Tips to Avoid a Mediocre Life

Most humans, in varying degrees, are already dead. In one way or another they have lost their dreams, their ambitions, their desire for a better life. They have surrendered their fight for self-esteem and they have compromised their great potential. They have settled for a life of mediocrity, days of despair and nights of tears. They are no more than living deaths confined to cemeteries of their choice. Yet they need not remain in that state. They can be resurrected from their sorry condition. They can each perform the greatest miracle in the world. They can each come back from the dead…”

Og Mandino, The Greatest Miracle in World

The quote sums up my life during our crisis of 2018. It took me a year to regain my identity and zest for life and to avoid mediocrity, an unfulfilled life without the highs and lows. Last week, our son experienced the roller coaster of highs and lows in his life. Like us, he takes calculated risks, always seeking to fulfill dreams.

Yet, along with the journey through a fulfilled life, one will experience intense lows with the exhilarating highs. Ron told our son, “You can live a life of mediocrity,  but you will never experience the highs and lows. This is such an exciting time in your life, and we are so proud that you are living without mediocrity. This low will pass.”

And of course, it did. So, as you tour my photos of cemeteries in Baja, Mexico, here are some tips to avoid a mediocre life.

Continue reading

Compatible Travelers

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility.”
Leo Tolstoy

I stood in the road to take a photo of the unusual vine-woven sculpted horse in front of Hotel Veneka in La Paz, Mexico. When I turned around to find Ron, he had already crossed the road and made a dash for the lobby of the hotel.

“Debbie, you have to see this place!” he shouted. “It’s wild.”

When you come to a fork in the road…Take It – Yogi Berra

You see…that is the difference between Ron and me. He travels without reservations. I travel planned and controlled. I take photos; he gets frustrated waiting for me to line up the perfect shot.

How do we deal with our incompatibility travel issues?

“Oh no!” I thought. “He is going to be kicked out and I will have to bail him out of jail or something.”

Continue reading

2020 Vision

“By the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, the old will outnumber the young.”~Maggie Kuhn

We are the baby boomer generation. As I age, I want to learn to make my vision crystal clear so that my fears become irrelevant and not me. Easier said, than done. I know because I have been confined by my fears at different times of my life and have learned to push through my fears as well as make friends with them. My goals for 2020, the year of perfect vision, are told through some of my favorite photos of 2019.

“Sight is what you see with your eyes, vision is what you see with your mind.”

I have recently had two eye operations to improve my sight. My vision was cloudy…maybe a metaphor for my past life. Now, that I can see clearly, I want to envision my life filled with beauty. I am tired of seeing the ugly first. There is beauty in everything. 

Continue reading

How to Make Friendly Connections When Traveling

The conversations, like many others I had with people on trains, derived an easy candor from the shared journey, the comfort of the dining car, and the certain knowledge that neither of us would see each other again.” – Paul Theroux

Living in Nicaragua on Ometepe Island for over a decade, we effortlessly made friends with locals, tourists, and other expats. I was thrilled that the world came to our doorstep where we could share our experiences with travelers new to Nicaragua, as well as move beyond what I call “surface conversations” with longterm expats.

Now that we are somewhat nomadic travelers for months at a time, I worried about making friends throughout our journeys. Was it possible to leave cherished connections behind and stoke new connections on the road? Would we be lonely? How do we meet locals and likeminded travelers and will those connections be fleeting or long lasting?

As we age, it is more difficult to establish connections with other adults for a number of reasons: work commitments, family obligations, and demands of everyday life. As a retired expat, it was easy to establish likeminded connections because we all left family behind, so we became family sharing our traditions, holidays, language, and lives abroad.

It was depressing returning to our home in the states. Most of our friends and family lived far away. We are retired, so the work connections we once had faded to Christmas cards and Facebook likes. Plus, we didn’t fit in anymore. We had seen too much, traveled too far, explored other cultures from different perspectives, and we live in a really RED southern state, so that gives you an idea of how we are or aren’t accepted.

Therefore, we travel. Travel experiences create opportunities that force you to interact with — and cooperate with — strangers. Although, most people don’t travel to meet people, we thrive on making connections with people from all walks of life and all countries. One of our favorite places to make connections, however fleeting, is on public transportation.

Our train was late. We had tickets from Bratislava, Slovakia to Budapest, Hungary. The Asian people with the giant pink suitcases were getting on the same train, so we watched them to see what train they boarded. We had reserved seats, but we had no idea what car we were in and we couldn’t find any car number on our tickets.

Trains appeared and disappeared and our new Asian friends remained sitting on the bench beside us. When, finally the giant pink suitcases in my peripheral vision moved toward the train doors, we ran to the closest car and hopped in. Just in time too because the train pulled out of the station as I took my last big step up into a crowded car.

We were jostled and bucked into school backpacks littering the tiny aisles. Excuse me. Oh, I am so sorry. Did I run over your foot with my suitcase?
Three cars were packed with school children looking forward to a week’s adventure in an old Russian army camp.

Upon entering the third train car crammed with school children, I was almost in tears. I can’t do this anymore. I need a seat, here…now! Just then the train rounded a curve and we were thrown into a compartment with three teenage boys and two empty seats.

I plopped into the seat, wiped my sweaty brow, and settled in for our trip to Budapest. One of the boys tapped my shoulder and spoke in broken English, “ Our school director rented these three cars for our school trip. She wants you to leave, but I told her we want to practice our English, so she said you can stay. “

And that was the beginning of a fleeting friendship with three teenage boys from a private school in Prague, Czech Republic who wanted to know all about our lives in the USA. We laughed, we sang songs, we discussed politics, we compared families and schools, we shared stories and we hugged goodbye when they left for their march with their suitcases and backpacks to the old Russian army camp.

Continue reading

Identity Recalibration

“I don’t know who I am right now. But I know who I’m not. And I like that.”
— Amber Smith (The Way I Used to Be)

When I had my lower teeth pulled, I spent a lot of time gazing into the mirror to see who was there. Sometimes the reflection resembled me. At other times, I stared at a face that seemed similar, but was hardened by creases and dotted with age spots. But, the laugh wrinkles fanning my eyes were always there. That was comforting and pulled me back to reality.

A metamorphosis of my face took place when we left Nicaragua. The mutation was slow, but noticeable. I became a younger old adult. no longer could I fool myself into thinking I was young and vibrant, although inwardly I felt that way. The stress lines were deeper, my skin was saggier, and I could no longer identify as an expat.

Who was I and how could I redefine myself?

It took a year of grieving for a life I no longer owned to shake myself into a different…and better…reality. I am almost there. And it dawned on me that my passions were responsible for my mindset. Once I reminded myself that I create my life, the world opened up! I was becoming and transforming into me again…along with all the warts, imperfections, and sagging body parts.
Continue reading