Place of Dreams

Within five minutes of being in the Defender, Ronnie pipes up to tell me that the truck is running on oil from all those fried milanesas that are near and dear to the tastebuds of Argentinos. A local restaurant serving minutas (fast food) would serve as our “gas” station and we made a small detour to get a barrel of the used oil.

He hands me a rock as he jumps out of the car. Upon returning he tells me that it is from a meteor that hit the earth in Moldova and that it changed his fortune over night when he came in contact with it. I close my fingers around it, smiling at the idea and thinking, “Porqué no? why not? …could work just as much as anything” and I hope for fortune to melt out of it into my palm.

By the time we’re bumping along the road and flying through the turns around Lago Gutierrez, we are trading stories about the healthy and healing powers of plants. He pulls over to the side of the road to pick a tiny, bitter branch for me to taste, supposedly it helps with digestion or something.


The final few miles took us down a gritty side road and into Nahuel Huapi National Park. We drove through the wooden gate, through a corridor of trees and into a panoramic view of my new home. Horses wandered around freely, chased by the border collies. A wall of mountains with a skirt of trees that sprouted a waterfall stood guard over the glacial lake.

No explanation was needed for how this place got its name, Peuma Hue (pey-oo-mah, wey), Mapuche for Place of Dreams.


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Having looked through the webpages of this high end, rustic resort before coming, I had been hypnotized by the views, the luxurious log cabins, the descriptions of the healthy organic food and the focus on yoga, mindfulness and magic that immersion in nature brings.

For the guests, yes, the reality is this fairytale. But for me, this would be different. I was coming here as a cultural exchange…swapping work in the gardens and kitchen in return for food and a shared room in the staff house.

As I was introduced to the reality of what this would be like, the perfect panorama I had driven into began to unravel. Anxiety and fear stirred inside of me. My chest tightened and the heat of the emotions boiled up through my body, rising to my face and creating a frenzy of activity in my rattled brain.

I worried about my health, which is always a struggle for me. Would they give us healthy food? Argentina and vegetables…especially of the green variety…don’t always tango together.

What would the other people be like? Nine of us in a tiny house? How would I balance myself among being social, the expected workload and writing my book?

Would I be able to write my book? Would I have the time and space to do that?

What if it didn’t work out? What were my other options? I didn’t have time or money to look for something new.

The uneasy feelings churned inside me as I realized how far we were from town and the nearest place to buy a bottle of wine, which I was wanting right about then. I then took a deep breath and walked in on myself having this reaction. I knew I needed to get some time alone outside in nature to wander, write and work through this.

I spent the afternoon exploring, walking along the rocky shores of the immaculate lake and through the gardens that were still asleep for the winter. I gazed up at the mountains, adorned with snow and stood there admiring their rugged beauty. I walked along the gravel path that wound through the property around the log cabins, crossing the fallen tree bridge over the creek and to the stone temple on the hill.


I had been independent for a year and a half, answering to no one but the call to adventure. I would now be at the mercy of my new circumstances, losing my autonomy. I would be accountable to someone else’s dream and expectations. I would now have to write in between my work shifts, hoping inspiration and energy would meet me on demand.

I hadn’t thought about this and felt blindsided by it. It was like watching the movie of a book you have read and loved, only to find out that they had gotten it all wrong when translating it for the screen.

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I sat on the steps of the temple and journaled…about what I was feeling, about what I wanted for my time there. I realized that this was a familiar reaction to being thrown into unknowns, fear that it won’t work out. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to notice what you can control and take positive action towards that, let go of expectations, seek to learn and be surprised. I listed my intentions and started a list of ideas for falling deeply into my life there and committed myself to doing just that.

The negativity and fear wilted away. My heart was now exploding with gratitude for having this opportunity arise for me, allowing me to continue my journey. I felt full of peace, grace, awe and devotion for the wilderness around me, as if these mountains had been calling me and I had finally found them.

This is the serendipity that I had hoped for when setting out to show up in the world and see what happens. I was living in the mountains for the first time and would be there for six months.


