The Benefits of Fear

No one enjoys being afraid. But I bet you have never considered that you can capitalize on this uncomfortable feeling.

benefits of fear

You can reap benefits from this uncomfortable emotion

Wake up!

Some emotions can be disquieting, jarring us from an absent minded focus on our lives – anger, fear and grief are such emotions – but none of these feelings are a waste of time. Not if you know how to utilize them to your benefit.

Fear wakes us up and tells us to reorder our priorities. Without fear, perhaps we would remain snug in a situation, not paying attention to an area of our lives that is getting away from us.

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Another choice

The common reactions to fear are fight, flight or freeze. You can get angry that your portfolio has diminished in these turbulent markets and blame the government, your broker, or your spouse. Maybe you pretend that your expenses are not out of control, nothing uncomfortable is happening and everything will work out for the best one way or another. Or you might want to avoid looking at your 401k statements and your credit cards when they come in, because you feel immobilized and you don’t know what to do.

But there is another choice. You could pay attention to what is going on in your life, the choices you have made financially and personally, and make a change.

Gift of fear 2

Fear offers us gifts if we are willing to look

The gifts of fear

Fear is here to help you take notice that something isn’t working.

It is a lifesaving gift.

If you have found yourself afraid of your financial future, try a couple of these suggestions to get yourself moving.

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Look at your expenses

Where could you cut down or trade off in your financial outlay? Could you bicycle to the store on occasion instead of driving your car? Could you pack a lunch a few days a week instead of going out each day? Pare down on your cable channels?  Stop a subscription? Spend less for a gift? Buy a gourmet coffee treat once or twice less a month?

Gifts of fear 3

Prioritizing and rearranging are powerful tools

Take a look at where your money goes and see where you can save. Add up the savings amounts then go back and look through your list again.

What can you rearrange?

Do you have an extra room in your home?

Could you consider a student or a roommate as a source of extra income and to share expenses? If your home is located near Mayo Clinic or a famous hospital, it could be a godsend to someone whose loved one is hospitalized or receiving weeks of care. Does your home town have tourist attractions nearby? Tourists often want to be close to natural features or cultural events at a better cost than vacation lodging and this could be a rewarding way to meet new people.

Gift of fear 4

Your home could be a source of income

With a little thought and preparation, your spare room could offer you more than a storage location.

Your Retirement Dream IS Possible. Click here

Car options

What you pay for your vehicle maintenance, repair and fuel is in the top 4 categories of any household expense.

Gift of fear 5

Carpool or share-a-ride

Perhaps you could carpool a few days a week, share car expenses with a neighbor or friend or join a carshare group in your town. This idea has been catching on for years now and offers you ways to save considerably in this area of your financial outlay.

Take a moment

Before chucking any of these ideas out of hand, consider your possibilities. Feeling stuck is a side effect of fear and you don’t have to give in to it.

Fear is asking you to reorder your priorities and if you want to move forward with your life, even a tiny step is better than none at all.

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Single Traveler Lodging Question

Hello Billy and Akaisha,

I’ve had a brief look through your guide so far and one thing that caught my eye was that you appear to have both couchsurfed and stayed in hostel dorms.

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I’ve been essentially travelling for three years now myself and have stayed in private rooms in hostels, but never shared sleeping space. However, a while back I found myself sharing an apartment with a young female American backpacker. And then, on a recent trip to Eastern Europe with a friend, we found ourselves sharing a sleeper on a Ukrainian train with a couple of locals.

Both experiences were positive. So now I’m thinking maybe I should occasionally try sleeping in a dorm, or couchsurfing. Saving money would be handy, but the social aspect I think would be the big thing, particularly as I’m single and usually travel alone.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.



Hi Mike,

While Billy and I travel together and have each other’s company to share, we often see singles sharing sleeping quarters in one fashion or another. Billy and I have done the same when circumstances call for it — when rooms are filled up in hotels, or like you say, sleeper cars on trains that hold 4 people. In Europe and in Mexico we utilized pensions which gave us private rooms, but was a social situation in the kitchens.

Fellow travelers provide a wealth of information and single travelers seem to be used to that exchange and actually rely on it.

