Category Archives: Colorado Daily Life

Loving February Plus Heliconias!


Posted by Cassie

Back in Colorado February was by far my least favorite month. The novelty of snow and cold had long since worn off, the holidays and the excitement they bring were over and cabin fever began to set in big time. It was cold and dark and everything was just waiting…waiting for spring and life again. I would often read the seed catalogs and long for spring and gardening, being outside, spending time with friends and just enjoying the beautiful warm days of summer.

Cassie and Turkeys
Playing outside in the winter. Two turkeys at a time! Just like pelicans! :-)

But now, we basically live an endless summer. I don’t even really think about those cold Colorado days much anymore except what I hear from my friends and family. Nowadays it’s flipflops and shorts year round. It does get a bit “chilly” here now that we are acclimated. I snuggle with a small blanket at night now and I like the slightly warmed water in the shower. But all the doors and windows are open. There are no heaters or humidifiers and it just feels perfect. It’s the type of weather you don’t even really notice because you are just so comfortable in your own skin. I know some people really like the changing of the seasons and the cold, but for me, I couldn’t be happier in always warm weather. I guess it’s sort of like Mondays now. I used to dread Mondays because I loved the weekends so much, now Mondays are just another lovely day. Every day here is a Saturday in summer!

Megan and Me
Pool parties in February -with my wonderful friend Megan

Things are very much still alive here! There is less rain in February so the yard work diminishes and while some of the grasses turn brown waiting for water, for some plants like these heliconias, it is their time to shine! The whales are visiting Rincón and other animals like the turkeys and chickens are preparing for their spring babies.

Bright Heliconias
Explosion of color in these heliconias -thanks to starts from our friends Missy and Ben

What a contrast to the grey, dark and cold Februarys. I am still so much in love with living here that I feel more alive and vibrant myself every day.

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Just Flew Back to Mayaguez


Posted by Britton

….and boy are my arms tired!!

I took a short trip back to Colorado to visit my family while Cassie stayed behind and took care of the finca.

Colorado Trip

Almost 2 years has passed since I saw this silhouette.  I was greeted by this on the way to work and back everyday for many years.

This trip was the first time I had taken the Cape Air flight out of Mayaguez.  I have to say that it was super fun.  I have my pilots license but it had been several years since I have been on a small plane.  I was able to sit in the co-pilot’s seat on both trips which was awesome!  Check the video above of the landing, we even went through a little rain on the way in!

San Juan Airplane Ride

San Juan Cape AirCool Paint Job! (In San Juan, not the plane I was in)

It was great seeing everyone!  Friends in Longmont and Greeley and all the family.

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Stop Looking for Stop Lights


Posted by Britton

I used to commute about 45 miles to work.  Every day I would drive on the hi-way and interstate to and from work.  When one drives this much a lot of thoughts go thru your head and I used to get annoyed at stop lights.  I’d have to stop, waste time and they were always increasing in numbers.  They slowed me down for an ETERNITY and there were new stoplights at intersections that didn’t previously have them, which were more chances of having to slow down.   How much of my life was I spending at red lights?!? I made a game out of trying to not get stopped at lights.  Time them right, take a little different route, etc.  I was actively seeking out the red lights, so that I could avoid them.

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Who controls our happiness?

One day Cassie had suggested that I try it a different way.  I agreed and decided that I would look for how many green lights I went thru.  Same drive, same route only a different perspective.  It was amazing how many green lights I found.  My perspective changed and it was kind of amazing how the frequency of red stoplights changed as well as well as how long they appeared to last.  I found so many green lights, and it made me happy to see them.  Instead of seeking out frustrating things that would ultimately annoy me when I got to them, I sought out something that kept my cruise going and saved me time.  Every green light was a win. Even our language filters our perspective. So instead of stop lights, they were now “go lights”.

This changed my commute.  It was amazing how many green lights I saw and how few red lights stopped me, or rather, that I stopped for.  When I did get stopped at a red light, it became a lot less frustrating because the ratio of green to red made it seem ok.  6 green lights to 1 red light….Not so bad, especially compared to the “OMG stupid red light slowing me down!!!” thought process I had been using.

