Microadventure #50: Art of Data Class with Diego and Reneya

Art of Data Class at Boulder Library

It’s always a treat for me when I get to spend time with my grandkids, Diego and Reneya. When I saw a class offered at the Boulder Public Library called the Art of Data, I thought it would make the perfect microadventure.

Diego and Reneya are both very analytical and artistic. This class was about taking a data set – quantitative or qualitative – and creatively mapping that data into some kind of art project.

Since my son-in-law, Chris, was about to have a birthday, I thought this might be a good opportunity for us to make birthday cards for him.

I was very impressed with the teacher, Heather Schulte, who put together a very informative presentation with a lot of creative examples. Heather, herself, is involved in a number of interesting and creative projects.

Reneya working on her card for her Dad’s 39th birthday
Diego works on his Dad’s Birthday Card

I’d wanted to try and collect some kind of data from Chris that we could use, but that proved a little difficult. The best I could do was print out pictures. We focused on the qualitative data of Chris’s interests and hobbies for our data. Heather provided plenty of craft supplies that were just fun to experiment with.

This class was lots of fun and a great activity for all of us!

Microadventures #40-#49 Mexico City / San Miguel with Chris

Chris (with a confused expression) and me in the streets of San Miguel de Allende

For those following along, this year my project is to have at least one “Microadventure” a week. High-achiever that I am, I’m way ahead of schedule, with 10 new “microadventures” experienced last week in Mexico.

My 3 rules for a Microadventure?

  • A fun experience
  • With at least one other person
  • Blog about it

It’s easy to have fun experiences.. A little more of a challenge (but absolutely a big reward) has been to find people to share them with. My biggest constraint has been finding the time to blog about them in a way that I feel properly captures the experience.

A few months ago, I wrote about a series of Microadventures I’d experienced, including with the family of Chris Blakeslee. Chris lives in Bali, but visits his family in Florida a couple of times a year.

This year, it turned out that I just missed him in Florida, but I was very happy when he suggested we have a quick rendezvous in Mexico to some place neither of us had been! That’s exactly the kind of spontaneous Carpe Diem spirit that I love! After some discussion, we agreed upon San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico.

So Chris is my Primary Adventure Partner for this series of Microadventures in Mexico. He’s smart, funny, playful and always up for new experiences.

The microadventures I picked to write about are focused more on the people than the places. We saw some of the classic and beautiful touristy sights that you can read about in travel books, but, for me, the special moments were those of connection.

Microadventure #40: Dancing to Mariachi Music in San Miguel de Allende

Microadventures #41-#43: Learning from Chris

Microadventures #44-#45: Meeting Seth and Nik in Mexico City

Microadventure #46: Home Exchange Casita in San Miguel de Allende with Julie and George

Microadventures #47-#48: Meeting Expats from GoWithLess

Microadventure #49: Hot Air Balloon Ride over San Miguel de Allende

Microadventure #49: Hot Air Balloon Ride over San Miguel de Allende

On our final morning in SMA, Chris and I enjoyed a sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride with Vole en Globo. For about $150 US dollars, we were picked up and dropped off right at our casita, enjoyed an hour long balloon ride, a sweet toast after we landed, and even a full breakfast at a local restaurant.

When we arrived, the crew was firing up two balloons, one that held 6 passengers, and ours, that would hold 8 of us, along with the pilot. Each couple got our own little corner compartment that we were able to climb into using footholds, with the pilot in the middle.

Preparing the hot air balloon for flight

Interestingly, even though heights can make me super-nervous, I wasn’t the slightest bit anxious going up. I guess the basket was high enough that I felt totally secure.

It’s even more odd that I felt secure since it really didn’t seem like the pilot has much control other than by how much propane gas he shoots up into the balloon.

We actually went up soon after we were all in, with no warning! No 3-2-1 countdown.. just up we went, with no time to change your mind! Someone said it reminded them of the scene from Wizard of Oz when Dorothy missed the balloon!

It did make me curious about the science involved in navigating a hot air balloon. I thought the pilot would be able to “steer” in some way, but it appeared he mostly could just adjust vertically and we were dependent on the wind for where we’d end up.