We have a Travel Housing Options Page which you might find useful.

Not every shared housing or sleeping arrangement works out to be noise-free or compatible but I suppose that is part of the traveler’s story. We have good friends who swear by Couch Surfing even if they don’t sleep over but rather meet someone for a cup of coffee or lunch. It’s an easy way to make a quick connection with a local to get insight and tips on a new location.

These types of social networks offer a lot for the single traveler. Take a look at our Single Traveler page for some ideas. The good news is that the number of these traveling networks seem to be expanding.

Hope this helps, Mike. Enjoy your travels!

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Turning Trash into Beauty

Creamos means “Let’s create” and “We believe” in Spanish

One of the many benefits of being financially independent is being able to choose what to do with your time. Billy and I love living with the locals all over the globe, and opportunities for volunteer projects are obvious and diverse.

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While living at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, we heard about a particularly successful endeavor and wanted to share it with our readers.

Emily Coffin is the coordinator of Creamos, a labor of love in Guatemala City.


A mother studies with her child close by

Out of the dump

Twenty-five women, who used to make a living scavenging in the municipal garbage dump, have been able to start their lives over again and escape the poverty of their past. They do this by turning trash into treasure. Recycled materials such as chip bags, pop tops and old magazines are donated by local schools and businesses or collected by the women themselves. These assorted pieces of tossed scrap are turned into wearable art, and finished off with shop-bought beads and clasps, then sold at events, in participating stores and Creamos’ own shop, which is staffed by members of the project.

Working at the garbage dump took mothers away from their families from sunrise to sunset and endangered their lives by breathing the toxic fumes rising from the piles of garbage. Today through Creamos, these women make up to 3 times the amount they would have made by working in the city garbage dump, they have flexible working hours and it’s safe. The extra income greatly supplements their lives.


Guatemalan women working at Creamos

The mothers, who all live close to the project, study for two hours a day and then create their jewelry at home. This schedule provides flexibility in caring for their children.

Not only that, but the women also receive free day care for their children, access to a medical clinic, two meals a day and classes on nutrition and financial planning.

For more information on Volunteering Opportunities around the world, click here

Changing their financial lives

There are fraudulent lending schemes in Guatemala and due to illiteracy, many people fall prey to signing deceitful contracts, placing them in severe debt. This ruins their chances to save money and plan for their future. Creamos set up an internal saving plan, which allows members to deposit any amount from their paycheck and draw upon it when needed.

“It’s been really exciting to see. One woman was even able to save up enough money to pay off her debts and open up a real bank account,” says Coffin.

This small crafts workshop has quickly become an independent business, which recently started exporting goods to the U.S.


Trash to treasure

In order for the women to participate in Creamos, there are requirements. The jewelry business is an application of both the math they are taught and the literacy they are learning in the classroom. Every jewelry creator must calculate the price of their bangle, earring and necklace based on established formulas. The members receive training in entrepreneurship, sales and personal finance. They also broaden their abilities to work together by conducting peer reviews of their work and they manage quality control of the products they sell.

“Almost all of these women are survivors of domestic violence and aren’t used to voicing their opinions, so it’s great to see them feeling confident enough to say what they think,” states Coffin.

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If it ever crossed your mind that you could be bored in retirement, the idea of volunteering or mentoring would easily erase any concerns you might have. Your talents and expertise are welcome in hundreds of locations worldwide.

Teach. Learn. Give.

Inspired? Take a look at our Volunteer Page to find locations and organizations where you can give of your expertise.

Emily Coffin is the coordinator of Creamos. Meet the mothers at Creamos by clicking here

Take a look at some Creamos jewelry here

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Traveler’s Belly

Akaisha and Billy,

I enjoyed your essay “Confessions of a World Traveler.”

For being a world traveler, I have particularly unhelpful personal failings. For instance, I get motion sickness on buses, trains, planes, boats or in cars.

Your difficulties remind me of my concerns while traveling in an unfamiliar area: A sudden onset of traveler’s diarrhea while traveling in a  bus or boat without bathroom facilities, or while walking in an unfamiliar area where I don’t know where to find a bathroom.

