“What are we busy about?”

It is not enough to be busy.  So are the ants.  The question is:
What are we busy about?

~Henry David Thoreau

Sheila & Kai

Remember us?

So, what ARE we busy about?

Even though we’ve been negligent in keeping you up to date on our blog (Psst. We do update our Facebook page regularly.) it doesn’t mean we’re not busy with some worthwhile projects.  Since our last  “Reflective Update” was a year ago this week, I thought it was as good a time as any to review the goals we had set and give another update of where we’re headed next.  There’s a lot to cover so we’ll share it over 3 posts:

Post #1 = Goals of “Continued Travel Blogging” and “Writing a Tiny House Book

Post #2 = Goal of “Planned Breaks from Cycling & Coverage of Projects Important to Us

Post #3 = Goal of “Digital Dandies & Creating Community

 

Goal :: Continued Travel Blogging

We’ve posted 21 journal entries over the last year, sharing our experiences as we traveled through five beautiful Mexican states.  Kai also managed to write “A Bicycling Guide to Baja California Peninsula” for BajaInsider.com.  We’re currently updating the “Guide to Baja” with tips, tricks and GPS tracks, which we intend to offer as a free e-Book through this site.

We have a backlog of posts about our time in Jalisco and although it never feels like we’ll have enough time to “catch up”, we’re working on it.

And what about that traveling bit?  Well, although we still ride our bicycles around and between the lakeside towns most every day, and we have taken time out to do some bike overnights, it’s not the same as long-distance touring.  We are yearning to be on tour again and we will be on our way once we achieve that pesky goal listed below.  Right now the plan is to continue cycling south near the end of the rainy season, in September or early October.

Bicycling Around the World :: Highway 3 to Ojos Negros, Baja California, Mexico

Ah, yes, cycle touring…..didn’t we used to do that? 🙂

Goal :: Writing a Tiny House Book

Our goal was to take a break last summer to start & finish writing a book about our experience designing and building our Tiny House.  We actually didn’t get started on this project till late fall of 2012.  It’s been slow going since we had never written a book before and had no clue where to start.  We flailed around for awhile until we got our groove on but, to be honest, writing a book takes more effort than we ever imagined (hats off to all you disciplined writers out there).

In addition, we’ve had our share of distractions from writing, namely the need to work on letting go of some baggage that wasn’t helping our relationship.  Yes, it’s been one hell of a year, a year of letting go, of awakening and of gratitude.  And a year that never would have happened if we had not decided to simplify our lives, build our Tiny House and fulfill a dream of cycling around the world.  We feel like we’re exactly in the place we’re supposed to be right now and that’s a great feeling.

We’re currently busy writing the final chapters of our Tiny House book, touching up the sketch up files, and editing the photos and diagrams we’ll include with the book.  Our goal is to try to wrap it all up by the end of August or beginning of September.  If you’re interested in keeping up to date on our progress and want to gain access to subscriber-only discounts and giveaways of our book, please subscribe to our Tiny House Newsletter.

Our Tiny House

Tiny House Related Resources

In the meantime, while you’re waiting for us to finish our book, check out these great links and resources, made especially for the Tiny House Enthusiast:

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You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap) : How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too, a book written by fellow Tiny House owner Tammy Stroebel.  I just finished reading this book and it’s an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning how to simplify, one step at a time.  Tammy’s fresh take on our things, our work, and our relationships spells out micro-actions that anyone can take to step into a life that’s more conscious and connected, sustainable and sustaining, heartfelt and happy.  And if you like that book, you might also be interested in her book, “Smalltopia: A Practical Guide to Working for Yourself”.

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Don’t Miss Out on Tiny r(E)volution’s “Small Home. Big Life.” e-Cours[E].  We’re very excited that Andrew & Crystal, who built their own Tiny House, are offering the first-ever AFFORDABLE & ACCESSIBLE e-Course for those interested in learning how to build a tiny house.  Perfect for those who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on travel, accommodation, workshops or plans just yet.  This is a 30-day self-paced course offering detailed information and How-To’s.  REGISTER NOW TO PARTICIPATE in the JUNE 23rd COURSE.

