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The time I drove from New York to Costa Rica...and Nearly Lost my Life.

I didnt just drive through Mexico to sit on the beach.

I went on a expedition to experience what it's like to Road trip outside of the USA.

To challenge myself and take a risk.

To do something most people are scared to do and come face to face with my own fears.

I found myself playing Piano in front of people who have never seen a piano in their lives,

Combating foreign stomach illnesses (multiple times),

Learning Spanish by embarrassing myself and making a million mistakes,

Meeting people from all over the world and hearing stories from the locals,

Getting robbed and surviving for weeks with only a few dollars,

This was the most difficult journey of my entire life...

If you are not familiar with my story, to be brief:

I quit my job back in 2010 to build a lifestyle around the things I love most: Music, Travel, and People. (Read the long version here)

This was my 4th Piano Roadtrip and to add a little challenge I decided to drive from New York City to Panama with my upright piano.

And it was no easy feat...

While planning this trip, I heard so many stories about how dangerous it is to travel in Mexico and Central America.

My friends mother even called to convince me that I shouldn't go.

I canceled the trip twice.

But nonetheless, I persisted and went through with it and it was a the most difficult thing I have ever attempted.

I left New York City on February 2nd, 2013 with my friend Arthur Nazarian who is a photographer.

Part 1

New York City to Laredo, Texas

2,100 miles +/-

We took about 6 days to get to New Orleans before the Mardi Gras festivities began.

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Philly

From the first day, there were serious problems. The plan was to meet with my Piano teacher who is also a good friend of mine to record some music. Unfortunately when we got there, his main power box broke and we couldn't do anything but sip Bourbon and talk about why music is so important.

Later on that night, Arthur's shoulder rig broke, forcing us to have to drive all the way back to New York City and pick up a new shoulder rig.

The drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains was beautiful...

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Athens, GA

We Couchsurfed at an artists home named Sophie in Athens, GA. She had some really strange sculpture scattered throughout the area which made it a bit spooky. But she also had 20 Pecan trees in her backyard which led us to gathering handfuls of Pecans and feasting through the entire drive to New Orleans.

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New Orleans

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world mainly because its a big city with a small town feel and its so underrated. There is so much culture there! You can walk through the French Quarters and meet artists, musicians, and locals who are very open and willing to talk to you. No doubt, it is one of the most cultured cities in the United States.

Hanging out with Interstellar Transmission

I met the guys of Interstellar Transmission back in 2011 on my first road trip through the US. They have been traveling the US doing shows out of their school bus.

Their music is an eclectic mix of classical, rock, and psychedelic sounds in long form compositions. I like how they explore a variety of unique scales and modes from different cultures around the world. They have definitely opened my eyes to a new level of looking at music.

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New Orleans Pianist, Tom McDermott

I've taken a few lessons from Tom in the past. He showed me the different types of rhythms that exist in New Orleans music. These rhythms are the basis of modern music that stem from Caribbean, European, and African cultures.

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New Orleans Vocalist, Meschiya Lake with Tom McDermott

Meschiya Lake is a very popular vocalist in New Orleans. You can find her performing in New Orleans every week.

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We found a bunch of Gypsy Jazz Musicians playing on Frenchman Street one night. They came from France to explore New Orleans for a few months. Great music!

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Mardi Gras 2013

Everyone hit the streets on Mardi Gras day to bring on the festivities. Lots of drinking in the streets, dancing, marching bands, and some incredible costumes.

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San Antonio, Texas

Radio Interview for "The Story"

I did a Radio interview for "The Story" while playing in front of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. It was one of my favorite interviews and ended up on NPR around the country. Listen to this radio interview that aired on NPR in more than 100 cities.

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Part 2

Laredo, TX to San Jose, Costa Rica

3,500+  miles

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Entering into Mexico

I will never forget the first day in Mexico. It was a day filled with confusion, stress, and nervousness.

Within the first 2 hours of being in Mexico, an "officer" or what looked like one ask me for a bribe.

We played it off like we didnt understand a word of what he was saying and after wasting 10 minutes of his time, he let us go. But at one point he had my license in his hands and threatened to take it away from me.

My original plan was to enter Mexico and Couchsurf the first day, but no one messaged me back. So when we arrived, we had no internet connection, no phones, the driving was hectic, and we didnt speak much Spanish. It was as if we were aliens in an entirely new world.

Finally at the last minute we found a place to crash, but it took at least an hour to find the house.

It was such a relief to speak with people who spoke English and who were able to help us find our way.

I was really unprepared for the craziness of Latin America.

Continue reading what happens when we enter Mexico...