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I imagine you’ve come across this problem from time to time. Your travelogues indicate you like to eat local cuisine. Do you have any advice about what foods to avoid, what medicines to take, etc.

Thank you for your help.


Hi Joan,

Thank you for taking the time to write and express your travel concerns.

Yes, it is no fun to be ill when traveling on the road. I must say that since this is our lifestyle, we don’t have the “push” or “drive” that a vacation mind set brings with it. If we are not feeling well, we can stay close to our hotel room if that is what is required. We can spend an extra day or two in a particular location until our health returns, so rarely do we find ourselves out and about frantically searching for a bathroom.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

We also do not tend to over schedule our days with activities so there is no obligation to be somewhere “or else.” If we need to cancel an outing we will do so. Again, this is our lifestyle, not a vacation with all the pressures to see and do that a vacation tends to have. We go at our own speed, which we find more pleasant.

And, I must say, that in the locations where we travel, public restrooms are not as common as in one would find in the States or Canada.

That being said, we tend to enjoy our locations fully, eating street food or food that is served in local restaurants. We don’t drink the local water but prefer bottled water instead. We do travel with Imodium but one can obtain anti-diarrhea medicine at most pharmacies world wide.  And we always travel with toilet paper. Third world countries don’t always provide toilet tissue in public restrooms so it’s prudent to carry it along with you.

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In my “Confessions” piece, it was my intent to demonstrate that even a world traveler has to overcome personal challenges. That even though I have traveled thousands of miles, it wasn’t always a piece of cake, and that I didn’t want my personal fears or concerns to keep me from seeing more and doing more with my life.

This is what I also wish for you – courage to meet the challenges you face!

All the best,

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Going Naked

The ever-present question

It is such a fatiguing topic and one that is filled with emotion and fear. As a nation we can hardly get past it and present solutions are sometimes as hard to handle as the problem itself.

I’m talking about the price of the administration of health care.

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High cost and obstacles

We know a couple who pays $1,200 a month for a catastrophic, high deductible plan in the States and they have never had a claim. Another couple pays $2,000 a month just for the husband’s ability to be insured with his pre-existing heart condition. Some people are not able to be covered at all with US insurance companies due to a completely cleared up medical condition that happened 5, 8, or 10 years ago. They feel they are just twisting in the wind, and waiting for the next shoe to drop.

going naked

Focused on medical care


Sometimes our readers write to us about staying in their jobs for another 5 years or more to qualify for employer covered health insurance that will last “forever.” Is it worth it? they ask. They feel like they are spending their healthy years chained to a job that has lost its luster for something in the future that might not exist when they need or want it.

To look into private, national and international insurance options, click here

Going naked

As you know, Billy and I have traded security for adventure many times in our lives. And when it comes to health insurance and the price for the administration of health care, it’s no different. Medical Tourism is a viable option and one that we espouse in our articles and books. We have been called on the carpet for our decisions in this area more than once.

However, among world travelers there is a phrase we use when we discuss health insurance policies and whether or not we want to continue holding one and paying the corresponding price tag. It’s called “going naked” or “going semi-naked.”

going naked

People all over the world receive medical care

This phrase pretty much describes how it feels when one chooses to let that insurance policy go. One can feel pretty exposed and vulnerable – at least in the beginning. On the other hand, not being tied to a $12,000 -$24,000 or more payment per year opens up other possibilities. In a few years without a policy payment one can save enough money to afford something unexpected out of pocket.

For the most part we’re talking about travelers here, so these are people not living a full time traditional life in the States. They have made certain decisions and trade offs to have the life they enjoy, and they have already received health care in other countries. There is always the first time for an experience such as this — going to a doctor in a foreign country — and the first time can be unnerving. But then after receiving the care, realizing the doctor speaks English, seeing the hospital or clinic with their computers and quality equipment and having the heart felt care, things get placed into a better perspective.

going naked

Computers are used in Mexico and Thailand hospitals

Those who have never received medical service out of their own home country tend to look at this topic with jaded eyes or great suspicion.

It’s understandable.

