it. If you do go, note that it’s only open after 8 PM and it’s best to call ahead for reservations because this place books up fast.

And also, shout out to this little gelato shop in Calci for some of the best gelato we’ve had! And trust me, we know good gelato when we  see  eat it. Might I recommend a scoop of nutella and a scoop of coconut in a cone?

How’s your wedding photography business going?

Great, thanks for asking! 😉 I’m really getting into the swing of things and building up my portfolio more and more every day. Most recently, I put together a Tuscan inspired styled shoot near my September home of Montemagno, Italy and I’m pretty proud of the results.

I had a beautiful model who is living in Florence now, but I knew from the U of Utah back in the day (small world!), and I worked with an incredible wedding planner, florist, dress designer, and more. So lucky to be in this business! If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen this little sneak peek…

First sneak peek of my sunlit #TuscanFairyTaleBride shoot with @atremm {Planning & Design @la_bottega_del_sogno // Dress @larimeloom // Flowers @labotanique.it // Ring Claudette's Treasures // Bracelet Calliopi Art // Hair & Makeup Pamela Iori}

{Planning & Design @la_bottega_del_sogno // Dress @larimeloom // Flowers @labotanique.it // Ring Claudette’s Treasures // Bracelet Calliopi Art // Hair & Makeup Pamela Iori}

I’ll be sharing more on my wedding photography site soon!

And what’s this about a trip to Greece?

Well! As I mentioned over on my wedding photography website, I was lucky enough to attend an amazing wedding photography workshop for a week in southern Greece! It was organized by Boheme Workshops, and had about a dozen attendees from all over the world. The leaders put together six styled shoots and gave us tips about posing, shooting, social media, marketing and branding, and more. And, if that wasn’t enough, I got to stay at The Romanos: Costa Navarino, aka most gorgeous luxury resort….

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I learned so much about wedding photography, got to meet some amazing fellow photographers, made new friends, and became even more excited about continuing on this new photography adventure!

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I missed David so much and wished he would’ve been able to come! But still, it was fun to get out of our normal routine. Plus, I’d never really traveled places on my own before so that was a fun adventure in itself!

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I can’t post the final wedding photos from the workshop for about another six weeks (to retain exclusivity for the workshop leaders to publish photos first), but I am dying to share them because seriously, those ladies put together some stunning shoots for us.

And how’s David job going?

Also great! He’s earning more now than he ever has while freelancing which is so wonderful because it means we can continue living this crazy digital nomad lifestyle. At the moment, his freelance writing gigs are supporting us both and I’m so so grateful for that. It’s allowing me to dive into photography full time, which would be really expensive — if not impossible — to do in the States.

And for the most part, he is enjoying his work. He doesn’t know if writing will be a full time thing or not…we both still go back and forth on the billion different futures we envision for ourselves. One minute we want to be wild and free, living on the road and freelancing full time and the next minute we want three kids and a dog and a white picket fence. So who knows where we’ll end up in the next few years. But for now, we’re grateful for the lifestyle we’re able to have!

Where are you now??

We are in Spain! The Canary Islands to be exact. They’re located off the coast of Morocco in northern Africa, and they are so so beautiful.

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It took us about 24 hours to get here (why does budget travel take so much longer than I think it will in Europe?), and started with a minor snafu. We had planned on sleeping overnight in the Tenerife airport in order to catch our connection the next morning, but while waiting at the airport in Florence, Italy we found out that the Tenerife airport closes at night! Like, shuts the doors, no one in or out between midnight at 6 AM. Never heard of such a thing before! We ended up having to book a last-minute hotel near the airport, which sucked for the budget, but it ended up being alright. After all that, the last flight of the journey was scheduled just in time to see the sun rising over Tenerife, one of the main islands, and that made it all worth it.

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When we were deciding on places to go for our monthly country adventure, we never were really considering Spain until one day while browsing Airbnb’s listings in Europe, I came across a gorgeous photo of a pool overlooking the ocean. It was close to our budget, available for our dates, and too pretty to ignore. So that sealed the deal! We booked the room and tickets to the Canary Islands!

I mean, how could we pass up this pool…

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And seriously, the view in real life does not disappoint. In fact, the pictures don’t even do it justice.

We’re on the island of La Palma and it reminds us a lot of Hawaii (black sand like the Big Island, steep mountains like Oahu), and the temperature outside is so perfect — it’s that perfect level where you don’t notice it because it’s not too hot or too cold — which makes it easy for us to sit outside and watch the ocean.