Driving through the Desert

Fake Cop Cars were there to curb speeding

Guanajuato, Mexico

The goal was to get to Guatemala and focus on meeting other musicians that lived nearby.

Arthur had limited time to travel with me so we decided to focus on Antigua, Guatemala. It took about 5 full days of driving before we reached Guatemala. It was tiring....

Driving...

and Driving...

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Welcome to the Republic of Guatemala

 

I got a Stomach Bacterial infection my first day in Guatemala.

Sour stomach, nausea, dizziness, feeling of restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea. I never want to feel like that ever again in my entire life.

Apparantley I ingested some of the old water that was in my cooler.

I had to go to the hospital in Quetzaltenango. They put me on a stretcher and threw an IV into my arm. It only cost $25.

That night was very difficult. I spent the entire day vomiting and i didn't have enough Guatemalan money, so we had to search around for a place that would take my American dollars. For some reason no one wanted to take my $20 bill.

Antigua, Guatemala

We finally arrived in Antigua, Guatemala. Our luck changed for a few days and we went with the flow.... There were a lot of Marimba players everywhere including this massive 9 piece band.

Marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala. The instrument is made up of wooden bars and resonators that are struck with mallets similar to a Xylophone. It originates from Africa and was introduced to Central America and the Caribbean from African slaves that were transported there in the 17th Century.

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Antigua is a very special city for Latin America. It is one of the major hubs for the Catholic Church which has a strong presence in the city.

In 1717, a major earthquake left much of Antigua in ruins which is where the city get its charm.

Today, Antigua is a historic landmark and a piece of preserved history. The city is architecturally very beautiful with stone structures, churches, and monuments. I particularly love the Spanish colonial houses which are one level with a central area that is open to the elements.

There is also an incredible market in the center of the town where you can eat some of the finest fruit this planet has to offer.

Antigua is where we met Miguel who is a musician and Marimba teacher. He plays the marimba with his children and makes a living through his music. He lives in a small town outside of Antigua called Comalapa, Guatemala. There are a lot of windy roads and hills to go through to get to his hand built house.

Miguel told us about the Guatemalan civil war and how it has changed the lives of the indigenous people throughout the years. Guatemala is a militaristic country with soldiers and guns seen everywhere throughout the country. There is also a lot of corruption and crime that occurs there. The last 40 years have been very difficult for Guatemalens and its sad to see these people working so hard without much of a reward.

Read more about the Guatemalean civil war that took place for more than 30 years with the United States involvement.

Indigenous Mayan Ceremony in the small town of Comalapa, Guatemala

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March Festivals and Procession

Every Sunday in March there would be a 50 piece marching band playing slow music walking through the streets. Massive ornate displays of Jesus and Mary were held up and swayed back and forth. There would be hundreds of people dressed in Purple tunics marching along with them and everyone else on the side walks watching the event.

All of this led to the major festival on Semana Santa.

Some days were so exhausting that I would go to sleep at 8 PM: Especially the days where I was playing piano. The driving was tough and the traffic was difficult.

Guatemala City

We drove to Guatemala City and I found a nice spot on the Avenida Sexta to play my piano. This is a street where the major retailers are located and hundreds of people walk through there each day.

It was very risky because we had all this camera equipment and were walking around with everything in the streets.

We heard plenty of horror stories of people getting robbed in broad daylight so it was a bit risky.

Guatemala City is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

Even the security guards told us to be careful.

Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala

There are multiple roads to Lago de Atitlan. Because the lake is so large and the terrain is so mountainous, it is very difficult to get around that area. Its about 2 hours minimum to get to Lago de Atitlan from any direction.

The roads leading to Panajachel were very windy and difficult. But the views were spectacular.

There are 2 massive Volcanos located at Lago de Atitlan.

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  Playing piano across the worldAs soon as I saw this lookout point, I knew I had to play there.

I like to play on the edge of cliffs and at scenic points because it inspires me when I play. The music comes out totally different when I am in a relaxing natural environment without distractions.

El Salvador

Driving to Santa Tecla

Santa Tecla, El Salvador

In Santa Tecla I met with Marco and Esmerelda where I couchsurfed at their home.

When I arrived, I got sick again from eating Pupusas and vomited all night. (Everyone else was eating them without a problem!) Luckily I had the antibiotics from the last time I was sick...

Marco introduced me to the Mayor of Santa Tecla and got me permit to play at their weekly street fair at the Paseo del Carmen.

Marco Family

This girl was so inspired by my project that she drew this for me. She was such a sweet person.

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El Tunco, El Salvador

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The day I visited El Tunco, El Salvador, 3 people died while surfing at high tide. The waves were very intense and there are hidden rocks scattered throughout the area. This is NOT the place to learn how to surf.