The scene from above was peaceful and serene.. well, except for the dogs. (Yeah… Definitely barking dogs… Something to be aware of before you buy a house in the neighborhood.)

Ignoring the barks, the birds-eye view, rising sun, and seeing other balloons in the sky as we slowly floated over the city provided a much more tranquil experience than I’d expected. It wasn’t windy or cold, just a perfect picturesque scene.

When it came time to land, the pilot had to get low enough to throw down cables that the crew used to help to reel us in to the landing spot. Even once we got to the ground, we’d bounce up and down a bit before we were firmly settled on the ground.

The crew expertly packed up the balloon like a giant sleeping bag and loaded up the balloon and basket into the trailer ready to be be transported ‘home.’

Meanwhile we were treated to our celebratory toast and breakfast with our fellow passengers.

Absolutely, one of my favorite experiences of the trip!

Full set of Microadventures in Mexico City / San Miguel de Allende:

Microadventures #47-#48: Meeting Expats from GoWithLess

Microadventure #47: Lovely breakfast at JoAnna and David’s

I’ve found that one of the best Facebook groups for travelers is GoWithLess – Nomadic Life, Early Retirement, Travel Hacking, House Sitting. The group’s owners, Tim & Amy, are super-connectors and they really foster a welcoming community of travelers.

When I posted that I’d be in San Miguel de Allende, JoAnna, from the group, reached out to me personally. It turned out that our casita was only a 5-minute walk to where she and her husband, David, were house-sitting!

JoAnna’s so pretty. (If she weren’t married I would have tried to fix her up with Seth.) She’s also very kind. She prepared such a lovely breakfast spread for us to enjoy. She and David are 100% nomadic and are regular trusted house-sitters.

JoAnna used to be an event planner and I see she has a real flair for creating a welcoming space for people to meet and mingle. She also invited another expat couple, Arturo and Phyllis, who have found their “Happy Place” in San Miguel de Allende.

Everyone at the breakfast had such interesting stories. Each one of them could write a book, filled with travel adventures and life’s ups and downs. It’s hard for me to even imagine being 100% nomadic and I had so many questions!

We spent 3 hours being entertained by the conversation, but Chris and I had planned to spend the afternoon at La Gruta, the Hot Springs Spa that was about a 20 minute drive away.

David thoughtfully offered to drive us and I was all for that! Not only did it save us an Uber-ride, it meant we could keep hearing about David & JoAnne’s fascinating life. And we had ChiChi in the seat behind us, excited to be on a car-ride!

On our way to La Gruta with ChiChi in back!
Microadventure #48: Lunch at Mercado del Carmen with Vic & Kathy

A couple days later, we met up with an Australian couple, Vic and Kathy, thanks, again, to the Go with Less group. Kathy suggested meeting up at Mercado del Carmen which offered a variety of restaurants, like a food court.

Vic and Kathy, like JoAnna and David, were full-time nomads using Trusted House-sitters for much of their lodging. We all had been members of the Hash House Harriers and all the reminiscing has motivated me to check into rejoining. I hadn’t realized that Chris was also an avid Harrier and even started a club I think in Toulouse, France!

We told Vic and Kathy that we were going to go hot-air ballooning and Vic passed along this YouTube video that they had made! Wow! Vic is an awesome videographer!

Vic and Kathy also recommended Hanks for dinner and told us to look for a big, bald guy called, “Fish” who always was at the bar and played Water Polo.

We went to Hanks that night, and though we didn’t find “Fish,” we had a delicious dinner and ended the evening with a magical microadventure dance-move!

Full set of Microadventures in Mexico City / San Miguel de Allende:

Microadventure #46: Home Exchange Casita in San Miguel de Allende with Julie and George

Our charming casita and hosts in San Miguel de Allende

We arrived at our Home Exchange in San Miguel de Allende at about 8pm after a 4 hours bus-ride from Mexico City.

This was the first experience using Home Exchange for both Chris and me (in fact, I didn’t even have an account yet) and we really hit the jackpot!