The Return

<from September 2014>

I feel like I’m on my third or fourth life of this dream as I’m arriving back in Argentina once again to make a go at writing my book here. Each time I’ve been able to come back I’ve learned so much in the process and have had new challenges and surprises awaiting me…what will it be this time?

I walk out of the airport to find my friend Jose waiting there for me with a cab and it feels more like home every time I come back. We talk excitedly, firing questions back and forth, filling each other in on what’s been going on in our lives lately. We’ve both been navigating a transition from Corporate America to trying to start new careers around our passions. I have this satisfied feeling in me, a deep longing has been quenched, to be back to my passion project.


Carolina, Jose’s roommate, practically knocks me over with a hug and smiles and I feel a connection as if we’ve already had the inspiring conversations we proceed to have over the next week, the three of us holed up in the tiny kitchen, sitting on the counters, passing around maté and sharing stories and ideas about living a meaningful life. It feels good, no, priceless to have a tiny community of like-minded people to interact with and exchange support.

I quickly get to know the people at the fruit and vegetable shop around the corner and can never resist going into the bakery next door to get some hot chipá (little balls of chewy cheesy bread, made from tapioca flour and naturally gluten free). I love shopping for food in this way, each little shop specializing in their one thing; the conversations and relationships formed with the locals; everything whole, fresh, in season and homemade.

We turned the living room into a board room (a very cute boardroom), having brainstorming sessions and building websites. The brainstorming…I love, ping ponging questions and ideas back and forth and I’m reminded of my skill set and the parts of consulting that I loved. It feels so energizing to generate ideas and get creative, to help someone get clearer on their vision and be one step closer to manifesting it. The hardest part of building a personal business for me though is the business and technology part…hoping the challenge and frustrations will pay off if I can stick to it. Pretty soon my 5 year old nephew will likely be better at this than I am.


We take a break to meet up with Lucho and head over to the feria de matadores…a traditional market where you are a minority as a tourist. I stand out with my blond hair and light skin, but I feel at home with the melodic castellano being spoken around me, the scents of choripan (a chorizo sausage and chimichurri sandwich) and locals strolling around the art stalls with their thermos of agua caliente (hot water) tucked under their arms.

We follow the crowds to the main stage where folkloric music is being played and everyone is dancing. Couples are circling each other, hands in the air, snapping their fingers to the rhythm of the music. Lucho and I try to join in which provides a great laugh to each other and everyone around us as we do.

photo credit - Jose Gastaldi
photo credit – Jose Gastaldi

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I get waves of feeling like we had been at the market a while, feeling it is surely time to leave, until I’m reminded of a quality I love about Argentina…busy-ness and rushing about just isn’t glorified in the least. It is the exact opposite. We won’t eat dinner till midnight anyway, we have loads of time. We end up staying for hours watching as the dance progressed to one where they twirl scarves about and caress each other with them.


I stand there watching and smiling and feeling in my whole body that it was the right decision to come back to Argentina. It just feels so right to be here and I feel energized and motivated to accomplish what I came here to do.

**If you enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation that will go directly towards helping me finish writing and publishing my book. Also, check out my website for writing, photography and transformation practices. Muchas gracias!**

I’ve arrived


I arrived back in the United States earlier than planned and felt devastated by this. Before leaving for Argentina the first time in December 2012, I had worked with my fears by trying to picture the worst case scenario for my journey so that I could consider how I would react. My “worst case scenario” had included being robbed and failure to discover my passions or finish my book.

So here I was in the early summer of Chicago, safe at home in my parents’ house having been robbed and not so much a published author yet. I felt like I was trapped at the bottom of a desolate well. How on earth did this fantastic journey of mine land me here? Now what will I do? I had this tremendous feeling of “I’m not supposed to be here” even though that is the opposite feeling being home always provokes for me. Everything felt upside down.