I left El Salvador with a surfer friend named Bryce, who I met at Playa El Tunco.

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A Day in Honduras

Throughout the entire trip I didnt spend a single night in Honduras. The border guards tried to embezzle money from us every time we passed through. One time they got me for not wearing a seat belt and settled for a $5 bribe.

Below is the major highway connecting Nicaragua with El Salvador. We had to weave in an out of potholes every 2 minutes.

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Nicaragua

The drive from El Tunco, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua was about 9 hours with 2 border crossings.

We stayed in Leon at a hostel with tons of backpackers and travelers hanging about. Many people said that Leon is what Costa Rica was like before the big influx of expats looking to buy up property... I'm not really sure if I believe that, but then again, I never really explored Leon for a long period of time.

The next morning we decided to hit up the beach and go surfing... To our unfortunate dismay, that didn't turn out the way we wanted.

Getting Robbed at Las Penitas, Nicaragua

Read the story of how we got robbed of Everything in Nicaragua

They took everything I had except the piano, some clothes, and my van...

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Granada, Nicaragua

After getting robbed in Las Penitas all I wanted to do was get the hell out of Leon and go to another city.

At this stage of the journey, I had no passport, no credit/debit cards, some clothes, my piano and $150. I didnt want to call my parents to send me bailout money. I wanted to wing it and see what happens. So I decided to see if I could continue my journey southward with the limited amount of possessions I had.

I stayed in Granada for 4 days with my friends Fabio and Bryce, ate $2 meals and had a dorm room bed for $5.

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I pulled out my piano on Saturday night on the Casada where there is a row of restaurants and bars. I would play piano for 20 minutes at one place and then roll over to the next, talking to some of the European tourists who were drinking beers.

One of the restaurant owners paid me $10 to play in front of his restaurant for a half hour... I probably made around $30 total for the 2 hours I played.

There are a lot of poor homeless kids walking around I tried to get them to jam with me. (Thanks to Janneke from Holland for the photos)

Singing and making music in Nicaragua

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Bryce and I after the robbery...

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San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

I stayed at the Casa de Olas in San Juan del Sur and they allowed me to bring my Piano into the bar area and I did a nightly 1 hour performance. It was a great time with great people.

Even this Monkey had a good time. She stole my beer and started drinking it!

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Costa Rica

1,600 KM exploration of Costa Rica

Two weeks before arriving my cousin who lives in California calls me up and says that he wants to meet up with me in San Jose, Costa Rica. This is when things turned from a work trip into a vacation.

We did tours, saw volcanoes, did plenty of hiking, Zoo's, all the beautiful beaches, scuba diving, Corcovado National Park... You name it, we did it.

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Rafting

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Even the Rafting Guide is flipping out! Haha!!

Playing piano in the tropical rainforest in costa rica

ever come 2 feet away from a sloth?

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playing piano in the rainforest of costa rica

See more of the exploration in Costa Rica here

Playing in San Jose

I played piano at the Costa Rica Backpackers Hostel in San Jose and had people dancing. I was even able to set up a deal with the hostel to give me a bed in exchange for music and good times.

I also met some amazing people there including this South African traveling Sailor who has been traveling and living in other countries for the last 3 years. His name was Tavish and we had some great moments driving all the way to Puerto Viejo and hanging out in a house on the beach for a week.

playing piano poolside at the costa rica backpackers

We didn't make it to Panama. I literally drove to the border and decided that I had enough. I spent a ton of my savings and had already traveled for almost 6 months.

So I turned around...

 

Part 3

San Jose, Costa Rica to Los Angeles, California

5,000 Miles?

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and Back to New York City...

Nicaragua

Brando arrived via plane to San Juan Del Sur with a friend named Fallon.

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El Salvador

I met with my family in El Salvador and they took me to this resort to play while the sun was setting.

I made about $40 while playing for an hour. I orchestrated my playing with the movement of the sun, it was a powerful experience.

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I also stopped over near Playa El Cuco because a bunch of people in Costa Rica told me to stop there.

It wasnt much of a beach and the experience was kind of lousy, however, along the road we saw this incredible look out point and I pulled out my piano to experience the landscape of El Salvador.

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Traveling North through Guatemala

San Pedro de Atitlan, Guatemala

The roads to San Pedro de Atitlan were very windy. Some parts were filled with potholes and massive bumps where you could only drive 5 MPH to get through.

laguna de atitlan amazing lake

Playing Piano in the mountains of Semuc Champey, Guatemala

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Semuc Champey is located in the dense mountains of Northern Guatemala. There are no real roads there, only carved out dirt and rocky paths. You have to drive really slow or risk damaging your vehicle.

