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.

Backpacking
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.

Climbing
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

Oktoberfest
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.


We went back to the Frisby Ridge trail and now this ride is a favorite. The alpine section is sweeter than I could have imagined. There is a small, gentle loop at the top and the views in every direction make you want to bust open with happiness. Just check out these photos!

The trail is buttery much of the time and obstacles are small. There is only one (longish) rocky section where I had to hike my bike. The forest is downright beautiful, there are huckleberries everywhere, and other riders are mostly friendly locals. There is an amazing van camp near the trailhead, too. So many things to love!

I grew to love my new dropper seat post during this ride, too. This new biking toy allows me to raise and lower my seat by using a tiny lever on my handlebars. The seat raises using hydraulics; I just have to lift my butt. How nice. The added efficiency of raising my seat just a couple inches was truly amazing as I pedaled up the 2500 foot climb at Frisby Ridge. I popped over obstacles which before I wouldn’t have even tried, and climbing felt SO MUCH EASIER. Which is important when you are doing a lot of it!

I feel better about descending with my seat in a lower position, too, but it will take time to master big, technical obstacles. I have to approach this slowly and continue to increase my skill level in small increments. At the heart of it, I’m afraid of taking a bad fall on my bike from being too aggressive with this new toy. I’m taking it slowly with the downhill, and seeing improvements there already.

Two girlfriends stressed the importance of this mythical dropper seat post for mountain biking…thank you Alison and Heather. And now I am telling the world, for rides with a lot of elevation change, you must have a dropper seat post of your very own!


Category: Mountain Biking

Yesterday I tried something hard. And failed. I’m not used to that, and it felt like someone let all the air out of my balloon. Brian was very supportive. I didn’t shed any tears, but there was definitely some pouting going on. Brian said we could abandon this adventure whenever I wanted, and that was ok. I thought about it a couple more minutes and then I decided it was time to get off the mountain.

We had embarked on one of my most challenging mountain bike rides and one of the best in the area. It was Frisby Ridge in Revelstoke, British Columbia. It’s been a long time since my last big ride and I didn’t take Frisby Ridge seriously enough. We started late in the day and all I brought was a simple windbreaker for layering. Initially I hadn’t felt committed to completing the entire ride, but wanted to try. I figured I would ride the ridge out and back until I got tired.

So we began, and the trail went steadily uphill nearly the entire time. The surroundings were nice, although it didn’t feel much like a ridge. We rode through a forest full of cedar and huckleberries for five miles. I kept thinking the alpine riding would start any minute, but after hours of riding in the forest the big, open views I craved were barely starting to show themselves. A more accurate name for this trail would be Frisby Forest.

I wouldn’t see the good stuff until the summit. I pushed on, getting colder and colder as I gained more elevation. Then the saddle sores started because I hadn’t prepared for a long ride, just a feel good, out and back ride. No Chamois Cream in the pack! Oh no! I was also getting tired now that we had climbed 2000 vertical feet. I am not used to big rides like this right now. I am good at pushing through exhaustion for a time, but with the lack of warm clothing and saddle sores I was facing a trifecta of suffering. At least we had plenty of snacks!

Now the ride had become a push to the summit and nothing more. It also wasn’t good to climb higher into the alpine zone without warmer layers. It could have turned into an edgy situation if conditions changed or precipitation started.

Feeling my limits, I sadly turned around and tried to collect myself as I began descending. Focus on the positive. Think about what you’ve achieved. Think about the beautiful ride. Think about the huckleberries surrounding the trail and our plans to harvest them on the descent. What I really wanted was to ride my bike in the sun, on a Thursday afternoon, above treeline with big mountains looming on all sides. That was the stuff of dreams. Still, there were many wonderful things about the day to appreciate and I tried to think about those things instead of the one thing I had missed.

The positive thoughts were needed; the descent was very chilly at first. After about twenty minutes we stopped in the sun to pick huckleberries. Feeling the warmth of the sun was a great relief to us both, and we had also reached a lower elevation with a higher temperature.

