About Sol — The Q&A (Updated as of: 10/2002)

: : : What Is This?

THIS is a live travel journal documenting the international pursuit of a Personal Legend.

A “personal legend” is a term coined by Paulo Coelho in one of my favorite fables “The Alchemist.”

“…whoever you are, whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth. To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation.” — “The Alchemist“, Paulo Coelho

Of course, I don’t feel as if I KNOW anything, let alone my “mission” on earth. But what I do FEEL — is that I must move. Pursue. As for WHAT I am pursuing, I haven’t any concrete idea. Nor am I really all that interested in what prize my hunt may capture. It’s the “pursuit” itself that has thus far enticed me into over 20 months of unforgettable adventure through Holland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Spain, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Mexico, Cuba, S. Korea, Japan, and Thailand. It’s the pursuit that ignited my passions for community work, the dance of salsa, scuba diving and island life. It’s the “pursuit” that has taught me lessons on life that I searched for, but never found, in my textbooks at university. It’s the “pursuit” that has humbled me both as an American, and as a human being. It is in the “pursuit” that I found an awe-inspired and overwhelming respect for the intelligence of nature. And it is in the solo pursuit, that I found self-dependency, and thus, unlimited personal freedom. It’s the “pursuit” itself that ignites something in my soul.

So THIS is simply my way of combining my greatest passions: travel, writing, and the web. I have no inspirations of being entertaining, making money, being popular or enlightening anyone. I’m just documenting my travel adventures, as well as the progressive realizations made on the path of my pursuit, and inviting anyone along for the ride.

: : : Where Are You Going Next?

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. Keep the channel open, follow your heart, and everything else will take care of itself.” — (?)

I love those three words — a “vitality”, a “life force”, a “quickening within” — for they come the closest to describing that feeling that moves me to make the choices I do. Why Guatemala? Why Spain? Why by boat? Why by plane? Why here? Why him? Why her? Why then? My choices and directions in life have become increasingly dependent on that “quickening within.” But with each decision, Intuition has reaffirmed that my trust in her is secure and worthy. I once saw a sign in a beach town in Costa Rica that read, “A true traveler is never intent on reaching a destination and knows that his best adventures are usually found off the original path.” Where am I going next? Where the omens and opportunity lead me.

Ambiguous answer having been stated… Spain, India and Australia has been whispering sweet nothings into my ear….and I am falling for the flirt.

: : : How it Started

About two years ago, I bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica and sat down with my boss to tell him I was taking a month of vacation from work.

“No you’re not.” He said.

“Yes, I am.” I told him.

*very long pause*

“No you’re not.” He continued. “You have two weeks of paid vacation that you’ve already used. This is THE most critical time for this company. It is unfathomable that you take leave right now. Maybe in six months we can consider some extended vacation. But right now? Absolutely impossible.”

I went. And when I returned from that life-altering adventure my boss said, “Well. You were right. Everything worked out smoothly, and looking back now, there was NO better time that you could have taken leave.” (Of course, at the time, neither of us was expecting that month abroad to inspire my complete resignation and the purchase of open-ended ticket to Guatemala…)

Regardless, I think it was that confrontational day that my self-erected wall of “life rules” came crashing down, along with the authority in the words “impossible”, “unfathomable”, “absolutely” and “no.” There are so many rules of life that we just never question. We have so many freedoms that we never exercise simply because we’ve never tugged at the phantom-chains that bind them. Of course, the first time I challenged those rules, the notion seemed nothing but comical…

“Ha! Imagine what my boss would say if I just bought a ticket to Costa Rica and left for a month!”

“How crazy would it be for me to just quit my job and travel for a year! What a dream!”

“What a silly thought…me? A scuba divemaster? I could never be a divemaster….”

OR…Could I?