Those who have gone through this experience feel their eyes have been opened to new possibilities. The idea of “going naked” of an insurance policy becomes a manageable possibility. Going “half-naked” (choosing a high deductible policy or travel insurance when visiting the States) is a comfortable middle ground.

To find international dentists, hospitals and clinics, click here

Your choice

Once again, Billy and I are not advising anyone to do anything. We present options to challenging situations, and you can ruminate about it or toss it into the round file.

But one thing we see over and over again is how this one subject seems to be over-weighted as compared to other themes that could generate happiness and comfort in one’s retirement life. Categories such as cost of living, reasonable weather, having a community of friends and energizing, rewarding activities to do, for instance.

There is no one size fits all, to be sure.

But if the overbearing cost of administration of health care is a concern in your retirement plans, you might consider some working alternatives.

For more information on Medical Tourism, click here. For Alternative Medical options, click here.


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Two Kids with Big Dreams

It was September of 1979 and my chef husband Billy and I had just returned from spending the last 6 months eating and drinking our way around Europe. Between the two of us we had $104 left in our savings and we wanted to purchase a restaurant in the central coastal town of Santa Cruz, California.

We were two kids with big dreams and no money, but we had guts, determination and the willingness to work hard.

By November of this same year we had worked out a no-money-down idea where we had basically promised away our future earnings to pay for the down payment on a small existing neighborhood business a quarter mile from the ocean. We took over this business December 18, 1979.

That was 32 years ago today.

We are still two kids with big dreams and we are sharing this short story with you to show you how dreams motivate action.

Without the dream and the willingness to commit to it you can wander around aimlessly forever.

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What’s holding you back from pursuing your dream? Fear? Lack of commitment? The need for a guarantee?

If you really want something to happen in your life you must move towards it with all that you have inside of yourself. Don’t waver. Discard distractions.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. – Henry David Thoreau

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House Sitting My Way Around the World

Guest blog post – Teresa Roberts

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

Teresa constantly seeks creative routes to her personal freedom and has reinvented herself more than once in life. From teacher/principal to world traveler/international house sitter to author and travel journalist, Teresa illustrates how life sans-paycheck is not static but rather filled with adventure and new challenges! Choosing to house sit as a means to travel the world is not only an imaginative route but a practical one as well.

A unique way to travel

I live in countries all over the world! I am not an expatriate. I’m definitely not a tourist. My method of travel is a bit unusual. I am an international house sitter!

House sitting

Teresa on the walls of Vysehrad in Prague

I still like saying those three words, international house sitter. Even though I have been taking care of houses for almost five years, I have not become jaded. In fact, I remain mildly startled and totally grateful that I managed to stumble across a very unique way to travel, one that makes it possible for me to “live the dream”. I know that phrase sounds cliché. In fact, it has become a very overused phrase in many ways. When I hear it, it always makes me feel like someone is trying to sell me a time share on a crowded beach. Let’s see if I can paint a picture of how my life has turned out to be the perfect fit for me without resorting to another cliché.

Cost effective luxury

First of all, I am not rich. I am not young. I don’t have connections. I am truly an ordinary gal who just wanted to travel. I retired from a good career in public education with the hopes of discovering a way to travel a lot even though I didn’t have a big income. I took a hit to my state pension because I retired about ten years earlier than many of my colleagues. I walked away from a nice salary without looking back. Well, maybe I looked in my rear view mirror once in a while, but what I saw, although familiar, was not enough to lure me back to the manner in which I had been living for most of my adult life.

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Our house in Ireland

House sitting is a way to achieve a travel experience that is extremely cost effective. That part of the business is probably the most obvious. People can recognize immediately that living abroad in someone else’s house reduces my expenses tremendously. The idea of no hotel bills is naturally appealing. Who wouldn’t like to live in Malta for ninety days, enjoying the comforts of home. Sweeten the deal with Internet, TV, and all other utilities included and it becomes very apparent why I have the luxury to stay in any location that I choose for such long periods. I stay for months at a time in some of the most beautiful locations on the planet, literally for free.

