Sloth in Costa Rica

June Update: Travel Plans Cancelled

Derek Personal Stuff 49 Comments

Sloth in Costa Rica

About ten days ago, I was working on my laptop as usual in the wonderful Ah Cacao Cafe here in Playa del Carmen. At one point, I stood up from my seat and walked towards the restroom. And then I unzipped the zipper to my shorts as one would do before using the urinal. However, without even realizing it, I had actually unzipped my zipper before I even entered the restroom, while I was still walking across the cafe.

And then, it wasn’t until mid-urination that I happened to glance to my right and look in the mirror. While trying to make sure I didn’t have any brownie stuck in my teeth, I suddenly noticed the reflection of the bathroom door, which I had left completely open.

Sure enough, there were a few other customers who could see right in and all I could do was smile at them through the mirror as I carried on with my business.

Clearly, I have become so comfortable in this cafe that I forgot it was a cafe at all. I thought it was my apartment, where such actions wouldn’t really be so out of place.

After it happened, this small situation at Ah Cacao made me realize, not just how comfortable I’ve become at that cafe, but just how comfortable I’ve become in Playa del Carmen. Perhaps a little too comfortable.


Originally, I had written down that small tale because I planned to use it in order to illustrate my need to take a break from Playa del Carmen, to travel somewhere new, even for just a short period of time. Usually, the only way that I can survive living in one place for many months in a row is to make sure that I take such small breaks every now and then in order to keep life fresh.

This is why, in my original post, I was going to blurt out something like, “Well, as luck would have it, June is full of travel plans for me!”

But, and I must warn you that this post is about to take a drastic change in tone, I won’t be writing anything like that any more.

My exciting post about my travel plans for the month of June is no longer.

And it all began when I knocked a large glass of lemonade onto the keyboard of my laptop the other day. The situation then become worse when I sliced my finger wide open while cutting up a tomato a short time after.

As my computer proceeded to die a slow death and the blood dripped from the gash in my finger, all of my plans fell apart. Actually, my plans didn’t exactly fall apart because of these two relatively insignificant incidents, but these two incidents forced me to realize that I needed to take apart my plans myself.

The year that has been 2011 has so far been a wee bit more challenging than I had been expecting. It seems as if every week has brought with it some unexpected situation that has left me with no other choice but to change my plans on a moment’s notice or rethink the decisions I’ve made. And naturally, the result of so much instability and confusion is spending a great deal of time wondering why all of these things are happening and what I need to do to change the situation.


Had all gone smoothly, I would be leaving in exactly one week from today to spend about six days in Vancouver, attending the TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) Conference. In fact, I was so sure that I was attending this conference that Anil from FoxNomad and I decided to give an informal talk about our recent trip to Iraq on Friday, June 10th at the Persian Teahouse in downtown Vancouver.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to TBEX anymore. And now I must admit that I’m the ass that has backed out of this talk that we had planned, leaving Anil on his own. But believe me, this was a terribly difficult decision and I wouldn’t be backing out of this if I felt I had any other option.

Here’s the original invitation: Pre-TBEX Iraq Talk

Hopefully Anil will still be going ahead with the talk and I highly recommend anyone in the area to attend. As many of you know, our experience in Iraq was unlike any other travel adventure either of us had ever had and this talk is a great way to gain some further insight on what it’s truly like to visit this region.

Apart from the talk, I also began making plans to meet with specific bloggers at TBEX, bloggers who I’ve previously only communicated with online but who I would be absolutely excited about meeting in person. And then there are all of you I’ve met before and who I would have had a chance to spend more time with and gotten to know a lot better.

I’m not lying when I say that I was really looking forward to TBEX, as far as the socializing goes.

And then I spilled that lemonade on my laptop and sliced open my finger.

As a result, I realized that now is the time to sort out 2011 before it gets too late. My mind has been far, far away from the present moment in recent weeks, leaving me in a daze at times, one that has sucked the energy from me and made it almost impossible to concentrate on anything.

Something is just off right now. And I’m taking my distant state of mind and the accidents that have occurred as a sign that I need to find out what is wrong and fix it. And the sooner the better.

This is why I’m skipping out on TBEX. I need to deal with these challenges, do some serious thinking and put my life back in order. Bad timing indeed but necessary nonetheless.

So, I’ll be sticking around the Playa del Carmen area instead, heading off on some short trips to various places in the region in order to clear my head and take whatever steps I need to take to get back on track.