I’m still hoping we’ll spot a whale or two from our porch! Our Airbnb host here — who, by the way, is awesome…she’s already taken us on a hike, introduced us to a ton of new foods (cactus fruit! churros dipped in hot chocolate!), is super knowledgeable about the island, and is a world traveler like us! — told us that this is the season for whales. So fingers crossed we see some!

Beyond the cactus fruit and another new fruit called tamarillo which is sort of like a tomato but sweeter, we’ve already had some amazing meals so far. We went to this Venezuelan place in town yesterday and had some delicious shredded beef and black beans. Finally! I know it’s not “Mexican” food, but it’s been nearly impossible to find anything even closely resembling Mexican food over the last few months, so I will take what I can get!

Aaaaanyways…

No promises, but I will definitely try to post here more often since I know our many many fans (hi, Mark!) like to hear updates from us. So we’ll try to be better about that!

For now, adiós!

Montenegro, You’re Totally Redeeming Yourself

As you know, our month in Montenegro started off on a wrong foot after getting our bag stolen, but now it’s back(!) and we’re getting more comfortable going out and doing activities lately. Last Sunday, we decided to do a boat tour of Kotor Bay, and it was amazing! It was a steal at 20 euros per person for an all-day excursion with Pajo tours. We booked it in person at a little stand down by the water here in Herceg Novi.

There were four stops on the tour: 1) Our Lady of the Rocks, 2) Prčanj, 3) Kotor, and 4) Perast. You had about 30 minutes in all places except for Kotor, where you got an hour and a half. The boat was nice and slow, so you could enjoy the scenery passing by minus any potential sea sickness. The mountains were HUGE and the water was an unreal shade of blue. We both agreed that Montenegro ain’t so bad after all 😉

The whole thing was just so beautiful and a great way to spend 20 bucks. Check out some photos of our day below…

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

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Boat tour in Kotor Bay, Montenegro

Good News!

As you know, our time in Montenegro started off with a pretty major bump when we were robbed at the beach on our first day here. They took my phone, backpack, some cash, and our keys. I was trying to stay positive afterwards, which was really difficult, but it ain’t difficult no more because….

THEY FOUND MY PHONE!!!

David got a text on Wednesday from the one of the Montenegrin police officers who had been helping us the day we got robbed. She said they had just arrested “two guys with too many phones.” She told us to go to the police station as soon as we could and see if my phone was there. So we scrambled out of the house, trying not to get our hopes up too high, just in case mine wasn’t there.

We got to the police station and greeted the Inspector, who led us to a back room. He walked inside and walked out two seconds later with my phone in hand! I couldn’t believe it! I snatched it right out of the Inspector’s hands, in disbelief that it was really mine. It still had the case on and everything! It even still had 16% battery left!

I was clapping and laughing and just in total shock.

THEN we went into the Inspector’s office to file an official report and in the corner we saw a pile of empty backpacks. The Inspector started pulling the bags out one-by-one, asking if it was ours. Finally, the fifth or so backpack was our Jansport! This may not sound like a big deal, but to someone who travels the world full-time, losing your bag can be a major setback. In the days in between, we weren’t sure where we could even buy a good replacement bag here in Herceg Novi, so it was such a huge relief to get our original bag back!

Turns out the two guys who took it were from Bosnia and come here during the summers to rob people. Bad guys. But it does make me feel better to know they weren’t Montenegrin and that they may not have been specifically targeting us because we’re American. Or maybe they still were, who knows…

But seriously, I had completely resigned myself to the fact that I’d never see my phone again. I had requested a remote erase with Find My iPhone and everything (side note: if you don’t have this service set up with iCloud, do it today!!!!). We were making plans on how to get a new one and, because my birthday happened to be two days after we got robbed, losing my phone had been such a party ruiner. I didn’t want to do ANYthing that cost money because I knew we’d have to be buying an expensive replacement phone soon. But then FINDING my phone was the biggest relief! So much money we won’t have to spend now!

And really, what are the odds of the police not just finding the thieves but also finding my phone just days after it was taken?? I can’t believe it hadn’t ended up on the black market yet or anything! So so lucky.

One of the police officers told me to make sure everyone in Hawaii knows that the Montenegrin police did a good job, haha. And they really really really did. Forever grateful!

I’m feeling MUCH more optimistic now about the rest of our time in Montenegro. We’re trying to plan a boat tour of Kotor Bay on Saturday to make up for the crappy first week. Can’t wait!