Digging into local culture

The part of this story that is not always quite so obvious is the part that is directly related to my personal dreams. Oops! Did I just resort to a cliché again? Maybe just a half cliché. Sorry about that, but I do think that this way of life that I have been leading for years is suited particularly to my style of travel. I have never been very interested in tourism. I don’t like rushing my experiences. I don’t enjoy racing through a country. I like to dally. I adore digging into the local culture. I prefer exploring a tiny region and meeting people who eventually befriend me. I have friends all over the world!

But is it limiting?

House sitting may be limiting to those who require nonstop action. After all, when I agree to take care of someone’s home for a given period of time, I also relinquish my rights to roam very far afield.That becomes the privilege of the home owner, instead. I don’t mind. I know what I want from the experience and I make sure that I get it before I accept an assignment. I want to live in an area of outstanding natural beauty. I want to be able to sit on the patio or terrace enjoying grand vistas. That wish has usually been granted. I have lived in some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful locations in the world from high in the Almijara mountains in Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean, to passing idyllic months on a tiny tropical island with panoramic views of the entire Dutch Antilles. All of it exactly what I dreamed it would be and more, so much more.

For practical travel information, pros and cons to each destination we have visited, click here

Besides the natural beauty of a particular region, I get to do my own cooking, partake in the local festivities, enjoy leisurely morning coffees in a café, grab a cold beer in my favorite pub, shop where people know my name and relax in the plaza with new friends. All the while, I am reaping the benefits of some very fine homes, pools, gardens, friendly pets, and kind neighbors. It is a peaceful way to see the world, one region at a time.

House sitting 3

View from our terrace in Competa, Spain

I am a quiet traveler. Wherever I go, I can easily make myself at home. I rarely feel the urge to alter my way of living in order to squeeze in a trip to a nearby country. When I am in Spain, for instance, it would be quite easy to go to Portugal for a weekend or Morocco for a few days. I don’t! When I think about those other places, I always say to myself that one day I will live there, too. Eventually, I do! That’s my dream life. No cliché intended!

If you want to find out more about how Teresa travels the world as an international house sitter, feel free to visit her website Creative Paths to Freedom where you can also buy her new book Finding the Gypsy in Me – Tales of an International House Sitter. 

Related Articles:

Retirees Find House Sitting Opens the Door to a New World

Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective 

Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Top 10 Reasons To “Sit” through Retirement

Traveling? Find Someone to Look after Your Home and Pets Cost-Free

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Money Saving Travel Tips

Each travel style has advantages and disadvantages

If you are a Vacationer with limited travel time, you will probably be staying in more expensive hotels and eating most of your meals out in tourist priced restaurants. There might be tours you want to take, paying for a guide and transport rather than venturing out on on your own taking a local bus and armed with internet research.

If you are a Visitor, you might have a little longer time frame in which to see a place and perhaps you like to do more things independently. You might even speak some survival phrases and choose to dine in local eateries.

Travel Tips 1

We hired a boatsman to sail

A Veteran Traveler has no time limit on their travels other than visa restrictions, has a working knowledge of the local language and chooses an individual traveling style based on internal motivation. Perhaps he hires a private driver, shops in the local markets for supplies and eats street food.

We speak extensively about the pros and cons of each travel style in our book Your Retirement Dream IS Possible To learn more, click here.

Now the travel tips

If you fall in either of the last two categories, the following tips can save you money while on the road:

Choose lower cost destinations like Eastern Europe, Latin America, or Asia. You will get more bang for your buck in every category – housing, transportation, food, entertainment. The money you save allows you to do more.

Travel during the low seasons to take advantage of the bargains hungry vendors – including hotels – offer at these times.

Go to the local markets and grab some food to make your own meals. Use the kitchen in your rented apartment or the kitchen in your hostel. Make peanut butter sandwiches in your hotel room or have some fruit and pastry for breakfast, saving you from going out every meal.

Travel Tips 2

Using local transport in Asia

Use public transport to get to your destinations or hire a private driver if you are traveling with others to share the cost.

Avoid buying souvenirs unless they are lightweight and small. The more you purchase, the heavier your bags are and you may need to check your luggage and pay a fee, or have an extra bag all together.

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The Story of Yes

The bungalow was dark. The only sound was Papi’s rasp, breath after breath. Salvatore knew his Father’s time was near, and he was gripped with fear and anger.