Plus we were surrounded by tasty huckleberries, warm from the sun, and Brian said we could try the Frisby Ridge ride again in a couple days. All these things raised my spirits. It was time to let disappointments go and immerse myself in the present. We gathered huckleberries for about 10 minutes (trying not to eat too many of them) and took some with us in a one liter Nalgene bottle.

The rest of the descent was uneventful and we were happy to reach the van. We quickly went to a fantastic campsite near the trailhead we had scouted out earlier.

We reveled in scenic views of rivers and mountains and cranked the heater up to ninety degrees. We huddled under a blanket until our core temperatures returned to normal. We ate a tasty dinner and huckleberries for dessert. This was van life at its finest.

It can be hard to let go of a meaningful adventure like this one. Sometimes I wonder if these adventures have taken on an outsized sense of importance in my life. For me, adventures give meaning to living in a van. Otherwise it would be pretty boring sitting in a van in the middle of nowhere. Achieving goals and strengthening my mind and body matter more out here than they did when I was living in a house. Instead of something fun to do on weekends, they start to shape life and give it meaning.

I look forward to riding Frisby Ridge again in a couple days. This was a good reminder to take hard rides more seriously. I will start early, prepare for a long ride and take extra layers. Frisby Ridge, we shall have a rematch.


My friend Katie gave me crabs. It was an accident.

It started with a gift: a hermit crab named Pagoo. Katie and I were strolling the beautiful beaches of Fakarava when she handed me a 3 inch long, white, cone shaped shell. It was lovely, and I put it in my backpack. Later I would add it to my zen garden on our sailboat. I had been working on a tiny zen garden where I could put my favorite South Pacific shells, sand, and a small pink cat symbolizing the kitten I loved and gave up last year, named Sherbert.

When I unpacked my bag later and removed Katie’s shell I soon found it crawling around on the table.

A hermit crab was living inside.

We see hermit crabs all over the beaches of the South Pacific. They are entertaining but I never thought of them as pets until Katie unwittingly introduced one into my home and heart. I picked up the little crab and offered it a crumb of bread. It reached out, legs and antennae wildly waving, and took the bread. It nibbled delicately as I watched, and I started to fall in love with the sweet creature. It doesn’t take much for me, I guess. I named the crab Pagoo, after a crab Brian had as a child. I placed Pagoo in my zen garden and enjoyed watching him climb around on my favorite shells.

Everything about Pagoo is so endearing. He’s a tiny crab in a big shell, which means he is really clumsy. He’s an easygoing crab who enjoys gently crawling on my hand and being hand fed.

I learned on Wikipedia hermit crabs are social and need to be with other crabs, so Katie and I went to the beach to find friends for Pagoo. We selected four crabs of different sizes, all smaller than Pagoo. Pagoo did seem happier with his new friends. I sometimes found the five crabs huddled together, and they seemed to enjoy each other’s company.

It’s fun to give them new shells to call home. I offered them a small white shell my friend Morgan gave me, and left it in the garden overnight. By morning it was occupied and the smallest shell became vacant. The crabs were upgrading.

I walked the beach looking for more new shells for my crabs. I found a peach colored shell which seemed about the right size. I placed it in the zen garden and the next morning found one of the crabs had moved into it. It was hard to tell which crab was in the new shell, but I figured it out pretty quickly.

One of Pagoo’s friends, previously in a white shell, immediately stood out as the most rambunctious and active crab. He would race around my hand trying to jump off the edge when I would hold him, and was very active in the garden as well. This compulsive crab definitely seemed to be the one inhabiting the new peach colored shell. So I named him Peachy, and soon his escape antics began.

Peachy, empowered by his new shell, was ready to explore the world. A couple nights later he escaped the garden and I found him crawling on the table the next morning.