One humid morning at 8 AM, I decided to bring out the piano while driving on a long dirt road in the rainforest near Semuc Champey.

Every time I play piano in an environment like this, the music just comes out of me without any hesitation.

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Mexico

Another Incredible drive was from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to San Cristobal, Mexico.

Absolutely Stunning!! See: 10 Incredible drives in Central America and Mexico

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driving through Mexico

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San Cristobal

I played piano in flip flops while I was in San Cristobal. At that point, I was in Latin America for more than 4 months and had adjusted to the laid back lifestyle....

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The Drive from San Cristobal to Oaxaca was long and there was a roadblock due to a protest of labor workers.

However, we were driving Above the Clouds!

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Oaxaca, Mexico

I made some friends while hanging at the Mezcalera one Saturday night and they really showed me a good time.

They even got me a paid gig at a bar that paid 800 Pesos for an hour and a half.

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Took a little detour and visited the Mayan ruins of Monte Alban which is located just outside Oaxaca city.

Its incredible to imagine what these massive Mayan civilizations existed thousands of years ago and what they managed to construct and create.

Puerto Vallarta

From Oaxaca to Arizona, I spent very little time on that part of the trip because I had to rush to get back to Los Angeles to shoot a commercial for Goodyear Latin America.

Most of the land was desert and very hot/dry terrain-- There really wasnt much to see and not much to stop for either.

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Welcome back to the USA!

Arizona

When I finally returned to the US, I'll never forget the feeling. it was as if all this extra weight was taken off my shoulders.

Many people told me to race through Northern Mexico because that is where all the murder incidents have occurred. I was fearful of driving through those parts and I always had the thought int he back of mind that something bad could happen at any second.

Once we made it over the border, I immediately felt a sense of relief to be back in the USA. I spent 5 months traveling through Latin America living an entirely different lifestyle than back home.

driving through Arizona desert

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This was a symbol of finishing one chapter of my story, and beginning a new one.

I didnt spend much time in Arizona. The temperature was in the upper 90's and there didnt seem like much going on in Tucson.

So we left after a few hours and a nice Vegetarian meal.

San Diego, California

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Los Angeles

I'm not a huge fan of Los Angeles but Abbot Kinney received us very well. I played for a few hours while people strolled through the streets.

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Part 4

Los Angeles, CA to New York City

3,400 miles

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Big Sur

Nothing compares to the feeling I get when i get to play my piano on the edge of a cliff or in the mountains as the sun is setting. Nothing like it.

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last leg of the trip

Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz is one of my top 5 favorite cities in North America. One day I hope to have a home out there.

If  you walk the streets of Santa Cruz with an open mind, you will meet some amazing people and maybe learn a few interesting things.

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I couchsurfed at this Bluegrass musicians house and we got to jam and discuss music the entire time. There are so many good people in Santa Cruz.

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 San Francisco, California

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A friend that I met in Wisconsin in 2011 invited me to come play at the school she works at. The kids requested songs from videos games and sci-fi TV shows. I tried to please them by playing classical and jazz and even did a presentation on the importance of music in our lives. It was a very rewarding experience.

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Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Black Rock City, Nevada

Burning Man 2013

See more photos from Burning Man 2013

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Driving...

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and Driving...

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and Driving...

Kansas City, Missouri

When I get to the midwest I usually get anxious and drive straight through, but it was a weekend and I decided to use Couchsurfing in Kansas City, Missouri to see whats there. I didnt know much about Kansas City but when I arrived I learned that it is an important city  for the beginning of modern music, particularly Jazz.

Scott Joplin lived in Missouri who is the father of modern music and just about all the music you listen to today. In my mind Scott Joplin is the one who brought European classical music like Chopin and African rhythms together to form Ragtime. If you listen to Chopin and explore some of Scott Joplins music, you will see incredible similarities. See for yourself.

I played piano at the Ryan Beye foundations block party. Ryan Beye's story is incredibly inspiring to me and reminds us to never wait till you tomorrow to do the things you want to do in your life. Read more about Ryan Beye here.

HOME!

Final Stats

Total Trip: 21,000+ miles

7 Months on the road

# of Cities Visited: 70+ Cities

# of Cities I played piano in: 18 Cities

 

Things I learned from this experience:

  • Organization and preparation is very helpful. But when traveling you need to have a improvisational mind to be able to tackle anything that may occur. You can eliminate your risk by thinking of possible outcomes and solutions. I did a lot of research before leaving but I still feel like I rushed to leave on this trip. There is never too much planning. However, never let your plans be the final way.
  • Better organization of the inside of my Van has always been crucial on my roadtrips. I need to build better hiding spots for my electronics.
  • Mexico and Central America are definitely not as dangerous as people say. Travel through these countries and meet the local people. It may give you an entirely new perspective on your life.
  • Its is not easy to make a living as a musician while traveling through Latin America...
  • The fruit and vegetables in Latin America is much tastier than in America. Traveling through those parts gave me an entirely new perspective on the massive food industry in the United States. In many of these Latin American countries you still buy your produce directly from the farmer. Its beautiful.
  • If possible, In the future I will begin to set up gigs before I reach major cities. Doing a mixture of gigs and street performing can help me fund these trips and even make a larger profit. This trip proved to be a major expense on my bank account. I didnt come home with profit like on the $2 Roadtrip, but I did walk away with the adventure of a lifetime and many new friends around the world.