“Come here, Hijo.”

Salvatore neared his Father’s deathbed with dread. It was just another loss, another problem.

“Hijo, I have nothing to give you… The soldiers took my land, and killed your Mother… All I have is a promise I have kept,.. and this I give to you. It is a source of riches beyond description… Keep this promise, and you will be rewarded.”



Papi explained to Salvatore that each week he was to bring a gift to the Anciano on the neighboring mountain. It didn’t matter what, he was to bring a gift. He was not to miss a week, not one, for any excuse. Then Papi gently died, with a half smile on his face.

Salvatore was furious. If his Father had a source of riches, why didn’t he share them? Why didn’t he use them to ease their miserable lives?

During the war, Salvatore and his family had escaped and relocated to a scrap of land that he was desperately trying to cultivate. All he had was this land, a handful of sheep, and now, his Father’s promise to  keep. It was just another burden.


Salvatore began his journey up the neighboring mountain begrudgingly. “Bring a gift, indeed. I have nothing but this water in my goatskin. That old man will just have to accept my nothing.”


The mountain is very steep

Every step along the way, Salvatore cursed. He resented the time it took away from his land, and the effort it took to climb the hill. The whole situation was a supreme bother, and he wished he hadn’t agreed to continue this promise.

At last, he reached the place where the Anciano lived, and he threw down the goatskin in front of him. “Why don’t you get your own water? What do you ever contribute to the refugees below? Do you know how selfish you are being? Do you know how hard this is for me to do? I can’t afford the time away from my land, and my family! You‘re worthless, Old Man.”

Anciano looks deeply at Salvatore, nods, and says “yes.”

Salvatore, frustrated, spins on his heel, and heads down the hillside.

Anciano takes the water that Salvatore has just given him, and places it in a beautiful place in his meager garden. There he contemplates the purity of the water. He thinks of the clouds forming, eventually dropping their moisture. He sees lakes and rivers filling up with life-giving water, supplying villages and villagers everywhere. He considers the goat, eating the grass also fed by the water, and about the sacrifice of the goat’s life to make the very bag the water was carried in. He thinks of the skill it took the craftsman to make the goatskin bag water tight, so no precious drop of water was lost.

All of this he thought about with respect, and his heart filled with gratitude.


Precious water

Meanwhile Salvatore continues down the hill glad that he got the promise out of the way for this week. He felt lighter for having told the old man what he thought of his laziness and selfishness. Somehow, the exercise of going up and down the hill and the sunshine on his back felt good too.

The Day of Promise arrives the next week before Salvatore realizes it. Aggravated, he grabs some corn from a pile in the corner, just to have something to bring. “What a bother,” he thinks as he labors up the hill.

When he meets the lean old man, Salvatore once again offhandedly dumps the corn in front of him. “My wife is sick. I should be there taking care of her. Since she is ill, I have to do twice the load. You are so selfish and worthless. You do nothing to contribute to us. Here’s your food.”

Again, the old man looks meaningfully into Salvatore’s eyes, nods, and says “Yes.”

Salvatore, puzzled and annoyed, turns and heads down the hill.


Corn is a staple all throughout Latin America

Anciano places the corn on his small table and begins to think how the corn was made. Again, the rain, the seeds that some man collected and planted when the time was right. The soil which gave of its nutrients. He thought of the time and patience it took for the corn to grow; days of sunshine and nights of moonlight. He remembered the man who labored to pick the corn, put it into a sack, and carried it up the hill for him to eat. His heart swelled with gratitude, and he blessed the corn.

Meanwhile, Salvadore, on his way down the hill, feels lighter for having dropped off his sack of corn, and unburdening himself of the troubles he carried in his heart of his wife’s illness. The exercise he was getting filled his lungs with fresh air. His heart beat strongly. The sun warmed his back and gave his cheeks color.

Week after week, Salvatore keeps his promise to his Father, and week after week, he thinks he will get some riches from the old man. “Maybe I need to give him a better present,” he thinks. “Then he will see that I am worthy of his riches.”

Salvatore decides to give the Anciano a woolen blanket. It’s an expensive gift, and labor intensive.

