We are not long for Mali. Every day our options for exploring the country shrink and I feel more confined. This is such an unfortunate circumstance…no visiting villages, no travel South, no music, a feeling that we can go no where outside the city without the minute chance of being abducted or put in harms way. The funny thing is that you would never know what is happening by sitting in the mango grove and having tea until someone tells you that there are check points on every bridge to make sure that dangerous people don’t enter the city. Ironically, we have heard that the only arms being seized are leaving the city, not entering it. I guess that should make us feel a little more secure. I think we could stay in Bamako for quite some time and never be in danger, but I’m starting to ask myself if there are greener pastures elsewhere. Jess and I are still enjoying the food, which gets cooked for us every day (thanks Salli) for like $4. I am really enjoying the national dish of Mali, cheb, which is a rice dish with veg and some meat or fish. I have had one alcoholic beverage here (Flag, the most common beer here, which taste pretty much like every countries most common beer; inoffensive and easy to drink) and have had no want for another; people just don’t drink here and I don’t miss it. I’ll save the drinking  for Europe.

We went to the grand market on Monday, which was pretty cool. We went to the actual practical market and also the artist market. While the regular market was a little slow, the artisanal market was absolutely dead. We were told that we were the first tourists there in over 6 months, and the desperation was palpable. Every seller would tell us that “looking is free” and they will make us “best price”, then throw everything they could at us. Jess and I very much overpaid for some items (gifts for family) and felt pretty good about it. It was pretty sad, but even when sellers did not close the deal with us they were gracious and wished us well.

Luckily, by the market was a pharmacy where I bought ibuprofen. I have had ongoing problems with my feet: First they cracked and bled, then I got some kind of heat blisters trying to wear shoes to protect the cracks which quickly burst and left open sores, then I tripped and bruised my right foot. Ironically, the plantar fasciitis I suffer from is nearly none existent here. I’ve actually run out of band-aids trying to cover the sores so that the swarms of flies don’t get them infected…really annoying. At least I’m toughening up my feet!

I can only imagine that we will leave in the next couple of days unless a compelling reason to stay presents itself. This is definitely not the way I wanted to see Mali, but I am still really glad we came here.

Taking the Leap


Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of planning a 2 month ‘sabbatical’ to travel in West Africa, my husband learned that his employer pulled a switcheroo and decided that they wouldn’t guarantee his job when we got back from our travels. It could have been an incredibly frustrating moment, because our original intent when we decided to take a trip over a year ago was to take a gap year; but we came to the conclusion we didn’t want to come back without the security of everything we currently have. So we settled on taking a much shorter trip in exchange for the comfort and stability of coming home to our stuff, our jobs, our normality. Sound familiar?

But instead of getting frustrated that we could have been planning something much different, it was a poignant moment for us, and one that I think we needed to push us to where we are now – taking a leap outside that normality; and banking on the prospect that insecurity could lead towards a stability we haven’t experienced.

Woah, let me explain and provide some context. I have a travel bug. That’s an understatement; I have an insatiable desire to see and experience the world and the wanderlust never goes away. As a nonprofit arts administrator, i.e. someone without a lot of financial means, I translate my lack of cash-flow and ability to pick up and wander, to the joy of experiencing and appreciating all things cultural in my own environment. Thus, you can imagine, working in the arts and culture community is a pretty good fit. The job is stressful, but over the course of my four years doing it, I’ve built an incredible professional network, a variety of experiences and skills, and a deep appreciation for the creativity of my community. Why should I want to leave? There’s just something about this life that’s been a little too rigid, too tightly controlled; honestly I feel trapped by my own creation of work-life arrangements.

Enter my wonderful husband, Jon. Jon’s a family crisis counselor working at a nonprofit. We work incredibly hard for our jobs, and like most people in our income brackets, just try to carve out the moments beyond the 9-5 that fulfill our personal selves. Like so many people, our student loans, car payments, bills and obligations make that carving somewhat of a challenge each month.

It seemed that in order to make it all work, to hold all the pieces together, to maintain our responsibilities, there was no way on earth we could afford to take a year trotting off.

And that’s where the blessing entered in ravishing disguise. See, we’d hit a point where we weren’t moving forward. We were just continuing to carve out those small moments, and not understand why we couldn’t save enough money to ever get close to buying a house, or paying off the student loans, or really enjoying the amazing place in which we live. We realized we were already going to be coming back from our trip to the same grind, but now with the stress of having to find work for Jon, so maybe it was time to envision something else. Maybe we didn’t have to subscribe to the live-to-work or work-to-work mentality that keeps us at offices, away from family and friends, with ultimately not a lot to show for it (not including my unsatiated need to see the world).  Why should we be bound to obligations we created for ourselves in the first place? If we created a life where we had higher bills, couldn’t we deconstruct that life and change the playing field?

While recently reading The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander, as recommended by a friend, Zander made a point that if you’re getting frustrated with the way the game is played, then make your own rules.

And that’s what we’re doing. Ultimately, Jon and I realized we haven’t been happy with our lives. We have a great set up, but there’s something that’s been missing. So instead of assuming that somewhere, somehow, with that better job or that key ingredient to “success” that we must be missing, we’re changing the rules, our rules.

We’re taking the leap; and I can’t remember the last time we felt so free, like the world really is our oyster (can we say clams? I don’t really like oysters to be honest). As of December, we’ll both be jobless (except for some bubblings of freelance work and other goodies, more on that soon), homeless, agenda-less and culture-bound. The best part is that if it doesn’t work, well, we just come home.

So this blog is for all of you who don’t have a stash of money somewhere; who don’t have a ton of savings or a trust fund, but who want something different from those that that say there are only a few ways to really ‘make it’ in this world. I can’t say that it’s for those that want something more, because really, this is about finding what’s enough; what’s enough to hit that sweet spot of fulfillment.

I look forward to sharing our travel experiences as we wander. I also look forward to your advice, feedback and thoughts.