(Remember, I’ve never said that being a permanent nomad is easy!)


The point of this post was not simply to provide a (non) update of my plans for the month. I am also fully aware that the state I have been in has had an effect on others. I’ve had to break or cancel plans more times this year than I have in the last 10 years combined. I’ve also been unable to confirm my participation in certain events that need confirming or I’ve gone back and forth like a child, one minute saying I’ll be there, the next minute saying I can’t go.

So to all of you who I’ve done this to lately, I honestly do apologize. This isn’t like me at all, and by taking the first half of June to concentrate on turning this year around, I hope to solve my current inability to make decisions and return to my normal self as quickly as possible.

And that transformation will hopefully begin on Friday with a much needed visit to one of my favorite places in all of Mexico, the laid-back and colorful colonial town of Valladolid.


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Comments 49

  1. It’s often harder to say no to something than to just go along with it because it’s what you initially planned or everyone expected it. And, although I know Anil must have missed you in Vancouver, I’m sure he did a great job conveying your Iraq trip.

    I completely understand the need to be still, get some peace and clarity before jumping to the next situation. We’ve had a few situations this year where we realized we were doing stupid things, making bad decisions because we were running from one thing to another and not thinking right. After a few short stops here and there, we’re now about to commit to settling in Berlin for the next 3+ months. We arrived yesterday and it feels like home; it’s the right place for us to act on projects piling up since the beginning of the year and make some changes for the future.

    1. Hey Audrey – Now I’ve realized that those bad decisions can add up and quickly lead me in a direction far away from where I should be in life. Those stops that you mentioned are so important in order to remind ourselves that we’re in control of our lives and that we need to make decisions accordingly. There is always a lot of pressure to simply go along with what is expected, and if it’s not what we really want, it can lead us into a tough spot.

      Also, I think I need to spend some more time in Berlin at some point. I’ve only been once and enjoyed it but you guys really seem to love it there! And I’m glad that someone reminded you not to bribe the police if you get caught riding your bicycle through a red light.

  2. Pingback: My New Laptop & An Offer From Travel Blog Success | Wandering Earl

  3. I’m jealous!

    Not of a lemonade flooded computer, slashed fingers, missing TBEX, or stripping in public, but of your visit to Valladolid!

    I love that town too. 🙂

    If you’re staying at La Candelaria, say hello to the twins for me!

    1. Hey Matthew – Just got back from Valladolid earlier today 🙂 It’s amazing, it was my fourth time there and about 3 minutes after I arrived I was already saying, “This is my favorite town in Mexico” over and over again.

  4. TBEX will happen again – other socializing opportunities and more chances to meet up and talk. Take care of yourself first. 🙂 I look forward to meeting you some time. Sorry to hear about the laptop. I’ve spilled OJ on mine before. Had sticky keys for awhile before it finally gave up on me.

    1. Hey Suki – Now that I think about it, it’s incredible that this is the first time I’ve ever spilled anything on my laptop or dropped it or anything like that. So I guess I’m doing pretty well overall.

      And I certainly shall look forward to future gatherings of travelers and bloggers. There really are so many people out there I’d love to meet!

  5. At least you haven’t gotten comfortable enough to pass gas loudly.

    How long does the cafe let you stay working on your laptop before they kick you out? Any cost to use their internet?

    1. Hey Michael – That is very true. I have not become that comfortable yet.

      As for the cafes, Ah Cacao (as well as a handful of others in town) allow you to sit there all day. Nobody will ever kick you out, unless it’s closing time of course. There’s no cost to use the internet but you do need to purchase something. As an example, I’ll usually start off with a mango shake ($2.50 US) and if it’s a long day of work, I’ll buy a small cup of coffee or a brownie ($2 US) about 3 or 4 hours later. Not a bad deal.

      Finding a comfortable place to work all day down here is not a problem at all!

  6. Sounds good to me, Earl. Taking several months of down time can really be good for the soul, I think. And I know what you mean about getting so comfortable in one spot that you think of it as home. I’ve stayed in some guesthouses for so long they definitely were temporary homes – although I’ve yet to start undoing my pants in public 😉

    1. Hey Sabina – Are you sure? I thought I read somewhere that you had the same public nudity problem 🙂 If not, keep traveling and it will happen eventually!

    1. Hey Erica – That sounds wonderful! I shall look forward to meeting you guys when you arrive. We’ll have our own small gathering.

      Although, I’m somewhat jealous that you’ve been in Oaxaca. If the city of Oaxaca had a beach, I’d move there in an instant!