Arriving at the top of the hill, he gives the blanket to the old man. Anciano looks at Salvatore, smiles a small smile, and says “Yes.”

“What’s the matter with you, Old Man? Nothing impresses you! This is the best I have to offer, and you take it like it is of no importance! I hate this promise. You are nothing but a weight to me.” Salvatore returns down the hill.


Sheep’s wool made into a blanket

Anciano places the blanket on the mat where he sleeps and considers how the blanket is made. The soil, moisture and sunshine that fed the grass that fed the sheep that grew the wool. The man who sheared the sheep, and the woman who took the wool and processed it into yarn and wove the blanket. Countless hours went into the making of this woolen blanket, and Anciano’s heart filled to bursting.

What a gift!

Salvatore, against his better judgment begins to realize that he enjoys dumping the mental and emotional burdens he carries onto the old man. He feels lighter inside; energized by the exercise, the release of his anger, and the weights of his heart. He begins to notice the flowers along side the hill, and the colors of the rocks that line his path. He wonders why he has never seen them before.


Seasons pass, and weekly Salvatore brings his gifts to Anciano. Sometimes it is fruit, or vegetables, firewood, seeds or nuts. Each time he places the gift in front of the old man and tells him what a problem it is to bring them to him. He tells him of the sacrifices he makes to keep this promise.

Soon, he also begins to tell the old man of his worries for his family. He speaks of his son who is just becoming a man, and how he fears for him. Will he be able to make his way in the world? Will he have to join the army and fight at the border of the neighboring country?

There are fears he has for his wife; how hard she works, and he wonders if she will be able to keep up this pace. He shares his concerns over his daughter. Will she find a good husband? And what about his crops? Will there be enough rain? Too much?

No matter what Salvatore says, or what mood he is in, Anciano listens intently, nods thoughtfully, and says “Yes.”

Salvatore begins to realize that he has never known anyone like this before in his life. The old man accepts him on good days and bad, and with large gifts and small ones too. Soon, Salvatore becomes aware that he is feeling much freer inside himself. His weekly visits climbing up and down the hill and unburdening himself to this old man has made him lean and strong. Clear headed. There is a deep change inside and he’s not sure why or how it happened.


The Path of Life

He begins to look forward to his visits with Anciano. Instead of his fears and angers and resentments, soon, Salvatore finds that he speaks to the old man of his hopes and dreams for his son, his daughter. He excitedly tells of how he wants to expand his land and his home. Hiring men to help him with his increased crop yield.

Anciano listens to it all. He smiles, nods and accepts everything Salvatore gives him.


One day Salvatore arrives at Anciano’s hut and sees him on his sleeping mat on the floor. Anciano is laboring with his breath. Salvatore becomes alarmed at the prospect that the old man might die.

“Are you dying?! What will I do without you? What will become of me? I need you, Old Man,” he says.

“Yes,” Anciano replies.

They sit together for another hour as the old man passes from this world to the next.

Salvatore places his head on the old man’s chest and weeps for his loss. An emotional storm rises and falls inside of him.  When calm returns, in his mind he hears the old man’s “Yes.”

He looks around and finds a peaceful place in the back of Anciano’s hut where he digs a hole. Lovingly he places the old man in the earth and covers him with dirt. He looks around and doesn’t know what to do. In his mind, he hears the old man’s voice, saying “Yes.


The Anciano’s simple surroundings

He cleans up the hut, waters a few plants, and returns down the hill.“My life has changed,” he says to himself.

“Yes,” he hears the old man say back to him.

Salvatore returns week after week to tidy up the hut, tend the few plants, clear the gravesite of weeds. He continues to talk to the old man at his gravesite, telling him of his hopes, dreams, and fears.

Then one day, Salvatore knows that this ritual is no longer necessary. He has been speaking to the old man on the other side now for a long time. He knows the old man hears him whether he is at his hut or if he is out in the fields.

He decides not to return to the hut, for it is no longer necessary. He carries the old man inside of him now, wherever he goes.

“Yes,” he hears the old man say.
Salvatore returns to his family a profoundly changed man.