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The Original Process of Making Mezcal - An Exclusive Mezcal tour in Mexico

On a Saturday night I came across La Mezcalera in Oaxaca, Mexico.

I've never had Mezcal before but I was curious...

This place was special.... Old masks and antiques were on the walls... People hanging about, talking...

And they only serve the best of Mezcal.

The bartender, Leon, told me to try the flight of three types of Mezcal.

I noticed that they were much smoother and the flavor was more subtle than most tequilas that I've tried.

No!

First lesson about Mezcal:

Never compare Mezcal to Tequila.

Mezcal is more elegant. Mezcal has more flavor and is a classy drink.

Tequila is not.

I continued talking to Leon and he gave me the rundown about Mezcal.

The other people in the room chimed in their opinions.

I became good friends with a chef, Jose Luis and a photographer named Francisco.

Everyone was so nice and welcoming. We were laughing and talking, feeling great.

What a great night!

A few days later, I ended up staying at Jose Luis' house and he spoke about going on a tour of the Mezcal distilleries outside of Oaxaca.

I said, "Lets go".... And off we went.

What is Mezcal?

Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the Agave plant that is grown in Mexico.

The distillation process stems back to the early 1800's in Oaxaca, Mexico and today there are multiple variations of this technique that are being used throughout Oaxaca.

Mezcal is particular  to the state of Oaxaca. If its not made in Oaxaca, Its not Mezcal.

One thing that you must know is that it's not tequila.

As you scroll through the photos below you will see how they harvest the Agave plant and pull out the large root which sort of looks like giant pineapples.

Eating the worm

Map of where we went.

The Agave roots are then chopped up and placed in this fire pit. The process is long and hard because they have to place these large stones on top of the plants to create an oven-like effect.

After cooking the Agave and removing the stones the sugars in the Agave are carmelized. They place the cooked Agave on a stone crushed that is powered by a horse. This crushed the plant pieces and turns it into stringy fibers. From there, they transfer it into fermentation pits.

In this room the sour smell of fermentation was very strong. This one distillery had 3 different aged fermentation pits. After the fermentation process, it all gets tranferred to the distillation area where it gets process and distilled into a small jug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got a little crazy by the end of the day. I ate a few Mezcal worms that pop in your mouth. Interesting taste and feeling.

We were laughing, being silly, and having a good time.

I wasnt too messed up to drive and by the time we got back to Oaxaca I had a piano gig at this bar but was so exhausted. I still did the gig but it was a tough night.

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The Secret Mayan Carvings in Mexico

I met a man from Texas while I was in San Cristobal de las Casas.

We had a long conversation about things to see in Mexico and he told me about these secret Mayan ruins that have never been explored or seen by archaeologists.

The instructions were to drive to Lagos de Montebello and look for a man named Jose who owns a few cabins on the lake.

I was to ask him for his son to take us to the secret Mayan ruins.

And since Adventure is my middle name, I decided I had to do this.

We drove for 2 hours and finally reached the Park where Lagos de Montebello is located and paid our entrance fee.

Lagos de Montebello is a National Park that is comprised of 59 multi-colored lakes and two Mayan ruins. Lago Tziscao is the largest of the lakes which is where the secret ancient Mayan ruins.

Using a map, I located how to get to the lake but I had no way of finding out where Jose was.

I started asking people in the little town and it turned out that people knew exactly who he was. They pointed me in the right direction.

When I got to Jose's cabins I asked him if his son can help us get to the place with the secret Mayan carvings. They wanted 300 Pesos but I got him down to 200 pesos to guide us and help us row to the opposite side of the lake.

The boat was heavy and it was a 3 km ride each way. But we decided to do it.

The rowing was very difficult. Brando was the Captain of the ship and he stood there as if he was surveying the wind direction.

When we finally got to the opposite side of the lake we docked the boat and started hiking about a 1/2 mile up this hill, through tall grasses.

We found this large boulder that looked like it was apart of a much larger structure hidden underneath thousands of years of plant growth.