In my “worst case scenario” I had thought about how lucky I was that I did have supportive parents and a home to come to if I needed it. And here I was. Only, I hadn’t considered the emotional blow I’d take. I didn’t call friends or family (and I’m so sorry about that to everyone now!). I didn’t talk about the robbery at first. I was afraid to get an “I told ya so” reaction from anyone who hadn’t thought it the brightest idea to go traveling alone.

It actually was a bright idea, a brilliant one. I still felt that and knew I had to get back to it. So I started to dig into my journals and take long bike rides, looking for clues from what I had experienced and learned as to what to do next. I knew that my writing and time in nature were going to crucial in deciding my next steps. I also started to dream up big and little adventures that would not have occurred to me before I had gone traveling long term. I also knew to embrace what was good about this situation, getting bonus time with my family that I would never have had otherwise.

I flew out to LA to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. I watched the World Cup games with my brother. I got to connect with my Uncle Rich who I hadn’t seen in a long time and he told me so many new stories! I got to have 1:1 time with my aunts and to attend my cousin Caitlin’s engagement party. I took a road trip with my Dad and brother, crashing their annual camping trip. We backpacked through Porcupine National Park and it was so cool to experience Lake Superior and stunning nature on my home turf. My mom and I took a 4 day canoe trip, camping on sandbars, doing dream work, yoga and cooking over fire. These microadventures made me feel whole again, such special time and surprisingly close to home.

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These may seem like small things, but these are the things that I have missed out on living in another city. This introduced me to a new element in the life I am going after. I knew I wanted a flexible and unconventional life and realized that if I can succeed at that then I will get more moments like these, to be with family without having to give up my wanderlust.

I found a fantastic coffee shop in town that became my daily office. I have always loved working in coffee shops. The symbiotic comfort of sipping a cup of that dark goodness while slowly breathing in the aromas puts me at peace and also awakens my creativity. I love the watching the flow of people and the dynamics of those meeting up with each other or going solo, engrossed in some work. I’ve always had the romantic idea that people are focused on creating, doing of-the-soul kind of work when in cafes…engrossed in novels, meeting to discuss an idea, immersing in studies, launching a new business, writing a book.

I became a devotee to my writing and journaling. I researched all sorts of opportunities and possibilities for grants and scholarships, crowdfunding and artist residencies. I started to build a website, print business cards and work on a personal brand. I sat down to journal one day and was checking in with the intentions for my journey as I would do on occasion, asking myself “What would my ideal life look like?” And then I wrote down a full page of a life vision, including my passions and just enough detail to have something to work towards with enough room for it to manifest in ways I could only imagine. Oh. My.

I had done it. I had done what I set out to do and had not realized it until then. I had discovered what I was passionate about and I instantly wanted to go start it all. And I really wanted to write it all down in a book, the book that had been tip-toeing out of me this whole time.

When Argentina lost the World Cup final, I cried. Not that I have an over-stated attachment to sports, although I am known to get a bit competitive. It felt personal. Warning, this will sound ridiculous, but it almost felt as if I should never have left Argentina and in doing so I took away all the wonderful energy and lessons it had given me and cursed their chances of winning.

I realized that I was longing to be back in South America, to write my book where I had started it and where my journey had taken place. I was not done there and I would not be chased out by three desperate, sad thieves from Colombia.

I have found that when you take actions and put yourself out there, that energy goes to do some reconnaissance  for you, finds the right opportunity and makes its way back somehow. At this time, I received a message from a friend of a friend in Argentina who had read one of my blogs. She asked me where I was and what I was doing. I told her I was looking for a place in the mountains of Argentina to finish writing my book and that I was out of money. She told me her mother owns a place on a lake in northern Patagonia where I could volunteer while I write. It’s called Peuma Hue, meaning Place of Dreams.

I booked a plane ticket, packed my bags and arrived two weeks later, back to Argentina.

Let’s Go on an Adventure!

The year is coming to a close and a new one will start shortly… It is a time of year where I like to do a bit of reflecting about what has happened this year…who I’ve met, places I’ve experienced, things that I have learned. I also like to start setting intentions for the upcoming year…what am I working on? Where am I going? Where do I want to be going?