 

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Next up :: An update on our goal “Planned Breaks from Cycling & Coverage of Projects Important to Us“, where we’ll share projects we’ve been working on related to our website, activism, fundraising and volunteerism.

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Scenes from Lake Chapala :: Part 2

More photos of our time spent on the north shore of Lake Chapala, taken in various locations between Ajijic and Chapala.

Kai surrounded by flowers, Ajijic

Kai surrounded by flowers, Ajijic

Ajijic Street Scene

A bright and happy abode.

Chapala Monday Market

Chapala Market Day

Chapala Monday Market

Chapala Monday Market : Prickly Pear

Chapala Market :: Prickly Pear

Chapala Monday Market

Kai walking through the Monday Market

Rugs being sold off highway, Ajijic

Wook rugs for sale along the highway.

Bicycle shop in Ajijic

Stopping to chat with the local bicycle shop mechanic/owner.

Cobblestone streets in Ajijic

Close up of cobblestones that run throughout the towns.

Ajijic Street Scene : Murals

Cool gallery in Ajijic.

Food Vendor, downtown Ajijic

Street vendor setting up off Ajijic Plaza.

Ajijic Street Scene : Murals (Efren Gonzalez)

Ajijic Street Scene : Murals by Efren Gonzalez – absolutely gorgeous!

Students walking home, Ajijic

School’s Out for the Day.

Flowers, Ajijic

Beautiful flowers, growing on thick, thorny stalks.

Ajijic Street Scenes :  Highway vendors

Vendors selling goods along the highway.

Lake Chapala, from Chapala Malecon

View of Lake Chapala from Chapala’s Malecon

Scenes on Lake Chapala : Looking from Chapala Malecon

Lake Chapala, Chapala

Kai stopping at an Indoor Market in Chapala

Indoor market, Chapala

Indoor Market in Chapala

Meat Market

Flowers in San Antonio Tlayacapan

Flowers in San Antonio Tlayacapan

Kids Playing in Chapala

Kids playing in the plaza, Chapala.

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Chapala's Tianguis :: Monday Market

One of my favorites at the market :: candied sweet potatoes. YUMMMMMY!

If there’s one thing Kai & I love, it’s good food. And we can find plenty of it around Lake Chapala.

We found an organic vegetable market just down the street from us that happens every Tuesday and that’s become our go-to market every week but when we first arrived we rode the 7 km to Chapala to check out their Monday Market.  It’s a much larger market, stretching for blocks through the city, and you can get great deals here on almost anything.  Broke your glass coffee pot and need a replacement?  They’ll have it.  Need clothes, a bed or shoes?  They’ll have that too.

Check out the video below of our stroll through the market:

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Bicycling Around the World :: Chapala’s Tianguis (Monday Market) from 2 cycle 2gether on Vimeo.

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Scenes from Lake Chapala :: September

Flowers, Ajijic

Flowers in Ajijic

As I said in our last post, we have lots of catching up to do.

Over the coming weeks we’re going to be posting about a variety of things, from the inspirational people we’ve met while in Mexico to updates and reviews on our cycling gear and equipment.

We’re also going to throw in a post or two on some additional details about our Tiny House.  Although we’ve already shared 16 videos of our building progress and lots of posts about things like appliances and building science, we realized in preparing for the release of our Tiny House eBook that we haven’t shared many photos on our blog.  And since we gleaned so much information from other Tiny House DIYers photos before we built our own home, we want to share what we can if it might be helpful to someone else.

But, today, we’ll start with some photos from when we first arrived in Ajijic in September:

Our First backyard in Ajijic

I’m in love with all the flowers in Ajijic. This is a view of our backyard fence and the vines/bushes growing over it. Just lovely.

Ajijic Street Scene

Ajijic’s streets are cobblestone and usually steep. Sometimes it’s easier on our bikes (and us) to push them up the sidewalks rather than ride them.