It was pretty fascinating to see these face carvings up close and personal. At the same time, it felt exciting to be apart of something that not a lot of people have seen.

We landed and had to hike up a half mile...

And we had to row back too...

We left Lagos de Montebello and on the way back to San Cristobal came to a massive traffic jam.

There was some kind of protest with labor unions who were blocking all the traffic.

People said that we wouldnt be able to cross until tomorrow morning. So we turned around, found a cheap $20 hotel, and woke up in the morning to drive to Oaxaca.

 

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Should I Quit My Job? When is it Time to Change?

should i quit my job? On New Years Day at 1:30 AM, I was having a conversation with this guy who works at a Financial firm in NYC. He asked me if I am going to make lots of money in 2014.

I said that i would like to make a lot of money without having to compromise my passions, so that I can make money doing the things that I love.

"But that's almost impossible."

I told him about what I do and he was impressed. He said he wishes he could do the same with his passion: Golf.

He said he would love to be able to teach Golf and pursue that as a career but he is not as good as the pros and there is already too much competition to create a career out of it. On top of that he already has a job that takes up a majority of his time.

This isn't a new thing.

There are millions of people out there who are working at office jobs they dont like but receive a consistent salary.

This is one of the biggest dilemmas of our lives.

Do I prioritize making money or should I put my passion first? Why can't I do both?

If I prioritize money and get a job, I will end up working 40-70 hours a week working for someone else, without much time for myself, but I will be making a consistent salary.

If I prioritize my passion, I run the risk of not making much money but I am creating my own project and chasing after my passions.

The question comes in: When is the right time to change?

Of course, there are exceptions to all this... Some of us have found jobs that we enjoy immensely. This article is not for you. Go back to what you were doing...

Change is good. Change is important. The world around us is always change. WE are always changing, every second of our lives. Sometimes change happens very quickly. Other times it feels like it takes years for changes to occur. For the most part, I like to look at change as a very important key to my happiness. It keeps things exciting. It keeps me on my toes and interested. Without Change I belive life would be very boring.

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The biggest obstacle in our way is the Fear of Uncertainty. Most of us don't like uncertainty. We want to have a set salary so we know how much we will be making by the end of the year. We want to have a routine to keep us in line. We take the same route to work so that we are not late.

What will happen to me if I quit?

This fear is so powerful that it can completely consume you to the point where you get to age 60 and ask yourself, "Where did all the time go?"

The only way for you to find out is to do it. Nike was right when they said, "Just do it." Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to throw yourself in and figure it out. And Yes, its a scary thought that you will have to sacrifice your salary in order to pursue what you love. Yes it will be hard and you will struggle, but things will work themselves out. I promise.

There is something really special about creating something from an idea in your mind. To plant a seed and to give it your all and watch it grow and care for it as it slowly emerges to form your beautiful creation... From your idea.

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I once met a man on the street in Santa Cruz. He started playing piano at age 75 and by 83 recorded an entire album from scratch. All from his head. Songs that were just floating around in his mind and he went and grabbed them. He wanted it. He was willing to go through the struggle to make it happen.

This is for the person who feels that internal itch: that impulse to want to change their life.

I say, Go for it! You only live once and you are never too old to try something new.

I am certainly no expert (but then again who is an expert at Life?).

Here are a few words of advice from my personal experiences:

Evaluate your current situation. Look at the entire picture.

Everything good takes some degree of struggle in order to happen. Enjoy it! Live for the Challenge.

There is no prescription for Life. To each his/her own. Go and find yourself.

Think about these key question:

1. If you could be doing anything else with your life, What would you do?

2. What would be your ideal lifestyle?

3. Why?

4. What is in your way?

5. How will you achieve what you want?

6. Are you willing to take on the challenges and the struggle in order to make it happen?

7. Are there other people already living your dream lifestyle?

8. How are they making it happen?

Maybe you can put in a few hours after your day job towards making your passion project come alive. Maybe you can collaborate with someone in creating something great. Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps...

But Please! Do yourself the favor and make an effort to try.

I guarantee you, it will be gratifying.

Dont let yourself get to the point in your life where you regret that you never took action to go after your passions.

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I will never forget this article: Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.

The first one is: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

The second is: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Most people realize it too late, but its something I've heard countless times.

I'll leave this one for the great Mark Twain.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain

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I dont expect you all to agree with everything I say, What do you think?

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Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

an old womans hands- Regrets of the dying

This Article is originally from Collective Evolution.

A palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets of the dying and put her findings into a book called ‘The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.’ It’s not surprising to see what made the list as they are all things that touch each of our lives as we struggle to pay attention to and make time for things that we truly love. Below is the list of each regret along with an excerpt from the book.  At the bottom is also a link to the book for anyone interested in checking it out.