This year, one thing is clear: I will publish my books in 2015. I’m really excited to announce my Kickstarter campaign that I’ve launched to help me reach this goal and I’d be eternally grateful if you check out the link, back my campaign, and share it if you’re inspired. The campaign is a for writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to Patagonia, including an interactive guidebook for pursuing your passions. 

Continue reading Let’s Go on an Adventure!

Holy Mangos!

I had the brilliant idea of waiting until Good Friday to do the pilgrimage up to the little church on top of Montserrate, the backdrop mountain of Bogotá. And it was a brilliant idea if you like to participate in what the entire city is doing at once. It was holy week and people were eager to be holy. If they weren’t there, they were spilling out of the churches into the plazas or visiting the salt cathedral, which is 180m underneath the ground. I still feel holy from having been in Bogotá for holy week. I even scheduled my bus just on time to catch a procession going past my hostel with drums and incense, men and children in dark purple, silk robes, carrying huge statues of the stations of the cross. I watched them walk past by candlelight, saying prayers, and made it to the station just on time for a trip to the coast.

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I was headed for Palomino, a beach town on the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela that was written up in the book as a chilled out, long, dreamy stretch of beach with a strong current that backs up to the jungle. The current actually ended up being just the right strength for me to swim against, perfect for a daily workout if I didn’t mind the occasional salty wave in the face. “Town” was one street with casual, local restaurants, fruit shacks, and pool halls lining each side and a sandy road that leads you to the beach in fifteen minutes.



Continue reading Holy Mangos!

2013 Last Hurrah – Uruguay

What a lucky girl I am to have two friends come down the the southern hemisphere for a visit. My dear friend Melissa came over Thanksgiving and met me in Mendoza. More than once we ran into friends in a plaza or restaurant and it elevated that feeling of Mendoza being my home right now, which felt pretty darn good. Icing on the cake…I finally had someone to go take a tango lesson with me! We ventured on the Buenos Aires subte to a very bohemian Moulin Rouge-ish venue and giggled our way through some suave moves. …now accepting Spanish teacher/tango teacher applications, por favor!



Fast forward 10 days and I was off to Uruguay by ferry to meet up with another good friend, Michael, who I had met while we were both in South Africa for the World Cup. We headed straight for Punto del Diablo, a chilled out beach town close to Brazil. A rainy day meant we were able to catch up while taste testing some Uruguayan wine. I wish I could tell you the tasting notes unique to Argentina reds vs. Uruguay, but perhaps a wine class is in order for 2014 when I return to Mendoza.

The real highlight though came from a note I had scribbled in my little moleskin notebook, my favorite accessory a la Hemingway. Much earlier in the year I had been told to visit Cabo Polonia for a ‘hippie village meets remote beach’ experience. My philosophy with travel is to write down all suggestions and advice just in case, but to get a feel for whether the ‘Recommender’ has a taste for similar adventure and vibe that me, ‘Recommendee’ has. I also run recommendations by others I trust and do a bit of my own research. I’ve had people tell me hot springs were terrible to then go there and have the most glorious day basking in therapeutic mineral waters held by a gorgeous canyon, aka, heaven. And then I’ve had people tell me to turn right at the dirt road just before the entrance to the national park, go over the hanging bridge, and you’ll find a great swimming spot where you can picnic and hang out with locals. This recommendation was of the latter sort…such a gem.


Cabo Polonia is a national park with the unique twist of a ride over sand dunes and down the beach in a massive 4×4 to get to the desired destination. We were on the upper deck which gave us a panoramic view for miles and a mechanical bull-esque experience to boot. Read: it was as bumpy as picturesque. From there we hiked down the beach to the casita where we would be staying. There are no cars or roads and minimal electricity, the simplicity of it all really lending to an experience of raw beauty. We spent a day hiking out to the lighthouse and entertained ourselves with imagining the dialogue that was going on amongst the hundreds of seals on the rocks below. We spent another day hiking out to a point along the beach, climbing up sand dunes and running and skipping down them like little kids.


