I started getting free early. During a solo trip to Belize, I met an amazing person who changed my life with a conversation. He was living in a duplex and renting out half of it. The rent covered all his housing expenses. He was traveling the world and doing woodworking in his spare time. He was so happy. I wanted that.

I was working hard back then as a software consultant and then as a programmer for a government agency. It was hard to fit in a vacation when I was consulting, so I switched to government work. My government employer offered to spoil me and give me all the leave without pay that either of us could reasonably handle, and Belize was my first time reveling in a three week solo, unpaid trip…just because I could.

Tom and I sat on the porch of the jungle lodge where we were both staying. Under a green, leafy canopy full of screeching birds, Tom explained the financial benefits of living in a duplex:

1. You lower your housing costs. Living in half of a duplex is typically cheaper than paying all the expenses for an entire house.
2. Over time the balance of the duplex is paid down by your renters, and you gain wealth simply by waiting.
3. Rental properties are an excellent tax shelter, which I didn’t understand back then.

I returned from Belize full of inspiration and started looking at duplexes. A lot of them were junky and run down properties. The income was also discouraging. The only places where I could live free like Tom was going were apartment buildings, and I wasn’t ready for that.

There was no duplex in Boise, Idaho at the time where the rental income would cover all the expenses for the building. I would still have to pay to live in these ugly places.

Enter the pleasure-vestment.

I found a duplex with hiking trails behind it and a view of downtown. This was a place I could live. It was cheaper per month than buying a home, but not by much. It seemed like a step in the right direction anyway.

The 1965 duplex perched on the Boise, Idaho hillside became mine.

And it’s been a fantastic thing for me.

After about 8 years of paying the $200,000 mortgage with the assistance of my renter, the balance was paid down to about $160,000.

Then I refinanced at the lower balance of $160,000. Rates were low.

My new monthly payment was several hundred dollars less.

At the same time, rent had increased slowly and steadily.

Rent usually rises slowly over time, and follows inflation. When does rent ever go down? Not often.

I had reached the tipping point where I lived for free in one unit of the duplex.

Now the rent from one unit was covering all expenses for the building. I was living like Tom, the person I met in Belize.

I loved the freedom of having my entire paycheck to myself each month, without that huge chunk going to housing. I worked part time but felt richer than ever. I started to blow a lot of money on traveling.

You can do this, too, and maybe you’ll reach the tipping point a lot sooner. Anyway, might as well start now because it will take years to reach your own tipping point.

Successful real estate investing takes planning, patience, and simply waiting while the years go by. Those things don’t sound appealing or sexy.

But living for free in this beautiful duplex on the hillside? That feels pretty appealing and sexy. And getting rid of housing expenses changed my financial picture significantly.

I wrote this for a friend I love who is interested in buying a duplex. And I hope it reaches other people who want to get free, like I have. Enjoy! Subscribe to my newsletter for more news and tips about how to be your best nomadic self.

I still can’t believe what I did last night. Shark diving. Just Brian and I. No chain mail suits. No defenses. Just us and the sharks of Fakarava. It was incredible! And we still have all our limbs!

Remnants of a pastel-colored sunset faintly lit the sky as we slipped into the calm water of Fakarava’s South Pass. Usually this is a current fueled drift dive but tonight we would stay in an eddy at the beginning of the dive and wait for the hunting sharks to come to us instead of drifting on the current.

We descended to 40 feet and the various dark blues of the reef faded into black. I relied on my big video light to see what was going on around me. Luckily it can light up the whole reef! I was able to see at least 30 feet, which was comforting.

This was only my second night dive, and it was a very adventurous one. Brian and I agreed beforehand we would stay at shallow depths and simply get out anytime we felt uncomfortable. Brian had our dinghy clipped to him as we swam, so we were always attached to our rescue vessel if things got out of hand.

As soon as it grew dark the sharks began hunting. Gray Reef and White Tip sharks emerged from the darkness with a whole new personality. During the daytime these sharks drift lazily in mid-water or rest on the sea floor. Now they were aggressively darting across the sea floor in all directions, looking for things to eat.