One thing on regret before we get to the list. It’s important to remember that whatever stage we are at in life, there is no need for regret. The process of regret is one that provides nothing but suffering for ourselves as we begin to allow the past to dictate how we should feel now. Instead, we can use the past as a reference point to understand what adjustments we would like to make moving forward. The adjustments do not have to come out of pain, sorrow, regret or judgment, but simply a choice to do things in a different way. We are learning all the time, we can very quickly slow that learning process down by getting stuck in the idea of regret. When it comes to making changes, be at peace with the past and remember that each moment is a new choice.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

”This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Source: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing

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How I got Robbed of All My Things in Central America

Many people are fearful of traveling to Mexico and Central America. They hear exaggerated stories on the news that spread like wildfire throughout the internet. Much of this is distorted way out of proportion.

I spent 6 months driving through these regions and can tell you that it is very safe to travel through these countries. I've had some of the greatest moments of my life and made very close connections on my journey.

If you asked me, I would say go out there and do it!

You Must see the beauty of Mexican culture, meet the indigenous people of Guatemala, and experience the rustic lifestyle of Central America.

However, there is one thing that you must be forewarned about.

Petty theft is pretty common in Central America.

So common I was once sitting at a table in Nicaragua with 6 other people who also got robbed in all shapes and forms. It doesn't happen to everyone and there were many more people who didn't get robbed, but it does happen.

It makes sense though. Look at the people that live in these countries. If you were at the point of desperation and had no other choice but to work 12 hour days for $10, you would rob people too.

The fact that I got robbed on my trip was entirely my fault. I don't blame anyone but myself because it was attributed to my own carelessness.

I was in Leon, Nicaragua with 2 friends I made in El Salvador.

Bryce was a surfer dude from Colorado who had been backpacking solo to hit some of the greatest waves in the world.

Fabio was this dark skinned Brazilian guy with a deep voice and a thick accent.

nicaragua

leon las penitas nicaragua

We decided to head to Playa Las Penitas to check out the beach and do some surfing. All of our backpacks were in the car.

Bryce and Fabio had all their possessions in those bags.

When we got there we rented boards and hit the waves. It was a great time. The beach was nice although the sun was strong.

I did a lot of smiling.

At this point I had already traveled through Central America for a month and a half and felt really comfortable being there.

Every few hours or so I would come out to get something from the car and check up on it.

I noticed there were a bunch of guys hanging around the entire time. I said "Buenos tardes," and they seemed like nice people.

I never got suspicious of the fact that they were hanging around my car for so long. There was also an open restaurant with a few people hanging out.

So I went surfing again and hung out at the board rental place.

At around 5 pm this large Nicaraguan man comes over in a panic and says, "Tu Carro. Tu Carro."

I run out to see what happens but he only tells me that I must move the car because they need to place a pile of rocks and wood in that area.

There was a bunch of construction going on so I moved the car but I decided not to move it into the spot that he wanted because I thought it was a bit strange.

Somehow in that time, one of the other guys managed to nudge something in my door so that it wouldnt lock without me noticing.

I go back to the board shop and Bryce is flirting with these 2 beautiful Nica's.

bryce and dotan meeting people and making friends in central america

I talk to them for a little and tell him that we should go.

When we get to the car I notice the passenger door is slightly ajar.

I open the door and we find all the bags are gone.

It was one of the worst feelings of my life.

I lost my laptop, passport, license, credit cards, SLR Canon Camera, Iphone, Hard drives...

Most importantly, all my great music recordings and writings.

Fabio and Bryce had it bad too. Bryce lost everything he owned but his surfboard, shorts, and a t shirt.

Fabio lost his passport with his visa into the United States, his clothes, and an iPad.

We all start panicking and freaking out.... Well I did at least. Adrenaline was very high.

"We have to get the police," I say.

I speed over to the police station and say "Ladrones!," and explain to them in my broken spanish what had happened.

The cops were these 2 men, one was short and round, and the other was tall and skinny.

I felt as if I were in a 1930's  Abbot and Costello Comedy routine but in Spanish.

They told me to go back and that they would come there in 10 minutes because they had to get into their uniforms. Silly!

When they arrived we had to explain everything to them multiple times. Fabio dominated the conversation since he spoke the best Spanish.

I told them there were witnesses and they looked at me like I was crazy.

Maybe I didnt say it right?

They didnt even ask anybody any questions.

The most they did was stop a chicken bus and look around for our bags.

Next they tell us to follow them. Maybe they have a good idea.

They jump on a dirt bike together and we follow them out to this main road that has absolutely no significance whatsoever.

The sun was going down and night was falling upon us.