I had listened to an NPR series of broadcasts on one of those commutes back in Colorado.  The stories titled “Puerto Rico: A Disenchanted Island” focused on high crime, corruption, murder, high unemployment, politics and people moving to other states to “escape their island woes”.  When I listened to this I didn’t identify with it.  It didn’t seem like the PR that we had visited so many times.

I didn’t really think much about it until just the other day.  We had visited our friends in Maricao and I had mentioned that I don’t know how “Puerto Ricans can afford these nice cars and continually shop at the malls, where in the US the malls are vacant and dead”.  They’re jobless after all right?  And things here are so dire!  It was brought up that the stats the US uses on the economy simply aren’t accurate.  There is a lot of economic activity that doesn’t show up on the stats the US government uses.  There is a large informal economy here.

When I listened to the NPR broadcast I didn’t even really think much about it at the time, but the perspective used was first of all, from the perspective of the news.  The news is simply there to create a listening audience and they do this by reporting information people tune into.  Turn on any news broadcast at any time and you will see proof of this.  “If it bleeds it leads”.   The reporting also comes from the perspective of the US.  Having lived in the mainland for so long there are a few simple ideas that are always taken for granted.  Money is success, jobs are good and not working for the man either means you’re lazy and worthless or that the economy controls your fate (or if you do it long enough you’re put out to pasture/retired).

I suppose I choose to see things differently, not that any of those things are true or false, good or bad.  As an example I lived in a city with high poverty rates and the gangs, drugs and shootings were often reported in the local newspaper.  I however, didn’t personally encounter any problems with it…ever.  When I stopped focusing on the news, my city became a more pleasant place to live.  Beautiful parks, lots of places to eat and good friends to see movies with.

I guess this is basically another way of asking the age old glass half full/empty question.

perspective
It depends on your perspective

The point is that there are red stoplights.  I don’t have to focus on them and I don’t have to abide by the general idea that they are good or bad.  I can choose which glasses to wear.  For example I could see the red lights as a life saving measure for society instead of an inconvenience to ME and MY daily commute;  it is a choice.  Dirty dishes in the sink are either a continuous chore that never ceases, or a sign of having food to eat. Sometimes it is hard to try on different perspectives: almost as difficult it seems as learning a foreign language. But it is possible and the world opens up and becomes a whole new place full of more possibilities.

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Yesterday we were burning piles of dried trees and vines that we had cut down a few weeks ago.  We stopped a few times throughout the day for beer breaks and lunch then got back to it.  We watched the hawks floating in the air like kites. At dinner time we were both pretty wiped out so we took showers and I took a shovel down to the smoldering pile and got a few scoops of hot coals so I could cook chicken for dinner.  The air was incredibly perfect at 80 degrees and I am in only shorts and flip flops, the property is looking better than ever and we have lots of fruit trees planted.

Is it the life we have built and decided to live or we are unemployed and the conditions are dire? Do we have a crazy untamed property or just enough work to keep us motivated? Do we live in the sweltering humid tropics or are we not freezing our butts off in a temperate desert?  It all depends on which glasses you want to put on.

Even this post will be construed differently by everyone who reads it because we all have different perspectives, different life experiences, different opinions. And that’s what makes reality ever harder to REALLY pin down. It’s different for everyone.

But doesn’t it seem just a little fitting that there are no stoplights at all in Rincón? :-)

 

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So What Do You Do? Or How to Quit Your Job and Move to the Tropics


Posted by Cassie

“So what do you do?”

Invariably when you meet someone for the first time, this question is bound to come up. It tells you a lot about that person and gives you a baseline for some of the interests and background of that person. In fact, I ask it a lot myself.

In Colorado we had pretty “normal” answers. Britton and I both worked full-time professional jobs, had a standard house and yard to maintain and had a few hobbies like our chickens, bicycling and gardening.