Dentist office in Ajijic

A Dentist’s Office is directly across the street from us. 150 Pesos for a cleaning – that’s around $12US

Flowers, Ajijic

More beautiful flowers hanging over the fences, taken on a morning walk.

Jesús López Vega, beginning of mural

I met Jesús López Vega on one of my morning walks, as he was painting a mural on a city street wall. I spent the next couple of hours with him in his studio, looking at and talking about his amazing art work, life and humankind’s uncanny ability to pollute the earth. More on Jesús and his life/work to come in a future post.

Lake Chapala, Ajijic

View of Heron on Lake Chapala, mountains on the other side of the lake barely visible.

Lake Chapala, Ajijic Malecon

Another view of Lake Chapala from the Ajijic Malecon

Ajijic outdoor theatre on the malecon

An outdoor theater in Ajijic, along the malecon.


Sheila, after first haircut in over a year!

I hadn’t had my hair cut in over a year so I splurged on one since we were actually stopping for a bit in Ajijic. Made me look presentable for a couple of days, until my hair went back to it’s naturally squirrely, curly state.

Ajijic Street Scene : Mural

Mural on a bathroom wall off the malecon in Ajijic. “Baños Mujeres – 3 pesos” = Women’s Bathroom (cost to enter 3 pesos).

Ajijic Street Scene : Mural

Colorful murals are painted on businesses and homes throughout town. Also, you’ll notice those bright orange flowering trees all over the place.

Fred, Cris, Sheila & Kai

Fred, Cris and their dog Greta (our warmshowers.org hosts in Mazatlan) stopped by for a visit. We were so glad to have had the opportunity to spend time with them again. (They’re currently bicycle touring through southern Laos.)

Ajijic Street Scene

On the streets of Ajijic, Fred in the distance.

Ajijic Street Scene : Mural

Another great mural on the streets of Ajijic.

Basket Maker/Vender in Ajijic

This gentleman walks the streets every day, selling his baskets and hats. I bought a cool small change purse from him made of recycled candy/chip wrappers.

Ajijic Street Scene : Mural

One of the more impressive murals in Ajijic. This building houses the police station.

Walking/Wheelchair ramp in Ajijic

Even their walking/wheelchair ramps are works of art!

Ajijic Street Scene

Upholstery Shop in Ajijic

Ajijic Street Scene

Streetscape of Ajijic.

Next up: Gear Reviews and October Photos

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Time & Permission :: On the Shores of Lake Chapala

The gringo/gringa cycling train to Chapala

James, Margit, Marina, Kai & I cycling to Chapala.

It’s hard to believe our two month break from the bicycles has turned in to a six-month break!  Even though we’ve been relatively quiet on our blog we’ve been really busy behind the scenes.  We have a lot to share with you, so let’s get caught up….

Way back in September Kai & I decided to make a run for the small town of Ajijic, a short 36 mile ride south of Guadalajara to check out an almost too-good-to-be-true short-term rental opportunity.  We had decided to take a few months off the bicycles to focus on some work we needed to do.

We seem to have a knack for serendipitously reuniting with James and Margit.  Just after merging back on to the highway after a quick lunch at a roadside restaurant, I was surprised to hear a familiar voice behind me.  James!  Turns out he, Margit and Marina had also decided to leave Guadalajara that same day!  We both thought we had missed each other by a few days time so we were happily surprised to see each other again.

Cycling to Chapala

View on the way to Chapala

James, Margit & Marina

James, Margit & Marina on Chapala’s Malecon

Chapala park

Chapala

As Margit, James & Marina headed on to their final destination, Kai & I rode West to Ajijic.  There, we met with Toni & Chad, a couple we had been corresponding with over the last week via email.  They had generously offered to let us stay in one of their rental homes for an unbelievably discounted rate.  When we first saw the home we just about cried, it was so beautiful and peaceful, exactly what we needed to focus on our work.