Oh, how they loved me and my big, bright light. I loved them back. A dozen sharks followed me like I was a bubble-emitting pied piper. You have to love sharks or this would be a terrifying experience. I’ve been diving with Fakarava’s sharks at least 20 times during the day, so I felt somewhat confident they would not be a problem. Also, Brian has already done two solo night dives with them.

I swam around with my sharky entourage. The sharks would swim away to chase fish, but soon returned to my bright pool of light. Sharks can see in the dark, but they seemed to enjoy the starling effect the light had on the skittish fishes trying to take shelter in the coral reef. And they needed all the help they could get. They were not very successful hunters. We observed many failed attempts at catching fish and never saw a shark eat anything during our dive.

The hunting sharks were fast, furious and curious. But they showed us complete respect and did not treat us like prey. They never even touched us. We stayed with them for over 30 minutes, then ascended to our waiting dinghy. We had three sources of light to get back to Magic, and the weather was calm. We made our way back, splashing through small waves. What an exciting and unforgettable dive!

Tahanea Atoll is a protected area with no permanent residents. Inquisitive Snappers look right in your eyes underwater and so do sharks. For the last ten days we have been the only ones diving here, and we met many innocent and curious fish. Have they ever seen a scuba diver before? How alien we must appear, with our tanks, bubbles and big cameras.

We enjoyed half a dozen dives under Magic, usually with a couple small sharks. I fed leftover rice to the fish around the boat most days, which attracted plenty of small gray reef sharks and blacktip sharks.

But larger sharks are out there. We saw a big Lemon Shark in the Tahanea lagoon, and it did something so creepy and memorable we nicknamed him Lemmy and joked about him for days afterward. Lemmy, short for Lemmywinks, was no ordinary shark. He had stalker tendencies, and followed us nearly a kilometer back to Magic.

We first saw Lemmy underwater. A two meter long, bulky Lemon Shark swam by several times during a shallow, hour long dive. Each time he came closer, and the closest pass had him only fifteen feet away, swimming parallel to us along a shallow reef at a depth of ten meters. Lemmy’s brown body undulated in the dappled sunlight, pushed along by a swishing, paddle-like tail. His face was blunt and serious. His eyes rolled around in his head, regarding us warily.

He seemed curious, not aggressive, so we hung there motionless in the water and I recorded a video as he quickly passed. We kept diving, looking over our shoulders, and did not see Lemmy for awhile. When we surfaced at the end of the dive and climbed into our dinghy, Lemmy was cruising around on the sand bottom fifteen meters below.

Our heads broke the surface of the water. We immediately gushed about how long Lemmy was, how plump, how curious. He was one of the biggest sharks we’ve seen in the South Pacific. Was Lemmy dangerous? We didn’t know anything about him. With big smiles we raced back to Magic to watch our videos of Lemmy and identify him using our fish book.

Our book showed Lemmy clearly. He is a Sicklefin Lemon Shark, can reach a maximum length of 2.2 meters and is considered dangerous. Yikes.

Later, Brian was in Magic’s cockpit when I heard him utter the uncanny words “the Lemon Shark is here.” My head felt light and empty as I ran outside to see for myself. Viewing the huge, dark Lemon Shark from above, right on my doorstep, felt like that stunning moment in the horror movie The Babadook when the book mysteriously reappears on the front porch after it is thrown away. By the way, I do NOT recommend this movie. It is well done, but oh-so-scary.

We saw sharks every day around the boat, but never Lemmy. We went diving in the calm lagoon, drifted on swift currents in the passes, and marveled at the pristine coral on the sloping walls outside the atoll. We never saw any sharks close to Lemmy’s size. Now he was boldly plying the surface of the water at the back of Magic after our diving encounter. It had to be the same big shark. We could only imagine what was going through Lemmy’s sharky brain:

“I thought I would surprise you while you’re relaxing at home, and show you how it feels.”
“I guess we’re friends now. Let the drop ins begin!”
“Now that I’ve had time to think about what to do with you, I hope you will jump in again.”