Julie and George were extremely friendly and personable! That first night, Julie had our room beautifully prepared, welcoming us with a bouquet of fresh, red roses. Since it was already pretty late and Chris had to get some work done, she brought over some food from her kitchen so we could prepare our own dinner without having to go into town.

Our casita felt like a historic art museum with beautiful skylights and brick ceiling.

There was a cute, private patio for us to enjoy, sometimes with their friendly cats greeting us with meows and rubbing up against our legs.

The casita was at the top of a a big cobblestone street that led right into downtown San Miguel de Allende. There were bright purply-pink bougainvillea, one of my favorite flowering plants everywhere!

The weather, scenery, and casita couldn’t have been more beautiful! I’d recently watched Disney’s Encanto and even though that’s supposed to have taken place in Colombia, it absolutely reminded me of colorful San Miguel de Allende.

But, once again, the real treasure was getting to know George and Julie. Our casita was just one part of their massive home. They invited us over to chat the morning after we arrived, and, as it turned out, that was Julie’s birthday!

We bought some little cakes and invited them to watch the moon set that night. (They have this awesome rooftop and moonsets are one of Chris’s passions.)

They rushed home from their dinner with young friends. Unfortunately, we just missed the moonset, but, instead we all had a little party in their beautiful home.

George and Julie are world-travelers with so much knowledge and intellectual curiosity. They talked to us about some of their experiences and gave us some recommendations about where to eat and what to do in town.

I’ve kept in touch with Julie over Whatsapp and she’s passed along the contact information about two Boulder women who stayed with them. And who knows? Maybe some day George and Julie will be my guests and we’ll all have another party in my Boulder-area home!

Full set of Microadventures in Mexico City / San Miguel de Allende:

Microadventures #44-#45: Meeting Seth and Nik in Mexico City

Microadventure #44: Chris, me, and Seth at GinGin in Mexico City

Before heading to Mexico, Chris introduced me via Whatsapp to a couple of his friends, Seth and Nik, he’d known from his Men’s group in Bali who were now living in Mexico City.

Seth was able to meet us the first night, right after arriving in Mexico. The restaurant he’d picked out, GinGin, was just a few short blocks from our Condesa hotel.

Seth was very easy to talk to and I took an immediate liking to him. First of all, he actually knew all about Agile coaching (my profession). It’s pretty rare for people to have even heard of the profession and Seth could actually explain Agile coaching even better than I could! Impressive!

Secondly, Seth was willing to put up with my yenta-like questions about his love life. He’s a cute, recently single guy looking for a smart, independent red-head. I took it on as a personal goal to find him a match. I am VERY serious about my goals, and I really did look for a match for him for the rest of the week.

The closest I got was a red-haired older chiropractor — I did ask him if he had any red-haired daughters, but he said they were half-Peruvian and wouldn’t fit the bill.

When I reported back to Seth at the end of the week, he was not discouraged. He had complete faith in me. I told him I’d keep looking. (Plan B is to dye my hair red and find a good plastic surgeon who can make me look 15 years younger.)

Microadventure #45: Nik, Chris, Seth, and me at Pad Thai, Mexico City

On our final day, we were back in Mexico City, and this time Nik was able to join us, as well. Me and 3 cute guys? Absolutely, a super-fun microadventure for me!

Nik is a life-coach with a popular podcast, LifeAthletics, which is all about using a training framework to find success in life. I’m very interested in coaching and the health and wellness industry, so I immediately subscribed.

Nik and Seth had been to a story-telling event the night before and shared the experience with us. At first, I’d felt a little envious, wishing I could have gone to the event, but was very happy that they shared their stories so it’s like I got a private viewing! It was really fun to get to know these guys more personally than I ever would have been able to at a story-telling event.

Like Seth (and Chris), Nik is very articulate, smart, and confident. He talked about the Men’s group that they were all a part of and it sounded so interesting that I wished I could be part of it, too. Of course, there are lots of women’s groups, but I think being a fly on a wall of a men’s group would be much more interesting… probably because men typically act differently when women are around.

I feel really lucky that I was able to have a little peek into “that world” as I watched the banter between Seth, Nik, and Chris. They had this great intellectual energy. I love debates and discussions, and, again these men all were masters of communication.