We sat there on the side of this empty road watching these clown cops try to stop passing traffic with no success.

Massive Failure!

"This is getting us nowhere. Lets get out of here," I say.

But before we go the cops decide to ask us to pay for their gasoline.

Fabio turns around a yells, "We just lost everything! How can you stand there asking us for money when we lost everything.  I would give you money for gas if you find our bags. I would give you double the money!"

We go back to the little cinder block police station and spend the next hour describing the details and everything we lost to the officers.

Around this time I get hit with terrible sunstroke and dehydration from the strong sunburn on my back. I could barely keep my eyes open, as if I was paralyzed. I hit rock bottom.

That night felt as if a wave of depression surrounded all of us. I think I cried too.

I cried mainly over the fact that I lost my computer backup with a ton of great writings and music.

I couldn't get over the fact how stupid I was for letting everyone down. I even considered calling the whole trip off and just driving home.

The next day we went to Managua with our police reports to the US Embassy to get temporary passports.

We stayed in a hostel in Granada and during that time I became close with Bryce and Fabio.

We walked the streets of Granada with the new friends we made from Germany, Holland, and Brazil, went to a bar and had a few beers. And laughed.

Once you've exhausted all your energy being depressed about how terrible your situation is, the only other thing to do is laugh.

I laughed. We laughed. I spent a lot of time laughing that week.

Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.

And so I began an even more minimal lifestyle with just a piano, some clothes, my car, and $150. I had no access to credit cards or debit cards. Nothing. It wasnt that much different than the way i was living before.

I was always frugal with my money but now I had to watch every expense I made.

But being in Nicaragua made that very easy. My meals cost me anywhere from $2-$4 each.

The whole experience made me realize how I can live comfortably with very little money. Of course, we all want more money, but its nice to know that if I lost everything I wouldnt have much trouble adapting to my circumstances.

going to the lake in nicaragua

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Things that would have prevented this:

  • Having hard to reach hiding spots for the most valuable goods in the car
  • A strong and effective car alarm/deterrent
  • Never getting to comfortable with traveling anywhere.
  • Getting tints on all the windows
  • Travel Insurance

If you are planning to travel to Central America and Mexico, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Do not fear traveling through Latin America, they are very safe as long as you are constantly aware of everything that is going on. Many people do it every year.
  • Try not to be alone at night. I heard stories of people getting robbed at San Juan del Sur on the beach at night.
  • Always be aware of everything around  you. The moment you get too comfortable with traveling through Latin America is when bad things happen.
  • Beware of the main tourist traps. There are people who wait around for travelers to show up to rob them. Its a routine thing for them. The main places where people get robbed are the main tourist cities and attractions.
  • Always get multiple opinions about places to go, don't rely on one person to tell you where the best places are.
  • Beware of putting your stuff on the top of the Chicken buses. I heard this robbery story countless times.
  • Make sure to have a Passport and money wallet that is separate from everything else and is hidden on your body. I would even say that it is wise to separate your money amongst your stuff so that its not all in one place.
  • I would suggest to bring more than 1 bag. If something does happen to that 1 bag, you lose everything. But if you have 2 bags you are much better off.
  • Don't bring things that are really valuable. You are better off only taking the bare essentials.

Have fun and Safe travels!

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The Most Difficult Drive Ever... in Costa Rica.

We were near the end of our Costa Rica tour while in Dominical, Costa Rica, so we figured, why not head all the way to Corcovado National Park?

How many times will we come back to Costa Rica?

Looking at the map, it didn't seem like a difficult thing to achieve with a few days left.

Its only 168 km.

So we continued south.

Little did we know what we were up against.

These were the most difficult roads I have ever driven on!

We were in the middle of the jungle!

The Photos below are only some of the obstacles that we faced while driving to Bahia Drake.

Torrential downpours,

Massive Trees in the road,

2 Flat tires,

Driving through 4 Rivers and over 3 rickety bridges...

raining and downpour in costa rica

 

rickety bridges middle of nowhere where are we?

 

At one point on this journey we reached a really steep hill. I tried going up slowly but the car would get stuck about halfway. So I went all the way back, pick up enough speed and was able to get over the hill. Thats where the flat time came from. It was exhilarating and frightening at the same time because I kept wondering if we would be able to get back...

 

dangerous roads and hills flat tires driving through central america

 

crossing rivers to get to bahia drake costa rica traveling travel roadtrip

trees in the road

 

crossing rivers to get to bahia drake

bahia drake must see how to get to bahia drake by car

 

sunset corcovado untouched land beautiful beach bahia drake dominical costa rica

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Music Tolerance or How I Learned to be Okay with Nickelback

electric guitar player learn to play electric guitar Nickleback