Seasons pass. Salvatore feels tired after working a full day with his sheep and mending a fence, and he says “Yes.” Days come and go, weeks and months pass by; horrendous winters, splendid springs, and to everything he says “Yes.”

Salvatore’s inclination to argue has all but ceased. He says “thank you” these days, and notices how his wife smiles more, his daughter is happy, and his son strong. His fear, and all the closing it brings, all the walls it builds, has fallen away. He observes this of himself, and he says “Yes.”

He notices that his son looks up to him now, and seeks him out for advice. His daughter blooms in the safety that he provides for her, and she enjoys his company.


Salvatore’s Family

More seasons pass and his son grows strong, marries a girl and gets a farm of his own. His daughter is sought after by a young man from a neighboring village, gets  married and has a child. His wife ages, the blush of youth vanishes, and is replaced by gentleness, loyalty and the depth of understanding. His crops and number of animals rose and fell and rose again. Some friendships have drifted away, and some have returned. To all of this, Salvatore says an internal “Yes.”

When he feels pain, he sits with it. When he feels happy, he sits with that too. And his heart fills with gratitude at the mystery and fullness of Life.

Neighbors and countrymen alike begin to notice his strength, his wisdom, steadfastness, and calm courage. They seek him out for his counsel. He listens intently to all that they present to him. He gives guidance and insight. Some accept what he has to say and others do not. To each, in his heart, he says “Yes.”

Life continues in this way, until Salvatore finds himself in his bed having difficulty breathing, and he knows that his time for leaving the world is near. As he no longer fears Life, he no longer fears Death either, and has leaned to say yes to both. Waxing and waning, closeness and distance, hellos and goodbyes, praise and blame. He sits with all of these changes and feels satisfied.



Gratitude fills his heart as he realizes the old man is in front of him.

“Is it time to go now?”

“Yes,” Anciano says, and touches his hand.

Salvatore exhales his last breath and whispers “Yes.” A half smile remains on his face.  His wife touches his hand as she sees him pass from this world to the next. Maria, observing Salvatore all these years, has learned to say yes to Life and to Death as well. Though weeping for her loss, she smiles through her tears and gathers her family close.

“Where did Grandfather go?  I’m afraid, Abuela. Will we be ok?”

“Yes,” she says gently as she kisses her grandchild’s sweet hair.

Posted in Heart Song, Indigenous Life, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Life Between the Tweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maya 2012 End-of-the-World Prophesy

Sigue, sigue. (SEE-gay, SEE-gay)

We’ve been traveling among the Maya in Central America and Mexico off and on now for several years.

Last spring we stayed in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan for several months while we wrote our latest book, Your Retirement Dream IS Possible. We read where many Maya believe the world was created right here across the lake in Santiago, Lake Atitlan and we took a boat trip across the lake to find out more. We asked everyone we met about the Maya end-of-the-world prophesy for 2012, but most of our questions were met with blank stares or wide eyes of surprise.

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From Palenque to Tulum, from Tikal to Monte Alban, and even to Chich’en Itza the story was all the same.


What do the Maya texts say?


“Sique, sigue” was the most they would say, with a shrug. Which is to let us know that the world will continue on. Nothing much noticeable will happen. “Nothing to see here, folks. Just walk along…”

There was one deeply devoted Maya man in Lamanai just outside of Orangewalk, Belize who assured us that the world would, indeed, be destroyed by water. Maya texts were indicative of such. But he also proudly informed us that all of his tours upriver to these Lamanai ruins were booked solid for December, 2012. The obvious fact of being at sea level in Belize and right next to a river with the world predicted to be destroyed by water must have escaped his impartial rational side.


The mighty Maya city at Chich’en Itza


I don’t know if we’ll get “the answers” about the future from the Maya, who themselves don’t seem clear on the issue.

Some say the world has been modifying for decades now (is this a new fact?), and the exact date of December 21, 2012 is inconsequential. Whether we like it or not, we are being moved forward into the unknown – kicking and screaming because of our resistance to it, or opened and welcoming of the alterations, hopefully for the better.

At any rate, and no matter what is or might be happening, we are the ones who choose the lens through which we view.

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