When I meet people traveling, I’m always a little sad if I think I might never see them again. In this case, though, I know I’ll be able to hear Nik on his podcast. And Seth? Well.. he promised to invite me to his wedding once I find his next girlfriend, so.. yeah, I’ll definitely see him then!

Full set of Microadventures in Mexico City / San Miguel de Allende:

Microadventure #41-#43: Learning from Chris

Microadventure #41: Practicing Spanish

One of the most fun things about going on an international trip for me is trying to speak in a different language.

Chris is probably the most worldly-wise friend I have. He’s lived in a bunch of different countries and knows Spanish (as well as Japanese, Indonesian, French, and, of course, English) fluently. He has a work-from-anywhere job as a translator in the Japanese financial industry.

Though he didn’t have to work much, I thought it was super-cool that he had the flexibility to even work from the charming Home Exchange Casita we stayed at in SMA.

I love languages and when I was young I imagined how cool it would be to have a job where I could travel the world and be fluent in multiple languages. Even though that didn’t happen for me (yet!) it’s fun for me to live vicariously through Chris by witnessing him in action.

Chris was such a supportive mentor and coach as I muddled through my own attempts at Spanish. Even though his Spanish language skills are far superior to mine, he was always encouraging me to practice.

Microadventure #42: El Charco de Ingenio

Another one of my favorite things about Chris is that he’s quite nerdy! He gets excited about the Moonset and Moonrise calendar, converting Celsius to Fahrenheit, Acre to Hectare, and finding a defect in this interesting Sundial contraption (Observatario Solar) at El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Gardens.

I wish I’d gotten a picture of Chris cupping the light in his hand at the Solar Observatory structure that’s behind him in this picture. The sunlight coming through a hole is supposed to tell you the date and time by it’s placement, as long as it was +/- 3 hours from midday.

However, Chris was able to determine that the description was not quite accurate. We were within the appropriate timeframe, yet the all important sun-dot was not yet hitting the floor.

Having spent time in quality assurance, I wished I could have politely noted the inaccurate description with a sticky note for other patrons. Chris used his Spanish skills to make a young intern aware of the errant description, who undoubtedly will get it corrected immediately. At least let’s hope so!

Since I come from a big engineering family, I am most comfortable around smart people who love to calculate, problem-solve, and question. I love it when Chris “talks nerdy to me.”

But, as someone who spent too much of her childhood in libraries, I had the most fun playing on the slide at El Charco.

Microadventure #43: Swimming at La Gruta

Pool at La Gruta Hot Springs

La Gruta Hot Springs was another outing recommended to us while in San Miguel de Allende adventure. We thought it would be interesting to experience a Temazcal Ceremony which was one of the services advertised on their Website.

Unfortunately, maybe because of Covid, neither the Temazcal Ceremony nor massages were available, but there still were relaxing, warm-water pools, including one that ran through a tunnel into an enclosed pool.

Even though the closures were a bit of a let down, I still loved swimming in the warm pools. My swimming skills are a definite “growth opportunity” and it turns out that swimming is another one of Chris’s many talents!

I took the opportunity to get some tips from him on how I could improve and I’m already seeing a little difference. I’ll be ready to hit the pool all summer!

So Spanish, Science, and Swimming are all skills that Chris helped me improve on this San Miguel soirée!

Full set of Microadventures in Mexico City / San Miguel de Allende:

Microadventure #40 Dancing to Mariachi Music in San Miguel de Allende

Though I have lots of pretty pictures of colorful San Miguel de Allende, this is not a “travel blog” post. There were many scenes that I savored, especially the iconic La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, viewing in varying lights during sunset from a rooftop bar.

OK, I’ll include just one of my photos of that gorgeous church, with the recognition that none of my photographs (nor even those of the professionals) can capture the feeling of awe it inspires.

Microadventure #40 – Dancing to Mariachi Music with Chris in front of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel after dinner at Hanks.

The moment that was the most special to me in the presence of this pink masterpiece, was with Chris on our final night in SMA. We had just enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner at Hanks, a memorable “New Orleans”-style restaurant, recommended by Kathy and Vic, an Australian couple we’d met earlier that day.