We left Tahanea the next day to meet up with friends in Fakarava. Brian went diving on the anchor, then surfaced and said “you’ll never guess who I just saw down there…”

Right away I knew. Lemmy. He was still under the boat. Luckily Brian worked the anchor loose without Lemmy “helping” and we got underway.

When a new, unidentified shark visits during a scuba dive it is pretty cool. When it’s Lemmy the stalker shark, it becomes a treasured memory. I feel such reverence for these wild creatures, the difficult lives they lead, and the mystery of their emotions and behavior.

Moorea’s stingrays are soft and friendly. They are like sentient roombas searching for the best things to eat. Their excellent sense of smell guides them to what they love most: food.

Snorkel with a fistful of sardines and they will quickly identify you as an object of love. They show their love in a physical way: by gently roomba-ing your entire body in search of the source of that delicious smell. Place a clump of sardines into the wrinkled, smiling food port located on the bottom of their body and watch them erupt with affection. Now they snuggle into your arms, rub against your back, and swirl around you, excited for more sardines.

Food = love to a stingray.

Most people who visit Stingray City on Moorea’s north coast do not feed the rays. Tour operators bring fish and dole it out to the excited rays while swimmers snorkel nearby. Wary Blacktip Sharks join the party, too, but are not interested in taking food from people.

The stingrays are happy to receive pets from swimmers who don’t feed them, but will snuggle up to the ones with food. We noticed this during our first visit, and decided to bring food for them during our next visits. We wanted to feed them and see if they would cuddle with us, too. Magic was anchored near Stingray City so we could visit the rays as many times as we wanted with our dinghy.

We arrived with several cans of sardines and found out why the tour operators were the only ones doing the feeding – the rays bite! They don’t have teeth, but their mouthplates can deliver a startling nip which sometimes breaks the skin. They don’t mean to hurt you, they are just eating and your fingers get in the way. Initially, a couple gentle love bites would not deter us. We learned to keep our fingers away from their mouths. We accepted the nibbles as the price of admission.

We returned to Stingray City three more times, each time getting better video footage and photos of the sharks and rays. Our dinghy became greasy and sardine scented.

We didn’t care. We would never forget our cuddly “Roomba Rays”, so friendly and food motivated, always ready to star in another video and brighten our day by climbing into our arms and searching our bodies for treats.

Tips for feeding the Roomba Rays of Moorea

1. Keep your feet on the ground. The rays cruise along the bottom, following scents, and when they find your feet they know to swim upwards and investigate.
2. The rays love canned sardines. Fill your fist with sardines and hold on tight. When you swim in the water the rays will smell the sardines and come over to give you love.
3. Once you have their attention, break off small clumps of sardines and put them into their strange little mouths. You see, it’s difficult for them to find the food because their suctioning mouth is on the bottom of their body while their eyes are on top. You can make feeding easy for them by placing the food directly in their mouths. They will love you for it.
4. To avoid getting bitten, feed them larger clumps of food and keep your fingers away from their mouthplates. Hold your fingers together tightly and don’t allow them to munch on your thumb.
5. Bring at least three cans of sardines per person. You will go through the first can quickly learning the best feeding techniques.

Stingrays are wild and unpredictable creatures. As the name suggests, they do have a stinger which they will use to defend themselves. Feeding stingrays is not a risk free activity, but Moorea’s rays seem to genuinely enjoy interacting with snorkelers. And it sure is fun when you muster the courage to stuff food into their mouths, and they cover you with gentle roomba kisses. It’s such a sweet reward.

It was a cold winter day at the Salt Lake City International Terminal. Brian’s brightly colored board shorts and my strappy tank top spoke volumes: we were headed someplace warm. Plus we were toting around a giant surfboard, which was attracting a lot of attention.
“Surfing the Wasatch?” joked a friendly businessman, dressed to the nines. I gave him the hang loose sign and we both grinned.

We were indeed going someplace warm: to our sailboat in French Polynesia, near Tahiti. We sailed across the Pacific last year so this would be the first time we would fly to the South Pacific to reunite with Magic, our sailboat. This would be the most complex international trip either of us had ever taken, and the “learning experiences” started right away.