  7. I don’t want to make you feel bad but that’s such a shame we won’t get to meet you at TBEX. I understand though and hope that you are OK. Take care and do what you feel is right.

    1. Hey Erin – This is exactly why it was such a difficult decision as I was completely excited about finally meeting you guys. And while it won’t work out this time around, I know that I won’t let such an opportunity pass by again. Luckily, being travelers, this shouldn’t be our only chance to meet up!

  8. Hope your finger’s better!
    As for the cafe story…bravo! I understand exactly what you mean about getting too comfortable in certain places.

    1. Hey Sanny – I’m not sure how to interpret that comment 🙂

      As for the finger, I just removed the bandage tonight and it still has a while to go before it heals. I’m just happy that blood didn’t spurt out this time around.

  9. Sounds like the right decision to me. Sometimes, we just need to create time and space to sort things out, and it’s normally easier to do it at a place you know and like than while being on the road.
    I certainly cross my fingers you’ll get a new 2011 plan set up and going, Earl!

    1. Hey Fabian – A new 2011 is definitely on its way! Now that I know what to focus on, and now that I’ve decided to give myself some time to sort everything out, I’m looking forward to discovering what is in store for the near future.

      Are you heading back to this part of the world any time soon?

  10. Earl, totally understand. Life is not plain sailing and at times, our heads get mixed up. I have taken a step back from blogging for a couple of weeks, then getting a new theme and having a spring clean. I become too used to my routines. I thought the same as Caz though, and you were going to tell us about your criminal record for flashing!

    1. Hey Natalie – I’m not sure what to think when everyone assumes my stories are going to end up with me being arrested 🙂

      And I’m looking forward to seeing your new site design. A spring clean sounds like a good idea and should be applied to many aspects in our lives every now and then!

  11. I was really curious about where this story is going at the beginning.
    Yes, all the plans and promises. But at the end of the day, what matter is what you think and what you are dealing with. Anyone who good enough that you want to do a sincere apology would understand your point.
    Hopefully you will find your piece of peace in your mind.

    1. Hey Juno – I hope that’s the case and I know that from now on things will start improving.

      And I also know that story at the beginning might have made this post a little confusing, just like the thoughts in my head right now!

  12. Glad you are doing what’s best for you but bummed you’ll be missing TBEX! Was very much looking forward to your talk and to meeting you.

    Hope you find clarity soon.

    1. Thanks Stephanie. That clarity will appear at some point and when it does, I’ll be ready for any opportunity to meet up with other travelers and bloggers…so save a TBEX drink for a later date and I’ll be there!

  13. Man, that is a bummer. I looked forward to meeting you and was hoping to go to that talk on Iraq. Too bad that you won’t be there. I actually have the opposite feeling – I need this trip badly!! I just need to take a break from the things going on here and get away. I really look forward to it as well! It’s too bad we can’t meet but there is a lesson in this I learned a long time ago – don’t eat tomatoes! 🙂

    Best of luck and hope you get things straightened out!

    1. Hey Jeremy – Trust me, I won’t touch another tomato for quite a while! In fact, I’m having a hard time touching anything that requires cutting or slicing.

      I can definitely see how a trip could be a good thing as well and I really felt that would be the case for a while. But now I just don’t think I’ll be my normal self and I’d prefer to sort my stuff out so that when I do meet you and other bloggers and travelers at some point, I’m fully present. In the meantime, enjoy your weekend up there!

  14. Tough spot to be in, sorting things out, I’ve had similar circumstances but things have always worked out for good even though they didn’t always feel good at the time, prayer helps and does wonders for direction.

    1. I appreciate the comment Erica. I’m also confident that things will work out in the end which is why I’m ready to start making the changes I need to make!

  15. When you started this post I thought you were going to say you were arrested for flashing!! I thought that could only be a story that could come from your travel tales.

    I think you have made the right decision. Isn’t it amazing how things like this snap us into reality and force us to make the decisions we have to make. Usually the signs have been coming to us for months and we ignore them so something more drastic has to shock us.

    I think we have to always look at why things are happening and what are they trying to tell us to do. We’ve been having them a lot this past year, and once again we’ve been snapped into reality with our plans. It’s scary but I’m sure it will work out the best and it will for you too.

    1. Hey Caz – I was definitely ignoring the signs for a while but after these latest incidents, I can’t ignore them any longer. It’s time to make some real decisions, which is now what I intend to do. I’m glad I reached this point as it’s a much healthier alternative than dragging on for many more months or even years in the same disturbed state of mind.

