Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics


The Power of Saying Yes

Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start focusing on what can go right. – Unknown

Sometimes we just have to say “yes,” even if it scares us. Despite what your mother says, the majority of the decisions you make in life are not going to kill you.  Saying yes can be uncomfortable, painful, annoying, and even embarrassing, but quite honestly looking back on all the times I’ve been miserable in my travels — those are some of my most cherished memories.  I said “Yes” along the way knowing fear and failure were very real possibilities. What I found on the other side was exhilaration, laughter, contentment, and genuine happiness.

Fear is a powerful influencer and it permeates every inch of our lives.  When my wife and I decided to quit our jobs to travel to the forgotten corners of the world and likewise when we chose to live out of a van in the wild in-betweens of America, I had serious trepidation.  On our first trip to Asia, I couldn’t eat anything for days and the first few nights I laid in the bed awake scrutinizing every sound and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  But every day I got up and made the choice to say “Yes” to new experiences.  I said yes to exploring ancient ruins and starting conversations with strangers.  I said yes to climbing mountains and eating tarantulas.  I said yes to trusting people I had only just met and to changing my plans on the go.  

There’s no time to waste when one hundred people are trying to fit on a fifty person bus in the middle of nowhere, miss it and your stranded, take your time getting off and the last room in town is booked.  The best way to travel is to team up and double your odds.  As we arrived in Nicaragua one night well after dark we scurried off the bus, grabbed our packs and made a quick introduction with two girls from Sweden.  Understanding the urgency of the moment we joined forces and booked it down the dimly lit streets bouncing in and out of hostels until we found one.  Over the next few days we got to know the girls better and we decided to travel on with them.  Before long we found ourselves on the Isla De Ometepe, an island village in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  Needing a ride to our ferry the girls suggested hitchhiking, red flags, and sirens were going off in my head.  Hitchhiking has gained a notoriously bad reputation in America and here we were contemplating doing it in the developing world.   As a truck rounded the corner I had to make a decision,  I said “Yes” and just a few short minutes later we were flying down the road in the back of a banana truck with smiles on our faces.  Bad things could have happened, but instead the men couldn’t have been nicer and refused to take even a penny from us.  

The next day we departed the ferry with our new friends and loaded into boats and headed up the Rio De San Juan.  After some time we arrived at the small village of El Castillo.  A remote village on the jungle border with Costa Rica, it has no roads, no cars, no ATM and no internet.  Showers consisted of an oil drum filled with water and a cup.  On a walk through town we encountered some locals who offered to take us out after dark on the river and give us an “authentic” tour.  Our guide spoke exactly zero words of English and we soon realized we were the only boat anywhere on the river.  Again, bad things could have happened, but instead it was an amazing one of a kind experience.  Our guide corralled numerous lizards and cayman with his bare hands and let us hold them as we laughed hysterically at our complete and utter lack of ability to communicate with one another. It was another truly amazing experience, all because I said “Yes.”

I’m not advocating we all become “yes men”, there are plenty of times that require a firm no in life, but too many of us use “no” as a starting point when making decisions.  Even if it is small daily decisions, it is our built in response.  We avoid failure at all costs and want to shield ourselves from the uncertainty of change and saying no is the only way most of us know how to do this.

It’s hard to say yes because it leads us towards things that are unfamiliar and uncertain and this is scary.  But when we look back on our lives the most exciting and growth filled times are also usually the most terrifying.  

Take that trip, switch careers, don’t be scared, life is too short to live the same day twice. Have the courage to do the things you’ve always wanted to, start saying yes today.

How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World in 5 Steps


Three years ago most days where the same, I would struggle to keep my focus as my mind drifted towards the wild places and adventures I craved.  Why could some people feel perfectly content with their 9-5’s, but I was somehow haunted by the places I hadn’t yet been?

In May of 2013, I was 29 years old and doing meaningful work with at-risk youth in urban Minneapolis.  I enjoyed my job, but often times I still found myself sitting at my desk unfulfilled.  I scrolled through pictures of my past adventures and longed for new ones, but the reality was I had debt: student loans, car loans, a mortgage, monthly bills and no money left to do the one thing I desired; travel.

As the weeks and months went on my desire to travel grew.  As I scoured the Internet seeking wisdom or at least a temporary reprieve from my stationary existence I happened across a TED Talks aptly entitled: Sell your crap, Pay off your debt, Do what you love. The second it ended I sent the link to my wife, she was on board and that night on the way home I bought a map of the world and a few markers and we started planning.  As our plans to travel internationally grew, I subsequently began learning all about the idea of van life.  It fascinated me and fit perfectly into our vision of simplifying and minimizing.  There was this whole world of people going against the materialistic, consumerism society and thriving by placing value on experiences instead of things.  Living out of our 95′ VW Eurovan forced us to be conscious about how we live and gave us freedom from want.  Every night was a new place to call home and we got to interact with other people who call the road home. Our winters took us to 15 countries and our summers to over 40 states and 30 national parks.  Here is my advice to anyone looking to do what we did.