Each of our four checked bags was slightly overweight. We were allowed 50 pounds each, and our scale at home had not been accurate. We formed a plan. I had some new sheets and picture frames I was willing to part with, and the lady at the baggage counter was excited to take them off my hands. With each bag now weighing exactly 50 pounds, we continued on to the next counter, where a smiling man spent a lot of time on a phone and then delivered some stunning news to us. We couldn’t take our surfboard.

What!? Both of us had researched this beforehand on the airline’s website. But the smiling man told us we can’t believe what we read online, we have to call the airline directly to ask questions like these. OK. So now we have to do something with this surfboard, and we don’t have time to drive it all the way back home and put it in our garage.

I started to think about all our wonderful friends in Salt Lake. I felt grateful and happy when several people sprang to mind who I hoped may be willing to help get this surfboard off our hands. I started making phone calls.

As I looked through my hefty list of contacts, mostly people I don’t ever call, I thought of a recent TED talk I saw online. The speaker mentioned a longevity study, which tried to determine the factors most important for a long life. The top two predictors for longevity turned out to be social, with the most important predictor being the number of people in your life you can rely on. These are your true friends, or as Ann of Green Gables would call them, your “Bosom Friends”. Bosom friends will loan you money, or sit with you if you’re having an existential crisis, or come and get your surfboard at the airport when you can’t take it to French Polynesia.

I started calling, and heard the receptive and kind voices of my friends on the other end of the line. They all wanted to help, so I tried to figure out who was closest and who could be there the soonest. Within thirty minutes Mike and Heather came to the airport with smiles and hugs, then whisked away our surfboard in their SUV. Problem solved. Thank you, Mike and Heather! A million times, thank you!

With our surfboard gone I had plenty of room to pack my discarded sheets and picture frames in the empty surfboard bag. I returned to the first ticket counter and sheepishly asked if I could have them back. The lady behind the counter returned them with a smile. Now I would have an ample stock of fresh sheets for the South Pacific. Laundromats are few and far between.

We also brought a bevy of shiny new camera gear, which Brian gave to me for Christmas. A Panasonic GH5 camera capable of shooting professional quality 4K video, with all the accessories, ports, lights, and lenses to shoot underwater was stuffed into backpacks we would carry on. We could not allow all this delicate glass to get tossed around on the airport’s conveyor belts. I vowed to guard my new camera gear with my life during our trip, and never let it out of my sight.

We also had four laptops between the two of us, which we also carried on. It’s a good thing we’re young and strong! This year I turn 40, and may need to invest in one of those sensible wheeled carriers for my future trips to the South Pacific.

Our trip went well until we went to check baggage for the final leg: a flight on a miniscule plane from Tahiti to Raiatea. My mouth formed a perfect O when I saw the little sign saying we could only carry on 5 kilograms. My international travel brain was sleepy, but immediately realized the consequences: our camera gear would not be able to come with us as a carry-on. Our 5 kilograms would be mostly consumed by our laptops. We padded our sensitive things with clothing and sheets, and then we had to hope for the best as someone else took our backpacks full of camera gear. I had to let go of the outcome. I would not be able to protect these items as I had hoped.

We landed in Raiatea, got our rental car and went to Magic. Brian hauled our heavy bags aboard using a pulley. Magic was in the boatyard, up on blocks, floating in the air in long term storage. We climbed a sketchy ladder to board Magic.

I whooped with joy as I took a test photo with my new Panasonic GH5 and then reviewed it. Everything worked perfectly. I turned on my video light, bright as the sun, then examined all the ports and lenses. Everything was intact. We had successfully completed our biggest air trip and were back at our sailboat. Another sailing season begins!

Think I’ll walk off my steady job today. Just like that old Merle Haggard song goes.

But it’s not that easy. I’ve worked there eleven years and it’s become a part of my identity. I’m always thinking about my programs, my processes, and the people who depend upon them. It’s what I do. I design computer systems. I write code. I deal with passionate users. I keep them happy. I am “the person” when things break. And I love being that person for them.