      Now I’m looking forward to seeing where we all end up. I’m sure we’ll all survive and our plans will work out soon enough.

      As for the flashing, luckily I wasn’t arrested! The staff at the cafe would prevent that from happening because I represent about half of the revenue that this cafe earns. If it wasn’t for me spending 6 days per week working there, I think they would go out of business.

  16. I feel your pain when it comes to unexpected challenges drastically altering and questioning your path; where you’ve been, where you’re headed and where you’re going. I’ve let mine keep me from traveling and it even halted my blogging almost completely for lack of inspiration. I, too, sold my TBEX ticket not long ago.

    I hope you’re able to sort out your plans and take the time you need to get back into the present. I’m working on the same thing and just keep telling myself…baby steps! Good luck!

    1. Hey Sarah – Baby steps indeed. And it seems like we may need to start a conference for all of us who decided to back out of TBEX in the end! We can all get together and help sort each others issues out 🙂

  17. Sorry to hear about your funk. It caught me by surprise. I almost got the impression that you were describing a mid-life crisis as I was reading. I wish you luck in figuring this out.

    1. @optionsdude: Thanks for that. I have no doubt that it will all be sorted soon now that I’m dedicating some time to that specific task 🙂

  18. Earl, the important thing is that you recognize your life has become out of balance and you’re making it a priority to get in touch with yourself and become more centered. Our bodies often let us know that we need some down time long before our mind figures it out. Good for you for listening to it and taking care of yourself. Take care and be kind to yourself as you go through this process.

    1. Hey Peggy – I’m happy that I recognized things were out of balance right now. It took a while but it’s quite clear at this point. And if it took a sliced finger and ruined computer to show me this, I’m perfectly fine with that. Had I ignored the signs any longer, things could have been much worse!

  19. That’s too bad Earl, but totally understandable. Good thing we caught a visit in Playa last week! 😉
    Good luck with the next chapter, what ever that may be

    1. Hey Cam – Yeah, that did work out well that we got a chance to meet up here in Mexico! And besides, with the way the Stanley Cup Finals have started out, it might be better for me to stay away from Vancouver in the end 🙂

  20. Life happens, man. As if every day isn’t filled with enough maddening idiosyncrasies, long-term travelers have to constantly bounce back and forth between cultures.

    The effect that a rapidly expanding world view and (proportionally) shrinking sense of self has on the psyche is quite a powerful force. People have been known to make drastic changes or just plain burn-out.

    Given the caliber of traveler and person you are, I have no doubt that you’ll have everything sorted in no time. But yeah, you probably need a little “living in the moment” zen to re-align yourself with reality.

    1. Hey Nick – Living in the moment zen is exactly what I need. You gave a great description of what can happen to someone who spends so much time traveling. It does take its toll, more than most would imagine. I’ve always said that traveling is more challenging than any job I’ve ever had and sometimes we just wake up one day unsure of who or where we are in life.

      Where do we fit in? Where are we going? These are questions we must ask but like you said, life happens and that’s why I know that things will be straightened out shortly. Just need a little time.

      I really appreciate your support Nick.

  21. I think you are making a wise decision, Earl. Sometimes our minds and bodies need to give us a punch in the face before we start to pay attention and take care of ourselves. 🙂 Maybe that is what is happening here. Good luck figuring it out.

    1. Hey Christy – That makes sense and I’ve definitely received that punch (or slicing of my finger). At least I’ve woken up now and can work on improving things so that I won’t need another punch/slice for a long, long time!

  22. Don’t worry too much! It’s horrible for you. I totally understand where you’re coming from. In less than a week I’ll be wrapping up a term in school and I can’t stop thinking about leaving again. I’ll be heading for Japan at the end of the month and that’s not soon enough.

    I also feel your pain about TBEX. I’m less than a 3 hour drive from the World Domination Summit in Portland and won’t be able to make it. But alas, there will also be more talks, summits, and gatherings and the one you should be watching out for most is yourself.

    Keep on being awesome!

    1. Thanks for your words Adam. And I know there will be other gatherings, which is why I was okay with skipping out on this one. Even without official gatherings I’ve been lucky enough to meet many travelers and bloggers out on the road in many countries.

      On a different note, that’s excellent that you’re headed to Japan in less than a month. And that deal you got on your flight is unreal. I definitely want to read a post about how you landed that bargain!

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