The first time “I could never” turned into “hell! I just did!” — life irreversibly changed. Why? Because for one, I figured out that this world, this society, this system, didn’t REALLY care about my individual life. I had broken “the rules” and the gates of hell did not open and consume me, I wasn’t arrested and sent to jail, my parents didn’t ground me, my friends didn’t disown me, and my boss didn’t fire me. I had slipped right through the societal-cracks and landed on two free feet. My “silly notions”, “dreams” if you may, were perfectly real and attainable — and I had every right in this world to move my free feet and take pursuit of them. Now I take my “silly ideas” more seriously than Newton’s laws of physics. They STILL always start off as laughable, but now that the pattern has been recognized, my giggles quickly transition to a grin and a “oh no, here it comes!” nervous anticipation of an oncoming challenge. Now I know — and can recognize — my most wild but “serious intentions” masquerading in the sheeps’ wools of “silly notions.”

In December of 2000, I resigned from my position as Senior Editor at CollegeClub.com and bought an open-ended ticket to Guatemala, whereupon MercuryFrog posed the following “comical” question:

“Why don’t I build you a site so that you can write about your adventures and share them with your online community as you experience them?”

My laugh quickly turned into a serious grin.

Solbeam.com was born in January of 2001 by the kindness and talent of MercuryFrog. (Merc is both the developer and designer of this site, and compliments should be sent directly to him.) It should also be noted that Merc is continuously and selflessly facilitating the dream chasing process for numerous individuals *beside myself* and that he has secured his place in the “Solbeam’s Exceptional Human Beings” Hall of Fame as well as his place in “heaven”, should one exist.

You have my endless gratitude Merc.

Since January of 2001, those of you watching this site have adventured with me through Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba, Korea and Thailand together. We learned Spanish and how to salsa together. We scuba dived off Cayes, in oceans, through Cenotes and into sink holes together. We learned to bartend and danced on tabletops together. We were robbed at gunpoint together. We chased sharks and stingrays together. We raved on bay islands together. We battled with hairy spiders, sand flies, lice and scorpions together. We volunteered with children of a dumpster community together. We mediated and fasted at a retreat center together. We hiked volcanoes together and watched them erupt together. We got on wrong planes together. We rock climbed together and we boogie-boarded together. We caught Ameobas and suffered numerous colds and mysterious skin infections together. We taught English and survived monsoons together. We got in motorbike accidents and ate a lot of Thai food together. And we shared multiple sunrises and sunsets together. You laughed with me. You cried with me. You danced with me. You learned with me. You supported me and you believed in me. I would like to give my ENDLESS thanks to all those of you who keep up with this site and have shared those experiences with me. Because IT is the only physical thing I have to grasp on to after returning from those adventures. How I could ever give any inch of accurate representation of my travels abroad “over coffee” is inconceivable. “You just had to be there” will have to suffice many inquisitions…but for those of you who WERE there, WITH me, my mind can smile and sigh in relief. I’m not so alone after all. And for that ease of heart and mind, I have you to thank.

And thus we proceed with the “Continued Adventures of Solbeam.com 2002-2003″…

: : : Who Are You?
My parents would say I’m their 25-year-old daughter that they gave birth to in Anchorage, Alaska and raised in Portland, Oregon. I’d be the one child that insisted on school in California where, since my departure, they’ve received phone calls about once a month *if lucky* — usually only alerting them to my next skydive or adventure abroad. They don’t “get” the navel ring. In comparison to my three happily-married and “home-body” siblings, I’m certainly the “black sheep” of the family. My high school friends would probably say I’m the “late-bloomer.” While they experimented with boys, drugs and other freedoms, I was busy pullin’ a 3.9 GPA and a strict midnight curfew. In college, I was the “girlfriend.” I dated the same *fantastic* guy from week three of college through graduation day. While I never, for one second, regret that choice — I currently have a *possibly unhealthy* aversion to relationships and tend to avoid commitments to anything more than a lunch date… made at 11:45.

When I graduated, I spend a few months in Europe and returned with some hefty credit card bills that needed immediate attention. I fit everything that I owned into my car and drove down to San Diego where I had heard that it was 75 degrees year ’round. I landed a job at CollegeClub.com, having no idea that it that would forever change my life; “Travel Freak Becomes Web Geek”. I put in 80-hour weeks *under web cam surveillance* and was labeled “loco” by friends & family and “passionate” by co-workers. In December of 2000, I put in my resignation and purchased a one-year ticket to Central America. I was ready to leave my country, but not my virtual community – and thus, Solbeam.com was created.