Chris was in a particularly smiley and satisfied mood. When we left the restaurant and were strolling through El Jardin, he spontaneously grabbed my hand and twirled me around to the music of the mariachi players.

It was just a little dance move, but I love dancing, and the sweetness of that spin in such a romantic setting was a fairy-tale moment.

Full set of Microadventures in Mexico City / San Miguel de Allende:

Microadventure #39: Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary with Cathy

After listening to music at the Boulder Creek Festival, Cathy and I strolled along one of my favorite places in Boulder – the Pearl Street Mall. However, even though I’ve been up and down the Pearl Street Mall dozens of times, I’d never been to Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary – a unique store at 1227 Spruce Street, just a block North of Pearl Street.

Cathy said she wanted to show me the store and as soon as I saw it, I understood why! It’s wonderfully unique with the neat variety of products ranging from teas to books to essential oils with every imaginable scent!

I immediately thought of the Only in Your State – Colorado newsletter I subscribe to which sends out a daily article about unique places to visit in Colorado. This is exactly the type of place they’d feature. And here I’ve lived close to Boulder for over 20 years and I’m just discovering this special place now!

I loved the old-fashioned mystical feel of the place – almost as if it were a store on Diagon Alley from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Everything was so neatly in it’s place that it did almost seem as if it was a fictional setting in a movie – yet everything here was real!

I tried the sample of the mint tea that was available to patrons and it was the most delicious tea ever! So sweet without sugar – apparently it was the licorice that created the sweetness. I purchased a bag to share with my daughter-in-law who is always on the lookout for healthy sugar substitutes.

I was curious about exactly what the definition of an “apothecary” would be – an old-fashioned pharmacy? Actually, after researching a bit, my interpretation is that a modern-day apothecary is one that goes a bit beyond traditional Western medicines using herbs and other natural ingredients to create a variety of wellness products. This article lists other modern-day apothecaries.. One more publication that I will be making aware of Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary.

And, of course, the fact that the store is local owned by a woman is cause to support and celebrate. I have a lot of admiration for store-owners that have survived and thrived throughout Covid and the many other challenges of the times.

How fun that Cathy shared this unexpected Microadventure with me and made me aware of such a magical place!

Microadventure #38 Boulder Creek Festival with Adam and Cathy

I have to admit, I haven’t been blogging as much about my “Microadventures” since I’ve been back home in Colorado. To be honest, I’ve been kind of moody. My winter in Florida was full of sunshine, new adventures with unlimited time to explore.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been dealing with the responsibilities of home maintenance and chores. And it was colder in May than it was all winter in Florida! I also had some work (I taught a class and had a writing assignment) and had some goodbyes since my son and daughter-in-law moved to North Carolina.

We’ve had so many sad events going on in the world. Somehow I’d imagined that once Covid was no longer a threat, things would feel “normal” again. But now two of my three kids have moved from Colorado. Many of the friends I used to hang out with regularly have ‘moved on.’ I’ve been seriously thinking of selling my Colorado home and following Matt and Stella to North Carolina.

Then I went to the Boulder Creek Festival with my good long-time friends, Adam and Cathy, and remembered how much I loved Boulder and being able to spend time with friends who know me well.

The weather has finally warmed up and the festival is full of music and dancing. Boulder is so eclectic with people of all ages unabashedly being themselves. I’ve always been grateful that the culture here has always seemed to me to be one of acceptance.

I told Adam and Cathy how I was considering moving and how conflicted I felt about it. Adam (who is good with quotes) recited one of his favorites:

If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.

I like the quote and it’s a reminder that things do change. Unfortunately, even with change, we can’t get back to the way things were. I know I’m mourning the loss of connectedness I used to feel with family all around. I’m mourning the loss of my home before I’ve even moved, because I know it’s not the same.

But as I was sitting listening to music, taking in all the sites of the Boulder Creek Festival, and enjoying the company of good friends, I savored the familiar feeling of being ‘home.’ Just like in life, knowing that my time here is limited, makes me more determined than ever not to take a minute of it for granted.