Our luxurious home for a couple of months. *We feel Spoiled*

Airing out the sleeping bags

Airing out the sleeping bags in our back yard. YES, that IS an avocado tree. *Heavenly*

About Ajijic

The town of Ajijic (pronounced Ah-ee-heec) sits on the north shore of Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico, and snuggles with the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain Range, at a little over 5000 feet above sea level.  The average temperature is 72F (22C) and it’s a gorgeous place.  National Geographic named this area the “the Second Best Climate in the World” and because of it’s close location to Guadalajara and the airport, it’s also become home to the world’s largest ex-pat community.

Views from the Mirador : Lake Chapala

A view of Ajijic and Lake Chapala

Views of Lake Chapala from San Antonio Tlayacapan

And a look at the mountains from lakeside.

To be honest, we had mixed reactions about settling here for an extended break. We tend to shy away from touristy or ex-pat communities in general, mainly because we don’t support the negative effects that can result from the birth of such communities – the environmental damage that over-development causes, the excessive pressure put on existing infrastructures and the exploitation of local cultures, land and resources.  And although there are locally run and ex-pat driven organizations fighting to keep things in balance, when profit-driven agendas exist,  it’s often a losing battle.

New Development, San Antonio Tlayacapan

Tearing up the mountain to make room for new development.

On the other hand, we also realize ex-pat communities can help grow local economies, can bring in extra funding for local initiatives and can help improve overall infrastructures, if done properly and with the approval of local people.  A lot of the ex-pats that live here have embraced the culture of this area and have become invaluable members of the community. Many of them, although technically ‘retired’ bring their skills to the community table and help create healthier balances.  They care about the quality of the air, the food, the water and they do everything they can to help protect these things.  They speak Spanish fluently, buy their food and household items from local markets and vendors, and maintain friendships with their neighbors.  Many of the people who move here full time do so to get away from unhealthy imbalances that existed back home and they find a more peaceful, healthier lifestyle in Mexico.

We can understand why people settle here.  There is something magical and healing about this place.

During our time here, we’ve been taking advantage of having access to a reliable internet connection and to an abundance of affordable, beautiful rentals (many homes here are empty due to the ongoing fear of drug-related violence in this area).  Miles of bicycle paths run along the main road between Chapala and Jocotopec, so we’re loving that!  We’re addicted to the Tuesday organic food market just down the street from us, where we can pick up an unbelievable selection of fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers.  We’ve been spoiled by the consistently beautiful weather, seen some gorgeous sunsets and formed some amazing friendships with people here.

Super wide bicycle path, Ajijic

Wide and beautiful bicycle lanes.

Chapala Market Day : Our bounty

Fruits and vegetables from a local market.

 

So, what exactly have we been doing?!

We’re feeling pretty spoiled right now but it couldn’t have come at a better time in our lives.  The truth is, we needed a break from the road to deal with some pretty important work.  Here’s the run down of what we’ve been up to:

Writing a Tiny House eBook

Of course, as most of you already know, we’ve been pulling together all our videos, notes, floor plans, diagrams and Sketch Up drawings of our Tiny House in order to create one cohesive, detailed How-To-Build eBook.  We’ve been making great progress on that project and we’re really excited to share our story with those who are interested in building a Tiny House like ours or who would just like to know what to expect before you decide to build your own home.  Sign up to receive our Tiny House Newsletterif you’re interested in finding out more about our book.

Jesús López Vega

Ajijic Artist Jesús López Vega

Meeting & Interviewing Inspirational People

We’ve also been meeting some pretty inspirational people in Jalisco – a young woman who started a seed-saving network for this area, a group of people who after training with Maya Pedal have started a bike machines cooperative, an artist who has an amazing life story and who creates beautiful work that challenges us to think about life, politics and environmental destruction…just to name a few.  We’ll share the interviews, videos and profiles of these folks in upcoming posts.