But now that we have moved here to Rincón, Puerto Rico, when we are asked that question, it is a little harder to say. We are not exactly retired, but we don’t exactly “work” either. I would say I work physically a lot harder than I ever did before, but I don’t get paid to do it. So is that work? Or do I just ”hobby” around? It’s funny how our self identification seems more clear when we are paid to do something rather than when we choose to do it on our own time. Why is that? Why does money muddle who we are? Wouldn’t you think it would be the opposite? That what you do just because you do is actually closer to the real you? And what exactly is the difference between doing something professionally or as a hobby? Is it that you have an “official” title and job description or does it all boil down to the paycheck?

Painting the cabana
Meeting reminder: Paint, meet the trim of the cabana

Well we don’t work for a paycheck anymore. So what do we do if we don’t do that? And more importantly then who am I? How do we describe ourselves and “what we do”? Well, every day we do something! Sometimes it is painting a house. Sometimes it is tearing apart a deck. Sometimes it is clearing trees and vines. Sometimes it is planting new trees. Sometimes it is figuring out computer issues. Sometimes it is laying on the beach. Sometimes it is going on marathon shopping trips to Home Depot or garden nurseries that will mean even more work the next day. Sometimes we go out and meet up with people. Sometimes we just lay around the cabana and read and watch shows on the laptop and cook food. Essentially, what we do is…live!

Surrounded by plants
 A day at the office

But I think the question beneath the question of “what do you do” is really…”How do you make money?” And when you separate the daily what-you-do from the money question it makes it much harder to define. If what I do doesn’t directly earn me money is it then therefore still who I am? I think this question has plagued stay-at-home moms and dads for a long time. They could be working their butts off day and night but because there is no paycheck, it doesn’t seem as “real” to some (usually those who are still wage earners) as paid labor.

The “work hard” mentality is usually tied to earning money. And that is a hard game to play, especially for low-wage earners because the shortage ultimately will be - time! You can only work so many hours in a day. If you are a mid-range (and especially high) wage earner it will still be tough, but if you want to, you can stop playing the stressful rat race game. In reality, if you want to get off  the rat race treadmill you have to change your mentality toward working hard and climbing the ladder only to spend more and climb more. At least that was our wake up moment.

Everything boils down to how you envision your life. To us, we saw keeping expenses down as more important than earnings and so we were able to get out of the rat race. Just like it takes a lot more effort to run 10 miles than to just not eat the cookies, it takes a lot more effort to work your whole life than it does to just not buy into all the consumerism. There is some discipline and will-power in there somewhere too, but it is much simpler to just go without sometimes. Not always. Just sometimes. And that’s what we did to get here to this point where we could pretty much do whatever we want to do each day. Seemed like a good trade to us.

Hibiscus
My office view

The money game is really not that hard to figure out. You need to be able to save more than you spend. You should have as little debt and subscriptions (AKA ongoing expenses) as possible and you need to figure out some recurring income. We set a goal to save up enough money to live here with very little expenses and we have a small amount of investment income as well. We worked at our traditional jobs with that goal in mind and bought and worked on our investments and now we are here! We also intend in the future to possibly sell some agricultural products (fruits, plants, chicken eggs, etc), have a little cabana rental income eventually and always keep an eye out for what other opportunities might come up that speak to our spirit.

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On the task list: Fog the mosquitos

And what is really cool about living here, especially in Rincón is that there are so many other like-minded people! Nearly half the “expat” community of people we have met have made a similar jump to the unknown and come down here with a hope and a dream (and sometimes a plan). They start doing what they love to do and soon they are even being paid to do it or they make a business out of it. People come here to play, and I don’t just mean in the ocean.  They, we! come to play the game, the life, of our choosing. When you get down to it, that’s what life is really all about.

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The board room

Sure you need to have your basic needs met. And like I said, for some people this is harder than for others. But if you are blessed with your basic needs met then beyond that, your dreams, your creativity, your preferences, your real true self underneath it all should mean something too. And if you feel that you are at your highest self working a traditional job, then by all means do that! But if you have an itch to go out and try something new, if you know deep down that you are ready for an adventure then work towards living the dream! And then go do it! It really IS all that it is cracked up to be. Believe me. It’s what I do for a living.

 

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