Or…I loved it. I love so many other things now. Sailing, writing, photography. I published my first book a couple months ago and have begun painting again for the first time in over a decade. Something in me has been awakened. It’s time to leave those computer programs alone for awhile.

It’s been a good run. I’ve worked nearly twenty years as a self-taught computer programmer. But I knew something had to give last summer as I desperately tried to fix a serious data corruption problem, from a bungalow, using slow $30/hr wi-fi in a remote part of the South Pacific.

Our sailing dreams are taking us too far afield, life is expanding too much, and my job doesn’t fit anymore. I’ve already begun my next career, publishing adventure memoirs, and will soon start another career as an ocean videographer. I’ll be busy. I’ll be pursuing my passions. It will be great, and I am excited.

But today, I’ll be reminiscing about the beautiful places I worked, and the fantastic projects I did during my eleven years as a Senior Programmer Analyst for the University of Idaho. There may be a few tears and a bottle of good wine. Like I said, it’s been a good run.

Category: Uncategorized

Amistad is Spanish for friendship. I just returned from a short and intense burst of Amistad in one my favorite cities in the world, La Paz, Mexico. I used to live on a sailboat in La Paz and during that time I made many wonderful friends. Brian and I sailed our boat across the Pacific last spring, which meant we would not return to La Paz by boat anytime soon. Now, to see this beloved place I would need to visit by air, car and hotel.

I haven’t taken a solo trip since Brian and I got married, but buying a ticket and flying to an exotic place on a whim is something I used to enjoy pre-marriage. I have pulled off big solo adventure trips to Thailand, New Zealand, Belize, Guatemala and Canada. Not to mention Alaska. I enjoyed reconnecting with my independent travel self in Mexico. It was a thrill to pick up my rental car at the Cabo airport and start driving around by myself. Cabo had nothing of interest so I headed straight to La Paz.

Soon the feeling of Amistad would fill my heart and make my feet feel light as air. I drove to the marina where Brian and I used to spend a lot of time, Marina de La Paz, and met up with our dear cruising friends Jack, Leanne, Ally and Patsy. Hugs! Champagne! Dock Party! It felt like home, chatting so easily under a colorful sunset sky. The hours pass quickly with these friends. We laugh, share, and remind each other this is a safe place to tell the stories of our lives.

The next morning I went to Zumba with Leanne and Ally and as soon as I walked into that peach colored concrete building I felt the same excitement, love, energy, and strength I always felt before. Zumba was a special ritual for me when I lived in La Paz, and it felt like nothing had changed.

Zumba is great because of the people. The Mexican instructors are excellent. After all, they came out of the womb shaking those hips. This white girl had a lot of trouble keeping up at first. I also look quite out of place in the class due to my towering stature: I stand 5’11” tall. There are few Mexican ladies above 5’5”, and most are closer to 5’0”. Just imagine my big blonde head, bouncing a foot above the rest of the ladies, slightly out of step, with sweat pouring down my face. I love dancing at full intensity to the loud, energetic Mexican music blasting through the speakers.

I picked up a little Spanish along the way, but still cannot conjugate a verb or form a complete sentence. I must have sounded pretty stupid when I spoke Spanish with these ladies.

But none of that mattered. They always gave me so much love. They hugged and kissed me with gusto when I walked into Zumba, invited me to their homes, fed me, let me meet their families. They included me. My heart felt so full after spending time with them.

That feeling kept me coming back. I would do whatever it took to attend the Zumba class at 8 AM, even if it meant an early morning dinghy ride from our boat at anchor and then a thirty-minute walk. I would find a way. It was always worth it.

And now, flying to La Paz to immerse myself in this delightful ritual again felt completely worth it. Sara, one of the instructors, planned a going away party for me at the end of the week with homemade empanadas. Wow. I cannot remember the last time a party was thrown in my honor. It was at least ten years ago.

Friday came and it was a special day I will never forget. Before the class Sara gave me a beautiful yellow lotus flower symbolizing the belly chakra. My heart soared. I love little presents. Dancing and Zumba had never felt so good, and Ally shot a video of all of us dancing together with the Mexican music blasting and all of us shaking our hips with big smiles. I love watching this video over and over!