How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World in 5 Steps

  1.  Tell people. 


When we made the decision to deliberately walk away from a conventional, safe lifestyle we made it a point to start telling others our plan.  By speaking it out loud we were making ourselves accountable to the idea.  We started with close friends and family and had no idea what to expect, but what we found was that most people were excited for us, others were nervous and some doubted us.  Regardless it felt good to get it out there, saying it made it real, it was no longer just an idea.

  1. Money matters.


The biggest question we get.  How do you fund all of this?  We started immediately liquidating all the things that cluttered our closets and garage.  Every penny made went towards our debt.  After selling all of the things we didn’t need/use we turned our focus to the big ticket, selling our house.  We had bought our house as a short-sale and put a lot of work into fixing it up and it paid off for us in the end.  We also never missed an opportunity to make money along the way.  From roofing a house, to painting a barn, picking rocks in a field, even janitorial work. We traded careers for part time jobs and full time travel and we wouldn’t change it.

  1.  Enlist your friends and family.


Our biggest assets were our friends and family.  We found that many people wish they would or could have done something similar and even those who would never consider it wanted to be a part of our story.  People helped us in every way imaginable.  From letting us store belongings with them to watching our dog for us.  Trips to the airport, a spot to park our van, and the unequivocal moral boost of a hot shower and real meal.  

  1.  Be frugal.


Our trip began as a 6-8 month trip that has blossomed into two and a half years and counting.  We realized quickly that we loved our new life and that by being frugal we could make it last longer.  We took every opportunity from sharing most meals to sleeping in cheap hostels and learning to negotiate EVERYTHING we did.  While living in our van we refused to pay for camping and always searched out free campsites from Wal-Mart parking lots to road-side pull outs.  We loaded up on condiments from restaurants, ate from the dollar menu, shared a phone literally anything to stretch our dollar just a little further.  A little bit of sacrifice can take you a long way.

  1.  Remember it’s not easy.


If you follow some glamorous Instagram account with incredible pictures from all over the world or perfect shots of van life, you may have an unrealistic idea of what full-time travel is really like.  The truth is the real adventure happens in the time between each of those pictures.  It is a lot of work to get to these places.  We’ve been stranded in airports for days.  I’ve stripped to my underwear in 100-degree buses with no AC and shivered uncontrollably for hours on freezing overnight trains.  Three a.m. border crossings, food poisoning, and the mental drain of unavoidable, in-your-face poverty.  Running out of gas in the middle of Alaska, sleeping in some legitimately creepy places, but it’s all part of the deal and it all goes right along with our motto, “It’s either a good time or a good story.”


As I write this we’ve been “home” for a few months now. At first – as I always do after returning from an extended trip – I felt enormous relief.   It felt good to be back amongst the familiar comforts of American life, to work a 9-5, eat out and watch TV, but every time I return it fades quicker.  I already have that itch again, that desire to throw a pack on my back and fill up my passport with stamps and my mind with memories from the unknown.  Hopefully I’ll see you out there.

How India Taught Me I Could Be a Vegetarian

On a sunset camel safari deep in the northern deserts of India, I found myself peeling potatoes and splitting peas as I shared a conversation with Kheta our desert guide.  On a simple bed of coals he produced a meal of vegetable pakora, chapati, and bushman bread.  Although the food was basic, the moment itself was more complex than that.  We ate with our bare hands squatting around a fire as our guides beat on the drum and sang songs passed down through generations.  An intimate experience, facilitated by food.

I found myself at a crossroads in India.  A self-professed carnivore, I consume meat as often as allows and then some.  Travel only increases this desire with the irresistible lure of cheap and tasty street food.  A fresh kabob cooking over the glow of hot coals in a dingy alley somewhere in the third world is my idea of fine dining.  However, with the majority of India embracing vegetarianism and wanting to connect closer with the culture, I embarked upon a vegetarian journey of my own.

I ordered blindly at first, often uncertain of what would emerge on my plate, but curious about this new vegetarian world.  Food is its own language and with each new dish I tried I became more fluent.  I avoided the websites and books for recommendations and instead walked around each new town in search for a place brimming with locals.

More often than not this led me to a shack with dirty walls and floors, where a sheet serves as a door to the kitchen and flaps wildly exposing the sweaty chef cooking in a dimly lit and unventilated room the size of a closet.  Unlike the tourist restaurants nothing here is catered or doctored to western palates, you are given full access to the authentic tastes of India.

Sometimes I found myself simply pointing at what someone else was having. Other times, I would ask the server for a recommendation. More than not, I would point to something on the menu that I had never had before.  The bottom line is that I was seldom disappointed.  The variation and combination of different dishes kept me more than satisfied for over two months as I explored the boundaries of Indian cuisine daily.

One of the first dishes I tasted upon arriving in India was chana masala.  Distinctively Indian, yet not too foreign to my taste buds. It was a perfect introduction.  If you’re looking to mix it up without scaring off the kids or the guests, try this simplified version of the Indian favorite.  While you’re waiting, serve up some vegetable pakora for a light and easy-to-make snack.  Enjoy!