We had a beautiful, almost full moon lighting our walk to dinner each night. Sadly the brightness meant that we missed out on noctilucas, the bioluminescence that turns the water into a green, sparkling work of art with a new moon. I never mind an excuse to return to a place though, and now I have one. We had other wildlife visitors to entertain us. While walking along the beach to dinner, we saw shadows in the distance along the water. As we got closer it became clear that it was a herd of cows out for a moonlight stroll. We ran into them again the next day further up the beach. We also stumbled onto a little penguin, traveling solo who had just cruised up onto the beach and was looking around curious, if not a little confused. As were we; a penguin on a beach in Uruguay?


My Uruguay adventure ended in La Paloma, meeting up with another friend I had met in Mendoza. We were lucky to see sunsets from this western coast, but even luckier to have a fire on the beach under the stars with a side of wine. I’ve always wanted to have a fire on the beach. It felt like the perfect end to a year of new beginnings and adventures. So dreamy!


Deep into the Amazon I Go

The air is so sweet and so dense that you just want to eat it. This was my first impression of arriving to my 5 week stay in the Peruvian Amazon. My senses were overwhelmed in the best way possible. I had my own little hut complete with mosquito netting, a desk, candles and a hammock. It was about a 15 minute walk into the jungle and I spent much time there writing, being and listening to the symphony of sounds flow with the time of day.


I had met a couple of acupuncturists while hiking in Argentina who had told me of this place in the Amazon. It is winter in Argentina and I decided it would be a good time to give myself the gift of my own space and time to soak in my experiences from this year. And of course being deep in nature is the best place to do this!


There was life everywhere! When the sun shone through the canopy, all the different leaves and vines and life would light up with a bright glow. You can quite dramatically feel the vibration reach a unique intensity around you. There were hummingbirds, ducklings, butterflies by day and tarantulas, bats, cockroaches and spiders the size of my head by night. I only saw a few snakes…no anacondas!…but I’m sure many more were hanging out. To be clear, the mosquitos did not discriminate between day and night; they were relentless!


We spent our time doing everything from yoga, Qi Gong and other body work, to dream work, meditation, walks in the jungle and incredibly refreshing swims in the river (a tributary to the Amazon!) with the piranhas. Playing music and singing were a huge component as well, and perhaps my favorite.


The jungle has immense healing properties that we were able to experience. There are many sacred plants there that are known for their healing properties. It was like that saying “there’s an app for that” except, “there’s a plant for that” no matter what you were trying to address. We ate so clean and so healthy and also worked with different plants and teas depending on our personal health needs. All meals were cooked over open fire and enjoyed by candlelight. I feel completely detoxed and am experiencing energy like I have never felt before. You can check out the movie Sacred Science for some more insight into this place and the healing stories that it has supported.


We had many ceremonies, sometimes with local/indigenous shamans, aimed at collective healing and transformation. In the last such ceremony as we were holding an all night vigil, I was feeling intense gratitude and was focused on sending love to my family. I literally thought, “I hope they can feel this love right now.” A few days later when I left the jungle and checked my email, sure enough I had received a note from my Dad about this. During that same night, at 2am, my parents woke up to an owl that had flown to the window and was wildly hooting away, trying to get their attention. They both said they could tell its message was something in relation to me. Don’t call me Harry Potter or anything, but things like this really do validate my belief in collective consciousness.


If I had to choose three words to describe my experience, I’d say intense, awakening and community. This month gave me the opportunity to connect with nature and like-minded people to continue discovering, learning and growing in such a unique way. Every person and every situation has something they can teach you. How cool is that? I’m grateful for the experience to focus on the art of living and tapping into my connection to all that is alive.


With experiences like this, it takes me quite a bit of time to process and integrate it into my natural way of being. So while I could gush about how amazing it was (and it was), I really believe it will be in my day to day life that I feel and live the discoveries and practices I experienced in the jungle. I’m now off to make my way down through the Sacred Valley, home to some old rocks you might know as Machu Picchu, en route to Argentina.