After class Sara’s husband, Manolo, showed up with a basket of the most delicious chicken empanadas. Everyone had so much fun looking at my Crossing the Pacific book that I ended up giving Sara my only copy of it. After all, she is in it and was so excited to see herself and our friends in the book. I wrote about preparing to leave my friends behind when I crossed the Pacific, and how can I ever find friends like this again?

But now we’re back together like nothing has changed. We feasted on great food and posed for dozens of photos together. Usually I try to be in the back row of the group photos so I don’t block anyone. But not today. I lined up in the back, and there was a chorus of “Lisa, Lisa, Lisa” and everyone pointed to the front. I posed in front of the group and everyone cheered.

It was a touching day which I will never forget. I managed not to cry, because I know I will be back to see them again.

You know that phrase, “you can’t go home”. Well, you can if home is La Paz, Mexico.

This trip was already a heart bursting experience, and friend fest part two was ramping up. Several friends who crossed the Pacific last year with us also returned to Mexico, and they were only an hour drive away. I had plans to head their way next. Mike, Katie, Rob and Nancy were staying in La Ventana, and I spent my last night at Mike and Katie’s beautiful vacation home overlooking the ocean. We went out for a delicious dinner and then Katie and I soaked in the hot tub for hours, talking under a starry sky.

Katie and I share the same birthday, and our many similarities are uncanny. I have never met someone so much like me in so many ways. I constantly find myself saying “me too” around her. Among other things, we both love baths. Recently I published a blog post about writing my latest book in the tub. Katie said she loved knowing I wrote my book in the tub because she read it in the tub.

The next morning we went out for coffee with Rob and Nancy, and it was wonderful to reconnect with these special friends. We have shared many amazing days in the South Pacific and we all share an enduring connection with Mexico now, too.

I’ve been living a nomadic lifestyle for eight years, and sometimes I am lucky enough to find friends who create that feeling of home. They feel familiar, safe, and supportive. We’ve spent enough time together we know we can rely on each other. These friends fulfill a longing for stability and home that will always be a part of me, no matter how long I’m a nomad.

Thank you, friends. My trip to La Paz was short but extraordinary.

Category: Uncategorized

Self-publishing a book requires work and commitment, obviously, but mostly it requires courage. Confidence. Which, for me, meant quieting the voices in my head:

“My book isn’t good enough.”
“I need a professional agent to help me write this; I have no idea what parts are worthwhile and what I need to take out.”
“Later on, I may be embarrassed by this book.”
“Oh no, another typo. This book is going to be full of mistakes; I am no English major.”
And the worst: “What if no one buys it?”

I overcame the voices and self-published my first book about a month ago. It all happened so fast, and now I’m riding a happy little wave of success. My book has sold about 75 copies and sales continue to trickle in. People find it on Amazon, buy it, and when they leave a review it either warms my heart or causes me a sleepless night.

My book has eleven reviews. Many of them make my heart sing:

Breezy, fun writing style…” Oh my gosh, I have a writing style!
So well written!” Oh my gosh, I CAN write!
author has a real knack for the narrative…” Thanks, Dad. Dad was instrumental in the publishing of this book, and a ruthless editor.

Then a bad review came in, and I spent most of the night thinking about it:
“the story is inspirational, but the format is horrible to read on my kindle.”

At least she liked my story and wasn’t trying to be mean. She had valuable feedback for me and she was right. I made a classic software developer mistake: not testing my product enough before deployment. I was excited. I was busy and burnt out from working so hard on it. I was a creative person who wasn’t being managed. I ran amok and had to learn better publishing habits.

I embarked on a considerable effort to test my book across all devices and fix the formatting problems. This would be tedious work which would take several days to complete, so I settled into the bathtub and got to work.

Yes, that’s right. I wrote and published most of my book in a clawfoot tub at our AirBnB home in Salt Lake. The tub was the most relaxing and focused place for me, and the purple walls may have helped. Somehow, I always managed to keep my computer from ending up in a watery grave, and never electrocuted myself (never plug in the computer while using it in the tub).