: : : What Does “Solbeam” Mean?
Solbeam was my username on CollegeClub and was what the CC Community knew me as. “Sol” means “sun” in Spanish. My skin color most likely comes from my Spanish ancestors (rather than the German ones). In addition to being a complete sucker for sunsets (and rises), the sun holds special significance for me as it was what led me from Oregon to North California, from North Cal. to South Cal., and from Cal. to Central America. When I come to crossroads in life, both figurative and literal, regardless of how more or less traveled they are, I opt for the path with the most light, the most warmth…the most “sol.”

: : : What Kind Of Digital Camera Are You Using?
To date, I have owned SEVEN different digital cameras. The first four I bought and sold as fast as the technology became outdated, because *quite admittedly*…I’m digitoy obsessed. The last three were all removed from my ownership by shady Guatemalan characters by the use of bag-slashings, mail interception, and guns. I am obviously honey to the thieving-bears. Although I have dearly loved the Sony Mavica line because of the fact that the cameras use standard floppy disks that allow for me to download pictures anywhere I can find a PC, I’m afraid the size of these cameras does nothing short of scream, “Steal Me!”. So as I prepare to embark on yet another year of travels, I ask NOT what shady characters will do for me, but what I can HIDE in my SHOE from shady characters. In June ’02 , I purchased the Minolta Dimage X, the smallest digital camera on the market, weighing in at a hefty 5 ounces and standing an entire 3 inches in height and 1/2 inch in width. So far, I find this digicam super handy. And seeing as it is about as conspicuous as a stick of gum, it goes with me everywhere (…important for a person frequenting high crime areas).
: : : Why Don’t You Date?
I’m answering this question for the record, only because I get asked it so many times. In this world, I see too many people searching for themselves in others, and that, to me, is just another faulty equation. I don’t fear or dislike men. In fact, I relate to them much better than I do most women. I like people who are straightforward and low maintenance, which tend to be more masculine characteristics. Really, I’m just too busy figuring out myself and realizing my own dreams to compromise for someone else. I date Life everyday, and for the time being, IT is the only relationship that I allow to consume my time, energy, passion and heart. My attitude may change someday, but for right now, I’m quite content with my solo-style.
: : : Can You Give Me Some Advice on Where to Travel?

I’m sorry, but I do NOT give out any specific advice or recommendations on places to go for one very good reason; Travel is extremely circumstantial. Each person’s adventure is totally unique and completely dependent on multiple factors including, but not limited to: weather, health, holiday, attitude, company, length of stay, and financial situation. If you want advice on specific places to go, I recommend you simply research online (LonelyPlanet.com, Iexplore.com, About.com) or browse through the Travel section at your local bookstore. As for travel guidebooks, I recommend both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide series.

: : : Are You Traveling With Anyone?

This is another ambiguous question. Am I traveling with one person (or friend) for my whole trip? No. I prefer to travel “alone.” But that’s the funny thing about traveling. By traveling “alone”, you actually meet MORE people. Travelers seek each other out. But what is probably more important, is that on the road — you are surrounded by others who share the same passions in life and who find the same excitement in the pursuit of something “different.” On the road, we’re all alone, all “in between” careers, all out of our element, and all vacationing from societal influence. And I’m learning that as wonderful as being “independent” and “alone” and “different” are, there is also something so very special about finding a community of people who share your same tastes at the dining table of life.

: : : Where Did You Get All The Money To Be Able To Travel?

This is the biggest complaint I hear; “I would travel…if only I had the money.”

I pay for ALL my travel expenses.

Please don’t think for a second that I’m pracin’ around on Dad’s plastic. My parents “taught me the value of a dollar” by letting me pay my university tuition (at a private school no less). Not a chance they were about to finance my world stomp. I still have thousands of dollars in school loans yet to be paid back. (You CAN usually defer your school loans for up to three years.) Why am I telling you about my financial situation? Because I want to emphasize that anyone who REALLY wants to travel – can.