Then, one stormy night, Peachy escaped the garden and took a three foot fall onto the floor of the salon. It was about 2 AM and I was already awake because the boat was rocking dramatically at anchor in a storm referred to as a Mara-mu. When a storm has a special name, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when it brings drama. I had just gotten up to put things away. Lying in bed again, I heard a distinctive sound, a soft clink, and I knew immediately what it was. Peachy had escaped again and this time had jumped onto the floor. That crab.

I got up and found Peachy crawling on the floor, unharmed after his big fall. I placed him back in the garden and he buried himself in the sand. Peachy seemed mad at me for the rest of the day. Peachy is not easygoing like Pagoo.

Peachy proceeded to get out almost every night, and one time he was missing for a day until Brian found him on the floor in one of our storage bunks. We devised a double wall system to keep him from getting lost in the boat again. It worked, which I’m sure displeased Peachy. But ultimately, he was the one who would most enjoy his release back into the wild, and I didn’t want him to be deprived of that and end up trapped on Magic.

The crabs have their own personalities. Peachy dreams of escape while the other crabs seem content in the garden. Pagoo is inquisitive and enjoys exploring my hand. The other crabs seem more interested in finding their way back to the garden when I pick them up. Pagoo is the only one who will take bits of food directly from my hand. And then there’s Peachy. Peachy is the wild one.

They all seem to enjoy climbing to high points, though. They are often found perched at the top of the tallest thing in their garden. I can relate so I found them a climbing wall on the beach. It’s a steep piece of coral with many handholds, or clawholds. It has routes of varying difficulty. The crabs love scaling it and sitting at the top. Some people spend a lot of money on their hermit crab hobbies, but here in the South Pacific I can find all the things the crabs need on the beach. They are the perfect sailboat pet.

My friend Nancy found natural sponges for the crabs, and gave them as a gift. They love Aunt Nancy now. I soaked a sponge in water and introduced it to the garden. The crabs enjoy sitting on it and licking the moisture from its surface. Every now and then they all crawl under it, nestle in the sand, and hide for awhile. What they are thinking, I will never know.

UPDATE: Our crabs were released on a small island in the Raiatea lagoon a few days ago. This island is tiny and can be circumnavigated in a couple minutes. We found other hermit crabs just like them, so we know they will survive. We placed a small pile of food on the beach for them, then they crawled off my hand and began immediately exploring their new home. I hope Pagoo is growing into his shell and Peachy is enjoying his freedom. Mostly, I hope they had a good time with us.

Our short term visa is over in French Polynesia, so we had to store Magic and come back to the US for 9 months. I’m already looking forward to my hermit crabs and zen garden next season on the boat.


That’s my yearly theme: crossing over. Crossing over boundaries of fear. Instead of a New Year’s resolution, a good friend suggested people come up with a theme for the year, and I liked that better. Only I didn’t want to tell too many people about it until I was sure I could do it. Because these were big things. This was not your basic “I’m going to the gym every morning” type of resolution.

I wanted to cross the Pacific Ocean with my husband on our sailboat. I wanted to dive with the hundreds of sharks on the other side. But I was so afraid of both these things. They required placing myself solely in the hands of nature and suspending my sense of control over what happened.

After much analysis I decided at a mental level these things were reasonably safe, although they still felt scary. So I crossed over, despite the fear, and found only good things on the other side. Brian and I sailed across the Pacific Ocean and now I’ve done one of the biggest shark dives in French Polynesia. Five times.

For most divers, this will be the biggest shark dive they ever do. Only I get to do it over and over again, living minutes away aboard Magic.

The South Pass of Fakarava easily has over 250 sharks swimming slowly into the current. There are Gray Reef Sharks, Black Tip Sharks and White Tip Sharks. These sharks see divers every day. They are used to being observed and neither flee nor circle you, they just drift on by. They are bored with you.

The huge aggregations of sharks have been respectful of our personal space and are actually really nice diving companions. I challenge you to look at these creatures with an open mind and enjoy these images without fear.

Meet the sharks of Fakarava.



 

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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