I estimated this project would take approximately four baths, with each bath being 2-5 hours long. You do the math.

I changed the Georgia font size from 16 to 20 and tested it across kindles, iphones, androids, and also used an application from Kindle that lets you see your book on multiple devices.

The limitations of fixed format publishing were apparent, and no matter what I tried the book had tiny font on smaller devices like kindles and phones. I made sure the text was readable but it was too tiny to be practical on something as small as a phone. I added a short warning to my book description about the text size on smaller devices so people would know what to expect.

One of the best things about the Kindle reading experience is the ability to customize the text, so from now on I will write my books in a flowing format and include a couple photos at the beginning and end to accentuate the story. No more of this text drama. I spent a lot of time formatting the book, and it wasn’t fun creative time. Uploading the book to Amazon and setting it up to sell it was an easy and solid process. The difficult part was formatting the many photos which I felt added to the story and needed to be included.

Using a flowing format next time was an important lesson. Another lesson was the importance of combating feelings of doubt which can halt a creative project. Publishing a book helped me learn to quiet those thoughts. Everyone has feelings of self-doubt sometimes which must be overcome. And the greater the endeavor, the greater the chance for these doubting thoughts to kill a creative project.

But it is always our choice to give in to this, or simply learn to counteract these thoughts and move full speed ahead in pursuit of our dreams. To publish or to postpone. To chase our dreams, or get stuck. The doubting thoughts fade away now with every book sale, and I know I did the right thing.

I’m glad I tossed my first book out there to see if it would sink or swim. Self-publishing was a memorable process and my goal is to publish another book this fall/winter. Stay tuned!

My blog has been pretty quiet for the last two months. I’ve been writing a book about sailing the South Pacific!

“Crossing the Pacific is a tale of adventure, growth and overcoming fear set in the tropical islands of the South Pacific. This is one woman’s story of sailing twenty-one days across the largest ocean in the world and then learning to love scuba diving with the sharks on the other side.

This multi-media book includes high-quality photographs to transport you to one of the most beautiful places on earth. Readers will feel like they’re coming on the trip, seeing, touching, smelling and tasting the South Pacific.”

This story is all about the manifestation of big dreams. Moving into a van, sailing across an ocean, writing a book, whatever you dream about, I urge you to do it. Go after your biggest dreams, even the really crazy, uncomfortable ones, and bring them to life.

My book is available on Amazon Kindle here for $2.99.

It’s easy to find Seattle’s elite strolling Leavenworth’s fancy walking streets, but the intrepid observer sees another type of visitor among the throngs: the dirty adventurer with ropy calves and greasy hair plying the herd of clean city folks. They’ve been climbing or biking all day and now they’re hungry for Leavenworth’s great beer and food.

Leavenworth is a cute German-themed town full of touristy offerings, plus it has incredible adventures hidden in its surrounding mountains. We found it to be exceptionally good for van life and lingered longer than we originally planned. We lived in Leavenworth for a month in our van and we began to notice a few other vans which also seemed to be enjoying an extended stay in the area.

There are nice places to park near town on forest service land. We were given free water at Dan’s Grocery Store when we did our shopping, and there were many places around town to get rid of garbage. These things make van life much easier!

Leavenworth is a gem. Here are our favorite activities we enjoyed during our month there.

Mountain Biking

During our last week in Leavenworth we honed in on our favorite ride at the local ski resort. It’s a new one which doesn’t have a name yet, so for now I’ll just call it the Butter Loop. I found it by talking to a local who helped create the new uphill section of this loop as well as many other trails in the area. Kudos! You created something very special here.

The Butter Loop is the perfect short ride, with 6 miles of buttery, singletrack trails. It begins at the Leavenworth Ski Area with a steady, 1000 foot climb through the forest on a new, unnamed trail. Next you roll along a ridge with great views, then descend a section of Freund Canyon with well designed, super fun berms which go up and down like a roller coaster. The alternative to this fun roller coaster romp through Freund Canyon is a more challenging ride on the parallel Rosy Boa trail, but personally I found Rosy Boa to be too much! It had some very steep drops. Be cautious with choosing the Rosy Boa Trail.