Volunteer Work

We’ve discovered several new foundations and organizations that are doing great things in the world, a couple of which I’ve been volunteering with directly.  I’ve been helping to update some organizational databases from afar for Wiser.org and I’ve recently taken on revamping a website and designing some promotional material for a  local health clinic that serves the indigenous population in and around Ajijic.  Kai and I are really excited to cycle out to a village where the clinic provides services next week, to take photographs of their work for their new website.   We’ll update our Fundraising page soon, so that you can consider donating time or money to them as well.

Activism from afar

Kai’s been busy working with some organizations back home and has been writing lots of letters to get the word out about everything from the dangers of dumping sludge on open land, in our backyards, gardens and playgrounds to a need for increased funding for bike, pedestrian and mass transit options.  We’re always participating in a zillion online campaigns that are fighting things like the Keystone XL pipeline or the expansion of Canadian-owned mines in the sacred lands of the Huichol people here in Mexico.

Friend & Family Time

We managed to get in some much needed friend and family time.   We had a great visit with Cris & Fred (the couple who hosted our stay in Mazatlan) in September and we spent much of November with Kai’s parents.

Hans, Suzy, Kai, Sheila

Hans, Suzy, Kai, Sheila

Relationship Repair Work

But, honestly, our primary focus has been on our most important work, some big life work.  We’ve been learning how to take care of ourselves and our relationship.  In hindsight, we can’t believe we haven’t made something so important more of a priority in our lives before now.  Over the years we’ve been focused on so many other things that we’ve failed to take care of ourselves along the way.

Here’s what we’ve learned:  When you fail to address a lifetime of baggage and trauma, you drag all of it along with you wherever you go.  Even if you don’t realize it’s there, it is and it’s patiently waiting till you’re ready to deal with it.  And although those shadows of past experiences have been there all along, well before you met your life partner and well after you think you’ve figured it all out, once you’ve removed any distractions you’d previously created in your life to camouflage them, they take center stage and clamor for the attention they deserve.

As we purged all our stuff and paid off debt, our shadows were there.  They followed us as we quit our jobs, built our house and packed our panniers.  As we cycled down the Pacific coast highway, through the deserts of Baja and into mainland Mexico, we were dragging all our unresolved issues down the road with us.  It was as if each issue, each shadow, was attached to our rear bicycle racks by an invisible string.  As we cycled along they bumbled and bounced off the tarmac behind us, much like the empty cans you see attached to  newly-weds’ bumpers.  The further we rode the less we could ignore the horrible racket all those shadows were making.

And so, we stopped.  Stopped moving, stopped rushing ahead.  Really, we mostly collapsed.  But, the point is, we had enough sense to just stop.  To breathe.  To face everything.  By the time we hit Guadalajara we knew something had to change.

The universe, as usual, provided what we needed at the moment we needed it most.  We found a peaceful and beautiful place to settle for awhile.  People who could help did and provided us the tools we needed to do our work.  We threw ourselves in to local support group meetings, relationship counseling and EMDR treatments, all of which helped us process past trauma and to release all the negative stuff we were bringing into our relationship.  We dove into some pretty heavy stuff and it’s been hard and emotional but also so amazing and beautiful.  ‘Life-altering’ would be good description of the last few months.

Fast forward six months and here we are, feeling like completely different people – younger, healthier, more joyful people.  Kai & I have known each other for twelve years and as we look back at the last decade, we are amazed at how much we’ve learned about ourselves in the process of simplifying, building our Tiny House and cycle touring, but none of it compares to what we learned about ourselves while here in Ajijic.

Today, we’re mainly feeling grateful that our current lifestyle allows us time.  Time to stop and breathe.  Time to focus on the important work that we need to do to become the healthiest people we can be.  Time to clear out all the old so that we can have room for all the new to come.  Time and permission.  We’ve finally learned to embrace them as the gifts they are.

So please forgive us for our recent blog-silence.  We’ve been doing some really important work that’s required our full attention.  But now, we’re back, so let’s catch up….we have so much to tell you!

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A New Year Wish

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