If you want something, you do what it takes to get it. I saved. I’ve chosen “travel” as my treat. I count my money in days spent abroad. I don’t have a stereo in my car and I slept on a futon for the first six months that I lived in San Diego until I was handed down a bed. I’d simply rather spend that money on airfare, hostels or bread & cheese. I understand the tradeoffs and have made a choice. Anyone can travel if they want to, all it depends on, is how bad he or she really wants it.

And one of the biggest myths of travel is that it’s expensive. A person can travel easily on $10-30 dollars a day in Central America – or even Europe if you’re keen on bread and cool with dorm rooms. You won’t be a “tourist”; You’ll be a traveler. Your daily expenses (rent, food, clothing, entertainment) in The States surely amount to more than $30 dollars a day. (Please don’t e-mail me and ask me to explain this further or tell me it’s not possible *people often do*. It IS possible, but I really don’t feel obligated to give proofs or find deals for people.)
In addition to saving a lot and spending little, I always work while traveling abroad. Bartending, volunteering (in exchange for room), working as a divemaster, teaching English, and guiding groups were means that were not only gentle on the savings account, but also rewarding cultural experiences. When I first started working abroad, I didn’t have any experience and knew very little of the local language. All it takes is desire and initiative. You can search for jobs abroad online before you depart (I’ve found three jobs to date through GoAbroad.com), or just go door-knockin’ at all the bars and restaurants in town until you come up with something. And if you’re really looking, something ALWAYS turns up.

: : : How Do You Have So Much Time To Travel?
It’s not about “having” time, but rather “making” time. You just put you stake in the ground and say, “this is what I’m gonna do” and then you do it. No one EVER has “extra” time to travel — at least not before they’re retired. People, time, events will allow you to do whatever you wish – as soon as you make the decision to go.

“The universe always conspires to help the dreamer.” “The Alchemist”, Paulo Coelho

When I’m abroad, I’m not “on holiday.” Travel is more than a priority in my life….it’s a way of life.

And it can be so for anyone.

: : : What Advice to You Have For a First Time Traveler?

Let nothing get in the way of your desire to travel. Buy the ticket now and worry about the details later; They WILL fall into place. Travel while you’re young. You have no commitments, your parents are healthy, and you have the back that can withstand a pack and legs that can climb a volcano. This is the only time in your life that you will enjoy staying in dorm rooms or have the gut to drink the locals’ poison into the wee hours of the morning and wake up when the rooster crows at 5am the next day to catch a bus to another country.

One of the biggest MYTHS of American society that I’ve uncovered in my travels is this; “Two weeks of vacation each year is enough.” Two weeks will never be enough. Adequate time for emotional, spiritual, physical and extracurricular development IS necessary in life. And this doesn’t mean you have to cross any actual US borders to engage yourself. “Work=life” is just a faulty equation in my book. Take time for yourself to discover and develop your passions. You need it. You deserve it. And as Americans, it’s high time we put our foot down and stomped out this socially-supported falsehood. Try questioning “The Rules” with your boss, parents, school, etc. Push a little. Pry a little. Stretch a little. Fight a little. You might be very surprised at the results.

I was.

And remember, regardless of the “where’s”, “when’s”, and “what’s” — everything WILL work out. If you miss your train/bus/plane — laugh and recognize that your adventures haven’t been lost, just changed.
: : : How Can I Contact You?
Simple. Send an e-mail to: solbeam@seekingsol.com. I’m a pretty busy girl, but if you send me a note or question, I’ll try my very best to get back to you. (If I’m not stationary in a country, a reply could be delayed for a few weeks.)

Sincerely wishing you the happiest of travels,

(If you’re lookin’ for an employee, I’m always seeking new adventures in new places with new people. *And I certainly could use the funds!* Contact me at solbeam@seekingsol.com. Of course, if you’re loaded, and just feel like dumping your money into the “Dream Chasin’ Schemes of Solbeam” fund, feel *very* free to do so here.)

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