After finishing either Rosy Boa or Freund, the final reward is an easy descent back through the Leavenworth Ski Resort on a trail called For The Boys. The Butter Loop is so good we did it three times in one week. Here is a map of the trails which make up this loop:
The Butter Loop On Trailforks

The Freund Canyon loop is an oldie and a goodie, too. It begins and ends on Freund Canyon Road near town. The only reason I like the Butter Loop better is that Freund Canyon includes about 500 feet of climbing on a dirt road, and I prefer the pure singletrack of the Butter Loop.

We heard about other great rides nearby at Horse Lake and Sage Hills, but didn’t have time to go there this trip. Next time! I love it that after a month in Leavenworth we continued to hear about new places.

Trail Running
The challenging and breathtaking 18 mile trail through the Enchantments near Leavenworh can be done as a one day hike/run. There is even a shuttle company to move folks from the lower trailhead to the upper trailhead at convenient times for only $10/person (https://loopconnectorshuttle.com) as well as a great private taxi service which can do the same (www.leavenworthshuttle.com).

The terrain is very challenging on both Snow Lakes Pass and Aasgard Pass, but the fantastic alpine zone and friendly mountain goats are incredibly rewarding. Go prepared with a headlamp and extra layers at the very least. This is a serious endeavor!

Another alternative is to hike up into the high country and then back out, beginning and ended at the Stuart Lakes Trailhead. We did this one day. and it took us 12 hours to go fifteen miles with about 4500 feet of elevation gain. This hike included climbing up Aasgard Pass and then going back down it, which was crazy. We saw some beautiful lakes and mountains at the top of Aasgard Pass, but it really just made us thirsty for more.

The trail run through the Enchantments is the big one, but there are other great places for trail running or hiking like the Leavenworth Ski Hill and the Leavenworth Riverside Park.

The Enchantments hike is best done as a backpacking trip. The Larch trees create some of the finest fall scenery in the state when they turn bright yellow in fall and we wanted to spend more time in this stunning area, photographing the landscapes and animals.

We had to be persistent to get a last minute permit for this hike. Each morning the forest service office in Leavenworth draws a name for permits to camp in the Enchantments and it can be very competitive. We went there three mornings in the middle of the week to try our luck at the lottery and each morning there were a half dozen people competing for a few permits. The first two mornings we lost the drawing, but the third morning we won!

Our four day backpacking trip in the Enchantments featured surreal beauty and relaxed mountain goats enjoying their alpine paradise. The larches were stunning and we had great weather. We climbed a peak in the backcountry called Little Annapurna, following nice granite slabs much of the way to the summit. Climbing Little Annapurna was a highlight for both of us.

Leavenworth is the climbing capital of Washington. We enjoyed nice climbs on granite near Icicle Creek and saw many people bouldering. We found the rock in this area to be good quality. There’s a helpful guidebook for this area but it is currently out of print. The nice people at Leavenworth Mountain Sports have a couple copies you can rent by the day.

We also went to Peshastin Pinnacles to explore the sandstone routes and found varying rock quality there. We found some good rock and some very crumbly kitty litter. After we explored the easier climbing options around town we decided our favorite spot was Playground Point near the Icicle River.

Reindeer Farm
We visited a Reindeer Farm right outside Leavenworth for a fun tour. While it’s not really an adventure, this was such a great experience it would be a shame to miss out on it. We learned a few things about Reindeer, and then got to go in the pen with them and pet them. Did you know their fur is made of hollow fibers, allowing them to float like a Polar Bear? Neither did we! Here is the website for the reindeer farm, reservations are recommended: https://www.leavenworthreindeer.com

If you happen to come in October the town of Leavenworth erupts in merriment for three weekends in a row for Oktoberfest. Everyone celebrates with beer, Lederhosen, Dirndls, German food and dancing. This festival has a very celebratory mood and is a lot of fun, especially when you dress up!

So, there you go! Leavenworth is the perfect place to enjoy beauty, adventure, mountain goats and van life. The town is also delightful and we’ll definitely be back.


About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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